The HEPHTHALITES (or Ephthalites) were a people of Central Asia who
were militarily important circa 450-560. They were based in Bactria
and expanded east to the
Tarim Basin , west to
The stronghold of the Hephthalites was Tokharistan on the northern
slopes of the
Hindu Kush , in what is present-day northeastern
Afghanistan. By 479, the Hephthalites had conquered
The sources for Hepthalite history are poor and historians' opinions differ. There is no king-list and historians are not sure how they arose or what language they spoke.
* 1 Territory
* 2 History
* 2.1 5th century: conflicts and alliances with the Sasanians * 2.2 6th century and later
* 3 Ethnonyms * 4 Ethnicity * 5 Origins * 6 Religion and culture * 7 White Huns in Southern Central Asia * 8 Possible Descendants * 9 See also * 10 References * 11 Sources * 12 External links
Hephthalites chieftain circa 484-560.
The Hephthalites formed in
Bactria around 450, or sometime before.
In 442 their tribes were fighting the Persians. Around 451 they pushed
Probably in the late fifth century they took the western Tarim Basin
See also: Hephthalite–Persian Wars
5TH CENTURY: CONFLICTS AND ALLIANCES WITH THE SASANIANS
Hephthalite king wearing the crown of Sasanian Emperor
Our best information comes from Persian sources: from 442, Yazdegerd II (435-57) fought 'tribes of the Hephthalites’, according to the Armenian Elisee Vardaped . In 453, Yazdegerd moved his court east to deal with the Hephthalites or related groups.
In 458, a Hephthalite king called
Khushnavaz helped Sasanian Emperor
Sasanian Empire paying tribute to the Hephthalites, from
474, the Hephthalites themselves adopted the winged, triple-crescent
From 484 until the middle of the sixth century, Persia paid tribute to the Hephthalites. In 488, Kavadh I (488-96, 498-531) made himself king of Persia with Hephthalite help. (He overthrew his uncle, the brother of Peroz.) In 496-98, he was overthrown by the nobles and clergy, escaped and restored himself with a Hephthalite army. Hephthalite troops helped Kavadh at a siege of Edessa .
6TH CENTURY AND LATER
The "Hephthalite bowl", NFP
The period 498-c555 is almost blank in the standard English sources.
In 552, the
Göktürks took over Mongolia, and by 558 reached the
Circa 555-67, the Turks and the Persians allied against the
Hephthalites and defeated them after an eight-day battle near Qarshi
perhaps in 565. The allies then fought each other and c. 571 drew a
border along the
Small Hephthalite states remained, paying tribute either to the Turks or the Persians. They are reported in the Zarafshan valley, Chaghaniyan, Khuttal , Termez, Balkh, Badghis , Herat and Kabul. Circa 651, during the Arab conquest, the ruler of Badghis was involved in the fall of the last Sassanian Shah Yazdegerd III . Circa 705, the Ephthalite rulers of Badghis and Chaghaniyan surrendered to the Arabs under Qutaiba ibn Muslim .
The name Hephthalites originated with Ancient Greek sources, which also referred to them as _Ephthalite_, _Abdel_ or _Avdel_.
To the Armenians, the Hephthalites were _Haital_, to the Persians and Arabs, they were _Haytal_ or _Hayatila_, while their Bactrian name was _Ebodalo_ (ηβοδαλο).
In Chinese chronicles, the Hephthalites are usually called
_Ye-ta-i-li-to_ (or _Yediyiliduo_), or the more usual modern and
abbreviated form _Yada_ (嚈噠 _Yàdā_). The latter name is been
given various Latinised renderings, including _Yeda_, _Ye-ta_,
_Ye-Tha_; _Ye-dā_ and _Yanda_. The corresponding
In Ancient India, names such as Hephthalite were unknown. The
Hephthalites were apparently part of, or offshoots of, people known in
Hephthalites chieftain late 5th century.
There are several theories regarding the origins of the White Huns, with the Iranian and Turkic theories being the most prominent.
According to most specialist scholars, the spoken language of the Hephthalites was an Eastern Iranian language , but different from the Bactrian language written in the Greek alphabet that was used as their "official language" and minted on coins, as was done under the preceding Kushan Empire .
According to Xavier Tremblay, one of the Hephthalite rulers was named
"Khingila ", which has the same root as the Sogdian word _xnγr_ and
the Wakhi word _xiŋgār_, meaning "sword". The name
thought to be derived from _mithra-kula_ which is Iranian for "the Sun
family", with _kula_ having the same root as Pashto _kul_, "family".
Toramāna , Mihirakula's father, is also considered to have an Iranian
origin. In Sanskrit, _mihira-kula_ would mean the _kul_ "family" of
_mihira_ "Sun", although _mihira_ is not purely
For many years, however, scholars suggested that they were of Turkic
stock. Some have claimed that some groups amongst the Hephthalites
were Turkic -speakers. Today the Hephthalites are generally held to
have been an Eastern Iranian people speaking an East Iranian language
. The Hephthalites enscribed their coins in the Bactrian (Iranian )
script, held Iranian titles, the names of Hephthalite rulers given
According to the _
Encyclopaedia Iranica _ and _Encyclopaedia of Islam
_, the Hephthalites possibly originated in what is today Afghanistan
Just as later nomadic empires were confederations of many peoples, we may tentatively propose that the ruling groups of these invaders were, or at least included, Turkic-speaking tribesmen from the east and north. Although most probably the bulk of the people in the confederation of Chionites and then Hephhtalites spoke an Iranian language... this was the last time in the history of Central Asia that Iranian-speaking nomads played any role; hereafter all nomads would speak Turkic languages. Hephthalite horseman on British Museum bowl, 460-479 CE.
The Ephthalitae Huns, who are called White Huns The Ephthalitae are of the stock of the Huns in fact as well as in name, however they do not mingle with any of the Huns known to us, for they occupy a land neither adjoining nor even very near to them; but their territory lies immediately to the north of Persia They are not nomads like the other Hunnic peoples, but for a long period have been established in a goodly land... They are the only ones among the Huns who have white bodies and countenances which are not ugly. It is also true that their manner of living is unlike that of their kinsmen, nor do they live a savage life as they do; but they are ruled by one king, and since they possess a lawful constitution, they observe right and justice in their dealings both with one another and with their neighbours, in no degree less than the Romans and the Persians
As an illustration of how little we know of the Ephthalites, Kurbanov surveyed the literature and found these opinons: They were named after a king Eftalan or Hephtal. They lived in the Eftali valley (location not given). They called themselves War or Jabula or Alkhon. They were a political rather than ethnic unit. They, the Xionites and Kidarites were the same people or three different peoples. They were the ruling class of the Xionites. They were not Xionites. They were not the White Huns. They were natives of Bactria, or the Pamirs, or the Kundu Kush. They began as the Hua who were subjects of the Rouran in the Turfan area. They were a branch of the Yuezhi in the Altai area who merged with the Dinglings, defeated the Yueban and moved south. They arose near the Aral Sea from a fusion of Massagetae and Alans and moved southeast under the name of Xionites. They were partly Tibetan or Mongol or Tokharian or Huns who returned east after the fall of Attila. Kurbanov gives a few other theories and makes no attempt to reconcile them.
Ancient Chinese chroniclers, as well as Procopius, wrote various theories about the origins of the people:
* They were descendants of the
Yuezhi or Tocharian tribes who
remained behind after the rest of the people fled the
* They were descendants of the
Older Chinese sources (c. 125) refer to them as _Hua_ (滑 _Huá_) or _Hudun_, and describe the Hephthalites as a tribe living beyond the Great Wall , in Dzungaria. Chinese chronicles state that they were originally a tribe of the Yuezhi, living to the north of the Great Wall, and subject to the Rouran (_Jwen-Jwen_), as were some Turkic peoples at the time. Their original name was HOA or HOA-TUN; subsequently they named themselves YE-THA-I-LI-TO (厌带夷栗陁, or more briefly Ye-tha 嚈噠), after their royal family, which descended from one of the five Yuezhi families which also included the Kushan .
The Hephthalite was a vassal state to the Rouran Khaganate until the beginning of the 5th century. Between Hephthalites and Rourans were also close contacts, although they had different languages and cultures, and Hephthalites borrowed much of their political organization from Rourans. In particular, the title "Khan ", which according to McGovern was original to the Rourans, was borrowed by the Hephthalite rulers. The reason for the migration of the Hephthalites southeast was to avoid a pressure of the Rourans. Further, the Hephthalites defeated the Yuezhi in Bactria and their leader Kidara led the Yuezhi to the south.
RELIGION AND CULTURE
They were said to practice Polyandry and Artificial cranial deformation . Chinese sources said they worshiped 'foreign gods', 'demons', the 'heaven god' or the 'fire god'. The Gokturks told the Byzantines that they had walled cities. Some Chinese sources said that they had no cities and lived in tents. Litvinsky tries to resolve this by saying that they were nomads who moved into the cities they had conquered. There were some government officials but central control was weak and local dynasties paid tribute.
Song Yun , the Chinese
According to historian André Wink, "...in the Hephthalite dominion
WHITE HUNS IN SOUTHERN CENTRAL ASIA
Hephthalite successor kingdoms in 600. Main article: Hunas
It is not clear whether the people called SVETA HUNA (_White Huns_)
Historians such as Christopher I. Beckwith , referring to Étienne de la Vaissière , say that the Hephthalites were not necessarily one and the same as the White Huns (_Sveta Huna_). According to de la Vaissiere, the Hephthalites are not directly identified in classical sources alongside that of the White Huns.
The _Huna_ had already established themselves in
The Hephthalites had their capital at _Badian_, modern
Kunduz , but
the emperor lived in the capital city for just three winter months,
and for the rest of the year, the government seat would move from one
locality to another like a camp. The Hephthalites continued the
pressure on ancient India's northwest frontier and broke east by the
end of the 5th century, hastening the disintegration of the Gupta
Empire . They made their capital at the city of _Sakala_, modern
* Karluks: The '
Karluks ' or
Qarlughids reported from near Ghazni in
the thirteenth century may have arisen from the Ephthalites. Others
say they were Khalachs, the names being similar in Arabic.
* Khalachs: The Khalachs or
Khalaj people are first mentioned in the
7th-9th centuries in the area of Kabul and Gazni. They spoke Turkic,
possibly arose from the Ephthalites and later probably merged into the
Ghilzai Pashtuns. Their descendents may have founded the Khilji
dynasty (1290) and the
Lodi dynasty (1451) of the Delhi Sultanate.
* Abdal is a name associated with the Ephthalites. It is an
alternate name for the
Äynu people of the
Tarim Basin and appears as
a sub-tribe of the
Chowdur Turkmen, Kazakhs and
Pashtuns began as a union of largely East-Iranian tribes which
became the initial ethnic stratum of the Pashtun ethnogenesis , dates
from the middle of the first millennium CE and is connected with the
dissolution of the Epthalite (White Huns) confederacy. Of the
contribution of the Epthalites (White Huns) to the ethnogenesis of the
Pashtuns we find evidence in the ethnonym of the largest of the
Pashtun tribe unions, the Abdali (
* ^ _A_ _B_ Bivar, A. D. H. "HEPHTHALITES". Encyclopaedia Iranica.
Retrieved 8 March 2017.
* ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ "Chinese Travelers in Afghanistan". _Abdul Hai
Habibi _. alamahabibi.com. 1969. Retrieved August 9, 2012.
* ^ Sardonyx seal
* ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ _E_ _F_ _G_ _H_ A.Kurbanov "THE
HEPHTHALITES-ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND HISTORICAL ANALYSIS" 2010
* ^ _A_ _B_ _Al-Hind, the Making of the Indo-Islamic World: Early
medieval India_. André Wink, p. 110. E. J. Brill.
* ^ _A_ _B_ The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Attila, Michael
* ^ Ancient History of Central Asia by Adesh Katariya p.169
* ^ CNG Coins
* ^ Kurbanov, p164;
* ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ _E_ The Cambridge Companion to the Age of
Attila by Michael Maas p.287
* ^ CNG Coins
* ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ History of Civilizations of Central Asia, Ahmad
Hasan Dani, B. A. Litvinsky,