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Home » Samarkand ancient history. The center of historical area and the state Sogdiana.

History of Samarkand.

One-day excursion across Samarkand.

“I've known rivers:
I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins. My soul has grown deep like the rivers” 

Langston Hughes.

Walking tour in Uzbekistan.

Samarkand, one of the ancient cities in the world, contemporary of Rome, Athens and Babylon, recently celebrated it's 2500 year anniversary. It has been called "The Radiant Point of Globe", "The Jewel of Islam", and "The Mirror of the World", among others, since earliest times.
Samarkand is аn oasis, but not the kind where human life stops beyond аn outer ring of pаlm trees. Set оn the edge of the Кyzyl-Kum desert within sight of two mountain ranges, it is watered bу the river which runs between them, the Zerafshan.
For аt least 10,000 years and possibly as many as 40,000, homo sapiens has found this an amenable spot. If Silk Route trade made it rich in historic times, nature was the provider in prehistoric ones: mountain streams running off the northern slopes of the Zerafshan
range supported trees which grew nuts and berries which in turn supported wild fowl and other animals. Everything that Paleolithic man could wish for was here, and his (or rather her, for they were women's) jaw and thighbones were discovered in а former children's park in Samarkand in 1937.
Neolithic man was altogether тоге settled and sophisticated, hunting gazelles and wild bulls with bows and arrows, but also breeding sheep and goats оп wide terraces above the Sazagan river south-west of modern Samarkand.
Fine stone arrow-heads and other items dating from between 6000 and 4000 B.C. were discovered at four sites along the river between 1966 and 1972.  Тhе oldest evidence of urban settlement оп the territory of Samarkand is а collection of  jewellery from а Bronze-Age burial ground beside the River Siab, which still runs grubbily along the eastern edge of the Afrasiab site.
The remains of an outer city wall here have been dated around 1500 вc, but Samarkand рrореr is generally accepted to be 2500 years old, and Afrasiab was its first name. Afrasiab  mау have been the first Sogdian king, Sogdiana being the land between the Oxus and Jaxartes rivers, or he may have existed only in an epic роеm called 'Shakhname', as king of what became the northern Persian satrapy of Tutan Alternatively the word may refer to a  person at аll and be derived instead fгom the Tajik word parsiab, meaning 'over the Siab (black river).
Either way, Afrasiab the рlасе is а short walk east of the centre modern Samarkand. In its heyday it covered 800 hectares. The modern site covers 300 hectares, 96 реr cent of which have not been touched by builders оr archaeologists since they were trampled and torched by Genghis Кhans horsemen in 1220.
Ву the IV th century B.C. Afrasiab was the major urban centre of Sogdiana, famous for its size and general magnificence. Marauders were for the most part kept at bay by a city wall 14 km long and, in one surviving section, 13 m high.
But in 329 вс the city faced the greatest marauder of his and possibly of аll time. Alexander the Great crossed the Hindu Kush in the spring of that уеаr and took Samarkand without а struggle.
But Spitamen, the local Sogdian ruler, led а spirited rebellion that delayed the Greek conquest bу 18 frustrating months, and ended only with Spitamen's assassination by his own followers. 
Having finally taken the city Alexander became arrogant. Оn the feast of Dionysus be made sacrifices to Castor and Pollux, and claimed to be descended, like them, from Zeus. Some courtiers took this as а cue for flattery and likened him to Hercules, but his old  friend Cleitus decided to cut him down to size.
Emboldened by drink, he told Alexander he was not the equal of his own father Philip, let alone of Hercules. Alexander ran him through with а spear-and was filled with remorse for the remaining five years of his life.
The boundless gardens seen at the entry to the city, were created by Amir Timur in the 14th century when he ordered a green belt to be built around his capital. The architecturally organized gardens with plantations of fruit and decorative trees, flower gardens, irrigation system and pools were magnificent and splendid.
"A traveler who approaches the city sees only a mountainous height of trees and the houses embowered among them remain invisible" wrote Spanish envoy Ruy Gonzales de Clavijo who visited Samarkand in 1404. "Bogi Zagon", "Bogi Shamol", "Bogi Maidon", "Bogi Baland", "Bogi Dilkush": - all names of gardens are kept until today. And at present time Samarkand is one of the greenest cites of Uzbekistan.
Amir Timur made his great contributions in the formation of a state system, as well as the progress of science and culture. Start your tour by visiting Gur Emir building, the mausoleum of Amir Temur. From a distance Gur Emir looks like a blue tulip, folded tightly in its turquoise petals.
Here rest the remains of a great sovereign, his two sons and two grandsons, one of whom, Mirzo Ulugbek, was a prominent scientist, thinker, and was renowned throughout the ancient world.
Next in turn is the legendary Registan square which is considered the main architectural sight in all of Central Asia. Since ancient times this square was the trade and public center of Samarkand.
The dominating mass of the three madrassahs of Ulug Bek, Shir Dor, Tillya Kari leave one spellbound at first sight. Ulugbek, like his grandfather paid great attention to monumental building, and during his rule the ensemble of magnificent buildings was completed.
While admiring the elegance of the precious mosaics of Ulugbek madrassah, the ribbed turquoise cupolas and majestic minarets of Shir Dor and the golden paintings of the patterned walls of Tillya Kari, do not keep your emotions in.
The echo responds to your exalted exclamations as if a voice from old time: "I am Registan, the heart of Samarkand...". Another outstanding monument of ancient architecture is a the lofty Bibi Khanum Mosque.
There is a parking place near the mosque and you might see a donkey cart next to a fashionable car, on which farmers from nearby villages bring sweet melons and watermelons for the exotic daily Samarkand Bazaar.
Nowadays, a special program offered to guests of the ancient city is a chance to get aquainted with local folk who make old crafts and applied arts. The wares of Samarkand's masters were famous all over the world since olden times.
Along the branches of the Great Silk Road were found unsurpassed beautiful fabrics, crimson velvets, brocade, silk, carpets, metal work, leather, jewelry, famous Samarkand paper and other goods.
These were delivered to various countries of the ancient world. Marvelous wares of Samarkand's masters can be found here today. If you walk along the street with handicraft shops and trade rows you can watch skilled craftsmen creating their wonderful works before your eyes.
To explore even more extreme antiquity go to the ancient site of Afrosiab. The guides will tell you about a city that originated 500 years BC. There was an underground palace adorned by precious Sogdian frescos...

« Religious and spiritual monuments of the Central Asia ». The author of M. Khashimov. Publishing house " Saga", 2001