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(in modern Persian administrative usage a rural district consisting of a number of villages), the name of a region in medieval Gorgān and a town in Bādḡīs and another in Kermān.

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Volume VII, Fascicle 2, pp. 215-216

DEHESTĀN (in modern Persian administrative usage a rural district consisting of a number of villages), the name of a region in medieval Gorgān and a town in Bādḡīs and another in Kermān (Yāqūt, Boldān, II, p. 492).

Dehestān in Gorgān. The region of Dehestān (or perhaps Dahestān) lay southeast of the Caspian Sea, north of the Atrak river and the present-day province of Gorgān; it is now in the Turkmenistan Republic. Its name was probably derived from that of the Iranian steppe people the Dáai or Dahae, a component tribe of which, the Aparna, were progenitors of the Parthian ruling family (Bivar, p. 27; Lukonin, p. 686). Dehestān was somewhat vaguely defined by the classical Arabic and Persian geographers, and it is not unlikely that the physical configuration of the region, involving the Caspian shorelands and those along the course of the lower Atrak, has changed over the centuries. Maqdesī (Moqaddasī, pp. 358-59) described it as a rural area (rostāq) with twenty-four villages; its administrative center (madīna) was at Āḵor, but in this frontier region facing the Turkish steppes the most flourishing settlement was clearly the rebāṭ (stronghold), which was furnished with gates, markets, and a mosque. Ebn Ḥawqal (pp. 383, 388-89, 398; tr. Kramers, pp. 373, 378-79, 388) located it 50 farsangs from Abaskūn and mentioned another Dehestān situated on a peninsula jutting out from the eastern shore of the Caspian. In Ḥodūd al-ʿālam (p. 60, comm. p. 193) the latter was called Dehestān-e Sor (Sar?) and described as a resort only of fishermen and hunters of falcons and aquatic birds.

The town/rebāt of Dehestān was a pre-Islamic foundation attributed to the Arsacid Narsēh (Markwart, Provincial Capitals, pp. 12, 53-54) or to the Sasanian Qobād b. Fīrūz (Nozhat al-qolūb, p. 160; tr. p. 157). Its importance reflected above all its strategic position at a historic point of entry for steppe barbarians into civilized Iranian lands. At the time of the early Arab expansion north from Khorasan (late 7th century) Dehestān was held by a Turkish tribal group, the Ṣūl (Čöl?), ancestors of the celebrated Ṣūlī family of scholars in Arabic in the early ʿAbbasid period; in 98/715, in the time of the Arab governor Yazīd b. Mohallab, this group expelled the Persian marzbān of Gorgān, Fīrūz b. Qūl(?), and overran Gorgān (Ṭabarī, II, p. 1323; tr. XXIV, p. 48).

In late Samanid times Dehestān, along with Abīvard and Farāva, two other frontier towns on the northern rim of Khorasan facing the Kara Kum desert, came within the orbit of the Ḵᵛārazmšāhs (see CHORASMIA ii) and then, after the fall of the last indigenous Persian line in 408/1017, passed to the Ghaznavids. In 426/1035 the Ghaznavid sultan Masʿūd I (421-32/1030-41) was forced to assign Dehestān, Farāva, and Nasā to the Saljuq chiefs Ṭōḡrel Beg, Čāḡrī Beg, and Yabḡū, who promised to act as frontier guards against further incursions from the steppes (Bayhaqī, ed. Fayyāż, p. 641; cf. Barthold, Turkestan3, p. 308; idem, 1962, pp. 105, 107). Thenceforth Dehestān remained in the hands of the Saljuqs until the decay of their power in the east, after which it was ruled by one Eḵtīār-al-Dīn Aytaq, who was forced, however, to flee to the Ḵᵛārazmšāh Il-Arslan in 556/1161, abandoning Dehestān to be sacked by the Oghuz Turks (Barthold, 1962, p. 123). The region played some role in the campaigns of the Ḵᵛārazmšāhs in eastern Persia during the subsequent decades (Barthold, Turkestan3, p. 338). Although it was mentioned several times in the 13th century (Jovaynī, ed. Qazvīnī, II, pp. 244, 274, III, p. 105; tr. Boyle, II, pp. 507, 538, 616), there is no record of its fate during the Mongol invasion.

In the 17th century the region was held by Turkmen tribesmen as vassals of the khans of Ḵīva (Barthold, 1962, p. 136), but gradually it ceased to be mentioned in the sources. From inscriptions on the mosque in the extensive ruins of what is now Mašhad-e Meṣrīān, built in the reign of the Ḵᵛārazmšāh ʿAlāʾ-al-Dīn Moḥammad (596-617/1200-20), it seems clear thatthey were the site of the rebāṭ of Dehestān (Minorsky).


V. V. Barthold, K istorii orosheniya Turkestana (On the history of the irrigation of Turkestan), St. Petersburg, 1914; repr. in Sochineniya (Collected works) III, Moscow, 1962, pp. 96-231.

Idem, An Historical Geography of Iran, tr. S. Soucek, Princeton, 1984, pp. 117-19.

A. D. H. Bivar, “The Political History of Iran under the Arsacids,” in Camb. Hist. Iran III/1, pp. 21-99.

Eṣṭaḵrī, pp. 207, 214, 219, 226, 246.

Ḥodūd al-ʿālam, tr. Minorsky, p. 133, comm. pp. 385-86.

Le Strange, Lands, pp. 379-80.

V. G. Lukonin, “Political, Social and Administrative Institutions. Taxes and Trade,”in Camb. Hist. Iran III/2, pp. 680-746.

Markwart, Ērānšahr, pp. 51, 73, 310.

V. Minorsky, “Mashhad-i Miṣriyān,” EI2 VI, pp. 716-17. Moqaddasī, pp. 24, 312.

Schwarz, Iran VI, p. 816. B. Spuler, “Dihistān 2,” EI2 II, p. 253.

Dehestān in Bādḡīs. The town of Dehestān lay northeast of Herat in the Paropamisus mountains, where the modern shrine of Ḵᵛāja Dehestān is located; it was described by 10th-century geographers as half the size of Pūšang and seems to have been the center of the southern part of the district of Bādḡīs, though the governor (solṭān) lived at the smaller Kūḡanābāḏ (Eṣṭaḵrī, pp. 268-69; Ebn Ḥawqal, pp. 440-41; tr. Kramers, p. 426; Moqaddasī, p. 308; cf. Nozhat al-qolūb, p. 153; tr. p. 151). By the early 13th century Bavan (or Babna) had replaced Dehestān as the administrative center in the southern part of Bādḡīs (Yāqūt, Boldān I, p. 512). The houses of Dehestān were built of mud brick, but the indifferent water supply, brought largely through underground channels (asrāb), limited agriculture there (Moqaddasī, p. 308).

Dehestān played no significant role in history, nor does it seem to have had much cultural significance. Samʿānī did not record any scholar from there, and Yāqūt (Boldān II, p. 492) mentioned only Moḥammad b. Aḥmad b. Abi’l-Ḥajjāj Dehestānī Heravī, probably a traditionist.

Markwart, Ērānšahr, p. 150.

Idem, Wehrot und Arang, Leiden, 1936, p. 40.

B. Spuler, “Dihistān 1,” EI2, p. 253 (where the historical information is related to the Transcaspian Dehestān and not the one in Bādḡīs).

Cite this page
C. Edmund Bosworth, “DEHESTĀN”, 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_8247>
First published online: 2020
First print edition: 19941215

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