Ancient Samarkand

The ancient part of Samarkand, with the area of more than 200 hectares, is situated on a vast hilly plate, named after legendary Turanian king Afrasiab. It was protected by river canal in the north and east and deep ravines in the south. A town settlement arose here in the 8th–early 7th centuries B.C. So Samarkand has a 2750 years history substantiated by archeology and is a coeval of ancient Rome. The ancient citadel of Samarkand which dominates Afrasiab hills was probably that very sacred fortress Kangdiz. According to the Book of Kings “Shah-name” and ancient Iranian tales it was built by the legendary Siyavush. The Persian chronicles say that in Samarkand the son of Siyavush king Kay-Hosrov created a miraculous fire alter and built a holy temple around it. Later the founder of Zoroastrianism, Zaratushtra, handed there his 1200 chapters of a holy book of “Avesta” written down on gold plates.

In the time of the Achaemenids the town became the capital of Sogdiana. It was encircled with a massive wall which had inside a corridor and towers. In the ancient chronicles the town was mentioned as Marakanda, destroyed by Alexander the Great. Zoroastrianists blamed Alexander for ruining the ancient temples and holy books. Samarkand rose again in the 4th-8th centuries when the Great Silk Road became an important trade route. The Chinese chronicles of the 1st millennium call Samarkand “The Kang Kingdom”, which was the strongest princedom in Sogd. In the 5th-7th centuries Samarkand recognized the supremacy of Hephthalites and Turks, in the 7th-8th centuries it was under the Chinese Tang dynasty. Four lines of new walls were built around Samarkand in that period. There were built Zoroastrian, Buddhist and Christian temples. The wall paintings in the royal palace are still safe. In the 8th century Arabian troops headed by Quteiba conquered Samarkand.

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© Marakanda Expedition, 2017 .