ASADĪ ṬŪSĪ, ʿALĪ B. AḤMAD, (b. ca. 390/999-1000, d. 465/1072-73), poet, linguist and copyist, from Ṭūs in Khorasan (see the colophon of al-Abnīa, in his own hand; Asadī was his laqab or taḵalloṣ, see Garšāsp-nāma, ed. Ḥ. Yaḡmāʾī, pp. 14, 477). His konya is given as Abū Naṣr in Maǰāles al-moʾmenīn and Maǰmaʿ al-foṣaḥāʾ (I, p. 283) and as Abū Manṣūr in the introduction to the Loḡat-e fors (ms. dated 1303/1885-86). Little is known about Asadī’s life. He spent his first twenty years in Ṭūs; in the 410s, and 420s we find him serving as a poet at the court of the Daylamite Abū Naṣr Jastān, where in 447/1055-56 he copied the Ketāb al-abnīa ʿan ḥaqāʾeq al-adwīa of Abū Manṣūr Mowaffaq Heravī (q.v.). Later he went to Naḵǰavān where in 458/1065-66 he finished the epic Garšāsp-nāma, which he dedicated to Abū Dolaf, Naḵǰavān’s ruler. He is last referred to at the court of the Shaddadid Manūčehr of Ānī. Qāżī Nūrallāh (Maǰāles al-moʾmenīn, 12th maǰles) and Maǰmaʿ al-foṣahāʾ (loc. cit.) give Asadī a Persian royal lineage and claim that Sultan Maḥmūd of Ḡazna commissioned him to versify the Šāh-nāma, but because of advanced age, he encouraged “his pupil” Ferdowsī to undertake the task; then at the end of Ferdowsī’s life, when four thousand bayts of the Šāh-nāma still remained to be completed, the teacher hastened to the aid of his student and, in a single twenty-four hour period, completed the work (Dawlatšāh, ed. Browne, pp. 35-36, cf. pp. 49-50). This unfounded story led H. Ethé and E. Browne to believe that there had been two Asadīs: One who was the author of the Monāẓarāt, and another, his son, who was the author of the Loḡat-e fors and the Garšāsp-nāma, and the copier of the Ketāb al-abnīa (Ṣafā, Adabīyāt II, pp. 404-05).
Asadī’s works are as follows: 1. Monāẓarāt (Debates). Five of these are extant; they represent a form of qaṣīda, unprecedented in Arabic or New Persian (though not in Pahlavi, where a fragment of this type, “Draxt ī asūrīk,” exists): “ʿArab o ʿaǰam, Moḡ o mosalmān, Neyza o kamān, Šab o rūz, Āsmān o zamīn.” The first monāẓara, “ʿArab o ʿaǰam,” deals with the superiority of the Iranians over the Arabs; the second, “Moḡ o mosalmān,” is about the superiority of the Muslims over the Zoroastrians and is a clear anti-Šoʿūbīya statement. The contradictory themes of these two monāẓaras led some scholars to doubt the attribution of the first to Asadī (Forūzānfar, Soḵan wa soḵanvarān, p. 452 n. 1; Dehḵodā, “Asadī,” p. 2272 n. 3.). It may be that Asadī, like others, reasoned that an Iranian Muslim was superior to an Arab Muslim, but a Muslim, whatever his nationality, was superior to an Iranian Zoroastrian. (For the remaining three monāẓaras see Maǰmaʿ al-foṣahāʾ I, pp. 288-96, and Forūzānfar, op. cit., pp. 449-53.)
2. Garšāsp-nāma. Asadī began this work in about 455/1063 in Naḵǰavān at the request of Moḥammad b. Esmāʿīl Ḥesṣī (or Ḥesnī), the vizier of Abū Dolaf Šaybānī, and his brother Ebrāhīm. He finished it in 458/1065-66 and dedicated it to the amir. It is composed of approximately 9,000 bayts in the motaqāreb meter (moṯamman maqṣūr or maḵḏūf). The oldest existing manuscript (BM Or. 2780) was copied in Ṣafar, 800/October-November, 1397, by Moḥammad b. Saʿīd b. Saʿd Ḥāfeẓ Qārī and contains about 7,000 bayts. The work relates the adventures of Garšāsp, Rostam’s grandfather and descendent of Jamšīd who entered the service of Żaḥḥāk. The accounts in the Tārīk-e Sīstān (pp. 1-7, 35-36) and the Moǰmal (pp. 2-3) of a prose work entitled Ketāb-e Garšāsp or Aḵbār-e Garšāsp by Abu’l-Moʾayyad Balḵī indicate that this was the source for the versified Garšāsp-nāma. It seems that Asadī tried, with little success, to portray Garšāsp as a hero greater than the Rostam of the Šāh-nāma. Asadī’s main concern is versification, so individual lines take precedence over the story. He employs archaic Persian terms as well as Arabic phrases; Asadī the poet, the linguist, the philosopher, and the Arabist all appear, but the maturity, wisdom, patriotism, and weltanschaung of the Šāh-nāma are missing.
3. Loḡat-e fors. This lexicon, composed to define the unfamiliar phrases found in Darī poetry for the people of Arrān and Azerbaijan, is the oldest extant Persian dictionary based on examples from poetry. We are indebted to it for preserving fragments of information concerning the names of some of the poets of the 4th/10th century. Several very different manuscripts exist in Iran and elsewhere. The oldest seems to be at the Malek Library in Tehran (dated 722/1322). The introduction to a manuscript dated 1302/1884-85 states that Asadī composed the book at the request of “his son,” Ardašīr b. Daylamsopār Naǰmī (q.v.), whom he refers to as the poet ḥakīm-e ǰalīl-e awḥad.
See also Garšāsp-nāma, Loḡat-e fors.
See also Garšāsp-nāma, ed. Cl. Huart (with tr. up to line 2543), Paris, 1926; ed H. Massé, following Huart’s tr., Paris, 1951.
Loḡat-e fors, ed. ʿA. Eqbāl, Tehran, 1319 Š./1940; ed. M. Dabīrsīāqī, Tehran, 1336 Š./1957.
Abū Manṣūr Heravī, al-Abnīa ʿan ḥaqāyeq al-adwīa, ed. Fr. R. Zeligmann, Vienna, 1859; ed. A. Bahmanyār and H. Maḥbūbī Ardakānī, Tehran, 1346 Š./1967-68.
Qaṭrān Tabrīzī, Dīvān, ed. M. Naḵǰavānī, Tabrīz, 1333 Š./1954-55.
Moǰmal, Bodleian, Elliott Collection 37, the 18th section containing the monāẓarāt. Maǰmaʿ al-foṣaḥāʾ I, pp. 283-352.
A. Kasravī, Šahrīārān-e gomnām, Tehran, 1335 Š./1956.
B. Forūzānfar, Soḵan wa soḵanvarān, 2nd ed., Tehran, 1350 Š./1971, pp. 438-91.
Dehḵodā, s.v. “Asadī.” Ḏ. Ṣafā, Hamāsasarāʾī dar Īrān, 3rd ed., Tehran, 1351 Š./1972.
Idem, Adabīyāt II, pp. 403-21.
H. Ethé, “Über persische Tenzonen,” Verhandlungen des fünften Orienralisten Congresses, Berlin, 1881, pp. 48-135.
Geiger and Kuhn, Grundr. Ir. Phil. II, pp. 226-28.
Browne, Lit. Hist. Persia II, pp. 148-52, 272-74.
K. I. Chaĭkin, “Asadi staršiĭ i Asadi mladšiĭ,” Sb. Ferdousi, Leningrad, 1934 pp. 119-60.
M. Mole, “Garshâsp et les Sagsâr,” Clio 3, 1951.
Idem, “L’épopée iranienne après Firdōsī,” Clio 5, 1953, pp. 377-93.
E. E. Bertel’s, “Pyatoe munazare Asadi Tusskogo,” Uchenye Zapiski Instituta Vostokovedeniya 19, 1958, pp. 55-88.
Rypka, Hist. Iran Lit., pp. 162ff.
Dj. Khaleghi-Motlagh, “Asadī Ṭūsī,” Maǰalla-ye Dāneškada-ye adabīyāt o ʿolūme-ensānī-e Dānešgāh-e Ferdowsī, 2536 = 1356 Š./1977, no. 4, pp. 643-78; 2537 = 1357 Š./1978, no. 2, pp. 68-130.
Idem, “Gardeš-ī dar Garšāsb-nāma,” Iran Nameh 1/3, 1362 Š./1983, pp. 383-433, 4, pp. 513-59; 2/1, 1362 Š./1983, pp. 94-147.
Originally Published: December 15, 1987
Last Updated: August 16, 2011
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