Iskandar visits Mecca

Iskandar visits Mecca

Firdawsi

1494

Shiraz (Iran)

Manuscript

Alexander the Great, or Iskandar, was a central figure in the history and romance writing of medieval Persian culture. This copy of Firdausi’s great epic poem the Shahnama (completed 1010) illustrates an episode where Iskandar (anachronistically) visits the Ka‘ba in Mecca. He inclines his crowned head, while two men bow and touch its wall. In some manuscripts of the Shahnama Iskandar is depicted as a more active participant or devotee, perhaps influenced by other Persian poems that portrayed him as a Muslim. In Persian romance tradition too, Iskandar is described not only as a conqueror, but also an explorer and philosopher.

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