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The Problems of Qūmis

  • John Hansman

During the summer of 330 b.c. Alexander the Great pursued the Persian king Darius III through Northern Media, past the Caspian Gates, and eastward into the Achaemenid satrapy of Parthava (Parthia). Upon reaching Darius, Alexander found the king murdered by the usurper Bessus. The Macedonian thereafter advanced east for three more days until he arrived at the wealthy city which was later to be called Hecatompylos. It is the problems of Hecatompylos and the several related questions of its home district, called Comisene by the Greeks, which this paper will consider.

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1 Diodorus Siculus, XVII, 75.

2 The writer wishes to thank Dr. M. Boyce for advice on Old and Middle Persian word forms and Dr. A. D. H. Bivar for reading the manuscript and for several useful suggestions.

3 Quintus Curtius, VI, 2–4.

4 Appian, Syriaca, 57.

5 Pliny, XI, 13, 6.

6 For a more detailed consideration of these dates and sequence of events see Wolski, J., “The decay of the Iranian empire of the Seleucids and the chronology of the Parthian beginnings”, Berytus, XII, 35 ff.

7 It should be noted that the original inhabitants of the Achaemenid satrapy of Parthava (the later Seleucid Parthyene) were not Arsacid Parthians. The tribe of the Parni, under the leadership of Arsaces (Parthian Arshak), would have become identified with the Parthians only after gaining control of the satrapy of that name.

8 Justin, XLI, 5.

9 On Soviet excavations at Old Nisa see Pugachenkova, G. A., “Arkhitekturnye pamyatnik Nicy”, Trudy Yuzhno-Turkmenistanskoi Arkh. Ekspeditsii, I, Ashkabad, 1949, 201 ff. See also Vmoraya, G., “Parfyanskoe zodchestvo”, ib., VI, Moscow, 1958, 66 ff.

10 Masson, M., “Nekotorye novye dannye po istorii Parfii”, Vestnik Drevnej Istorii, 33, 1950, Part 3, 43.

11 Polybius, X, 28–30.

12 Frye, R., The heritage of Persia, New York, 1963, 266, n. 23.

13 Polybius, X, 31.

14 Justin, XLI, 5.

15 Frye, op. cit., 173.

16 Strabo, Geography, 11.IX.1.

17 On the dating of Apollodorus see Wolski, op. cit., 43, and Tarn, W., The Greeks in Bactria and India, Cambridge, 1958, 44.

18 Strabo, Geography, 11.XIII.1, 16.I.16.

19 For this sequence of events see Debevoise, N., A political history of Parthia, Chicago, 1938, 1823; to be modified in the light of the Heracles inscription from Bisitun (cf. Robert, L., Gnomon, 1963, 70), dated s.e. 164, which presumably predates the Parthian conquest of Media.

20 Tarn, op. cit., 13.

21 The name Mithradatkirt is attested on an ostracon found at Old Nisa (see Dyakonov, I. and Livshits, V., Dokumenty iz Nisy, Moscow, 1960, 22, n. 9). Frye, op. cit., 174, suggests that Nisa may always have been called Mithradatkirt by the Parthians or that the name was given to the city by Mithradates I. But on the coinage of Phraates II, son and successor of Mithradates I, we find NISA and NISAK represented as an apparent mint-place. It is hardly likely that Phraates would so completely have ignored a new name given to Nisa by his famous father. On the other hand, the letters MI or M alone, which could represent Mithradatkirt, are the most common monograms found on the bronze coinage of Mithradates II. W. Wroth (Catalogue of the coins of Parthia, 1903, lxxxiii) notes that the monogram MI would suggest a town named after Mithradates II, but the evidence of the ostracon was not then available. No form of the word Nisa, as such, appears on any of the second Mithradates' strikings. Thus it would seem that Mithradates II, rather than Mithradates I, might be credited with the Mithradatkirt appellation.

22 Isidore of Charax, Parthian stations (ed. Schoff, ), Philadelphia, 1914, 9.

23 Cf. Mongait, A., Archaeology in the U.S.S.R., Moscow, 1959, 296297.

24 Polybius, X, 31.

25 Strabo, 16.I.16.

26 Cf. Debevoise, op. cit., 34–40, for sources on the Saka invasion and on Himerus.

27 Pliny, VI, 17.

28 Ptolemy, , Geography, VI, 30.

29 Pliny, VI, 30.

30 Ptolemy, (Geography, I, 5) states that parts of the earth are different today from what they were, either on account of revolution or from transformation, in which process they are known to have partially fallen into ruin. He notes, in this regard, that he has had to decide for himself what is credible and what is not.

31 Tacitus, (Annals, VI, 26) calls Ctesiphon “sedes imperii”; Cassius, Dio (Hist. Rom., XL, 45) givesπóλις ν ᾖ βασιλεíα [οἱ πáθοι] ἔχουσι and Ammianus (XXIII, 6), “Persidis specimen summum”. It is, of course, known that Vologases I (a.d. 51–80) founded the city of Vologasia near Babylon (cf. Pliny, VI, 122). But if Vologasia was the Parthian capital of that reign, Vologases' successors certainly returned the government to Ctesiphon. Cf. Debevoise, op. cit., 204–5.

32 On the Seleucid eparchies see Tarn, op. cit., 2–3.

33 Isidore of Charax, op. cit., 7.

34 Ptolemy, VI, 5.

35 Isidore of Charax, op. cit., 7.

36 See p. 134 below.

37 Cf. Mas'ūdī, , Bibl. Geog. Arab. (De Goeje, ed.), III, Leiden, 1894, 8, 49, and Istakhrī, ib., I, 1, 229.

38 For these locations see (in order) Wilson, H., Ariana Antigua, 1841, 171; Ferrier, J., Caravan journeys, 1856, 69; and Houtum-Schindler, A., “Notes on some antiquities found in a mound near Damghan”, J.R. Geog. S., IX, 425427.

39 Jackson, A., From Constantinople to the home of Omar Khayyam, New York, 1911, 161 ff., 176 ff.

40 Herzfeld, E., “Zarathustra”, Archäologische Mitteilungen aus Iran, Berlin, 19291930, 107, n. 1, follows von Ritter and Kiepert in favouring the Damghan location. An earlier consideration of the classical references to Hecatompylos is given by Mordtmann, A. in “Hekatompylos”, Sb. bayer. Akad. Wiss., Munich, 1869, 512 ff.

41 Schmidt, E., Excavations at Tepe Hissar Damghan, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 1937, 1117.

42 Schmidt, E., Flights over ancient cities of Iran, Chicago, 1940, 3435.

43 Strabo, 11.IX.1.

44 Pliny, VI, 17.

45 For a detailed consideration of the Caspian Gates' location see Jackson, op. cit., 127–138. See also Stahl, A., “Notes on the march of Alexander the Great from Ecbatana to Hyrcania”, Geog. J., LXIV, 10 1924, 318320.

46 On the various lengths of the Greek stade or stadium see Oxford Classical Dictionary, Oxford, 1957, s.v. “Measure”.

47 Cf. n. 43 above.

48 On the Roman mile see OED, s.v. “Mile”.

49 Pliny, VI, 21.

50 Ferrier, op. cit., 68.

51 Goldsmid, F., Eastern Persia, 1876, I, 382.

52 Jackson, op. cit., 159–60.

53 Cf. Tolstov, S., “Raboty Khorezmskoy Ekspeditsii an SSR po raskorkam pamyatnika IV-III v.v. do n.z.—Koi Krylgan Kala”, Vestnik Drevnej Istorii, 1953, Part 1, 160165.

54 Cf. Vmoraya, op. cit., 68–9.

55 Herodotus, III, 17. On the Khwarezmians see Tarn, W., Alexander the Great, II: Sources and studies, Cambridge, 1948, 293294.

56 Cf. Ghirshman, R., Iran: Parthian and Sasanian, 1962, 3435.

57 Mongait, A., Archaeology in the U.S.S.R. (Pelican, ed.), 1961, 238.

58 The Parthian tombs at Garmi in North-East Azerbaijan (not to be confused with Soviet excavations at Garni in the Armenian S.S.R.) have been excavated by the Iranian Department of Antiquities, but are not as yet published.

59 On Scythian horse-burials see Rostovtzeff, M., Iranians and Greeks in South Russia, Oxford, 1922, 45, 47, 49. See also Rice, T., The Scythians, 1957, 7072, 92, 109.

60 Herodotus, IV, 71–73.

61 Justin, XLI, 1.

62 W. Tarn, The Greeks in Bactria and India, 79.

63 Strabo, 11. VIII.2.

64 Pliny, VI, 19 and 29. On the nomadic nature of these several tribal elements see Tarn, op. cit., 80; Rice, op. cit., 21–2; Justin, XLI, 3.

65 Justin, XLI, 3.

66 Cf. Howorth, H., History of the Mongols, 1876, I, 82.

67 Dyson, R., “Problems of protohistoric Iran as seen from Hasanlu”, J. Near East. Stud., XXIV, 07 1965, 204 ff.

68 Cf. Clairmont, C., “Greek pottery from the Near East”, Berytus, XII, 19561958, 20 and pl. VI, nos. 4, 5, 6, 9, 10.

69 Scerrato, U., “Excavations at Dahan-i Ghulaman”, East and West, N.S., XVI, 0306, 1966, 26 and fig. 52.

70 Schmidt, E., Persepolis II, Chicago, 1957, 123 and pl. 89, no. 7.

71 Clairmont, op. cit, 18 and pl. V, no. 6.

72 Ib., p. 15–16 and Pl. IV, no. 17–23.

73 The ceramics of the Parthian levels at Susa, excavated by Professor R. Ghirshman, have not yet been published, though Professor Ghirshman has kindly allowed the writer to study this material on site. For profile drawings of several of the most frequently occurring Parthian pottery types at Susa see R. Ghirshman, , Iran, 1961, 281, fig. 84. For parallels with Parthian ceramics from Seleucia see Debevoise, N., Parthian pottery from Seleucia on the Tigris, Ann Arbor, 1934, 69, 79, 103, 129.

74 Cf. Toll, N., “The green glazed pottery”, The excavations at Dura-Europos, Final report, IV, Part 1, Fascicle 1, New Haven, 1943, 73.

75 One element which seems common to both the early Dura Parthian ceramic material and to much of the Qūmis pottery is the horned handle, cf. Toll, op. cit., 12.

76 Ettinghausen, R., “Parthian and Sassanian pottery”, A survey of Persian art, ed. Pope, A., I, 651, 667.

77 Cf. n. 9 above.

78 Strabo, 16.I.16.

79 Polybius, X, 28. In northern Iran the word kōmish is applied to a person employed in digging qanāts. It may thus be that the practice of qanāt construction was first developed in the Qūmis/Kōmish district.

80 Diodorus Siculus, I, 45.

81 Polybius, X, 28.

82 Ib., X, 31.

83 Strabo, 11.VII.2.

84 The Old Persian Raga is attested in the Bisitun inscription. See Kent, R., Old Persian grammar, New Haven, 1950, 27. For Rhagiana and Rhaga see Isidore of Charax, op. cit., 7; Rhagae, Strabo, 2.IX.1; Gabiane, Strabo, 16.I.18; Gabae, Strabo, 15.III.3. The Old Persian form *Gaba is a reconstruction. We know from Strabo, loc. cit., that an Achaemenid palace was located at that place. Henning, following Marquart, agreed that *Gaba would suit the Middle Persian Gay. On *Gaba and Gay see Marquart, J., Ērānšhar nach der Geographie des Ps. Moses Xorenac'i, Berlin, 1901, 29, and Henning, W., “Gabae”, Asia Major, II, 1951, 144. For Susiana see Strabo, 2.V.32; for Susa, Strabo, 15.III.4.

85 Rustah, Ibn, Bibl. Geog. Arab., VII, 169170.

86 Yākūt, Geog. Dict., tr. de Meynard, 464; Great Bundahishn, Anklesaria, T.D. ed., p. 128.8 (kwmyš).

87 Marquart, J., A catalogue of the provincial capitals of Eranshahr, Rome, 1931, 12.

88 Cf. n. 41 above.

89 Both the Seleucid and Parthian appellations are attested by Pliny (XI, 13).

90 According to Step. Byz., s.v. Ἀγβáτανα, Antiochus IV (Epiphanes), 175–164 b.c., gave his name to Ecbatana.

91 The place-name Raγa a occurs in the Avesta, Yasna XIX.18; but I. Gershevitch argues convincingly against the usual identification of this presumably eastern Iranian Raγa with Median Raga; cf. Journal of Near Eastern Studies, XXIII, 1964, 3637.

92 For Old Persian Çūshā see Kent, R., Old Persian grammar, New Haven, 1950, 142143. Susa is still known locally by the Middle Persian form Shūsh. The Arab-imposed variant Sūs has not survived.

93 For Hagmatāna see R. Kent, op. cit., 122.

94 Le Strange, G., Lands of the Eastern Caliphate, Cambridge, 1930, 281282.

95 Marquart, A catalogue …, 12.

96 Cf. EI 2, Leiden, 1960, I, 1315, s.v. “Bur”.

97 Cf. n. 41 above.

98 Yakūbī, , Bibl. Geog. Arab., III, 355356.

99 The inclusion of Baghdad at the very end of the Shahristānīhā-i Ērān is an obvious addition of the Early Islamic period.

100 For a description of this structure see E. Schmidt, Excavations at Tepe Hissar …, 327–31.

101 Wachtsmuth, F., Die Ausgrabungen der zweiten Ktesiphon-Expedition, Islamische Abteilung, Staatliche Museen, Berlin, 1933, 24. Some scholars suggest an earlier sixth-century date for the Tāq-i Kisrā. The evidence of historical records, unfortunately, is inconclusive (see Kurz, O., “The date of Tāq i Kisrā”, JRAS, 1941, 3741; Bruno, A., “The preservation and restoration of Tāq-Kisrā”, Mesopotamia, I, 1966, 8993). Numerous stucco decorative devices used by the late Sasanians were developments of much older Greek and Roman forms. Thus the further stylistic adaption of these traditional motifs between the mid and late 6th century would probably not have been considerable. This would seem especially true in the ornamentation of provincial buildings such as the Damghan structure.

102 The Aspahbadh-Pahlav line was one of the so-called seven first families of Iran. On this dynasty see Christensen, A., L'Iran sous les Sassanides, Copenhagen, 1944, 103105.

103 Sebeos, , Histoire d'Héraclius, Paris, 1904, 118.

104 Ib. Sebeos states that Vindoe and Bistam were sons of the Aspahbadh killed by Hormizd IV; thus that king must have murdered his maternal grandfather. Cf. Justi, F., Iranisches Namenbuch, Marburg, 1895, 429.

105 On this sequence of events see Dinawarī, , Tarikh al-Akbar at-Tiwal, ed. Guirgess, Leiden, 1888, 102 ff.

106 Paruck, F., Sasanian coins, Bombay, 1924, 113.

107 The alleged tomb of Bustam Mirza (Prince Bustam) is still venerated at Bustam, though he was later canonized as a Moslem saint. Cf. Mordmann, “Hekatompylos”, 517–8.

108 Marquart, A catalogue …, 57, suggests that Yazdagird II (a.d. 439–57), son of Bahram V, who is historically attested to have warred against the Chol (the Hephthalites), founded there (in the country of the Chol) a fortified cantonment, Shahristān-i Yazdagird. No mint monograms identified as Kōmish have been found on Sasanian coins. This fact would, perhaps, suggest that Sasanian Kōmish, as the above station, was maintained more as a fortified post on the urāsān road than as a district capital during the early years after its refounding.

109 Isfandiyar, Ibn, Tarīkh-i Ṭabaristān, tr. Browne, 1905, 14; Ṭabarī (Bal'ami version, tr. Zotenberg), III, 491.

110 Khurdādbih, Ibn, Bibl. Geog. Arab., VI, 23; Kudāmah, ib., 201.

111 As in many instances with Middle Persian k, especially before a back vowel, the Arabic spelling of Kōmish is with qāf, and this orthography has prevailed in modern Persian.

112 Istakhrī, , Bibl. Geog. Arab., I, 215216; Mukaddasī, ib., III, 371–2.

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