Old and Middle Persian Literature – Iranian Literature to the 600s

Old Persian Literature

The oldest written memorials of the Iranians are the inscriptions of the Akemenide kings (500–300 BC). They are written in a modified wedge letter and consist of royal proclamations. The language is Old Persian, based on the dialect of Fârs in southwestern Iran. The biggest and best known is the Behistun inscription, where Dareios 1 (522-486 BC) tells of his battle to win the throne. The texts collected in Avesta, the Zarathustraism (see Zarathustra) scripture is still older than the inscriptions, but the written tradition is from the Middle Ages, based on an oral tradition that had been preserved down the centuries. A central place has here Gatha ‘one, liturgical hymns attributed to the prophet Zarathustra. In the so-called Yasht’s we find echoes of the rich epic and mythological poetry of the East Iranians, which can largely be traced back to the Aryan community and even to Indo-European times. Some western Iranian poetry has not been handed down from ancient times, but we have indirect testimony to it. in Armenian poetry (see Armenian literature), where Iranian motifs were borrowed early.

Middle Persian and Partial Literature

Of texts from partisan (see Partes) (arsakidic) time, little is provided. On the other hand, we have significant epigraphic texts from Sasanidic in both partisan and middle Persian in Aramaic, except in Greek and Aramaic. In Middle Persian (pahlavi) we have a rich religious Zarathustrian literature, mostly from Sasanidic and early Islamic times. It consists of both comments and translations of Avesta, and of independent theological works. Among these are Denkard, a theological encyclopedia, the Bundaheshn (Ur Creation), a Zarathustrian cosmogony and cosmology, and Arda Viraz Namag, a depiction of a heaven and hell cruise, probably through the intermediary role model of Dante ‘s Divina Commedia.

Our knowledge of the secular pahlavi literature is imperfect. Delivered is Kârnâmag in Ardashir in Pâpakân (The Chronicle of Ardhakhsher, son of Pâpak), a historical novel about the first Sasanid king. Old Iranian hero stories are told in Khvadâinâmag (King’s Book), which emerged towards the end of the Sasanid era. It is now lost, but lies, with intermediaries, the basis of Firdausi ‘s (Ferdousis) Shâhnâme. In both Middle Persian and Partisan, we have extensive remnants of Manichean literature, among others. hymns. Greek and Indian literature was also translated into pahlavi, and several ancient Indian works found their way to the West through translations into pahlavi.

The time from the 6th century AD

The literature of the first centuries after the Islamic conquest is mostly in Arabic. However, Zarathustrian literature was still written in pahlavi. Gradually, it developed its own Iranian literary language, Nypersian, in Arabic script and with many Arabic loan words, which evolved to become West Asia’s most important literary language.