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Sogdiana, ca. 300 BC.
Languages Sogdian language
Religions Zoroastrianism, Manicheism, Christianity
Capitals Samarkandmarker, Bukharamarker, Khujandmarker, Keshmarker
Area Between the Amu Daryamarker and the Syr Daryamarker
Sogdiana or Sogdia (Old Persian: Suguda-; Ancient Greek: ; Chinese: 粟特 - Sùtè; New Persian: سغد - Sōġd) was the ancient civilization of an Iranian people and a province of the Achaemenid Persian Empire, the eighteenth in the list in the Behistun Inscriptionmarker of Darius the Great (i. 16). Sogdiana is thought to be "listed" as the second of the "good lands and countries" that Ahura Mazda was believed to have created. This region is listed after the first, Airyana Vaeja, Land of the Aryans, in the Zoroastrian book of Vendidad, hence one can see how notice of this region has been taken since ancient times. Sogdiana, at different periods of time, included territories around Samarkandmarker, Bukharamarker, Khujandmarker and Keshmarker in modern Uzbekistanmarker. The inhabitants of Sogdiana were the Sogdians, an Eastern Iranian people.

The Sogdian states, although never politically united, were centred around their main city of Samarkandmarker. It lay north of Bactria, east of Khwarezm, and southeast of Kangju between the Oxus (Amu Daryamarker) and the Jaxartes (Syr Daryamarker), embracing the fertile valley of the Zarafshanmarker (ancient Polytimetus). Sogdian territory corresponds to the modern provinces of Samarkandmarker and Bokharamarker in modern Uzbekistanmarker as well as the Sughdmarker province of modern Tajikistanmarker.


Hellenistic period

The Sogdian Rock or Rock of Ariamazes, a fortress in Sogdiana, was captured in 327 BC by the forces of Alexander the Great, who united Sogdiana with Bactria into one satrapy. Subsequently it formed part of the Hellenistic Greco-Bactrian kingdom, founded in 248 BC by Diodotus, for about a century. Euthydemus I seems to have held the Sogdian territory, and his coins were later copied locally. Eucratides apparently recovered sovereignty of Sogdia temporarily. Finally the area was occupied by nomads when the Scythians and Yuezhis overran it around 150 BC.

Battle of Sogdiana

In 36 BC

This interpretation has been disputed.

Contacts with China

The Sogdians' contacts with China were triggered by the embassy of the Chinese explorer Zhang Qian during the reign of Wudi in the former Han Dynasty, 141-87 BC. He wrote a report of his visit in Central Asia, and named an area of Sogdiana, "Kangju". They played a major role in facilitating trade between Chinamarker and Central Asia.

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." (Shiji, trans. Burton Watson). However, the Sogdian traders were then still less important in the Silk Road trade than their Southern neighbours, Indian and Bactrian.

Central Asian role

Subsequent to their domination by Alexander, the Sogdians from the city of Marakanda (Samarkandmarker) became dominant as traveling merchants, occupying a key position along the ancient Silk Road. Their language became the common language of the Silk Route and they played a role in the culture movement of philosophies and religion, such Manicheism, Zoroastrianism, and Buddhism 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 Aurel Stein and others, that by the 4th century AD they may have monopolized trade between India and China. They dominated the trade along the Silk Route from the 2nd century BC until the 10th century AD

The Suyab and Talasmarker ranked among their main centres in the north. They were the dominant caravan merchants of Central Asia. Their commercial interests were protected by the resurgent military power of the Göktürks, whose empire has been described as "the joint enterprise of the Ashina clan and the Soghdians". Their trades with some interruptions continued in 9th century. It is occurred in 10th century within the framework of the Uighur Empire, which until 840 extended all over northern Central Asia and obtained from China enormous deliveries of silk in exchange for horses. At this time caravans of Sogdians traveling to Upper Mongolia are mentioned in Chinese sources.

The trade they brought to China included grapes, alfalfa, and silverware from Persia, as well as glass containers, Mediterranean coral, brass Buddhist images, woolen cloth from Rome and amber from the Baltic. They brought back Chinese paper, copper and silk.

They played an equally important religious and cultural role. Part of the data about eastern Asia provided by Muslim geographers of the 10th century actually goes back to Sogdian data of the period 750-840 and thus shows the survival of links between east and west. However, after the end of the Uighur Empire, Sogdian trade went through a crisis. What mainly issued from Muslim Central Asia was the trade of the Samanids, which resumed on the northwestern road leading to the Khazars and the Urals and the northeastern one toward the nearby Turkic tribes.

In Turpanmarker under Tang dynasty rule, it was a center of major commercial activity between chinese and sogdian merchants. Mazdaism was the religion practiced by the sogdians, and there were many inns in Turpan, some provided sex workers with anopportunity to service the Silk Road merchants since the official histories report that there were markets in women at both Kuchamarker and Khotanmarker. The Sogdian-language contract buried at the Astanamarker 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

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