‘Mirrors for Princes’ are mediaeval prose works of advice for rulers or prospective rulers on how they should exercise kingship. They were usually written by a ruler for the benefit of his son and heir, or by a high-ranking official or a senior religious scholar, in which case they were sometimes commissioned by the ruler. They have their origins in the cultural world of pre-Islamic Iran. The first ‘Mirrors’ of the Islamic era were written by Persians in Arabic, but with the re-emergence of the Persian language they were written in Persian.
This talk focuses chiefly on two of these Persian-language ‘Mirrors’ which are generally regarded as the finest examples of the genre. They are the delightful and entertaining Qabus-nama written by the ruler of a principality in the Caspian region for his son, and the Siyasat-nama or ‘The Book of Government’, written by the famous Seljuq vizier, Nezam al-Molk, at the request of the Sultan.
David Blow is the author of Shah Abbas: the ruthless king who became an Iranian legend – a very readable account of life in Iran in Safavid times. He also compiled Iran through Writers’ Eyes, a compendium of travel writing about Iran from earliest classical times to the present day, published with support from the Iran Society.
The lecture will be held at the Army & Navy Club, for members and their guests.