Skip to main content

Rustam Fights with Ashkabus, from the Shahnama of Firdausi

Iranian

Artwork Details

Rustam Fights with Ashkabus, from the Shahnama of Firdausi
circa 1460
Iranian
ink, opaque watercolor, and gold leaf on paper
10 1/2 in. x 7 in. ( 26.7 cm x 17.8 cm )
Museum Purchase
1963/1.51

On Display

Not currently on display

Description

After Kai Khusrau’s rescue and return to Iran, the war between Iran and Turan intensified, as Khusrau sought revenge for the murder of his father Siyawush. Although many heroes come and go in the Shahnama, this manuscript maintains a steady focus on the hero Rustam for the next four scenes. Here, Rustam is locked in single combat with Ashkabus, a champion of the Turanians. Firdausi’s verses ring with the boasts of the warriors:
A warrior named Ashkabus, whose voice
Was like a kettledrum’s, came forth to challenge
The Iranians, bent to lay some foeman’s head
In dust. He cried: “Which of you famous men
Will come to fight with me, that I may make
His blood to flow in streams?” …
Then peerless Rustam [cried]: “Senseless challenger!
Now I, foot-soldier as I am, will teach
Thee how to fight, O mounted warrior!
… Afoot one man
Is worth three hundred cavaliers like thee …”
He marked the pride
Of Ashkabus in his fine steed, and shot
An arrow at its breast; the charger fell
Headforemost. Rustam laughed and cried aloud:
"Sit by thy noble comrade! Prithee nurse
Its head and rest thee from the fight awhile."
Then Ashkabus, his body quivering,
… strung up his bow,
And showered shafts on Rustam, who exclaimed:
"In vain thou weariest thy wicked soul,
Thine arms, and body."
Choosing from his girdle
A shaft of poplar wood he [Rustam] drew it forth
Bright-pointed, feathered with four eagle-plumes;
Then too his bow of Chach in hand and …
…loosed and struck the breast
Of Ashkabus. …
Both the hosts
Beheld that fight.
Warner, III, 179–81
———
Maribeth Graybill, Senior Curator of Asian Art
Exhibited in "A Medieval Masterpiece from Baghdad: the Ann Arbor Shahnama"
August 14 through December 19, 2004

Subject Matter:

A warrior named Ashkabus, whose voice
Was like a kettledrum’s, came forth to challenge
The Iranians, bent to lay some foeman’s head
In dust. He cried: “Which of you famous men
Will come to fight with me, that I may make
His blood to flow in streams?” …
Then peerless Rustam [cried]: “Senseless challenger!
Now I, foot-soldier as I am, will teach
Thee how to fight, O mounted warrior!
… Afoot one man
Is worth three hundred cavaliers like thee …”
He marked the pride
Of Ashkabus in his fine steed, and shot
An arrow at its breast; the charger fell
Headforemost. Rustam laughed and cried aloud:
"Sit by thy noble comrade! Prithee nurse
Its head and rest thee from the fight awhile."
Then Ashkabus, his body quivering,
… strung up his bow,
And showered shafts on Rustam, who exclaimed:
"In vain thou weariest thy wicked soul,
Thine arms, and body."
Choosing from his girdle
A shaft of poplar wood he [Rustam] drew it forth
Bright-pointed, feathered with four eagle-plumes;
Then too his bow of Chach in hand and …
…loosed and struck the breast
Of Ashkabus. …
Both the hosts
Beheld that fight.

Physical Description:

This Persian miniature is attributed to the Shiraz and Timurid schools, ca. 1460. The painting is done in ink, opaque watercolor and gold leaf on paper. The scene, Rustam Fights with Ashkabus, is part of the Shahnama of Firdausi, the Persian book of kings. 

Usage Rights:

If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit https://umma.umich.edu/request-image/ for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form.