History Files


Far East Kingdoms

Persia and the East




Southern Khorasan / Arachosia

The crossroads between ancient Transoxiana, Persia and India, the territory which formed southern Khorasan (modern Afghanistan) comprises the highlands to the west and north-west of the River Indus. It also includes the ancient regions of Gandhara and Arachosia. Its people have always been fiercely independent, but they have also contributed strongly to various empires over the centuries, before a single state began to emerge in the modern age. The great Hindu Kush mountain range climbs in the east of the country and onto the border with modern Pakistan, and this forms the entrance into India which has been used by Alexander the Great, the Mongols, the Mughals, and many other adventurers and explorers.

(Additional information by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha.)

c.4000 BC

From around this date, proto-Indo-Europeans emerge in Central Asia to form a homogenous people who all speak the same general language. In the third millennium BC, groups begin to migrate west and south, beginning a fragmentation that sees them occupy large swathes of Europe, the Middle East, and South Asia.

1000 - 800 BC

The Sakas make in-roads into the region.

520s BC

Northern Afghanistan forms part of the Persian provinces of Bactria and Gandhara, while the south forms part of Arachosia.

516 - 515 BC

Achaemenid ruler Darius embarks on a military campaign into the lands east of the empire. He marches through Aria and Bactria, and then to Gandhara and Taxila. By 515 BC he is conquering lands around the Indus Valley before returning via Arachosia (modern southern Afghanistan and northern and central Pakistan, and perhaps extending as far as the Indus) and Drangian. Along the way the Sakas are largely defeated and conquered.

330 BC

The Persian provinces of Bactria, Gandhara, Arachosia, and all others are conquered by the Greek empire under Alexander the Great.

Argead Dynasty

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 331-330 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 several wars, the region was left in the hands of the Seleucid empire from 312 BC.

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.

323 - 303 BC


Greek satrap of Arachosia & Gedrosia (south of Gandhara).

323 - 321 BC

Stasanor the Solian

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

323 - c.130 BC

Following the death of Alexander the Great and the subsequent Greek in-fighting, Bactria is part of the Seleucid empire until 256 BC, when an independent Bactrian kingdom is declared, followed by an Indo-Greek expansion eastwards. Arachosia is still a Seleucid territory in 206-205 BC, when Antiochus III proceeds through it on his way back to the west. Bactria falls around 130 BC to the Kushans.

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.90 - 60 BC

MapThe Indo-Scythian Sakas under Maues take control of Indo-Greek Gandhara, creating a capital at Taxila in Punjab. Just forty or so years later (perhaps even less), the Indo-Parthians and then the Kushans capture the same territory from the Indo-Scythians in Afghanistan.

c.AD 100

The Kushans capture Arachosia (south-eastern Afghanistan) from the Indo-Parthians, although the dating is very uncertain.

c.230 - c.250

The Kushans are toppled by the Persian Sassanids. They are replaced by Sassanid vassals known as the Kushanshahs or Indo-Sassanids, although apparently some Kushan rulers remain in the region, probably as local governors.

Kushanshahs (Indo-Sassanids)
c.AD 230 - c.410

The Persian Sassanids toppled the Kushan empire between around AD 230-250, conquering large swathes of territory in the process. Included in this was the ancient region of Arachosia, which was centred on the south-east of modern Afghanistan but which at times stretched much further east, into modern Pakistan and perhaps as far as the River Indus. To counter the threat of reconquest posed by the north Indian empire of the Guptas, and well as by Central Asian tribes, the Sassanids created a buffer state which was governed by the Kushanshahs, the 'kings of the Kushans', or Indo-Sassanids (or even Kushano-Sassanids).

Dating for the Kushanshahs is very approximate and little is known of the region under their rule.


Sassanid ruler Ardashir I controls the region directly as part of his Persian empire.


In around this year, Shapur devolves direct rule in Afghanistan by creating a buffer state which is governed by the Kushanshahs.

c.245 - c.270

Peroz I

c.270 - c.295

Hormazd / Hormizd I

Sassanid ruler (272-273)?


In Gandhara, Hormazd issues coins, possibly in the names of his governors 'Kavad' and 'Meze' (if these are indeed the names of governors and not titles or something else which remains unknown). It may be that the governor of Gandhara at this time is Vasudeva IV, one of the last of the Kushan nobility.

c.295 - c.300

Hormazd / Hormizd II

Sassanid ruler (302-309).

c.300 - c.325

Peroz II

Begins to assert independent control.


With Peroz II beginning to pull away from Sassanid control, the Persian ruler Shapur II divides the realm, assuming direct control of the southern areas of Afghanistan (and also Merv (in modern Turkmenistan), Herat, and then Gandhara), while the Kushanshahs continue to rule in the north. With events in the east frequently being poorly documented, there is some doubt about the identity of the Shapur who carries this out. It is probably Shapur II, but it may instead be a governor, or even Shapur's older brother, who bears the same name.

Kushanshah letter addressed to Varhran
A Kushanshah letter addressed to their mid-fourth century AD ruler, Varhran, from the daughter of a princess named Dukht-anosh, a Middle Persian name

c.325 - c.350

Varhran I

In the north only.

c.350 - c.400

Varhran II

Vassal of the Sassanids.

c.350 - c.400

Peroz III

In Gandhara. A rival claimant or opponent to Sassanid rule?

c.400 - c.410

Varhran III

Vassal of the Sassanids.

c.410 - 565

Despite being bordered by the powerful Guptas to the east and the Sassanids to the west. Kushanshah vassal rule of the region is displaced from the north, as the Hephthalites, or White Huns, invade and conquer Bactria and Gandhara.

565 - 652

The White Huns are in turn defeated by an alliance of Göktürks and the Sassanids, and a level of Indo-Sassanid authority is re-established in the region for the next century. The Western Göktürks set up rival states in Bamiyan, Kabul, and Kapisa, strengthening their hold on the Silk Road.

During this period, any notion of Afghanistan as a single state, or even a coherent regional entity, is entirely impossible. It is not until the tenth century that something approaching an 'Afghanistan' begins to be created with the emergence of the Turkic Samanids.

Afghan (Turkic) Samanid Subject Kings
AD 962 - 977

The Yamanids claimed descent from the last of the Sassanid kings, Yazdagird, whose family had fled the Islamic invasion following his death. They resettled in Turkistan, where they intermarried with the locals until one of their number, a twelve year-old named Sebuktigin, was captured by a neighbouring tribe and ended up being purchased by Alptigin, the governor of Samanid Khurasan. However, he backed the losing side in a dynastic squabble amongst his masters, so he crossed the Hindu Kush and seized Zabulistan, together with Ghazni in the south-east of modern Afghanistan, from its governor, Abu Bakr Lawik and established an independent Khorasanian Sunni Muslim kingdom. Sebuktigin was made a general and continued in that role until his own accession.

962 - 963


Seized the eastern Afghan region from the Samanid governor.


Alptigin, Turkic for 'brave prince', seizes Ghazni and expels the Samanid governor of Zabulistan, Abu Bakr Lawik. Although he establishes independent rule of Ghazni, coins from the era show that he nominally acknowledges Samanid overlordship, always a useful ruse for avoiding an attack by former masters.

Alptigin, founder of the Ghaznavid dynasty in Afghanistan
A monument to Alptigin, founder of the Ghaznavid dynasty in Afghanistan, located in the town of Söğüt in western Turkey

963 - c.963?

Abu Ishaq Alptegin


c.963? - c.965?

Abu Bakr Lawik briefly manages to wrest back control of his emirate before he is expelled and the independent kings of Ghazni re-establish their rule.

c.963? - c.965?

Abu Bakr Lawik


c.965 - 966

Abu Ishaq Alptegin



Abu Ishaq Alptegin dies childless, so the commanders of his army select one of their number, Bilgetigin, as his successor.

966 - 975


Former army commander.

975 - 977

Piri / Pirai

A former slave of Alptigin.


During his reign, the cruel Piri is threatened by Abu Ali Lawik, the son of Abu Bakr Lawik. He is rescued by General Sebuktigin, who surprises the enemy army near Charkh, on the east bank of the River Lohgar, killing many of them and taking ten elephants along with his prisoners. Following Piri's death, Sebuktigin succeeds to the throne, creating a Yamanid dynasty of kings.

FeatureAfghan (Turkic) Ghaznavid Dynasty
AD 977 - 1186

In 977, Sebuktigin succeeded to the throne of Ghazni, situated south of Transoxiana (and 120 kilometres (eighty miles) to the south-west of Kabul, both in modern Afghanistan, of which Ghazni is now an eastern province). He immediately began strengthening his domains and increasing his territory. This was at a time when both the Samanids and the Persians were fading in power, but although the kingdom was independent, it perhaps still showed nominal allegiance to the Samanids. For the most part, Lahore was the easternmost bastion of Ghazni power, although they frequently raided further east.

977 - 997

Sebuktigin / Sebuk-Tigin

Son-in-law of Alptegin. First Yamanid king of Ghazni.


The Samanid ruler faces internal uprisings, and Sebuktigin goes to his assistance. The rebels are defeated at Balkh and then Nishapur, and Sebuktigin is granted the title 'Nasir ud-Din' ('Hero of the Faith'), while his son, Mahmud, is made governor of Khorasan.


Mahmud of Khorasan campaigns against the Qara-Khitai in Central Asia, but is ultimately defeated.

997 - 998


Son. Captured and imprisoned for life.


Although Ismail is Sebuktigin's chosen heir, his elder half-brother Mahmud of Khorasan contests his claim to the throne. Initially in command of Nishapur, Mahmud hands it over to his uncle, Borghuz, and younger brother, Nur-ud-Din Yusuf, and marches upon Ghazni. The capital city is captured and Mahmud claims the throne, imprisoning his brother in a fort in Joorjan.

999 - 1005

The Turkic Karakhanids depose the Samanid emir, Mansur II, allied with the Buwayids who are supreme in south-western Persia and Mesopotamia. The Karakhanids briefly take possession of areas of Afghanistan before being ousted by the Ghaznavids in 1005.

998 - 1030

Yamin-ud-Dawlah Mahmud

Brother. Former governor of Khorasan. First sultan.


Mahmud is responsible for turning the small kingdom into a large empire, and transforming Ghazni from a small regional capital into a large and wealthy city. Turning his attentions eastwards, he defeats the Rajput Confederacy, conquering Gwalior, Kannauj, Nagarkot, Thanesar, and Ujjain and leaving them in the hands of native client kings, as well as regularly raiding further into India. Soon afterwards, Balkh is brought under direct control after the death of its friendly emir, Abu Nasr Mohammad.

Ghaznavid soldiers
A computer-generated image of Ghaznavid regular troops

1017 - 1019

Making good the loss of 995, Mahmud conquers Khwarazm, apparently regaining Khorasan in its entirety, although perhaps not destroying it. Within two years, Mahmud also begins his invasion of India, notably sacking Kannauj, the capital of the kingdom of the Pratiharas of Kannauj. However, he is repulsed by the Rajput Chandelas.


Mahmud conquers the Punjab of the Pallavas.


The death of Mahmud ends the dominance of the Ghaznavids. Conflicts between various Ghaznavid claimants and lesser rulers arise and as a result the empire started to crumble.

1030 - 1031

Jalal-ud-Dawlah Mohammed

Son. Overthrown.


Mohammed is the younger of twins, and his accession leads to strife between him and his brother, Masud. Masud wins, overthrowing Mohammed and claiming the throne. Mohammed is blinded and imprisoned.

1031 - 1041

Shihab-ud-Dawlah Masud I

Twin brother.


Masud is unable to preserve his father's empire. Disastrously defeated by Seljuq Turks at the Battle of Dandanqan, he loses the western Ghaznavid territories, including Khwarazm. His successors continue to rule Afghanistan and northern India in reduced circumstances. He is deposed by a rebellion of his own troops, and his brother is restored. Masud is assassinated while in prison.


Jalal-ud-Dawlah Mohammed

Restored, but killed by Mawdud.


Responding to the death of his father and the seizure of the throne, Mawdud gathers together his forces from his governor's base in Balkh and marches on Ghazni. Mohammed is overthrown and executed by him. Mawdud's brother in Lahore does not recognise his rule, but soon dies, leaving Lahore to be ruled directly from Ghazni. Some of the empire's extreme eastern territories are lost to rebellion, however, and the empire continues its slow decline with a series of short-lived rulers and internal disputes.

1041 - 1049

Shihab-ud-Dawlah Mawdud

Son of Masud.


Masud II

1049 - 1050

Baha-ud-Dalwah Ali

1050 - 1053

Izz-ud-Dawlah Abd al-Rashid


Qiwam-ud-Dawlah Tughril


1053 - 1059

Jamal-ud-Dawlah Farrukhzad

1059 - 1099

Zahir-ud-Dawlah Ibrahim


Ibrahim re-establishes a truncated empire after the unstable two decades preceding his rule. He agrees peace terms with the Seljuqs and restores cultural and political links. However, the empire is increasingly sustained by riches gained in raids across northern India, and the Rajput rulers there offer stiff resistance.

1099 - 1115

Ala-ud-Dawlah Masud III


Masud's death begins a period of instability and the decline of the empire. His sons fight amongst themselves for the throne, with Bahram Shah eventually winning out, but only as a vassal of the Seljuqs.


Kamal-ud-Dawlah Shirzad

1115 - 1118

Sultan-ud-Dawlah Arslan Shah

1118 - 1152

Yamin-ud-Dawlah Bahram Shah

Seljuq vassal. Forced to Lahore in 1150.


The Ghurids begin to assert their control in the region in the face of weakening Ghaznavid control.


The Ghaznavid emirate is effectively brought to an end when Ghazni is captured by the Ghurid Moslems. Ghaznavid power continues in northern India alone, with them ruling from Lahore.

1152 - 1160

Muizz-ud-Dawlah Khusrau Shah

In Lahore.

1160 - 1186

Taj-ud-Dawlah Khusrau Malik

In Lahore.


Lahore is conquered by the Ghurids who also inherit Pallava Punjab.

Ghurid Sultanate / Shansabani
AD 1149 - 1215

The Ghurids, from Bamiyan in the Afghan mountains, were initially conquered by the Ghaznavids and converted from paganism (probably Zoroastrianism) to Islam in the eleventh century. In 1149 Aladdin Hussein turned the tables and sacked the city of Ghazni in 1150, ending Ghaznavid rule in Afghanistan. Ghurid rulers from the Shansabani clan took over and formed a short-lived sultanate. Some scholars relate the Shansabani name to that of the Sassanids, many of who had fled east into Khorasan during the Arab invasion of Persia in 651.

1146 - 1149

Sayf ud-Din Suri


Baha' ud-Din Sam I

1149 - 1161

Aladdin Jahan-Suz Husain II

Founder of the Ghurid sultanate.


The Ghaznavid emirate is brought to an end when Ghazni is captured by the Ghurid Moslems. Ghaznavid power continues in northern India alone, with them ruling from Lahore.

1161 - 1163

Sa'if ud-Din Muhammad


The death of Sa'if ud-Din Muhammad appears to cause fractures within the sultanate, with two rulers appearing, one each in Firuzkuh and Ghazni.

1163 - 1203

Abu'l-Fath Muhammad Shams ad-Din

In Firuzkuh.

1173 - 1206

Shihab ud-Din Muhammad (III)

In Ghazni.


The Ghaznavids in Lahore are conquered by the Ghurids, who also gain the Punjab of the Pallavas.


Muhammad sacks and destroys the Rajput kingdoms of the Gahadavalas and Chauhans.


Muhammad Ghori dies without an heir. After a battle of succession, the Turkic ex-slave general, Qutub uddin Aibak, takes possession of Muhammad Ghori's Indian empire. He establishes his capital first at Lahore, and later at Delhi. Ghiyathuddin Mahmud gains the western section of the empire, focused on Afghanistan.

1206 - 1212

Ghiyathuddin Mahmud (III)

1206 - 1215

Taj ud-Din Yïldïz Mu'izzi

In Ghazni.

1212 - 1213

Baha' ud-Din Sam II


The Ghurids are displaced in Afghanistan by the Khwarazm shahs.

1213 - 1214

Alauddin Atsiz

Vassal or governor of Khwarazm.

1214 - 1215

Alauddin Mohammed IV

Vassal or governor of Khwarazm.


The remaining Ghurid territories in northern India are taken over by the Delhi sultanate which also gains the Punjab of the former Pallavas.


After the shah of Khwarazm decapitates the Mongol ambassador from Chingiz Khan, the emirate is attacked twice by the Golden Horde. Khwarazm is reduced to its western section covering northern Mesopotamia and western Persia. Bokhara and then Samarkand are captured by the Mongols and chaos results, with thousands being massacred or sold into slavery. Ghurid Afghanistan does not escape unscathed. The Mongols raze the city of Bamiyan and exterminate its inhabitants.

1266 - 1332

When the defeated Great Khan Ariq-Boke dies just two years after losing his struggle for the great khanship, his side of the struggle against Kublai Khan is continued by Kaidu of Mughulistan. This is the point at which Mughulistan becomes entirely independent of the suzerainty of the great khans and becomes a kingdom in its own right. Its territories include northern Afghanistan as far south as Kabul.

1332 - 1369

Descendants of the earlier Ghurid rulers reassert control over Afghanistan.


Much of Afghanistan is conquered by Timur and becomes part of Timurid Persia.

Timurid Khorasan (at Herat)
AD 1369 - 1459

From 1363, Timur began to conquer large areas of Transoxiana and Khorasan, supposedly in the name of the Chaghatayid khans of Mughulistan. Samarkand, in the north of Greater Khorasan, fell in 1366, and Balikh (in the north of modern Afghanistan) in 1369. Timur was recognised as the region's ruler in 1370, and in about 1381 he ravaged Herat, with his son, the Timurid ruler Shah Rukh, later rebuilding it. In 1405, the Timurid empire split in two, with the western, Persian, portion being ruled from Herat (which still exists as a city and a province in the west of modern Afghanistan), while the eastern portion was governed from Samarkand in Transoxiana.

(Additional information by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha.)

1369 - 1405

Much of Afghanistan is territory belonging to the Timurid Persian empire, initially under the control of Timur himself, and then under his successors, with regional governors in place to provide day-to-day administration. Timur himself is crowned in Balkh, north of Afghanistan, in 1370, and all of the territory which makes up modern Afghanistan is conquered by 1394.

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)


The Timurid empire splits in two following the death of Timur, and Queen Goharshad, wife of the western ruler, Shah Rukh, moves the capital from Samarkand to Herat, part of their domains in Khorasan and Persia.

1405 - 1409

Shah Rukh / Shahrukh

Son of Timur. In Khorasan initially, and in Persia (1409-1447).

1409 - 1447

Herat remains the heart of the Timurid empire which still covers Persia and Khorasan, until Ulugh Beg's weak rule allows a rival to take control of Herat.

The tomb of Shah Rukh in Multan
The tomb of Shah Rukh in Multan (in modern Pakistan)

1447? - 1448

'Ala' al-Daula

In Khorasan.

1448 - 1449

Ulugh Beg defeats 'Ala' al-Daula in battle at Tarnab while his son recaptures Herat. Ulugh Beg massacres the population of Herat (presumably for allowing the city to fall to a usurper), and then abandons it so that a rival Timurid, Babur Ibn-Baysunkur, a grandson of Shah Rukhm, is able to take control. Persia itself falls to another Timurid prince, Sultan Muhammad.

1449 - 1457

Babur Ibn-Baysunkur / Abu'l-Qasim

In Khorasan.

1450 - 1451

Sultan Muhammad invades Khorasan from Persia, defeating Babur at the Battle of Mashad in March 1450. After initially ceding territory, Babur recovers in 1451 and turns the tables, taking his rival prisoner and executing him. Central Persia becomes his, reuniting two portions of the empire.

1451 - 1453

Jahan Shah ends the loyalty of the Black Sheep emirate with the fracturing Timurids. He besieges Qum and Sava with overwhelming forces which the main Timurid ruler, Babur Ibn-Baysunkur, is unable to face. Most of Persia is taken by 1452, including Ray, with the last section, Abarquh, falling in 1453. The Timurids are never able to recapture Persia.


Babur Ibn-Baysunkur invades Transoxiana in retaliation for Abu Sa'id's seizure of Balkh (now in northern Afghanistan). The two Timurid rulers agree a border on the River Oxus, which remains in force for the remainder of Babur's lifetime.


Shah Mahmud

Son. In Khorasan. Died in 1460s.


The eleven year-old Mahmud is ejected from Herat just a few weeks after his accession, with his cousin taking control of Khorasan. Mahmud's efforts to recapture Herat are undistinguished.

1457 - 1458


Cousin, and son of 'Ala' al-Daula. In Khorasan.

1457 - 1459

Almost as soon as Ibrahim takes command in Herat, Abu Sa'id invades from Transoxiana. Balkh is occupied but he is unable to take Herat. However, the Black Sheep Turkmen under Jahan Shah choose this moment to invade from Persia. They capture Gurgan and defeat Ibrahim outside Astarabad (modern Gorgan). Now assisted by his father, 'Ala' al-Daula, Ibrahim is again defeated and is forced to flee. The Black Sheep take Herat on 28 June 1458, but withdraw soon afterwards. Khorasan is taken by Abu Sa'ad, reuniting the remaining Timurid provinces. An attempt by Ibrahim to unite with another Timurid prince, Sultan Sanjar is defeated at the Battle of Sarakhs in March 1459. Sanjar is executed. Ibrahim dies in 1460, and 'Ala' al-Daula dies in 1461, ending all opposition to a sole Timurid ruler in Transoxiana for his lifetime.

1459 - 1469

Sultan Abu Sa'id Gurgan

In Transoxiana & Khorasan (and later in Persia too). Executed.

1459 - 1469

Abu Sa'id is the sole Timurid ruler in Transoxiana for the duration of his life, but following his death at the hands of Yadigar Muhammad (handed over by the White Sheep emirate who had captured him), the divide between Transoxiana and Khorasan re-emerges. The White Sheep supply Yadigar with forces which enable him to capture Khorasan, if only for a year before the Timurids in Transoxiana are finally triumphant. Yadigar is executed.


Sultan Mahmud

Son of Abu Sa'id. Captured Herat but did not stay.


Husayn Bayqarah / Sultan-Husayn Mirza

Son of Mansur, a great-grandson of Timur. In Khorasan.


The White Sheep supply their mercenary lieutenant, Yadigar Muhammad, with forces which enable him to capture Khorasan, if only for a year before it is re-captured by Husayn Bayqarah following the Battle of Chinaran on 15 September 1469. Yadigar is executed.

1469 - 1470

Yadigar Muhammad

Son of Sultan Muhammad of Persia. In Khorasan. Executed.

1470 - 1506

Sultan Husayn Bayqarah



Husayn's borders with the White Sheep emirate begin around the southern edge of the Caspian Sea, and run south and then east across the north of the Dasht-e Lut to Lake Hamun. The border with the Timurids of Transoxiana is still the River Oxus, which Husayn refuses to cross, wise to the growing threat of the Shaibanid Uzbeks to the north.

1501 - 1506

Following the Shaibanid conquest of Transoxiana, Khorasan is now threatened. Husayn does nothing initially, although one of his princes, Babur of Farghana in Transoxiana attempts to fight back. Babur also conquers Kabul, which he makes his base of operations between 1504-1526. Finally deciding to mobilise in 1506, Husayn dies before he can achieve anything, and the crown is disputed between his sons, Muzaffar Husain and Badi' al-Zaman.

1506 - 1507

Badi' al-Zaman

Son. Died at the Persian court in 1517.

1506 - 1507

Muzaffar Husain

Brother and rival for the throne.

1506 - 1507

Babur recognises that Khorasan is undefendable and withdraws south. The following year, the Shaibanids invade and capture Herat, putting a final end to Timurid rule. In Transoxiana, the remnants of Khwarazm become an independent Muslim Uzbek state that is later known as the khanate of Khiva, but without Ghazni (modern Kandahar). At Babur's urging, Khorasan is soon recaptured by the Safavid shahs of Persia under Ismail.


Ubayd Allah Sultan Khan of Bukhara is at war against Tahmasp I of Persia, and the Uzbeks of Khwarazm support Bukharan attacks by advancing to Pil Kupruki. The border cities of Khodjend (in Khorasan) and Asferain (near Astarabad) are also stormed. As Tahmasp also has to face the Ottomans, he negotiates with the Khwarizmi and effectively hands them Khorasan.


Kabul is formally annexed to the Moghul empire after the death of Mirza Muhammed Hakim.

1623 - 1638

Prince Khurram (Shah Jehan) resents the influence of Nur Jahan, wife of Moghul emperor, Jahangir, over the royal court and rebels against his father. One of Jahangir's generals, Mahabat Khan, humiliated by Nur Jahan and her brother, Asaf Khan, joins that rebellion. Taking advantage of Shah Jahan's revolt, the Persians capture Kandahar.

1638 - 1648

Buoyed by his successes in the Deccan against Golconda and Bijapur, Moghul emperor Shah Jahan retakes Kandahar. However, the Persians manage to take it back just ten years later, and it is permanently lost to the Moghuls. It becomes a Persian province until 1709.


Rajput king Jaswant Singh of Marwar is fighting in Afghanistan when he dies, allowing his overlord, Moghul emperor, Aurangzeb, to put into action a plot to reduce the Rajputs' special status within the empire.

Hotaki Dynasty (Ghilzai Afghans)
AD 1709 - 1738

Mirwais Khan Hotak, the leader of the Pashtun Ghilzai Afghans and mayor of Kandahar, killed the Persian-appointed governor, Gurgin Khan (King Giorgi XI of the Georgian kingdom of Kartli), in 1709, declaring Kandahar to be independent. In 1722, the successful new dynasty also conquered the Safavid shahs of Persia, ruling a large empire for seven years before being defeated by Nadil Kuli and forced back towards Afghanistan itself, where what remained of it fragmented. Mirwais Khan may not have realised it at the time, but his independent dynasty created the basis for the modern country of Afghanistan.

(Information by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha.)

1709 - 1715

Mirwais Khan Hotak

Leader of the Ghilzai Afghans. Died peacefully.

1715 - 1717

Abd al-Aziz

Brother. Overthrown by his nephew.

1715 - 1717

Upon his death, Mirwais is succeeded by his brother, Adb al-Aziz, but the Ghilzai Afghans persuade the son of Mirwais, Mahmud, to seize power for himself and in 1717 he overthrows and killed his uncle.

1717 - 1725

Mir Mahmud Hotaki

Son of Mirwais.

1722 - 1729

The Ghilzai Afghans under Mir Mahmud Hotaki occupy much of Safavid Iran, including the capital at Estfahan. However, they are seen as usurpers by much of the population, and hold effective power only in the east.

1725 - 1729

Ashraf Khan

Son of Mirwais.

1725 - 1729

Under Ashraf Khan, the dynasty and its newfound empire undergoes a short and sudden decline. Although he is able to beat off incursions by the Ottomans (1727) and Russians, Ashraf Khan is defeated and expelled from Persia in 1729 by the Afsharid general, Nadir Kuli. Ashraf is murdered on the return home by Baloch tribesmen, quite possible on the order of his cousin, who is holding Kandahar at the time. Afghanistan fragments, with Kandahar being ruled by Mir Husayn.

1729 - 1738

Mir Husayn

Cousin. In Kandahar only, but independent of Persia.

1738 - 1747

The Afsharid shah of Iran, Nadir Shah, enters Afghanistan with a large army and conquers Ghazni, Kandahar, Kabul and Lahore in the same year. Persian rule of the region is assured for the next nine years, until the effective coup which creates the Duranni dynasty.

Durrani Dynasty (Afghan Empire)
AD 1747 - 1823

In 1747, the Persian ruler, Nadir Shah, was assassinated. While the finger of blame was pointed firmly at his former general, Ahmad Shah Abdali, by Persia, as someone who was very close to Nadir Shah, they were unable to prove it. Even so, Ahmad Shah Abdali was very quickly appointed king by loya jirga (grand council), and established the Durrani empire in what quickly became Afghanistan by capturing Kandahar and carving out a vast territory of conquests within a very short space of time. However, his successors governed so ineptly that the empire was effectively at an end within half a century of his death.

(Information by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha, and from External Link: Encyclopaedia Iranica.)

1747 - 1772

Ahmad Shah Abdali

Established the dynasty.


Following his accession as shah, or king, Ahmad Shah Abdali immediately sets out to consolidate and enlarge Afghanistan. He captures Ghazni from the Ghilzai, takes Kabul from a provincial warlord, defeats the Moghuls in the west of the Indus to gain Punjab and Kashmir, and takes Herat from the Persians. The new empire quickly extends from Central Asia to Delhi, and from Kashmir to the Arabian Sea.


Southern Khorasan is officially renamed Afghanistan, while the north is now within the khanate of Khiva and the emirate of Bukhara. The westernmost section is a region of Persia that is now being occupied by the Afsharids after their expulsion from central Persia by the Zand regent, Karim Khan. The name of Afghanistan sticks, and is used to refer to the region from this point onwards.

1756 - 1757

Ahmad Shah Abdali invades the India of the declining Moghul emperors (for a fifth time in his reign) and plunders Mathura.


The Peshwa sends an army to challenge the Afghans under Ahmad Shah Abdali, and the Maratha army is decisively defeated on 13 January 1761 at the Third Battle of Panipat. However, the Sikhs soon gain power over areas of Punjab at Ahmad's expense, while Ahmad also has to agree a border with the Uzbek emir of Bukhara at the River Amu Darya.

The Third Battle of Panipat
The Third Battle of Panipat saw the Marathas defeated by Ahmad Shah Abdali's army, confirming the greatness of the empire he had created

1773 - 1793

Timur Shah Durrani



The capital of Afghanistan is transferred from Kandahar to Kabul due to tribal opposition, mainly to Timur himself. Constant internal revolts occur in the state, especially in its eastern provinces.


The Marathas have recently evacuated Delhi, so the opportunistic Afghan Rohillas march on the city, but financially, Delhi is already bankrupt. Finding nothing to loot, the Afghans blind Moghul emperor Shah Alam II just before the Marathas return to save him and drive away the Rohillas.


Humayun Shah

Son. Governor of Kandahar.


Upon the death of Timur, his son Humayun by his fourth wife declares himself king, along with another of Timur's many sons. Humayun is blinded and imprisoned by his brother, Zaman, who holds the strongest position as governor of the capital. Many of his half brothers are also imprisoned when they arrive in Kabul to confirm the election of a new shah, not knowing that Zaman has already seized power.

1793 - 1801

Zaman Shah Durrani

Brother. Governor of Kabul. Overthrown.


The Qajar shahs of Iran invade their 'lost' province of Khorasan and annexe it back to Persia proper (the Zands having let it go after 1750). Afghanistan itself is under constant threat of internal revolt and is in no shape to fight back.

1801 - 1803

Shoja al-Mulk Muhammad Shah

Brother. Overthrown.


Shoja al-Mulk Muhammad Shah, or Mahmud Shah, overthrows his brother, but just two years later he is in turn overthrown by yet another of Timur's sons, as Afghanistan slides towards complete dissolution as a coherent state.

1803 - 1809

Shah Shuja

Brother. Overthrown.


The Persians have been attempting to intrude small units of troops into Afghanistan in a bid to conquer the city of Herat while the Afghans are fighting one another for domination of their kingdom. Unfortunately for the Persian forces, that very instability undermines their own efforts and forces the plan's abandonment.


Shah Shuja signs a treaty with the British which includes a clause stating that he will oppose the passage of foreign troops through his territories. This agreement is the first Afghan pact with a European power, and it stipulates the undertaking of joint action if there is any Franco-Persian aggression against Afghan or British dominions. Only a few weeks after signing the agreement, Shuja is deposed by his predecessor, Muhammad Shah.

1809 - 1819

Shoja al-Mulk Muhammad Shah

Restored. Overthrown.

1809 - 1819

In a tumultuous Afghanistan, war with Persia is inconclusive following another attack on Herat. Mohamman Vali Mirza, son of the Persian shah, is defeated at the Battle of Kafir Qala in 1818. However, internal fighting continues, and Shoja al-Mulk Muhammad Shah's second reign is ended by yet another brother. He finds that he controls very little of the country outside Kabul, perhaps just a 160-kilometre radius of territory and that his dynasty has alienated not only the outlying tribes but other Durrani Pashtun tribes as well. Instead a new Emirate has taken control of large swathes of countryside, and it is this which forms the country's next major power.

1818 - 1819

Sultan Ali Shah

Brother. Overthrown.

1819 - 1823

Ayub Shah

Brother. Deposed and probably killed.


The Afghans lose Sindh permanently to the British in India as the Durrani dynasty is overthrown. It is briefly returned to power in 1839.

Emirate of Afghanistan (Barakzai Dynasty)
AD 1823 - 1839

In 1823 the last of the weakened Durrani dynasty were overthrown by Habibollah Shah. However, the country remained fragmented, sometimes held together almost entirely under the emir's control, sometimes ruled by several regional warlords, usually allied to various factions of the Barakzai clan.

(Additional information by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha.)


Habibollah Shah

1823 - 1826

Soltan Mohammad Khan



William Moorecroft, of the East India Company, arrives in Peshawar in Afghanistan, while en route to Bukhara, east of Khiva (and now in Uzbekistan), to trade for horses. The country is experiencing one of its most lawless periods in a long tradition of such periods and Moorecroft is killed in Balkh while returning to India.

1826 - 1839

Dost Mohammad Khan

Regent (1826-1836), then emir. Deposed and deported to India.

1832 - 1834

The Iranian Qajar shahs move into the province of Khorasan, and then threaten Herat yet again. The Afghans are forced to defend the city but manage to repel the invaders by 1833. The following year they lose Peshawar to the Sikhs. Later the Afghans defeat the Sikhs under the leadership of Akbar Khan, son of Dost Mohammed, near Jamrud, and kill the great Sikh general, Hari Singh. However, they fail to retake Peshawar due to their own lack of unity and bad judgment on the part of Dost Mohammad Khan regarding the people of Peshawar.

1836 - 1839

Dost Mohammad Khan is proclaimed as Amir al-mu' Minin, commander of the faithful. He is still trying to reunify the whole of Afghanistan when the British, in collaboration with an ex-king, Shah Shoja, invade Afghanistan and depose him.

Emirate of Afghanistan (Durrani Dynasty)
AD 1839 - 1842

By 1839, Britain had decided that Persian and Russian intrigues posed a threat to their control of India. To counter that perceived threat, it was decided that Afghanistan would be used as a buffer state. A British army marched to Kabul, triggering the First Anglo-Afghan War, which saw Dost Mohammad replaced with a Durrani restoration ruler as the British figurehead in the country. Between 1839-1842, Britain controlled much of Afghanistan, at least in theory. The British also meddled across Afghan borders - in the khanate of Khiva to ensure that Russia could not find a valid reason to invade and further its own designs on India.

(Additional information by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha, and from Indian Frontier Policy, John Ayde (2010).)

1839 - 1842

Shoja al-Mulk Muhammad Shah

Restored for a second time. Puppet ruler.

1839 - 1840

Russia under Czar Nicholas I pursues a renewed policy of pressuring the Ottoman empire and Britain for control of southern Central Asia. He sends an expedition to Khiva, purportedly to free slaves who had been captured from areas of the Russian frontier and sold by Turkmen raiders. Britain is already involved in the First Anglo-Afghan War in Afghanistan but, despite sending over five thousand infantry, the Russian force stumbles into one of harshest winters in living memory. It is driven back by the weather and by its losses in early 1840.

Britain decides that Russian (and also Persian) intrigues pose a threat to their control of India. To counter that perceived threat, it is decided that Afghanistan will be used as a buffer state and the slave situation in Khiva will be solved without military intervention. The khan is convinced to free all Russian subjects under his control and to outlaw any further slavery of Russians.


Fath Jang Khan

Puppet ruler.


Shahpur Khan

Puppet ruler.


The Afghans manage to unify for long enough to force the British to retreat from the country in January, and Dost Mohammad is released from captivity.

Emirate of Afghanistan (Barakzai Dynasty Restored)
AD 1842 - 1926

When he was released from captivity in India, Dost Mohammad Khan was able to regain his throne and govern an independent Afghanistan. He renewed his hostility towards British interests in the region and allied himself with the Sikhs. Their defeat in 1849 forced him to retreat back into Afghanistan.

(Additional information by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha.)

1842 - 1863

Dost Mohammad Khan


1855 - 1859

Dost Mohammad Khan signs a peace treaty with British India. Four years later Britain takes Baluchistan, and Afghanistan becomes completely landlocked.

Dost Muhammad Khan
Emir Dost Muhammad Khan played an important part in shaping Afghanistan in the nineteenth century

1856 - 1857

The Anglo–Persian War is triggered on 1 November 1856 during a further - and this time largely successful - attempt by Persia to capture the Afghan city of Herat, a long-standing ambition to compensate them for the loss of the South Caucuses. However, they have taken too long, and now Afghanistan is generally within the British sphere of operations from their base in India. Herat has already declared independence as a city state with its own emir, in alliance with the emirate of Kabul, and has accepted British protection. A two-pronged British attack on Iran's southern coast and also in southern Mesopotamia drives Naser al-Din to sign the Treaty of Paris in 1857, in which he relinquishes control over and any claim to Herat.

1863 - 1866

Sher Ali Khan

Son. Deposed.

1865 - 1866

Russia takes Bukhara, Tashkent, and Samarkand in 1865 (all of which go into forming Uzbekistan in 1924). The following year, Sher Ali Khan is dethroned when Mohammad Afzal Khan captures Kabul and the throne.

1866 - 1867

Mohammad Afzal Khan

Usurper. Died.

1867 - 1868

Mohammad A'zam Khan


Mohammad A'zam Khan flees to Iran in the face of the deposed emir, Sher Ali Khan, re-imposing his control over the country.

1868 - 1879

Sher Ali Khan



Russia establishes a fixed boundary between Afghanistan and its new territories, promising to respect Afghanistan's territorial integrity.

1879 - 1880

Sher Ali refuses a British commission in Kabul, resulting in the Second Anglo-Afghan War. British troops occupy Kabul for a brief period when British General Frederick 'Little Bobs' Roberts is sent with an army to force Afghanistan into a treaty which cedes its foreign policy to the British. The treaty is concluded, but the British envoy is murdered. General Roberts returns to Kabul to hang the envoy's murderers and is himself ambushed with the result that another British force in southern Afghanistan is almost annihilated. Roberts retreats under continual guerrilla gunfire in a march from Kabul to Kandahar. Shortly afterwards, Sher Ali dies in Mazar-i-Shariff, and Emir Mohammad Yaqub Khan takes over until October 1879. He gives up several Afghan territories to the British which include Kurram, Khyber, Michni, Pishin, and Sibi.


Mohammad Yaqub Khan

Interim ruler until October.

1879 - 1880



1880 - 1901

Abdur Rahman Khan

The 'iron emir'.


Abdur Rahman Khan gains the throne, and during his reign he comes to be known as the 'iron emir'. British troops leave Kabul shortly after his accession, but Britain retains effective control over Kabul's foreign affairs. Over the next few years, Britain and Russia officially establish the borders of what will become modern Afghanistan.

1893 - 1895

In 1893 the Durand Line fixes the borders of Afghanistan with British India for a century, splitting Afghan tribal areas, and leaving half of these divided Afghans in what is now Pakistan. Two years later, Afghanistan's northern border is fixed and guaranteed by Russia.

1901 - 1919

Habibullah Ghazi Khan

Son. Assassinated by his family.


Russia and Great Britain sign a treaty at the convention of St Petersburg, in which Afghanistan is declared outside Russia's purview.

1914 - 1918

Afghanistan remains neutral during the First World War, despite German encouragement of anti-British feeling and an Afghan rebellion along the borders of British India.


Nasrullah Khan

Brother. Deposed.


Shortly after Nasrullah Khan ascends the throne, his nephew deposes and imprisons him. Approximately a year later Nasrullah is murdered in his cell.

1919 - 1929

Amanullah Khan

Brother. Became king in 1926.

1919 - 1921

Amanullah Khan notes the weakness of the major political players in the region, Russia and Britain, after the conclusion of the First World War and decides to launch a surprise attack against the British. This leads to the Third Anglo-Afghan War which quickly becomes a stalemate. An armistice is agreed in 1921 which allows Afghanistan to become an independent nation.


Amanullah proclaims himself shah, creating the kingdom of Afghanistan under his Barakzai dynasty.

Kingdom of Afghanistan (Barakzai Dynasty)
AD 1926 - 1973

The Barakzai dynasty continued to rule Afghanistan in the form of Amanullah Khan, but now as a kingdom. Despite an early career in which he and contributed to the murder of his father, and the death of his brother who he himself had imprisoned, Amanullah Khan attempted to introduce progressive and fairly liberal social reforms. This lead to opposition from conservative forces which seeded unrest, and three years after proclaiming himself king he was forced to flee when the army failed to protect Kabul from an uprising. His eventual replacement was the temporarily popular Habibullah Kalakani.

(Additional information by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha.)

1926 - 1929

Amanullah Khan

Elevated himself to king. Abdicated and was exiled. Died 1960.


Anti-reformist elements band together and storm the capital, Kabul. The king is forced to abdicate and after his brother is ordered to relinquish his own claim to the throne, the leader of the rebellion, Habibullah Kalakani, takes control.


Inayatullah Khan

Brother. Unwilling king who quickly abdicated.


Habibullah Kalakani (Ghazi)

Anti-reform usurper. Killed by Nadir Khan.

1929 - 1933

Mohammed Nadir Khan

Former minister under Amanullah Khan. Assassinated.


Zahir Shah becomes king and Afghanistan remains a monarchy for the next four decades.

1933 - 1973

Mohammed Zahir Khan


General Mohammed Daud Khan, cousin of the king, becomes prime minister. He turns to the Soviet Union for economic and military assistance, and introduces a number of social reforms, such as the abolition of purdah (the practice of secluding women from public view).

1963 - 1964

Mohammed Daud is forced to resign in 1963. A constitutional monarchy is introduced, but this leads to political polarisation and power struggles.


Mohammed Daud seizes power in a coup and declares a republic of Afghanistan.

Modern Afghanistan
AD 1973 - Present Day

Afghanistan has endured a troubled time for several centuries, and not more so than since 1973. The modern state is located along the ancient trade routes between Persia (modern Iran) to the west and India to the east. To the north it is bordered (from west to east) by Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. China borders briefly along the eastern Wakhan Corridor Nature Refuge, while Pakistan occupies the full remainder of the eastern and southern border.

Mohammed Daud seized power in a coup in 1973 and declared Afghanistan to be a republic. He tried to play off the Soviets against the western powers, but his style quickly alienated left-wing factions who joined forces against him. Soviet Russian forces invaded the country in 1979, leading to a decade of guerrilla warfare from the Afghan tribal forces. Despite a massive superiority in firepower, Russia was never able to defeat these forces, but by the time they retreated the country was in ruins. Various factions vied for control thereafter, sometimes briefly unifying the country before the next faction pushed it aside it. The most destructive of these was the fundamentalist Taliban, who introduced a regime of brutal suppression, but they were pushed into the east by the allied invasion of 2001.

(Additional information by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha.)

1973 - 1978

Mohammed Daud Khan

Military dictator. Murdered.

1978 - 1979

Daud is overthrown and killed in a coup by the leftist People's Democratic Party. The party's Khalq and Parcham factions fall out, leading to a purge of most of the Parcham leaders. At the same time, conservative Islamic and ethnic leaders who object to social changes begin an armed revolt in the countryside. The following year, a power struggle between the leftist leaders, Hafizullah Amin and Nur Mohammed Taraki, in Kabul is won by Amin. Revolts in the countryside continue and the Afghan army faces collapse. The Soviet Union finally sends in troops to help remove Amin, who is executed.

Russian invasion of 1979
The Soviet Russian invasion of Afghanistan and the decade of war which followed left the country devastated, and divided along factional lines

1978 - 1979

Nur Mohammed Taraki

Pro-Soviet leader.


Hafizullah Amin

Leftist victor in the power struggle. Executed.

1980 - 1986

Babrak Karmal

Parcham faction leader & Soviet puppet ruler. Replaced.

1980 - 1989

Various Mujahideen factions fight a guerrilla war against the occupying Soviet army. In 1985, they unite in Pakistan and begin to offer a much more effective fighting force, backed by the USA from 1986. Soviet troops begin to withdraw from 1988, with the evacuation being completed in 1989. The Afghan civil war continues as the Mujahideen fight on to oust Najibullah.

1986 - 1992

Najibullah Ahmadzai

Soviet puppet ruler. Hanged by the Mujahideen.

1993 - 1996

The victorious Mujahideen forces agree on the formation of a government, with an ethnic Tajik, Burhanuddin Rabbani, being proclaimed president. In 1994, the Pashtun-dominated Taliban emerge as major challenge to his government, and within two years they capture Kabul and impose a hardline version of Islam, banning women from work, and introducing Islamic punishments, which include stoning to death and amputations. Rabbani flees to join the anti-Taliban northern alliance as the still-recognised president in exile.


Burhanuddin Rabbani

Mujahideen ruler. Hanged by the Taliban.

1996 - 2001

Mullah Mohammad Omar

Taliban ruler.


In March, the Bamiyan Bhuddas, built by the Indo-Greek settlers in the region in the third century, are destroyed by the Taliban. By 2008 a project to rebuild one of them is underway, to be completed in 2009.

The Taliban refuse a US demand to hand over terrorist leader, Osama bin Laden, who is taking refuge in the country. By November 2001, the Taliban have been pushed out of Kabul and into the eastern fringes of the country by US and British air strikes and a resurgent northern alliance. A power-sharing government is formed in Kabul, with Hamid Karzai selected as interim head of state. US and British forces, along with smaller units from other countries, attempt to destroy the remaining Taliban forces.

2004 - 2005

Presidential elections are undertaken in the country, with Hamid Karzai winning. The first parliamentary and provincial elections in decades are held in the country in 2005. But the fighting against the Taliban shows no sign of abating.

Despite a decade of fighting against Nato forces, the Taliban remain strong in eastern Afghanistan, although various attempts to negotiate a peace with them have floundered


The last British troops pull out of Helmand province, transferring all defensive duties to Afghan forces as the fight against the Taliban continues. US forces in the country are also being reduced to a minimum by the end of the year, although official combat participation formally ends in line with the British on 26 October.