|Province of the Seleucid Empire, Parthian Empire and Sasanian Empire|
|-||Established||c. 281-261 BC|
|-||Annexed by the Rashidun Caliphate||651 AD|
|Today part of|| Afghanistan
Margu (Greek: Μαργιανή Margiane, Latin: Margiana, Old Persian: Marguš) was a region within the Achaemenid satrapy of Bactria, and a province within its successors, the Seleucid, Parthian and Sasanian Empires.
It was located in the valley of the river Murghab which has its sources in the mountains of Afghanistan, and passes through Murghab District in modern Afghanistan, and then reaches the oasis of Merv in modern Turkmenistan. Margiana bordered Parthia in the west, Aria in the south, Bactria in the east and Sogdia in the north.
It has been suggested that Margiana, with Bactria, was a satrapy under the Median Empire. Margiana was conquered by the Persian king Cyrus the Great in the 6th century BC and was formed as part of the satrapy of Bactria; he also later founded the city of Merv.
After Darius the Great's victory over the Magian usurper, Gaumata, in September 522 BC, revolts spread throughout the empire. The revolt in Margiana, led by a certain Phraates, was suppressed almost immediately, in December 521 BC by Dadarsi, the Satrap of Bactria. In the Aramaic version of the Behistun Inscription, it is claimed that 55,423 Margians were killed and 6,972 taken captive in the aftermath of the revolt.
Following the Battle of Gaugamela in 331 BC, in which Alexander the Great defeated Darius III, Darius III began his retreat to Bactria, however he was overthrown by the Satrap of Bactria, Bessus, who continued the retreat eastward through Aria and Margiana. Bessus, who had expected an attack from Alexander along the Silk Road, was surprised when Alexander had advanced through Gedrosia and Arachosia and crossed the Hindu Kush mountains in 329 BC to invade Bactria. Bessus fled north to Sogdia where he too was betrayed and was handed over to Alexander by his courtiers, Spitamenes and Datames.
In July 329 BC, as Alexander founded the city of Alexandria Eschate on the northern border of Sogdia, Spitamenes led a revolt and besieged the Sogdian capital of Maracanda. A Scythian incursion into Sogdia prevented Alexander from responding personally, however once he had defeated the Scythians in the Battle of Jaxartes, he marched south to relieve Maracanda causing Spitamenes to move south and attack Balkh in the winter of 329 BC. In the spring of 328 BC, Alexander sent his general Craterus to fortify Margiana, where he established a garrison in Merv and re-founded the city as Alexandria in Margiana. Alexander's general Coenus defeated Spitamenes in the Battle of Gabai in December 328 BC, and subsequently in the following year Sogdia was merged with Bactria to form a single satrapy under the rule of Philip.
Upon Alexander's death in 323 BC, the empire was partitioned between his generals at the Partition of Babylon and according to some historians, Philip remained as satrap of Bactria, however it has also been suggested that he was in fact only satrap of Sogdia. Disagreements between the generals led to another meeting and in the Partition of Triparadisus in 321 BC, Philip was replaced as satrap of Bactria and Sogdiana by Stasanor. During the Wars of the Diadochi, Stasanor remained neutral, however after the Babylonian War of 311-309 BC, Margiana came under the control of Seleucus I Nicator. Under Seleucus' successor, Antiochus I Soter, Alexandria in Margiana was re-built and re-founded the city as Antiochia in Margiana as the capital of a separate satrapy of Margiana. The sacking of the Seleucid capital of Antioch in Syria allowed the satrap of Bactria, Diodotus I, to declare independence and establish the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom in c. 247 BC. By 200 BC, Margiana had been conquered by the Bactrian kingdom.
Margiana was conquered by the Parthians under Mithridates I of Parthia in c. 170 BC. The defeat of the Yuezhi people in 175 BC caused many Yuezhi to flee westwards, displacing the Saka as a result, leading to a mass movement of Saka and Yuezhi towards Sogdia and Bactria. Around 140 BC the Saka invaded Parthian territory through Margiana, venturing as far as Media in central Iran and continued to harass the Parthians until 124 BC, during which they defeated and killed two successive Parthian kings. The Yuezhi, who had settled in Sogdia along the Oxus, controlled Margiana until 115 BC when Mithridates II of Parthia re-established control over the east, forcing the Yuezhi to move south into Bactria. In 53 BC, 10,000 Roman prisoners captured by the Parthians after the Battle of Carrhae in Upper Mesopotamia were settled in Antiochia in Margiana. The Yuezhi went on to conquer the remaining Greek territories in Paropamisadae and establish the Kushan Empire. The Kushans returned to Margiana in the 1st century AD and retained control until the 3rd century AD when the empire fragmented.
After Ardashir I's conquest of the former Parthian capital of Ctesiphon in 226 AD, he set about expanding what is now known as the Sasanian Empire throughout the east and conquered Margiana. Margiana is mentioned as a province under Shapur I in a third century inscription. In the fifth century, during the reign of the Sasanian king Bahram V, Margiana and the northern territories were invaded and plundered by the Hephthalites, also known as the White Huns. Bahram, after initially sending an offer of peace, led a surprise attack on the Hepthalites and massacred them whilst they camped and then pursued them as they attempted to flee back to their own territory. Bahram himself pursued the Hepthalites to the river Oxus in Margiana and sent one of his generals beyond the river who crippled them greatly. Despite this, the Hepthalites returned in around 480 AD and occupied Margiana until 565 AD.
In 642 AD, after the Sasanian disaster at the hands of the Rashidun Caliphate at the Battle of Nihawand, much like Darius III, the last Sasanian king, Yazdegerd III, fled eastward and arrived in Margiana in 651 AD. Yazdegerd was well received by Mahoe Suri, the marzban of Merv, however, upon arrival Yazdegerd appointed his courtier Farrukhzad as marzban and ordered that Mahoe give absolute control of the city over to him. Mahoe refused and Farrukhzad advised the king to retreat to Tabaristan, which he ignored. Farrukhzad then left for Tabaristan, where he would later become king himself. As the Muslim army approached, Mahoe plotted with the Hepthalite ruler Nezak Tarkan to overthrow Yazdegerd who later discovered the plot and retreated to Marwir-Rawdh in southern Margiana. Mahoe agreed to pay tribute to the Rashidun general Ahnaf ibn Qais who began to consolidate Islam in Margiana and awaited reinforcements.
Ahnaf captured Merw i-Rud, forcing Yazdegerd to flee to Balkh with his remaining supporters. Ahnaf was ordered by the Caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab to remain at Merv and not pursue Yazdegerd. However, upon learning that Yazdegerd had formed an alliance with Hepthalites beyond Margiana and was approaching Merv, Ahnaf rallied his forces and defeated Yazdegerd at the Battle of Oxus River. After his defeat, the Sasanian king was killed by a Margian miller, bringing the Sasanian Empire to an end.
Margiana's position along the Silk Road led to the development of a diverse religious demography in the period prior to the Islamic Conquest. As well as the followers of the state religion of Zoroastrianism, Buddhists, Christians, Manichaeans and Jews lived and thrived together in Margiana. Buddhist monasteries are known to have existed in Margiana, and the city of Merv acted as a major centre of Buddhist learning.
A Nestorian diocese, based in the city of Merv, is known to have existed from 424 AD, which later became a metropolitan province in 554. The uncommon name of the first recorded bishop of Merv, Bar Shaba, which means "son of the deportation", would suggest that the Christian community in Margiana may have been deported from Roman territory. A diocese of Merw i-Rud in southern Margiana also existed in 554.
- Herzfeld, Ernst (1968). The Persian Empire: Studies in geography and ethnography of the ancient Near East. F. Steiner. p. 344.
- "Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Photography: Exploring the Medieval City of Merv, on the Silk Roads of Central Asia" by Tim Williams in Archaeology International, Issue 15 (2011-2012), pp. 74-88.
- George Rawlinson. The Seven Great Monarchies Of The Ancient Eastern World, Vol 5: Persia.
- Boardman 1988, p. 53.
- Asheri, David, Alan B. Lloyd and Aldo Corcella, A Commentary on Herodotus: Books 1-4, (Oxford University Press, 2007), 533
- Livius.org: Margiana
- Livius.org: Artaxerxes V Bessus
- Livius.org: Spitamenes
- Livius.org: Alexandria in Margiana
- Peter Wilcox. Parthians and Sassanid Persians. p. 15.
- Strabo 11-8-1 on the nomadic invasions of Bactria
- George Rawlinson. The Seven Great Monarchies Of The Ancient Eastern World, Vol 6: Parthia.
- George Rawlinson. The Seven Great Monarchies Of The Ancient Eastern World, Vol 7: The Sassanian or New Persian Empire.
- Pourshariati 2008, pp. 259-260
- Pourshariati 2008, pp. 260-261
- Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War, By Kaveh Farrokh, Published by Osprey Publishing, 2007 ISBN 1-84603-108-7
- Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art (October 2003). "The Sasanian Empire (224-651 A.D.)". Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York.
- Foltz. Religions of the Silk Road. p. 47.
- Chabot, 285
- Chabot, 366