Penetration of Semitic Myths in Persian Poems
MYTH AND PERSIAN MYTHS
narrator of a sacred and heavenly life story. Myth always is considered a real
story because it always gives reference to reality. Since myth describes feats
and great deeds of supernatural creatures and manifestation of heavenly forces,
it is a model and an exemplary pattern of all the significant works and
activities of human. The subject myth is among the eternal inner occupation of
mankind which never leaves him alone and in his mind induces such questions as
meaning of death and life, human's fate, mystery of descent, hope for salvation,
the desire to know one's original homeland and the longing for going back there
and never finds a satisfactory answer for them.
the world have the same origin
In interpretation of each nation's myths and tales
and in comparison of myths and tales of different nations, focus on the
respective cultural system which altogether form a single set and an
interconnected whole is imperative. (Eliade, 1983, p.210-11)
It is true
that part of myths of ancient Iran, India and even Greece and Rome have a
distinct origin but the course of mythicization in all primitives people and in
different nation, if not identical, is not separate from one another. All
nations in the course of their life have made some myths and fables which more
or less were believed by them. In fact, myths may be derived historical facts or
from mythical figures. According to Professor Bahar
myth formation has been based on reflection of
social structures, natural phenomena and psychological reactions of human. (Bahar,
in the course of history may lose color, but they are always alive. One way to
keep these myths alive is their entry to literary texts. It is the poet or
writer who by profiting from myth's basis recreates the past culture. According
to one of the mythologists, "myth is the early and spiritual history of a
society and from this perspective it is quite comparable with language of that
society. Language and myth which have a common function and are within monopoly
of literary texts, recount for us the facts related to remote histories". (Greemal,
myths have been passed to us based on the same principles. Different poets have
used them in various ways and have talked about national heroes, different
feasts and customs as well as holy and mythical plants and animals. However, in
the course of time, Semitic myths have entered the literary texts and little by
little occupied the place of national myths and in some cases they have been
mixed with each other. In this article, we investigate reasons for penetration
of non-Iranian and particularly Semitic myths.
IRANIAN MYTHS IN LITERARY WORKS
all, it should be said that Iranian poets were not ignorant about their national
myths and history and aware or unaware they have profited from these myths. For
example, amongst the most prominent mythical birds in Iran, Simorq2 myth can be
referred to. History of presence of this mythical bird in Iranian culture
reaches the times before Islam.
Simorq is a complicated and vague phenomenon and is
a crystallization of contradictory perceptions and imaginations of Iranian
folks. (Mokhtari, 2000, p.68)
to Firdowsi, Simorq lives on the mountain Alborz4. Other poets too, following
Firdausi, consider place of Simorq on the mountain Alborz and refer to it by
another mythical animal in Iran. In Iranian myths, horse has a high position and
like lion is the symbol of the sun and in Zoroastrian5 myths, is among the god
creatures and its name is the same name used by Arians6 thousands years ago.
Horse is one of the symbolic animals which in epical works especially in
Shahnameh7 it has a fundamental value and in myths of other nations it has a
symbolic value as well.
Horse's cultural emblems even have given identity to
graves of ancient Iranians and have made them recognizable. When archeologists
find a trace of horse from a grave, they immediately know that owner of the
grave must be an Iranian or someone in connection with Iranian culture. (Rajabi,
poets in Persian verses, after praise of kings, went after their horses and
dedicated plenty of couplets in praise of their horses' qualities.
I wonder about your horse,
Because of his running that the battlefield was blacken.
He has four qualities:
War, running, hurry and parade.
His hoof is like an anvil in running,
Does an anvil work wind?"
(Moezzi, 1983, p.39)
Iranian myths are the myths about plants. In Zoroastrian myths, plant is the
fourth material creature in creation of the world and according to Bondahesh's
the first plant grew in the middle of the earth with
several feet height and without branches, without skin, without thorn, wet and
sweet. This plant possessed all kinds of vegetal power in its essence and water
and fire found life with aid of plant."(Dadegi, 1999, p.40)
One of the
Persian poets said:
Zoroastrian said in Avesta9 and Zand10
The origin of mankind is plant.
(Bahar, 1989, p.600)
plant in the spring and its depression in the winter is considered origin of
plant-gods in mind of the early mankind and Adonis, Tammuz, Ishtar, Baal, Osiris
and Siavash11 are amongst such plant-deities. In folkloric fables, life of a
person is sometimes so linked to tree that welter and decay of tree is
associated with death.
to rituals and other bestial and vegetal myths, there are also human myths in
Iran which are referred to in Avesta and Pahlavi books and after them in
Shahnameh and each one has mythical qualities. Historical and social changes
especially penetration of religion and dominance of various governments in the
course of history has had great impact on poets' view to myths. The first
Iranian poets considered a lofty position for the national heroes. However,
after lapse some time and coming of different government to power in Iran,
Semitic myths prevailed and poets' attention became focused on them to the
extent that after several centuries, they derided Iranian myths and considered
them a bunch of lies and nonsense until one century ago when some nationalist
and patriot poets were found who enlivened Iranian myths next to which the made
some indications to Semitic myths. In the following, we state reasons for
penetration of Semitic myth into literary works of Iran.
THE REASONS OF
PENETRATION OF NON-IRANIAN MYTHS IN LITERARY WORKS
of time and cultural exchanges with neighboring nations, some changes were
brought to Iranian myths and sometimes fundamental changes have taken place in
some of them. In the following, we explain reasons for penetration of
non-Iranian myths in literary works of Iran:
Islam entry and expansion of religious beliefs:
of Islam to Iran, many Iranian myths lost their general attraction; particularly
those were in contrast with Islamic beliefs. Expansion of religion brought about
a kind of disrespect and disbelief in Iranian myths, although after dominance of
Arabs over Iran, Shaoubieh Movement appeared which tried to arouse Iranians'
patriotism and to familiarize people with their ancient heritages, but all what
we have from allegorical interpretations either on national myths or on
religious stories are mostly the very mystic and Islamic interpretations.
Paraphrases and interpretators preferred to
paraphrase and interpret religious stories and prophets' life stories which due
to their religious sanctity and importance and their conformity both with
disposition of people and nature of the time and in terms of instruction and
communication of mystic concepts is was regarded a more effective and
influential means. In addition to this, it provoked less suspicion and objection
amongst Islamic scientists and jurists, because national myth of Iran, although
were always interesting subject due to revival of the past honors and awakening
national pride, in an Islamic environment and in view of religious experts were
regarded some sort of blasphemy. Hence, virtual paraphrasing and interpretation
of Iranian myths even as slight indications and through referring to mythical
characters in mystic verse and prose in terms of vastness and diversity are
never comparable with gloss and interpretation of prophets' stories. (Pour
Namdarian, 1985, p.156-57)
Holiness of Semitic myths in the eyes of Iranian:
Semitic people, the chosen individuals are known as prophets who are in relation
with God and guide people and each one is of exceptional qualities in coping
with problems. Unlike Semitic folks, the select Iranian figures are represented
as kings with throne and crown. It is for this reason that Semitic prophets, as
are represented in poets' works, are regarded more valuable relative to Iranian
prophet who today has become one of the important religious and cultural Iranian
characters, has entered our culture and has led to link between the three great
religions Judaism, Christianity and Islam as well as between Semitic and Arian
nations. In literature, story of Solomon, Hoopoe, Solomon's ring and even his
vizier, Asef Barkhia, have been many times referred to.
Turks and Mongols Entry to Iran:
half of the fifth century (AH), particularly from the early sixth century (AH),
signs of weakness appeared in national epical works in verse and from this
period onwards versification of the old national stories was abandoned. Even ode
compositors were not interested in their national sources of pride. Turk kings
were very zealous about Islam and strongly suppressed opposition. They many time
made campaigned to India and on pretext of fighting profanity looted this land.
Due to this religious bigotry and blind obedience, they imported many
superstitions to religious commandments and according to Dr. Safa (1973, p.155),
these bigotries were the most dangerous souvenir brought by Turk vassals to
this period for the sake of grandiloquence in praise of Turk kings and receiving
reward from them were ready to sacrifice Iranian national heroes for their
personal interests and regard them meaner than their praised ones. However,
thank God "despite of large extent dominance of Turk race during several
centuries over Persian language and literature, traces of Turkish myths is
absolutely not seen in Persian literature". (Shafiee Kadkani, 2003, p.242)
Weakness of nation fundaments and racial prides oblivion:
we move from the fourth century, we observe that nation fundaments get weaker.
It is true that poets of the fifth centuries have named a lot of Iranian myths
and directly or indirectly have referred to Iranian customs and feasts, but due
to influence of Turks and their disaffection to Iran's past, patriotic morale of
poets declined to the extent that they in place of being proud of their own
past, they took pride in Turk and Mongol kings.
Invitation to panegyrics:
odes of ode composing poets are composed in praise of kings. Kings, in all
periods, advertised for panegyrics, since they were eager for their fame and
survival. Hence, poets who were after fame and money found way into their court
and were given the opportunity to read out their lodes in praise of kings. Given
such circumstances, then there would be no room for Iranian myths, since kings
considered themselves higher than mythical heroes and the poets confirmed this.
Entry of Mysticism into poem:
Sufism since the first century (AH) have been existed, but the thriving time for
this cult in Iran starts from second half of the fifth century (AH). In the
fifth and sixth century, mystics were adherents to abstract mysticism. This
cult, given its special care for education of mystics and guidance of general
public, profited from Persian verse prose as a means for expressing their
educational and mystical purposes. Presence of these contents in prose and poem
freed poem from kings' court and Sufi poets composed rich with this content and
introduces a particular mindset to Persian literature. Mystic poets used
national myths to communicate their advices, but for giving sanctity to their
works, they employed stories of Semitic prophets and made use of many stories of
prophets as the source of their inspiration.
Spiritual paraphrase and interpretation of Iranian
myths, even as partial indications and reference to great characters, in
mystical poem and prose what concerns extent and diversity is never comparable
with paraphrases and interpretations of propjets' stories. (Pour Namdarian,
Lack of resistance against alien myths and their mixture with Iranian
One of the
most important reasons for penetration of non-Iranian myths was inability of
Iranian in the face of aliens. By emergence of Islam, Semitic myths were blended
with Iranian myths. Mythical time, place and personality of the two Iranian and
Semitic systems were mixed. Iranian kings and celebrities were linked to Jewish
prophets and kings. Zarathustra was mixed with Abraham and Jeremiah, Jamshid13
with Solomon became one. For example, in the following phrase Nimrud was
identified with Keykavous14:
since from among sons of Sam, the boy of Noah, both
Arabs and non-Arabs, there was no one to become king, a king from non-Arabs
stood up the name of who was Nimrud from Iranian origin who was called Keykavous.
(Ardalan Javan, 1988, p.161)
Or in the
following couplets, Jam and Solomon were thought as one:
The king is sitting down and the king of India with
Similar to Belqeys side Jamshid.
(Farrokhi, 1976, p.226)
explained above, history and myths are linked to each other. They are a kind of
historical accounts the image of which is clearly seen in history of nations,
but by lapse of time this historical image little by little is radically changed
and in minds of people wholly changes of color. In other words, a historical
subject which once upon a time was an objective truth extremely mixes with
religious myths and stories, and national and supernatural myths and at the same
time it can have a historical aspect. For instance, Alexander the Macedonian has
an absolutely historical aspect. He attacked Iran, burned the Persepolis and did
many other atrocities, but in the course of time and after Islam, he has turned
into savant, erudite and justice dispensing person who together with prophet
Khezr15 goes after water of life and here in fact, history is transformed into
Transmutation of Alexander's face had two reasons: first, according to Dr.
Safavi (1985, p.31), Alexander's soldiers who were specially attached to him,
after his death felt regret for not worshiping him as he desired. Hence, they
praised him as much as they could and spread exaggerating news about his
conquests. Second, since Iranian could not accept ruling of foreign, they have
tried to introduce him an Iranian and descendent of Dara16 and inheritor of
Achaemenides17' throne and crown. In fact, "it was the only way to protect the
national pride" (Safavi, 1985, p.39). Accordingly, some historians have regarded
Alexander an Iranian. Poets as well consider him an Iranian hero and think of
the praised one higher than him.
Fame of scientific and philosophical figures in the Age of Poets:
in their works have mentioned names of Plato, Hermes, and Aristotle and have
compared the praised ones with them. However, in this regard, no mixture took
place and poets only sufficed with mentioning their names.
of poets to apply a variety of fantasized images: Iranian poets are very
interested in snobbery and revealing their skill in verse especially in ode
composition. For this reason, they have tried to make use of different stories
in order to show off their knowledge to other poets and the praised ones. This
led to increasing prevalence of Semitic and Hellenic myths in Persian
literature. They even entered many personages of love stories of Arab poets in
their lodes and gave them a mythical aspect.
As a result
of these causes we see that poets knowingly or unknowingly, given such factors
as dominance of vassals and tribes of yellow race over Iran and influence of
religious factors and oblivion of racial pride sources and weakness of
nationality fundaments among Iranians which are incompatible with preservation,
development and organization of national epics, have contributed to prevalence
of non-Iranian myths and have paved the way for their penetration and mixture
with Iranian myths so that many of historians rely on their citations and base
various Iranian, Hellenic and Semitic stories on their statements.
*** *** ***
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