Achaemenid Satrapies > Sogdiana

Sogdiana

Background

Sogdiana was also a province of the Achaemenid Empire, eighteenth in the list on the Behistun Inscription of Darius the Great (i. 16). In the Avesta, Sogdiana is listed as the second best land that the supreme deity Ahura Mazda had created.[2] It comes second after Airyanem Vaejah, "homeland of the Aryans", in the Zoroastrian book of Vendidad, indicating the importance of this region from ancient times.[3][4] Sogdiana was conquered by the Macedonian ruler Alexander the Great in 328 BC and later formed part of the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom and Sasanian Empire.

Achaemenid ruler Cyrus the Great conquered Sogdiana while campaigning in Central Asia in 546–539 BC,[12] a fact mentioned by the ancient Greek historian Herodotus in his Histories.[10] Darius I introduced the Aramaic writing system and coin currency to Central Asia, in addition to incorporating Sogdians into his standing army as regular soldiers and cavalrymen.[13] A contingent of Sogdian soldiers fought in the main army of Xerxes I during his ultimately failed invasion of Greece in 480 BC.[4][14] A Persian inscription from Susa claims that the palace there was adorned with lapis lazuli and carnelian originating from Sogdiana.

Given the absence of any named satraps (i.e. Achaemenid provincial governors) for Sogdiana in historical records, modern scholarship has concluded that Sogdiana was governed from the satrapy of nearby Bactria.[15] The satraps were often relatives of the ruling Persian kings, especially sons who were not designated as the heir apparent.[10] Sogdiana likely remained under Persian control until roughly 400 BC, during the reign of Artaxerxes II.[16] Rebellious states of the Persian Empire took advantage of the weak Artaxerxes II, and some, such as Egypt, were able to regain their independence. Persia's massive loss of Central Asian territory is widely attributed to the ruler's lack of control. However, unlike Egypt, which was quickly recaptured by the Persian Empire, Sogdiana remained independent until it was conquered by Alexander the Great. When the latter invaded the Persian Empire, Pharasmanes, an already independent king of Khwarezm, allied with the Macedonians and sent troops to Alexander in 329 BC for his war against the Scythians of the Black Sea region (even though this anticipated campaign never materialized).

During the Achaemenid period (550–330 BC), the Sogdians lived as a nomadic people much like the neighboring Yuezhi, who spoke Bactrian, an Indo-Iranian language closely related to Sogdian,[17] and were already engaging in overland trade. Some of them had also gradually settled the land to engage in agriculture.[18] Similar to how the Yuezhi offered tributary gifts of jade to the emperors of China, the Sogdians are recorded in Persian records as submitting precious gifts of lapis lazuli and carnelian to Darius I, the Persian king of kings.[18] Although the Sogdians were at times independent and living outside the boundaries of large empires, they never formed a great empire of their own like the Yuezhi, who established the Kushan Empire (30–375 AD) of Central and South Asia.

Achaemenid Satrapies

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