When you think of ancient Persia, you’d usually picture legendary warriors and rich culture. Hardly ever would you associate ancient Persia with love and romance. But Persia, in fact, has some of the greatest ancient love stories to tell.
Below are a few of the greatest love stories ancient Persia has to offer. These stories are said to be true and can be historically traced back to their origins in ancient Persia, though time may have eroded some of the finer details.
1. Khosrow and Shirin
Khosrow, a prince in his prime who was next to inherit his father’s kingdom, had a dream of his grandfather, Anushirvan. Anushirvan gave him sweet tidings, which included a promise of Persia’s Kingdom, a horse named Shabdiz, and a beautiful wife named Shirin.
Love in Armenia
Shapur, a close friend of Khosrow, tells him about an Armenian queen, MahinBanu, and her beautiful niece, Shirin. The young prince falls in love with Shirin’s description, the namesake of the lady in his dream.
During this time, Shapur travels to Armenia and finds Shirin. He tells her about Khosrow, and she falls in love with the prince, too, even before meeting him. She then decides to escape from Armenia to meet the prince of her dreams in Persia.
Meanwhile, Khosrow’s father grows angry at him, forcing Khosrow to flee to Armenia in the hopes of meeting Shirin there. As he was fleeing Armenia, the prince spots a woman who turns out to be Shirin taking a bath in a pool. However, since Shirin was naked and Khosrow was dressed in peasant clothes, the two did not recognize each other.
Khosrow went on to Armenia. On arrival, Khosrow receives the news that Shirin had left for Persia. He quickly summons Shapur and sends him to Persia to fetch Shirin.
In the meantime, Khosrow receives news of his father’s death back in Armenia, so he traveled back home. When Shirin arrives in Armenia, she finds that Khosrow, yet again, had left. These two lovers keep missing each other until Khosrow, who had become King, is overthrown by his own general and forced to flee to Armenia.
Planning a Coup
At last, the two lovers meet. However, Shirin refused to marry Khosrow unless he took back his throne. So he traveled to Constantinople to ask Caesar for his support to fight for his kingdom. Caesar only agrees to help him with the condition that Khosrow marries his daughter Mariam.
With Ceaser’s help, Khosrow succeeds in getting back his throne and marries Mariam as agreed.
But when Shirin fell in love with a sculptor named back in Armenia, Khosrow was filled with jealousy. He sent him away on an impossible mission on a faraway mountain and arranged for fake news of Shirin’s death to be delivered to the poor man. Upon hearing the news, the sculptor threw himself off the mountain. Then, Shirin hatched her own evil plan to have Mariam poisoned.
With nothing standing between them, Khosrow is now free to marry Shirin – or so they thought. Khosrow’s son with Mariam, Shiroyeh, grew up and fell in love with Shirin too. He murdered his father and ordered Shirin to marry him. She commits suicide instead. Shirin and Khosrow are finally together in death and are buried side by side in the same grave.
2. Layla and Majnun
This love story is about two young lovers, Qays ibn al-Mullawah and Layla al-Aamiriya. Qays, who was considered of simple mind, began composing poems in praise of Layla. Most people considered him crazy in love with her and started to refer to him as Majnun, which meant crazy.
Majnun approached Layla’s father to ask for her hand in marriage. However, Layla’s father had heard of Majnun’s mental imbalance and wouldn’t have his daughter married off to someone so unstable. He refused to consent and instead arranged Layla’s marriage to a rich and handsome merchant.
Upon receiving this news, Majnun completely lost his mind and fled his camp into the desert. Majnun’s poetry never left him, though, and he was occasionally spotted reciting his own love poems about Layla to himself and writing poetry in the desert sand.
Meanwhile, Layla was moved by her husband to an obscure region in Northern Arabia. She tried to embrace her new life, but her heartbreak over Majnun was too much. She soon fell ill and died.
Majnun somehow managed to wander to her grave. Heartbroken, he carved three verses of a poem on her tombstone before tragically dying there.
3. Shirin and Farhad
Farhad was a brave man of noble character. He fell in love with a princess, Shirin, who did not love him back. He tried to gain favor in her eyes, but nothing worked. Farhad would go into the mountains to sing songs in Shirin’s praise for days on end.
The people who saw him were mesmerized by his skill and thought of a way to get the princess to love him. At last, she succumbed to his charm and fell hopelessly in love with Farhad. However, her royal lineage would not allow her to be with a peasant, so she kept their liaison secret.
Rumors of their love soon reached Shirin’s father, who was repulsed by their relationship. However, because Farhad was a hardworking man, Shirin’s father had no good reason to refuse their marriage. He devised a plan to have Farhad dig a forty-mile-long canal six yards wide and three yards deep to prove his hard-working character and love for the princess.
Shirin’s father was hoping that he would die as he worked.
Farhad fetched his spade the very next day and started working on the canal. He would work into the late hours of the night and would start very early the next day. He worked on the canal for years until he got halfway. One day Shirin decided to visit him. There in the canal, the two made love and enjoyed each other’s company. Farhad found renewed dedication for digging the rest of the canal.
Meanwhile, the princess’ father had realized that Farhad was going to complete the canal and would legitimately marry his daughter. He also got word of Shirin’s visit to the canal, and anger consumed him. He arranged for an older woman to deliver news of Shirin’s death to Farhad in the canal.
The Weeping Woman
The old pretender went and wept by the canal. Farhad heard her lamentation and went to find out what was going on. “I weep for you and the deceased, my child,” said the pretender. “Shirin is dead!”
Upon hearing the news, Farhad knew that his life’s work had been a waste, and he would never get to marry the love of his life. He took the spade he had used to dig and committed suicide.
Now, when Shirin heard the news of Farhad’s death, she was deeply saddened and immediately went to the canal. There, she found Farhad’s dead body and the spade. She took the spade and hit her head in the exact spot as Farhad, and they both died. Water never flowed in the canal, only the tears of their mourning families.