The Shahnameh is Iran's national epic. It is a compendium of Iranian myths, legends, and history. Unlike other Indo-European epics, it is not about a war, like the Iliad, or an individual, like the Odyssey, Beowulf, or the Ramayana. The central character of the Shahnameh is Iran, which it glorifies both as subject and hero. Unlike other classical Indo-European epics, the Shahnameh is not in a dead language. It is intelligible to every speaker of Persian in Iran, Afghanistan, and Central Asia. Following a brief survey of Iranian history from its beginning in the 7th century B.C. to Ferdowsi s time in the 11th century, this book provides a history of the poem and a biography of its author. It offers an explanation of the Shahnameh as a national icon and considers the implications of the poem for the present political tensions that mark Iran's relationship with the West.