Middle Persian xwarāsān, Persian: خراسان
Ḫurāsān listen (help·info)), sometimes called Greater
Khorasan, is a historical region lying in northeast of Greater Persia,
including part of
Central Asia and Afghanistan. The name simply means
"East, Orient" (literally "sunrise") and it loosely includes the
territory of the
Sasanian Empire east of Persia proper. Early Islamic
usage often regarded everywhere east of so-called
Jibal or what was
subsequently termed 'Iraq Adjami' (Persian Iraq), as being included in
a vast and loosely-defined region of Khorasan, which might even extend
Indus Valley and Sindh. During the Islamic period, Khorasan
Persian Iraq were two important territories. The boundary
between these two was the region surrounding the cities of
Qumis (modern Damghan). In particular, the Ghaznavids, Seljuqs and
Timurids divided their empires into Iraqi and Khorasani regions.
The main cities of Khorasan were
Herat (now in Afghanistan),
Nishapur (now in northeastern Iran),
Merv and Nisa (now in
southern Turkmenistan), and
Samarkand (now in Uzbekistan).
The loosely defined region also included Transoxiana, Soghdiana, and
Sistan and extended to the boundaries of the Indian subcontinent.
Sources from the 14th to the 16th century report that areas in the
south of the
Hindu Kush mountain range (Zamindawar, Balochistan, and
Kabulistan) formed a frontier between Khorasan and Hindustan.
Greater Khorasan is today sometimes used to distinguish the larger
historical reason from the modern
Khorasan Province of Iran
(1906–2004), which roughly encompassed the western half of the
historical Greater Khorasan.
3 Sasanian era
4 Arab conquest
5 Cultural importance
6 See also
Main article: Greater Iran
An accurate map of Persia by
Emanuel Bowen showing the names of
territories during the Persian
Safavid dynasty and
Mughal Empire of
India (ca. 1500–1747)
First established as a political entity by the Sassanids, the borders
of the region have varied considerably during its 1,600-year history.
Initially the Khorasan province of Sassanid empire included the cities
of Nishapur, Herat, Merv, Faryab, Taloqan, Balkh, Bukhara, Badghis,
Abiward, Gharjistan, Tus or Susia,
Sarakhs and Gurgan. In addition
to these cities,
Ibn Khordadbeh mentions the cities of Nasā, Marvrud,
Zabulistan, Kabul, Termez, Bamyan, Sogdia, Farghana, Rivsharan,
Jowzjan, Khwarazm, Khotl, Osrushana, Sajistan, Pushang, Kesh, Botam,
Transoxiana as part of Khurasan. So according to
him, eastern parts of today Iran, the entire Afghanistan,
Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, southern parts of
Kazakhstan, northwestern regions of China (Xinjiang), and the Indus
Valley were part of Khurasan.
It acquired its greatest extent under the Caliphs, for whom "Khorasan"
was the name of one of the three political zones under their dominion
(the other two being Eraq-e Arab "Arabic Iraq" and Eraq-e Ajam
"Non-Arabic Iraq or Persian Iraq"). Under the Umayyad and Abbasid
caliphates, Khorasan was divided into four major sections or quarters
(rub′), each section based on a single major city: Nishapur, Merv,
Herat and Balkh.
In the Middle Ages, the term was loosely applied in Persia to all its
territories that lay east and north east of
Dasht-e Kavir and
therefore were subjected to change as the size of empire changed.
According to Ghulam Mohammad Ghobar, Afghanistan's current
Persian-speaking territories formed the major portion of Khorasan,
as two of the four main capitals of Khorasan (
Herat and Balkh) are now
located in Afghanistan. Ghobar uses the terms "Proper Khorasan" and
"Improper Khorasan" in his book to distinguish between the usage of
Khorasan in its strict sense and its usage in a loose sense.
According to him, Proper Khorasan contained regions lying between
Balkh in the east,
Merv in the north,
Sistan in the south,
the west and Herat, known as the Pearl of Khorasan, in the center.
Improper Khorasan's boundaries extended to as far as
Kabul in the east,
Baluchistan in the south, Transoxiana
Khwarezm in the north, and
Gorgan in the west. It is
mentioned in the Memoirs of
"The people of Hindustān call every country beyond their own
Khorasān, in the same manner as the Arabs term all except Arabia,
Ajem. On the road between Hindustān and Khorasān, there are two
great marts: the one Kābul, the other Kandahār. Caravans, from
Ferghāna, Tūrkestān, Samarkand, Balkh, Bokhāra, Hissār, and
Badakhshān, all resort to Kābul; while those from Khorasān repair
to Kandahār. This country lies between Hindustān and Khorasān."
History of Iran, History of Turkmenistan, History of Afghanistan,
History of Uzbekistan, History of Tajikistan
Before the region fell to
Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great in 330 BC, it was part
of the Persian
Achaemenid Empire and prior to that it was occupied by
The land that became known as Khorasan in geography of Eratosthenes
was recognized as
Ariana by Greeks at that time, which made up Greater
Iran or the land where
Zoroastrianism was the dominant religion. The
southeastern region of Khorasan fell to the
Kushan Empire in the 1st
century AD. The Kushan rulers built a capital in modern-day
Bagram and are believed to have built the famous
Buddhas of Bamiyan. Numerous Buddhist temples and buried cities have
been found in Afghanistan. However, the region of Khorasan
remained predominantly Zoroastrian but there were also Manichaeists,
sun worshippers, Christians, Pagans, Shamanists, Buddhists,
others. One of the three great fire-temples of the Sassanids
"Azar-burzin Mehr" is situated near
Sabzevar in Iran. The boundary of
the region began changing until the Kushans and
Sassanids merged to
form the Kushano-Sassanian civilization.
An early turquoise mine in the Madan village of Khorasan during the
early 20th century
During the Sasanian era, likely in the reign of Khusrow I, Persia was
divided into four regions (known as kust Middle Persian), Khwārvarān
in the west, apāxtar in the north, nīmrūz in the south and Khurasan
in the east. Since the Sasanian territories were more or less remained
stable up to Islamic conquests, it can be concluded that Sasanian
Khorasan was bordered to the south by
Sistan and Kerman, to the west
by the central deserts of modern Iran, and to the east by China and
In Sasanian era, Khurasan was further divided into four smaller
regions, and each region was ruled by a marzban. These four regions
were Nishapur, Marv,
Herat and Balkh.
Khorasan in the east saw some conflict with the Hephthalites who
became the new rulers in the area but the borders remained stable.
Being the eastern parts of the
Sassanids and further away from Arabia,
Khorasan region was conquered after the remaining Persia. The last
Sassanid king of Persia, Yazdgerd III, moved the throne to Khorasan
following the Arab invasion in the western parts of the empire. After
the assassination of the king, Khorasan was conquered by Arab Muslims
in 647 AD. Like other provinces of Persia it became a province of the
The village of Meyamei in 1909
The first movement against the Arab conquest was led by Abu Muslim
Khorasani between 747 and 750. He helped the Abbasids come to power
but was later killed by Al-Mansur, an
Abbasid Caliph. The first
independent kingdom from Arab rule was established in Khorasan by
Tahir Phoshanji in 821, but it seems that it was more a matter of
political and territorial gain. Tahir had helped the Caliph subdue
other nationalistic movements in other parts of Persia such as
Maziar's movement in Tabaristan.
Other major independent dynasties who ruled over Khorasan were the
Ghazni (963–1167), Seljuqs (1037–1194),
Khwarezmids (1077–1231), Ghurids (1149–1212), and Timurids
(1370–1506). Some of these dynasties were not Persian by ethnicity.
The periods of Turkic
Turco-Mongol Timurids are
considered as some of the most brilliant eras of Khorasan's history.
During these periods, there was a great cultural awakening. Many
famous poets, scientists and scholars lived in this area. Numerous
valuable works in
Persian literature were written.
Between the early 16th and early 18th centuries, parts of Khorasan
were contested between the
Safavids and the Uzbeks. A part of the
Khorasan region was conquered in 1722 by the
Ghilji Pashtuns from
Kandahar and became part of the
Hotaki dynasty from 1722 to
Nader Shah recaptured Khorasan in 1729 and chose Mashhad
as the capital of Persia. Following his assassination in 1747, the
eastern parts of Khorasan, including
Herat was annexed with the
Mashhad area was under control of Nader Shah's
Shahrukh Afshar until it was captured by the
Qajar dynasty in
1796. In 1856, the Iranians, under the Qajar dynasty, briefly
recaptured Herat; by the Treaty of Paris of 1857, signed between Iran
and the British Empire to end the Anglo-Persian War, the Iranian
troops withdrew from Herat. Later, in 1881,
Iran relinquished its
claims to a part of the northern areas of Khorasan to the Russian
Empire, principally comprising Merv, by the
Treaty of Akhal (also
known as the Treaty of Akhal-Khorasan).
Babur exiles his treacherous relative Muḥammad
Ḥusaym Mīrzā to Khorasan.
Khorasan has had a great cultural importance among other regions in
Greater Iran. The literary New
Persian language developed in Khorasan
Transoxiana and gradually supplanted the Parthian language.
Persian literature arose and flourished in Khorasan and
Transoxiana where the early Iranian dynasties such as Tahirids,
Ghaznavids were based.The early Persian poets such as
Rudaki, Shahid Balkhi, Abu al-Abbas Marwazi, Abu Hafas Sughdi, and
others were from Khorasan. Moreover,
Rumi were also from
Until the devastating
Mongol invasion of the thirteenth century,
Khorasan remained the cultural capital of Persia. It has produced
scientists such as Avicenna, Al-Farabi, Al-Biruni, Omar Khayyám,
Abu Ma'shar al-Balkhi (known as Albumasar or Albuxar in
the west), Alfraganus, Abu Wafa, Nasir al-Din al-Tusi, Sharaf al-Dīn
al-Ṭūsī, and many others who are widely well known for their
significant contributions in various domains such as mathematics,
astronomy, medicine, physics, geography, and geology. Khorasan
artisans contributed to the spread of technology and goods along the
ancient trade routes and decorative objects have been traced to this
ancient culture, including art objects, textiles and metalworks.
Decorative antecedents of the famous "singing bowls" of Asia may have
been invented in ancient Khorasan.
In Islamic theology, jurisprudence and philosophy, and in Hadith
collection, many of the greatest Islamic scholars came from Khorasan,
namely Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Abu Hanifa, Imam Bukhari, Imam Muslim, Abu
Dawood, Al-Tirmidhi, Al-Nasa'i, Al-Ghazali, Al-Juwayni, Abu Mansur
Maturidi, Fakhruddin al-Razi, and others. Shaykh Tusi, a Shi'a scholar
and Al-Zamakhshari, the famous Mutazilite scholar, also lived in
^ a compound of khwar (meaning "sun") and āsān (from āyān,
literally meaning "to come" or "coming" or "about to come"). Thus the
name Khorasan (or Khorāyān خورآيان) means "sunrise", viz.
"Orient, East". Humbach, Helmut, and Djelani Davari, "Nāmé
Xorāsān", Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz; Persian translation
by Djelani Davari, published in Iranian Languages Studies Website.
MacKenzie, D. (1971). A concise Pahlavi dictionary (p. 95). London:
Oxford University Press. The Persian word Khāvar-zamīn (Persian:
خاور زمین), meaning "the eastern land", has also been used
as an equivalent term. DehKhoda, "Lughat Nameh DehKhoda" Archived
2011-07-18 at the Wayback Machine.
^ a b Bosworth, C.E. (1986). Encyclopedia of Islam, Vol 5, Khe –
Mahi (New ed.). Leiden [u.a.]: Brill [u.a.] pp. 55–59.
Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved 2010-10-21.
historical region and realm comprising a vast territory now lying in
northeastern Iran, southern Turkmenistan, and northern Afghanistan.
The historical region extended, along the north, from the Amu Darya
(Oxus River) westward to the
Caspian Sea and, along the south, from
the fringes of the central Iranian deserts eastward to the mountains
of central Afghanistan. Arab geographers even spoke of its extending
to the boundaries of India.
^ a b Zahir ud-Din Mohammad
Babur (1921). "Events Of The Year 910".
Memoirs of Babur. Translated by John Leyden; William Erskine. Packard
Humanities Institute. Retrieved 2010-08-22.
^ Dabeersiaghi, Commentary on Safarnâma-e Nâsir Khusraw, 6th Ed.
Tehran, Zavvâr: 1375 (Solar Hijri Calendar) 235–236
^ a b c Authors, Multiple. "Khurasan". CGIE. Retrieved 9 March
^ DehKhoda, "Lughat Nameh DehKhoda" Archived 2011-07-18 at the Wayback
^ a b Ghubar, Mir Ghulam Mohammad (1937). Khorasan,
House. Kabul, Afghanistan.
^ "42 Buddhist relics discovered in Logar". Maqsood Azizi. Pajhwok
Afghan News. August 18, 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-23.
^ "Buddhist remains found in Afghanistan". Press TV. August 17, 2010.
^ Rippin, Andrew (2013). The Islamic World. Routledge. p. 95.
^ "Last Afghan empire". Louis Dupree,
Nancy Hatch Dupree
Nancy Hatch Dupree and others.
Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2010-09-24.
^ Axworthy, Michael (2006). The Sword of Persia: Nader Shah, from
Tribal Warrior to Conquering Tyrant. London: I.B. Tauris. p. 50.
ISBN 1-85043-706-8. Retrieved 2010-09-27.
^ Avery, Peter; Hambly, Gavin; Melville, Charles, eds. (1991). The
Cambridge History of
Iran (Vol. 7): From Nadir Shah to the Islamic
Republic. Cambridge University Press. pp. 183, 394–395.
^ Sicker, Martin (1988). The Bear and the Lion: Soviet Imperialism and
Iran. Praeger. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-275-93131-5.
^ Lazard, G., "Dari", Encyclopaedia Iranica
^ Frye, R.N., "Dari", The Encyclopaedia of Islam, CD edition
^ Lorentz, J. Historical Dictionary of Iran. 1995
Provinces of the Sasanian Empire
Garamig ud Nodardashiragan
* indicates shor