Nizami’s "Iskandarnāmah"


This folio includes a fragmentary text from Nizami’s Iskandarnāmah (The book of Alexander the Great), the fifth book of his Khamsah (Quintet). Written during the last few decades of the 12th century, the Khamsah consists of five kitab (books) written in mathnavi (rhyming distichs). The Iskandarnāmah of Nizami Ganjavi (1140 or 1141–1202 or 1203) recounts Alexander the Great’s heroic exploits, battles, and journey to China, and his travel to Gog and Magog at the end of the world. It is loosely based on the epic narrative of Alexander’s deeds as recounted by Firdawsi in his Shāhnāmah (Book of kings) completed in the early 11th century, which may have drawn from the history of Alexander as written by his official biographer, Callisthenes of Olynthus (circa 370−327 BC).  This particular text is executed in black nastaʻliq script in four columns separated by plain gutters. The text panel is framed by lines of various colors and pasted to a larger sheet bearing a number of a posteriori notes at the top. It appears to date from the 16th or 17th century. Another textual fragment of Nizami’s Iskandarnāmah is also held in the collections of the Library of Congress and can be seen in the World Digital Library.

Last updated: September 30, 2016