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Far East Kingdoms

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Drangiana / Zranka
Incorporating the Ariaspae, Asagarta, Drangians, Sargatians, Thamanaeans, & Utians

The ancient province of Drangiana lay largely within what is now the easternmost areas of modern Iran, roughly where it meets the border between south-western Afghanistan and western Pakistan, and with a focus on Seistan (Sistan) in Iran. The country is a dusty and often stormy desert with sandy dunes, but there are fertile plains along the River Etymandrus, the modern Helmand Rûd. Prior to its late sixth century BC domination by the Achaemenid Persians, Drangiana seems to have formed part of 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.

Drangiana or Zarangiana to the Greeks may have been more readily known as Zranka or Zraka to the Persians. The word apparently means 'waterland'. Following its formation into a province, it was bounded to the north by Arachosia, to the east by the Indus region of far western India, to the south by Gedrosia, and to the west by Carmania. As a whole, this region formed the meeting point between Central Asia and South Asia. 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 empire.

One of those tribes was known as the Drangians, from which the region gained its name. They have also been referred to as the Sarangians, Drangae, and Zarangae, and are claimed as being subjects of the Median empire when this was at its height (although calling it an 'empire' may be a mistaken view of something which may have been more akin to a domination of tribal confederations with the Medes at the top. The Drangians and other tribes in eastern Iran were Indo-Iranians themselves, just like the Medes and Persians. They spoke the same language and had the same customs, such as the fire cult and the cult of the supreme god, Ahuramazda, so they probably would not have viewed Persian rule as an occupation by a foreign power. Breaking down Indo-Iranian tribal names is tricky. The closest finding in Avestan/Old Iranian is darəgə̄m (adjective); accusative singular neuter 'long'. As for what might be 'long' in the name, this may have to be left as one of history's mysteries for now.

According to Greek historians who documented the campaigns of Alexander the Great, there was also a tribe in Drangiana called the Ariaspae or Ariaspai. They were neighbours of the Gedrosii to their south. Their name is most likely the Latin version of the Greek form, which would be much closer to Ariaspaeoi. Without the Latin or Greek suffix, the name is 'Ariasp', with an unknown meaning that clearly bears a relation to the Arya name (see Ariana for more details). The 'sp' of Ariasp is probably, almost certainly, a contraction with the vowel missing, possibly in the same manner as the 'nt' in the word 'isn't'. Analysis of whether the vowel is missing from the front, back, or middle still awaits. This tribe was also known as 'the Benefactors' because they had saved the army of king Cyrus when it was crossing the desert. Whether the use of 'Drangians' covered a host of local tribes or the Ariaspae were a separate unit is not known, but the Drangians were most likely the most numerous tribe or confederation in the area.

During the Persian conquest of Central Asia, the Drangians were placed in the same district as the Utians, Thamanaeans (or Thamanaioi), Myci, and Sargatians (Heredotus' Sagartioi, Old Persian Asagarta). Except for the Thamanaeans, who are generally unknown apart from a suspicion that they were also present in Arachosia, and the Myci, who lived in Oman, these tribes can all be found in central Iran. The Sargatians were counted as one of the ten clans of the Parsua but seem to have participated in the rebellion of 521 BC against Darius the Great. In later texts, the Utians are mentioned as inhabiting the Zagros Mountains, to the north of the Persian capitals of Persepolis and Pasargadae, but it is possible that in the sixth century BC, they lived farther to the east and simply followed the migratory path opened up by their Indo-Iranian cousins.

(Additional information by Edward Dawson, from Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus: Books 11-12, Volume 1, Marcus Junianus Justinus, John Yardley, & Waldemar Heckel, from The Persian Empire, J M Cook (1983), from The Histories, Herodotus (Penguin, 1996), from Farāmarz, the Sistāni Hero: Texts and Traditions of the Farāmarznāme and the Persian Epic Cycle, Marjolijn van Zutphen, and from External Links: the Ancient History Encyclopaedia, and Zoroastrian Heritage, K E Eduljee, and Talessman's Atlas (World History Maps), and Livius.org, and Old Iranian - Online Avestan Master Glossary (University of Texas at Austin), and Dictionary of most common Avesta words.)

c.1000 - 900 BC

The Parsua begin to enter Iran, probably by crossing the Iranian plateau to the north of the great central deserts (through Hyrcania) but also by working round to the south of them. Already separated during their journey, Parsua groups head in two main directions. In time the northern groups find themselves in the Zagros Mountains alongside their cousins, the Mannaeans and Medians. They are attested there during the ninth and eighth centuries but disappear afterwards. The southern groups, perhaps more numerous, trickle in through Drangiana and Carmania, towards southern Iran and begin to settle there.

Located in the Fārs region of Iran, these Parsua come under the overlordship of their once-powerful western neighbour, the kingdom of Elam. In the later stages of Persian settlement, Assyria and Media also claim some control over the region. As Elam's influence weakens, the Persians begin to assert their own authority in the region, although they remain subjugated by more powerful neighbours for quite some time.

c.620 BC

The Medians (possibly) take control of Persia from the weakening Assyrians who themselves had only recently taken control of the region from Elam. According to Herodotus, Media governs all of the tribes of the Iranian steppe. This sudden empire may well include territory to the east which covers Hyrcania, Parthia, Drangiana, and Carmania.

c.546 - 540 BC

The 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, Gandhara, 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.

Index of Persian SatrapiesPersian Satraps of Zranka (Drangiana)
Incorporating the Satraps of the Ariaspae

Conquered in the mid-sixth century BC by Cyrus the Great, the region of Drangiana was added to the Persian empire. Before that it was the easternmost part of the Median empire, who themselves had conquered various fellow Indo-Iranian tribes. The Drangians (Drangae) were based in this region, according to Strabo, while Pliny knew them as the Zarangae. Other sixth century BC tribes in this region were named as the Ariaspae, Sargatians, Thamanaeans, and Utians, all Indo-Iranian tribes. Under the Persians, the region was formed into an official satrapy or province which, according to the Behistun inscription of Darius the Great, was called Zranka or Zraka (Drangiana is a Greek mangling of the name).

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 Persians founded a capital for Zranka called Phrada which may be identical to modern Farâh or the Achaemenid palace which was excavated at Dahan-i Ghulaman (near modern Zabol). Gradually during two centuries of Persian domination the region probably changed from one which incorporated a tribal society of cattle drivers to one of committed farmers who often lived in formal villages. One new economic activity was the extraction of tin, which is used to make bronze. By the time the Greeks arrived, they could refer to the Drangians as persisontes, which may mean that they were effectively the same as Persians. Zranka belonged to Harahuwatish/Arachosia in the Persian period, thanks to Strabo's description of Arachosia being situated south of the mountains that enclose Aria. This geographical reference is only comprehensible if Arachosia is understood as a unit which included Zranka. No minor satrapies within Zranka are known.

The minor satrapy of the Ariaspae was autonomous, as was that of the Oritans. Arrian noted the fact that the Ariaspae lived on the River Etymandrus (today's Helmand) is particularly helpful when locating the province. Even better is the fact that their territory bordered Zranka, Harahuwatish, and Gedrosia.

(Additional information from The Persian Empire, J M Cook (1983), from The Histories, Herodotus (Penguin, 1996), from Nomadism in Iran: From Antiquity to the Modern Era, Daniel T Potts, from Anabasis Alexandri, Arrian of Nicomedia, from Ctesias' Persica in its Near Eastern Context, Matt Waters, from Alexander The Great: In the Realm of Evergetǽs, Reza Mehrafarin, and from External Links: The Geography of Strabo (Loeb Classical Library Edition, 1932), and The Natural History, Pliny the Elder (John Bostock, Ed), and Livius.org, and Encyclopaedia Iranica.)

c.546 - 540 BC

During his campaigns in the east, Cyrus the Great initially takes the northern route from Persis towards Bakhtrish to reassure or subdue the provinces. This route probably involves the 'militaris via' by Rhagai to Parthawa. At some point he takes the more difficult southern route, destroying Capisa along the way (possibly Kapisa on the Koh Daman plain to the north of Kabul - which is possibly also the Kapishakanish named at Behistun as a fortress in Harahuwatish).

On a fresh leg of the campaign, Cyrus enters the Dasht-i-Lut desert (the modern Dasht-e Loot) on the eastern route out of Karmana towards Harahuwatish. His army faces crippling loses but for the assistance provided by the Ariaspae on the River Helmand. They are named 'the Benefactors' (Greek 'Euergetai') by Cyrus in thanks. This route appears to have been poorly reconnoitred, hinting at a lack of Persian knowledge of this region and therefore a lack of preceding Median occupation here in its eastern empire.

521 BC

Upon the execution of the Persian usurper, Smerdis, the Cyaxarid, Fravartiš, tries to restore the Median kingdom. He is defeated by Persian generals and is executed. Darius the Great mentions that the revolt arises in Asagarta, which is the land of the Sargatians within the satrapy of Zranka. The Sargatians are one of the ten clans of the Parsua, raising the possibility that it is some of Darius' own people who oppose him. However, the Sargatians at this time may not be focussed entirely on the Drangiana region. It is possible that they also exist in larger numbers farther west, closer to the Zagros Mountains, and that it may be this group which raised the flag of rebellion.

521 BC

Ciçantaxma

Rebel who claimed to be a descendant of Cyaxares of Media.

The quashing of various simultaneous insurrections from Armina to Parthawa and Verkâna is chronologically coordinated in Persian records and occurs between May and June 521 BC. Ciçantaxma is another Sargatian rebel who meets the same fate as Fravartiš after a very quick defeat of his ambitions - mutilated, chained, and eventually impaled at Arbela. Another major rebellion in Mergu happens towards the end of 522 or 521 BC and is quickly crushed.

516 - 515 BC

Achaemenid ruler Darius embarks on a military campaign into the lands east of the empire. He marches through Haraiva and Bakhtrish, and then to Gadara and Taxila. By 515 BC he is conquering lands around the Indus Valley to incorporate into the new satrapy of Hindush before returning via Harahuwatish and Zranka. Along the way the Sakas are largely defeated and conquered.

River Oxus / Amu Darya
The River Oxus - also known over the course of many centuries as the Amu Darya - was used as a demarcation border throughout history and was also a hub of activity in prehistoric times - but during this period it flowed right through the heart of the region that was known as Bactria

c.440s - 420s BC

The placement in Zranka of four satraps, father-and-son duo Hydarnes and Teritoukhames and their two replacements, is highly uncertain but is made possible because a city of Zaris is mentioned in their story. Hydarnes is believed to be a descendant of another Hydarnes, one of the seven who had defeated the Magi and elevated Darius I to the throne in 522 BC. His family becomes important to the Achaemenid succession, with a great deal of intermarriage into the royal line.

fl c.440s? BC

Hydarnes

Satrap, with Harahuwatish & Hindush? Died.

fl c.420s? BC

Teritoukhames

Son. Satrap, with Harahuwatish & Hindush? Killed.

c.420s - 410s BC

The marriage alliance between Hydarnes and the descendants of Darius I has been important in supporting Darius II in his acquisition of the throne. Upon the death of Hydarnes, his son Teritoukhames has been appointed satrap in his stead (although the name of the satrapy is not given by Photius). Ctesias reports the plot by Teritoukhames to rid himself of his unwanted royal wife so that he can marry his own sister, Rhoxane. Darius has Teritoukhames attacked and killed and Darius' queen, Parysatis, takes violent action against the rest of Teritoukhames' family. There appear to be no survivors other than Stateira, wife of Arsakes (eventually to be Artaxerxes II). Many years later, Parysatis also arranges her death.

fl c.410s? BC

Oudiastes

Replacement. Satrap, with Harahuwatish & Hindush?

fl c.390s? BC

Mitradates

Son. Satrap, with Harahuwatish & Hindush?

Mitradates opposes the royal court and also his own father and attempts to establish the independent rule of the city of Zaris (Zarin). Again this is assumed to be within the satrapy of Zranka. The prevailing chaos in the Persian court and the great distance between it and Zaris allows the rebellion to establish itself for a short time, forming an independent Achaemenid state.

360s/350s BC

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.

? - 330 BC

Barsaentes

Satrap, with Harahuwatish & Hindush. One of 3 top satraps.

330 - 328 BC

In 330 BC, Zranka becomes part of the Greek empire despite the efforts of Bessus, self-styled 'king of Asia', to retain at least some of the Persian territories. His claim is legal, since his satrapy of Bakhtrish is traditionally commanded by the next-in-line to the throne, but Persia has already been lost and his loose collection of eastern allies 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.

Barsaentes turns tail when Alexander appears at the border of Zranka and does not wait for him to reach Harahuwatish. Instead he takes refuge in the region of the 'Mountain Indians', a contingent of whom he had commanded at Gaugamela. These facts (probably) indicate that Barsaentes is also responsible for the province of Hindush, the home of the Mountain Indians, and therefore that it is a main satrapy of Harahuwatish.

Index of Greek SatrapsIndex of Greek SatrapiesArgead Dynasty in Drangiana

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, Drangiana was left in the hands of the Seleucid empire from 305 BC.

One of the most informative sources when attempting to reconstruct the satrapal administration of Arachosia and Gedrosia is that of Alexander’s appointments. In northern Arachosia, when he first encountered its large administrative complex, Alexander made important decisions about Drangiana, Gedrosia, Northern Indus and Southern Indus. These regions were therefore subsumed in the Arachosian administrative complex. During subsequent years Alexander's many adjustments in this province are not easy to interpret, partly because some of the appointed officers lost their lives during disturbances and through illness. However, the fact that Sibyrtius was satrap of Arachosia and Gedrosia is very good evidence that the two provinces were ruled from Arachosia. The territory of the Ariaspae may also have fallen partially or largely within Gedrosia in the form of a minor satrapy.

The Persian regional capital of X was renamed by Alexander as Prophthasia, meaning 'anticipation', as it was here that he discovered a plot against him which had been organised, it was said, by his companion, Philotas.

(Additional information from Ancient Samarkand: Capital of Soghd, G V Shichkina (Bulletin of the Asia Institute, 1994, 8: 83), and from External Links: Livius.org, and Encyclopaedia Iranica.)

330 - 323 BC

Alexander III the Great

King of Macedonia. Conquered Persia.

323 - 317 BC

Philip III Arrhidaeus

Feeble-minded half-brother of Alexander the Great.

317 - 310 BC

Alexander IV of Macedonia

Infant son of Alexander the Great and Roxana.

330 - ? BC

Arsames

Greek satrap.

323 - 321 BC

Stasanor the Solian

Greek satrap of Aria & Drangiana (and later of Bactria).

321 BC

Stasanor the Solian, former satrap of Aria and Drangiana, now becomes satrap of Bactria and Chorasmia, perhaps with more of a focus towards the Indo-Greek territories than the eastern coast of the Caspian Sea. His territory extends as far north as Ferghana, which contains the city of Alexandria Eschate ('the Furthest').

312 - 306 BC

The Wars of the Diadochi decide how Alexander the Great's empire is carved up between his generals, but the period is very confused, especially in the east. Bactria is taken by the Seleucids in around 312 BC. In some sources, the assassination of Philippus is placed at 325 BC, during Chandragupta Maurya's conquest of northern India and his takeover of the Macedonian vassal states there. During the break-up of the empire, it appears that parts of the area become independent, but much of it remains under the control of the Greek satrap of Bactria and Sogdiana and, after 256 BC, the kings of Bactria.

Map of Bactria and India 200 BC
The kingdom of Bactria (shown in white) was at the height of its power around 200-180 BC, with fresh conquests being made in the south-east, encroaching into India just as the Mauryan empire was on the verge of collapse, while around the northern and eastern borders dwelt various tribes that would eventually contribute to the downfall of the Greeks - the Sakas and Tocharians (click on map to show full sized)

Index of Greek SatrapsIndex of Greek SatrapiesMacedonian Drangiana

Once safely under Seleucid control after the conclusion of the Greek Wars of the Diadochi, Drangiana was governed by Macedonian satraps.

(Where information conflicts regarding the Indo-Greek territories, Osmund Bopearachchi's Monnaies Gréco-Bactriennes et Indo-Grecques, Catalogue Raisonné (1991) has been followed. Additional information from the Encyclopaedia Britannica, from Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus: Books 11-12, Volume 1, Marcus Junianus Justinus, John Yardley, & Waldemar Heckel, and from External Links: the Ancient History Encyclopaedia, and Encyclopædia Britannica.)

206 - 205 BC

Seleucid ruler Antiochus III returns from his expedition into the eastern regions by passing through the provinces of Arachosia, Drangiana, and Carmania. He arrives in Persis in 205 BC and receives tribute of five hundred talents of silver from the citizens of Gerrha, a mercantile state on the east coast of the Persian Gulf. Having re-established a strong Seleucid presence in the east which includes an array of vassal states, Antiochus now adopts the ancient Achaemenid title of 'great king', which the Greeks copy by referring to him as 'Basileus Megas'.

Map of Bactria and India 200 BC
The kingdom of Bactria (shown in white) was at the height of its power around 200-180 BC, with fresh conquests being made in the south-east, encroaching into India just as the Mauryan empire was on the verge of collapse, while around the northern and eastern borders dwelt various tribes that would eventually contribute to the downfall of the Greeks - the Sakas and Tocharians (click on map to show full sized)

c.165 BC

Defeated by the Xiongnu, the Yeuh Chi/Yuezhi are forced to evacuate their lands on the borders of the Chinese kingdoms. They begin a migration westwards that triggers a slow domino effect of barbarian movement.

140 - 130 BC

Indo-Scythians have long been pressing against Bactria's borders. Now, following a long migration from the borders of the Chinese kingdoms, the Tocharians/Yuezhi start to invade Bactria from Sogdiana to the north. Initially, Indo-Scythian elements who are already in Bactria become vassals to the Tocharians.

At around the time of the death of Indo-Greek king Menander in 130 BC, the Tocharians overrun Bactria and end Greek rule. Heliocles may possibly invade the western part of the Indo-Greek kingdom, as there are strong suggestions that the Eucratids continue to rule there, especially in Heliocles' presumed son, Lysias.

115 - 100 BC

MapWith Parthian territory having been harried for years by the Indo-Scythians, King Mithridates II is finally able to take control of the situation. First he defeats the Yuezhi (Tocharians) in Sogdiana in 115 BC, and then he defeats the Scythians in Parthia and Seistan (in Drangiana) around 100 BC. After their defeat, the Yuezhi tribes concentrate on consolidation in Bactria while the Indo-Scythians are diverted into Indo-Greek Gandhara. Drangiana and Aria would appear to remain Parthian dependencies.

Saffarid Emirs of Seistan (Southern Khorasan)
AD 873 - 1003

In the late ninth century a commoner by the name of Ya'qub bin Laith as-Saffar, a coppersmith by trade, remade himself into a warlord. He seized the Seistan region (formerly Sakastan, the 'land of the Sakas', and sometimes shown as Sistan) from the ruling Tahirid emirs of Khorasan. Then he quickly and aggressively expanded his holdings both east and west, conquering all of the emirate of Khorasan by the time he died, which included parts of Transoxiana as far as the River Oxus in the north. He also held western and northern areas of what became Afghanistan, territory as far east as the River Indus of India and bordering the kingdom of Zabulistan, and territory to the south, reaching Kerman and Pars.

Very much a one-man empire, this great sweep of territory was not to remain in Saffarid hands for long, though. Ya'qub failed to reach Baghdad itself (although he came close), and his Saffarid empire was thereafter confined to the eastern parts of Persia. His successor was defeated in battle by the Samanids in AD 900 and had to surrender Khorasan (or Khwarazm as it became better known). Their surviving rump territory lay to the south and west of greater Khorasan but still often bore the same name. Eventually it became an eastern Persian region which was governed separately from the rest of Khorasan and could be better explained as Persian Khorasan.

(Additional information from the History of Torbat-e-Heydariye, Mohammad Qaneii, and from External Link: Encyclopaedia Iranica.)

867 - 879

Ya'qub bin Laith as-Saffar

Gave his name to the dynasty.

879 - 900

Amr bin Laith / Amir Ibn Layth

Brother.

900

Following the death of Amr bin Laith, the Saffarids are defeated by the Transoxianan Samanids and reduced in territory to Seistan in Persia. The Saffarid princes remain the vassals of the powerful Samanids who control areas of what is now southern Afghanistan and south-eastern Iran for a considerable period. The Samanids install their own governors in Khorasan.

Map of India c.AD 900
On Persia's eastern border, India of AD 900 was remarkably unchanged in terms of its general distribution of the larger states - only the names had changed, although now there was a good deal more fracturing and regional rule by minor states or tribes (click on map to view full sized)

901 - 908

Tahir I

908 - 910

Laith

910 - 912

Mohammed I

912 - 913

Amr II

922 - 963

Ahmad I bin Mohammed

963 - 1003

Wali-ud-Dawlah Khalaf I / Ḵalaf

1003

Khalaf has long been exhibiting irrational behaviour, including the act of putting to death his own son, Tāher. He has largely alienated popular support within Seistan in favour of the Ghaznavids. Yamin-ud-Dawlah Mahmud is now able to march into Seistan, defeat the emir, and carry him off into captivity where he later dies. Seistan now becomes a province of the Ghaznavid empire, and the once-mighty Saffarid house is extinguished. A Ghaznavid governor is put in place in Seistan, becoming the founder of the Nasrids.

Nasrid Emirs of Seistan (Southern Khorasan)
AD 1029 - 1229

With the removal of the deeply unpopular and potentially unstable Wali-ud-Dawlah Khalaf of the preceding Saffarid dynasty of emirs, Seistan in Southern Khorasan was safely back under Ghaznavid rule. Or was it? The Seistan region (formerly Sakastan, the 'land of the Sakas', and sometimes shown as Sistan) was politically unstable, along with much of Central Asia and South Asia under the rule of many competing Islamic states. Having retaken the city, the Ghaznavid ruler, Yamin-ud-Dawlah Mahmud, appointed a governor named Nasr to Seistan with the title 'malik of Sistan'. However, the death of Mahmud in 1030 ended the dominance of the Ghaznavids. Conflicts soon began to arise between various Ghaznavid claimants, and Nasr soon grabbed his chance to declare an emirate of his own.

Nasr's emirate was based on what is now the Nimruz Province of modern Afghanistan (the country's south-western corner, abutting Iran to the west and what is now Pakistan to the south). Sometimes referred to as the 'Later Saffarids of Seistan', his dynasty is seen as a resurgence of the Saffarid emirate, although it was only a little longer-lasting than the original emirate. They were also not always independent, being practical enough to serve as vassals of various larger powers who occasionally dominated Seistan. It should not be confused with the Nasrids of Granada who ruled in the thirteenth century.

(Additional information from the History of Torbat-e-Heydariye, Mohammad Qaneii, and from External Link: Encyclopaedia Iranica.)

1029 - 1073

Tadj al-Din I Abu l-Fadl Nasr I

Malik of Seistan. Declared independence in 1068.

1073 - 1090

Baha-ud-Dawlah Tahir II

1090 - 1103

Baha-ud-Dawlah Khalaf II

1103 - 1164

Tajuddin Nasr II

1164 - 1167

Shamsuddin Ahmad II

1167 - 1215

Tajuddin Harb

1194

Seistan is occupied by the Khwarazm shahs.

1215 - 1221

Shamsuddin Bahram Shah

1200s

The Turkic Afshar tribe migrates from Azerbaijan to Southern Khorasan (now northern and western Afghanistan). In time the tribe gains a good grounding in battle tactics in the politically unstable region, and a fighting mentality which stands one of its sons in good stead when he founds the eighteenth century Afsharid dynasty of Persia.

1220 - 1221

After the shah of Khwarazm decapitates the Mongol ambassador from Chingiz Khan, the emirate is attacked twice by Chingiz Khan and the Golden Horde, along with Ghurid Afghanistan. Khwarazm is reduced to its western section covering northern Mesopotamia and western Persia. Bukhara and then Samarkand are captured by the Mongols and chaos results, with thousands being massacred or sold into slavery.

1221

Tajuddin Nasr III

1221 - 1222

Ruknuddin Abu-Mansur

1222 - 1225

Shihabuddin Mahmud I

1225 - 1229

Ali I

1231 - 1235

Control over the kingdom of Georgia is reaffirmed by a new invasion under Ogedei Khan which also overruns the remnants of Khwarazm (centred on modern Azerbaijan). The latter becomes part of Persia and its territories which are under the governance of Tolui. Within a year or so (1235) much of Southern Khorasan is also conquered, including several minor principalities which include the Nasrids of Seistan. In 1236, Shamsuddin Ali of the Mihrabanids is hailed as the city's new malik.

Mihrabanid Maliks of Seistan (Southern Khorasan)
AD 1236 - 1495

The Mihrabanids succeeded the Nasrids as the rulers, or maliks, of the Seistan region, usually under the dominance of greater regional powers. They started off as vassals of the Mongols while the latter were conducting their sweeping conquests of the Far East and Middle East and then became vassals of the Il-Khan branch of Mongols. The Mongols had assigned Quhistan to another vassal group, the Sunni Karts. Quhistan (or Kohistan - meaning 'mountainous land') is now located in the southern part of modern Iran's Khurasan province, a much-reduced far western portion of Greater Khorasan, and so at the very western edge of the thirteenth century region bearing this name, For the sake of clarity the term 'Persian Khorasan' is used to describe this western area. The Karts soon extended their influence throughout the eastern areas of Persian Khorasan and Southern Khorasan from their seat at Herat.

From Seistan (or Sistan), the indigenous Mihrabanids also increased their power and influence westwards into Quhistan. In fact they did it so well that they eclipsed and succeeded the Karts there. By 1289, Malik Nasruddin had conquered all of Quhistan and placed his son there, Shams al-Din, as governor (killed in battle in 1306 and succeeded by his own son). Shams al-Din sponsored the poet, Nizari Quhistani, for some years until the latter fell out of favour, was banished, and had his property confiscated. Such territorial expansion was rarely permanent though. At times the Mihrabanids could barely control their own immediate territory, let alone conquer anyone else's. Members of the ruling dynasty's family were often appointed to regional governorships, and usually these governors behaved themselves.

Most of what is known about the Mihrabanids comes from two sources. The first is the Tarikh-i Sistan, which was completed in the mid-fourteenth century by an unknown chronologist and which covers the first hundred years of the dynasty's history. The second is the Ihya' al-muluk, which was written by the seventeenth century author, Malik Shah Husayn ibn Malik Ghiyath al-Din Muhammad, and which covers the entire history of Mihrabanid rule of Seistan.

(Additional information from The Isma'ilis: Their History and Doctrines, Farhad Daftary, and from The History of the Saffarids of Sistan and the Maliks of Nimruz, C E Bosworth (1994).)

1229 - 1255

Shamsuddin Ali II / Shams al-Din 'Ali

Son of Mas'ud. Hailed as malik in 1236.

1253 - 1258

Hulegu and his Il-Khan Mongols begin the campaign which sees him enter the Islamic lands of Mesopotamia on behalf of Mongke. Ismailis (assassins) have been threatening the Mongol governors of the western provinces, so Mongke has determined that both they and the Abbasid caliphs must be brought to heel. Hulegu takes Greater Khorasan, and quickly establishes dominion over Mosul. Hulegu's next conquest is Baghdad, in 1258. The caliph and his family are massacred when no army is produced to defend him.

Hulegu Khan
Inheriting the Persian section of the Mongol empire through his father, Tolui, Hulegu Khan led the devastating attack which ended the Islamic caliphate at Baghdad, but he also brought the eastern Persian territories under his firm control (he is seen here with his wife)

At the same time (1253), the town of Nih in western Seistan is besieged by Neguder for the Mongols. Shamsuddin leads an army to the defence of Nih and Negüder is defeated. A rebellion breaks out in Seistan in 1255, while he is campaigning in northern Baluchistan, and the Kartid malik of Herat, Shams ud-Din, immediately makes the most of the situation by capturing the city himself. Shamsuddin is killed by the rebels, leaving Seistan in the hands of the Kartids until Nasruddin can recapture it in 1261.

1255 - 1328

Nasruddin / Nasir al-Din Muhammad

Son. In power from 1261.

1276/77

After regaining Seistan from the Kartids of Herat, enforcing his authority over several rebellious towns, and putting down a rebellion by his own chamberlain, Nasruddin still finds that relations with the Il-Khans are rather rocky. Abaqa Khan now invades Seistan, but his army is met by Nasruddin's own veteran forces. The Mihrabanids successfully defend their territory.

1289

The Mihrabanids complete their conquest of Quhistan and the Kartid maliks of Herat. Nasruddin appoints his son, Shams al-Din, as governor of Herat. There are times when Shams al-Din must be supported militarily when it comes to holding onto the city, but overall the conquest proves a successful one.

1328 - 1331

Nusratuddin / Nusrat al-Din Muhammad

Son. Gained Seistan at the expense of his brother, Rukn.

1331 - 1346

Qutbuddin Mohammed II / Qutub al-Din

Nephew. Killed by plague.

1346 - 1350

Tajuddin I / Taj al-Din I

Son. Usurped.

1350 - 1362

Jalal al-Din Mahmud (II)

Son of Rukn al-Din Mahmud. De facto independent ruler (1357).

1357

The Il-Khans collapse. As a result the Mihrabanids gain independence by default and manage to hold onto it for almost half a century. Southern and eastern Persia and Iraq are controlled directly by the Jalayirids until 1401, when a bigger and more powerful opponent arrives on the scene.

1362 - 1382

Izzuddin / Izz al-Din

Brother. Deposed by his own son.

1363

The attempts by Tughlugh Temur, Chaghatayid khan of Mughulistan, to quell the tribes of Transoxiana are eventually unsuccessful, despite two invasions of the region. His death ends Chaghatayid hopes of restoring control of western Mughulistan. Instead, two tribal leaders contest for control of Transoxiana. Tîmûr-i Lang (Timur) is ultimately successful, taking Transoxiana and Khorasan in the name of the khanate, but effectively forming his own Timurid khanate.

1380 - 1382

Increasingly angry at not being allotted a role in governing the state, Izzuddin's son, Qutbuddin, has sided with a faction which seeks to kill Izzuddin's vizier, someone who exerts a good deal of influence over the malik. Now in 1380 they openly revolt and defeated the malik's army in battle. The Kartids and the malik of Farah straight away invade Seistan and reinstate Izzudin, but the reversal is short-lived. Qutbuddin defeats the invaders and regains full control by the end of the year. His father is exiled and later renounces his title in his son's favour. Over the course of the next year Qutbuddin concentrates on putting down local rebellions against his rule.

Map of the Timurid empire AD 1400
Timur effectively recreated the ancient Persian empire through his various conquests over the course of almost forty years, subduing many competing clans and khanates that would begin competing again after his death (click on map to show full sized)

Having secured his conquests around Transoxiana, Timur has begun the expansion of his territory into Southern Khorasan and Persia. He forces the Kartid dynasty of Herat into submission and demands a hostage from Seistan to symbolise the subservience of the Mihrabanids. Qutbuddin sends a relative named Tajuddin.

1382 - 1383

Qutbuddin I / Qutb al-Din I

Son. Captured, imprisoned, and executed by Timur.

1383

Despite agreeing a hostage to be sent to Timur in 1382, Timur still turns up at Seistan with his army. The two sides fail to come to agreement so Timur defeats the Mihrabanids in open battle. Qutbuddin is soon captured, imprisoned, and deported to Samarkand. He is executed three years later. Timur appoints Shah-i Shahan as governor of Seistan and proceeds to devastate the province.

1383 - 1403

Tajuddin II / Taj al-Din II / Shah-i Shahan

Son of Mas'ud Shihna. Timur's appointed governor of Seistan.

1403 - 1419

Qutbuddin II / Qutb al-Din I

Son of Shams al-Din Shah 'Ali.

1419 - 1438

Shamsuddin / Shams al-Din 'Ali

Son.

1438 - 1480

Nizamuddin Yahya / Nizam al-Din

Son. Lost Seistan.

1469 - 1501

Uzun Hassan of the White Sheep emirate is able to capture Baghdad, along with territories around the Persian Gulf. He expands his emirate into Iran as far east as Herat in Southern Khorasan, replacing the Black Sheep emirs as the main regional power. The emirate is not a single entity, though, having been formed through uniting several clans and tribes in the form of a confederation. Persia's eastern territories regain their independence as the former Timurid empire fragments, including the Mihrabanids, but this generates a fresh wave of regional conflicts as local rulers jostle for supremacy.

1480 - c.1495

Shamsuddin Mohd III / Shams al-Din

Son. Unable to regain Seistan - replaced by Mahmud.

c.1495 - 1537

Sultan Mahmud ibn Nizam al-Din Yahya

Last Mihrabanid malik. Handed power to the Safavids.

1500 - 1507

In this period the Timurids are overthrown by the Shaibanids, who conquer Transoxiana and now threaten Southern Khorasan. The remnants of Khwarazm become an independent Muslim Uzbek state, known as the khanate of Khiva. The Timurid prince, Babur of Farghana makes many attempts to recapture Samarkand from Khorasan, without success. The Shaibanids now hold much of former Khwarazm, effectively ending Timurid rule of Transoxiana. At the same time Sultan Mahmud regains Seistan from its Timurid commander.

Shahr-i Ghulghula
Seistan's traditional territory included the remains of the Timurid-era Shahr-i Ghulghula, a large fortified urban site covering approximately one square kilometre which now lies in Afghanistan's Nimruz Province, to the east of Seistan itself

1537

Having previously regained Seistan, Sultan Mahmud now recognises the authority of the Safavids and hands over control of Seistan to Shah Tahmasp I. From the sixteenth century, the former emirate at Seistan generally forms part of an eastern province of Persia. The province continues to be referred to as Khorasan even though it has formed only a small part of the greater emirate of Khorasan and the subsequent region of Greater Khorasan. It frequently also provides a bolt-hole for the defeated participants in various Persian civil wars. It allows them to control the eastern border and still claim to form part of a valid dynasty which can vie for control of the whole of Persia. Generally it can be referred to as Persian Khorasan.