Herat History

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Herat history, If we go back to ancient times or to the past (ca. 550-330 BC), the surrounding district was known as Haraiva (in Old Persian), and in classical sources the region was correspondingly known as Aria (Areia). In the Zoroastrian Avesta, the district is mentioned as Haroiva. The name of the district and its main town is derived from the chief river of the region. The Hari River (Old Iranian Harayu "with velocity"), which traverses the district and passes just south (5 km) of modern Herat. The Persian Achaemenid district of Aria is mentioned in the provincial lists that are included in various royal inscriptions, for instance, in the Behistun inscription of Darius I (ca. 520 BC). Representatives from the district are depicted in relief’s, e.g., at the royal Achaemenid tombs of Naqsh-e Rustam and Persepolis.


At the time of Alexander the Great, Aria was obviously an important district. It was administered by a satrap, called Satibarzanes, who was one of the three main Persian officials in the East of the Empire, together with the satrap Bessus of Bactria and Barsaentes of Arachosia. In late 330 BC Alexander the Great, captured the Arian capital which was called Artacoana. The town was rebuilt and the citadel was constructed. Then it became part of the Seleucid Empire later it was captured by others on various occasions and became part of the Parthian Empire in 167 BC.

In the Sasanian period (226-652), "Harev" is listed in an inscription on the Ka'ba-i Zardosht at Naqsh-e Rustam; and "Hariy" is mentioned in the Pahlavi catalogue of the provincial capitals of the empire. In around 430, the town is also listed as having a Christian community, with a Nestorian bishop.

In the last two centuries of Sasanian rule, Aria (Herat) had a great strategic rule in the endless wars between the Sasanians, the Chionites and the Hephthalites who had been settled in modern northern part of Afghanistan since the late fourth century.

The city became well known with the advent of the Arabs in the middle of the seventh century. When the Arab armies appeared in Khorasan in the 650s, Herat was counted among the twelve capital towns of the Sasanian Empire. Herat city was taken in CE 652 by General Abdul Rahman ibn Samrah. Around 786-809 The city was part of the Abbasid caliphate, and later it ruled by the Tahirid dynasty, and after 867-869, the Saffarid dynasty took the control. Before 1040 it was ruled by the Ghaznavids. In 1040 it was captured by the Seljuk Empire. Then in 1175 it captured by the Ghorys and then came under the control of Khawarazm Empire. In this period Herat became an important center of metal goods production, especially bronze, which often decorated with elaborate inlays in precious metals. In 1221 it was captured by the Mongols and later destroyed by Genghis Khan. In 1245 the city went under control of Kart Maliks.

Around 1381 it was destroyed again by Timor. Under his son Shah Rukh it was rebuilt and became an important center under the Timurid Empire. In the late 1400s the Musalla complex (with many minarets) was built under the rule of Queen Gawharshad. Her tomb complex is considered one of the great monuments of Timurid architectural carving.

Herat history points out, that the Black Sheep Turkomens (Qara Qoyunlu) established their capital in Herat during the fifteenth century. However, in 1506, it was occupied by the Uzbeks, and a few years later was taken back by Shah Ismail Safawi, which became part of a new Safavid Persian Empire. From 1718 until 1863, there were various battles between the natives of the city and the Afghans until the city became part of present-day Afghanistan.

Ahmad Shah Durrani took possession of Herat in 1750, which became part of the Durrani Empire after almost a year of siege and bloody conflict. In 1824, the city became effectively independent when the country was split in three to resolve a succession struggle. The city was taken back by the Persians in 1852, and again in 1856; both times the British helped to reverse the attempt, through the Anglo-Persian War.

The city was taken by Dost Mohammed Khan in 1863, and made it part of a broader "Afghan state". Most of the Musallah complex in the city was cleared in 1885 by the British army to get a good line of sight for their artillery against Russian invaders.

During the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan the city was used by the Soviets. After the Soviet invasion at the end of 1979, there was still a substantial presence of Soviet advisors and their families in the city. From 10 to 20 March 1979 the army in Herat, under the control of Ismail Khan, mutinied and around 35 Soviet citizens were killed. Ismail Khan then became the leading Mujahideen commander in the province. After the complete withdraw of the Soviets he became the governor of Herat. In September 1995 a dark page has opened in Herat history when the city was captured by the Taliban and Ismail Khan fled from the country. However, after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, on November 2001, it was liberated from the Taliban by the Northern Alliance and Ismail Khan returned to power. In 2004, Mirwais Sadeq Khan, who was Aviation Minister of Afghanistan and the son of Ismail Khan, was ambushed and killed.

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