The Earliest States of Eastern Europe
DG-2021, 464-492

"The Regions of the World from East to West": towards the Analysis of the Structure and Poetics of a 10th century Persian Geographical Treatise

V. S. Kuleshov

The paper aims to analyze aspects on the structure and poetics of a 10th-century monument of geographical literature in Persian entitled Ḥudūd al-ʕālam mina l-mašriq ʔilā l-maġrib (“The Regions of the World from East to West”). The central place in the treatise is occupied by a list of the regions of the world placed on a map and described as to it. A reconstruction is conducted of details of the author’s initial plan, which is explicitly shown both in the text of the introductory chapter and in notes inside the rest of the text, but transformed in the survived manuscript version. The reconstruction is made possible based on a comparison between the list of chapters invented by a thirteen-century editor of the manuscript and the contents of the treatise itself, as well as in relation to the author’s statements of key importance describing his views. This kind of analysis makes it possible to observe the initial plan of the treatise in the following way. The work entitled Kitāb andar ṣifat ī̆ zamīn (“The Book about the Structure of the Earth”) appeared to be an explanatory textual appendix to a round map of the world and consisted of an introduction and eight larger sections (faṣl): on the structure of the Earth, on the regions of the world, on the shahrs of the world, on seas, on islands, on mountains, on large rivers, and on deserts. The author’s text in the survived manuscript is practically fully intact. Editorial intrusions only concern moving of the sections on regions and shahrs to a new position after the section on deserts, lowering all sections (the author’s faṣl) down the status of ‘chapters’ (the editor’s suxan), and splitting the section on shahrs into more than fifty distinct chapters, entitled in accordance with the initial words of the descriptions the world’s region within the larger section. In each larger section, the author had to give an exhaustive account of the relevant material presented in the form of commented listings, given that the fragments of the map’s ecphrasis followed the principle of describing objects and their sequences starting from the right, that is from east, and then clockwise. Each larger section ended with a certain terminational marker.

Ḥudūd al-‘ālam, geography, cartography, literature, Islam, Middle Ages, Persian language, structure, poetics, transcription of text

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