The traditional tales and stories of ancient Iran describe confrontations between good and evil, the victories of the gods, and exploits of heroes and fabulous supernatural creatures such as the magical bird Simurgh and the div or demons. Much of our information about Iran’s pre-Islamic past comes from the holy book of the Zoroastrian religion, the Avesta. Although not written down in its present form until the thirteenth or fourteenth century, parts of the Avesta date back originally to between 1400 and 1200 BC. As well as the words of the prophet Zoroaster and stories about Ahura Mazda, the Wise Lord, it also incorporates earlier pagan myths which reappear in the Shahnameh (Book of Kings). A magnificent epic in rhyme completed in ad1010 by the poet Firdowsi and featuring his most famous hero, Rustum. Dr Curtis draws upon all of these sources to retell for modern readers the stirring legends of ancient Iran, which have inspired centuries of manuscript illustrations. This book contains 42 illustrations.
Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis is curator of ancient Iranian coins in the British Museum and is editor of Iran, published by the British Institute of Persian Studies.