Ferdowsi was born in Khorasan in a village near Tus, in 940. His great epic the Shahnameh, to which he devoted most of his adult life, was originally composed for the Samanid princes of Khorasan, who were the chief instigators of the revival of Persian cultural traditions after the Arab conquest of the seventh century. During Ferdowsi's lifetime this dynasty was conquered by the Ghaznavid Turks, and there are various stories in medieval texts describing the lack of interest shown by the new ruler of Khorasan, Mahmud of Ghazni, in Ferdowsi and his lifework. Ferdowsi is said to have died around 1020 in poverty and embittered by royal neglect, though confident of his and his poem's ultimate fame.
Ehsan Yarshater was born in 1920 in Iran and received a Ph.D. in Persian Language and Literature from the University of Tehran and a Ph.D. in Old and Middle Iranian from London University. He is the Hagop Kevorkian Professor Emeritus of Iranian Studies at Columbia University where he founded the Center for Iranian Studies in 1968 and started the Encyclopaedia Iranica in 1974. He currently lives in New York where he teaches and edits the Encyclopaedia Iranica. This monumental project will record the details of the history, culture, and achievements of Iranian peoples throughout history.
Dick Davis was born in Portsmouth, England, in 1945 and educated at King's College, Cambridge (B.A. and M.A. in English Literature), and at the University of Manchester (Ph.D. in Medieval Persian Literature). He is currently associate professor of Persian at Ohio State University. He lived for eight years in Iran (1970-78), as well as for periods in Greece and Italy. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. His other translations from Persian include Borrowed Ware: Medieval Persian Epigrams (Mage, 1997), My Uncle Napoleon (Mage, 1996), The Legend of Seyavash (Penguin Classics, 1992), and with Afkham Darbandi, The Conference of the Birds (Penguin Classics, 1984).