Counsel for Kings: Wisdom and Politics in Tenth-century Iran

Publication Year



Louise Marlow, Ph.D. 1987

A textual and contextual study of an early Arabic mirror for princes

Mirrors for princes form a substantial and important genre in many pre-modern literatures. Their ostensible purpose is to advise the king; at the same time they assert that the king, if he is truly virtuous, will appreciate being reminded of the contingency of his power. The unknown author of the Counsel for Kings studied in this book wrote in a distinctive early tenth-century Iranian environment. He deploys an abundant set of cultural materials representing ‘perennial wisdom’ of mixed provenances, which he reinvigorates by applying them to the circumstances of his own time and place.

The first volume situates Counsel for Kings in its historical context. The second volume gives direct access to a substantial portion of the text through translation and commentary.

Key features

  • Integrates the evidence of Counsel for Kings with established materials for the study of Samanid history
  • Demonstrates the interplay of mirrors for princes with other forms of literary expression, such as anthologies of adab, historiographical, theological, philosophical and homiletic writings, encyclopaedic works and poetry

    Table of Contents

    Volume I
    Notes on Transliteration and Dates
    Part I: Situating the Text
    Map 1: The Nile-to-Oxus Region in the Tenth Century
    Chapter 1. An Early Samanid View of History: The Dating of Naṣīḥat al-mulūk
    Map 2: The Oxus Regions in the Ninth and Tenth Centuries 85
    Chapter 2. A Liminal Setting: The Location of Naṣīḥat al-mulūk
    Part II: Governance and Society
    Chapter 3. Kingship and Governance: Concepts and Terminology
    Chapter 4. Intermediaries and Networks
    Part III: The Religious Landscape
    Chapter 5. Multiplicity and Rhetoric
    Chapter 6. Religion and the Samanid Amirs
    Chapter 7. The Afflictions of the Kingdom and Their Remedies
    Chapter 8. The Religious Sensibility of Naṣīḥat al-mulūk
    Fig. 1: The Samanids
    Fig. 2: The Samanid Dynastic Family

    Volume II
    Part I. The Cultural Landscape
    Chapter 1. The Presentation of Advice
    Chapter 2. Sources and Authorities: The Living Meaning of Ancient Wisdom
    Part II. The Three Governances: Translations and Commentary
    Chapter 3. Governance of the Self
    Chapter 4. Governance of the Élites
    Chapter 5. Governance of the Common People
    Index of Qurʾanic verses

Series Title
Edinburgh Studies in Classical Arabic Literature
Edinburgh University Press
Set: 9780748697564; vol. 1: 9780748696901; vol. 2: 9780748696987