Afrasiyab’s Night Attack

Copied by Salik b. Sa’id
Iran, Lahijan, Turkoman period, 1493-94
Opaque watercolor, ink, and gold on paper
Lent by the Art and History Collection LTS1995.2.40

The Shahnama‘s mythical section is dominated by the prolonged struggle between Iran and its eastern neighbor Turan. In this illustration, Afrasiyab, Iran’s formidable enemy, organizes a night attack against the Persian forces as revenge for their invasion of Turan. According to Firdawsi, when the soldiers fall asleep after an evening of drinking and merry-making, Afrasiyab’s men seize the opportunity to descend on them “like a black cloud.” Most of the Persians, shown resting under a tent, are surprised in the attack and killed.