Marzban

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For the village in Iran, see Marzban, Iran.

Marzbān, or the more correct form of Marzpān (Middle Persian transliteration: mlcpʾn', derived from marz "border, boundary" and the suffix -pān "guardian"; Modern Persian: مرزبان Marzbān) were a class of margraves or military commanders in charge of border provinces of the Sassanid Empire of Persia (Iran) between the 3rd and 7th centuries CE.

Etymology[edit]

The Persian word marz is derived from Avestan marəza "frontier"; pān is cognate with Avestan and Old Persian pat "protector". The word was borrowed from New Persian into Arabic as مرزبان marzubān (plural مرازبة marāziba). Al-Marzubani (المرزباني) has been used as a nisba (family title) for some Iranian families whose ancestor was a marzban. The prominent Islamic scholar Abu Hanifa, whose formal name is given in Islamic sources as Nu'man ibn Thabit ibn Zuta ibn Marzubān (نعمان بن ثابت بن زوطا بن مرزبان), was descended from the marzbans of Kabul, where his father came from.

History[edit]

Marzbans were granted the administration of the border provinces and were responsible for maintaining the security of the trade routes, fighting the encroaching nomadic tribes such as Bedouin Arabs, White Huns and Oghuz Turks, and holding the first line of defense against settled enemies such as Romans and Kushans.

The Sasanian shahanshah (king of kings) usually selected marzbans from the Wuzurgan, Iranian noble families who held the most powerful positions in the imperial administration. The rank of marzban, like most imperial administration, was mostly patrimonial, and was passed down through a single family for generations. Marzbans of greatest seniority were permitted a silver throne, while marzbans of the most strategic border provinces, such as the province of Armenia, were allowed a golden throne. In military campaigns the regional marzbans could be regarded as field marshals, while lesser spahbods could command a field army.

It is not clear whether they had authority over castles in their area of operation, as argbadhs were responsible for castles. In many ways, the marzbans had the same function and status as medieval Germanic margraves. The marzban of Abarshahr in Central Asia was called "kanarang".

See also[edit]