Genealogy and Ethno-Genesis in al-Masʿudi’s Muruj al-dhahab

Sarah Savant


In the tenth century, the litterateur and historian al-Masæudi (d. 345/956)composed one of the most eclectic accounts of the origins of the Persianssurviving today. He begins his discussion of the subject in his Muruj al-dhahabwa-maÆadin al-jawhar with the statement that “the people have disagreed withone another regarding the Persians (al-Furs) and their genealogies (ansÅbihim)”,and then proceeds to place on apparently equal footing a number of theories,including some that are evidently pre-Islamic in origin and some arising afterthe emergence of Islam. He positions his discussion of the Persians’ genealogyamidst sections on Iranian history, both ancient and Sasanian (224–651 CE),but makes virtually no effort to reconcile the contradictions in his material.Some years later, he draws on this material again in his Kitab al-Tanbih wa-lishraf.What, then, is al-Masæudi doing in the Muruj? Why does he bring togethersuch evidently disparate statements – and is there anything that he seeks topromote through this?