Sogdiana

Sogdiana

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Sogdiana or Sogdia ' onMouseout='HidePop("12377")' href="http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Ancient_Greek">Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c.
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Sogdiana

Sogdiana, ca. 300 BC.
Language
Language
Language may refer either to the specifically human capacity for acquiring and using complex systems of communication, or to a specific instance of such a system of complex communication...

s
Sogdian language
Sogdian language
The Sogdian language is a Middle Iranian language that was spoken in Sogdiana , located in modern day Uzbekistan and Tajikistan ....

Religions Zoroastrianism
Zoroastrianism
Zoroastrianism is a religion and philosophy based on the teachings of prophet Zoroaster and was formerly among the world's largest religions. It was probably founded some time before the 6th century BCE in Greater Iran.In Zoroastrianism, the Creator Ahura Mazda is all good, and no evil...

, Manicheism, Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

Capitals Samarkand
Samarkand
Although a Persian-speaking region, it was not united politically with Iran most of the times between the disintegration of the Seleucid Empire and the Arab conquest . In the 6th century it was within the domain of the Turkic kingdom of the Göktürks.At the start of the 8th century Samarkand came...

, Bukhara
Bukhara
Bukhara , from the Soghdian βuxārak , is the capital of the Bukhara Province of Uzbekistan. The nation's fifth-largest city, it has a population of 263,400 . The region around Bukhara has been inhabited for at least five millennia, and the city has existed for half that time...

, Khujand
Khujand
Khujand , also transliterated as Khudzhand, , formerly Khodjend or Khodzhent until 1936 and Leninabad until 1991, is the second-largest city of Tajikistan. It is situated on the Syr Darya River at the mouth of the Fergana Valley...

, Kesh
Shahrisabz
Shakhrisabz , is a city in Uzbekistan located approximately 80 km south of Samarkand with the population of 53,000 . It is located at the altitude of 622 m. Once a major city of Central Asia, it is primarily known today as the birthplace of 14th century Turco-Mongol conqueror Timur...

Area
Area
Area is a quantity that expresses the extent of a two-dimensional surface or shape in the plane. Area can be understood as the amount of material with a given thickness that would be necessary to fashion a model of the shape, or the amount of paint necessary to cover the surface with a single coat...

Between the Amu Darya
Amu Darya
The Amu Darya , also called Oxus and Amu River, is a major river in Central Asia. It is formed by the junction of the Vakhsh and Panj rivers...

 and the Syr Darya
Syr Darya
The Syr Darya , also transliterated Syrdarya or Sirdaryo, is a river in Central Asia, sometimes known as the Jaxartes or Yaxartes from its Ancient Greek name . The Greek name is derived from Old Persian, Yakhsha Arta , a reference to the color of the river's water...

Existed


Sogdiana or Sogdia ' onMouseout='HidePop("12377")' href="http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Ancient_Greek">Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

 , Sogdianē; Soġd; Suġd; ; Sùtè) was the ancient civilization of an Iranian people
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...

 and a province of the Achaemenid Empire
Achaemenid Empire
The Achaemenid Empire , sometimes known as First Persian Empire and/or Persian Empire, was founded in the 6th century BCE by Cyrus the Great who overthrew the Median confederation...

, eighteenth in the list on the Behistun Inscription
Behistun Inscription
The Behistun Inscription The Behistun Inscription The Behistun Inscription (also Bistun or Bisutun, Modern Persian: بیستون The Behistun Inscription (also Bistun or Bisutun, Modern Persian: بیستون...

 of Darius the Great (i. 16). Sogdiana is "listed" as the second of the "good lands and countries" that Ahura Mazda
Ahura Mazda
Ahura Mazdā is the Avestan name for a divinity of the Old Iranian religion who was proclaimed the uncreated God by Zoroaster, the founder of Zoroastrianism...

 created. This region is listed second after Airyana Vaeja, Land of the Aryans, in the Zoroastrian
Zoroastrianism
Zoroastrianism is a religion and philosophy based on the teachings of prophet Zoroaster and was formerly among the world's largest religions. It was probably founded some time before the 6th century BCE in Greater Iran.In Zoroastrianism, the Creator Ahura Mazda is all good, and no evil...

 book of Vendidad or "Videvdat", indicating the importance of this region from ancient times. Sogdiana, at different times, included territories around Samarkand
Samarkand
Although a Persian-speaking region, it was not united politically with Iran most of the times between the disintegration of the Seleucid Empire and the Arab conquest . In the 6th century it was within the domain of the Turkic kingdom of the Göktürks.At the start of the 8th century Samarkand came...

, Bukhara
Bukhara
Bukhara , from the Soghdian βuxārak , is the capital of the Bukhara Province of Uzbekistan. The nation's fifth-largest city, it has a population of 263,400 . The region around Bukhara has been inhabited for at least five millennia, and the city has existed for half that time...

, Khujand
Khujand
Khujand , also transliterated as Khudzhand, , formerly Khodjend or Khodzhent until 1936 and Leninabad until 1991, is the second-largest city of Tajikistan. It is situated on the Syr Darya River at the mouth of the Fergana Valley...

 and Shahrisabz
Shahrisabz
Shakhrisabz , is a city in Uzbekistan located approximately 80 km south of Samarkand with the population of 53,000 . It is located at the altitude of 622 m. Once a major city of Central Asia, it is primarily known today as the birthplace of 14th century Turco-Mongol conqueror Timur...

 in modern Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan , officially the Republic of Uzbekistan is a doubly landlocked country in Central Asia and one of the six independent Turkic states. It shares borders with Kazakhstan to the west and to the north, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to the east, and Afghanistan and Turkmenistan to the south....

. The inhabitants of Sogdiana were the Sogdians, an Eastern Iranian people who are among the ancestors of modern-day Tajik, Pashun
Pashtun people
Pashtuns or Pathans , also known as ethnic Afghans , are an Eastern Iranic ethnic group with populations primarily between the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan and the Indus River in Pakistan...

 and Yaghnobi people
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...

s.

The Sogdian states, although never politically united, were centered around the main city of Samarkand
Samarkand
Although a Persian-speaking region, it was not united politically with Iran most of the times between the disintegration of the Seleucid Empire and the Arab conquest . In the 6th century it was within the domain of the Turkic kingdom of the Göktürks.At the start of the 8th century Samarkand came...

. Sogdiana lay north 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...

, east of 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...

, and southeast of Kangju
Kangju
Kangju was the name of an ancient people and kingdom in Central Asia. It was a nomadic federation of unknown ethnic and linguistic origin which became for a couple of centuries the second greatest power in Transoxiana after the Yuezhi....

 between the Oxus (Amu Darya
Amu Darya
The Amu Darya , also called Oxus and Amu River, is a major river in Central Asia. It is formed by the junction of the Vakhsh and Panj rivers...

) and the Jaxartes (Syr Darya
Syr Darya
The Syr Darya , also transliterated Syrdarya or Sirdaryo, is a river in Central Asia, sometimes known as the Jaxartes or Yaxartes from its Ancient Greek name . The Greek name is derived from Old Persian, Yakhsha Arta , a reference to the color of the river's water...

), embracing the fertile valley of the Zeravshan (ancient Polytimetus). Sogdian territory corresponds to the modern provinces of Samarkand and Bokhara in modern Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan , officially the Republic of Uzbekistan is a doubly landlocked country in Central Asia and one of the six independent Turkic states. It shares borders with Kazakhstan to the west and to the north, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to the east, and Afghanistan and Turkmenistan to the south....

 as well as the Sughd
Sughd
Sughd Province is one of the four administrative divisions and one of the three provinces that make up Tajikistan. Centered in the historical Sogdiana, it is located in the northwest of the country, with an area of some 25,400 square kilometers and a population of 2,132,100 , up from 1,870,000...

 province of modern Tajikistan
Tajikistan
Tajikistan , officially the Republic of Tajikistan , is a mountainous landlocked country in Central Asia. Afghanistan borders it to the south, Uzbekistan to the west, Kyrgyzstan to the north, and China to the east....

.

History



Hellenistic period


An independent and warlike Sogdiana formed a border region insulating the Achaemenid Persians from the nomadic Scythians to the north and east. The Sogdian Rock
Sogdian Rock
Sogdian Rock or Rock of Ariamazes, a fortress located north of Bactria in Sogdiana , was captured by the forces of Alexander the Great in 327 BC as part of his conquest of the Achaemenid Empire.-Background:...

 or Rock of Ariamazes, a fortress in Sogdiana, was captured in 327 BC by the forces of Alexander the Great; after an extended campaign putting down Sogdian resistance and founding military outposts manned by his Macedonian veterans, Alexander united Sogdiana with 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...

 into one satrap
Satrap
Satrap was the name given to the governors of the provinces of the ancient Median and Achaemenid Empires and in several of their successors, such as the Sassanid Empire and the Hellenistic empires....

y. The military power of the Sogdians never recovered. Subsequently Sogdiana formed part of the Hellenistic
Hellenistic civilization
Hellenistic civilization represents the zenith of Greek influence in the ancient world from 323 BCE to about 146 BCE...

 Greco-Bactrian Kingdom
Greco-Bactrian Kingdom
The Greco-Bactrian Kingdom was the easternmost part of the Hellenistic world, covering Bactria and Sogdiana in Central Asia from 250 to 125 BC...

, founded in 248 BC by Diodotus
Diodotus I
Diodotus I Soter was Seleucid satrap of Bactria, rebelled against Seleucid rule soon after the death of Antiochus II in c. 255 or 246 BC, and wrested independence for his territory. He died in 239 BC....

, for about a century. Euthydemus I
Euthydemus I
Euthydemus I , Greco-Bactrian king in about 230 or 223 BCE according to Polybius., he is thought to have originally been a Satrap of Sogdiana, who overturned the dynasty of Diodotus of Bactria and became a Greco-Bactrian king. Strabo, on the other hand, correlates his accession with internal...

 seems to have held the Sogdian territory, and his coins were later copied locally. Eucratides
Eucratides I
Eucratides I Megas was one of the most important Greco-Bactrian kings, descendants of dignitaries of Alexander the Great. He uprooted the Euthydemid dynasty of Greco-Bactrian kings and replaced it with his own lineage...

 apparently recovered sovereignty of Sogdia temporarily. Finally the area was occupied by nomad
Nomad
Nomadic people , commonly known as itinerants in modern-day contexts, are communities of people who move from one place to another, rather than settling permanently in one location. There are an estimated 30-40 million nomads in the world. Many cultures have traditionally been nomadic, but...

s when the 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...

ns and Yuezhi
Yuezhi
The Yuezhi, or Rouzhi , also known as the Da Yuezhi or Da Rouzhi , were an ancient Central Asian people....

s overran it around 150 BC.

Battle of Sogdiana



In 36 BC
This interpretation has been disputed.

Silk Road contacts with China



The Sogdians turned their energies to trade so thoroughly that the Saka
Saka
The Saka were a Scythian tribe or group of tribes....

 of the Kingdom of Khotan
Kingdom of Khotan
The Kingdom of Khotan was an ancient Buddhist kingdom that was located on the branch of the Silk Road that ran along the southern edge of the Taklamakan Desert in the Tarim basin. -Early names:-Capital:...

 called all merchants suli "Sogdian" whatever their culture or ethnicity; Sogdian contacts with China were initiated by the embassy of the Chinese explorer Zhang Qian
Zhang Qian
Zhang Qian was an imperial envoy to the world outside of China in the 2nd century BCE, during the time of the Han Dynasty...

 during the reign of Wudi
Emperor Wu of Han
Emperor Wu of Han , , personal name Liu Che , was the seventh emperor of the Han Dynasty of China, ruling from 141 BC to 87 BC. Emperor Wu is best remembered for the vast territorial expansion that occurred under his reign, as well as the strong and centralized Confucian state he organized...

 in the former Han Dynasty
Han Dynasty
The Han Dynasty was the second imperial dynasty of China, preceded by the Qin Dynasty and succeeded by the Three Kingdoms . It was founded by the rebel leader Liu Bang, known posthumously as Emperor Gaozu of Han. It was briefly interrupted by the Xin Dynasty of the former regent Wang Mang...

, 141–87 BC. He wrote a report of his visit to the "Western Regions" in Central Asia, and named an area of Sogdiana, "Kangju
Kangju
Kangju was the name of an ancient people and kingdom in Central Asia. It was a nomadic federation of unknown ethnic and linguistic origin which became for a couple of centuries the second greatest power in Transoxiana after the Yuezhi....

".

Following Zhang Qian's embassy and report, commercial Chinese relations with Central Asia and Sogdiana flourished, as many Chinese missions were sent throughout the 1st century BC: "The largest of these embassies to foreign states numbered several hundred persons, while even the smaller parties included over 100 members... In the course of one year anywhere from five to six to over ten parties would be sent out."

Sogdians played a major role in facilitating trade between China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 and Central Asia
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...

 along the Silk Road
Silk Road
The Silk Road or Silk Route refers to a historical network of interlinking trade routes across the Afro-Eurasian landmass that connected East, South, and Western Asia with the Mediterranean and European world, as well as parts of North and East Africa...

s as late as the 10th century AD; their language became a lingua franca
Lingua franca
A lingua franca is a language systematically used to make communication possible between people not sharing a mother tongue, in particular when it is a third language, distinct from both mother tongues.-Characteristics:"Lingua franca" is a functionally defined term, independent of the linguistic...

of trade, and in the 7th century the Buddhist pilgrim Xuanzang
Xuanzang
Xuanzang was a famous Chinese Buddhist monk, scholar, traveler, and translator who described the interaction between China and India in the early Tang period...

 noted with approval that little boys were taught to read and write at the age of five, though their skill was turned to trade, disappointing the scholarly Xuanzang. Xuanzang also recorded the Sogdians working in other capacities, as farmers, carpetweavers, glassmakers and woodcarvers.

Central Asian role



Subsequent to their domination by Alexander, the Sogdians from the city of Marakanda (Samarkand
Samarkand
Although a Persian-speaking region, it was not united politically with Iran most of the times between the disintegration of the Seleucid Empire and the Arab conquest . In the 6th century it was within the domain of the Turkic kingdom of the Göktürks.At the start of the 8th century Samarkand came...

) became dominant as traveling merchants, occupying a key position along the ancient Silk Road
Silk Road
The Silk Road or Silk Route refers to a historical network of interlinking trade routes across the Afro-Eurasian landmass that connected East, South, and Western Asia with the Mediterranean and European world, as well as parts of North and East Africa...

. Their language became the common language of the Silk Route and they played a role in the cultural movements of philosophies and religion, such as Manicheism, Zoroastrianism
Zoroastrianism
Zoroastrianism is a religion and philosophy based on the teachings of prophet Zoroaster and was formerly among the world's largest religions. It was probably founded some time before the 6th century BCE in Greater Iran.In Zoroastrianism, the Creator Ahura Mazda is all good, and no evil...

, and Buddhism
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

 into the east as well as the movement of items of trade. They were described by the Chinese as born merchants, learning their commercial skills at an early age. It appears from sources, such a documents found by Sir Aurel Stein and others, that by the 4th century AD they may have monopolized trade between India and China. They dominated trade along the Silk Route from the 2nd century BC until the 10th century AD

Suyab
Suyab
Suyab was an ancient Silk Road city located some 50 km east from Bishkek, and 8 km west southwest from Tokmok, in the Chui River valley, present-day Kyrgyzstan.- History :...

 and Talas
Taraz
Taraz , is a city and a center of the Jambyl Province in Kazakhstan. It is located in the south of Kazakhstan, near the border with Kyrgyzstan, on the Talas River...

 were the main Sogdian centers in the north and these cities dominated the caravan routes of Central Asia. Their commercial interests were protected by the resurgent military power of the Göktürks
Göktürks
The Göktürks or Kök Türks, were a nomadic confederation of peoples in medieval Inner Asia. Known in Chinese sources as 突厥 , the Göktürks under the leadership of Bumin Qaghan The Göktürks or Kök Türks, (Old Turkic: Türük or Kök Türük or Türük; Celestial Turks) were a nomadic confederation of...

, whose empire has been described as "the joint enterprise of the Ashina
Ashina
Ashina was a tribe and the ruling dynasty of the ancient Turks who rose to prominence in the mid-6th century when their leader, Bumin Khan, revolted against the Rouran...

 clan and the Soghdians". Sogdian trade, with some interruptions, continued into the 9th century. In the 10th century Sogdiana was incorporated into the Uighur Empire, which until 840 encompassed northern Central Asia. This khaganate
Khagan
Khagan or qagan , alternatively spelled kagan, khaghan, qaghan, or chagan, is a title of imperial rank in the Mongolian and Turkic languages equal to the status of emperor and someone who rules a khaganate...

 obtained from China enormous deliveries of silk in exchange for horses. Also at this time caravans of Sogdians traveling to Upper Mongolia are mentioned in Chinese sources.

Trade goods brought to China included grape
Grape
A grape is a non-climacteric fruit, specifically a berry, that grows on the perennial and deciduous woody vines of the genus Vitis. Grapes can be eaten raw or they can be used for making jam, juice, jelly, vinegar, wine, grape seed extracts, raisins, molasses and grape seed oil. Grapes are also...

s, alfalfa
Alfalfa
Alfalfa is a flowering plant in the pea family Fabaceae cultivated as an important forage crop in the US, Canada, Argentina, France, Australia, the Middle East, South Africa, and many other countries. It is known as lucerne in the UK, France, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand, and known as...

, and Sassanian silverware
Sassanid Empire
The Sassanid Empire , known to its inhabitants as Ērānshahr and Ērān in Middle Persian and resulting in the New Persian terms Iranshahr and Iran , was the last pre-Islamic Persian Empire, ruled by the Sasanian Dynasty from 224 to 651...

, as well as glass containers, Mediterranean coral, brass Buddhist images, Roman wool cloth and Baltic
Baltic states
The term Baltic states refers to the Baltic territories which gained independence from the Russian Empire in the wake of World War I: primarily the contiguous trio of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania ; Finland also fell within the scope of the term after initially gaining independence in the 1920s.The...

 amber. These were exchanged for Chinese paper, copper and silk.

Sogdiana played an important role in the religious and cultural development of central Asia.

Muslim geographers of the 10th century draw upon Sogdian records dating to 750–840. However, after the end of the Uighur Empire, Sogdian trade underwent a crisis. What followed from Muslim Central Asia was the Samanids, who resumed trade on the northwestern road leading to the Khazars and the Urals and the northeastern one toward the nearby Turkic tribes.

Turpan under Tang dynasty
Tang Dynasty
The Tang Dynasty was an imperial dynasty of China preceded by the Sui Dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. It was founded by the Li family, who seized power during the decline and collapse of the Sui Empire...

 rule was a center of major commercial activity between Chinese and Sogdian
Sogdian
Sogdian may refer to* anything pertaining to Sogdiana, an ancient civilization of Iranian peoplesand in particular to* the Sogdian language* or the Sogdian people...

 merchants. Mazdaism was the official religion practiced by the Sogdians.
There were many inns in Turpan. Some provided sex workers with an opportunity to service the Silk Road
Silk Road
The Silk Road or Silk Route refers to a historical network of interlinking trade routes across the Afro-Eurasian landmass that connected East, South, and Western Asia with the Mediterranean and European world, as well as parts of North and East Africa...

 merchants, since the official histories report that there were markets in women at both Kucha
Kucha
Kuchaor Kuche Uyghur , Chinese Simplified: 库车; Traditional: 庫車; pinyin Kùchē; also romanized as Qiuzi, Qiuci, Chiu-tzu, Kiu-che, Kuei-tzu from the traditional Chinese forms 屈支 屈茨; 龜玆; 龟兹, 丘玆, also Po ; Sanskrit: Kueina, Standard Tibetan: Kutsahiyui was an ancient Buddhist kingdom...

 and Khotan
Khotan
Hotan , or Hetian , also spelled Khotan, is the seat of the Hotan Prefecture in Xinjiang, China. It was previously known in Chinese as 于窴/於窴 and to 19th-century European explorers as Ilchi....

. The Sogdian-language contract buried at the Astana
Astana
Astana , formerly known as Akmola , Tselinograd and Akmolinsk , is the capital and second largest city of Kazakhstan, with an officially estimated population of 708,794 as of 1 August 2010...

 graveyard demonstrates that at least one Chinese man bought a Sogdian girl in 639 AD. One of the archeologists who excavated the Astana site, Wu Zhen, contends that, although many households along the Silk Road bought individual slaves, as we can see in the earlier documents from Niya, the Turpan documents point to a massive escalation in the volume of the slave trade.

The few documented pairings of Chinese male owners with Sogdian girls raise the question how often Sogdian and Chinese families intermarried. The historical record is largely silent on this topic, but Rong Xinjiang has found a total of twenty-one recorded marriages in the seventh century in which one partner was Sogdian, and in eighteen cases, the spouse is also Sogdian. The only exceptions are very high-ranking Sogdian officials who married Chinese wives. He concludes that most Sogdian men took Sogdian wives, and we may surmise that the pairings between Chinese men and Sogdian women were usually between a male master and a female slave. Several commercial interactions were recorded. In 673 a company commander (Duizheng 􀶟􀍍) bought a camel for fourteen bolts of silk from Kang Wupoyan 􀩰􀤢􀥎􀖷, a non-resident merchant from Samarkand (Kangzhou 􀩰􀏈). In 731 a Sogdian merchant sold an eleven-year-old girl to a resident of Chang’an, Tang Rong 􀡥􀿲, for forty bolts of silk. Five men served as guarantors, vouching that she was not a free person who been enslaved (The Tang Code
Tang Code
The Tang Code was a penal code that was established and used during the Tang Dynasty in China. Supplemented by civil statutes and regulations, it became the basis for later dynastic codes not only in China but elsewhere in East Asia. The Code synthesised Legalist and Confucian interpretations of...

 banned the enslavement of commoners.)

Language and culture



The 6th century is thought to be the peak of the Sogdian culture, judging by its highly developed artistic tradition. By this point, the Sogdians were entrenched in their role as the central Asian traveling and trading merchants, transferring goods, culture and religion.
The Sogdians were noted for their tolerance of different religious beliefs. Zoroastrianism
Zoroastrianism
Zoroastrianism is a religion and philosophy based on the teachings of prophet Zoroaster and was formerly among the world's largest religions. It was probably founded some time before the 6th century BCE in Greater Iran.In Zoroastrianism, the Creator Ahura Mazda is all good, and no evil...

 was the dominant religion among Sogdians and remained so until after the Islamic conquest
Muslim conquests
Muslim conquests also referred to as the Islamic conquests or Arab conquests, began with the Islamic prophet Muhammad. He established a new unified polity in the Arabian Peninsula which under the subsequent Rashidun and Umayyad Caliphates saw a century of rapid expansion of Muslim power.They...

, when they gradually converted to Islam, as is shown by Richard Bulliet's "conversion curve". Manichaeism
Manichaeism
Manichaeism in Modern Persian Āyin e Māni; ) was one of the major Iranian Gnostic religions, originating in Sassanid Persia.Although most of the original writings of the founding prophet Mani have been lost, numerous translations and fragmentary texts have survived...

 and Nestorian Christianity
Nestorianism
Nestorianism is a Christological doctrine advanced by Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople from 428–431. The doctrine, which was informed by Nestorius's studies under Theodore of Mopsuestia at the School of Antioch, emphasizes the disunion between the human and divine natures of Jesus...

 also had significant followings. Much of our knowledge of the Sogdians and their language comes from the numerous religious texts that they have left behind.

The Sogdians spoke an Eastern Iranian
Eastern Iranian languages
The Eastern Iranian languages are a subgroup of the Iranian languages emerging in Middle Iranian times .The Avestan language is often classified as early Eastern Iranian. The largest living Eastern Iranian language is Pashto, with some 50 million speakers between the Hindu Kush mountains in...

 language called Sogdian
Sogdian language
The Sogdian language is a Middle Iranian language that was spoken in Sogdiana , located in modern day Uzbekistan and Tajikistan ....

, closely related to Bactrian
Bactrian language
The Bactrian language is an extinct Eastern Iranian language which was spoken in the Central Asian region of Bactria. Linguistically, it is classified as belonging to the middle period of the East Iranian branch...

, another major language of the southern part of Central Asia in ancient times. Sogdian was written in a variety of scripts
Sogdian alphabet
The Sogdian alphabet was originally used for the Sogdian language, a language in the Iranian family used by the people of Sogdiana. The alphabet is derived from Syriac, the descendant script of the Aramaic alphabet. The Sogdian alphabet is one of three scripts used to write the Sogdian language,...

, all of them derived from the Aramaic alphabet
Aramaic alphabet
The Aramaic alphabet is adapted from the Phoenician alphabet and became distinctive from it by the 8th century BC. The letters all represent consonants, some of which are matres lectionis, which also indicate long vowels....

.

Even in the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

, the valley of the Zarafshan around Samarkand retained the name of the Sogdian, Samarkand
Samarkand
Although a Persian-speaking region, it was not united politically with Iran most of the times between the disintegration of the Seleucid Empire and the Arab conquest . In the 6th century it was within the domain of the Turkic kingdom of the Göktürks.At the start of the 8th century Samarkand came...

. Arab
Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

ic geographers
Geography
Geography is the science that studies the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of Earth. A literal translation would be "to describe or write about the Earth". The first person to use the word "geography" was Eratosthenes...

 reckoned it as one of the four fairest districts in the world. The Yaghnobis living in the Sughd
Sughd
Sughd Province is one of the four administrative divisions and one of the three provinces that make up Tajikistan. Centered in the historical Sogdiana, it is located in the northwest of the country, with an area of some 25,400 square kilometers and a population of 2,132,100 , up from 1,870,000...

 province of Tajikistan
Tajikistan
Tajikistan , officially the Republic of Tajikistan , is a mountainous landlocked country in Central Asia. Afghanistan borders it to the south, Uzbekistan to the west, Kyrgyzstan to the north, and China to the east....

 still speak a dialect of the Soghdian language
Yaghnobi language
The Yaghnobi language is a living East Iranian language . Yaghnobi is spoken in the upper valley of the Yaghnob River in the Zarafshan area of Tajikistan by the Yaghnobi people...

.

The great majority of the Sogdian people assimilated with other local groups such as the Bactrians, Chorasmians, and in particular with 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...

 and came to speak Persian
Persian language
Persian is an Iranian language within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. It is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and countries which historically came under Persian influence...

, and in 819 A.D. founded Samanid Empire in the region. They are among the ancestors of the modern Tajiks. Numerous Sogdian words can be found in modern Tajik language.

The Afrasiab painting
Afrasiab painting
The Afrasiab painting is a rare example of Sogdian art. It was discovered in 1965 when the local authorities decided the construction of a road in the middle of Afrāsiāb mound, the old site of pre-Mongol Samarkand. It is now preserved in a special museum on the Afrāsiāb mound...

 of the 7th century in Samarkand is a rare surviving example of Sogdian art.

Notable Sogdians

  • An Lushan
    An Lushan
    An Lushan was a general who rebelled against the Tang Dynasty in China.His name was also transcribed into Chinese as Āluòshān or Gáluòshān ,...

     was a military leader of Sogdian (from his father's side) and Tūjué
    Göktürks
    The Göktürks or Kök Türks, were a nomadic confederation of peoples in medieval Inner Asia. Known in Chinese sources as 突厥 , the Göktürks under the leadership of Bumin Qaghan The Göktürks or Kök Türks, (Old Turkic: Türük or Kök Türük or Türük; Celestial Turks) were a nomadic confederation of...

     origin during the Tang Dynasty
    Tang Dynasty
    The Tang Dynasty was an imperial dynasty of China preceded by the Sui Dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. It was founded by the Li family, who seized power during the decline and collapse of the Sui Empire...

     in China
    China
    Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

    . He rose to prominence by fighting (and losing) frontier wars between 741 and 755. Later, he precipitated the catastrophic An Shi Rebellion
    An Shi Rebellion
    The An Lushan Rebellion took place in China during the Tang Dynasty from CE December 16, 755 to CE February 17, 763, beginning when general An Lushan declared himself emperor, establishing the rival Yan Dynasty in Northern China...

    , which lasted from 755 to 763 , which will later lead to the decline of the Tang dynasty.

See also

  • Tocharians
    Tocharians
    The Tocharians were the Tocharian-speaking inhabitants of the Tarim Basin, making them the easternmost speakers of Indo-European languages in antiquity. They were known as, or at least closely related to, the Yuezhi of Chinese sources...

  • 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....

  • Ancient Iranian peoples
    Ancient Iranian peoples
    Iranian peoples first appear in Assyrian records in the 9th century BCE. In Classical Antiquity they were found primarily in Scythia and Persia...

  • Yaghnobi people
    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...

  • Yagnob Valley
    Yagnob Valley
    Yagnob Valley North West Tajikistan, is situated between the southern slope of the Zarafshan Range and the northern slope of the Gissar Range. The valley is formed by the Yagnob River and belongs to the Zarafshan basin...


Literature

  • Calum MacLeod, Bradley Mayhew Uzbekistan. Golden Road to Samarkand
  • Archaeological Researches in Uzbekistan. 2001. Tashkent The edition is based on results of German-French-Uzbek co-expeditions in 2001 in Uzbekistan
  • Etienne de la Vaissière, Sogdian Traders. A History, Leiden : Brill, 2005. ISBN 90-04-14252-5
  • Etienne de la Vaissière, Histoire des marchands sogdiens, Paris : de Boccard, 2004.
  • Babadjan Ghafurov, "Tajiks", published in USSR, Russia, Tajikistan

External links