No. 25 The dying Rostam shoots Shaghad
Rashid al-Din, Jami’ al-Tawarikh (‘Compendium of Histories’)
Il-Khanid: Tabriz, 1314
Opaque watercolour, ink, gold and silver on paper
Edinburgh University Library, MS. Or. 20, fol. 15v
In Rostam’s old age his envious brother Shaghad plotted his death. He had traps dug and set with blades in the hunting grounds round Kabol. The faithful steed Rakhsh sensed danger and hesitated, but Rostam urged him on and both of them fell into a pit. This is depicted on the left. Rostam, who has climbed out and persuaded Shaghad to bend his bow, shoots an arrow with his last strength through the tree that Shaghad is hiding behind, killing him, as seen on the right. The tree’s twisted trunk mirrors the contorted figure of Rostam’s treacherous brother.
This is one of the earliest Shahnameh illustrations that are precisely datable. Together with Nos. 23, 24 and 26, it belonged not to a Shahnameh manuscript, but to a copy of the Jami’ al-Tawarikh (‘Compendium of Histories’) that draws on the Shahnameh as one of its sources.