KESRAVI (also KESRAWI or ḴOSROVI), MUSĀ b. ʿISĀ, historian and man of letters (d. ca. 256/870). He is best known from a long quotation mentioned by Ḥamza Eṣfahāni (pp. 16-21), which provides the basic known facts of his life. He collaborated with Ḥasan b. ʿAli Hamaḏāni Raqqām in Marāḡa, when the town was under ʿAlāʾ b. Aḥmad (d. 874), collating various chronologies to create a more reliable chronology of Persian history.

Kesravi apparently did not attract much attention from modern scholars until lately. Our main source of information on him is V. R. von Rozen’s article of 1895, summarized by Johann Kirste and by Arthur Christensen (1917-34, I, pp. 64-68, II, pp. 81-82; idem, 1936, pp. 54-55), and further quoted by Ḏabiḥ-Allāh Ṣafā (pp. 88-89), Homāyun Farroḵ (pp. 746-47), and many others. Mario Grignaschi (1969 and 1973) adds some notes, as does Parviz Aḏkāʾi (in Biruni, pp. 555-563, esp. pp. 559-60). Mohsen Zakeri (pp. 32-33) summarizes in English what is found in several Persian studies, but contributes little new information. Carl Brockelmann (I, p. 158) mainly uses Ebn al-Nadim’s Fehrest (q.v.) and Rozen’s article. Kesravi is more extensively discussed in Hämeen-Anttila, 2013, and idem, 2018, chaps. 3.1 and 3.3.

Abu Rayḥān Biruni (q.v.; p. 273, tr. p. 208) states that Kesravi, probably referring to Musā b. ʿIsā, transmitted oral information from al-Mubad al-Motawakkeli, that is, Abu Jaʿfar Zar(ā)došt (Moḥammad) b. Āḏorḵar, who got his nickname from his closeness to the caliph al-Motawakkel (r. 847-61) and had already served the caliph al-Moʿtaṣem (r. 833-42). This would confirm Kesravi’s date of death to around 870.

Kesravi’s most important work was a chronological history of pre-Islamic Iran in Arabic, which was an important source for Ḥamza Eṣfahāni, who quotes extensively from it (pp. 16-21). Ḥamza (pp. 9-10) lists eight authors who had compiled or translated various works on pre-Islamic Persian history. Kesravi’s name was originally on this list, as can be seen from the parallel tradition (Hämeen-Anttila, 2013; Rubin), but apparently it was later inadvertently dropped from it.

In the “Older Preface” to the Prose Šāh-nāma (Qazvini, II, pp. 52-56; Monchi-Zadeh, p. 9; Minorsky, p. 173), the title of Kesravi’s book is given as Nāma-ye Sāsāniān‑e Musā-ye ʿIsā-ye Ḵosravi. This title is also used by Abu ʿAli Balʿami (p. 4). This may reflect an Arabic title such as *Ketāb taʾriḵ moluk Bani Sāsān.

Ḥamza (p. 16) quotes Kesravi as saying: “I looked into the book called the Ḵodāy-nāma, which is the book that, when translated from Persian into Arabic, was called Taʾriḵ moluk al-Fors. I repeatedly looked into copies (nosaḵ) of this book and perused them minutely, finding that they differ from each other. I was unable to find two identical copies. This is because the matter had been confused by the translators of this book when they translated it from one language into another.” The reference to translators strongly implies that Kesravi did not use the original Middle Persian Xwadāy-nāmag, but its Arabic translations (cf. Nöldeke, p. xix).

Kesravi mentions (Ḥamza, pp. 20-21) that he did not concern himself with the chronologies of the Parthian kings and presumably the same goes for the mythical and legendary kings of Iran, which would tally well with the presumed title of his work. How much Ḥamza may have abbreviated Kesravi’s work in quoting from it is not known, but it is possible that the work was a dry chronological list of Sasanian kings.

In addition to his chronological work, Kesravi is credited by Ebn al-Nadim with two other lost books (p. 142, tr. p. 280), namely Ketāb ḥobb al-awṭān and Ketāb monāqażāt man zaʿama annahu lā yanbaḡi an yaqtadi al-qożāt fi maṭāʿemehem be’l-aʾemma wa’l-ḵolafāʾ, neither of which presumably contained specifically Persian material. He is also credited with these two books in Esmāʿil Pāšā’s Hadiyat al-ʿārefin (p. 477), where we have some additional pieces of information. First, he is called Musā b. ʿIsā Baḡdādi, “man of letters, known as Kesravi,” and, secondly, he is said to have died in 186/802, which is too early in comparison with all the other evidence. One might consider an emendation to *286/899, although it remains unclear where Esmāʿil Pāšā got the date from. Carl Brockelmann (I, p. 237) credits Musā b. ʿIsā with a translation, or version, of Sendbād-nāma, but this is erroneous (see Hämeen-Anttila, forthcoming).

Musā b. ʿIsā has early on been confused in sources with ʿAli b. Mahdi Kesravi Eṣfahāni (d. ca. 287/900, e.g., Yāqut, IV, pp. 334-38), who is sometimes credited with one of the books attributed to Musā b. ʿIsā, namely Ketāb Monāqażāt, even in the very same source (Ebn al-Nadim, p. 167, tr. Dodge, p. 328). ʿAli b. Mahdi is also credited in the same passage of the Ebn al-Nadim’s Fehrest with Ketāb al-aʿyād wa’l-nawāriz, which is not extant, but the title implies that it contained material about the Nowruz and, most probably, the Mehragān festivals (qq.v.).

Ḥamza and Ebn al-Nadim provide us with our only unproblematic and reliable sources of information on Musā b. ʿIsā and his works.  A Kesravi is also mentioned or quoted in a number of other sources, but rarely identified more exactly, and his identity remains uncertain, although the other Kesravi, ʿAli b. Mahdi, may at least in some cases be the person referred to.

Ps.-Jāḥeẓ quotes Kesravi, without the first name, three times (pp. 53, 242-51, 359-65). The first quotation comes from Ebrāhim Bayhaqi (q.v.; p. 53), and the second is found in the anonymous Nehāyat al-arab (pp. 277, 280–294), which seems to be where Kesravi took this story from. The third passage contains an important description of the ceremonies of Nowruz and Mehragān. It may well come from the Ketāb al-aʿyād by ʿAli b. Mahdi Kesravi, which leads to the possibility that also the source of the other two passages was ʿAli b. Mahdi, not Musā b. ʿIsā. Besides, one might add that the Kesravi quoted in Bayhaqi’s Maḥāsen (pp. 349, 399, 534, 567), a book sharing large elements with ps.-Jāḥeẓ, as shown by van Vloten in the preface of his edition of ps.-Jāḥeẓ (pp. ix–xi), is without doubt ʿAli b. Mahdi.

Musā b ʿIsā Kesravi is quoted by name in the Mojmal (pp. 2, 67, here erroneously ʿIsā b. Musā, 68, and 70), always through Ḥamza and Biruni, and contains three quotations from Kesravi (pp. 135, 144-46, 273; Biruni, tr. pp. 122, 127-28, 208). The first two are explicitly taken from Ḥamza (pp. 16-21) and paraphrased. The third passage, which is about Mehragān, is not found in Ḥamza’s Taʾriḵ, neither is it attested elsewhere. It may well be from ʿAli b. Mahdi Kesravi’s Ketāb al-aʿyād wa’l-nawārez, since the personal name of Kesravi is not indicated.

Ebn Esfandiār (q.v.) mentions (p. 83) “the story of Musā b. ʿIsā al-SRVY (read: al-Kesravi), which is related in the book Nayruz wa-Mehrajān.” This otherwise unknown “story of Musā b. ʿIsā Kesravi” should probably be understood as a story related by Musā b. ʿIsā, not a story about him. This is the only source that attributes this book to Musā b. ʿIsā, whereas all other sources credit it to ʿAli b. Mahdi.


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(Jaako Hameen-Anttlia)

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