In Quest of Simurgh: Piemontese

Piemontese is an Italian professor of Persian language and literature for many years. In this documentary, he shares with us what he has found interesting about Iran, its history and language over decades of studies.

TIME CODE: 00:00_05:00

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Angelo Michael Qumontez, Scientist: “Saint Michael for the city of Rome. Michael was the commander of the angels' army, which defeated the devil and killed it or kept it captive, where if he moved, they would hit him.

Michael means “who is like God”?

It asks this question and kills whoever answers “I am” to it.

My name is Angelo Michael Qumontez. Angelo means ?angel. Michael refers to Angel Michael, and Qumontez means ?foothill?.

If someone asks me who I am, I will tell them it's a long story.”

SOUNDBITE [English] Voice reciting this text: “My scientist friend Mr. Piemontese. I'm setting out for Rome to attend the 2nd International Iranologists Congress.

I heard you will also participate in the event to present several papers.

I'm glad to see all the members of the Iranologists union, especially professor Scarcia, after a long time.

I'll bring along notes on the biography of King Nader, as I have promised before.

Yours sincerely

Iraj Afshar

Tehran, 1970

Yours truly

Looking forward to seeing you”

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Angelo Michael Qumontez, Scientist: “They say "Ku" in Persian. In French, they say "ou".

"Ku" means "where", and in Latin, they say “quoi”

I wrote this note in a paper about the outstanding position of Iran in Italian epic and fiction proses in the 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. I studied exactly 50 proses.

I do it all on my own, without an assistant. I work, study and conduct research. That’s because I'm a researcher and historian. The main goal of my researches is to study and introduce historic, diplomatic and cultural ties between Iran and my country, Italy.”

TIME CODE: 05:00_10:00

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Angelo Michael Qumontez, Scientist: “Anyone who contacts me and expresses interest in visiting places in Rome where there are artistic references to historic characters or events, I go with them to pay a visit to those places.

Anyone who lives in Rome or wants to visit Rome, the first thing they need to do is to read the historic inscriptions which can be seen everywhere.

You will see something which even residents of Rome usually do not pay attention to.

See? There's an inscription here, inscription, inscription...

In Italian and Latin languages, it is called "Roma" which means the Eternal City; a city that is eternally vibrant.

Rome consists of old and modern buildings

Three types of cities, The second part is comprised of an underground city and the remnants of the ancient city beneath the ground. It is accessible though and everyone can go and visit the rubbles. The third part is the museum complex.”

SOUNDBITE [English] Voice reciting this text: “Dear scientist friend

I hope everything is going well.

I was busy teaching in Turkey, lately, but I fell sick. I am looking forward to receiving the collection of your articles, which you promised to send me, since I am writing an article titled "a story of Alexander", and need to refer to your articles.

Please send my best hellos to your honorable wife.

With best regards

Iraj Afshar”

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Angelo Michael Qumontez, Scientist: “This place is called the sacred area of the Argentina Square.

It is an outstanding and important place, due to the fact that Julious Caesar was killed here, exactly behind that pillar, by that pine tree, on March, 15th, 44 BC.

A few days before his death, he [Julious Caesar] decided to accompany Rome's army to deploy his troops in Iran to wage a war against the land of Iran.

I reviewed the history of urban development in Rome, and then took a tour around the city and visited its churches, palaces and archaeological sites in search of historical links between the city of Rome and the Persian Empire.”

TIME CODE: 10:00_15:00

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Angelo Michael Qumontez, Scientist: “Consequently, I recorded my findings in my book.

Such a work was unprecedented, in the sense that no historian, artist, archaeologist or Iranologist had noticed such a link in Rome.

Sivila Persica; a Persian foretelling woman.

She is writing the text of her foretelling. She is thinking.

Achashverosh refers to the Achaemenid king, the Persian emperor, Xerxes. And this is his Jewish wife, Esther.

This shows Alexander and his army's invasion of Iran under Darius.

This painting was created by renowned 17th century painter, Pietro Da Cortona.

The painting is so beautiful and of course highly significant.

I went to the University Institute of Oriental Studies in Naples.

I studied Iranology and learned Persian and Arabic languages at this university.

I graduated and then worked at the University of Rome as assistant professor.

A few years later, I became full professor.

For three years, I worked as professor of Persian language and literature and Persian Civilization at the Foreign languages Department of the University of Strasbourg in France.

I also served as cultural advisor of the Italian embassy in Iran, from 1988 through 1994. And for a second term from 1995 to August 1999.”

SOUDNBITE [Italian] Angelo Michael Qumontez, Scientist: “Giovanni Battista was from Florence. He was a Papal diplomat in Iran. He and his brother Girolamo discovered tens of important manuscripts in Iran.

In his historic and geographic narrative of the Persian language (in 1606), he regarded the language as genuine, outstanding and rich, [whose impact is felt] not only in Iran but across India and Tatarstan.

Now, “what is the Persian language?” is a question asked in Rome and the rest of Europe. Raimondi puts forth the most memorable and unique answer to this question. He says, “Persian is the best language in the world which enjoys a divine bliss for describing concepts in poetic formats.”

TIME CODE: 15:00_20:00

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Angelo Michael Qumontez, Scientist: “I recently wrote a book titled "Persica Vaticana". It's about the history of manuscripts, personalities and countries.

It highlights the relationship between Vatican and Iran by reviewing a collection of Persian manuscripts held in Vatican library as well as diplomatic or historical documents.

The book also introduces the first Italian Iranologists in the 16th and 17th centuries AD, which coincide with the Safavid era.”

SOUNDBITE [English] Voice reciting this text: “Dear scientist friend

I received your scholarly and invaluable book, "Memorials of Iranian saints martyred in Rome"; the story of an Iranian noble family visiting Rome to see the remnants of Roman crusaders, who were tortured and martyred in Rome before Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire.

A temple that offered them refuge; and celebrations that kept the memory of those true martyrs alive.

Iraj Afshar, 2003”

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Angelo Michael Qumontez, Scientist: “Marcus Agrippa built this building, as a gratitude for the gods who helped him win the battle against Iranian Parthians.

One day, the bell of the church rang to send Agrippa to Iran to cover the riots staged in Iran against the country. Agrippa accepted and went to Iran.

This is the oldest inscription in the Pantheon building, which dates back to 1587. During the Sassanid era in Iran, two Iranian Christians migrated to Rome.

They were killed [in Rome] because they were Christians.”

TIME CODE: 20:00_25:00

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Angelo Michael Qumontez, Scientist: “[This incident took place] in 270 AD for Marius and his wife, Martha.

This book was written by Amir Khosro Dehlavi.

It's titled "Eight Stories from Heaven". The book was widely recognized in the Italian and European literature.

"Lo specchio Alessandrino" means the Alexander mirror. This is a catalog of Persian manuscripts held in Italian libraries.I have visited all Italian cities and libraries on my own expenses to explore all of the existing Persian manuscripts in Italy.

I reviewed the books "Seven Beauties" of Nizami Ganjavi and "Eight Heavens" of Amir Khosro Dehlavi and learned that both were written based on the narrative technique used in "Sindbad-Nameh".

Sindbad-Nameh was a fiction work common across Asia and some parts of Europe. [There are books from] ancient times on history and bibliography of Italian literature in Iran, bibliography of Italian researches on Iran, history of Iranology in Italy. That's it for now.”

SOUNDBITE [Italian] Angelo Michael Qumontez, Scientist, Talking on the Phone: “Yes? Hello…Yes, I’m at Capitoline Museum. Yes…OK…I’ll come whenever I can. Don’t worry. Did you go to the bank? Yes. OK…OK...Are you OK? Why? Do you want to go out again?”

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Angelo Michael Qumontez, Scientist: “So, look here. The head, hand and sphere represent legitimate power of emperors. The same concept existed in ancient Iran.

A few months ago, when Iranian President Hassan Rouhani paid a visit to Rome, he and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi had an official meeting here. They sat here.

I'm so grateful that my book, titled "....Rome", received the World Award for Book of the Year of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

I'm pleased that I received the award directly from his Excellency Dr. Rouhani, Iran's president.”

TIME CODE: 25:00_30:00

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Presenter: “The jury of the Islamic Republic of Iran World Award for Book of the Year would like to thank all the thinkers in the field of Iranian and Islamic studies who have submitted their works to the secretariat, and announces the laureates of the 23rd edition of the Award as follows:

The best works; "Memorials of Iran in Rome", published by Vatican Library in Rome.

The book was authored by Professor Angelo Michelli Pie Montese from Italy.

Mr. Montese is a professor of Persian Language and Literature at the Sapienza University of Rome. He is one of the most outstanding orientologists, authoring tens of books and articles on Orientology.

Congratulations.”

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Angelo Michael Qumontez, Scientist: “-Thank you very much. Should I take the tray?

-No. I always take care of such affairs in the house.

When someone asks me what I do and where I live, I say I have two homes. I live in two houses. The first home is my own house, where we are right now.

The second home is the Vatican Library, its historical archives, and other libraries and archives around Rome.

Every morning, I go to the library or the archive to conduct research.

I read historical books and documents there and review manuscripts. I take notes and then return home.

In the afternoon, I get back to work to edit my notes or articles. At night, especially during spring or summer, I take a sightseeing tour around Rome. This is what usually do.

That Iranian pottery is the National Museum of Oriental Arts. And this is a sample of pottery produced in Iran.”

TIME CODE: 30:00_35:00

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Angelo Michael Qumontez, Scientist: “The Museum of Oriental Arts, which is located in Rome, is a complex of Iranian works of art, unearthed by Italian archaeologists during their excavations in Ghazni.

Exactly during the excavations conducted at the palace of King Massoud Ghaznavi.

Eastern Iran or Central Asia in the 10th century AD during the Samanid dynasty.

Helmet, arms and a shield.

A metal belt decorated with jewelry.

Iran; in early Seljuk era.

Seljuks and the Ilkhanate [were based] in Eastern Iran in the province of Khorassan.

Music concert, entertainment and hunting [are the main characteristics of] the Qajar dynasty.

Inscription in Persian language.

It is not easily readable.

[Reading Persian poem]

Yes, it belongs to the Qajar era.

Probably, the origin of pottery in Neishapour.

Inscription, Arabic letters.

Here, coins...these coins...Nasser al-Din Shahr is wrong; Nasser al-Din Shah is correct.

Donna Persiano means Iranian woman.

Darvis Persiano means Iranian dervish.

Lo Shah do Persia means the Shah of Iran, Fat'h Ali Shah from the Qajar dynasty.

Nader Shah Afshar, who was also called Koli-khan.

This is Shah Abbas Safavi and his famous mustache.

Italian anthropology.

Latin, Persian and English.

In historical, geographical and literary books of ancient Latin, it [Persian Gulf] was called Sinus Persicus. The same term was used on maps.

In the following centuries, the same name was used [for Persian Gulf] on geographic maps.

It does not have a particular production date, but it dates back to the second half of the 17th century during the Qajar dynasty. Pardon me, during the Safavid dynasty.

Sinus Persicus. -us is a Latin suffix for nouns.

In Italian, we use -ino.

In Persian, it [sinus] means chest. They are paronymous.”

TIME CODE: 35:00_40:00

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Angelo Michael Qumontez, Scientist:Longstanding relations between the Roman Empire and the Iranian Kingdom.

Sinus Persicus means Persian Gulf.Sinus Persicus. Literally, it means the chest of Persia, meaning gulf.

The images were selected by the publisher. I am only responsible for the text. Iran, Iran's history and Iran's geography are taught at Italian schools.

So, I knew about Iran's history and geography before I studied at the university in Naples.

I studied Iranology at the University Institute of Naples for Oriental Studies.

History, language and literature. [I chose this major] because it seemed more interesting to me.”

SOUNDBITE [English] Voice reciting this text “Dear Professor Piemontese

I was setting out for Russia as a jury member for the Ferdowsi Award for Iranologists when I heard about the discovery of the oldest manuscript of "Shahnameh" in Florence carried out by Your Excellency.

I am glad and surprised, because this discovery is the biggest scholarly work ever conducted about "Shahnameh".

And it is 60 years older than the famous British Museum version.

The manuscript is significant with regards to codicology as well as its text as a reference for editing Shahnaneh.

It can help attain a clearer image of the original language of Shahnameh.

By discovering this manuscript, you have offered great service to all fans of Shahnameh and enthusiasts of Persian manuscripts.

With best regards

Iraj Afshar, April 20th, 1979”

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Angelo Michael Qumontez, Scientist: “Villa Borghesse means the garden of the Borghesse family.

It dates back to the Safavid era in Iran.

It is an expansive garden in Rome.

It is so beautiful and famous.

It is cool here, you see? -yes

One distinctive feature of this garden is the sculptures of renowned poets and writers. The statues were made in honor of the countries of those figures.”

SOUNDBITE [Italian] Angelo Michael Qumontez, Scientist: “So, here comes the issue of knowledge-based power, which was the main theme of Ferdowsi’s work. In general, Shahnameh is a world-class literary masterpiece with no comparable peer written before or after it.

Because if we regard it as an epic work which would be a narrative or a poem basically narrating military events, we see that Homer’s “The Iliad and the Odyssey” revolves around a single event or a place. Even Virgil’s epic is [just] about “The Aeneid”, unlike Ferdowsi’s work which deals with the issue of the royal power from the creation to the said date (the Sassanid era).”

TIME CODE: 40:00_47:29

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Angelo Michael Qumontez, Scientist: “[Reciting Persian poem]

A bilingual inscription written in Persian and Italian languages.

It was a gift presented by Tehran to Rome.

The sculptor was Mr. Sadeqi, in 1958.

There's another sculpture on the corner of Ferdowsi Square; the sculpture of Nizami Ganjavi.

It was presented by the Republic of Azerbaijan as a gift to Rome on April 20, 1212 AD.

Writers and ordinary people in Europe used to use a bird feather, instead of a reed pen, for writing.

In Iran and other countries, reed pen was used for writing.

I've been to Shiraz for multiple times. When I was a students and when I served as cultural advisor at the Italian embassy in Tehran.

Youth's and students' interest [in foreign visitors] and their kindness was expressed honestly.

There's no need to remind you about the beauty of Shiraz and its significance in terms of literature and art; it is self-evident.

Most importantly, it used to be the capital of Iran.

These 3 or 4 factors are the reason why I'm interested in this city [of Shiraz].

Isn't it beautiful? For me, it is.”

SOUNDBITE [English] Voice reciting this text “My dear friend and scientist, Professor Piermontese

It's been 20 days I've been in the United States to see my children. I'd like to use the opportunity to informally inform you about an issue.

The Endowment Center of Dr. Mahmoud Afshar grants an award to Iranologists from around the world who have made effective efforts in the field of Iran's history and literature.

We are scheduling to present this prize to Your Excellency in the center's garden in August 2011.

I hope you will accept my offer. Please let me know [about your decision] in order for me to inform the Tehran Bureau.

P.S., I have attached a list of your invaluable works to this letter. Please revise it and add your new works to the list.

Yours sincerely

Iraj Afshar

28 Oct 2010”

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Clergyman: “His Excellency professor Piemontese, our honorable guest, does not have other time to honor him in a happy occasion.

This year, we are holding these ceremonies at a time when we are mourning the loss of our dear friend, Iraj Afshar. Our hearts are full of grief. We are mourning for him.”

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Angelo Michael Qumontez, Scientist: “As far as I know, [this is] the only book about Persian Grammar that is written by a European author. It has a chapter that should be the first chapter in the field of Persian [grammar].

Ms. Fatemeh Mousavi.

Presented by the author to Ms. Fatemeh Mousavi.

Rome, August 14, 2016.”

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