I’tisam al-Din’s Shigarfnamah, 5: the vastness of the sea

My translation, based on the Farsi version, publication forthcoming: Mirza I’tisam al-Din. Shigarfnamah Vilayet. Toronto: Foundation for Iranian Studies, 2014.

On the Vastness and Depth of the Sea

We must admit that sea’s depths and bottom and the vastness of its shores are not apparent to anybody other than the Creator, for they are indeed beyond human comprehension. On board the ship, whenever I pondered the depth of the sea and vastness of the sky it was the Creator’s power that became apparent. [Farsi p 36]

People who have never seen the sea imagine, nay, believe that Alexander had measured all the seas, but this is entirely false as it is not possible. The sea is bottomless and its width and length are unknown. Alexander and the sages of his time were none but humans. How could they have sailed all the seas? The claim must have been about the seashore. As I learned from European histories, Alexander started the measuring of sea distances. [Farsi pp 37-38]

European sages believe that the Persian and Arabic historians, having relied on oral accounts, have made great errors in recording the deeds of kings and prophets and sages. This is certainly true, especially in writings about Alexander where exaggeration is most obvious. He was a tyrant and they call him a just ruler; he had no religion and even claimed to be god and they call him pious and a prophet; he was a lecher who had many women and they believe him a virtuous celibate. [Farsi p 38]

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