QAYDĀFA, a female character in various Islamic versions of the Alexander Romance.  She is Candace of the Greek Pseudo-Callisthenes (bk III, secs. 18-23; see Hanaway). In the Persian tradition the forms of the name include Qaydāfa/Qayḏāfa (Mojmal al-tawāriḵ, ed., p. 57; MS, fol. 22r) and Fandāqa Ṭarsusi, II, p. 517, n. 1).

The three most elaborate accounts of the Qaydāfa tale are given in the chapter on Alexander/Eskandar in Ferdowsi’s Šāh-nāma (pp. 51-74, vv. 671-1055), in Neẓāmi’s Šaraf-nāma (pp. 290-320, 430-35, 442-95) and in the anonymous Eskandar-nāma (pp. 192-98; see Hanaway).  The version appearing in the Šāh-nāma is as follows: having heard the account of the powerful queen of Andalos, given to him by Qayṭun, ruler of Egypt (Meṣr), Eskandar writes a letter to Qaydāfa demanding tribute from her, which Qaydāfa refuses to pay (pp. 51-54).  In the meantime Qaydāfa’s son, Qaydaruš, is captured and rescued by Eskandar, who assumes for this purpose the persona of his own minister Biṭaqun (pp. 54-57).  Eskandar/Biṭaqun then goes as an envoy to Qaydāfa and is cordially received by the queen as her son’s savior.  At the next morning’s audience she recognizes the disguised Eskandar due to his portrait, which had been secretly painted on her orders.  Qaydāfa shows the painting to the pretended messenger.  Eskandar finds himself mentored by the wise queen on the value of humbleness.  She keeps his identity secret, making him swear not to do harm to her kin and her kingdom.  She further warns him of her other son Ṭaynuš, who is after Eskandar to avenge his killing of the Indian king Fur, Ṭaynuš’s father-in-law (pp. 57-64).  The account ends with Eskandar’s outwitting Ṭaynuš with the help of a ruse (pp. 66 ff.).  Except for minor details, such as the idiosyncratic location of Qaydāfa’s kingdom in Andalos (for a possible explanation see Monchi-zadeh, p. 172, note 2; on the fluctuation of geography characteristic of the Islamic versions of the tale, see Rubanovich, 2015), Ferdowsi's version follows the account as it appears in the extant Syriac recension of the Greek Alexander Romance (Budge, pp. 118-26).  Its significance is, however, different: while in the Syriac recension the emphasis is on Alexander being subdued by a woman whose wisdom and resplendence are equal to his, in the Šāh-nāma Qaydāfa exemplifies the ideal sovereign, and her gender is of no significance.  Ferdowsi concentrates on the essence of royal power, making Qaydāfa explicate the didactic tenets that embody the model of an ideal ruler (see Kappler, 1993; idem, 1996; idem, 2000).

Neẓāmi Ganjavi’s account differs considerably from that of Ferdowsi.  Neẓāmi re-names the queen as Nušāba (rough translation: The Water of Life), a “telling” name in the context of Eskandar’s futile search for immortality.  He places her domain in the historical locality of Bardaʿ (i.e., Bardaʿa), a town situated not far from his native Ganja.  He inserts the episode of Nušāba’s abduction by Rus and her rescue by Eskandar into the story (Šaraf-nāma, pp. 430-35, 442-95), as well as her marriage to the king of Abḵāz (p. 494, vv. 47-77).  The above local motifs may echo real historical events, such as the sporadic incursions and forays of the Scandinavian-Slavic Rus in the course of the 10th century in the region of Bardaʿa (see BARDAʿA; cf. Ṣafawi, pp. 200-2).  Among further differences is the fusion of the Nušāba tale with that of the Amazons (cf. Šāh-nāma, pp. 85-89, vv. 1233-304): Nušāba is a virgin, a God-knowing soul “in no need of seeing men” (Šaraf-nāma, p. 292, v. 29), and the inclusion of the feast episode.  Two cloths are laid in the banqueting hall, one for Nušāba and her damsels, the other for Eskandar.  That of Nušāba carries food “beyond limit”; that of Eskandar is a cloth of gold, and on it is a tray bearing four cups of pure crystal: “one full of gold, and the other of ruby; the third full of cornelian, and the fourth of pearl” (p. 306, v. 254).  On Eskandar’s request as to how he can partake of the inedible, Nušāba explains the true meaning of her actions: one should not accumulate wealth and acquire conquests on this path of life, which ends with the stone (i.e., the grave).  The singular features of the Nušāba episode appear to be due to Neẓāmi’s familiarity with the tales of the Amazons and of the “bread of gold” originating in Talmudic and rabbinical literature unfavorable towards Alexander, notably in the legend of Alexander and King Każia (for a detailed examination see Rubanovich, 2015).

The anonymous Eskandar-nāma (see Hanaway) follows the outlines of Ferdowsi’s version, re-working the episode in accordance with the misogynist touch characteristic of this text (Rubanovich, 2004, pp. 356-64).  Qaydāfa is compliant with Eskandar’s request to provide his army with supplies; at night she comes alone to Eskandar’s chamber dressed as a concubine and, after having concluded a kind of matrimonial union, she makes Eskandar promise that upon his return to Rum (i.e., Greece), he will send for her and she will come to live with him, leaving her kingdom to her son. 

Nušāba of Bardaʿ is briefly mentioned in Amir Ḵosrow Dehlavi’s Āʾina-ye Sekandari (p. 45, v. 659).  The Qaydāfa episode was once included in Ṭarsusi’s Dārāb-nāma (II, p. 517); it was later omitted, plausibly through the vagaries of transmission.  The episode occurs with significant modifications also in religious works, mostly of a mystical nature, either in the form of an allusion or as a parable (e.g., Abu Esḥāq Nišāburi, pp. 325-26; Maybodi, IV, p. 371; ʿAṭṭār, p. 232; on the deployment of the episode in Persian mystical literature, see Rubanovich, 2015).  The character of Qaydāfa is sometimes alluded to in panegyric and lyric poetry as well (e.g., Ḵāqāni, p. 177).



Abu Esḥāq Nišāburi, Qeṣaṣ al-anbiāʾ: dāstānhā-ye payḡambarān, ed. Ḥabib Yaḡmāʾi, Tehran, 1961. 

Amir Ḵosrow Dehlavi, Āʾina-ye sekandari, ed. Jamal Mirsaidov, Moscow, 1977.

Shaikh Farid-al-Din ʿAṭṭār, Moṣibat-nāma, ed. ʿAbd-al-Wahhāb Nurāni Weṣāl, Tehran, 1959. 

Ernest A. Wallis Budge, The History of Alexander the Great: Being the Syriac Version of the Pseudo-Callisthenes, Cambridge, 1889. 

Eskandar-nāma, ed. Iraj Afšār, Tehran, 1964. 

Ferdowsi, Šāh-nāma VI, ed. Jalāl Ḵāleqi-Moṭlaq and Maḥmud Omidsālār, New York, 2005. 

William  Hanaway, “ESKANDAR-NĀMA,” in Encyclopaedia Iranica VIII/6, 1998, pp. 609-612; online edition,

Claude-Claire Kappler, “Alexandre et les merveilles dans Le Livre des Rois de Firdousi,” in Jean-Claude Aubailly et al., eds., Et c’est la fin pour quoy sommes ensemble: Hommage à Jean Dufournet: Littérature, histoire et langue du Moyen Age, 2 vols., Paris, 1993, II, pp. 759-73. 

Idem, “Alexandre dans le Shāh Nāma de Firdousi: De la conquête du monde à la découverte de soi,” in Margaret Bridges and J. Christoph Bürgel, eds., The Problematics of Power: Eastern and Western Representations of Alexander the Great, Bern and New York, 1996, pp. 165-90. 

Idem, “Le roi ‘au cœur éveillé: images du désir et la mort dan la littérature persane classique,” Mélanges de l’école française de Rome: Moyen Âges 112/1, 2000, pp. 85-95. 

Ḵāqāni Šervāni, Divān, ed. Żiāʾ-al-Din Sajjādi, Tehran, 1959. 

Abu’l-Fażl Rašid-al-Din Maybodi, Kašf al-asrār wa ʿoddat al-abrār, ed. ʿAli-Aṣḡar Ḥekmat, 10 vols., Tehran, 1952-60. 

Mojmal al-tawāriḵ wa’l-qeṣaṣ, ed. Moḥammad-Taqi Malek-al-Šoʿarāʾ Bahār, Tehran, 1939; MS HS or 2371 Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, facsimile, prepared by Mahmoud Omidsalar and Iraj Afshar, Persian Manuscripts in Facsimile 1, Tehran, 2001. 

Davoud Monchi-zadeh, Topographisch-historische Studien zum Iranischen Nationalepos, Abhandlungen für die Kunde des Morgenlandes XLI/2, Wiesbaden, 1975. 

Neẓāmi Ganjavi, Šaraf-nāma, ed. Behruz Ṯarwatiān, Tehran, 1989. 

Pseudo-Callisthenes, The Greek Alexander Romance, tr. Richard Stoneman, London and New York, 1991.  Julia Rubanovich, “Beyond the Literary Canon: Medieval Persian Alexander-Romances in Prose,” Ph.D. Diss., The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 2004. 

Idem, “Re-Writing the Episode of Alexander and Candace in Medieval Persian Literature,” in M. Stock, ed., Alexander the Great in the Middle Ages: Transcultural Perspectives, Toronto, forthcoming, 2015. 

Sayyed Ḥasan Ṣafawi, Eskandar wa adabiyāt-e Irān wa šaḵṣiyat-e maḏhabi-e Eskandar, Tehran, 1985. 

Abu Ṭāher Ṭarsusi, Dārāb-nāma, ed. Ḏabiḥ-Allāh Ṣafā, 2 vols., Tehran, 1965-68.

(Julia Rubanovich)

Originally Published: November 12, 2014

Last Updated: November 12, 2014

Cite this entry:

Julia Rubanovich, "QAYDĀFA," Encyclopædia Iranicaonline edition, 2014, available at (accessed on 12 November 2014).