Ferdowsi was one of the greatest poets of Persian language. He gave a new life to Iran’s poetry. His immortal work is “ShahNameh”. Ferdowsi was born in Toos (30 KM from Mashhad) in 329-330 A.H. His father was a rich man and major land owner.
His great epic, the Shahnameh (”The epic of kings”), to which he devoted more than thirty-five years, was originally composed for eventual presentation to the Samanid princes of Khorasan, who were the chief instigators of the revival of Iranian cultural traditions after the Arab conquest of the seventh century.
After 30 years of hard work he finished the book and two or three years after that, Ferdowsi went to Ghazni the capital of Ghaznavids to present it to the king. There are various stories in medieval texts describing the lack of interest shown by the new king, Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni, in Ferdowsi and his lifework. According to historians, Mahmud had promised Ferdowsi a dinar for every distich written in the Shahnameh (60,000 dinars), but later retracted and presented him with dirhams (20,000 dirhams), which were at that time much less valuable than dinar (every 100 dirhams worth 1 dinar). Some think it was jealousy of other poets working at king’s court that led to this event. This difference gave fodder to Ferdowsi’s enemies in the court. Ferdowsi rejected the money and by some accounts he gave it to a poor man who sold wine. He was wandering for a time in Sistan and Mazandaran. In the end he returned to Toos heartbroken. Ferdowsi was furious. But he left behind a poem for the King, stuck to the wall of the room he had worked in for all those years. It was a long and angry poem, more like a curse, and ended with the words:
“Heaven’s vengeance will not forget. Shrink tyrant from my words of fire, and tremble at a poets ire.”
Ferdowsi is said to have died around 1020 in poverty at the age of ninety and embittered by royal neglect, though fully confident of his work’s ultimate success and fame (clearly seen especially in last verses of his book). One tradition claims Mahmud re-sent the amount promised to Ferdowsi’s village, but when the messengers reached his house, he had died a few hours earlier. The gift was then given to his daughter, since his son had died before his father at the age of 37. However, his daughter refused to receive the amount, thus making Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh immortal.
Later the king ordered the money be used for repairing an inn in the way from Merv to Toos, named “Robat Chaheh” so that it may remain in remembrance of poet. This inn now lies in ruins, but still exists.
Although some say that Ferdowsi’s daughter inherited her father’s hard earned money, and she built a new and strong bridge with a beautiful stone caravanserai nearby for travelers to rest and trade and tell stories.
Ferdowsi was buried at the yard of his own home, where his mausoleum now lies. It was until Reza Shah Pahlavi’s rule, in 1925, that a mausoleum was built for such a great poet.