/ Mergu :
Incorporating the Tapuri :
A Bronze Age culture emerged in Central Asia around 2200-1700 BC,
at the same time as city states were beginning to flourish in Anatolia.
It was known as the Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex, or
Oxus civilisation, and Indo-European tribes soon integrated into
it. Probably these very same people were very shortly to be found
entering India, and those who remained behind appear to enter the
historical record in around the sixth century BC, when they came
up against the rapidly expanding Persian empire.
The ancient province of Margiana lay largely within what is now
central and western Turkmenistan. The Kopet Dag Mountains which
today form a frontier with Iran were probably to be found within
its borders. In the Avesta, Margiana is mentioned as one
of Ahuramazda's special creations and is referred to as being 'the
strong, holy Môuru' (Vendidad, Fargard 1.6). In Hindu, Parsi, and
Arab traditions, Margiana is identified with the ancient Paradise.
Prior to its late sixth century BC domination by the Achaemenid
Persians, Margiana lay immediately outside a much larger and more
poorly-defined region known as Ariana, of which the later province
of Aria was the heartland. Barely recorded by written history, its
precise boundaries are impossible to pin down. It may have encompassed
much or all of Transoxiana, the region around the River Oxus (the
Amu Darya), and could have reached as far south as the coastline
of the Arabian Sea.
Persian Mergu was only a region within Chorasmia which lay to the
north. Subsequent Greek domination saw 'Mergu' became 'Margiana'
and it also became a separate province. To the east it was bordered
by Bactria, to the south-east by Aria, and to the south-west by
Hyrcania. By the first millennium BC it may have been populated
largely by Indo-Iranian tribes which were migrating east and west
from across the River Oxus. Those tribes which remained behind appear
to enter the historical record around the sixth century BC, when
they came up against their cousins from the rapidly expanding Persian
The Tapuri were a group of people, perhaps something more
than a single tribe. They seemingly occupied the southern coastal
region of the Caspian Sea around the modern city of Sari but they
were claimed as not being Indo-Iranians (sometimes incorrectly).
When Media was at its height they formed part of its conquests.
When the Persians became dominant they were incorporated with that,
lying to the east of the Indo-Iranian Mardoi. During the Greek period
they seemingly had their own minor satrapy of Tapouria which was
overseen by Margiana. The Tapuri and many other borderland tribes
such as the Cadusii, Gelae (Gelonians or Alans), and Utians of northern
Media and the shores of the Caspian were classed as Anariaci. The
word can be broken down as 'an', meaning 'not', plus 'aria', meaning
'Aryan, Indo-Iranian', and the plural suffix '-ci'. They were the
'not-Indo-Iranians', although the Gelae were indeed Indo-Iranians,
if not quite of the same general group as the Persians and Medians.
Eventually, though, they were absorbed into the dominant Persian
(Additional information from The Marshals of Alexander's Empire,
Waldemar Heckel, from Alexander the Great and Hernán Cortés:
Ambiguous Legacies of Leadership, Justin D Lyons, and from External
Links: Encyclopædia Britannica, and Livius.)
of Turan (Indo-Iranian) :
Later myth ascribed a dynasty of Indo-Iranian rulers to this period,
as described in the Shahnameh (The Book of Kings),
a poetic opus which was written about AD 1000 but which accessed
older works (such as the semi-official seventh century AD book called
the Ḵwadāy-nāmag), and perhaps elements of
an oral tradition. The Kayanian dynasty of kings of the Persians
were also the heroes of the Avesta, which forms the sacred
texts of Zoroastrianism. This faith itself had been founded along
the banks of the River Oxus, the great river which had probably
also formed part of the migratory route used by the Indo-European
Persians as they entered Iran.
The earliest of these mythical Indo-Iranian rulers was Fereydun,
king of a 'world empire'. His subjects were the Indo-Iranian tribes
of the region while his kingdom was apparently in the land of Tūr
(or Turaj, sometimes also shown without the accented 'u' as Tur).
This can be equated to territory in the heartland of Indo-Iranian
southern Central Asia and South Asia, focused mainly on the later
provinces of Bactria and Margiana, along with the Kopet Dag region
(a mountain range which serves to separate modern Turkmenistan and
Iran), the Atrek valley (which supplies an easy route into eastern
Iran and is a weak point in the country's defensive line), and the
eastern Alborz Mountains (stretching from modern Azerbaijan, along
the southern coast of the Caspian Sea, and into Hyrcania and the
edges of eastern Iran).
Judging by those borders, the land of Tūr stretched from Samarkand
to Tehran, although the kingdom of Turan was probably a good deal
smaller and more eastern-based (note the similarly between 'Turan'
and Tehran'). The Persians themselves may still have controlled
a good deal of the western section as they began to settle in southern
Iran. Curiously (and probably not coincidentally), these borders
would have placed it on the northern border of another ancient region,
that of Ariana, while the land of Aryana Vaejah that is mentioned
in the Avesta is usually located to the north and west of
both the other two lands.
Fereydun became the father of three sons; Tūr, Salm, and Iraj.
Tūr murdered Iraj, thereby triggering an unending feud between
the two lines of their descendants. One of Tūr's descendants
(possibly a seven-times grandson) was Afrasaib, who ruled the kingdom
of Turan during the lifetime of the Persian Kai Kavoos of the seventh
century. The stories regarding Turan show it to be in competition
with the Persians for mastery of the eastern lands, with many battles
being fought. Ultimately it is the Persians who emerge victorious,
although the Shahnameh may be showing some bias - history
is written by the victorious, after all. Turan's kings are shown
with a shaded pink background to denote their legendary status.
(Additional information from Central Asia: A Historical Overview,
Edward A Allworth (Duke University Press, 1994), from The Paths
of History, I M Diakonoff (Cambridge University Press, 1999),
from Islamic Reference Desk, Emeri 'van' Donzel (Brill Academic
Publishers, 1994), from Farāmarz, the Sistāni Hero:
Texts and Traditions of the Farāmarznāme and the
Persian Epic Cycle, Marjolijn van Zutphen, and from External
Links: Encyclopaedia Iranica, and Iranians & Turanians in
/ Faridun / Fareidun : Ruled a 'world empire'. Abdicated
in favour of Manuchehr.
: Son of Fereydun. Gifted Central Asia. Killed Iraj of
Thanks to the murder of Iraj by Tūr and Salm, the Persians
retaliate under the command of Iraj's grandson, Manuchehr. One of
the leading warriors under his command may be Garshāsp (possibly
also known as Karāsp), a figure of the Shahnameh or
Shahnama, the Book of Kings and a possible descendant
of the mythical Indo-Iranian King Jamshid. Tūr and Salm cross
the Oxus to face Manuchehr's army on the border between Iran and
Turan. The ensuing battle results in heavy casualties for the Turanians,
and Tūr is later ambushed and beheaded. Salm is later captured
and also beheaded.
the climate-change-induced collapse of indigenous civilisations
and cultures in Iran and Central Asia between about 2200-1700 BC,
Indo-Iranian groups gradually migrated southwards to form two regions
- Tūr (yellow) and Ariana (white), with westward migrants forming
the early Parsua kingdom (lime green), and Indo-Aryans entering
: Grandson. Continued the war against the Persians.
cent BC :
: Son. Defeated and died.
The story of Afrasiab's eventual defeat and death comes largely
from the Shahnameh (The Book of Kings). He is repeatedly
defeated by Kai Khosrow (his own grandson via his daughter, Farangis).
Forced out of his own lands he wanders wretchedly, taking refuge
in a cave known as the Hang-e Afrasiab (meaning the 'dying place
of Afrasiab'), on a mountain in Azerbaijan. Ultimately, he is killed
by the divine plant of Zoroastrianism, Haoma, near the Čīčhast
(location uncertain, but proposed as Lake Hamun in Sistan, which
contradicts his location in Azerbaijan). He meets his death in the
cent BC :
/ Siyavash : Son of Kai Kavoos of Persia, and son-in-law
Sijavus is a legendary Persian prince and the son-in-law of the
mythical Afrasiab, the hero and king of Turan. Due to the treachery
of his stepmother, Sudabeh, Sijavus exiles himself to Turan (presumably
well before the defeat and death of Afrasiab). There, he marries
Farangis, Afrasiab's daughter, but the king later orders Sijavus
to be killed. His death is avenged by his son, the very same Kai
Khosrow mentioned above, who inherits the early Persian throne.
- 540 BC :
defeat of the Medes opens the floodgates for Cyrus the Great with
a wave of conquests, beginning in the west from 549 BC but focussing
towards the east of the Persians from about 546 BC. Eastern Iran
falls during a more drawn-out campaign between about 546-540 BC,
which may be when Maka is taken (presumed to be the southern coastal
strip of the Arabian Sea). Further eastern regions now fall, namely
Arachosia, Aria, Bactria, Carmania, Chorasmia, Drangiana, Gandhar,
Gedrosia, Hyrcania, Margiana, Parthia, Saka (at least part of the
broad tribal lands of the Sakas), Sogdiana (with Ferghana), and
Thatagush - all added to the empire, although records for these
campaigns are characteristically sparse. The inference is very clear
- whatever control of Turan the Persians had enjoyed following the
death of Afrasiab, it did not last and the lands now have to be
Satraps of Mergu (Margiana) :
Conquered in the mid-sixth century BC by Cyrus the Great, the region
of Margiana was added to the Persian empire. Before that it was
populated largely by Indo-Iranian tribal groups. Under the Persians
it was formed into an official satrapy or province which was called
Mergu (or sometimes Mergush - Margiana is a Greek mangling of the
name, while the Indo-Iranian version has survived as the present
These eastern regions of the new-found empire were ancestral homelands
for the Persians. They formed the Indo-Iranian melting pot from
which the Parsua had migrated west in the first place to reach Persis.
There would have been no language barriers for Cyrus' forces and
few cultural differences. Although details of his conquests are
relatively poor, he seemingly experienced few problems in uniting
the various tribes under his governance. He was the first to exert
any form of imperial control here, although his campaign may have
been driven partially by a desire to recreate the semi-mythical
kingdom of Turan in the land of Tūr, but now under Persian
control. Curiously the Persians had little knowledge of what lay
to the north of their eastern empire, with the result that Alexander
the Great was less well-informed about the region than earlier Ionian
settlers on the Black Sea coast had been.
The great satrapy of Bakhtrish (Bāxtri) with its capital at
Bactra usually had satraps appointed who were Achaemenid princes
or members of the highest social elite. Information about the satrapy's
administration comes predominantly from the time of Alexander's
campaign. The minor satrapy of Mergu was also under the oversight
of the satrap of Bakhtrish, as apparently was much of the Central
Asian region, as proven by the Behistun inscription. Mergu's core
was the oasis at the Margu or Murḡāb, the present-day
Marv or Mary in Uzbekistan. Of its borders, only that along the
Oxus (Amu Darya) to the north and east can be determined with any
accuracy. Those with the neighbouring provinces of Haraiva, Uwarazmiy,
and Verkâna are much less precise.
(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from
The Persian Empire, J M Cook (1983), from The Histories,
Herodotus (Penguin, 1996), from Persica, Ctesias of Cnidus
(original work lost but a section is repeated by Photius in ninth
century AD Constantinople), from Farāmarz, the Sistāni
Hero: Texts and Traditions of the Farāmarznāme
and the Persian Epic Cycle, Marjolijn van Zutphen, and from
External Links: Encyclopaedia Iranica, and The Geography
of Strabo (Loeb Classical Library Edition, 1932), and The Natural
History, Pliny the Elder (John Bostock, Ed), and Livius.org.)
The usurper Gaumata (Smerdis) takes control in Persis in 522 BC.
All three of the oldest sources (Darius the Great, Herodotus, and
Ctesias), agree that he and the magi are overthrown within a year
or so by Darius and others (normally seven of them) in a coup.
central relief of the North Stairs of the Apadana in Persepolis,
now in the Archaeological Museum in Tehran, shows Darius I (the
Great) on his royal throne (External Link: Creative Commons Licence
Immediately afterwards, while Darius is still consolidating his
new position, Fravarti the Cyaxarid tries to restore Median independence.
He is defeated by Persian generals and is executed. The same happens
in Armina, Parthawa, and Verkâna whose inhabitants, as Darius reports,
had also joined Fravarti. The quashing of the insurrections from
Armina to Parthawa is chronologically coordinated in Persian records
and occurs between May and June 521 BC.
: Rebel made 'king' by his supporters. Defeated.
Another major rebellion takes place in Mergu (referred to as Margush
in this instance) towards the end of 522 or 521 BC (scholars disagree
over the year, although it is agreed that the rebellion is put down
in December). Darius sends against him Dadarshish, satrap of Bakhtrish,
and the rebellion is duly crushed. The casualty figures given for
the final battle are extremely high - too high for a scratch army
of rebels from Mergu. Speculation has suggested that Saka allies
of the rebels are involved in the battle, or that the region's capital
at Merv witnesses the slaughter of its inhabitants as punishment
for joining a province-wide rebellion.
- 465 BC :
Xerxes apparently adds two new regions to the Persian empire during
his reign, neither of which are very descriptive or clear in their
location. The first is Daha, from 'daai' or 'daae', meaning 'men',
perhaps in the sense of brigands. Daha or Dahae would appear to
be the region on the eastern flank of the Caspian Sea, bordered
by the Saka Tigraxauda to the north, and the satrapies of Mergu,
Uwarazmiy, and Verkâna to the north-east, south-east, and south
respectively. It contains a confederation of three tribes, the Parni,
the Pissuri, and the Xanthii.
Artaxerxes II is occupied fighting the 'revolt of the satraps' in
the western part of the empire. Nothing is known of events in the
eastern half of the Persian empire at this time, but no word of
unrest is mentioned by Greek writers, however briefly. Given the
newsworthiness for Greeks of any rebellion against the Persian king,
this should be enough to show that the east remains solidly behind
the king. It seems that all of the empire's troubles hinge on the
Greeks during this period.
II of Persia is immortalised in relief at the entry to his tomb
in Persepolis, having survived a reign that began with a series
of revolts and included war against the troublesome Greeks (External
Link: Creative Commons Licence 2.0 Generic)
- 328 BC :
In 330 BC Mergu becomes part of the Greek empire, with Bessus, self-styled
'king of Asia', withdrawing eastwards to make a stand there. His
claim as the successor to Darius III is legal, since his satrapy
of Bakhtrish is traditionally commanded by the next-in-line to the
throne and he has already murdered Darius, but Persia has already
been lost and his loose collection of eastern allies - which includes
the other two most senior officials, Barsaentes of Harahuwatish
and Satibarzanes of Haraiva - provides nothing more than a sideshow
to the main event - the fall of Achaemenid Persia. Still, it takes
Alexander the Great two more years to fully conquer the region.
Dynasty in Margiana :
Incorporating the Satraps of Tapouria
The Argead were the ruling family and founders of Macedonia who
reached their greatest extent under Alexander the Great and his
two successors before the kingdom broke up into several Hellenic
sections. Following Alexander's conquest of central and eastern
Persia in 331-328 BC, the Greek empire ruled the region until Alexander's
death in 323 BC and the subsequent regency period which ended in
310 BC. Alexander's successors held no real power, being mere figureheads
for the generals who really held control of Alexander's empire.
Following that latter period and during the course of several wars,
Margiana was left in the hands of the Seleucid empire from 312 BC.
Margiana was one of the less important satrapies, a minor position
that was generally under the oversight of the satrap of Bactria.
Apparently much of the Central Asian region was also subservient
to Bactria, as proven by the Behistun inscription. Margiana's Achaemenid
borders seem to have been maintained under Alexander's control.
Its core was the oasis at the Margu or Murḡāb, the present-day
Marv or Mary in Uzbekistan. Only the border along the Oxus (Amu
Darya) to the north and east can be determined with any accuracy.
Those which were shared with the neighbouring provinces of Aria,
Chorasmia, and Hyrcania are much less precise. It is even questionable
that Margiana was a separate entity during this period. No satraps
are listed, so it could just as easily have been controlled directly
was a minor satrapy which, if attempts to locate its people - the
Tapuri - are correct, was positioned on the southern coast of the
Caspian Sea around the modern city of Sari. They would have been
wedged between the westernmost parts of Margiana and the northern-western
borders of Hyrcania, so one or the other would have seen to their
administration. Only one satrap is known, a Greek by the name of
Autophradates who was appointed to the position once Alexander had
secured the heartland of Persia. After that the region drifted into
(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from
The Persian Empire, J M Cook (1983), from The Histories,
Herodotus (Penguin, 1996), from Who's Who in the Age of
Alexander the Great: Prosopography of Alexander's Empire, Waldemar
Heckel (Ed), and from External Link: Encyclopaedia Iranica.)
- 323 BC :
Alexander III the Great : King of Macedonia. Conquered
- 317 BC :
Philip III Arrhidaeus : Feeble-minded half-brother of Alexander
- 310 BC :
Alexander IV of Macedonia : Infant son of Alexander the
Great and Roxana.
330 - ? BC :
: Satrap of Margiana? Name unknown.
- ? BC :
: Greek-appointed native satrap of Tapouria.
this time the Sakas appear to reside midway between modern Iran
and India, or at least the Amyrgian subset or tribe does. Achaemenid
records identify two main divisions of 'Sakas' (an altered form
of 'Scythians', these being the Saka Haumavarga and Saka Tigraxauda,
with the latter inhabiting territory between Hyrcania and Chorasmia
in modern Turkmenistan.
(otherwise known as 'Scythians' who in this case can be more precisely
identified as Indo-Scythians) depicted on a frieze at Persepolis
in Achaemenid Persia, which would have been the greatest military
power in the region at this time, while above is the route of Alexander's
ongoing campaigns across the ancient world
- 311 BC :
The Third War of the Diadochi results because the Empire
of Antigonus has grown too powerful in the eyes of the other Greek
generals, so Antigonus is attacked by Ptolemy (Egypt), Lysimachus
(Phrygia and Thrace), Cassander (Macedonia), and Seleucus (Babylonia).
The latter re-secures Babylon itself and the others conclude peace
terms with Antigonus in 311 BC.
-301 BC :
Fourth War of the Diadochi soon breaks out. In 306 BC Antigonus
proclaims himself king, so the following year the other generals
do the same in their domains. Polyperchon, otherwise quiet in his
stronghold in the Peloponnese, dies in 303 BC and Cassander of Macedonia
claims his territory. The war ends in the death of Antigonus at
the Battle of Ipsus in 301 BC. Seleucus is now king of all Hellenic
territory from Syria eastwards, turning Alexander the Great's eastern
empire into the Seleucid empire, which includes Hyrcania and Margiana.
Parthian, & Sassanid Margiana :
Ancient Margiana could be linked to a semi-mythical kingdom of Turan
via the Shahnameh (The Book of Kings), a poetic opus
which was written about AD 1000 but which accessed older works (such
as the semi-official seventh century AD book called the Ḵwadāy-nāmag),
and perhaps elements of an oral tradition. The kings of Turan can
also be linked to the Avesta, which forms the sacred texts
of Zoroastrianism. The stories regarding Turan show it to be in
competition with the Persians for mastery of the eastern lands,
with many battles being fought. Ultimately it is the Persians who
emerge victorious. By the late sixth century Margiana was the Persian
satrapy of Mergu.
Alexander the Great's victories over the Persians and his pursuit
of Darius III led him deep into the lands of eastern Iran, much
of which today form parts of Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan,
Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Margiana was focussed around the River
Murghab (Margos to the Greeks). The river has its sources in the
mountains of Afghanistan and flows to the north, into the Karakum
desert, where it divides into several branches that disappear into
the desert sands. The fertile delta created by the river had been
prime farming land since at least the Bactria-Margiana Archaeological
Complex of about 2200-1700 BC. It was the Greeks who reorganised
Mergu into Margiana (same name as used by a different language),
a separate province in its own right. Unfortunately, following the
death of Alexander almost none of the names of its satraps seem
to be known.
(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from
Osservazione sulla monetazione Indo-Partica. Sanabares I e Sanabares
II incertezze ed ipotesie, F Chiesa (1982), from History
of Civilizations of Central Asia, Janos Harmatta, B N Puri,
& G F Etemadi (Eds, Delhi 1999), from The Parthian and Early
Sasanian Empires: Adaptation and Expansion, Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis,
Michael Alram, Touraj Daryaee, & Elizabeth Pendleton (Eds),
and from External Links: The History of Ancient Iran, Richard
Nelson Frye (1983), and The Cambridge History of Iran Vol 4, Richard
Nelson Frye (Ed, 1975), and The Seven Great Monarchies of the Ancient
Eastern World, Vol 7: The Sassanian or New Persian Empire, George
Rawlinson (1875, now available via Project Gutenberg), and The Sasanian
Empire (AD 224-651), Blair Fowlkes-Childs (Metropolitan Museum of
Art, New York), and Encyclopaedia Iranica, and Livius.org.)
The realm of Euthydemus of Bactria is a large one, including Sogdiana
and Ferghana to the north, and Margiana and Aria to the west. There
are indications that from Alexandria Eschate in Ferghana the Greco-Bactrians
may lead expeditions as far as Kashgar (a little under three hundred
and twenty kilometres (two hundred miles) due east of Ferghana),
and Urumqi in Chinese Turkestan. There they would be able to establish
the first known contacts between China and the West around 220 BC.
Even more remarkably, recent examinations of the terracotta army
have established a startling new concept - the terracotta army may
be the product of western art forms and technology. An entire terracotta
army plus imperial court are manufactured using five workshops and
a form of human representation in sculpture that has never before
been seen in China. Archaeologists today continue the process of
discovering new pits and even a fan of roads leading out from the
emperor's burial mound, one of which, heading west, may be a sort
of proto-Silk Road along which Greek craftsmen may be travelling.
Polo's journey into China along the Silk Road made use of a network
of east-west trade routes that had been developed since the time
of Greek control of Bactria
- 209 BC :
Having defeated his rebellious cousin in Anatolia, Antiochus III
of the Seleucid empire concentrates on the northern and eastern
provinces of the empire. Xerxes of Armenia is persuaded to acknowledge
his supremacy in 212 BC, while in 209 BC Antiochus invades Parthia.
Its capital, Hecatompylos, is occupied and Antiochus forces his
way into Hyrcania, with the result that the Parthian king, Arsaces
II, is forced to sue for peace.
Under Mithradates the Parthians rise from obscurity to become a
major regional power, although a precise chronology is not possible.
Their first expansion takes the former province of Aria from the
Greco-Bactrian kingdom. It seems possible that Aria (and possibly
a rebellious Drangiana too) had already been conquered once by the
Arsacids, with the Greco-Bactrians recapturing it, probably during
the reign of Euthydemus I Theos. During the reign of Eucratides
I the Greco-Bactrians are also engaged in warfare against the people
of Sogdiana, showing that they have lost control of that northern
region too (and by inference Ferghana).
The other eastern provinces, all of which still appear to be in
Seleucid hands, must also fall to the Parthians very quickly after
this - including Carmania, Gedrosia, and Margiana - although firm
evidence to show a specific date appears to be lacking. Another
date which may be valid for these losses is 185 BC, when Seleucus
IV loses eastern Iran to Parthian expansion, but the fact that the
Parthians fail to expand out of their initial conquests until Mithradates
accedes makes this period a more likely one.
- 100 BC :
With Parthian territory having been harried for years by the Sakas,
King Mithridates II is finally able to take control of the situation.
First he defeats the Greater Yuezhi in Sogdiana in 115 BC, and then
he defeats the Sakas in Parthia and around Seistan (in Drangiana)
around 100 BC. After their defeat, the Greater Yuezhi tribes concentrate
on consolidation in Bactria-Tokharistan while the Sakas are diverted
into Indo-Greek Gandhar. The western territories of Aria, Drangiana,
and Margiana would appear to remain Parthian dependencies. Carmania
would also now seem to be Parthian hands.
the period between 100-50 BC the Greek kingdom of Bactria had fallen
and the remaining Indo-Greek territories (shown in white) had been
squeezed towards eastern Punjab. India was partially fragmented,
and the once tribal Sakas were coming to the end of a period of
domination of a large swathe of territory in modern Afghanistan,
Pakistan, and north-western India. The dates within their lands
(shown in yellow) show their defeats of the Greeks that had gained
them those lands, but they were very soon to be overthrown in the
north by the Kushans while still battling for survival against the
Satvahans of India
50 - 65 :
of Parthia : Satrap of Margiana. Rebelled as rival for
50 - 65 :
Sanabares starts out as the Parthian satrap of Margiana and, being
an eastern Parthian, is sometimes included as one of the rebellious
Indo-Parthian rulers. At some point he rebels against the weak Parthian
king during a period in which the throne is witnessing a constant
succession of incumbents and anyone who is a member of the Arsacid
family may mount their own claim if they have enough backing.
his satrapal capital of Merv, Sanabares starts minting his own coins
around AD 50, with these coins being the only clear indication of
his rebellion in terms of historical sources (he titles himself
'Great King of Kings'). It takes until AD 65 before the latest Parthian
king in the west, Vologeses I, can restore central authority in
Margiana, at least to an extent.
- 216 :
After perhaps five-or-so years of relative peace Parthian king Vologeses
VI has to fight his younger brother, Artabanus in yet another royal
rebellion. In AD 216, Rome's Emperor Caracalla asks Artabanus for
the hand of his daughter in marriage, in itself clear evidence of
the fact that the latter is then regarded as being the ruling monarch,
even though the coinage of Vologeses continues to appear in Seleucia
until at least 221/2. It would seem that Vologeses is ousted from
the heartland of Parthian territory by his brother, but is still
strong enough to secure a rival kingdom at Seleucia.
The fractured Parthian empire is breaking down now. With the claim
to rule it already dividing the empire in two on official lines,
other minor kingdoms have already started emerging or will soon
do so. For the moment they probably acknowledge Parthian overlordship
in name, but essentially they are probably all but independent states
in their own right. At least three are known - Carmania (ruled by
a certain Balash), Margiana (ruled by one Ardashir), and Persis
(ruled by one Papak of the Sassanids).
: King of Margiana. Submitted to the Sassanids.
Having been all but independent for some time, Margiana is currently
ruled by one Ardashir who is to be differentiated from Ardashir
I of the Sassanids. Following the Sassanid victory over the Parthians
at the Battle of Hormozdgān, the Sassanids have become the
great power in Persian lands. Ardashir of Margiana now submits to
Ardashir I. Margiana is permitted to continue minting its own coinage
for now, while the Sassanids are still consolidating their power.
Merv, the capital of Persian and Greek Merv/Margiana, was eventually
abandoned just like its even more ancient forebear shown here, Gonur
Tepe (Gonordepe), which was a major city of the Bactria-Margiana
Archaeological Complex until the River Murghab changed its course
to leave it high and dry
- 250 :
The end of Kushan King Vasudeva's reign in AD 207 apparently coincides
with the beginning of the Sassanid invasion of north-western India,
although the dating for the main invasion fits with Vashiska and
his successor around 230-250. Perhaps there is a first, preliminary
invasion followed by a much greater second.
The Kushans are toppled in former Arachosia, Aria, and Bactria (more
recently better known as Tokharistan) and are forced to accept Sassanid
suzerainty, being replaced by Sassanid vassals known as the Kushanshahs
or Indo-Sassanids. There is a split in Kushan rule, so that a separate,
eastern section rules independent of the Sassanids, while some of
the nobility remain in the west as Sassanid vassals. Even so, Kushan
power still gradually wanes in India.
- c.260 :
: Last king of Margiana. Submerged by Sassanids.
is formally annexed to the Sassanid crown by Shapur I. The name
of the vassal king here is unknown (unless Ardashir is still alive).
Now Shapur places his own son, Narseh, as governor of the province
of Hind, Sagistan, and Turgistan. Margiana is part of this broad
territory, falling within the Sagistan section which itself is named
for the Saka groups which formerly dominated here.
- ? :
: First Sassanid governor of Hind, Sagistan, and Turgistan.
- 427 :
Bahram V has been occupied by the fighting against Rome, the Kidarites
and Hephthalites invade and occupy Sassanid territory in eastern
Iran, with the Hephthalites at least occupying Merv (precise details
are typically lacking). Having agree peace terms with Rome in 422,
Bahram quickly assembles a fresh army to take east. Merv, the capital
of Margiana, is captured and the Hephthalite ruler is killed. The
Sassanid eastern frontier is fully secure by 427 and a pillar of
thanks is erected on the banks of the Amu Darya - the northern limits
of Sassanid control.
- 560 :
Peroz again chases the Hephthalites out of Bactra in 484 and towards
Arion in Aria (Alexandria Ariana, modern Herat). Along the way he
destroys the tower built by Bahram V which marks the border between
Sassanid and Hephthalite. On the other side of the border, Hephthalite
King Khushnavaz sets a trap into which Peroz falls (literally),
along with around thirty of his sons and about 100,000 troops. Their
bodies are never recovered by the Sassanids. The eastern empire
is overrun and is largely occupied by the Hephthalites until their
final fall - this includes regions such as Margiana and its rich
capital at Merv, with the Hephthalites setting up puppet governors.
the late 400s the eastern sections of the Sassanid empire had been
overrun and to an extent occupied by the Hephthalites (Xionites)
after they had killed Shah Peroz
- 651 :
Mesopotamia is lost to the Arabs in 637. The Sassanids are defeated
at the Battle of Nahāvand by Caliph Umar in 642. Persia is
overrun by Islam by 651. Retreating into Margiana, Sassanid King
Yazdagird finds few allies and is forced to retreat again. Organising
a hurried alliance with the Hephthalites, he advances towards Margiana,
only to be defeated at the Battle of the Oxus. Yazdagird takes refuge
in a mill, where the owner kills him while his family flee to Turkestan.
The Sassanid empire has fallen.
Much of what formerly formed the eastern regions of the Persian
empire now falls to Islam. The old province of Chorasmia is now
recreated as an expanded 'Greater Khorasan'. Many of the eastern
regions are ruled from there, including Margiana which effectively
disappears from history as far as its previous identity is concerned.
Central Asia (Turkmenistan) :
AD 1783 - 1924 :
Interest by imperial Russia in Central Asia was only really kindled
after 1783 when, despite having guaranteed its independence in 1774,
Catherine the Great now formally annexed the khanate of Crimea.
The move was primarily to remove any possibility of the rival Ottoman
empire dominating the region, but it also opened the way to further
moves into the Caucuses and the Caspian steppe. This move effectively
formed a prelude to the 'Great Game' of the nineteenth century's
imperial age, in which the major powers would vie for territory
During the second half of the eighteenth century and early nineteenth,
Russia gradually dismantled the Kazakh territories in northern Central
Asia. In 1839 they pursued a renewed policy of pressuring the Ottoman
empire and Britain for control of southern Central Asia. An abortive
mission was sent to Khiva, purportedly to free slaves who had been
captured from areas of the Russian frontier and sold by Turkmen
raiders. Britain was already involved in the First Anglo-Afghan
War in Afghanistan but, despite sending over five thousand infantry,
the Russian force stumbled into one of harshest winters in living
memory and was driven back by the weather and by its losses. Undeterred,
in 1848 Russia built Fort Aralsk at the mouth of the River Syr Darya.
From here the empire began a steady process of encroachment upon
the lands of Bukhara, Khiva, and Kokand. It met stiff resistance
all the way but its resources far exceeded those of its opponents.
In 1865 Russia took Bukhara, Tashkent, and Samarkand (all of which
went into forming Uzbekistan in 1924). Tashkent was made the capital
of a new state of the same name, incorporating much of southern
Central Asia into its territory. In 1873, weakened by attacks from
Kokend and Bukhara and losing control of the right bank of the Syr
Darya, Khiva was finally conquered by Russia on the third attempt.
Russian expansion in Central Asia, and towards South Asia, was only
halted in 1887 when Russia and Britain agreed the northern borders
(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from
Indian Frontier Policy, John Ayde (2010), from the Encyclopaedia
Britannica, from History of the World: Volume 7, Arthur
Mee, J A Hammerton, & Arthur D Innes (1907), from An Introduction
to the History of the Turkic Peoples, Peter B Golden (1992),
from Inner Asia: History, Civilization, Languages; A Syllabus,
Denis Sinor (1969), from History of the Mongols: From the 9th
to the 19th Century, Henry H Howarth (1880), from Kazakhstan,
Pang Guek Cheng, from History of the Civilisations of Central
Asia - Towards the Contemporary Period: From the Mid-Nineteenth
to the End of the Twentieth Century, Chahryar Adle (Ed), Chapter
9 Uzbekistan, D A Alimova & A A Golovanov, Unesco, and from
External Links: Encyclopaedia.com, and History of Khiva.)
Russia's February Revolution begins with riots in Petrograd over
food rations and the conduct of the First World War against
the German empire, and it ends with the creation of a Bolshevik
Russian republic following the October Revolution. Nicholas II abdicates,
first in favour of his son, Alexei, and then in favour of his brother,
Michael. The act effectively ends a thousand years of royal rule.
Mismanaging their own administration of the country and badly handling
the war effort, the Bolsheviks start to lose control of some of
Russia's imperial dominions, and the empire slides into civil war.
Bolshevik revolution plunged the former Russian empire into a civil
war which involved several fronts and armies, sometimes almost amounting
to several separate wars happening at the same time across the empire's
- 1921 :
and monarchist White Guard Russian forces (including supporters
of the 'February' revolution) resist the imposition of a Bolshevik
state, and fight a civil war against the Red Guard communist forces.
In the newly-formed Tashkent SSR, anti-Bolshevik forces unite to
liberate the former khanate of Khiva, the emirate of Bukhara, and
A reorganisation of Central Asian Soviet-controlled states along
ethnic lines means the end Khiva, the Turkestan Krai, and Bukhara
(the latter being ousted by the Tashkent Soviet in 1920). They are
merged into the newly-formed 'Turkestan Autonomous Soviet Socialist
Republic', which is formed as a self-governing entity of the early
Soviet Union. However, in the same year, the Islamic Council and
the Council of Intelligentsia declare the rival 'Turkestan Autonomous
Republic', and set about fighting against the Bolshevik forces who
start closing down mosques and persecuting Muslim clergy as part
of their secularisation campaign.
- 1924 :
Turkestan Autonomous Republic has gradually lost ground to the Bolsheviks.
The Bolsheviks themselves have been divided into two groups over
the region's future, but the idea of a pan-Turkic state is jettisoned
in place of several smaller states. In 1924 the Turkestan ASSR is
divided into the Uzbek SSR, the Turkmen SSR, the Kara-Kirghiz Autonomous
Oblast (Kyrgyzstan), and the Karakalpak Autonomous Oblast (modern
Karakalpakstan, an autonomous republic of Uzbekistan). Initially,
the Tajik ASSR is also adjoined to the Uzbek state.
AD 1924 - Present Day :
Modern Turkmenistan is made up mainly of desert, and has the smallest
population of the five Central Asian ex-Soviet republics. Its western
border lies on the Caspian Sea. To the north it almost reaches the
Aral Sea and is mainly bordered by Uzbekistan, with a divide formed
by the River Amu Darya, while what are now Iran and Afghanistan
fill its southern and south-eastern borders.
The Black Desert region, or Karakum, was for a while home to Indo-European
tribes from further north in Central Asia in the third millennium
BC. Living here in vast mud-brick fortress citadels, herding cattle,
and worshiping fire in rituals controlled by an early form of Brahmin,
they also domesticated and worshipped the horse. Eventually they
were forced southwards by climate change between about 2000-1500
BC. The bulk of them seemingly re-emerged in India as the Aryans
who created the first documented states there, while some may have
formed the proto-Persians and doubtless many others remained where
they were to form part of the populations of later states in the
region - albeit subsumed within the later-arriving Turkic population.
South-western Turkmenistan lies largely within the former Persian
satrapy of Verkâna (Greek Hyrcania) while the eastern section lay
partly within Bactria and much more so within Mergu. This area was
invaded by Alexander the Great's Greek empire, and Bactria became
independent in 256 BC. Following that, the region was occupied by
Sakas and Greater Yuezhi, and was controlled by the Kushans and
then the Sassanids. With the collapse of the Samanids in the ninth
century AD the region became a battleground for vying factions of
Turkic tribes, and it was the Turkic-speaking Oghuz who settled
Turkmenistan and who today form much of its population. From the
end of the tenth century AD the region was largely part of the emirate
of Khwarazm, before being divided between the Mongol Il-Khanate
and Mughulistan. Timurid Transoxiana claimed it next, and then it
formed part of the region of Turkestan which was ruled by the Shaibanid
empire in the sixteenth century. This in turn was displaced by the
khanate of Khiva and then the Russian empire.
Turkmenistan in the modern sense was formed in 1924, when its Soviet
masters divided Khiva and its short-lived successor, the Tashkent
ASSR. This included a portion of the territory of the former emirate
of Bukhara. The Turkmen SSR survived in that form until the collapse
of the Soviet empire. In 1991 Turkmenistan became fully independent,
with its capital at Ashgabat. Like the Soviet Union in the years
before Mikhail Gorbachev's perestroika, both Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan
now live under regimes that resolutely and brutally resist change.
The capital, Ashgabat, soon lost its Soviet appearance, and began
to resemble more and more a rather bizarre Las Vegas, with a giant
star on top of a Palace of Happiness, and a wedding palace that
changes colour. Rich in natural resources, with the world's fourth-largest
gas reserves, Turkmenistan can afford this and much more extravagance.
(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from
Modern Times, H Kahler, and from External Links: BBC
Country Profiles, and Lonely Planet, and The New York Times, and
from the NOAA.)
- 1939 :
by his failures to date, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin directs a massive
purge of the Bolshevik party, the armed forces (decimating the officer
class), government and intelligentsia. Millions of people, labelled
enemies of the state, are killed or imprisoned, with the notoriously
harsh gulags in Siberia being used to deposit many thousands of
By the end of this decade another casualty of Soviet rule is the
former pastoral nomadic existence of the Turkmen, now that a sedentary
life is the only way to survive. Ethnic Russians are moved into
the region, along with other groups from around the Soviet Union,
serving to alter Turkmen social and cultural strands. Religious
beliefs are attacked and mosques are closed down, but the country
is generally peaceful, with many Turkmen continuing to live isolated
agrarian lives that are less affected by Soviet oppression.
magnitude 7.3 earthquake strikes Ashgabat in south-western Turkmenistan
- formerly an important location for the Blue Horde and White Horde.
It makes an orphan of one Saparmyrat Niyazov, future president of
Turkmenistan. Reporting of the disaster is strictly limited by the
Soviet authorities, perhaps reluctant to admit to any kind of failing.
Admiral Ellis Zacharias, former US deputy chief of the Office of
Naval Intelligence, claims more than once that the earthquake is
the result of the Soviet Union's first atomic bomb test.
- 1953 :
over-ambitious canal-building programme is launched with the aim
of connecting the Aral Sea to the Karakum Desert in order to irrigate
it and make its soil productive. With Stalin's death in 1953 it
is abandoned in an unfinished state, but work on the equally ambitious
Qaraqum Canal begins the following year. In time this effectively
drains the Amu Darya and severely diminishes the Aral Sea.
canal work was generally over-ambitious in scale and highly damaging
to the surrounding ecology, especially in this case to the Aral
Sea and the River Amu Darya
turnover in general secretaries of a more senior level of experience
in the Soviet Union now leaves an opening for younger, more reform-minded
individual to make a mark on the Soviet Union. One of Mikhail Gorbachev's
first actions is to remove from office Muhammetnazar Gapurow, first
secretary of the Communist party in the Turkmen SSR. Unfortunately
this leaves an opening for Saparmyrat Niyazov, who becomes a life-long
'dictator of Turkmenistan'.
- 2006 :
Niyazov : Dictator. 'Turkmenbashi' ('leader of the Turkmen').
Turkmen SSR achieves independence as the Soviet empire collapses.
As with neighbouring Uzbekistan's own Communist leader, Turkmenistan's
Saparmyrat (or Saparmurat) Niyazov is ready. He hails from Kipchak
(or Gypjak), just outside Ashgabat. He makes a smooth transition
from Communist Party first secretary to president, keeping a tight
lid on his country of 5.1 million while cultivating a bizarre cult
Saparmyrat Niyazov has covered his desert republic with golden statues
of himself, and grandiose monuments to the achievements of his 'golden
age'. He has also ordered the construction of his own mausoleum,
next to a giant mosque, before his death in 2006. Today it is guarded
by strictly regimented soldiers similar to those who keep watch
over Lenin's tomb on Red Square in Moscow.
Acting President Gurbanguly Mälikgulyýewiç Berdymukhamedov (or Berdimuhamedow)
formally succeeds in office after 'winning' the election in 2007
with a largely unopposed majority. This is despite the constitution
stipulating that an acting president cannot stand for election.
That inconvenient rule is swiftly cancelled by the People's Council
in time for the elections.
- Present :
Berdymukhamedov : Dictator. 'Arkadag' ('protector').
The Turkmen fascination with specially dedicated grandiose monuments
has not ended with the death of Saparmyrat Niyazov. In May 2015
a gold-leaf statue of a mounted President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov
perched on top of a vast 'cliff' of rock is unveiled in the capital.
However, the new president has cut back the cult of personality,
and restored many of Niyazov's more arbitrary cuts. The regime is
more open than previously, even though it is still strictly authoritarian.