“Alexander’s Book of Luck” by Nizami

This post is also available in: Italiano

Nezami’s book, the absolute pearl of Persian literature, fully shows us the figure of Alexander the Great philosopher and “prophet”, alternating philosophical discourses and adventures around the world

Alessandro Magno the philosopher

“When Alexander, the sovereign and explorer of the world, had placed the dust of his feet up on the celestial vault, he returned from our lands to Greece with a long journey to bring prestige to his first homeland.

Arrived here, from idleness he was finally able to turn his gaze to wisdom and with the help of Aristotle he was able to give himself to research: even the brains of heaven he came to pierce with thought, and secretly opened the door of the celestial arcana. “

“Alexander’s Book of Luck” by Nizami

Nizami and the Sharaf Nameh

“Alexander’s Book of Luck” is part of a larger cycle composed by the legendary Persian poet and was the last work he “published” before his death, which took place in 1209 in Ganja, his hometown. Originally this series should have consisted of 3 different writings, one for each “version” of Alexander: the leader, the philosopher and the prophet; due to the long lead times for each, however, Nezami eventually wrote two poems: the Sharaf Nameh, “The Book of Glory” and the Eqbal Nameh, “”Alexander’s Book of Luck””. Even if the first is not available in the Italian version, it is necessary to briefly explain the plot, in order to better understand its continuation, the true protagonist of the article.

Nezami

The Sharaf Nameh follows more or less the same narrative scheme drawn by Ferdowsi, going to greatly simplify the path of the leader and referring more to the Quran than to the Alexander’s Romance. In fact, if the first author takes a particularly convoluted path and sometimes unclear directions, Nezami remains faithful to the Quranic scheme, focusing on linear and clear paths. From Rum, Alexander will then go: to the West (Egypt, Persia, clash with Darius and marriage with Rossane), then to the South (pilgrimage to Mecca, Yemen, Iraq, Armenia and Persia), to the East (India, China and Transoxiana) and finally to the North (Russia, Country of Darkness, Persia and Greece).

Nezami
Nezami

Other noteworthy differences are: Alexander’s Greek birthplace and Iran as a fixed destination for shipments. These aspects serve to accentuate the symbolic and prophetic character of Alexander, the real fulcrum of the work, which will be through the gestures, and not the blood, which will be Persian, thus giving less weight to the origins and more to the actions performed. Nezami in fact lived in a Persia in which origins counted less and less than faith and actions, it is therefore evident that even the poet has fewer problems in accepting a foreign sovereign but “enlightened by faith and wisdom”.

Alexander and wisdom

As initially said, Nezami did not manage to make 3 works on Alexander, but two; The Eqbal Nameh then merges the two aspects undoubtedly most dear to the poet of Ganja: the philosophical and the prophetic. If the Sharaf Nameh revolves around the action, movement and conquests of Alexander, this devotes great space to his philosophical discussions and to the wisdom of the Macedonian, here truly unparalleled. This work can in fact be said to be a union between a “book of advice” and a “travel story” but with mystical tones, giving ample space to both types of text which, de facto, represent the central part.

Nezami

The Eqbal Nameh is in fact divided into 5 parts, each one connected to the others but with very precise and defined themes and atmospheres, in order to be clearly distinguished. In the first part (of 350 verses), Nezami addresses invocations to God, blesses the Prophet and pays homage to Prince Ezzodin of Mosul, financier of the work; noteworthy is the description of the poetic creation, a moment in which the author shows all his talent, putting on paper verses of admirable workmanship. In the second part, Alexander will meet 7 great Greek philosophers (Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Hermes Trismegistus , Porphyry, Thales and Apollonius of Tyana) with whom he will share stories and discuss the meaning of existence. Without a shadow of a doubt this is one of the most intense and spiritual moments of the entire text, enriched even more by the arrival of an Indian sage and his brilliant discussion with Alexander.

Around the world

Throughout the text, the Macedonian conqueror will prove himself to be the wisest of the wise, both in discussing philosophy and faith, and in finding solutions to problems during the journey. Throughout the work, in fact, Alexander will constantly turn to the wise (be they philosophers, scientists, magicians or other), but nevertheless it will always be the latter, in the end, to have the correct answer. But be careful: in the entire text, Alexander is never omniscient but rather enjoys the infallibility of his choices. It is not divine wisdom that is inspired, as in the case of Muhammad, but the decisions, which, by divine decree, all turn out to be correct.

Nezami

This time the leader will go to Jerusalem, then Egypt and Andalusia, arriving then in a huge desert which, crossed will place them in front of an immense sea. After 3 months of navigation, the expedition will reach the shores of the Mohit, the legendary all-encompassing sea. At this point Alessandro would like to go west again, but his crew convinces him to return home. Also on this journey, he will be involved in various adventures, including jewels generating “lethal” laughter, mountains so beautiful as to enchant men and veritable gardens of precious stones, finally arriving in a desert where extraordinarily fast peoples feed on blood. of dragon.

Nezami

Once he reaches India (or sub-Saharan Africa) he goes to China and crosses the sea, arriving once again at the Mohit but, once again, his companions convince him to return home. Before the actual return, however, Alexander will first find himself building the famous barrier against Gog and Magog, finally reaching a city in which the inhabitants exclusively to God and to the common good, so much so that there is no kind of guardian and / or border. Once in this inhabited center, the Greek realizes that his task is over and chooses to return to Greece, however, once he reaches Babylon, he will fall ill, dying shortly thereafter and suddenly losing his “fortune”. The penultimate part is dedicated, in fact, to the death of the leader, to his farewell speech and to the lament of those who accompanied him in these many enterprises. The last part is Nezami’s final praise to Prince Ezzodin and an epilogue at the end of the whole.

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