Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …

Journal of Ancient History

Ed. by Farney, Gary

2 Issues per year

Online
ISSN
2324-8114
See all formats and pricing
More options …

Borderland Projects of Sasanian Empire: Intersection of Domestic and Foreign Policies

Karim Alizadeh
Published Online: 2014-11-08 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jah-2014-0015

Abstract

The landscapes of the Sasanian Empire have been studied in detail and have been remarkably well interpreted during past few decades. Recent research in borderland areas has also increased our knowledge of Sasanian policies in borderlands. The Sasanian Empire is well known for massive construction work. Projects such as construction of fortifications and defensive walls, irrigation systems, fortified towns and cities in the Sasanian period usually are attributed to the reigns of Kawad I and his son Husraw I Anushirwan in the sixth century. This attribution mostly derives from historical documents in which Husraw is seen as primarily responsible for these massive projects. Recent archaeological researches in the Gorgān plain in the northeast of Iran and in Mughan Steppe in Iranian Azerbaijan have demonstrated the possibility of dating these projects earlier in the fifth century. This is significant because it may shed more light on the socio-political dynamics of the Sasanian Empire. Focusing on the Caucasus, especially on data acquired from the Mughan Steppe projects, I will try to place this new data and information in its socio-political context and reconsider earlier notions on borderlands of the Sasanian Empire. Regardless of insecurity in borderlands, the Sasanian Empire heavily invested in these areas. In this article, reviewing historical documents and archaeological data, I will argue that the imperial investments in the borderland areas represent a multi-purpose plan.

Keywords: Sasanian Empire; Iran; Caucasus; Borderland Politics; Landscape Transformation

Bibliography

  • Adams, Robert McC. Land Behind Baghdad: a History of Settlement on the Diyala Plains. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965.Google Scholar

  • Adams, Robert McC. Heartland of Cities: Surveys of Ancient Settlement and Land Use on the Central Floodplain of the Euphrates. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1981.Google Scholar

  • Adams, Robert McC. “Intensified large-scale irrigation as an aspect of imperial policy: strategies of statecraft on the late Sasanian Mesopotamian plain.” In Agricultural Strategies, edited by Joyce Marcus and Charles Stanish, 17–37. Los Angeles: Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, 2006.Google Scholar

  • Ahmadov, Qara. Qadim Beylaqan. Baku: Azerbaijan Dovlat Nashriyati, 1997.Google Scholar

  • Aliev, A. A., Gadjiev, M. S., Gaither, M. G., Kohl, P. L., Magomedov, R. M. and Aliev, I. N. “The Ghilghilchay defensive long wall: new investigations. Ancient West and East 5.1/2. (2006): 143–177.Google Scholar

  • Alizadeh, Karim. “Stratigraphy at Ultan Qalası, Mughan steppe.” Archaeological Reports 5 (2006/1385): 91–114 [in Persian].Google Scholar

  • Alizadeh, Karim. Preliminary Report of Archaeological Excavations at Ultan Qalasi, Mughan Steppe-Ardabil Province, First and Second Seasons. Tehran: Iranian Center for Archaeological Research, 2007 [in Persian with English abstract].Google Scholar

  • Alizadeh, Karim. “Ultan Qalası: a fortified site in the Sasanian borderlands (Mughan steppe, Iranian Azerbaijan).” Iran 49 (2011): 55–77.Google Scholar

  • Alizadeh, Karim. “Revisiting Ultan Qalası a Sasanian/early Islamic city in Mughan steppe, Iranian Azerbaijan.” In Antik və Orta Əsr Azərbaycan Şəhərləri: Arxeoloji İrsi, Tarix və Memarlığı, Beynəlxalq Elmi Konfransın Materialları (Azerbaijani Cities in Antiquity and Medieval Era: Archaeological Heritage, History, and Architecture), edited by Nailə Vəlixanlı, et al., 227–241. Baku: Çaşıoğlu, 2012a [in English with Azerbaijani Turkish and Russian abstracts].Google Scholar

  • Alizadeh, Karim. “Socio-economic condition during the Sasanian period on the Mughan steppe, Iranian Azerbaijan.” In Nāmvarnāmeh: Papers in Honour of Massoud Azarnoush, edited by Hamid Fahimi and Karim Alizadeh, 139–152. Tehran: IranNegar Publication and Ganjine-ye Naghsh-e Jahan Co. Ltd, 2012b.Google Scholar

  • Alizadeh, Karim and Ur, Jason. “Mughan steppe archaeological project, Ardabil province (Prozheh-ye Bastanshenasi-ye Dasht-e Moghan, Ostan-e Ardebil).” Archaeological Reports 4 (2006): 49–56 [in Persian with English abstract].Google Scholar

  • Alizadeh, Karim and Ur, Jason. “Formation and destruction of pastoral and irrigation landscape on the Mughan steppe, north-western Iran.” Antiquity 81.311 (2007): 148–160.Google Scholar

  • Bivar, A. D. H. “Hephthalites.” In Encyclopedia Iranica (Vol. XII, Fascicle 2), edited by Ehsan Yarshater, 198–201. New York: The Encyclopedia Iranica Foundation, 2003.Google Scholar

  • Boserup, Ester. The Conditions of Agricultural Growth: the Economics of Agrarian Change under Population Pressure. New Brunswick and London: Aldine Transaction, 2005.Google Scholar

  • Breyfogle, Nicholas B., Schrader, Abby and Sunderland, Willard editors. Peopling the Russian Periphery: Borderland Colonization in Eurasian History. London and New York: Routledge, 2007.Google Scholar

  • Brunner, Christopher. “Geographical and administrative divisions: settlements and economy.” In The Cambridge History of Iran, Vol. 3, Part 2: Seleucid, Parthian and Sasanian Periods, edited by Ehsan Yarshater, 747–777. Cambridge: Cambridge U.P., 1983.Google Scholar

  • Christensen, Peter. The Decline of Iranshahr: Irrigation and Environments in the History of the Middle East, 500 B.C. to A.D. 1500. Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press and University of Copenhagen, 1993.Google Scholar

  • Daryaee, Touraj. Sasanian Iran (224–651 CE), Portrait of a Late Antique Empire. Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda Publishers, 2008.Google Scholar

  • Daryaee, Touraj. Sasanian Persia: the Rise and Fall of an Empire. London and New York: I. B. Tauris and Co. in association with the Iran Heritage Foundation, 2009.Google Scholar

  • Dignas, Beate and Winter, Engelbert. Rome and Persia in Late Antiquity: Neighbours and Rivals. Cambridge: Cambridge U.P., 2007.Google Scholar

  • Eilers, Wilhelm. “Iran and Mesopotamia.” In The Cambridge History of Iran, edited by Ehsan Yarshater, 481–504. Cambridge: Cambridge U.P., 1983.Google Scholar

  • Frye, Richard N. “The Sasanian system of walls for defense.” In Studies in Memory of Gaston Wiet, edited by Myriam Rosen-Ayalon, 7–15. Jerusalem: Institute of Asian and African Studies, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1977.Google Scholar

  • Frye, Richard N. “The political history of Iran under the Sasanians.” In The Seleucid, Parthian and Sasanian Periods, edited by Ehsan Yarshater, 116–180. The Cambridge History of Iran. Cambridge: Cambridge U.P., 2000.Google Scholar

  • Gadjiev, M. S. “Studies of the Fort Derbent fortification complex and identification of the ‘Fortress Sul’.” In Archaeology of Caucasus: New Discoveries and Perspectives, edited by O. D. Lordkipanidze, B. A. Jorbenadze and A. A. Tchanturia, 27–28. Tbilisi: The Center for Archaeological Studies of the Georgian Academy of Sciences, 1997.Google Scholar

  • Gadjiev, Murtazali. “On the construction date of the Derbend fortification complex.” Iran and the Caucasus 12.1 (2008):1–16.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Gadzhiev, M. S. and Kasumova, S. IU. Srednepersidskie nadpisi Derbenta VI veka. Moskva: Izdatelsvaia firma “Vostochnaia literatura” RAN, 2006.Google Scholar

  • Ghodrat-Dizaji, Mehrdad. “Disintegration of Sasanian hegemony over northern Iran (AD 623–643).” Iranica Antiqua 46 (2011): 315–329.Google Scholar

  • Gignoux, Philippe. “Dastgerd.” In Encyclopedia Iranica (Vol. 7), edited by Ehsan Yarshater, 105–106. Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda Publishers, 1994.Google Scholar

  • Greatrex, Geoffrey and Lieu, Samuel N. C., editors. The Roman Eastern Frontier and the Persian Wars, Part II AD 363–630: a Narrative Sourcebook. London and New York: Routledge, 2002.Google Scholar

  • Hawaiian Agronomics Company International. The Study of Animal Husbandry and Agricultural Complex of Moghan Region: Reconnaissance Survey and Preliminary Investigation. Honolulu and Tehran: Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry Organization, 1971.Google Scholar

  • Hunt, Robert C. “Size and the structure of authority in canal irrigation systems.” Journal of Anthropological Research 44.4 (1988): 335–355.Google Scholar

  • Hunt, Robert C. “Labor productivity and agricultural development: Boserup revisited.” Human Ecology 28.2 (2000): 251–277.Google Scholar

  • Hunt, Robert C. and Hunt, Eva. “Canal irrigation and local social organization.” Current Anthropology 17.3 (1976): 389–411.Google Scholar

  • Karimian, Hassan. “Cities and social order in Sasanian Iran – the archaeological potential.” Antiquity 84.324 (2010): 453–466.Google Scholar

  • Kasumov, Nazim Kasumovich. Derbent: Vorota Kavkaza. Derbent: Tipografia No. 3, 2007.Google Scholar

  • Kettenhofen, Erich. “Darband.” In Encyclopaedia Iranica (Vol. 7, Fasc. 1), edited by Ehsan Yarshater, 13–19. Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda Publishers, 1994a.Google Scholar

  • Kettenhofen, Erich. “Deportations II: in the Parthian and Sasanian periods.” In Encyclopedia Iranica (Vol. VII, Fasc. 3), edited by Ehsan Yarshater, 297–308. Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda Publishers, 1994b.Google Scholar

  • Khan-Magomedov, Selim Omarovich. Derbent: Gornaia stena, Auly Tabasrana. Moscow: Izdatelstvo Iskusstvo, 1979.Google Scholar

  • Kleiss, Wolfram. “Beobachtungen an der Wallanlage von Leilan in West-Azerbaidjan.” Archaeologische Mitteilungen aus Iran 19 (1986): 211–217.Google Scholar

  • Kudriavtsev, Alexandr Abakarovich. Drevniĭ Derbent. Moscow: Nauka, 1982.Google Scholar

  • Kudriavtsev, Alexandr Abakarovich. Feodalnyĭ Derbent: puti i zakonomernosti razvitiia goroda v VI-seredine XIII v. Moscow: Nauka, 1993.Google Scholar

  • Lukonin, Vladimir G. “Political, social and administrative institutions, taxes and trade.” In The Seleucid, Parthian and Sasanian Periods. The Cambridge History of Iran (Vol. 3, Part 2), edited by Ehsan Yarshater, 681–746. Cambridge: Cambridge U.P., 1983.Google Scholar

  • Monteith, Colonel. “Journal of a tour through Azerdbijan and the shores of the Caspian.” Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London 3 (1833): 1–58.Google Scholar

  • Neeley, James A. “Sassanian and early Islamic water-control and irrigation systems on the Deh Luran plain.” In Irrigation’s Impact on Society, edited by Theodore E. Downing and McGuire Gibson, 21–42. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1974.Google Scholar

  • Nokandeh, Jebrael, Sauer, Eberhard W., Rekavandi, Hamid Omrani, Wilkinson, Tony J., Abbasi, Ghorban Ali, Schwenninger, Jean-Luc, Mahmoudi, Majid, Parker, David, Fattahi, Morteza, Usher-Wilson, Lucian Stephen, Ershadi, Mohammad, Ratcliffe, James and Gale, Rowena. “Linear barriers of northern Iran: the great wall of Gorgan and the wall of Tammishe.” Iran 44 (2006): 121–173.Google Scholar

  • Omrani Rekavandi, Hamid, Sauer, Eberhard W., Wilkinson, Tony J., Tamak, Esmail Safari, Ainslie, Roger, Majid, Mahmoudi, Griffiths, Seren, Ershadi, Mohammad Jensen Van Rensburg, Julian, Fattahi, Morteza, Ratcliffe, James, Nokandeh, Jebrael, Nazifi, Amin, Thomas, Richard, Gale, Rowena and Hoffmann, Brigitta. “An imperial frontier of the Sasanian empire: further fieldwork at the great wall of Gorgan.” Iran 45 (2007): 95–136.Google Scholar

  • Omrani Rekavandi, Hamid, Sauer, Eberhard W., Wilkinson, Tony J., Abbasi, Ghorban Ali, Priestman, Seth M. N., Tamak, Esmail Safari, Ainslie, Roger, Mahmoudi, Majid, Galiatsatos, Nikolaos, Roustaei, Kourosh, Jansen van Rensburg, Julian, Ershadi, Mohammad, MacDonald, Eve, Fattahi, Morteza, Oatley, Chris, Shabani, Bardia, Ratcliffe, James and Usher-Wilson, Lucian Stephen. “Sasanian walls, hinterland fortresses and abandoned ancient irrigated landscapes: the 2007 season on the great wall of Gorgan and the wall of Tammishe.” Iran 46 (2008a): 151–178.Google Scholar

  • Omrani Rekavandi, Hamid, Sauer, Eberhard W., Wilkinson, Tony J. and Nokandeh, Jebrael. “The enigma of the red snake: revealing one of the world’s greatest frontier walls.” Current World Archaeology 27 (2008b): 12–22.Google Scholar

  • Omrani Rekavandi, Hamid, Sauer, Eberhard W., Nokandeh, Jebrael and Wilkinson, Tony J. “At the frontiers of the Sasanian empire: the Gorgan and Tammishe walls in northern Iran.” In Proceedings of the 6th International Congress of the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East: 5 May–10 May 2009, “Sapienza”, Università di Roma (Vol. 2), edited by Paolo Matthiae, Frances Pinnock, Lorenzo Nigro and Nicolo Marchetti, 599–611. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2010.Google Scholar

  • Pahlavi, Mohammad Reza, Enqelab-e Sefid (White Revolution). Tehran: Pahlavi Royal Library, 1966/1345 [in Persian].Google Scholar

  • Pourshariati, Parvaneh. Decline and Fall of the Sasanian Empire: the Sasanian-Parthian Confederacy and the Arab Conquest of Iran. London and New York: I. B. Tauris and Co. in association with the Iran Heritage Foundation, 2008.Google Scholar

  • Ricci, Andrea. “Archaeological landscape studies: the Mil-Qarabağ plain and the Kvemo Kartli survey projects: a preliminary account of the first two field seasons (2010–2011).” Archäologische Mitteilungen aus Iran und Turan 44 (2012): 127–145.Google Scholar

  • Sauer, Eberhard W., Omrani Rekavandi, Hamid, Wilkinson, Tony J. and Nokandeh, Jebrael, editors. Persia’s Imperial Power in Late Antiquity: the Great Wall of Gorgan and Frontier Landscapes of Sasanian Iran. Oxford and Oakville: British Institute of Persian Studies and Oxbow Books, 2013.Google Scholar

  • Schweizer, Günther. “The Aras-Moghan development project in northwest Iran and the problem of nomad settlement.” Applied Sciences and Development 4 (1974): 134–148.Google Scholar

  • Simpson, St. John. “Book review: In Search of a Cultural Identity: Monuments and Artifacts of the Sasanian Near East, 3rd to 7th Century A.D. by Prudence O. Harper.” Journal of Inner Asian Art and Archaeology 3.3 (2008): 187–189.Google Scholar

  • Tapper, Richard. Pasture and Politics: Economics, Conflict, and Ritual among Shahsevan Nomads of Northwestern Iran. London and New York: Academic Press, 1979.Google Scholar

  • Tapper, Richard. Frontier Nomads of Iran: a Political and Social History of the Shahsevan. Cambridge: Cambridge U.P., 1997.Google Scholar

  • Thurston, Tina L. and Fisher, Christopher T. “Seeking a richer harvest: an introduction to the archaeology of subsistence intensification, innovation, and change.” In Seeking a Richer Harvest: an Introduction to the Archaeology of Subsistence Intensification, Innovation, and Change, edited by T. L. Thurston and C. T. Fisher, 1–21. New York: Springer, 2007.Google Scholar

  • Ur, Jason A. and Alizadeh, Karim. “The Sasanian colonization of the Mughan steppe, Ardebil province, northwestern Iran.” Journal of Iranian Archaeology, in press.Google Scholar

  • Wenke, Robert J. “Western Iran in the Partho-Sasanian period: the imperial transformation.” In The Archaeology of Western Iran, edited by Frank Hole, 251–281. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1987.Google Scholar

  • Wilkinson, Tony J. Archaeological Landscapes of the Near East. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2003.Google Scholar

  • Wilkinson, Tony J., Boucharlat, Remy, Ersten, Maurits W., Gillmore, Gavin, Kennet, Derek, Magee, Peter, Rezakhani, Khodadad and de Schacht, Tijs. “From human niche construction to imperial power: long-term trends in ancient Iranian water systems.” Water History 4.2 (2012): 155–176.Google Scholar

About the article

Published Online: 2014-11-08

Published in Print: 2014-11-01


Citation Information: Journal of Ancient History, Volume 2, Issue 2, Pages 93–115, ISSN (Online) 2324-8114, ISSN (Print) 2324-8106, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jah-2014-0015.

Export Citation

© 2014 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston.Get Permission

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in