Alexandria's founded by Alexander

Alexandria's founded by Alexander the Great (by year BC): 334 Alexandria in Troia (Turkey) - 333 Alexandria at Issus/Alexandrette (Iskenderun, Turkey) - 332 Alexandria of Caria/by the Latmos (Alinda, Turkey) - 331 Alexandria Mygdoniae - 331 Alexandria (Egypt) - 330 Alexandria in Areia (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Drangiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Ai-Khanoum OR Termez, Afghanistan) - 328 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria on the Indus - 325 Alexandria Xylinepolis (Patala, India) - 325 Alexandria in Carminia (Gulashkird, Iran) - 324 Alexandria-on-the-Tigris/Antiochia-in-Susiana/Charax (Spasinou Charax on the Tigris, Iraq) - ?Alexandria of Carmahle? (Kahnu)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

From Kabul to Samarkand by S. Gorshenina and C. Rapin

Under the original title “De Kaboul à Samarcande. Les archéologues en Asie Centrale” by Svetlana Gorshenina and Claude Rapin (ISBN 9782070761661), this book is being edited by Découvertes Gallimard. It is one of the rare books that treats about archaeology in Central Asia in a professional way. It only has the size of a pocket book but is stuffed with pertaining maps like Alexander’s route and Central Asia set against today’s countries, with plenty of illustrations.

After a short introduction about mainly Russian occupancy of Central Asia going back to the tsarist era, it appears that finds from Central Asia not only wind up at the Hermitage in St Petersburg and its subsidiary museums, but also in newly created museums in Samarkand, Tashkent, Fergana and Ashkhabad, as well as in countless private collections.


The French who excavated in Afghanistan were allowed to keep half their finds which were eventually moved to the Musée Guimet in Paris, but the oriental museums of Rome and Turin got their share with parts of the reliefs from Gandhara discovered in the Swat area. Strangely enough most collections from western European museums have vanished, unless they dwell in some lost corner of their basements. Exceptions however are the museums in Bern, Copenhagen, Berlin, Helsinki and Stuttgart. We may remember Ai-Khanoum, once the capital of eastern Bactria at the confluence of the Darya-i-Panj and the Kokcha Rivers that revealed how a Greek city in that part of the world looked like, establishing the relation between the Greeks and the nomads. Also the role of the philhellenic Parthians is being highlighted.


From the sites themselves, especially in Bactria, very little remains have survived simply because the cities were built with mud bricks – examples are Afrasiab, Shahr-i-Sabz, Erkugan, Bactra and Merv.


Headlines were made with the discovery of the Oxus treasure, composed of golden and bronze objects like statues, vases, bracelets, necklaces, rings, gems, votive plaques with Zoroastrian priests, the benefactors and sacred animals. On top of all that, they found about 1300 coins ranging from the Achaemenid period to Hellenistic, probably from a temple treasury. Another exceptional discovery was the Hellenistic temple of Takht-i-Sangin with some 800,000 artifacts from its treasury, similar to the finds at Oxus and one of the richest collections of its kind in Central Asia. The hoard counted ex-votos, instruments tied to the cult, portraits of gods and benefactors, and a plaque from the 5th century BC showing a dignitary in Bactrian dress holding a dagger very much like the procession at Persepolis.


The book also devotes a chapter to religion, starting from early Buddhism during the Kushan Empire (including a handy map) in the first centuries AD with cities like Hadda, Tapa Sardar, Bamyan, Bactra, Dilberdjin, Dalverzine-tepe, Shahr-i-Nau, Airtam, Adjina-tepe, Kara-tepe and Fayaz-tepe, near Termiz, and Balalyk-tepe. Matters change dramatically with the arrival of Islam with a high level of cultural and economic renewal.


Another turn-around happens when the Soviet-Union occupies Central Asia and when Afghanistan is closed to foreigners. Today, as many of the countries in Central Asia have become independent, a revival of their national inheritance is slowly taking place, while the situation in Afghanistan is still unchanged.



Well, this book shows that there still is a great deal of work to be done, not only on the historic sites themselves but also in the larger context of reciprocal exchanges between east and west.

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