Afrasiab (city)

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Coordinates: 39 ° 40 ′ 17 ″  N , 66 ° 59 ′ 15 ″  E

Map: Uzbekistan
Afrasiab (city)

Afrasiab ( Uzbek Afrosiyob , from Persian افراسياب, DMG Afrāsiyāb ) was a city in Central Asia and the precursor of the city of Samarqand in Uzbekistan . Your tell is located in the northeast of the historical center of Samarkand. It consists of a citadel and the actual fortified city ( Schahrestan ). Tell is about 220 hectares in size and triangular in shape. It has four construction phases. The city had a system of right-angled paved streets and corresponding apartment blocks. Mosques and workshops have also been excavated.

In 2001, Afrasiab was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List as part of the Samarkand World Heritage Site - the intersection of cultures .


The name Afrāsiāb ( Persian افراسياب) Is popular with the name of the legendary king of Turan linked, but scientists see the name as a corruption of the Tajik word Parsīāb at ( Sogdian Paršvāb ), which means "Above the black river" - the river Sīāh-Āb , "Black River “flows north of the city.


Afrasiab was founded around 750 BC. Founded in the fertile plain of Serafshan as an oasis city and was the capital of the province of Sogdia in the Achaemenid Empire . At that time it was already surrounded by a high wall with gates. The city became prosperous through trade with the northern and eastern regions; the ancient Silk Road ran through Samarqand and the technology and cultural exchange that took place on this trade route contributed significantly to the prosperity of the city in antiquity.

In the summer of 329 BC The city, which in ancient Greece was known as Marakanda ( Greek : Μαράκανδα), was conquered by Alexander the Great . During the laborious overthrow of the Sogdian-Bactrian uprising led by Spitamenes , Marakanda Alexander served as the base of operations for two years. While the Macedonian king moved from Jaxartes against the rebellious Sogder , Spitamenes succeeded in the autumn of 329 BC. The capture of Marakandas. Thereupon Alexander sent an army detachment commanded by Pharnuches against Spitamenes . Before these troops, Spitamenes withdrew from Marakanda to the east and inflicted a crushing defeat on Pharnuches, who pursued him, on the Serafshan River. Alexander set out for Marakanda himself after a successful fight against the Saks on the Jaxartes and reached it after three days, but Spitamenes, who had reoccupied the city, withdrew again to the east. After wintering in Bactra , Alexander marched in early 328 BC. BC to Sogdia with five independent army groups that reunited in Marakanda. It came here in the summer of 328 BC. At a feast for the quarrel between the king and Kleitus , whom Alexander stabbed to death. Ultimately, Alexander was able to suppress the Sogder uprising.

After the death of Alexander in 323 BC Afrasiab-Marakanda fell to the Seleucid Empire and later to the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom . After its fall at the end of the 2nd century BC It became part of the Kushan Empire, which was conquered by the Sassanids in the early 3rd century AD .

Around the middle of the 6th century, the western Turkish Khan took possession of Afrasiab. In the early 7th century Sogdia and with it Afrasiab came increasingly under Chinese influence. After 670 the Chinese lost Central Asia to the Tibetans. Sogdia fell to the Umayyads in the early 8th century . Afrasiab itself was conquered in 712, with the Arabs confirming the city lord Ghurak in office; but in 731 he was supposed to turn against the Arabs. The wall paintings in the palace of Afrasiab, which show the reception of ambassadors from China and Korea , also date from this period . A revolt against the Arabs in 722 failed (see also Dēwāštič ).

In the Sogdian period the palace of the Ichschid ruler of Samarkand was located in Afrasiab . Since the 9th century, a factory has been producing white ceramics with abstract and floral underglaze paintings , which, among other things, influenced Byzantine ceramics production , probably because of the declining export of porcelain from China . The community grew rich and powerful through control of the Silk Road .

Before the Mongol conquest of Central Asia, Afrasiab was part of the empire of the Khorezm Shah . After Bukhara fell in 1220, Genghis Khan attacked Samarkand. The Turkmen garrison defected to the Mongols, but they let them down. After five days of stubborn resistance, Afrasiab fell and was completely destroyed, leaving no building from before the Mongol invasion. The city was not rebuilt until the 14th century, but not at the old location, but about 1 km southwest of the old settlement hill . On the south-eastern slope of the valley, Shohizinda was built as a burial city in the Timurid period.


Excavation site (2012)

Shortly after the Russian conquest of Central Asia , excavations took place here, including by Lieutenant Colonel Krestovskij in 1833 and Major Borzenkov in 1874. Mainly narrow search trenches were dug and so buildings were uncovered, but the stratigraphy and building history could not be clarified. After the military, the archaeologist NI Veselovskij took over the excavations, V. L. Vjatkin worked here from the beginning of the 20th century, then I. A. Terenoschkin. A French-Uzbek expedition led by F. Grenet and M. Ch. Isamiddinov has been digging in Afrasiab for 13 years.

The Afrasiab II and III layers date from the Graeco-Bactrian period. The city was already a center of ceramic production. In Afrasiab III a very fine product with a red coating and red glaze was produced. Fired bricks are used for the first time in the buildings. Even in the time of the Kushan Empire, Afrasiab was an important settlement.


Extensive wall paintings seem to be typical of Sogdian palaces. In addition to Afrasiab, they were also found in Pendschikent , Bundschikat (near Shahriston ), small remains in Tschilchudschra and in the Palace of Warachscha (west of Bukhara ).

In Afrasiab, wall paintings were found in a room measuring 10 × 10 m² in a palace in the southern part of the city. Sogdian inscriptions provide information about the identity of the sitter and thus provide important information about the national costumes of the time. On the south wall of the reception of is Hun messengers led by Bur-Satak from Tschangian shown at the court. One of them is an ambassador from Korea . On the east wall, spear-armored riders hunting tigers are depicted in Sogdian style against a blue background, while the north wall shows Chinese style.

Terracotta figures

Various terracotta figures have been excavated in Afrasiab . These include a helmeted Athena , Arethusa-style terracottas , Sogdian and Turkish riders, boys and girls with royal headgear, demonic creatures and an armed Sogdian paladin .


According to the Zoroastrian tradition, bones were kept in decorated ossuary .


The Samarkand Museum was founded in 1896. It contains finds from Afrasiab from 4th to 13th centuries. Century

Literary mentions

Afrasiab is known from a poem by the Persian Saadi (1210-1292) from the time after the Mongolian destruction of the city: "The spider weaves the curtains in the palace of the Caesars, the owl calls out the hour from Afrasiab's towers." These lines about the Mehmed II. Fatih is said to have quoted the impermanence of worldly power after the conquest of Constantinople in 1453 when visiting the ruins of the Great Palace .


  • Aleksandr Belenickij: Central Asia. Geneva 1968.
  • Burchard Brentjes : Central Asia. Koehler and Amelang, Leipzig 1977.
  • Boris Maršak: The program iconographique des peintures de la “Salle des ambassadeurs” à Afrasiab (Samarkand) . In: Arts Asiatiques 49, 1994, pp. 5-20.
  • Markus Mode: Sogdia and the rulers of the world. Turks, Sasanids and Chinese in history paintings of the 7th century AD from Old Samarqand. Frankfurt / M. 1993.
  • C. Silvi Antonini: The paintings in the palace of Afrasiab (Samarkand) . In: Rivista degli Studi Orientali , 63, 1989, pp. 109-144.
  • Hans Wilhelm Haussig : The silk road in Islamic times. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1988.
  • Boris J. Stawinski: The peoples of Central Asia. Bonn 1982.

Web links

Commons : Afrasiab  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. GA Pugachenkova /È.V. Rtveladze, AFRĀSĪĀB , in Encyclopædia Iranica , 2009 - The name is popularly connected with that of the epic king of Tūrān, Afrāsīāb, but scholars see in it a distortion of Tajik Parsīāb (Sogdian Paršvāb), “Above the black river,” ie, the Sīāhāb or Sīāb, which bounds the site on the north.
  2. ^ Detlev Quintern: Cosmopolitism, Scientific Discoveries, and Technological Inventions along the Ancient Silk Road. The Role of Samarkand and Bukhara , in: Hans-Heinrich Bass and Hans-Martin Niemeier (eds.), Institute for Transport and Development, Annual Report 2011/2012 , Bremen: Hochschule Bremen, pp. 94–99 (PDF; 4, 6 MB)
  3. Arrian , Anabasis 3, 30, 6; Quintus Curtius Rufus , Historia Alexandri Magni 7, 6, 10; Strabon , Geographika 11, p. 517 f.
  4. See Siegfried Lauffer : Alexander der Große , 3rd edition 1993, ISBN 3-423-04298-2 , p. 125 ff.
  5. Arrian, Anabasis 4, 3, 7; Quintus Curtius Rufus, Historia Alexandri Magni 7, 6, 24.
  6. Arrian, Anabasis 4, 5, 4-9 (probably after Ptolemy ) and 4, 6, 1-2 (after Aristobulus ); Quintus Curtius Rufus, Historia Alexandri Magni 7, 7, 31-39.
  7. Arrian, Anabasis 4, 6, 3-4; Quintus Curtius Rufus, Historia Alexandri Magni 7, 9, 20-21.
  8. Arrian, Anabasis 4, 16, 2-3; Quintus Curtius Rufus, Historia Alexandri Magni 8, 1, 1.
  9. Arrian, Anabasis 4, 8, 1-4, 9, 9; Quintus Curtius Rufus, Historia Alexandri Magni 8, 1, 19-8, 2, 12; Plutarch , Alexander 50, 1-52, 6; among others
  10. a b G.A. Pugachenkova / È.V. Rtveladze, AFRĀSĪĀB , in Encyclopædia Iranica , 2009 - Terracottas attain exceptional variety; there are statuettes of Sogdian and Turk horsemen, youths and young girls in royal headdress with symbolic ornaments, demonic creatures, and a Sogdian paladin accoutered and armed.