History Files

Far East Kingdoms

Central Asia


Kingdom of Turan / Tūrān (Indo-Iranians)

Later myth ascribed a dynasty of Indo-Iranian rulers to southern Central Asia in the seventh century BC, as described in the Shahnameh (The Book of Kings), a poetic opus which was written about AD 1000 but which accessed older works (such as the semi-official seventh century AD book called the Ḵwadāy-nāmag), and perhaps elements of an oral tradition.

The Kayanian dynasty of kings of the Parsua (Persians) were also the heroes of the Avesta, which forms the sacred texts of Zoroastrianism. This faith itself had been founded along the banks of the River Oxus, the great river which had probably also formed part of the migratory route used by the Indo-European Persians as they entered Iran.

The earliest of these mythical Indo-Iranian rulers was Fereydun, king of a 'world empire'. His subjects were the Indo-Iranian tribes of the region, while his kingdom was apparently in the land of Tūr (or Turaj, sometimes also shown without the accented 'u' as Tur), a region which had been influenced in the Neolithic period by the Mesolithic Yangelka culture of the southern Urals.

This 'land of Tūr' can be equated to territory in the heartland of Indo-Iranian southern Central Asia and South Asia, focused mainly on the later provinces of Bactria and Margiana, along with the Kopet Dag region (a mountain range which serves to separate modern Turkmenistan and Iran), the Atrek valley (which supplies an easy route into eastern Iran and is a weak point in the country's defensive line), and the eastern Alborz Mountains (stretching from modern Azerbaijan, along the southern coast of the Caspian Sea, and into Hyrcania and the edges of eastern Iran).

Judging by those borders, the land of Tūr stretched from Samarkand to Tehran, although the kingdom of Turan was probably a good deal smaller and more eastern-based (although note the similarly between 'Turan' and Tehran'). The Persians themselves may still have controlled a good deal of the western section as they began to settle in southern Iran.

Curiously (and probably not coincidentally), these borders would have placed it on the northern border of another ancient region, that of Ariana. The land of Aryana Vaejah mentioned in the Avesta is usually located to the north and west of both lands.

Fereydun became the father of three sons; Tūr, Salm, and Iraj. Tūr murdered Iraj, thereby triggering an unending feud between the two lines of their descendants. One of Tūr's descendants (possibly a seven-times grandson) was Afrasaib, who ruled the kingdom of Turan during the lifetime of the Persian Kai Kavoos of the seventh century BC. Stories which cover Turan show it to be in competition with the Persians for mastery of the eastern lands, with many battles being fought.

Ultimately it is the Persians who emerge victorious, although the Shahnameh may be showing some bias - history is written by the victors, after all. Turan's kings are shown below with a shaded pink background to highlight their legendary status.

Sakas on a frieze at Persepolis

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Edward Dawson, from Central Asia: A Historical Overview, Edward A Allworth (Duke University Press, 1994), from The Paths of History, I M Diakonoff (Cambridge University Press, 1999), from Islamic Reference Desk, Emeri 'van' Donzel (Brill Academic Publishers, 1994), from Farāmarz, the Sistāni Hero: Texts and Traditions of the Farāmarznāme and the Persian Epic Cycle, Marjolijn van Zutphen, and from External Links: Encyclopaedia Iranica, and Iranians & Turanians in the Avesta.)

Fereydun / Faridun / Fareidun

Ruled a 'world empire'. Abdicated in favour of Manuchehr.


Son of Fereydun. Gifted Central Asia. Killed Iraj of Parsua.

Thanks to the murder of Iraj by Tūr and Salm, the Parsua retaliate under the command of Iraj's grandson, Manuchehr. One of the leading warriors under his command may be Garshāsp (possibly also known as Karšāsp), a figure of the Shahnameh or Shahnama, the Book of Kings and a possible descendant of the mythical Indo-Iranian King Jamshid.

Tūr and Salm cross the Oxus to face Manuchehr's army on the border between Iran and Turan. The ensuing battle results in heavy casualties for the Turanians, and Tūr is afterwards ambushed and beheaded. Salm is later captured and also beheaded.

Map of Central Asia & India c.700 BC
Following the climate-change-induced collapse of indigenous civilisations and cultures in Iran and Central Asia between about 2200-1700 BC, Indo-Iranian groups gradually migrated southwards to form two regions - Tūr (yellow) and Ariana (white), with westward migrants forming the early Parsua kingdom (lime green), and Indo-Aryans entering India (green) (click or tap on map to view full sized)


Grandson. Continued the war against the Parsua.

7th cent BC

Afrāsīāb / Afrasiab

Son. Defeated and died.

The story of Afrasiab's eventual defeat and death comes largely from the Shahnameh (The Book of Kings). He is repeatedly defeated by Kai Khosrow of the Parsua (his own grandson via his daughter, Farangis).

Forced out of his own lands he wanders wretchedly, taking refuge in a cave known as the Hang-e Afrasiab (meaning the 'dying place of Afrasiab'), on a mountain in Azerbaijan.

Ultimately, he is killed by the divine plant of Zoroastrianism, Haoma (the 'soma' of Rig Veda), near the Čīčhast (location uncertain, but proposed as Lake Hamun in Sistan, which contradicts his location in Azerbaijan). He meets his death in the cave.

7th cent BC

Sijavus / Siyavash

Son of Kai Kavoos of Parsua, and son-in-law of Afrasiab.

Sijavus is a legendary prince of the Parsua and the son-in-law of the mythical Afrasiab, the hero and king of Turan. Due to the treachery of his stepmother, Sudabeh, Sijavus exiles himself to Turan (presumably well before the defeat and death of Afrasiab).

There he marries Farangis, Afrasiab's daughter, but the king later orders Sijavus to be killed. His death is avenged by his son, the very same Kai Khosrow mentioned above, who inherits the early Persian throne.

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 - it was also a hub of activity in prehistoric times, providing a home to the Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex, or Oxus Civilisation

7th cent BC


Nephew or grandson of Afrasiab. Ruled Xyōns tribe.

Arǰāsp is an enemy of Kai Garshasp of the Parsua. In later tradition he is represented as a king of Turan and the son of Šavāsp, brother of Afrasiab, or as Afrasiab's grandson, or as his brother. He and Kai Garshasp are at war with one another due to the latter's acceptance of Zoroastrianism.

A first major attack by Arǰāsp leads to him being captured, mutilated, and released by Esfandīār, son of Garshap. A second attack sees Arǰāsp kill Kai Lohrāsp, Garshap's father, before being killed by Esfandīār along with his brothers.

This appears to end the warfare between Turan and the Parsua, with the latter being victorious. Now they are able to begin uniting the various Parsua tribes and expand their footprint in southern Iran.

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).

Iran's Makran Coast
Modern Iran's Makran Coast formed the southern edge of the ancient province of Gedrosia, on what is now the border with south-western Pakistan

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.

The inference is very clear - whatever control of Turan (principally Bactria and Margiana) the Persians had enjoyed following the death of Afrasiab, it has not lasted, or had been somewhat tenuous to begin with, and those lands now have to be conquered properly. They subsequently form part of the Persian empire for the next two hundred years.

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