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or BENĀKAṮ, the main town of the medieval Transoxanian province of Šāš or Čāč; it almost certainly had a pre-Islamic history as a center of the Sogdians.

A version of this article is available in print

Volume III, Fascicle 6, pp. 668-669

BANĀKAṮ, BENĀKAṮ (in Jovaynī, Fanākat), the main town of the medieval Transoxanian province of Šāš or Čāč, to be distinguished from the nearby town of Benkaṯ, another name of the town of Šāš, later Tashkent. Banākaṯ flourished in early Islamic times and almost certainly had a pre-Islamic history as a center of the Sogdians. According to Markwart, Wehrot und Arang, Leiden, 1938, pp. 162-63 n., the name derives from Mid. Pers bon “base, foundation” plus kaṯ “town,” hence “chief town, capital.” The town lay at the confluence of the Syr Darya or Jaxartes (which Jovaynī apparently calls “the River of Fanākat”) with its right-bank tributary the Āhangarān or Angren (medieval Nahr Īlāq) and at the mouth of the Gijigen valley, hence to the southwest of modern Tashkent; both the ruins of old Banākaṯ and of its replacement Šāhroḵīya (see below) have been noted by Russian archeologists from 1896 onwards (Barthold, Turkestan3, p. 169).

We do not possess information about the coming of Islam to Banākaṯ but local Iranian princes seem to have persisted there into Samanid times, and we have a detailed description in Moqaddesī, pp. 277, 335, of the town in the second half of the 4th/10th century. He calls it the capital of Šāš, with an orthodox Sunni but quarrelsome and turbulent population. There was a citadel (qohandez) with gates opening on to the inner town (madīna) and on to the inner one of the two outer towns (rabaż), where the majority of bāzārs lay; the Friday mosque was up against the city wall. The town had extensive gardens and orchards and produced “Turkestan” cloth and bows. Four stages to the north lay Asfījāb and the beginning of the Turkish steppes. It was apparently a place of some importance under the Qarakhanids, and coins were minted there under these princes (see E. von Zambaur, Die Münzprägungen des Islams, zeitlich und örtlich geordnet I, Wiesbaden, 1968, p. 79). When Jengiz Khan’s hordes appeared in Transoxania, the Qanḡlï Turkish garrison under the Ḵᵛārazmšāh’s commander Iletgü Malek defended Banākaṯ for four days against 5,000 Mongol troops under Alaq Noyon, Sögetü, and Taqāy. On its surrender, there was a general massacre of the garrison, whilst the male population was impressed into the Mongol forces (Jovaynī, tr. Boyle, I, pp. 91-92).

Barthold doubted that it was this event specifically which caused the town’s destruction, but opined that it probably fell into ruin in the later 7th/13th century. At any rate, in 794/1392 (year of the monkey), it was rebuilt by Tīmūr and named Šāhroḵīya after his son and successor Šāhroḵ (Šaraf al-Dīn ʿAlī Yazdī, Ẓafar-nāma, Calcutta, 1885-88, II, p. 636). As such, it is mentioned by other authors such as Ebn ʿArabšāh, Moḥammad Ḥaydar Doḡlāt, and Bābor, the latter writing that in his time (opening of the 10th/16th century), Šāhroḵīya came within the territories of the Chaghatayid Khans; it apparently had a strong fortress and played a role in military operations up to the 12th/18th century (see Moḥammad-Ḥaydar Doḡlāt, Tārīḵ-erašīdī, tr. N. Elias and E. D. Ross, London, 1895, pp. 112, 289; Bābor-nāma, tr. A. S. Beveridge, London, 1922, pp. 7, 23-24, 54, 151). Chinese accounts of the Timurid and Uzbek periods name it as Sa-lu-hai-ya (E. Bretschneider, Mediaeval Researches from Eastern Asiatic Sources, London, 1888, II, pp. 253-55). Finally, it sank into total decay, although the ruins still bear the name “Šarqīya” as a degenerate form of “Šāhroḵīya.”


Given in the text. See also Ḥodūd al-ʿālam, tr. Minorsky, p. 118 par. 25.83.

Le Strange, Lands, p. 482.

Barthold, Turkestan3, pp. 169, 407, 116-18.

Cite this page
C. Edmund Bosworth, “BANĀKAṮ”, in: Encyclopaedia Iranica Online, © Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York. Consulted online on 24 July 2024 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/2330-4804_EIRO_COM_6548>
First published online: 2020
First print edition: 19881215

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