Iranian Elements in the Pseudo-Aristotelian Sirr al-asrār (Secretum secretorum)


Friday, November 15, 2019, 5:00pm


Room 024, Barker Center

Speaker: Maria Subtelny, University of Toronto



The pseudo-Aristotelian Politics, known in Arabic as Sirr al-asrar ( secret of secrets) and in its medieval Latin translations as Secretum secretorum, purports to be Aristotle’s correspondence with Alexander the Great who at the time was engaged in the conquest of Persia. Probably compiled in the 10th century, this Arabic mirror for princes exhibits the influence of many different Late Antique sources, of which the Iranian—that is to say Sasanian—usually gets short shrift in the scholarly literature. presentation seeks to identify the Iranian elements in the Sirr al-asrar that arguably constituted the basis for this poorly understood medieval blockbuster.

Maria Subtelny is the Professor of Persian and Islamic Studies in the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations at the University of Toronto. She received her PhD from Harvard and has been teaching courses on the history of medieval Iran and classical Persian literature at the University of Toronto since 1984. Last year she was a Faculty Research Fellow at the Jackman Humanities Institute working on a project entitled “Physiognomy in the Context of Medieval Islamic Mirrors for Princes.” Her publications include Timurids in Transition: Turko-Persian Politics and Acculturation in Medieval Iran (2007) and Le monde est un jardin: Aspects de l’histoire culturelle de l’Iran médiéval (2002), and more recently “Kashifi’s Asrar-i qasimi: A Late Timurid Manual of the Occult Sciences and Its Safavid Afterlife,” in Islamicate Occultism in Theory and Practice (in press for 2020), and “A Man of Letters: Husain Va‘iz Kashifi and His Persian Project,” in The Idea of Iran,vol. 10, The Timurid Century (2019). She has just completed an edition of Kashifi’s Akhlaq-i muhsini, an late 15th-century Persian mirror for princes.

Sponsors: the Mahindra Humanities Center & the Aga Khan Fund for Iranian Studies


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