Geography of the shahnameh

  • #1
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I'm reading a translation of the shahnameh, which says that Afrasiab was a Turanian leader, who upon failed invasions of Iran, retreats beyond the Jihun river. But wikipedia says

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ceyhan_River

The Jihun river is a river in turkey. But Turan

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turan

is supposed to be east of Iran. How is the geography supposed to work here? I feel very confused.

Given the name, I kinda of assume Tehran was occupied by Turan and hence Turan contained territory West of the Caspian sea as well, but the Jihun river is still in a very obviously incorrect place for the border between this country and ancient iran, unless iran used to be somewhere very different.
 

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  • #2
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Firstly, it is a mythology. Secondly, if the invasion (from north east) failed, then it could well be possible that the retreat was along another direction (north west). And finally, Wiki says that some say he died on a mountain in Azerbaijan, which is not so far from south east Turkey. I don't know the time, in the pre Roman world, the Persian empire was pretty large and included Turkey as well as some ...stan states.
 
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I agree it's a mythology, but I would still expect the basic things like "where are the two kingdoms the entire first half of the poem is about" to get a little thought into where these are located if he's going to reference geographic features. I think you are not giving the author enough credit


I searched a bit more and found this river

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amu_Darya

Which I now think is the Jihun river referenced (the article says it was the boundary between Turan and Iran) It turns out there is also a town named the same as the Turanian king

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afrasiyab_(Samarkand)

Which is on the right side of the Amu Darya to be located in Turan. I'm guessing the wikipedia article saying the Jihun is the Ceyhan river is just wrong, or at the very least it's not the same Jihun river.
 
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The wikipedia article for the Ceyhan river says it's also known as the Jihun river (and links to a source).

I am reading the James atkinson translation of the poem.

I am attaching a picture of the relevant section. It comes after the Iranians defeat the Turanians, and offer peace with the border at the Jihun river.

It's also possible the translation just assigns the wrong name to this river.
 

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  • #6
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Here's another possible explanation: Afrasiab was Turkic (= non persian). The story has been written down in the 7th century in the Sasanian empire. The biggest expansion of that empire was almost to the Ceyhan in the west. The seljuq dynasty 200 years later had an even bigger expansion. So it might have been the case that those who had written the story located the invasion from the West, as so many times before when Persia and Greece had conflicts.
 
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I think the mystery is resolved

https://www.britannica.com/place/Amu-Darya
The amu Darya is also known as the jayhun river. What a confusing set of names. No worse than the Rhine vs the Rhone river though.
 
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  • #9
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As further confirmation, later in the story it describes Kai-khosrow being found by Giv in or near Turan, who then sends them to Iran from China. So they are definitely supposed to be east of Iran.

Curiously though, during the escape from Turan it says they are caught near "Bulgharia", which throws the whole geography into question again. There was a decent sized Bulgarian empire but I don't think it ever stretched east of the caspian sea, or even to the western shores.
 
  • #10
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Curiously though, during the escape from Turan it says they are caught near "Bulgharia", which throws the whole geography into question again.
Not so much as it looks today. During the time in question (7th century) the Old Bulgarian Empire covered the areas in the north which is approximately the East Ukrainian regions which have been annexed by Russia recently plus North Caucasus. This is not too far to be found at on an escape:
https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Großbulgarisches_Reich#/media/Datei:Map_of_Old_Great_Bulgaria_de.svg
Trying to escape over the Caucasian main ridge sounds like a reasonable plan to me.
 
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  • #11
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Ahh. That is not where modern Bulgaria is located. Thanks.

The Jaihun(?) river in general seems like it was heavily patrolled based on descriptions of the stories, so going around seems plausible.
 
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