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Far East Kingdoms

Central Asia



The ancient region of Ferghana or Farghana lay largely within modern Tajikistan (today Fergana or Fargana is more common). When the Persian King Cyrus the Great reached this point in 544 BC, during his campaigns between about 546-540 BC, he established the farthest of a series of frontier forts which were designed to keep out the warlike Massagetae to the north.

These frontier forts were generally referred to as cities by ancient authors. Cyropolis (Latin) or Kyroupolis (Greek) was the name of this particular fort, possibly from the Persian Kyreskhata. Its location is uncertain, but it has been identified with the modern city of Istaravshan, although nearby Khojend is another candidate. Kyreskhata may also have formed the basis of the Greek city of Alexander Eschate following its conquest by Alexander himself. Both locations lies close to the headwaters of the River Jaxartes (the Syr Darya). Modern Ferghana was founded in 1876 as a garrison town.

These eastern regions of the new-found Persian empire were ancestral homelands for the Persians themselves. 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.

Ferghana was the outermost outpost of Persian and Greek civilisation in Central Asia, located at its far north-eastern corner. It was generally part of the province of Sogdiana, being administered from the capital at Marakanda (modern Samarkand). Bactria, the heartland of later Greek power in the Central Asia, lay to the south. To the north and north-west were barbarian tribes, especially the aforementioned Massagetae, a seemingly-large confederation of tribes which was probably Saka in origin. Ferghana would later form an important staging post on the Silk Road, but during the Greek period this famous overland trading route was in its infancy.

Persians & Medes

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from The Persian Empire, J M Cook (1983), from Placenames of the World: Origins and Meanings of the Names for Over 5000 Natural Features, Countries, Capitals, Territories, Cities and Historical Sites, Adrian Room (McFarland, 1997), from The Campaigns of Alexander, Arrian of Nicomedia (Aubrey De Sélincourt, Ed, Penguin, 1971), from A Political History of the Achaemenid Empire, M A Dandamaev, and from The Histories, Herodotus (Penguin, 1996).)

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 Saka), and Thatagush - all added to the empire, although records for these campaigns are characteristically sparse.

Cyrus the Great
Cyrus the Great freed the Indo-Iranian Parsua people from Median domination to establish a nation which is recognisable to this day, and an empire which provided the basis for the vast territories which were later ruled by Alexander the Great

The heartland of Sogdiana (or Sogdia) is also drawn into the empire where it is also named Huvarazmish in some Persian inscriptions. At some point Cyrus builds a line of seven forts to defend his frontier in Suguda and the neighbouring region of Ferghana against the tribal Massagetae to the north, the strongest of these being Kyra or Kyreskhata (Cyropolis - the Greek form of its name).

Ferghana remains administered from the Sogdian capital, Marakand, and is not a separate province in itself. The fortress and town of Cyropolis is established in Ferghana itself to provide a much-needed defensive chain.

329 BC

As what is seemingly a minor division of Suguda during the Achaemenid period has no satrap of its own, there is little record of events here. During his own conquest of Sogdiana, Alexander the Great focuses on the largest and best-defended of seven towns in the region, this being Cyropolis in the Ferghana region (the Kyreskhata of Cyrus the Great, one of his seven forts or towns).

Alexander the Great crosses the River Graneikos
Alexander the Great crossed the River Graneikos (or Granicus) in 334 BC to spark a direct face-off with the Persians which had been brewing for generations, and his victory in battle near the river sent shockwaves through the Persian empire

While he personally takes the other towns, he sends Craterus to pin down the defenders of Cyropolis. Following the quick fall of those other towns, the storming of Cyropolis is led by Alexander himself. Both he and Craterus are wounded but the town and its central fortress are taken. Sogdiana and Ferghana now belong to the Greeks.

Argead Dynasty in Ferghana

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

The ancient region of Ferghana or Farghana lay largely within modern Tajikistan. When the Persian King Cyrus the Great reached this point in 544 BC, during his campaigns between about 546-540 BC, he established the furthest of a series of frontier forts which were designed to keep out the warlike Massagetae to the north.

Their subjects in this region may have been the Amyrgian subset of Sakas. These were fairly well attested after coming into contact with both the Achaemenids (who called them Sakaibish) and the Greeks under Alexander. They were apparently centred on the Amyrgian plain which equates to all of Ferghana and also the Alai valley - well to the east of most of the Sakas. They accompanied Alexander on campaign, under their 'King Omarg' and later entered India along with the Kambojas to found a kingdom in Gandhara (now in northern Pakistan), displacing the ailing Indo-Greek kings.

Alexander the Great

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from The Persian Empire, J M Cook (1983), from The Histories, Herodotus (Penguin, 1996), and from A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, William Smith (London, 1873).)

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 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.

Map of Central Asia & Eastern Mediterranean 334-323 BC
The route of Alexander's ongoing campaigns are shown in this map, with them leading him from Europe to Egypt, into Persia, and across the vastness of eastern Iran as far as the Pamir mountain range (click or tap on map to view full sized)

323 - 321 BC

Philip / Philippus

Greek satrap of Chorasmia, Bactria, & Sogdiana, then Parthia.

321 BC

With Philip being reassigned to Parthia, his replacement in the east is Stasanor the Solian, former satrap of Aria and Drangiana. This new satrap is the brother to Stasander, his replacement in Aria and Drangiana.

Perhaps he also has more of a focus towards the Northern Indus territories than the eastern coast of the Caspian Sea, as suggested by later events. His territory initially extends as far north as Ferghana, which contains the city of Alexandria Eschate, while Stasander also has ambitions.

321 - 312 BC

Stasanor the Solian

Greek satrap of Chorasmia to Sogdiana, & Nth Punjab (316 BC).

320s BC

Like the Persians before them, the Greeks under Alexander place the Amyrgian Sakas beyond Sogdiana, across the River Tanais (otherwise known as the Iaxartes, Jaxartes, or Syr Darya, which forms the boundary between Sogdiana and Scythia).

The River Syr Darya
The 'pearly waters' of the River Syr Darya which empties into the Aral Sea, and which in the sixth century BC formed the south-western boundary of the territory of the Massagetae

This is thanks to their having encountered them after crossing Sogdiana and the Syr Darya in the approximate region of Alexandria Eschate in the Ferghana region ('Eschate' meaning 'the Furthest', possibly modern Khojend, but see the introduction, above). It is generally accepted that they control all of Ferghana (immediately to the east of Sogdiana) and the Alai Valley. Indeed, they may have been relocated onto the plain following their conquest by the Persians.

316 - 312 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. These provinces appear to be invaded and controlled by the Antigonids for a period, with General Antigonus being responsible for the death of Eudamus.

However, at some point in 316 BC, Stasanor the Solian, satrap of Chorasmia, Bactria, and Sogdiana (with Ferghana) seizes the Northern Indus while his brother seizes Parthia. Clearly the two are either working in unison with Seleucus of Babylonia from the beginning or are attempting to stamp their own independent authority on much of the east. Unfortunately, Stasander is removed from office in 315 BC.

Battle of Ipsus
The Battle of Ipsus in 301 BC ended the drawn-out and destructive Wars of the Diadochi which decided how Alexander's empire would be divided

312 - 306 BC

Bactria is taken by the Seleucids around 312 BC. 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. Macedonian Ferghana appears to drift largely out of central control, but still remains well within the Greek sphere of influence.

Macedonian Ferghana

During the last of the Wars of the Diadochi, Seleucus was able to expand his holdings with some ruthlessness, building up his stock of Alexander's far eastern regions as far as the borders of India and the River Indus (Sindh). Appian's work, The Syrian Wars, provides a detailed list of these regions, which included Arabia, Arachosia, Aria, Armenia, Bactria, 'Seleucid' Cappadocia (as it was known) by 301 BC, Carmania, Cilicia (eventually), Drangiana, Gedrosia, Hyrcania, Media, Mesopotamia, Paropamisadae, Parthia, Persis, Sogdiana, and Tapouria (a small satrapy beyond Hyrcania), plus eastern areas of Phrygia.

Once safely under Seleucid control after the conclusion of the Greek Wars of the Diadochi, Ferghana was governed by Macedonian satraps. The descendants of many of these became independent kings, after Bactria had been cut off from the Seleucids by Parthian incursion into central Persia. The Bactrian kingdom consisted of the core provinces of Bactria and Sogdiana, the latter of which included Ferghana.

Located in one of the richest and most urbanised of regions, Macedonian Bactria quickly blossomed into a large eastern Greek empire, but continual internal discord and usurpations saw it progressively fragmented and vulnerable to outside conquest. The eastern section was almost permanently separated from Bactria and came to be known as the Indo-Greek kingdom.

The chronology of the Indo-Bactrian rulers is based largely on numismatic evidence (coinage). There are few written accounts, and other records are relatively sparse, while frequent internecine conflicts makes the facts even harder to pin down, so dates are rarely reliable. Some possible kings are known only from a few coins, and the interpretation of these can sometimes be very uncertain.

Details about Ferghana at this time are even harder to come by. Despite its position on the proto-Silk Road, it seems to have been a marginal territory, little threatened as yet by barbarians to the north and well out of the reach of any more organised enemies to the west. Greeks would seem to have used it as a base for explorations further afield, into the Tarim Basin of the Lesser Yuezhi where Christian-style churches are to be found in the first millennium AD, and making contacts with the extreme limits of the Chinese state.

Second century BC Greeks in internecine strife

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by David Kelleher, from Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus: Books 11-12, Volume 1, Marcus Junianus Justinus, John Yardley, & Waldemar Heckel, from The Impact of Seleucid Decline on the Eastern Iranian Plateau, Jeffrey D Lerner (1999), and from External Links: the Ancient History Encyclopaedia (dead link), and Encyclopædia Britannica, and Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus, Marcus Junianus Justinus (Rev John Selby Watson, Trans, 1895), via Corpus Scriptorum Latinorum, and Appian's History of Rome: The Syrian Wars at Livius.org. Where information conflicts regarding the Indo-Greek territories, Osmund Bopearachchi's Monnaies Gréco-Bactriennes et Indo-Grecques, Catalogue Raisonné (1991) has been followed.)

c.294 - 281 BC

A former general under Seleucid rulers Seleucus I Nicator and Antiochus I Soter, Demodamas later serves twice as satrap of Bactria and Sogdiana. During this time he undertakes military expeditions across the Syr Darya (otherwise known as the River Tanais) to explore the lands of the Sakas, repopulating Alexandria Eschate ('the furthest', possibly modern Khojend) in Ferghana in the process following its earlier destruction by barbarians.

His journeys of exploration take hum farther than any other Greek, barring perhaps Alexander himself, and his records of what he finds provide an important platform for later Roman writers.

Babylon in 3D
Despite its gradual relegation as a place of importance in the face of the Greek preference for Seleucia, the ancient and great city of Babylon - far to the west of Ferghana - was still of huge importance in the ancient world, as can be seen in this unknown artist's impression of the city (click or tap on image to view full sized)

256 BC

Diodotus declares independence from Seleucid Greek rule at the same time as the satrap of Parthia. It may even be the actions of Andragoras of Parthia which force the hand of Diodotus I Soter, since there is little immediate chance of Seleucid retaliation.

However, although the written evidence is confused and somewhat contradictory, it is more likely to happen the other way around. Bactria declares independence and Parthia follows. Diodotus now rules the former provinces of Bactria, Sogdiana (to the north of Bactria), Ferghana (modern eastern Uzbekistan), and Arachosia (modern Kandahar). It is Strabo who confirms that Sogdiana at this time remains a Greco-Bactrian possession.

c.235/230 BC

Diodotus II of Bactria is overthrown by Euthydemus, possibly the satrap of Sogdiana. The date is uncertain and Strabo puts forward 223/221 BC as an alternative, placing it within a period of internal Seleucid discord.

235 - 200/195 BC

Euthydemus I Theos

Satrap of Sogdiana? Founder of the Euthydemids of Bactria.

c.220 BC

The realm of Euthydemus of Bactria is a large one, including Sogdiana and Ferghana to the north, and Margiana and Aria to the west. There are indications that from Alexandria Eschate in Ferghana the Greco-Bactrians may lead expeditions as far as Kashgar (a little under three hundred and twenty kilometres (two hundred miles) due east of Ferghana), and Urumqi in Chinese Turkestan. There they would be able to establish the first known contacts between China and the West around 220 BC.

The Qin Dynasty terracotta army
Emperor Qin Shihuang created the 'Terracotta Army' to accompany him on his trip onto the afterlife and, according to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, archaeologists suspect that an unexcavated tomb could contain a replica of the entire city of Xi'an, which the warriors also guard

Even more remarkably, recent examinations of the terracotta army have established a startling new concept - the terracotta army may be the product of western art forms and technology. An entire terracotta army plus imperial court are manufactured using five workshops and a form of human representation in sculpture which has never before been seen in China.

Archaeologists today continue the process of discovering new pits and even a fan of roads leading out from the emperor's burial mound, one of which, heading west, may be a sort of proto-Silk Road along which Greek craftsmen may be travelling.

167 BC

Under Mithradates the Parthians rise from obscurity to become a major regional power, although a precise chronology is not possible. Their first expansion takes the former province of Aria (now northern Afghanistan) from the Greco-Bactrian kingdom. It seems possible that Aria (and possibly a rebellious Drangiana too) had already been conquered once by the Arsacids, with the Greco-Bactrians recapturing it, probably during the reign of Euthydemus I Theos.

During the reign of Eucratides I the Greco-Bactrians are also engaged in warfare against the people of Sogdiana, showing that they have lost control of that northern region too (and by inference Ferghana).

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 which would eventually contribute to the downfall of the Greeks - the Sakas and Greater Yuezhi (click or tap on map to view full sized)

The other eastern provinces, all of which still appear to be in Seleucid hands, must also fall to the Parthians very quickly after this - including Carmania, Gedrosia, and Margiana - although firm evidence to show a specific date appears to be lacking.

Another date which may be valid for these losses is 185 BC, when Seleucus IV loses eastern Iran to Parthian expansion, but the fact that the Parthians fail to expand out of their initial conquests until Mithradates accedes makes this period a more likely one.

c.165 BC

Defeated by the Xiongnu, the Greater Yuezhi are forced to evacuate their lands on the borders of the Chinese kingdom. They begin a migration westwards which triggers a slow domino effect of barbarian movement.

c.155 BC

The Sakas (as the Amyrgians) are displaced from Ferghana by the Greater Yuezhi. They are undoubtedly pushed towards neighbouring Sogdiana, where they are dominant enough to take control of the region, displacing whichever regional tyrants may have arisen or becoming their overlords.

This is an event which is connected with the migration of the Greater Yuezhi across Da Yuan (the Chinese term for Ferghana), following another defeat, this time by an alliance of the Wusun and the Xiongnu. The Greater Yuezhi are forced to move again, causing a ripple-effect of barbarian migration.

Pamir Mountains
The Pamir Mountains on Ferghana's eastern border (now in the east of modern Tajikistan) became the final home of the Wusun as they turned to a permanent settled status and farming to replace pastoral nomadism

These mass migrations of the second century BC are confused and somewhat lacking in Greek and Chinese sources because the territory concerned is beyond any detailed understanding of theirs.

Whatever the reason, the Saka king transfers his headquarters to the south, across the Hanging Passage which leads to Jibin. This is part of a southwards trend for the Sakas, and by approximately the mid-first century BC, Saka kings appear in India. Having been overwhelmed by barbarian tribes, Ferghana drifts out of recorded history for several centuries before re-emerging as a series of obscure principalities of which Bokhan seems to be the most prominent.

Post-Greek Ferghana / Bokhan
Incorporating Ahsikent, Khojend, & Polona

The view of post-Greek Ferghana (largely within modern Tajikistan) and Sogdiana remains confused. It seems likely Sogdiana (and therefore also Ferghana) was largely abandoned by the Greeks very soon after the death of Alexander the Great, with the Greeks in Bactria focussing on that satrapy, more interested in closer integration with the Indo-Greek territories both during the period of Mauryan ascendancy (from 305 BC) and during its decline (seemingly from 256 BC when the Greco-Bactrians declared independence from the Seleucid empire). Even so, Sogdiana remained heavily influenced by Greek culture, while being politically splintered amongst several minor principalities. That same political splintering was also true for Ferghana.

In the post-Greek period Ferghana became an independent principality of that name, although Western Jin Chinese records also refer to it as Bokhan or Bokhan'na while another Chinese records notes it as Polona. Its ruler clearly did not govern all of Ferghana though, as evidenced by the existence of independent rival city states. The capital was at Ahsikent (otherwise recorded as Akhsikath by medieval writers, with variations which included Axsikat).

Current under consideration by UNESCO, it sits on the right-hand branch of the River Sirdarya (the ancient Syr Darya, Jaxartes, or Tanais which connects to the northern stretch of the Aral Sea). It was founded at some point in the early Achaemenid period of governance from Suguda. Occasionally the object of a Chinese siege such as the one in 103 BC (where it was supported by Kangju), it was subsequently captured by Kushans prior to Turkic influence becoming prevalent in the region from around the fifth century onwards, primarily through the Western Göktürks and Kidarites. Rulers were known by the Turkic title of ikhshid or the Persian nobility title of dehqân.

The city of Khojend is sometimes shown as Ḵojanda, Khojand, Khujand, or even Khodjent, while in Chinese records it is Hu-chan or Hu-jan. Today it lies in the north-western corner of Tajikistan. It formed the heart of an independent principality by the later seventh century AD, having been founded by the Achaemenids around the sixth century BC. When Cyrus the Great reached this area in 544 BC, during his campaigns between about 546-540 BC, he established the farthest of a series of frontier forts which were designed to keep out the warlike Massagetae to the north.

These frontier forts were generally referred to as cities by ancient authors. Cyropolis (Latin) or Kyroupolis (Greek) was the name of this particular fort, possibly from the Persian Kyreskhata. Its location is uncertain, but it has been identified with the modern city of Istaravshan, although nearby Khojend is another candidate. Kyreskhata may also have formed the basis of the Greek city of Alexander Eschate following its conquest by Alexander himself. Both locations lies close to the headwaters of the Syr Darya.

The developing Silk Road

(Information by Peter Kessler, from The Impact of Seleucid Decline on the Eastern Iranian Plateau, Jeffrey D Lerner (1999), from Sogdiana, its Christians and Byzantium, Aleksandr Naymark (doctoral thesis, Indiana University, 2001), from ONS No 206 (Journal of the Oriental Numismatic Society, Winter 2011), from The Cambridge History of Iran, Volume 3, E Yarshater (Ed), from History of Humanity: from the seventh century BC to the seventh century AD, Joachim Herrmann, Erik Zürcher, & Ahmad Hasan Dani (International commission for a history of the scientific and cultural development of mankind, History of Mankind, Unesco, 1994), from History of Civilizations of Central Asia (Volume 3), Ahmad Hasan Dani (Motilal Banarsidass, 1999), from Taxt‐i Sangīn der Oxus‐Tempel: Grabungsbefund, Stratigraphie und Architektur, Boris A Litvinskij & Igor R Pičikjan (Archäologie in Iran und Turan, Band 4. Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, 2002, in German), and from External Links: the Ancient History Encyclopaedia (dead link), and Encyclopædia Britannica, and Bukhara History Part 5: Bukhara under the Arabian Conquest (Advantour), and The Silk Road, and Encyclopaedia Iranica, and Kroraina.)

AD 552

The Western Göktürks expand their dominion towards Chorasmia and Sogdiana, right up against the borders of Persia's eastern territories (Ferghana is also taken). The Hephthalites are defeated in Kushanshah territory in what one day will become Afghanistan by an alliance of Göktürks and Sassanids, and a level of Indo-Sassanid authority is re-established in the region for the next century. The western khagans set up rival states in Bamiyan, Kabul, and Kapisa under the authority of the viceroy in Tokharistan, strengthening their hold on the Silk Road.

Map of Central Asia AD 550-600
As was often the case with Central Asian states which had been created by horse-borne warriors on the sweeping steppelands, the Göktürk khaganate swiftly incorporated a vast stretch of territory in its westwards expansion, whilst being hemmed in by the powerful Chinese dynasties to the south-east and Siberia's uninviting tundra to the north (click or tap on map to view full sized)

It is Litvinskij who claims that, at the time of the 'Juan Vej' dynasty (the Northern Wei, AD 386-534), Ferghana is known as Polona (most certainly not to be linked to the foundation of Poland despite some wild hopes to the contrary). Furthermore, the ruler resides in the town of Sigjan'm on the northern side of the River Chzhen'chzhu.

Another claim is that the succession of rulers here 'has not been broken since the time of' the Juan Vej and the Czin' (the latter being the Western Jin, AD 266-317). However, a Chinese record of the beginnings of the Western Göktürk period notes that Ferghana does not have a single ruler at this time (AD 552).

In fact, many petty princes have been fighting each other for decades. So Polona, also known as Bokhan and Ferghana, is in essence a small principality centred on a single city. Quite possibly it is regionally the most important, but it is only one of multiple principalities.



Chzhaovu or dzhabgu of Bokhan (Ferghana).


Chinese and Arab sources record basic events for the region at the start of the seventh century. The Chinese chronicle of Bejshu mentions Ferghana as 'Bokhan'. Its ruler bears the title of chzhaovu or dzhabgu and is named Alici. He commands several thousand troops and sits on a throne representing a golden ram, while his wife carries a golden wreath on her head. At the time of the Sui dynasty of China in 605, an ambassador is sent to Ferghana's court together with local goods.

659 - 665

A seemingly partial occupation of Transoxiana by Tang dynasty Chinese is effected in 659, but is ended in 665. Mainly concerning Ferghana and the northern reaches of Sogdiana, this is part of a Tang effort to defend its western approaches after centuries of barbarian incursions and also to provide buffer districts between it and the strife which is engulfing Central Asia.

The protectorate of Anxi remains in command of the Tarim Basin and probably also the approaches into China to the basin's immediate north (and certainly Ferghana).

Map of Central Asia AD 600-700
By the beginning of the seventh century AD, Göktürk power in southern Central Asia was waning while the Sassanids had established a degree of control over the southernmost parts of this region, and various city states had emerged in Sogdiana (click or tap on map to view full sized)


Qutaiba ibn Muslim, Umayyad governor of Greater Khorasan, expels the Sogdian ruler of Varakhsha, Vardan Khuda, from Bukhara. The same governor is also claimed as the conqueror of Chach (Tashkent), Ferghana, and Khojend, presumably during this same period. Ferghana has only recently gained its independence from Chinese control. It is from this point that the rulers are known by the Turkified name of ikhshid.

c.712 - 715

Probably frustrated by the endless bickering regarding superiority between the Sogdian principalities, Qutaiba ibn Muslim launches a pacification campaign into Sogdiana which delivers him and Islam a wave of submissive acknowledgements. Ferghana is also subjugated by 715 but its ruler rebels in the same year.

? - 715


Ruler of Ferghana. Deposed by Islam.


The rebellion by the ikhshid of Ahsikent is short-lived. He is quickly dealt with by Qutaiba ibn Muslim, who appoints a deputy named Alutar to command the city. Then it falls very shortly afterwards to the Chinese General Zhang Xiaosong of Anxi, probably adding to the Umayyad governor's frustrations. Alutar is removed and the previous ikhshid is restored for an unknown period of time.

Tonggusi Baxi in the Xinhe Aksu region of China
The city of Tonggusi Baxi in the Xinhe Aksu region in what is now north-western China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region provided the capital of the 'Anxi Grand Protectorate' under the Tang dynasty



Ruler of Ferghana. Umayyad vassal. Removed.

715? - 723?


Ruler of Ferghana. Betrayed allies. Defeated by Islam.


Resisting Umayyad control of Sogdiana, Dewashtich of Penjikent and Karzanj of Paikand are mentioned as leaders of an anti-Islam rebellion. Together they liberate Samarkand, holding it in the face of relatively weak attempts to regain it.

The pair manage to win the support of at-Tar of Ferghana, who promises protection if their rebellion should fail. While the eastern Sogdian forces of Karzanj are resting in the area of Khojend, at-Tar betrays him to Al-Jarrah ibn Abdallah, governor of Greater Khorasan. Karzanj is defeated, while over three thousand Sogdian inhabitants of the city of Khojend are massacred.


Dewashtich of Penjikent has a famous last stand against Islam from his mountain fortress of Mugh. That marks the beginning of the formal accession of Transoxiana into the Islamic empire, and soon results in the increasing Islamic control of the eastern regions as well.


Muslim ibn Sa'id al-Kilabi, the latest Umayyad governor of Greater Khorasan, invades Ferghana, devastating the countryside. Ferghana's ruler, at-Tar, faces annihilation until relief arrives in the form of the Türgish khagan of the Western Göktürks, Sulu. The Arab forces are crushed in what is known as the 'Day of Thirst'.

Banqueter holding a rhyton in Penjikent
One of the Penjikent wall paintings shows this banqueter holding a rhyton, created in the first half of the eighth century AD and now on display at the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg

723? - ?


Ruler of Ferghana. Umayyad vassal. Lost north to his rival.

726 - ?


Ruler in the north only. Vassal of the Türgish.


With power and control fracturing under the stress of near-constant attacks, Farghana becomes divided between two ikhshids. One rules in the north as a vassal of the Türgish khagan of the Western Göktürks. The outcome of this divide seems unknown, although reunification may be achieved by the conquering forces of Arslan Tarkhan in 739.

729 - 731

The ikhshid of northern Ferghana aids his Türgish overlords at the siege of Kamarja. Two years later the Türgish are aided again from Ferghana during the Battle of the Defile (which allows Ḡūrak to recover control over Samarkand). The Türgish leader, Sulu of the Western Göktürks, enjoys over a decade of success in his battles against the Umayyads until he is murdered in 737/738, ending any remaining vestige of western Göktürk power. Even the powerful Türgish splinter group fractures following his death.

739? - ?

Arslan Tarkhan

Conqueror of Ferghana.

739 - 740

A Turk named Arslan Tarkhan conquers Ferghana, virtually at the same time as an invasion is launched by the Umayyad general, Muhammad ibn Khalid Azdi. Nevertheless, the ikhshids of Ferghana are still mentioned in sources. Ferghana is ravaged again in 740 by another Umayyad general, Nasr ibn Sayyar. In 750, Ferghana joins the Chinese forces which are arrayed against the new Abbasid rulers of Islam, with battle being met at Talas in 751.

Abbasid silver dirham
The silver dirham shown here was issued during the reign of Caliph Muhammad al Mahdi (775-785), only the third of the Abbasid caliphs at their capital in Baghdad


Ferghana remains free of Arab control until the late 700s but, in 819, the governor of Greater Khorasan, Ghassan ibn 'Abbad, appoints the Samanid prince, Ahmad ibn Asad, as the ruler of Farghana (later to rule the Samanid emirate itself). The principality's independent existence is at an end.

The city of Ahsikent remains rich and vibrant until it is destroyed by Mongols in 1219. A subsequent attempt to restart it around five kilometres downriver is destroyed by earthquake in 1620. Ferghana itself in the twentieth century is divided between the eastern territory of Uzbekistan, while the rest falls within Tajikistan's borders.

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