SOAS University of London

Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East

Classical Persian Prose Texts

Module Code:
Taught in:
Full Year

The module provides an initial introduction to medieval Persian prose and its main grammatical and stylistic features. Selections from some of the most important works of belle-lettres belonging to the period are read and discussed. Attention is paid to the historical context from which these works emerge and the genres to which they belong.


Successful completion of Persian language I will usually be required, but candidates with a comparable knowledge of Persian may also be accepted.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the module students should be familiar with the characteristics which distinguish classical Persian from the standard modern language of Iran and have an awareness of the court context in which most medieval works of advice and entertainment were produced.


The module will normally consist of two one-hour classes weekly. Essays and translations are set in the course of the year.

Method of assessment

One three-hour written examination taken in May/June (80%); coursework to be submitted on Friday, week 1, term 2 (10%); coursework to be submitted on Friday, week 1, term 3 (10%).

Suggested reading

Provisional reading list:
  • Nizam al-Mulk, Abu 'Ali Hasan, Siyar al-Muluk (Siyasat-namah), ed. Hubert Darke, Tehran, editions of AHS 1346, 1364, 
    Anno Shahinshahi 2535. 
  • Nizami 'Arudi Samarqandi, Chahar Maqalah, ed. Mirza Muhammad Qazwini, Gibb Memorial Series, London and Leyden, 1910. A detailed bibliography is provided. 
Background reading:
  • Siyasat-namah, trans. Hubert Darke (The Book of Government or Rules for Kings), London 1978.
  • Chahar Maqala, trans. E. G. Browne, Gibb Memorial Series, London 1921. 
  • E. G. Browne, A Literary History of Persia, vol. ii, London 1906. 
  • A. J. Arberry, Classical Persian Literature, London 1958. 
  • Jan Rypka, History of Iranian Literature, Dordrecht 1968.
  • A. K. S. Lambton, "The Dilemma of Government in Islamic Persia: the Siyasat-nama of Nizam al-Mulk", Iran xxii (1984), pp. 55-66.
  • A. K. S. Lambton, "Islamic Mirrors for Princes", La Persia nel Medioevo, 1971, pp. 419-42. 
  • A. K. S. Lambton, "The theory of kingship in the Nasihat al-muluk of Ghazali", Islamic Quarterly i (1954), pp. 47-55. 
  • Ghazali, Muhammad, Ghazali's Book of Counsel for Kings (Nasihat al-Muluk), trans. F. R. C. Bagley, Oxford 1964.
  • Kaika'us b. Iskandar, A Mirror for Princes. The Qabus-nama, trans. Reuben Levy, London 1951. 
  • The Cambridge History of Iran, vol. v, Cambridge 1969. 
  • D. O. Morgan, Medieval Persia 1040-1797, London and New York 1988.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules