The Iaxartes is a river, today-called Syr-Daria, which springs west of the Pamir Mountains in Fergana (in modern Kyrgyzstan), and flows through modern Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan to Lake Aral, covering a distance of 2212 km. In ancient times this river flowed through Fergana and Sogdiana, marking the border of the Central Asian Steppes. It was the backbone of the area, allowing irrigation systems in an arid area.This river also had a symbolic meaning for western civilizations, for which it marked the limit between the know civilized world south of it and the nomadic world north of it. This river had different names in different sources, such as Araxes (“rapid river”) or “Yakhsha Arta” in Persian.The Medes first defined the Iaxartes as the northern border between civilization and nomads (such as the Scythians), a tradition which the Persians followed. The Persian king Cyrus the Great founded the town Cyropolis in 544 BC on the Sogdian side of the river, in order to make it “the frontline of the Persian Empire against the nomads” (Strabo, XI 11. 4.). Unluckily, according to Herodotus, he died next to this river, fighting the Massageate in order to make them his vassal.When Alexander the Great invaded the Persian Empire, he decided to make the Iaxartes the northeastern frontier of his empire. He built his most advanced town on the Iaxartes in 329 BC, called Alexandria Eschate (“Alexandria the farthest”). The same year he destroyed Cyropolis after the Sogdian rebellion, and won a decisive battle against the Scythians on the Iaxartes, making this northern frontier sure until his death.After Alexander’s death, the river continued to be a frontline but more and more nomad armies crossed it. The last Greek political presence seems to have been the Greco-Bactrian one, under Euthydemos’reign (c.230-200 BC). After his rule, the Iaxartes fell into the hands of Sakas, Yuezhei then Kangju nomads, all of them pushing southward against the Greco-Bactrian and Parthian empires.

Fighting Their Way Westward: The Nomadic Yuezhi People

The Yuezhi were an ancient nomadic group of people from Central Asia who spoke an Indo-European language. It is likely that most people today are unfamiliar with the Yuezhi Civilization. As they were nomads, the Yuezhi are best-known for their migration westward, which had a chain reaction on the other civilizations in that region. The main sources of information regarding the Yuezhi are ancient Chinese records. Nevertheless, they have also been mentioned by some Western sources, and some of the coins minted by Yuezhi rulers have survived.


In 355 BC Plato wrote the book Timaeus, in which his character, Kritias, recounts the story of Atlantis, a story which has been in his family for generations. The tale of this great civilization had been originally told to his ancestor by an Egyptian priest named Solon.

According to Plato’s account the powerful empire of Atlantis was founded by Poseidon, the God of the Sea. It was located to the west of the "Pillars of Hercules" (the Straights of Gibraltar). On the island nation, Poseidon fathered five sets of twins. The firstborn was Atlas, for whom the empire and the surrounding ocean was named. Poseidon divided the land into ten sections, each to be ruled by a son, or his heirs.

The capital city of Atlantis was laid out as a series of concentric walls and canals. Atlantis was a marvel of engineering and advanced technology but according to Plato the people became corrupt and greedy. The gods decided to destroy them. There was a violent earthquake that supposedly sunk the huge island nation in one day. Many historians think Plato made up the story of Atlantis as an illustration of his teachings, but many other ancient historians and philosophers other than Plato have written about Atlantis.

Delving into History ® _ periklis deligiannis

The onslaught of a unit of Sassanid or Central Asia Iranian cataphracts in a marvelous artwork by Mariusz Kozik (credit: Creative Assembly Sega/Mariusz Kozik).

The following text is a small part of the Introduction of my study: Kataphraktarii and Clibanarii: Late Roman full-armoured cavalry. Along with it I give a gallery of cataphracts from most of the ethnic and cultural regions in which their use was spread over a period of two and a half millennia.

The first cataphracts or clibanarii were rather an invention of the Iranian Saka tribes of the Central Asian steppes – being the ancestors of the Sarmatians, the Scythians, the Dahae and the Massagetae among many others – or the non-Iranian but Indo-European as well Tocharians of the same steppes that is the ancestors of the Wu Sun and the Yuezhi of the Chinese chronicles. The term cataphract is a Greek word (κατάφρακτος) meaning the ‘fully armoured’ warrior and was adopted by the Romans (catafractarius) while the other almost synonymous Latin term clibanarius is actually the Latinized and originally Iranian term grivpanvar which is possibly analyzed as grivapanabara, meaning the bearer of neck-guard plates being a feature of the early cataphracts. I prefer to use the more correct verbal type kataphraktos which is closer to the original Greek word κατάφρακτος but in this abstract I will use the Latin-originated term cataphract in order not to confuse the reader.

The Massagetae – their name meaning possibly the “Great Saka Horde” analyzed as Ma-Saka-ta in early Iranian –, a tribal confederation of the Central Asian region between the rivers Oxos and Iaxartes, are sometimes considered to be the most probable inventors of the fully armoured cavalryman (including his horse) that is the cataphract. According to another theory, the rearmost roots of the fully armoured cavalryman are located in the early Medes of the Zagros Mountains (the Uman Mada, the ‘Median Horde’) or in the Assyrian conquerors of the Middle East. According to this theory, the Iranian Medes managed to evolve the famous Nisaean race of horses through racial mixing, making its horses strong enough to be able to bear the weight of metal-armoured cavalrymen. Starting from the Medes or the Massagetae, the type of the cataphract cavalryman gradually spread to almost all the Iranian tribes and soon to the neighboring non-Iranian peoples. Over a period of more than two millennia, the spread of the use of the cataphract cavalryman was magnificent reaching to the East the Pacific coasts of Asia (China and Indochina) and the Japanese Archipelago, to the West the Atlantic coasts of Europe and also Britain, and to the South the kingdoms based on Timbuktu and other Muslim metropolises of the African interior.

From the second to the fifth centuries A.D. the Late Roman army evolved from an army in which the infantry was the main fighting force to an army in which the cavalry was holding the leading role. This decisive change was necessary for several reasons, both internal and external, but the main cause was Rome’s wars against the Iranian peoples (Parthians, Sassanid Persians and the Sarmatian tribes) on her eastern and northern borders. The specific peoples had at their disposal powerful cavalries that included cataphracts (or clibanarii) protected from head to foot with helmet and full body metal armour (bronze or steel), usually scale or mail and later lamellar. (The material of the cataphracts’ armour in their entire history could be also leather, quilted fabric, bone pieces and other). The same type of armour often protected their horses partially or almost wholly. These cataphracts were using the kontos cavalry lance (contus in Latin) as their main offensive weapon with a length of 3-4 m, and as secondary weapons the long sword (spatha), the bow, the mace and others. The ultimate origin of the cavalry lance is rather Macedonian. It has been suggested that its ancestor is the xyston (elongated lance) of the Macedonian and the Thessalian cavalry, which was adopted by the Massagetae and other Saka tribes of Central Asia when they first encountered the Hetairoi (Companion) and Thessalian cavalry of Alexander the Great.

To the east of the Roman territory the Parthians, the Atropatene Medes, the non-Iranian Armenians and the Elymaeans and later the Sassanid Persians and the Semitic Palmyrenes, and to the northeast the Sarmatian Roxolani, Iazygae, Royal Sarmatians, Alans-Aorsi and others were using the cataphract cavalry as the main assault force of their armies, inspiring the Eastern Goths (Greuthungi, Turkilingi, Rosomonii, Heruli and other tribes), the Romans, the West Goths (mainly the Tervingi), the Vandals (mainly the Taefali), the Burgundians, the Gepids, the Longobards and others, to establish units of cataphracts and horse-archers as well. These practices and tactics of cavalry warfare, together with the related weaponry and armoury were inherited by the Romans to the Byzantine and the Western European armies. In Western Europe they were inherited by the Western Romans, the Goths, the Longobards, the Burgundians and others, laying the foundations of medieval Chivalry. Later the Franks and the Normans further improved the standard of the cataphract cavalryman, developing this standard to the final form of the medieval European knight.

Central Asian and Middle East cataphracts, in an artwork by the researcher M. Gorelik (credit: Montvert publications/ M. Gorelik). Captions:

A: Massagetian or other Saka cataphract 4 th century BC. Note that he does not yet use the cavalry lance.

B: Yuezhi Kushan cataphract 2 nd -3 rd cent. AD

C: Parthian cataphract 2 nd -3 rd cent. AD

Achaemenid Iranian heavy cavalryman (cataphract), 5 th -4 th c.BC (credit: Warfare in the Classical World, Salamander Books).

Roxolani (Sarmatian) cataphracts on the right wearing scale armour, at Trajan’s column, 101 AD.

European Scythian cataphract warlord c.300 BC, artwork by Johnny Shumate (credit: Johnny Shumate). The lower part of his armour (not shown here) could be similar to that worn by the Achaemenid cavalryman above.

Spagenhelm, scale armour and other equipment of Sarmatian cataphracts in a Roman triumphal relief.

Seleucid cataphracts confronting Romans, 2 nd century BC. Artwork by Igor Dzis (credit: Igor Dzis).

A re-enactment of a Sassanid grivpanvar (Clibanarius in Greek and Latin) (Wikimedia commons).

A Chinese or Steppe “barbarian” cataphract (and an archer) of the Northern Dynasties, 4 th -6 th centuries AD. Artwork by Michael Perry (credit: Osprey publishing/ Michael Perry).

A Goth heavy cavalryman (semi-cataphract). He and his horse could bear armour of the Sarmatian type (an actual cataphract) but the horses of the Gothic cataphracts were almost always protected only by frontal semi-armour, as it is demonstrated in the archaeological and other data. Artwork by G. Embleton (credit: Osprey publishing/ G. Embleton).

Roman cataphracts in the battle of the Mulvian bridge (Artwork and credit: Giuseppe Rava).

A Gök Turk (Tujue) cataphract, 6 th century AD, artwork by M. Gorelik (credit: M. Gorelik).

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1 See e.g. Sir Tarn , W. W. , Alexander the Great i ( Cambridge 1948 ) 72 Google Scholar [hereafter Tarn] Schachermeyr , F. , Alexander der Grosse , SÖAW Wien cclxxxv ( 1973 ) 348 –54Google Scholar [hereafter Schachermeyr] Fox , R. Lane , Alexander the Great ( London 1973 ) 308, 314 –16Google Scholar [hereafter Lane Fox] Engels , D. W. , Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army ( Berkeley 1978 104 –6Google Scholar [hereafter Engels]. The fullest modern account remains that of Droysen , J. G. , Geschichte des Hellenismus i 2 ( Gotha 1877 ) 2.68–70, 73 – 80 ,Google Scholar which is an extended paraphrase of Arrian there is an interesting insert from Curtius Rufus (75) which details the siege of the rock of Sisimithres, but it does not prevent him from retailing Arrian's version a few pages later as a separate event.

2 Arr. iv 7.4–14.4. For the topos see most succinctly Livyix 18.4: referre in tanto rege piget superbam mutationem vestis et desideratas humi iacentium adulationes … et foeda supplicia et inter vinum et epulas caedes amicorum et vanitatem ementiendae stirpis. The same conjunction of the episodes of Cleitus and proskynesis also occurs at great length in Plutarch (Al. 50–6), and it was probably unavoidable for anyone steeped in the rhetorical tradition of the early empire.

4 The most authoritative work for the identification of Alexander's routes has been the survey by von Schwarz , Franz , Alexanders des Grossen Feldzüge in Turkestan 2 ( Stuttgart 1906 )Google Scholar [hereafter von Schwarz]. This work has the merit of detailed acquaintance with the terrain, but it was written long before the advent of systematic archaeology and relied on impressionistic identifications based on the author's intimate knowledge of the country (cf. Engels 99 n.2). In the case of 328, von Schwarz begins on totally the wrong footing, since he denies the traditional equation of Zariaspa and Bactra (cf. P. A. Brunt, Arrian i [Loeb 1976] 503) and makes Alexander's campaign begin at Chardzou on the Oxus, far to the north-west of Bactra (von Schwarz 65 f). The consequence is that he depicts Alexander merely retracing his steps back to Maracanda, and the whole of the work of pacification is deferred to the spring of 327.

5 Arr. iv 6.5 Curt, vii 10.1–3. It is clear that the army covered the whole length of the Zeravshan as far as its disappearance into the desert sands some 45 km from the Oxus. Alexander certainly went from there to winter quarters at Bactra/Zariaspa (Arr. iv 7.1 Curt, vii 10.10—for the equation, see below p. 34), but it is not stated whether he retraced his steps to Maracanda or cut across the desert and took the more direct route along the Oxus.

6 Arr. iv 7.2 Curt, vii 10.10–12. Curtius adds troop numbers and lists fewer commanders, but the measure of agreement with Arrian is impressive (see further, Bosworth , , CQ xxiv [ 1974 ] 61 )Google Scholar . There is one slip, which may be a textual corruption, in that Asander is made to come from Lycia (Lytia P) not Lydia (cf. Berve , H. , Das Alexanderreich [hereafter Berve] ii [ Munich 1926 ] 87 Google Scholar no.165), and one difference of nomenclature. Μελαμνίδας (Berve no. 493) in Arrian corresponds to Maenidas in Curtius: this divergence in nomenclature goes back to the original sources and, pace Hamilton , J. R. , CQ v ( 1955 ) 217 ,CrossRefGoogle Scholar it should not be emended out of the texts, Melamnidas may be a mistake, but, if so, he is a mistake of Arrian's source, not his copyists.

7 Arr. iv 18.1–3 Curt, viii 3.17.

8 Droysen i 2 2.77 and Schachermeyr 349 n. 416 have argued for a separate expedition Berve (nos 814, 719), following W. Geiger, Alexanders des Grossen Feldzüge in Sogdiana (Progr. Neustadt 1882/3—non vidi) 32 f., insists on a doublet in Arrian.

9 See the brief notes by Jullien , P. , Zur Verwaltung der Satrapien unter Alexander dem Grossen (Diss. Leipzig 1914 ) 37 Google Scholar f Berve i 265 f Schachermeyr 312 ff. (the best short narrative).

10 Arr. iii 25.3 Curt, vi 6.13 Metz Epitome [hereafter ME] 3. For the wide-ranging impact of Bessus' challenge, see Bosworth , , JHS c ( 1980 ) 6 Google Scholar f.

11 Arr. iii 25.4 Curt, vi 6.20. On the route see Engels 86 f.

12 Arr. iii 25.5 Curt, vi 6.21 Diod. xvii 78.1. According to Arrian (iii 21.10) Satibarzanes had participated in the murder of Darius, a statement that Badian has queried ( CQ viii [ 1958 ] 147 Google Scholar n. 1) because of the stark contrast of his treatment with that meted out to Bessus and Barsaentes.

13 Diod. xvii 78.1–4 Curt, vi 6.20–34 Arr. iii 25.5–7. Pace Berve ii no. 697 the vulgate tradition is far fuller and more detailed than Arrian and must form the basis of any reconstruction (cf. Schachermeyr 313 Engels 87–91).

14 Arr. iii 25.7 cf. Curt, vii 3.1. Justin xii 4.12 is hopelessly confused.

15 Curt, vii 3.2 (daved to Alexander's fifth day in Ariaspian territory—C.January 329) Diod. xvii 81.3 Arr. iii 28.2 (imprecisely dated to spring 329).

16 Curt, vii 4.38: et barbari duce amisso … arma Erigyio tradunt Diod. xvii 83.6 Arr. iii 28.3 speaks vaguely of a general flight.

17 τῶν βαρβάρων ἰσόμαχον ποιούντων τὸν κίνδυνον (Diod. xvii 83.5 cf. Curt, vii 4.33 Arr. iii 28.3).

18 eodem tempore quae in gente Ariorum … gesserant perferuntur (Curt, vii 4.32). Diodorus reports the episode at exactly the same point.

19 Arr. iii 29.1 Curt, vii 5.1 (Artabazus installed at Bactra) Curt, vii 7.9, 21–4 (Erigyius at the Iaxartes he dies in camp before the onset of winter 328/7 ([Curt, viii 2.40]) Arr. iv 3.7, 5.7, 6.1 (Caranus at Maracanda).

20 Arr. iii 29.5. Stasanor may have participated in the earlier expedition against Satibarzanes, for Diodorus xvii 81.3 makes him joint commander along with Erigyius. Curtius, however, makes Caranus joint commander (vii 3.2, 4.32) and neither he nor Arrian knows anything of Stasanor in this context. Berve (no. 719) assumed that Diodorus was simply wrong and retrojected his later satrapal appointment but it is hard to explain how the mistake arose.

21 Berve i 266 ‘beide empören sich’. He is later rather more guarded ii no. 146 ‘Abfallsgelüste zeigte’.

22 Hdt. i 127.3 v 78 vi 15.1 viii 22, 69.2, 85.1 ix 67. Arrian elsewhere uses the expression twice—at iv 18.3 (an exact parallel) and Tact. 12.11 (where the meaning is unambiguous). For his linguistic dependence on Herodotus see Grundmann , H. R. , Quid in elocutione Arriani Herodoto debeatur , Berliner Studien ii ( 1885 )Google Scholar and, in brief, Bosworth , , CQ xxiv ( 1974 ) 56 Google Scholar .

23 Phrataphernes (Berve no. 814) had been satrap of Hyrcania and Parthyaea under Darius (Arr. iii 8.4, 23.4) and had surrendered to Alexander in his Elburz campaign in 330. Amminapes (Berve no. 55) had originally been established as satrap of Parthyaea/Hyrcania earlier in summer 330 (Arr. iii 22.1 Curt, vi 4.23f). Nothing more is heard of Amminapes and he was replaced by Phrataphernes by the beginning of 329 (Arr. iii 28.2).

24 Arr. iv 7.1, mentioning not only Brazanes but other rebels who had sided with Bessus. There were obviously several centres of insurrection in Parthyaea.

25 For the Median garrison early in 330 see Arr. iii 19.7. Of these forces the cavalry component, mercenaries and Thessalian volunteers, reached Alexander in autumn 330 (Arr. iii 25.4) the infantry (6,000 phalangites and 5,000 mercenaries) arrived while Alexander was in Arachosia (Curt, vii 3.4), about the time of Satibarzanes' second Areian invasion. Of the original forces only Thracians remained. They are not attested gain in Alexander's army, and, since two of the Median generals, Agathon and Sitalces (Berve nos 8, 712) are elsewhere described commanding Thracian detachments (Arr. iii 12.4), it is a fair assumption that they were left in command of their original forces, now the garrison of Media.

26 Cf. Curt, vii 2.28–32 for near-mutiny in Media after the murder. For the more widespread discontent in the army, see Diod. xvii 80.4 Curt, vii 2.35–8 Just, xii 5.5–8.

27 Cf. Arr. v 20.7, Phrataphernes brings to India (summer 326) the Thracians left in his command.

28 Arr. iv 18.3 Curt, viii 3.17.

29 Arr. iv 1.4–5 Curt, vii 6.13–15. The communities near the Iaxartes began the revolt by massacring their garrisons and the southern areas of Sogdiana and Bactria followed suit.

30 Arr. iv 7.2 (on which see CQ xxiv [ 1974 ] 60 Google Scholar f). See also Arr. iii 16.9, where the name of the previous Persian garrison commander is substituted for his Macedonian successor ( CQ xxvi [ 1976 ] 121 Google Scholar f). As for Curtius, the most likely explanation of his error in making Asander governor of Lycia (above n. 6) is that his source mentioned Nearchus in the same context, who actually was satrap of Lycia and Pamphylia (Arr. iii 6.6, 7.1) and brought troops to Bactra.

31 Arsami, Drangarum praefecto, substitutes est Stasanor (Curt, viii 3.17).‘Arsames’ has had a chequered history. Blancardus (1668) substituted his name for that of Arsaces as satrap of Areia in all three passages of Arrian, assuming his identity with the son of Artabazus (Berve no. 148), and Arsames appeared in that role in various standard compilations (e.g. Jullien [n. 9] 38). Roos then correctly restored the manuscript reading in all passages of Arrian, and Arsames disappeared from history as satrap of Areia. No one at any period recognised that an Arsames could have been satrap of Drangiana 'das wurde erst Stasanor' says Berve (ii 81 n. 1), establishing a dogma with no basis in the sources.

32 Arr. iii 8.4, 21.1. The satrap, Barsaentes, was one of the principal regicides, and after Darius' death he had withdrawn to his satrapy (Arr. iii 25.8 Curt, vi 6.36), from which he withdrew to India in the face of Alexander's advance (cf. Berve no. 205).

33 Menon's satrapy is firmly attested as Arachosia alone (Arr. iii 28.1 Curt, vii 3.5, ix 10.20). Gedrosia was settled at the same time and placed under Tiridates (Diod. xvii 81.2 cf. Berve no. 755). Now Arrian speaks in passing of the settlement of Drangiana and Gedrosia, and implies that they were dealt with individually (iii 28.1). Drangiana should have had a satrap like the Gedrosians.

34 For the etymology see M. Mayrhofer, Zur Namengut des Avesta, SÖAW , Wien cccviii. 5 ( 1977 ) 17, 43 Google Scholar . Two other Persians named Arsames (Berve nos 148 f.) are attested in the Alexander period alone. As for Arsaces, it is well known as the pre-regnal name of Artaxerxes II (Ctesias, FGrH 688 F 15 [55 f.] Deinon, FGrH 690 F 14). See also Thue. viii 108.4 for the hyparch of Tissaphernes. There is a comparable coincidence in the Triparadeisus settlement when two Cypriots, Stasander and Stasanor, were given neighbouring satrapies (Diod. xviii 39.6 Arr. 1.36).

35 Arr. iv 17.3 Curt, viii 2.14 (cf. viii 1.19).

36 So Arr. iv 18.3. For his later position as satrap of both Areia and Drangiana see Arr. vi 27.3 Diod. xviii 3.3 Dexippus, FGrH 100 F 8.6 Justin xiii 4.22.

37 Cf. iii 23.7 (occurring twice) iii 24.3.

38 Curt, iv 12.9, vi 4.25, 5.21, viii 3.17, x 1.39 (no textual variants attested).

39 τῶν βαρβάρων ἰσόμαχον ποιούντων τὸν κίνδυνον(Arr. iii 8.4, 11.4) Τάπουροι (iii 23.1—2, 6–7, 24.3, vii 23.1) Ζαράγγαι (iv 18.3).

40 For Ζαράγγαι see iii 25.8 (twice), vi 17.3, 27.3, vii 6.3 for Δράγγαι iii 21.1, 28.1, iv 18.3, vi 15.5, vii 10.6. Of these passages vi 15.5 is a doublet of vi 17.3 and iii 28.1 is a resumptive passage, referring back to iii 25.8. See further, Bosworth, CQ xxvi (1976) 128 f.

41 For instances see Phoenix xxix ( 1975 ) 31 Google Scholar with n. 24. A good instance where a general's report of recent successes is given in extenso on his arrival in camp is Arr.ii 2.3–7 (Hegelochus in Egypt) Curtius iv 5.13–22 records the same events but places them before the siege of Gaza, rather nearer the time they occurred.

42 Arr. iv 15.7–8 Curt, vii 10.13–14. See also Plut. Al. 57.5 (with Athen. ii 42f) Strabo xi 11.5 (518). The variant traditions of this event make an interesting study in their own right.

43 ME 14: deinde post diem undecimum ad flumen Ochum pervenit, id transit, inde ad Oxumflmnen devenit.

44 Pliny NH vi 47. The information is unique to Pliny.

45 Engels 104 f. His restoration involves Alexander crossing the Oxus and campaigning in Sogdiana before returning to Bactra for the journey to Sogdiana and he is forced to identify the R. Ochus with the Kashka Darya in southern Sogdiana, which, as we shall sec, is an impossibility.

46 Cf. Brunt (n. 4) 506. Von Schwarz, who knew the terrain well, dismissed the idea of a desert march as an impossibility, even though he argued for Alexander wintering at Chardzou, far closer to Merv than Balkh (68 ff.).

47 Cf. Arr. iv 5.2–6.2 Curt, vii 7.31–9 ME 13.

48 Kaerst , J. , Geschichte des Hellenismus i 3 ( Leipzig 1927 ) 439 Google Scholar n. 3 von Schwarz and Brunt (n. 4) V. Tscherikower, Die hellenistische Städtegründungen , Philologus Suppl. xix.i ( 1927 ) 105 Google Scholar .

49 Meyer , E. , Blute und Niedergang des Hellenismus in Asien ( Berlin 1925 ) 17 Google Scholar f Berve i 294 Tarn ii 234 f.

50 Schachermeyr 349 n. 416, followed by Hamilton , J. R. , Alexander the Great ( London 1973 ) 100 Google Scholar and Lane Fox 308.

51 Arr. iv 18.1. Schachermeyr suggests that the expedition to Margiana was the mysterious mission which occupied Phrataphernes and Stasanor during 328 (see above, p. 19) they were given their instructions at Bactra and led troops north from their satrapies. One wonders how the complicated logistics of this three-pronged campaign were arranged.

52 Arr. iv 17.1: οὶ δὲ ὼς έπύθοντο πλήσιον ἐπελαύνοντά σφισι Κρατερόν, ἔφευγον . . . ὡς εἰς τὴν ἐρήμην. καὶ Κρατερὸς ἐχόμενος αὐτῶν αὐτοῖς τε ἐκείνοις περιπίπτει ού πόρρω τῆς έρήμης . . . Cf. also Curt. viii1.6.

53 Isidorus, FGrH 781 F 2 (14) Strabo xi 10.2 (516). Very much later Ptolemy vi 10.4 and Ammianus Marcellinus xxiii 6.54 mention a few other settlements, but they are most obscure, and it is doubtful whether they were all located in the oasis itself.

54 There is a possibility that Alexandria Eschate in Sogdiana was destroyed in a Saca attack at roughly the same time cf. Tarn , . JHS lx ( 1940 ) 90 –4Google Scholar Wolski , J. , Klio xxxviii ( 1960 ) 113 –15Google Scholar .

55 Pliny, NH vi 46 (followed by Ammianus xxii 6.54), talks of Margiana being surrounded by mountains with a circuit of 1,500 stades. Strabo xi 10.2 rightly describes the oasis as surrounded by deserts only. I suspect that Pliny has combined a description of the circumference of the oasis with a reference to the Kopet Dag massif to the south, so creating a wholly fictitious girdle of mountains.

56 Diod. index xvii κδ ὡς Βακτριανοὺς ἐκόλασε καὶ Σογδιανοὺς τὸ δεύτερον ἐχειρώσατο καὶ πόλεις ἔκτισεν εὐκαίρως πρὸς τὰς τῶν ἀφισταμένων κολάσεις

57 Diod. index xvii κε:ἅλωσις τῶν εἰς τὴν Πέτραν καταφυγόντων Cf. Curt, vii 11.1.

58 Justin xii 5.13. The city foundations are the only aspect of the military history of Alexander in Sogdiana that Justin cares to stress. His information on Alexandria Eschate in the previous sentence, however, is reliable.

59 Arr. iv 16.3. For the use of συνοικίζειν in the sense of adding settlers to newly founded cities, compare vi 17.4, where settlers are to be provided for newly fortified cities (cf. vi 17.1).

60 Curt, viii 1.1 (Hephaestion and Coenus) cf. vii 11.29, multitudo deditorum incolis novarum urbium cum pecunia capta dono data est. In the summer of 329 Alexander had first enslaved the rebels of Cyropolis but then liberated them to become incolae of the new foundation (Just, xii 5.12 Curt, vii 6.27 Arrian iv 4.1 speaks only of barbarian ‘volunteers’). For the procedure see Briant , P. , Klio lx ( 1978 ) 74 –7Google Scholar .

61 Kiessling, RE ix (1914) 470 f., 483, 492 f Sturm, RE xvii (1937) 1768–70 Tarn ii 8 n. 1, 310 n. 4 The Greeks in Bactria and India 113 n. 4.

62 Strabo xi 11.5 (518) Arr. iv 6.6 ( = FGrH 139 F 28). See also Strabo xi 10.1 (515), differentiating the Areius from the Margus Ptolemy Geog. vi 17.2 Amm. Marc. xxiii 6.69.

63 Herrmann , A. , Alte Geographie des unteren Oxusgebiets , Abh. kgl. Ges. Wiss. Göttingen NF xv.4 ( 1914 ) 30 –5Google Scholar so RE ii.A ( 1921 ) 29 Google Scholar .

64 All but two of the attested fragments of this author come from Strabo (cf. FGrH 779). See, in general, Altheim , F. & Stiehl , R. , Geschichte Mittelasiens im Altertum ( Berlin 1970 ) 359 –79CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

65 This river, which enters the Caspian through the desert country north of Hyrcania, fits well with passage (c). The Aparnians, the tribe of Arsaces the conqueror of Parthia, are explicitly located by the Caspian immediately north of Hyrcania: cf. Strabo xi 7.1 (508), xi 8.2 (511) (the readings vary between Πάρνοι and Απαρνοι but the same people are concerned in all cases). The objections of Altheim and Stiehl (see n. 64) 449 f. rest on the mistaken orthodoxy that the modern Tedzhen is the ancient Ochus.

66 The excursus is garbled textually in Strabo, but the parallel passage of Arrian (iv 6.6) proves Aristobulus' authorship. Both authors begin with the Polytimetus (Zeravshan) and follow with the Areius (Hari Rud) they emphasise different aspects of the excursus and make different selections, but there is clearly a common source.

67 Strabo is unique in placing it near the Ochus Arrian (iv 15.7–8) places it by the Oxus, as does Plutarch (Al. 57.5). Curtius records only a spring of fresh water near the Oxus (vii 10.13 f).

68 Pliny NH vi 49 cf. xxxi 75.

69 Herrmann (n. 63) 31, following the identification K. J. Neumann. He refers to the river as the Sangalak, whereas I give the nomenclature of The Times Atlas.

70 Ptolemy Geog. vi 11.2–4. He makes the Ochus form a confluence with the Dargamanes (so Amm. Marc, xxiii 6.57) and join the Oxus west of the Zariaspa and the Artamis.

71 Ptolemy vi 11.9 (Maracanda), 20.2 (Helmand). Cf. Thomson , J. A. , History of Ancient Geography ( Cambridge 1948 ) 294 :Google Scholar ‘He draws the Oxus badly, and joins to it several rivers which were really lost in deserts then as now … some (towns) are false doublets like Zariaspa–Bactra and others like Samarcand are so grossly misplaced that the text seems hardly credible.’

72 Curt, vii 5.1–16, esp. 5.2: per CCCC stadia ne modicus quidem humor existit Diod. xvii index ιθ. For the modern conditions see von Schwarz 30 ff.

73 For full details, see L. W. Adamec, Historical and Political Gazetteer of Afghanistan i (Graz 1962) 169 ff. The only other choice is the Kokcha, the river next to the east but the Kokcha has no tributary that can be identified as Ptolemy's Dargamanes (above n. 70).

74 Bernard , P. , Rev. Num. xvii ( 1975 ) 58 – 69 ,Google Scholar promising a fuller study in the future. For the Achaemenid evidence see 68 n. 19.

75 Arr. iv 2.1–3.5 Curt, vii 6.16–24.

76 Arr. iv 6.3–5 (ἐπῆλθε πᾶσαν τὴν χώραν ὅσην ὁ ποταμός . . . ἐπέρχεται) Curt, vii 9.21–10.9 Diod. xvii index κγ.

77 Arr. iv 7.1 Curt, vii 10.10.

78 Curt, vii 10.13 cf. Arr. iv 15.7 ME 14. The only hardship recorded (Curt, vii 10.14) was caused by the muddiness of the Oxus, a phenomenon well attested in other ages: cf. Polyb. x 48.4 de Clavijo , R. Gonzales , Embassy to the Court of Timour , ed. Markham , C. R. , Hakluyt Soc. 1st ser. xxvi ( 1859 ) 118 Google Scholar :21 Aug. 1404.

79 Wood , J. , A Journey to the Source of the River Oxus 2 ( London 1872 , repr. Karachi 1976) 268 Google Scholar . Wood was able to ford the Oxus with relative comfort at Jan-Kila, a little upstream from Ai-Khanum (260 f.).

80 For bibliography see J. Seibert, Alexander der Grosse (Darmstadt 1972) 145, to which add the successive reports by P. Bernard in CRAI 1974–6 and, for the significant coin-hoard unearthed in 1973, Petitot-Bichler , C.-Y. , Rev. Num. xvii ( 1975 ) 23 CrossRefGoogle Scholar ff.

81 Cf. Frumkin , G. , Archaeology in Soviet Central Asia Leiden/Köln 1970 ) 62 Google Scholar f., 66–8.

82 Arr. iv 18.4 (ἅμα τῷ ἦρι ὑποφαίνοντι) 18.5 χιων πολλή) 19.1–2 (omnipresent snow).

84 Tarn i 72–6 (cf. 72 n. 1: ‘On this scheme it is impossible to get in all that happened at Bactra before he finally quitted it he must have taken the two strong-holds by mid-winter’) Fraenkel , A. , Die Quellen der Alexanderhistoriker ( Breslau 1883 ) 186 Google Scholar .

85 Strabo xv 1.17 (691) = FGrH 139 F 35. The evening setting of the Pleiades must be at issue the morning setting, in April, occurred while Alexander (on any chronology) was still north of the Hindu Kush.

86 Anspach , A. , De Alexandri Magni Expeditione Indica ( Leipzig 1903 ) 8 Google Scholar n. 18, suggested that Alexander needed to reconquer Parapamisadae and was reluctant to move before his envoys returned from India (Arr. iv 22.6). See also Brunt (n. 4) 507.

87 For the interpretation of the passage see Appendix below.

88 Curt, vii 11.1–29 ME 15 ff. Diod. xvii index κε.

89 Curt, viii 1.1–9 cf. Arr. iv 15.1–6.

90 Curt, viii 1.11–19 (cf. 19:inde ad Maracanda reditum est) Diod. 17 index κς.

91 Curt, viii 2.13–19 ME 19 Diod. xvii index κθ.

92 Curt, viii 2.19–33 cf. ME 19.

93 Curt, viii 2.33–3.16 ME 20–3.

94 Curt, viii 4.1–20 ME 24-7 Diod. xvii index κθ.

95 Curt, viii 4.21–30 ME 28–31 Diod. xvii index λ. Cohortandus (Curt, viii 4.21) is traditionally emended to Oxyartes, on the grounds that Rhoxane is immediately presented as his daughter (filia ipsius, viii 4.23). The Metz Epitome, however, explicitly mentions Chorienes as the giver of the feast and adds that he introduced his own daughters together with the daughters of his friends, including Rhoxane, Oxyartis filia. Oxyartes is then named as present as the feast (ME 29). It is evident that Curtius has erroneously conflated Rhoxane with the daughters of Chorienes, and that the corrupt name Cohortandus should be emended to the palaeographically similar Chorienes. This was immediately recognised in Wagner's , O. edition of the Metz Epitome, Jb.klass. Phil. Suppl. xxvi ( 1901 )Google Scholar , and the emendation has been largely accepted in German scholarship (cf. Berve 355 n. 2 Schachermeyr 353 n. 423). Tarn, however, refused to guess ‘what weird error in transmission lies behind “Cohortandus” ’ (ii 103 cf. 341 n. 5).

96 Curt, viii 5.2f cf. Arr. iv 22. if.

97 Strabo xi 11.4 (517). The note is preceded by details on cities founded and destroyed by Alexander, including details not found elsewhere in the tradition (e.g. Callisthenes arrested at Caryatae in Bactria) and it is continued by a report of the massacre of the Branchidae. The source most recently quoted is Onesicritus (xi 11.3 (517] = FGrH 134 F 5 ).

98 Arrian (iv 19.5 ff.) states that Rhoxane was captured on the Sogdian rock and that Alexander fell in love at first sight. He goes on to report the wedding, but gives no indication how long after the capture it took place. Arrian also claims that Oxyartes surrendered to Alexander at the news of the favourable reception of his daughter (iv 20.4). Now all traditions mention Oxyartes’ presence at the second great siege (Arr. iv 21.6 f. Curt, viii 2.25 ff. Plut. Al. 58.3), and it is reasonable to assume that his daughter had already come into Alexander's power, even if she were not yet married to him. It is a possibility at least that Rhoxane was captured at the first rock (Arrian) and married at a subsequent banquet (Curt, viii 4.23 ME 28 Plut. Al.47.7). Strabo can be related to neither tradition Rhoxane was neither captured nor married at the second rock: cf. Hamilton , J. R. , Plutarch Alexander ( Oxford 1969 ) 129 Google Scholar .

99 τήν τε ἐν τῇ Βακτριανῇ, τὴν Σισιμίθρου (Strabo): cf. Curt, viii 2.13–15 ME 19 (in Bactros).

Strabo's History

Strabo's History is nearly completely lost. Although Strabo quotes it himself, and other classical authors mention that it existed, the only surviving document is a fragment of papyrus now in possession of the University of Milan (renumbered [Papyrus] 46).

Several different dates have been proposed for Strabo's death, but most of them conclude that Strabo died shortly after 23 AD.

Strabo is mostly famous for his 17-volume work Geographica, which presented a descriptive history of people and places from different regions of the world known to his era.


Diodotus, the satrap of Bactria (and probably the surrounding provinces) founded the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom when he seceded from the Seleucid Empire around 250 BC and became King Diodotus I of Bactria. The preserved ancient sources (see below) are somewhat contradictory, and the exact date of Bactrian independence has not been settled. Somewhat simplified, there is a high chronology (c. 255 BC) and a low chronology (c. 246 BC) for Diodotos' secession. [5] The high chronology has the advantage of explaining why the Seleucid king Antiochus II issued very few coins in Bactria, as Diodotos would have become independent there early in Antiochus' reign. [6] On the other hand, the low chronology, from the mid-240s BC, has the advantage of connecting the secession of Diodotus I with the Third Syrian War, a catastrophic conflict for the Seleucid Empire.

Diodotus, the governor of the thousand cities of Bactria (Latin: Theodotus, mille urbium Bactrianarum praefectus), defected and proclaimed himself king all the other people of the Orient followed his example and seceded from the Macedonians.

The new kingdom, highly urbanized and considered as one of the richest of the Orient (opulentissimum illud mille urbium Bactrianum imperium "The extremely prosperous Bactrian empire of the thousand cities" Justin, XLI,1 [8] ), was to further grow in power and engage in territorial expansion to the east and the west:

The Greeks who caused Bactria to revolt grew so powerful on account of the fertility of the country that they became masters, not only of Ariana, but also of India, as Apollodorus of Artemita says: and more tribes were subdued by them than by Alexander… Their cities were Bactra (also called Zariaspa, through which flows a river bearing the same name and emptying into the Oxus), and Darapsa, and several others. Among these was Eucratidia, [9] which was named after its ruler.

In 247 BC, the Ptolemaic empire (the Greek rulers of Egypt following the death of Alexander the Great) captured the Seleucid capital, Antioch. In the resulting power vacuum, Andragoras, the Seleucid satrap of Parthia, proclaimed independence from the Seleucids, declaring himself king. A decade later, he was defeated and killed by Arsaces of Parthia, leading to the rise of a Parthian Empire. This cut Bactria off from contact with the Greek world. Overland trade continued at a reduced rate, while sea trade between Greek Egypt and Bactria developed.

Diodotus was succeeded by his son Diodotus II, who allied himself with the Parthian Arsaces in his fight against Seleucus II:

Soon after, relieved by the death of Diodotus, Arsaces made peace and concluded an alliance with his son, also by the name of Diodotus some time later he fought against Seleucos who came to punish the rebels, and he prevailed: the Parthians celebrated this day as the one that marked the beginning of their freedom.

Euthydemus, a Greek from Magnesia according to Polybius, [12] [13] and possibly satrap of Sogdiana, overthrew the dynasty of Diodotus II around 230-220 BC and started his own dynasty. Euthydemus's control extended to Sogdiana, going beyond the city of Alexandria Eschate founded by Alexander the Great in Ferghana: [ citation needed ]

And they also held Sogdiana, situated above Bactriana towards the east between the Oxus River, which forms the boundary between the Bactrians and the Sogdians, and the Iaxartes River. And the Iaxartes forms also the boundary between the Sogdians and the nomads. (Strabo XI.11.2) [14]

Euthydemus was attacked by the Seleucid ruler Antiochus III around 210 BC. Although he commanded 10,000 horsemen, Euthydemus initially lost a battle on the Arius [15] and had to retreat. He then successfully resisted a three-year siege in the fortified city of Bactra (modern Balkh), before Antiochus finally decided to recognize the new ruler, and to offer one of his daughters to Euthydemus's son Demetrius around 206 BC. [16] Classical accounts also relate that Euthydemus negotiated peace with Antiochus III by suggesting that he deserved credit for overthrowing the original rebel Diodotus and that he was protecting Central Asia from nomadic invasions thanks to his defensive efforts:

…for if he did not yield to this demand, neither of them would be safe: seeing that great hordes of Nomads were close at hand, who were a danger to both and that if they admitted them into the country, it would certainly be utterly barbarised. (Polybius, 11.34) [13]

Kuliab inscription Edit

In an inscription found in the Kuliab area of Tadjikistan, in eastern Greco-Bactria, and dated to 200–195 BC, [17] a Greek by the name of Heliodotos, dedicating a fire altar to Hestia, mentions Euthydemus as the greatest of all kings, and his son Demetrius I as "Demetrios Kalinikos" "Demetrius the Glorious Conqueror": [18] [17]

"Heliodotos dedicated this fragrant altar for Hestia, venerable goddess, illustrious amongst all, in the grove of Zeus, with beautiful trees he made libations and sacrifices so that the greatest of all kings Euthydemos, as well as his son, the glorious, victorious and remarkable Demetrios, be preserved of all pains, with the help of Tyche with divine thoughts."

τόνδε σοι βωμὸν θυώδη, πρέσβα κυδίστη θεῶν
Ἑστία, Διὸς κ(α)τ᾽ ἄλσος καλλίδενδρον ἔκτισεν
καὶ κλυταῖς ἤσκησε λοιβαῖς ἐμπύροις Ἡλιόδοτος
ὄφρα τὸμ πάντων μέγιστον Εὐθύδημον βασιλέων
τοῦ τε παῖδα καλλίνικον ἐκπρεπῆ Δημήτριον
πρευμενὴς σώιζηις ἐκηδεῖ(ς) σὺν τύχαι θεόφρον[ι]

Following the departure of the Seleucid army, the Bactrian kingdom seems to have expanded. In the west, areas in north-eastern Iran may have been absorbed, possibly as far as into Parthia, whose ruler had been defeated by Antiochus the Great. These territories possibly are identical with the Bactrian satrapies of Tapuria and Traxiane.

Contacts with the Han Empire Edit

To the north, Euthydemus also ruled Sogdiana and Ferghana, and there are indications that from Alexandria Eschate the Greco-Bactrians may have led expeditions as far as Kashgar and Ürümqi in Xinjiang, leading to the first known contacts between China and the West around 220 BC. The Greek historian Strabo too writes that: "they extended their empire even as far as the Seres (Chinese) and the Phryni". (Strabo, XI.XI.I). [10]

Several statuettes and representations of Greek soldiers have been found north of the Tian Shan, on the doorstep to China, and are today on display in the Xinjiang museum at Ürümqi (Boardman). [21] Middle Eastern or Greek influences on Chinese art have also been suggested (Hirth, Rostovtzeff). Designs with rosette flowers, geometric lines, meanders and glass inlays, suggestive of Egyptian, Persian, and/or Hellenistic influences, [22] can be found on some early Han dynasty bronze mirrors. [23] [ citation needed ]

Some speculate that Greek influence is found in the artworks of the burial site of China's first Emperor Qin Shi Huang, dating back to the 3rd century BC, including in the manufacture of the famous Terracotta army. This idea suggested that Greek artists may have come to China at that time to train local artisans in making sculptures [24] [25] However, this idea is disputed. [26]

Numismatics also suggest that some technology exchanges may have occurred on these occasions: the Greco-Bactrians were the first in the world to issue cupro-nickel (75/25 ratio) coins, [27] an alloy technology only known by the Chinese at the time under the name "White copper" (some weapons from the Warring States period were in copper-nickel alloy). [28] The practice of exporting Chinese metals, in particular iron, for trade is attested around that period. Kings Euthydemus, Euthydemus II, Agathocles and Pantaleon made these coin issues around 170 BC and it has alternatively been suggested that a nickeliferous copper ore was the source from mines at Anarak. [29] Copper-nickel would not be used again in coinage until the 19th century.

The presence of Chinese people in India from ancient times is also suggested by the accounts of the "Ciñas" in the Mahabharata and the Manu Smriti. The Han dynasty explorer and ambassador Zhang Qian visited Bactria in 126 BC, and reported the presence of Chinese products in the Bactrian markets:

"When I was in Bactria (Daxia)", Zhang Qian reported, "I saw bamboo canes from Qiong and cloth made in the province of Shu (territories of southwestern China). When I asked the people how they had gotten such articles, they replied, "Our merchants go buy them in the markets of Shendu (India)." (Shiji 123, Sima Qian, trans. Burton Watson).

The purpose of Zhang Qian's journey was to look for civilizations on the steppe that the Han could ally with against the Xiongnu. Upon his return, Zhang Qian informed the Chinese emperor Han Wudi of the level of sophistication of the urban civilizations of Ferghana, Bactria and Parthia, who became interested in developing commercial relationships with them:

The Son of Heaven on hearing all this reasoned thus: Ferghana (Dayuan) and the possessions of Bactria (Daxia) and Parthia (Anxi) are large countries, full of rare things, with a population living in fixed abodes and given to occupations somewhat identical with those of the Chinese people, and placing great value on the rich produce of China. (Hanshu, Former Han History).

A number of Chinese envoys were then sent to Central Asia, triggering the development of the Silk Road from the end of the 2nd century BC. [30]

Contacts with the Indian Subcontinent (250–180) Edit

The Indian emperor Chandragupta, founder of the Mauryan dynasty, conquered the northwestern subcontinent upon the death of Alexander the Great around 323 BC. However, contacts were kept with his Greek neighbours in the Seleucid Empire, a dynastic alliance or the recognition of intermarriage between Greeks and Indians were established (described as an agreement on Epigamia in Ancient sources), and several Greeks, such as the historian Megasthenes, resided at the Mauryan court. Subsequently, each Mauryan emperor had a Greek ambassador at his court.

Chandragupta's grandson Ashoka converted to the Buddhist faith and became a great proselytizer in the line of the traditional Pali canon of Theravada Buddhism, directing his efforts towards the Indo-Iranic and the Hellenistic worlds from around 250 BC. According to the Edicts of Ashoka, set in stone, some of them written in Greek, he sent Buddhist emissaries to the Greek lands in Asia and as far as the Mediterranean. The edicts name each of the rulers of the Hellenistic world at the time.

The conquest by Dharma has been won here, on the borders, and even six hundred yojanas (4,000 miles) away, where the Greek king Antiochos rules, beyond there where the four kings named Ptolemy, Antigonos, Magas and Alexander rule, likewise in the south among the Cholas, the Pandyas, and as far as Tamraparni. (Edicts of Ashoka, 13th Rock Edict, S. Dhammika).

Some of the Greek populations that had remained in northwestern India apparently converted to Buddhism:

Here in the king's domain among the Greeks, the Kambojas, the Nabhakas, the Nabhapamkits, the Bhojas, the Pitinikas, the Andhras and the Palidas, everywhere people are following Beloved-of-the-Gods' instructions in Dharma. (Edicts of Ashoka, 13th Rock Edict, S. Dhammika).

Furthermore, according to Pali sources, some of Ashoka's emissaries were Greek Buddhist monks, indicating close religious exchanges between the two cultures:

When the thera (elder) Moggaliputta, the illuminator of the religion of the Conqueror (Ashoka), had brought the (third) council to an end. he sent forth theras, one here and one there: . and to Aparantaka (the "Western countries" corresponding to Gujarat and Sindh) he sent the Greek (Yona) named Dhammarakkhita. and the thera Maharakkhita he sent into the country of the Yona. (Mahavamsa, XII).

Greco-Bactrians probably received these Buddhist emissaries (at least Maharakkhita, lit. "The Great Saved One", who was "sent to the country of the Yona") and somehow tolerated the Buddhist faith, although little proof remains. In the 2nd century AD, the Christian dogmatist Clement of Alexandria recognized the existence of Buddhist Sramanas among the Bactrians ("Bactrians" meaning "Oriental Greeks" in that period), and even their influence on Greek thought:

Thus philosophy, a thing of the highest utility, flourished in antiquity among the barbarians, shedding its light over the nations. And afterwards it came to Greece. First in its ranks were the prophets of the Egyptians and the Chaldeans among the Assyrians [31] and the Druids among the Gauls and the Sramanas among the Bactrians ("Σαρμαναίοι Βάκτρων") and the philosophers of the Celts and the Magi of the Persians, who foretold the Saviour's birth, and came into the land of Judea guided by a star. The Indian gymnosophists are also in the number, and the other barbarian philosophers. And of these there are two classes, some of them called Sramanas ("Σαρμάναι"), and others Brahmins ("Βραφμαναι"). (Clement of Alexandria "The Stromata, or Miscellanies" Book I, Chapter XV) [32]

Influence on Indian art during the 3rd century BC Edit

The Greco-Bactrian city of Ai-Khanoum, being located at the doorstep of India, interacting with the Indian subcontinent, and having a rich Hellenistic culture, was in a unique position to influence Indian culture as well. It is considered that Ai-Khanoum may have been one of the primary actors in transmitting Western artistic influence to India, for example in the creation of the Pillars of Ashoka or the manufacture of the quasi-Ionic Pataliputra capital, all of which were posterior to the establishment of Ai-Khanoum. [33]

The scope of adoption goes from designs such as the bead and reel pattern, the central flame palmette design and a variety of other moldings, to the lifelike rendering of animal sculpture and the design and function of the Ionic anta capital in the palace of Pataliputra. [34]


Modern debate about the identity of the "Saka" is partly from ambiguous usage of the word by ancient, non-Saka authorities. According to Herodotus, the Persians gave the name "Saka" to all "Scythians". [16] However, Pliny the Elder (Gaius Plinius Secundus, AD 23–79) claims that the Persians gave the name Sakai only to the Scythian tribes "nearest to them". [17] The Scythians to the far north of Assyria were also called the Saka suni (Saka or Scythian sons) by the Persians. [ citation needed ] The Neo-Assyrian Empire of the time of Esarhaddon record campaigning against a people they called in the Akkadian language the Ashkuza or Ishhuza. [18]

Another people, the Gimirrai, [18] who were known to the ancient Greeks as the Cimmerians, were closely associated with the Sakas. In Biblical Hebrew, the Ashkuz (Ashkenaz) are considered to be a direct offshoot from the Gimirri (Gomer). [19]

The Saka were regarded by the Babylonians as synonymous with the Gimirrai both names are used on the trilingual Behistun Inscription, carved in 515 BCE on the order of Darius the Great, [21] These people were reported to be mainly interested in settling in the kingdom of Urartu, later part of Armenia, and Shacusen in Utik derived its name from them. [22] ) The Behistun Inscription initially only gave one entry for Saka, they were however further differentiated later into three groups: [23] [24] [25]

  • the Sakā tyaiy paradraya – "Saka who are beyond the sea", a name added after the Scythian campaign of Darius I north of the Danube. [23]
  • the Sakā tigraxaudā – "Saka with pointy hats/caps"
  • the Sakā haumavargā – interpreted as "haoma-drinking Saka", but there are other suggestions. [23][26][27]

An additional term is found in two inscriptions elsewhere: [28]

  • the Sakaibiš tyaiy para Sugdam – "Saka who are beyond Sugda (Sogdia)", a term was used by Darius for the people who formed the limits of his empire at the opposite end to the Kingdom of Kush (the Ethiopians), therefore should be located at the eastern edge of his empire. [23][29][30]

The Sakā paradraya refers to the western Scythians (European Scythians) or Sarmatians. Both the Sakā tigraxaudā and Sakā haumavargā are thought to be located in Central Asia east of the Caspian Sea. [23]

Sakā haumavargā is considered to be the same as Amyrgians, the Saka tribe in closest proximity to Bactria and Sogdia. It has been suggested that the Sakā haumavargā may be the Sakā para Sugdam, therefore Sakā haumavargā is argued by some to be located further east than the Sakā tigraxaudā, perhaps at the Pamir Mountains or Xinjiang, although Syr Darya is considered to be their more likely location given that the name says "beyond Sogdia" rather than Bactria. [23]

In the modern era, the archaeologist Hugo Winckler (1863–1913) was the first to associate the Sakas with the Scythians. John Manuel Cook, in The Cambridge History of Iran, states: "The Persians gave the single name Sakā both to the nomads whom they encountered between the Hungry Steppe (Mirzacho'l) and the Caspian, and equally to those north of the Danube and Black Sea against whom Darius later campaigned and the Greeks and Assyrians called all those who were known to them by the name Skuthai (Iškuzai). Sakā and Skuthai evidently constituted a generic name for the nomads on the northern frontiers." [23] Persian sources often treat them as a single tribe called the Saka (Sakai or Sakas), but Greek and Latin texts suggest that the Scythians were composed of many sub-groups. [31] [32]

Modern scholars now usually use the term Saka to refer to Iranian peoples who inhabited the northern and eastern Eurasian Steppe and the Tarim Basin. [2] [33] [3]

Origins Edit

The Sakas were a group of Iranic peoples who spoke a language belonging to the Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. French historian René Grousset wrote that they formed a particular branch of the "Scytho-Sarmatian family" originating from nomadic Iranian peoples of the northwestern steppe in Eurasia. [34] Like the Scythians of the Pontic Steppe, to whom they were related, the Saka were racially Europoid and ultimately traced their origin to the Andronovo culture. [35] [36] The Pazyryk burials of the Pazyryk culture in the Ukok Plateau in the 4th and 3rd centuries BC are thought to be of Saka chieftains. [37] [38] [39] These burials show striking similarities with the earlier Tarim mummies at Gumugou. [38] The Issyk kurgan of south-eastern Kazakhstan, [39] and the Ordos culture of the Ordos Plateau has also been connected with the Saka. [40] It has been suggested that the ruling elite of the Xiongnu was of Saka origin. [41] Some scholars contend that in the 8th century BC, a Saka raid on Altai may be "connected" with a raid on Zhou China. [42]

Early history Edit

The Saka are attested in historical and archaeological records dating to around the 8th century BC. [43] In the Achaemenid-era Old Persian inscriptions found at Persepolis, dated to the reign of Darius I (r. 522–486 BC), the Saka are said to have lived just beyond the borders of Sogdia. [44] Likewise an inscription dated to the reign of Xerxes I (r. 486–465 BC) has them coupled with the Dahae people of Central Asia. [44] [28]

Two Saka tribes named in the Behistun Inscription, Sakā tigraxaudā ("Saka with pointy hats/caps") and the Sakā haumavargā ("haoma-drinking saka"), may be located to the east of the Caspian Sea. [23] [45] [46] Some argued that the Sakā haumavargā may be the Sakā para Sugdam, therefore Sakā haumavargā would be located further east than the Sakā tigraxaudā. Some argued for the Pamirs or Xinjiang as their location, although Jaxartes is considered to be their more likely location given that the name says "beyond Sogdiana" rather than Bactria. [23]

The contemporary Greek historian Herodotus noted that the Achaemenid Empire called all of the "Scythians" by the name "Saka". [44]

Greek historians wrote of the wars between the Saka and the Medes, as well as their wars against Cyrus the Great of the Persian Achaemenid Empire where Saka women were said to fight alongside their men. [33] According to Herodotus, Cyrus the Great confronted the Massagetae, a people related to the Saka, [47] while campaigning to the east of the Caspian Sea and was killed in the battle in 530 BC. [48] Darius I also waged wars against the eastern Sakas, who fought him with three armies led by three kings according to Polyaenus. [49] In 520–519 BC, Darius I defeated the Sakā tigraxaudā tribe and captured their king Skunkha (depicted as wearing a pointed hat in Behistun). [2] The territories of Saka were absorbed into the Achaemenid Empire as part of Chorasmia that included much of the Amu Darya (Oxus) and the Syr Darya (Jaxartes), [50] and the Saka then supplied the Achaemenid army with large number of mounted bowmen. [25] They were also mentioned as among those who resisted Alexander the Great's incursions into Central Asia. [33]

The Saka were known as the Sak or Sai (Chinese: 塞 ) in ancient Chinese records. [51] [52] [53] These records indicate that they originally inhabited the Ili and Chu River valleys of modern Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. In the Book of Han, the area was called the "land of the Sak", i.e. the Saka. [54] The exact date of the Sakas' arrival in the valleys of the Ili and Chu in Central Asia is unclear, perhaps it was just before the reign of Darius I. [54] Around 30 Saka tombs in the form of kurgans (burial mounds) have also been found in the Tian Shan area dated to between 550–250 BC. Indications of Saka presence have also been found in the Tarim Basin region, possibly as early as the 7th century BC. [43] At least by the late 2nd century BC, the Sakas had founded states in the Tarim Basin. [15]

Migrations Edit

The Saka were pushed out of the Ili and Chu River valleys by the Yuezhi. [55] [12] [13] An account of the movement of these people is given in Sima Qian's Records of the Grand Historian. The Yuehzhi, who originally lived between Tängri Tagh (Tian Shan) and Dunhuang of Gansu, China, [56] were assaulted and forced to flee from the Hexi Corridor of Gansu by the forces of the Xiongnu ruler Modu Chanyu, who conquered the area in 177–176 BC. [57] [58] [59] [60] [61] [62] In turn the Yuehzhi were responsible for attacking and pushing the Sai (i.e. Saka) west into Sogdiana, where, between 140 and 130 BCE, the latter crossed the Syr Darya into Bactria. The Saka also moved southwards toward the Pamirs and northern India, where they settled in Kashmir, and eastward, to settle in some of the oasis-states of Tarim Basin sites, like Yanqi (焉耆, Karasahr) and Qiuci (龜茲, Kucha). [63] [64] The Yuehzhi, themselves under attacks from another nomadic tribe, the Wusun, in 133–132 BC, moved, again, from the Ili and Chu valleys, and occupied the country of Daxia, (大夏, "Bactria"). [54] [65]

The ancient Greco-Roman geographer Strabo noted that the four tribes that took down the Bactrians in the Greek and Roman account – the Asioi, Pasianoi, Tokharoi and Sakaraulai – came from land north of the Syr Darya where the Ili and Chu valleys are located. [34] [54] Identification of these four tribes varies, but Sakaraulai may indicate an ancient Saka tribe, the Tokharoi is possibly the Yuezhi, and while the Asioi had been proposed to be groups such as the Wusun or Alans. [34] [66]

René Grousset wrote of the migration of the Saka: "the Saka, under pressure from the Yueh-chih [Yuezhi], overran Sogdiana and then Bactria, there taking the place of the Greeks." Then, "Thrust back in the south by the Yueh-chih," the Saka occupied "the Saka country, Sakastana, whence the modern Persian Seistan." [34] Some of the Saka fleeing the Yuezhi attacked the Parthian Empire, where they defeated and killed the kings Phraates II and Artabanus. [55] These Sakas were eventually settled by Mithridates II in what become known as Sakastan. [55] According to Harold Walter Bailey, the territory of Drangiana (now in Afghanistan and Pakistan) became known as "Land of the Sakas", and was called Sakastāna in the Persian language of contemporary Iran, in Armenian as Sakastan, with similar equivalents in Pahlavi, Greek, Sogdian, Syriac, Arabic, and the Middle Persian tongue used in Turfan, Xinjiang, China. [44] This is attested in a contemporary Kharosthi inscription found on the Mathura lion capital belonging to the Saka kingdom of the Indo-Scythians (200 BC – 400 AD) in North India, [44] roughly the same time the Chinese record that the Saka had invaded and settled the country of Jibin 罽賓 (i.e. Kashmir, of modern-day India and Pakistan). [67]

Iaroslav Lebedynsky and Victor H. Mair speculate that some Sakas may also have migrated to the area of Yunnan in southern China following their expulsion by the Yuezhi. Excavations of the prehistoric art of the Dian Kingdom of Yunnan have revealed hunting scenes of Caucasoid horsemen in Central Asian clothing. [68] The scenes depicted on these drums sometimes represent these horsemen practising hunting. Animal scenes of felines attacking oxen are also at times reminiscent of Scythian art both in theme and in composition. [69]

Migrations of the 2nd and 1st century BC have left traces in Sogdia and Bactria, but they cannot firmly be attributed to the Saka, similarly with the sites of Sirkap and Taxila in ancient India. The rich graves at Tillya Tepe in Afghanistan are seen as part of a population affected by the Saka. [70]

The Shakya clan of India, to which Gautama Buddha, called Śākyamuni "Sage of the Shakyas", belonged, were also likely Sakas, as Michael Witzel [71] and Christopher I. Beckwith [72] have demonstrated.

Indo-Scythians Edit

The region in modern Afghanistan and Iran where the Saka moved to became known as "land of the Saka" or Sakastan. [44] This is attested in a contemporary Kharosthi inscription found on the Mathura lion capital belonging to the Saka kingdom of the Indo-Scythians (200 BC – 400 AD) in northern India, [44] roughly the same time the Chinese record that the Saka had invaded and settled the country of Jibin 罽賓 (i.e. Kashmir, of modern-day India and Pakistan). [67] In the Persian language of contemporary Iran the territory of Drangiana was called Sakastāna, in Armenian as Sakastan, with similar equivalents in Pahlavi, Greek, Sogdian, Syriac, Arabic, and the Middle Persian tongue used in Turfan, Xinjiang, China. [44] The Sakas also captured Gandhara and Taxila, and migrated to North India. [76] The most famous Indo-Scythian king was Maues. [77] An Indo-Scythians kingdom was established in Mathura (200 BC – 400 AD). [44] [14] Weer Rajendra Rishi, an Indian linguist, identified linguistic affinities between Indian and Central Asian languages, which further lends credence to the possibility of historical Sakan influence in North India. [76] [78] According to historian Michael Mitchiner, the Abhira tribe were a Saka people cited in the Gunda inscription of the Western Satrap Rudrasimha I dated to AD 181. [79]

Kingdoms in the Tarim Basin Edit

Kingdom of Khotan Edit

The Kingdom of Khotan was a Saka city state in on the southern edge of the Tarim Basin. As a consequence of the Han–Xiongnu War spanning from 133 BCE to 89 CE, the Tarim Basin (now Xinjiang, Northwest China), including Khotan and Kashgar, fell under Han Chinese influence, beginning with the reign of Emperor Wu of Han (r. 141–87 BC). [80] [81]

Archaeological evidence and documents from Khotan and other sites in the Tarim Basin provided information on the language spoken by the Saka. [44] [82] The official language of Khotan was initially Gandhari Prakrit written in Kharosthi, and coins from Khotan dated to the 1st century bear dual inscriptions in Chinese and Gandhari Prakrit, indicating links of Khotan to both India and China. [83] Surviving documents however suggest that an Iranian language was used by the people of the kingdom for a long time Third-century AD documents in Prakrit from nearby Shanshan record the title for the king of Khotan as hinajha (i.e. "generalissimo"), a distinctively Iranian-based word equivalent to the Sanskrit title senapati, yet nearly identical to the Khotanese Saka hīnāysa attested in later Khotanese documents. [83] This, along with the fact that the king's recorded regnal periods were given as the Khotanese kṣuṇa, "implies an established connection between the Iranian inhabitants and the royal power," according to the Professor of Iranian Studies Ronald E. Emmerick. [83] He contended that Khotanese-Saka-language royal rescripts of Khotan dated to the 10th century "makes it likely that the ruler of Khotan was a speaker of Iranian." [83] Furthermore, he argued that the early form of the name of Khotan, hvatana, is connected semantically with the name Saka. [83]

The region once again came under Chinese suzerainty with the campaigns of conquest by Emperor Taizong of Tang (r. 626–649). [84] From the late eighth to ninth centuries, the region changed hands between the rival Tang and Tibetan Empires. [85] [86] However, by the early 11th century the region fell to the Muslim Turkic peoples of the Kara-Khanid Khanate, which led to both the Turkification of the region as well as its conversion from Buddhism to Islam.

Later Khotanese-Saka-language documents, ranging from medical texts to Buddhist literature, have been found in Khotan and Tumshuq (northeast of Kashgar). [87] Similar documents in the Khotanese-Saka language dating mostly to the 10th century have been found in the Dunhuang manuscripts. [88]

Although the ancient Chinese had called Khotan Yutian (于闐), another more native Iranian name occasionally used was Jusadanna (瞿薩旦那), derived from Indo-Iranian Gostan and Gostana, the names of the town and region around it, respectively. [89]

Shule Kingdom Edit

Much like the neighboring people of the Kingdom of Khotan, people of Kashgar, the capital of Shule, spoke Saka, one of the Eastern Iranian languages. [90] According to the Book of Han, the Saka split and formed several states in the region. These Saka states may include two states to the northwest of Kashgar, and Tumshuq to its northeast, and Tushkurgan south in the Pamirs. [91] Kashgar also conquered other states such as Yarkand and Kucha during the Han dynasty, but in its later history, Kashgar was controlled by various empires, including Tang China, [92] [93] [94] before it became part of the Turkic Kara-Khanid Khanate in the 10th century. In the 11th century, according to Mahmud al-Kashgari, some non-Turkic languages like the Kanchaki and Sogdian were still used in some areas in the vicinity of Kashgar, [95] and Kanchaki is thought to belong to the Saka language group. [91] It is believed that the Tarim Basin was linguistically Turkified before the 11th century ended. [96]

Persians referred to all northern nomads as Sakas. Herodotus (IV.64) describes them as Scythians, although they figure under a different name:

The Sacae, or Scyths, were clad in trousers, and had on their heads tall stiff caps rising to a point. They bore the bow of their country and the dagger besides which they carried the battle-axe, or sagaris. They were in truth Amyrgian (Western) Scythians, but the Persians called them Sacae, since that is the name which they gave to all Scythians.

Strabo Edit

In the 1st century BC, the Greek-Roman geographer Strabo gave an extensive description of the peoples of the eastern steppe, whom he located in Central Asia beyond Bactria and Sogdiana. [97]

Strabo went on to list the names of the various tribes he believed to be "Scythian", [97] and in so doing almost certainly conflated them with unrelated tribes of eastern Central Asia. These tribes included the Saka.

Now the greater part of the Scythians, beginning at the Caspian Sea, are called Däae, but those who are situated more to the east than these are named Massagetae and Sacae, whereas all the rest are given the general name of Scythians, though each people is given a separate name of its own. They are all for the most part nomads. But the best known of the nomads are those who took away Bactriana from the Greeks, I mean the Asii, Pasiani, Tochari, and Sacarauli, who originally came from the country on the other side of the Iaxartes River that adjoins that of the Sacae and the Sogdiani and was occupied by the Sacae. And as for the Däae, some of them are called Aparni, some Xanthii, and some Pissuri. Now of these the Aparni are situated closest to Hyrcania and the part of the sea that borders on it, but the remainder extend even as far as the country that stretches parallel to Aria. Between them and Hyrcania and Parthia and extending as far as the Arians is a great waterless desert, which they traversed by long marches and then overran Hyrcania, Nesaea, and the plains of the Parthians. And these people agreed to pay tribute, and the tribute was to allow the invaders at certain appointed times to overrun the country and carry off booty. But when the invaders overran their country more than the agreement allowed, war ensued, and in turn their quarrels were composed and new wars were begun. Such is the life of the other nomads also, who are always attacking their neighbors and then in turn settling their differences.

Indian sources Edit

The Sakas receive numerous mentions in Indian texts, including the Purāṇas, the Manusmṛiti, the Rāmāyaṇa, the Mahābhārata, and the Mahābhāṣya of Patanjali.

Modern scholarly consensus is that the Eastern Iranian language ancestral to the Pamir languages in Central Asia and the medieval Saka language of Xinjiang, was one of the Scythian languages. [98] Evidence of the Middle Iranian "Scytho-Khotanese" language survives in Northwest China, where Khotanese-Saka-language documents, ranging from medical texts to Buddhist texts, have been found primarily in Khotan and Tumshuq (northeast of Kashgar). [87] They largely predate the Islamization of Xinjiang under the Turkic-speaking Kara-Khanid Khanate. [87] Similar documents, the Dunhuang manuscripts, were discovered written in the Khotanese Saka language and date mostly from the tenth century. [99]

Attestations of the Saka language show that it was an Eastern Iranian language. The linguistic heartland of Saka was the Kingdom of Khotan, which had two varieties, corresponding to the major settlements at Khotan (now called Hotan) and Tumshuq (now titled Tumxuk). [100] [101] Tumshuqese and Khotanese varieties of Saka contain many borrowings from the Middle Indo-Aryan languages, but also share features with the modern Eastern Iranian languages Wakhi and Pashto. [102]

The Issyk inscription, a short fragment on a silver cup found in the Issyk kurgan in Kazakhstan is believed to be an early example of Saka, constituting one of very few autochthonous epigraphic traces of that language. [ citation needed ] The inscription is in a variant of Kharosthi. Harmatta identifies the dialect as Khotanese Saka, tentatively translating its as: "The vessel should hold wine of grapes, added cooked food, so much, to the mortal, then added cooked fresh butter on". [103]

A growing body of both linguistic and physical anthropological evidence suggest the Wakhi are descendants of Saka. [104] [105] [106] [107] [108] [109] According to the Indo-Europeanist Martin Kümmel, Wakhi may be classified as a Western Saka dialect the other attested Saka dialects, Khotanese and Tumshuqese, would then be classified as Eastern Saka. [110]

The Saka heartland was gradually conquered during the Turkic expansion, beginning in the sixth century, and the area was gradually Turkified linguistically under the Uyghurs.

The earliest studies could only analyze segments of mtDNA, thus providing only broad correlations of affinity to modern West Eurasian or East Eurasian populations. For example, in a 2002 study the mitochondrial DNA of Saka period male and female skeletal remains from a double inhumation kurgan at the Beral site in Kazakhstan was analysed. The two individuals were found to be not closely related. The HV1 mitochondrial sequence of the male was similar to the Anderson sequence which is most frequent in European populations. The HV1 sequence of the female suggested a greater likelihood of Asian origins. [111]

More recent studies have been able to type for specific mtDNA lineages. For example, a 2004 study examined the HV1 sequence obtained from a male "Scytho-Siberian" at the Kizil site in the Altai Republic. It belonged to the N1a maternal lineage, a geographically West Eurasian lineage. [112] Another study by the same team, again of mtDNA from two Scytho-Siberian skeletons found in the Altai Republic, showed that they had been typical males "of mixed Euro-Mongoloid origin". One of the individuals was found to carry the F2a maternal lineage, and the other the D lineage, both of which are characteristic of East Eurasian populations. [113]

These early studies have been elaborated by an increasing number of studies by Russian scholars. Conclusions are (i) an early, Bronze Age mixing of both west and east Eurasian lineages, with western lineages being found far to the east, but not vice versa (ii) an apparent reversal by Iron Age times, with an increasing presence of East Eurasian lineages in the western steppe (iii) the possible role of migrations from the south, the Balkano-Danubian and Iranian regions, toward the steppe. [114]

Ancient Y-DNA data was finally provided by Keyser et al in 2009. They studied the haplotypes and haplogroups of 26 ancient human specimens from the Krasnoyarsk area in Siberia dated from between the middle of the 2nd millennium BC and the 4th century AD (Scythian and Sarmatian timeframe). Nearly all subjects belonged to haplogroup R-M17. The authors suggest that their data shows that between the Bronze and the Iron Ages the constellation of populations known variously as Scythians, Andronovians, etc. were blue- (or green-) eyed, fair-skinned and light-haired people who might have played a role in the early development of the Tarim Basin civilisation. Moreover, this study found that they were genetically more closely related to modern populations in eastern Europe than those of central and southern Asia. [115] The ubiquity and dominance of the R1a Y-DNA lineage contrasted markedly with the diversity seen in the mtDNA profiles.

A genetic study published in Nature in May 2018 examined the remains of twenty-eight Sakas buried between ca. 900 BC to AD 1, compromising eight Sakas of southern Siberia (Tagar culture), eight Sakas of the central steppe (Tasmola culture), and twelve Sakas of the Tian Shan. The six samples of Y-DNA extracted from the Tian Shan Saka belonged to the haplogroups R (four samples), R1 and R1a1. The samples of mtDNA extracted from the Tien Shan Saka belonged to C4, H4d, T2a1, U5a1d2b, H2a, U5a1a1, HV6 (two samples), D4j8 (two samples), W1c and G2a1. The study detected significant genetic differences between the Sakas and Scythians of the Pannonian Basin, and between Sakas of southern Siberia, the central steppe and the Tian Shan. Tian Shan Sakas were found to be of about 70% Western Steppe Herder (WSH) ancestry, 25% Siberian Hunter-Gatherer ancestry and 5% Iranian Neolithic ancestry. The Iranian Neolithic ancestry was primarily male-derived, probably from the Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex. Sakas of the Tasmola culture were found to be of about 56% WSH ancestry and 44% Siberian Hunter-Gather ancestry. The peoples of the Tagar culture had about 83.5% WSH ancestry, 9% Ancient North Eurasian (ANE) ancestry and 7.5% Siberian Hunter-Gatherer ancestry. The study suggested that the Saka were the source of west Eurasian ancestry among the Xiongnu, and that the Huns probably emerged through conquests of Sakas by the Xiongnu, which is characterized by increased levels of East Asian paternal ancestry in Central Asia. [116]

Early physical analyses have unanimously concluded that the Saka, even those far to the east (e.g. the Pazyryk region), possessed predominantly "Europid" features, although mixed 'Euro-mongoloid" phenotypes also occur, depending on site and period. [117]

The 2nd century BC Han Chinese envoy Zhang Qian described the Sai (Saka) as having yellow (probably meaning hazel or green), and blue eyes. [118] In Natural History, the 1st century AD Roman author Pliny the Elder characterises the Seres, sometimes identified as Sala or Tocharians, as red-haired and blue-eyed. [118] [119]

The spectacular grave-goods from Arzhan, and others in Tuva, have been dated from about 900 BC onward, and are associated with the Saka. Burials at Pazyryk in the Altay Mountains have included some spectacularly preserved Sakas of the "Pazyryk culture" – including the Ice Maiden of the 5th century BC.

Pazyryk culture Edit

Saka burials documented by modern archaeologists include the kurgans at Pazyryk in the Ulagan (Red) district of the Altai Republic, south of Novosibirsk in the Altai Mountains of southern Siberia (near Mongolia). Archaeologists have extrapolated the Pazyryk culture from these finds: five large burial mounds and several smaller ones between 1925 and 1949, one opened in 1947 by Russian archaeologist Sergei Rudenko. The burial mounds concealed chambers of larch-logs covered over with large cairns of boulders and stones. [121]

The Pazyryk culture flourished between the 7th and 3rd century BC in the area associated with the Sacae.

Ordinary Pazyryk graves contain only common utensils, but in one, among other treasures, archaeologists found the famous Pazyryk Carpet, the oldest surviving wool-pile oriental rug. Another striking find, a 3-metre-high four-wheel funerary chariot, survived well-preserved from the 5th to 4th century BC. [122]

Tillia Tepe treasure Edit

A site found in 1968 in Tillia Tepe (literally "the golden hill") in northern Afghanistan (former Bactria) near Shebergan consisted of the graves of five women and one man with extremely rich jewelry, dated to around the 1st century BC, and probably related to that of Saka tribes normally living slightly to the north. Altogether the graves yielded several thousands of pieces of fine jewelry, usually made from combinations of gold, turquoise and lapis-lazuli.

A high degree of cultural syncretism pervades the findings, however. Hellenistic cultural and artistic influences appear in many of the forms and human depictions (from amorini to rings with the depiction of Athena and her name inscribed in Greek), attributable to the existence of the Seleucid empire and Greco-Bactrian kingdom in the same area until around 140 BC, and the continued existence of the Indo-Greek kingdom in the northwestern Indian sub-continent until the beginning of our era. This testifies to the richness of cultural influences in the area of Bactria at that time.

Art Edit

The art of the Saka was of a similar styles as other Iranian peoples of the steppes, which is referred to collectively as Scythian art. In 2001, the discovery of an undisturbed royal Scythian burial-barrow illustrated Scythian animal-style gold that lacks the direct influence of Greek styles. Forty-four pounds of gold weighed down the royal couple in this burial, discovered near Kyzyl, capital of the Siberian republic of Tuva.

Ancient influences from Central Asia became identifiable in China following contacts of metropolitan China with nomadic western and northwestern border territories from the 8th century BC. The Chinese adopted the Scythian-style animal art of the steppes (descriptions of animals locked in combat), particularly the rectangular belt-plaques made of gold or bronze, and created their own versions in jade and steatite. [123]

Following their expulsion by the Yuezhi, some Saka may also have migrated to the area of Yunnan in southern China. Saka warriors could also have served as mercenaries for the various kingdoms of ancient China. Excavations of the prehistoric art of the Dian civilisation of Yunnan have revealed hunting scenes of Caucasoid horsemen in Central Asian clothing. [124]

Saka influences have been identified as far as Korea and Japan. Various Korean artifacts, such as the royal crowns of the kingdom of Silla, are said to be of "Scythian" design. [125] Similar crowns, brought through contacts with the continent, can also be found in Kofun era Japan. [126]

Society Edit

Fraternal polyandry was a common custom among Saka. Brothers had one wife in common and the children were considered as belonging to the oldest brother. [127]

Clothing Edit

Similar to other eastern Iranian peoples represented on the reliefs of the Apadāna at Persepolis, Sakas are depicted as wearing long trousers, which cover the uppers of their boots. Over their shoulders they trail a type of long mantle, with one diagonal edge in back. One particular tribe of Sakas (the Saka tigraxaudā) wore pointed caps. Herodotus in his description of the Persian army mentions the Sakas as wearing trousers and tall pointed caps. [128]

Herodotus says Sakas had "high caps tapering to a point and stiffly upright." Asian Saka headgear is clearly visible on the Persepolis Apadana staircase bas-relief – high pointed hat with flaps over ears and the nape of the neck. [129] From China to the Danube delta, men seemed to have worn a variety of soft headgear – either conical like the one described by Herodotus, or rounder, more like a Phrygian cap.

Saka women dressed in much the same fashion as men. A Pazyryk burial, discovered in the 1990s, contained the skeletons of a man and a woman, each with weapons, arrowheads, and an axe. Herodotus mentioned that Sakas had "high caps and … wore trousers." Clothing was sewn from plain-weave wool, hemp cloth, silk fabrics, felt, leather and hides.

Pazyryk findings give the most almost fully preserved garments and clothing worn by the Scythian/Saka peoples. Ancient Persian bas-reliefs, inscriptions from Apadana and Behistun and archaeological findings give visual representations of these garments.

Based on the Pazyryk findings (can be seen also in the south Siberian, Uralic and Kazakhstan rock drawings) some caps were topped with zoomorphic wooden sculptures firmly attached to a cap and forming an integral part of the headgear, similar to the surviving nomad helmets from northern China. Men and warrior women wore tunics, often embroidered, adorned with felt applique work, or metal (golden) plaques.

Rio Sir Dária

O rio Sir Dária [ 1 ] ou Sir Darya (uzbeque: Sirdaryo cazaque: Сырдарья tadjique: Сирдарё persa: سيردريا‎) é um rio da Ásia Central, por vezes conhecido como Jaxartes [ 2 ] a partir de seu nome grego ὁ Ιαξάρτης. A denominação grega é derivada do persa antigo Yakhsha Arta ("Grande Perlado"), uma referência ao aspeto da água do rio. Em escritos medievais islâmicos, o rio é sempre chamado de Sayhoun (سيحون), que é o nome de um dos quatro rios do Paraíso (da mesma maneira, o Amu Dária era chamado de Jayhoun, outro daqueles quatro rios).

O nome "Sir Dária", que vem do persa e é usado há muito tempo no Oriente, é relativamente recente nos registros do Ocidente. Anteriormente ao século XX, o rio era conhecido por uma das diversas versões do nome grego. Demarcava o limite setentrional das conquistas de Alexandre, o Grande. Historiadores gregos alegavam que ali, em 329 a.C., o rei macedônio teria fundado a cidade de Alexandria Eschate (literalmente, "Alexandria, a mais longínqua", a atual Khujand) com uma guarnição permanente. Na verdade, a cidade havia sido fundada por Ciro, o Grande.

O rio surge de duas fontes nas montanhas de Tian Shan, no Quirguistão e no leste do Uzbequistão, e corre por cerca de 2212 km na direção oeste e noroeste pelo território uzbeque e no sul do Cazaquistão até desaguar no que resta do mar de Aral.

A região por onde corre o rio possui um amplo sistema de canais, muitos construídos no século XVIII. A expansão maciça dos canais de irrigação durante o período soviético, para irrigar campos de algodão, provocou um desastre ecológico na área que levou a uma diminuição na vazão do rio. Atualmente, o Sir Dária seca bem antes de atingir o Mar de Aral que, em consequência, encolheu drasticamente. Com milhões de pessoas assentadas nas áreas de cultivo do algodão, não está claro como esta situação poderia ser corrigida.

History of Alexander, VII.

inhabitants for the new city prisoners a were chosen, whom he freed by paying the masters their price even now their posterity after so long a time have not ceased to enjoy consideration among those peoples because of the memory of Alexander.

VII. But the king of the Scythians, whose rule at that time extended beyond the Tanais, thinking that this city which the Macedonians had founded on the bank of the river was a yoke upon their necks, b sent his brother, Carthasis by name, with a large force of cavalry to demolish it and drive off the Macedonian 2 forces away from the river. The Tanais separates the Bactriani from the so-called European Scythians, and 3 is also the boundary between Asia and Europe. c But the Scythian race which is situated not far from Thrace extends from the east towards the north, and is not a neighbour of the Sarmatians, as some have 4 believed, but a part of them. d Then keeping straight on, it inhabits the forest lying beyond the Danube, and borders the extremity of Asia at Bactra. They inhabit the parts which are nearer to the north, then dense forests and desert wastes meet them. Again, the parts which look towards the Tanais and Bactra in human cultivation are not unlike the first.

Alexander, about to wage an unforeseen war with this race, when the enemy rode up in sight of him, although still ailing from his wound, and especially feeble of voice, which both moderation in food and the pain in his neck had weakened, ordered his friends to 6 be called to a conference. It was not the enemy that