Sīstān (Persian/Baloch/Pashto: سیستان), known in ancient times
Sakastan (Persian/Baloch/Pashto: ساكاستان; "the land of the
Saka"), is a historical and geographical region in present-day eastern
Sistan and Baluchestan Province), southern
Kandahar) and the
Nok Kundi region of Balochistan (western Pakistan).
2.1 Early history
2.2 Sasanian era
2.3 Islamic conquest
2.4 Caliphate rule
2.5 Saffarid dynasty
2.6 Nasrid dynasty
2.7 Mihrabanid dynasty and its successors
Sistan derives its name from
Sakastan ("the land of the Saka"). The
Sakas were a Scythian tribe which from the 2nd century BC to the 1st
century migrated to the
Iranian Plateau and Indus valley, where they
carved a kingdom known as the Indo-Scythian Kingdom. In the
Zoroastrian scripture written in Pahlavi, the province
is called "Seyansih". After the Arab conquest of Iran, the province
became known as Sijistan/Sistan.
The more ancient
Old Persian name of the region - prior to Saka
dominance - was zaranka ("waterland"; cf. Pashto dzaranda). This older
form is also the root of the name Zaranj, capital of the Afghan Nimruz
Encyclopædia Iranica says "The name of the country and its
inhabitants is first attested as
Old Persian z-r-k (i.e., Zranka) in
the great Bīsotūn inscription of Darius I, apparently the original
name. This form is reflected in the
Elamite (Sir-ra-an-qa and
variants), Babylonian (Za-ra-an-ga), and Egyptian (srng or srnḳ)
versions of the
Achaemenid royal inscriptions, as well as in Greek
Zarángai, Zarangaîoi, Zarangianḗ (Arrian; Isidore of Charax), and
Sarángai (Herodotus) and in Latin Zarangae (Pliny). Instead of this
original form, characterized by non-Persian z (perhaps from proto-IE.
palatal *γ or *γh), in some Greek sources (chiefly those dependent
upon the historians of Alexander the Great) the perhaps hypercorrect
Persianized variant (cf. Belardi, p. 183) with initial d-, *Dranka (or
even *Dranga?), reflected in Greek Drángai, Drangḗ, Drangēnḗ,
Drangi(a)nḗ (Ctesias; Polybius; Strabo; Diodorus; Ptolemy; Arrian;
Stephanus Byzantius) and Latin Drangae, Drangiana, Drangiani (Curtius
Rufus; Pliny; Ammianus Marcellinus; Justin) or Drancaeus (Valerius
Flaccus, Argonautica 6.106, 6.507) occurs."
In the Shahnameh,
Sistan is also referred to as Zabulistan, after the
region in the eastern part of Iran. In Ferdowsi's epic,
in turn described to be the homeland of the mythological hero Rostam.
See also: Zabulistan
In prehistoric times, the
Jiroft Civilization covered parts of Sistan
Kerman Province (possibly as early as the 3rd millennium BC).
Later the area was occupied by
Aryan tribes related to the Indo-Aryans
and Iranian Peoples. Eventually a kingdom known as
formed, parts of which were ruled by the Medean Empire by 600 BC. The
Medes were overthrown by the
Persian Empire in 550 BC, and
Arachosia was soon annexed. In the 4th century BC, Macedonian
Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great annexed the region during his conquest of the
Persian Empire and founded the colony of "Alexandria in Arachosia"
Alexander's Empire fragmented after his death, and
under control of the Seleucid Empire, which traded it to the Mauryan
dynasty of India in 305 BC. After the fall of the Mauryans, the region
fell to their
Greco-Bactrian allies in 180 BC, before breaking away
and becoming part of the
Gondophares was leader of
Sistan around c. 20–10 BCE as it was part
Indo-Parthian Kingdom which was also called Gedrosia, its
After the mid 2nd century BC, much of the
Indo-Greek Kingdom was
overrun by tribes known as the Indo-
Scythians or Saka, from which
Sistan (from Sakastan) eventually derived its name. The Indo-Scythians
were defeated around 100 BC by the Parthian Empire, which briefly lost
the region to its Suren vassals (the Indo-Parthian) around 20 AD,
before the region was conquered by the
Kushan Empire in the mid 1st
century AD. The
Kushans were defeated by the Sassanid Persian Empire
in the mid 3rd century, first becoming part of a vassal Kushansha
state, before being overrun by the
Hephthalites in the mid 5th
century. Sassanid armies reconquered
Sistan in by 565 AD, but lost the
area to the Arab
Rashidun Caliphate after the mid 640s.
Main article: Sakastan
The province was formed in ca. 240, during the reign of Shapur I, in
his effort to centralise the empire; before that, the province was
under the rule of the Parthian Suren Kingdom, whose ruler Ardashir
Sakanshah became a Sasanian vassal during the reign of Shapur's father
Ardashir I (r. 224–242), who also had the ancient city Zrang
rebuilt, which became the capital of the province. Shapur's son
Narseh was the first to appointed as the governor of province, which
he would govern until 271, when the Sasanian prince Hormizd was
appointed as the new governor. Later in ca. 281, Hormizd revolted
against his cousin Bahram II. During the revolt, the people of
Sakastan was one of his supporters. Nevertheless,
Bahram II managed to
suppress the revolt in 283, and appointed his son
Bahram III as the
governor of the province.
Sakastan under the Sasanians.
During his early reign,
Shapur II (r. 309-379) appointed his brother
Shapur Sakanshah as the governor of Sakastan.
Peroz I (r. 459–484),
during his early reign, put an end to dynastic rule in province by
appointing a Karenid as its governor. The reason behind the
appointment was to avoid further family conflict in the province, and
in order to gain more direct control of the province.
During the Muslim conquest of Persia, the last Sasanian king Yazdegerd
III fled to
Sakastan in the mid-640s, where its governor Aparviz (who
was more or less independent), helped him. However, Yazdegerd III
quickly ended this support when he demanded tax money that he had
failed to pay.
In 650, Abd-Allah ibn Amir, after having secured his position in
Kerman, sent an army under Mujashi ibn Mas'ud to Sakastan. After
having crossed the
Dasht-i Lut desert, Mujashi ibn Mas'ud arrived to
Sakastan. However, he suffered a heavy defeat and was forced to
One year later,
Abd-Allah ibn Amir sent an army under Rabi ibn Ziyad
Harithi to Sakastan. After some time, he reached Zaliq, a border town
between Kirman and Sakastan, where he forced the dehqan of the town to
Rashidun authority. He then did the same at the fortress
of Karkuya, which had a famous fire temple, which is mentioned in the
Tarikh-i Sistan. He then continued to seize more land in the
province. He thereafter besieged Zrang, and after a heavy battle
outside the city, Aparviz and his men surrendered. When Aparviz went
to Rabi to discuss about the conditions of a treaty, he saw that he
was using the bodies of two dead soldiers as a chair. This horrified
Aparviz, who in order to spare the inhabitants of
Sakastan from the
Arabs, made peace with them in return for heavy tribute, which
included a tribute of 1,000 slave boys bearing 1,000 golden
Sakastan was thus under the control of the Rashidun
However, only two years later, the people of
Zarang rebelled and
defeated Rabi ibn Ziyad Harithi's lieutenant and Muslim garrison of
Abd-Allah ibn Amir then sent 'Abd al-Rahman ibn Samura to
Sistan, where he managed to suppress the rebellion. Furthermore, he
also defeated the
Zunbils of Zabulistan, seizing Bust and a few cities
First Islamic Civil War
First Islamic Civil War of 656–661, the people of Zarang
rebelled and defeated the Muslim garrison of the city. In 658,
Yazdegerd III's son
Peroz III invaded
Sistan and established a kingdom
there, known in Chinese sources as the "Persian Area Command".
However, in 663, he was forced to leave the region after suffering a
defeat to newly established
Umayyad Caliphate, who had succeeded the
Sistan became a province of the
Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates. In the
Saffarid dynasty emerged in
Sistan and proceeded to conquer
most of the Islamic East, until it was checked by the
Samanids in 900.
Samanids took the province from the Saffarids, it briefly
returned to Abbasid control, but in 917 the governor Abu Yazid Khalid
made himself independent. He was followed by a series of emirs with
brief reigns until 923, when
Ahmad ibn Muhammad
Ahmad ibn Muhammad restored Saffarid rule
in Sistan. After his death in 963,
Sistan was ruled by his son Khalaf
ibn Ahmad until 1002, when
Mahmud of Ghazni
Mahmud of Ghazni invaded Sistan, ending the
A year later,
Sistan revolted. In response, Mahmud brought an army to
suppress the revolt. Mahmud's Hindu troops sacked the mosque of Zarang
massacring the Muslims inside.
In 1029, Tadj al-Din I Abu l-Fadl Nasr founded the Nasrid dynasty, who
were a branch of the Saffarids. They became vassals of the Ghaznavids.
The dynasty then became vassals of the
Seljuks in 1048,
1162, and the Khwarezmians in 1212. Mongols sacked
Sistan in 1222 and
Nasrid dynasty was ended by Khwarezmians in 1225.
Mihrabanid dynasty and its successors
Shams al-Din 'Ali ibn Mas'ud founded Mihrabanid dynasty,
another branch of Saffarids, as melik of
Sistan for Ilkhanate.
Mihrabanid contested with Kartids during Mongol rule.
independence in 1335 after demise of Ilkhanate. 1383 Tamerlane
Sistan and forced Mihrabanids to become vassals.
Timurids was ended in 1507 due to Uzbek invasion in
1507. Uzbeks were driven in 1510 and Mihrabanids became vassals of
Safavids until 1537
Safavids deposed the dynasty and gained full
control of Sistan.
Map of the
Safavid dynasty in ca. 1720, with
Sistan as one of its
Safavid rule was lasted till 1717 except Uzbeks rule between 1524 and
1528 and 1578 and 1598. In this year
Hotaki dynasty conquered it.
Nadir Shah reconquered in 1727. After assassination of Nadir Shah,
Sistan under rule of
Durrani Empire in 1747. Between 1747 and 1872
Sistan was contested with
Persia and Afghanistan. The border dispute
Afghanistan was solved by
Sistan Boundary Mission,
led by British General Frederick Goldsmid, who agreed to most of
Persia but the Persians won the withdrawal of the right bank
of the Helmand. The countries were not satisfied.
The border was defined more precisely with the Second
Commission (1903-1905) headed by Arthur Mac Mahon, who had a difficult
task due to lack of natural boundaries. The part assigned
included in the province of Balochistan (which took the name of Sistan
and Baluchistan in 1986) being the capital Zahedan. In
was part of the
Sistan province of Farah-Chakansur that was abolished
in the administrative reorganization of 1964 to form the province of
Nimruz, with capital Zaranj.
Sistan has a very strong connection with
Zoroastrianism and during
Lake Hamun was one of two pilgrimage sites for
followers of that religion. In
Zoroastrian tradition, the lake is the
keeper of Zoroaster's seed and just before the final renovation of the
world, three maidens will enter the lake, each then giving birth to
the saoshyans who will be the saviours of mankind at the final
renovation of the world.
The most famous archaeological sites in
Shahr-e Sukhteh and
the site on Kuh-e Khwajeh, a hill rising up as an island in the middle
of Lake Hamun.
^ Frye 1984, p. 193.
^ a b Bosworth 1997, pp. 681-685.
^ Brunner 1983, p. 750.
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^ Pourshariati 2008, p. 222.
^ a b c Morony 1986, pp. 203-210.
^ a b c d Zarrinkub 1975, p. 24.
^ Marshak & Negmatov 1996, p. 449.
^ a b Daryaee 2009, p. 37.
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Coordinates: 31°00′00″N 62°00′00″E / 31.0000°N