Kayumars & Hushang

Above, top: Detail, Kayumars Enthroned. View full »
Above, bottom: Detail, Hushang Slays the Black Div. View full »


According to the Shahnama, Kayumars was the first king of Iran. He and his people lived in the mountains and wore clothes of leopard skins, as is depicted in this early sixteenth-century illustration. He taught mankind how to prepare food and established the ceremonies of kingship. Kayumars’ thirty-year reign was a period of peace and civility, when man and beast coexisted in blissful harmony and all the animals of the world paid homage to him.


This tranquility was shattered when evil entered the world, and the Black Demon (div-i siyah) killed Kayumars’ handsome son Siamak. Hushang, the son of Siamak and the grandson of King Kayumars, avenged his father’s death by leading an army of “fairies, leopards and lions, savage wolves and fearless tigers” against the Black Demon. “Like a lion, Hushang caught the Black Demon in his grip … laid him low in the dust and flayed his wretched body of its skin.” Satisfied with this vengeance, Kayumars died.