Ancient Iranian peoples

Ancient Iranian peoples

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Ancient Iranian peoples'
Start a new discussion about 'Ancient Iranian peoples'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
Iranian peoples
Iranian peoples
The Iranian peoples are an Indo-European ethnic-linguistic group, consisting of the speakers of Iranian languages, a major branch of the Indo-European language family, as such forming a branch of Indo-European-speaking peoples...

first appear in Assyria
Assyria
Assyria was a Semitic Akkadian kingdom, extant as a nation state from the mid–23rd century BC to 608 BC centred on the Upper Tigris river, in northern Mesopotamia , that came to rule regional empires a number of times through history. It was named for its original capital, the ancient city of Assur...

n records in the 9th century BCE. In Classical Antiquity
Classical antiquity
Classical antiquity is a broad term for a long period of cultural history centered on the Mediterranean Sea, comprising the interlocking civilizations of ancient Greece and ancient Rome, collectively known as the Greco-Roman world...

 they were found primarily in Scythia
Scythia
In antiquity, Scythian or Scyths were terms used by the Greeks to refer to certain Iranian groups of horse-riding nomadic pastoralists who dwelt on the Pontic-Caspian steppe...

 and Persia (Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is the eastern part of Europe. The term has widely disparate geopolitical, geographical, cultural and socioeconomic readings, which makes it highly context-dependent and even volatile, and there are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region"...

, Central
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

 and Western Asia). They divided into "Western" and "Eastern" branches from an early period, roughly corresponding to the territories of Persia and Scythia, respectively.

During Late Antiquity
Late Antiquity
Late Antiquity is a periodization used by historians to describe the time of transition from Classical Antiquity to the Middle Ages, in both mainland Europe and the Mediterranean world. Precise boundaries for the period are a matter of debate, but noted historian of the period Peter Brown proposed...

, the Iranian populations of Scythia in the Eurasian Steppe
Eurasian Steppe
The Eurasian Steppe is the vast steppe ecoregion of Eurasia in the Temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands Biome. It stretches from Hungary to Mongolia...

 were marginalized and assimilated by Turkic
Turkic peoples
The Turkic peoples are peoples residing in northern, central and western Asia, southern Siberia and northwestern China and parts of eastern Europe. They speak languages belonging to the Turkic language family. They share, to varying degrees, certain cultural traits and historical backgrounds...

 and Slavic
Slavic peoples
The Slavic people are an Indo-European panethnicity living in Eastern Europe, Southeast Europe, North Asia and Central Asia. The term Slavic represents a broad ethno-linguistic group of people, who speak languages belonging to the Slavic language family and share, to varying degrees, certain...

 migrations. The Scythian language was mostly extinct by the 10th century, with the exception of Ossetic
Ossetic language
Ossetian , also sometimes called Ossete, is an East Iranian language spoken in Ossetia, a region on the slopes of the Caucasus Mountains....

 spoken in the northern Caucasus. Various Persian empires flourished throughout Late Antiquity, and fell to the Islamic conquest
Islamic conquest of Persia
The Muslim conquest of Persia led to the end of the Sassanid Empire in 644, the fall of Sassanid dynasty in 651 and the eventual decline of the Zoroastrian religion in Persia...

 in the 7th century.

Origins




The Iranian languages
Iranian languages
The Iranian languages form a subfamily of the Indo-Iranian languages which in turn is a subgroup of Indo-European language family. They have been and are spoken by Iranian peoples....

 form a sub-branch of the Indo-Iranian
Indo-Iranian languages
The Indo-Iranian language group constitutes the easternmost extant branch of the Indo-European family of languages. It consists of three language groups: the Indo-Aryan, Iranian and Nuristani...

 sub-family, which is a branch of the family of Indo-European languages
Indo-European languages
The Indo-European languages are a family of several hundred related languages and dialects, including most major current languages of Europe, the Iranian plateau, and South Asia and also historically predominant in Anatolia...

. Having descended from the Proto-Indo-Iranians, the Proto-Iranians separated from the Indo-Aryans
Indo-Aryans
Indo-Aryan is an ethno-linguistic term referring to the wide collection of peoples united as native speakers of the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-Iranian family of Indo-European languages...

 around in the early 2nd millennium BCE.
The Proto-Iranians are traced to the Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex, a Bronze Age
Bronze Age
The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age...

 culture of Central Asia. The area between northern Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

 and the Aral Sea
Aral Sea
The Aral Sea was a lake that lay between Kazakhstan in the north and Karakalpakstan, an autonomous region of Uzbekistan, in the south...

 is hypothesized to have been the region in which the Proto-Iranians first emerged, following the separation of Indo-Aryan
Indo-Aryans
Indo-Aryan is an ethno-linguistic term referring to the wide collection of peoples united as native speakers of the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-Iranian family of Indo-European languages...

 tribes.

By the 1st millennium BCE, Medes
Medes
The MedesThe Medes...

, Persians
Persian people
The Persian people are part of the Iranian peoples who speak the modern Persian language and closely akin Iranian dialects and languages. The origin of the ethnic Iranian/Persian peoples are traced to the Ancient Iranian peoples, who were part of the ancient Indo-Iranians and themselves part of...

, Bactria
Bactria
Bactria and also appears in the Zend Avesta as Bukhdi. It is the ancient name of a historical region located between south of the Amu Darya and west of the Indus River...

ns and Parthia
Parthia
Parthia is a region of north-eastern Iran, best known for having been the political and cultural base of the Arsacid dynasty, rulers of the Parthian Empire....

ns populated the Iranian plateau
Iranian plateau
The Iranian plateau, or Iranic plateau, is a geological formation in Southwest Asia. It is the part of the Eurasian Plate wedged between the Arabian and Indian plates, situated between the Zagros mountains to the west, the Caspian Sea and the Kopet Dag to the north, the Hormuz Strait and Persian...

, while others such as the Scythians, Sarmatians
Sarmatians
The Iron Age Sarmatians were an Iranian people in Classical Antiquity, flourishing from about the 5th century BC to the 4th century AD....

, Cimmerians
Cimmerians
The Cimmerians or Kimmerians were ancient equestrian nomads of Indo-European origin.According to the Greek historian Herodotus, of the 5th century BC, the Cimmerians inhabited the region north of the Caucasus and the Black Sea during the 8th and 7th centuries BC, in what is now Ukraine and Russia...

 and Alans
Alans
The Alans, or the Alani, occasionally termed Alauni or Halani, were a group of Sarmatian tribes, nomadic pastoralists of the 1st millennium AD who spoke an Eastern Iranian language which derived from Scytho-Sarmatian and which in turn evolved into modern Ossetian.-Name:The various forms of Alan —...

 populated the steppes north of the Black Sea
Black Sea
The Black Sea is bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas and various straits. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean...

 and the Caspian Sea
Caspian Sea
The Caspian Sea is the largest enclosed body of water on Earth by area, variously classed as the world's largest lake or a full-fledged sea. The sea has a surface area of and a volume of...

. The Saka
Saka
The Saka were a Scythian tribe or group of tribes....

 tribes remained mainly in the south-east, eventually spreading as far east as Xinjiang
Xinjiang
Xinjiang is an autonomous region of the People's Republic of China. It is the largest Chinese administrative division and spans over 1.6 million km2...

.

The division of Proto-Iranian into an "Eastern" and a "Western" group is attested in the form of Avestan
Avestan language
Avestan is an East Iranian language known only from its use as the language of Zoroastrian scripture, i.e. the Avesta, from which it derives its name...

 and Old Persian
Old Persian language
The Old Persian language is one of the two directly attested Old Iranian languages . Old Persian appears primarily in the inscriptions, clay tablets, and seals of the Achaemenid era...

, the two oldest known Iranian languages.

List

  • West Iranian
    • Persians
      Persian people
      The Persian people are part of the Iranian peoples who speak the modern Persian language and closely akin Iranian dialects and languages. The origin of the ethnic Iranian/Persian peoples are traced to the Ancient Iranian peoples, who were part of the ancient Indo-Iranians and themselves part of...

    • Medes
      Medes
      The MedesThe Medes...

    • Parthians
      • Pallavas, probably descended from Parthian invaders of South Asia
    • Arians
    • Sagartians (whose name survives in the name of the Zagros Mountains
      Zagros Mountains
      The Zagros Mountains are the largest mountain range in Iran and Iraq. With a total length of 1,500 km , from northwestern Iran, and roughly correlating with Iran's western border, the Zagros range spans the whole length of the western and southwestern Iranian plateau and ends at the Strait of...

      )
    • Corduchi
      Corduene
      Corduene was an ancient region located in northern Mesopotamia and modern day Kurdish inhabited south east Turkey. It was a province of the Greater Armenia. It was referred to by the Greeks as Karduchia and by both the Greeks and Romans as Corduene...

    • Cyrtii (mentioned by Strabo and possible ancestor of Kurds according to Muhammad Dandamayev) (See Carduchi in Encyclopædia Iranica)
    • Caspians
      Caspians
      Caspians is the English version of a Greek ethnonym mentioned twice by Herodotus among the satrapies of Darius and applied by Strabo to the ancient people dwelling along the southern and southwestern shores of the Caspian Sea, in the region which was called Caspiane after them...

    • Cadusii
      Cadusii
      The Cadusii were an ancient Iranian people living in north-western Iran.-Geography:The Cadusii lived in a mountainous district of Media Atropatene on the south-west shores of the Caspian Sea, between the parallels of 39° and 37° North latitude, called for its inhabitants Cadusia...

  • East Iranian
    • Bactrians
      Bactrians
      The Bactrians were the inhabitants of Bactria.Several important trade routes from India and China passed through Bactria and, as early as the Bronze Age, this had allowed the accumulation of vast amounts of wealth by the mostly nomadic population. The first proto-urban civilization in the area...

    • Arachosians
    • Khwarezm
      Khwarezm
      Khwarezm, or Chorasmia, is a large oasis region on the Amu Darya river delta in western Central Asia, which borders to the north the Aral Sea, to the east the Kyzylkum desert, to the south the Karakum desert and to the west the Ustyurt Plateau...

      ians
    • Sogdian
      Sogdiana
      Sogdiana or Sogdia was the ancient civilization of an Iranian people and a province of the Achaemenid Empire, eighteenth in the list on the Behistun Inscription of Darius the Great . Sogdiana is "listed" as the second of the "good lands and countries" that Ahura Mazda created...

      s, possible ancestors of Yaghnobis
      Yaghnobi people
      Yaghnobi people, or Yagnobian people, is the name of an isolated people who live in the Sughd province of Tajikistan in the valleys of the Yagnob, Kul and Varzob rivers. These are the last living relics of the great Sogdian nation that once inhabited most of Central Asia beyond the Oxus/Amu Darya...

    • Dahae
      Dahae
      The Dahae , or Dahaeans were a confederacy of three Ancient Iranian tribes who lived in the region to the immediate east of the Caspian Sea. They spoke an Eastern Iranian language.-Records:...

      s
    • Zarangians
    • Scytho-Sarmatian
      • Sarmatians
        Sarmatians
        The Iron Age Sarmatians were an Iranian people in Classical Antiquity, flourishing from about the 5th century BC to the 4th century AD....

        , including the Rhoxolani
        Rhoxolani
        The Roxolani were a Sarmatian people, who are believed to be an off-shoot of the Alans. Their first recorded homeland lay between the Don and Dnieper rivers; they migrated in the 1st century BC toward the Danube, to what is now the Baragan steppes in Romania.The Greco-Roman historian Strabo ...

        , Iazyges
        Iazyges
        The Iazyges were an ancient nomadic tribe. Known also as Jaxamatae, Ixibatai, Iazygite, Jászok, Ászi, they were a branch of the Sarmatian people who, c. 200 BC, swept westward from central Asia onto the steppes of what is now Ukraine...

        , Siraces
        Siraces
        The Siraces were a hellenized Sarmatian tribe that inhabited Sarmatia Asiatica; the coast of Achardeus at the Black Sea south of the Caucasus mountains, Siracena is mentioned by Tacitus as one of their settlements. They were said to be relatively small nation but with great moral...

        , possible ancestors of Slavs
      • Alans
        Alans
        The Alans, or the Alani, occasionally termed Alauni or Halani, were a group of Sarmatian tribes, nomadic pastoralists of the 1st millennium AD who spoke an Eastern Iranian language which derived from Scytho-Sarmatian and which in turn evolved into modern Ossetian.-Name:The various forms of Alan —...

         (sometimes considered a branch of the Sarmatians), possible ancestors of Ossetians
        Ossetians
        The Ossetians are an Iranic ethnic group of the Caucasus Mountains, eponymous of the region known as Ossetia.They speak Ossetic, an Iranian language of the Eastern branch, with most also fluent in Russian as a second language....

      • Arimaspi
        Arimaspi
        The Arimaspi were a legendary people of northern Scythia who lived in the foothills of the Riphean Mountains, variously identified with the Ural Mountains or the Carpathians...

      • Saka
        Saka
        The Saka were a Scythian tribe or group of tribes....

        , possible ancestors of Pashtuns
      • Parama Kambojas, of the Alay Valley
        Alay Valley
        The Alay Valley is a broad, dry valley running east-west across most of southern Osh Province, Kyrgyzstan. . It is about 180km east-west and about 40km north-south and 2500-3500m in altitude. The north side is the Alay Mountains which slope down to the Ferghana Valley...

         or Alay Mountains
        Alay Mountains
        The Alay or Alai Mountains is a mountain range that extends from the Tien Shan mountain range in Kyrgyzstan west into Tajikistan. It is part of the Pamir-Alay mountain system. The range runs approximately east to west. Its highest summit is Pik Tandykul , 5544 m. The southern slopes of the range...

        , north of Hindukush. In ancient Sanskrit
        Sanskrit
        Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

         texts, their territory was known as Kumudadvipa and it formed the southern tip of the Sakadvipa or Scythia
        Scythia
        In antiquity, Scythian or Scyths were terms used by the Greeks to refer to certain Iranian groups of horse-riding nomadic pastoralists who dwelt on the Pontic-Caspian steppe...

        . In classical literature, this people are known as Komedes
        Komedes
        Komedes is an ethnonym recorded by Ptolemy. Ptolemy notes that the Komedes inhabited "the entire mountainous land of the Sakas", placing them in eastern Scythia .-Kumud-dvipa:...

        . Indian epic Mahabharata
        Mahabharata
        The Mahabharata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India and Nepal, the other being the Ramayana. The epic is part of itihasa....

         designates them as Parama Kambojas
      • Parni
        Parni
        The Parni or Aparni were an east Iranian people of the Ochus River valley, southeast of the Caspian Sea...

      • Massagetae
        Massagetae
        The Massageteans or Massagetaeans were an Iranian nomadic confederation in antiquity known primarily from the writings of Herodotus. Their name was probably akin to Thyssagetae.-Name:...

    • Kambojas
      Kambojas
      The Kambojas were a kshatriya tribe of Iron Age India, frequently mentioned in Sanskrit and Pali literature.They were an Indo-Iranian tribe situated at the boundary of the Indo-Aryans and the Iranians, and appear to have moved from the Iranian into the Indo-Aryan sphere over time.The Kambojas...

       (an Avestan
      Avestan language
      Avestan is an East Iranian language known only from its use as the language of Zoroastrian scripture, i.e. the Avesta, from which it derives its name...

       speaking group of East Iranians living in what is now Afghanistan)
      • Ashvakas
        Ashvakas
        The Aśvakas or Aśvakayanas, classically called the Assacenii/Assacani , is the Sanskrit name of a people who supposedly lived in northeastern Afghanistan and the Peshawar Valley. They are/were believed to be a sub-group of the Greater Kamboja tribe profusely referenced in ancient Sanskrit/Pali...

        : Scholars link the historical Afghans (modern Pashtuns) to the Ashvakas (the Ashvakayanas and Ashvayanas of Pāṇini or the Assakenoi and Aspasio of Arrian
        Arrian
        Lucius Flavius Arrianus 'Xenophon , known in English as Arrian , and Arrian of Nicomedia, was a Roman historian, public servant, a military commander and a philosopher of the 2nd-century Roman period...

        ). The name Afghan is said to have derived from the Ashvakan of Sanskrit
        Sanskrit
        Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

         texts. Ashvakas are identified as a branch of the Kambojas


Possible Ancient Iranian peoples whose designation is uncertain
  • Cimmerians
    Cimmerians
    The Cimmerians or Kimmerians were ancient equestrian nomads of Indo-European origin.According to the Greek historian Herodotus, of the 5th century BC, the Cimmerians inhabited the region north of the Caucasus and the Black Sea during the 8th and 7th centuries BC, in what is now Ukraine and Russia...

     (ethnicity as Iranians specifically unknown)
  • Sigynnae
    Sigynnae
    The Sigynnae were an obscure people of antiquity. They are variously located by ancient authors.According to Herodotus , they dwelt beyond the Danube, and their frontiers extended almost as far as the Eneti on the Adriatic. Their horses were small and flat-nosed with shaggy long hair, five fingers...

     (uncertain, known only by obscure reports)
  • Xionites
    Xionites
    Xionites, Chionites, Chionitae, , Hunni Xionites, Chionites, Chionitae, (Middle Persian: Xiyon, Avestan: Xiiaona, Sogdian:xwn), Hunni Xionites, Chionites, Chionitae, (Middle Persian: Xiyon, Avestan: Xiiaona, Sogdian:xwn), Hunni (Pahlavi:Huna, Yun or Xūn (獯), were a nomadic tribe prominent in...

     (uncertain, known only by obscure reports)
  • Hephthalites (uncertain, but highly probable)
  • Bulgars
    Bulgars
    The Bulgars were a semi-nomadic who flourished in the Pontic Steppe and the Volga basin in the 7th century.The Bulgars emerge after the collapse of the Hunnic Empire in the 5th century....

      (due to many Iranic elements, it is probable)

See also

  • Iranian peoples
    Iranian peoples
    The Iranian peoples are an Indo-European ethnic-linguistic group, consisting of the speakers of Iranian languages, a major branch of the Indo-European language family, as such forming a branch of Indo-European-speaking peoples...

  • Iranian languages
    Iranian languages
    The Iranian languages form a subfamily of the Indo-Iranian languages which in turn is a subgroup of Indo-European language family. They have been and are spoken by Iranian peoples....

  • Demographics of Iran
    Demographics of Iran
    Iran's population increased dramatically during the later half of the 20th century, reaching about 75 million by 2011. In recent years, however, Iran's birth rate has dropped significantly. Studies project that Iran's rate of population growth will continue to slow until it stabilizes above 100...

  • Demographics of Afghanistan
    Demographics of Afghanistan
    The population of Afghanistan is around 29,835,392 as of the year 2011, which is unclear if the refugees living outside the country are included or not. The nation is composed of a multi-ethnic and multi-lingual society, reflecting its location astride historic trade and invasion routes between...

  • Demographics of Tajikistan
    Demographics of Tajikistan
    The Demographics of Tajikistan is about the demographic features of the population of Tajikistan, including population growth, population density, ethnicity, education level, health, economic status, religious affiliations, and other aspects of the population....

  • K.N.Sitaram
  • Irani (India)
  • Parsi
    Parsi
    Parsi or Parsee refers to a member of the larger of the two Zoroastrian communities in South Asia, the other being the Irani community....


Literature

  • H. Bailey, "ARYA: Philology of ethnic epithet of Iranian people", in Encyclopædia Iranica
    Encyclopædia Iranica
    Encyclopædia Iranica is a project whose goal is to create a comprehensive and authoritative English language encyclopedia about the history, culture, and civilization of Iranian peoples from prehistory to modern times...

    , v, pp. 681–683, Online-Edition, Link
  • A. Shapur Shahbazi, "Iraj: the eponymous hero of the Iranians in their traditional history" in Encyclopædia Iranica
    Encyclopædia Iranica
    Encyclopædia Iranica is a project whose goal is to create a comprehensive and authoritative English language encyclopedia about the history, culture, and civilization of Iranian peoples from prehistory to modern times...

    , Online-Edition, Link
  • R. Curzon, "The Iranian Peoples of the Caucasus", ISBN 0-7007-0649-6
  • Jahanshah Derakhshani, "Die Arier in den nahöstlichen Quellen des 3. und 2. Jahrtausends v. Chr.", 2nd edition, 1999, ISBN 964-90368-6-5
  • Richard Frye, "Persia", Zurich, 1963