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The fortified desert city of Hatra, which had repelled three Roman and one Sasanian sieges, fell to the Sasanian king Shapur I in 241.

The medieval story of al-Nadirah is about the fall of Hatra and its princess, who fell in love with the young king Shapur I while he was besieging the city.

This partially fictional narrative is recorded in Persian and Arabic sources of the early Islamic period, and some of its elements inspired some modern stories. Its general theme has common features with some Greek and Roman legends.


Silver coin of Shapur I

According to early Islamic traditions, al-Nadirah (Arabic: النضيرةal-Naḍīrah; Persian: نضیرهNazirah) was the daughter of al-Dayzan or Satirun (Sanatruq II), the king of Araba. She betrayed the fortified capital, Hatra, to the Persian king Shapur I after seeing and falling in love with him while he was besieging the city. She did this by intoxicating her father and the guards of the city gates, or by revealing to the enemy the talisman on which the city's ownership depended. Shapur I captured and destroyed Hatra and killed its king. He departed with al-Nadirah and married her. One night al-Nadirah could not sleep, complaining that her bed is too rough for her. It then turned out that a myrtle leaf was stuck in her skin and was irritating her. Astonished by her softness, Shapur I asked her how did her father bring her up, and she described how well he treated her. Shapur I realizes al-Nadirah's ingratitude towards her father and has her executed in a brutal manner.[1][2][3][4]


The story is mentioned in Arabic and Persian literature and the poetry of the early Islamic period, including al-Tabari's Tarikh al-Tabari, Mirkhond's Rawzat as-Safa',[1][2][5] Ibn Khallikan's Wafayāt al-Aʿyān,[6] and Ferdowsi's Shahnama, where she is recorded as Mālikah (مالكه), daughter of king Tã'ir (طایر), while the Persian king is Shapur II, instead of Shapur I.[7]


According to Theodor Nöldeke, al-Tabari's story is derived from the Greek tale of Scylla and her father Nisos.[5] Some consider it as a Middle Eastern version of the Tarpeia theme.[2] The theme of Al-Nadirah's legend was used in Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale "The Princess and the Pea"[8] and Ahmed Shawqi's Waraqat al-As (The Myrtle Leaf).[9]


  1. ^ a b International Association of Academies (1934). The encyclopaedia of Islām: a dictionary of the geography, ethnography and biography of the Muhammadan peoples. E. J. Brill ltd. p. 313.
  2. ^ a b c Artes populares. Folklore Tanszék [Eötvös Lóránd Tudomány-Egyetem]. 1995. pp. 568–570.
  3. ^ Yarshater, Ehsan (1983). The Cambridge History of Iran. Cambridge University Press. p. 491. ISBN 9780521200929.
  4. ^ History of al-Tabari Vol. 5, The: The Sasanids, the Byzantines, the Lakhmids, and Yemen. SUNY Press. 1999. p. 36. ISBN 9780791497227.
  5. ^ a b Wirth, Albrecht (1894). "The Tale of the King's Daughter in the Besieged Town". American Anthropologist. A7 (4): 367–372. doi:10.1525/aa.1894.7.4.02a00030. ISSN 1548-1433. JSTOR 658562.
  6. ^ Ibn Khallikan's Biographical Dictionary. Oriental translation fund of Great Britain and Ireland. 1845. p. 326.
  7. ^ "گنجور » فردوسی » شاهنامه » پادشاهی شاپور ذوالاکتاف » بخش ۳".
  8. ^ Donzel, E. J. Van (1994). Islamic Desk Reference. BRILL. p. 122. ISBN 9789004097384.
  9. ^ Moosa, Matti (1997). The Origins of Modern Arabic Fiction. Lynne Rienner Publishers. p. 223. ISBN 9780894106842.