Encyclopaedia Iranica Online

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ancient city and province in northwestern Afghanistan. OVERVIEW of the entry: i. Geography. ii. History, Pre-Islamic Period. iii. History, Medieval Period. iv. Topography and urbanism. v. Local histories. vi. The Herat question. vii. The Herat frontier, 19th and 20th centuries.

A version of this article is available in print

Volume XII, Fascicle 2, 3, pp. 203-226

HERAT, ancient city and province in northwestern Afghanistan.


The province of Herat constitutes roughly the northern one-third of the western lowlands of Afghanistan, bordering on Persia and comprising the eastern extensions of the province of Khorasan. Altitudes range from an average of 900 m in the west in the lower valleys of the Harirud River to an average of 1,300 m in the east in the upper valleys of this river. Data on climate and precipitation and climatic variation in the province are sparse and inconsistent. Freezing temperature is common in winter but rarely reaches -10° C. Early spring is marked by occasional freezing temperature, which rises to an average of 21° C in May. The average temperature in summer is about 30° C, but it occasionally reaches 45° C. Autumn ushers in increasingly cool temperature that ranges in average from 20° to 25° C. Annual precipitation for the province, mostly in the form of rain, during 1965-66 was 79.1 mm with 54.7 mm falling during the month of February and almost all of it from November to February (Akram, pp. 11-12). The peripheries of the Harirud valley have provided some of the best grasslands in all of Asia for pastoral nomads to graze their flocks and herds (Ferrier, p. 192). Ruins around Herat suggest that the valley used to be much more extensively cultivated and settled than it is today (Barthold, p. 49).

The town of Herat (34°-20’ N, 62°-12’ E) is situated in the west of the province in a fertile valley irrigated by the Harirud River, which springs from the Ḡur (q.v.) mountains in the east and turns north along the border with Persia before turning west, vanishing in the sands of the desert on the Persian border with the Republic of Turkmenistan. The highland plain of Herat borders Bādḡis (q.v.) to the north, Safid Kuh (the Paropamisus Mountains) and Ḡur to the east, Sistān to the south, and the Harirud to the west. The Harirud runs through its valley, bypassing the town, which lies about 5 km to the north at an altitude of 2,650. Herat has long been an oasis surrounded by pastoral hills and steppes (Malleson, p. 42).

Urban morphology. The city of Herat consists of the new and the old town, surrounded by a partly preserved outer wall. The old town, nearly square in plan, is separated into four quarters formed at the old city gates; Bāzār-e Kušk in the east, Bāzār-e ʿErāq in the west, Bāzār-e Qandahār in the south, and Bāzār-e Malek in the north, at the northern end of which lies the Royal Fort (Arg-e Šāhi) and beyond it the new town, Šahr-e Naw (Gazetteer of Afghanistan III, p. 161).

Monuments. Major monuments of Heart include Masjed-e Jāmeʿ, Arg-e Naw, and the Moṣallā remains from the 15th century (six minarets and a mausoleum). In 1885, on the advice of the British and in order to leave no fortifications usable in the event of a Russian attack, Amir ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Khan destroyed the mosques, madrasas, and mausoleumsnorth of the city in the Moṣallā, thus turning into debris much of Herat’s urban history that dated from the 15th century. Only nine minarets were then left standing (Charles Yate, pp. 30-32; Holdich, pp. 142-43). Two more fell during an earthquake in 1931 (Byron, p. 99), and today only five remain standing in Herat. The roofs of the Čahār-suBāzār deteriorated over time, finally collapsing in around 1930, at which time the streets were being widened, as Herat, a city of pedestrians and pack animals up to that point, was opened up to motor traffic (Najimi, pp. 6, 32). The city walls of Herat crumbled away during the course of the 20th century.

Trade routes. Herat was once the point of convergence for several important caravan routes and was famed as the granary of Central Asia. The north-south road along the Harirud River from Bukhara and Marv to Sistān and Kermān passed through Herat. And since the 13th century, the Silk Road from West Asia to China also passed through there, including a southern branch that crossed the Harirud over the twenty-six arched bridge of Mālān on the way to Kandahar and India (Yate, pp. 26-27; Byron, p. 114). Thus Herat turned into a thriving emporium for varieties of Asian products and remained a vital commercial outpost until the construction of the Trans-Caspian Railway in the 1880s (Barthold, p. 54).

Ethnic groups. Herat was a frontier area between different geographical and cultural zones, bringing together the Turkman steppes, the deserts of Sistān, the Iranian plateau, and the Hindu Kush. It was the frontier between the desert and the sown. A number of Turkic, Turko-Mongol, and Iranian tribes, including the Hazāra of Qalaʿ-ye Naw, the Jamšidi of Ḵošk, and the Turkman tribes on the steppes of the Morḡāb, held pastures along the edges of the valley. Although pastoralists, such as the Turkmans, raided the settled population, they also made major contributions to the economy and culture of Herat, as they passed through the area. As a result, Herat society has been extremely heterogeneous, a mix of Turkman, Tajik, Uzbek, Jamšidi, Taimani, Firuzkuhi, and Hazāra communities. During the 19th century, the population also included several hundred Hindu bankers and pawnbrokers, as well as communities of Armenians and Jews (the city had a Jewish quarter), who were the main wine producers of Herat (Arthur Yate, pp. 139-40; Hamilton, p. 169). The numerous pilgrimage sitesin the Herat valley teemed with migrants, mullahs, and pilgrims, as well as a large number of ḥoffāẓ, or those who have memorized and recite the Koran (Charles Yate, p. 34).

Population. Over the last two centuries, the population of Herat has been particularly unstable and fluctuating. Arthur Conolly guessed in 1931 that the town had 45,000 permanent inhabitants (Conolly, II, p. 1). Joseph Ferrier, who was there in 1845, claimed that the population had dwindled to 6,000 or 7,000 subsequent to the Persian siege of 1838, but that it had risen to more than 22,000 since (Ferrier, p. 172; Gazetteer of Afghanistan III, p. 174). During the Great Game, Heratbecame highly prized as “the road to India” and subsequently became the focus of Russian, British, and Afghan intrigues. Fears of a Russian siege of Herat, as well as the presence of Afghan troops within the city, drove much of the population out during the late 1880s, as reported by members of the Afghan Boundary Commission (Charles Yate, pp. 28-29). Yet, for most of the late 19th and early 20th century, Herat was estimated to have a population of between 40,000 and 50,000 (Marvin, p. 103; Fayż Moḥammad, I, p. 4).


Moḥammad Akram, "Eqlim-e Afghanistan,” in Āriānā dāyerat al-maʿāref, Kabul, 1955, pp. 11-12.

Vasiliĭ Vladimirovich Barthold, “Istoriko-geograficheskiĭ obzor irana,” in idem, Sochineniya (Collected works), Moscow, 1971, pp. 31-225; tr. Svat Soucek as An Historical Geography of Iran, Princeton, 1984.

Robert Byron, The Road to Oxiana, London, 1937.

Dietrich Bradenburg, Herat: Eine timuridische Haupstadt, Graz, 1977.

Arthur Conolly, Journey to the North of India: Overland from England, through Russia, Persia, and Affghaunistaun, 2 vols., London, 1838.

Louis Dupree, Afghanistan, Princeton, 1973.

Paul English ,"The Traditional City of Herat, Afghanistan,” in L. Carl Brown, ed., From Medina to Metropolis: Heritage and Change in the Near Eastern City, Princeton, 1973, pp. 73-90.

Klaus Ferdinand, “The Horizontal Windmills of Western Afghanistan,” Folk 5, 1963, pp. 71-90.

Joseph Pierre Ferrier, Caravan Journeys and Wanderings in Persia, Afghanistan, Turkestan, and Beloochistaŋ, tr. by William Jesse and ed. by Henry Danby Seymour, London, 1856.

Richard N. Frye, “Harāt,” EI2 III, pp. 177-78.

Heinz Gaube, “Innenstadt-Ausenstadt: Kontinuität und Wendel im Grundriss von Herāt (Afghanistan) zwischen dem X. und XV. Jahrhundert,” in G. Schweizer, ed., Beiträge zur Geographie orientalische Städtund Märkte, Beihefte zum Tübinger Atlas des Vorderen Orients, Reihe B 24, Wiesbaden, 1977, pp. 213-40.

Idem,”Herat: An Indo-Iranian City?” in idem, Iranian Cities, New York, 1979, pp. 31-63.

Gazeteer of Afghanistan III, pp. 159-79.

Angus Hamilton, Afghanistan, London, 1906.

Thomas Hungerford Holdich, The Indian Borderland, 1880-1900, London, 1901.

Johannes Humlum, La geographie de l’Afghanistan: étude d’un pays aride, Copenhagen, 1959.

Fayż Moḥammad Kāteb, Serāj al-tawāriḵ, 3 vols., Kabul, 1912-14.

Afḡān Ḵalili, Āṯār-e Herāt, 3 vols., Herat, 1930-31.

Mohan Lal, “A Brief Description of Herat,” Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal 3, 1834, pp. 9-18.

Idem, Travels in the Punjab, Afghanistan, and Turkestan, to Balkh, Bokhara, and Herat, London, 1846.

G. B. Malleson, Herat: The Granary and Garden of Central Asia, London, 1880.

Charles Marvin, The Russians at the Gates of Herat, New York, 1885.

Ḥamd-Allāh Mostawfi, Nozhat al-qolub, ed. and tr. Guy Le Strange, 2 vols., London, 1915-19, I, pp. 151-52; II, pp. 150-51.

Abdul Wasay Najimi, Herat, the Islamic City: A Study in Urban Conservation, Scandinavian Institute of Asian Studies, Occasional Papers 2, London, 1988.

Oskar von Niedermayer and Ernst Diez, Afganistan, Leipzig, 1924.

Freya Stark, The Minaret of Djam: An Excursion in Afghanistan, London, 1970.

C. E. Stewart, “The Herat Valley and the Persian Border from Hari-Rud to Sistan,” Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society 8, 1886, pp. 137-55.

Arminius Vambery, “The Geographical Nomenclature of the Disputed Country between Marv and Herat,” Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society 7, 1885, pp. 591-96.

Nancy H. Wolfe, Herat: A Pictorial Guide, Kabul, 1966.

Arthur Campbell Yate, England and Russia Face to Face in Asia: Travels with the Afghan Boundary Commission, Edinburgh, 1887.

Charles Edward Yate, Northern Afghanistan: Letters from the Afghan Boundary Commission, Edinburgh, 1888.


The present town of Herat in western Afghanistan dates back to ancient times, but its exact age remains unknown. In Achaemenid times (ca. 550-330 B.C.E.), the surrounding district was known as Haraiva (in Old Persian), and in classical sources the region was correspondingly known as Areia. In the Zoroastrian Avesta (Yašt 10.14; Vidēvdāt 1.9), the district is mentioned as Harōiva. The name of the district and its main town is derived from that of the chief river of the region, the Hari Rud (Old Iranian *Harayu “with velocity”; compare Sanskrit Saráyu [Mayrhofer, Dictionary III, p. 443]), which traverses the district and passes just south (5 km) of modern Herat. The naming of a region and its principal town after the main river is a common feature in this part of the world. (Compare the adjoining districts/rivers/towns of Arachosia and Bactria.)

The site of Herat dominates the productive part of ancient Areia, which was, and basically still is, a rather narrow stretch of land that extends for some 150 km along both banks of the Hari Rud, from near Obeh in the east to near Kuhsān in the west. At no point along its route is the valley more than 25 km wide. The city and district of Areia/Herat occupy an important strategic place along the age-old caravan routes across the Iranian Plateau.

The Persian Achaemenid district of Areia is mentioned in the provincial lists that are included in various royal inscriptions, for instance, in the Bisotun inscription (q.v., DB 1.16) of Darius I (ca. 520 B.C.E.) in Fārs province. In the texts the name of Areia is grouped with Zranka (or Dranka), modern Sistān to the south; Parthava (Parthia) to the northwest, and Bāxtriš (Bactria) to the northeast. Representatives from the district are depicted in reliefs, e.g., at the royal Achaemenid tombs of Naqš-e Rostam and Persepolis. They are wearing Scythian-style dress (with a tunic and trousers tucked into high boots) and a twisted turban around the head. This costume is also worn by the representatives from nearby Sistān (to the south) and Arachosia (to the southeast) and is reminiscent of the dress worn by the representatives from almost all of the northern lands of the Achaemenid Empire, which were strongly influenced by the Scythic cultures from the Eurasian steppes. On the so-called Darius Statue that was discovered at Susa (Kervran, 1972), the representative from Areia is also shown wearing a long coat worn around the shoulders with empty sleeves. This type of coat is known from classical sources (Gk. kandys) and was sometimes also worn by the Persians and the Medes. The origin of this coat should be sought among the nomadic Scythians of Central Asia. (See further in Gervers-Molnár, 1973.)

Very little is known about Areia during the Achaemenid period. Herodotus (7.61 ff.) tells that Areians were included in Xerxes’ army against Greece, around 480 B.C.E. In Herodotus’s taxation list of the Achaemenid Empire (3.89 ff.), the Areians are listed together with the Parthians, Choresmians (from south of the Aral Sea), and Sogdians (from the valley of the Zarafshan River, around Bukhara and Samarkand). According to Herodotus, the Areians in Xerxes’ army were dressed in the Bactrian fashion, which means that they were wearing a Scythian-type outfit.

At the time of Alexander the Great, Areia 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 [see BESSOS] of Bactria and Barsaentes of Arachosia. This would mean that the capital of Satibarzanes, which may have been Herat, was one of the three main Achaemenid centers in this part of the world, together with ancient Bactra (modern Balḵ, the capital of ancient Bactria), and Old Kandahār, the capital of ancient Arachosia. In late 330 B.C. Alexander the Great, according to his biographers, captured the Areian capital that was called Artacoana (Arrian, Anab. Alex. 3.25.2-6; Curtius 6. 6.33 [Artacana]; Diodorus 17.78.1 [Chortacana]; Pliny, Nat. hist. 6.61.93; Strabo 11.10.1 [Artacaena]). The etymology of this name remains unknown, and whether this place should be identified with the modern city of Herat is also uncertain, although the strategic position of modern Herat would suggest its great antiquity; and thus the possiblity remains that they are one and the same place. In the early nineteenth century a Persian Achaemenid cuneiform cylinder seal was found in or near Herat (Torrens, 1842).

After Alexander the Great, classical biographers refer to a city called Alexandreia in Areia, but again its identification remains unknown. Soon after the death of Alexander, Areia was briefly attacked by Scythic nomads from the far north (Pliny, Nat. hist. 6.47). In the following years, Areia became a frontier area between the empire of the Parthians to the west and that of the Greco-Bactrians to the east. In the late second century B.C.E. the Greco-Bactrians were defeated by northern tribes, and Scythians (or Sakas) traversed the district of Areia; perhaps under pressure from the Parthians, they finally settled in nearby Sistān (Mid. Pers. skstn “Sakastān”), farther to the south. In the Parthian Stations (14-16)by Isidore of Charax, an itinerary composed in the Augustan era, the district of Areia is placed between Margiana (in the vicinity of modern Marv to the north), and Anauon (around modern Farāh) to the south. At that time the district was clearly regarded as forming part of the Parthian realm.

In the Sasanian period (226-652 C.E.), “Harēv” (hryw) is listed in Šāpūr I’s Kaʿba-ye Zardošt inscription; and “Hariy” (hr’y) is mentioned in the Pahlavi catalogue of the provincial capitals of the empire (Markwart, Provincial Capitals, pp. 11, 46). Ca. 430 C.E., the town is also listed as having a Christian community. Sasanian seals and engraved gemstones were reported to have been found in or around Herat (Torrens, 1842). The city served as a Sasanian mint, its name being recorded as hr, hry, and hrydw. Additionally, gold and copper coins have been found that are clearly Sasanian in inspiration, although the Sasanians in Iran generally did not strike gold coins but preferred silver issues. The gold coins from the Herat area show a fire altar on the reverse and the portrait of the ruler on the obverse. The name of the ruler is often identical to one of those listed on the so-called Kushano-Sasanian coins from Bactria, and this would indicate that the Sasanian governor in the northeast of the Sasanian Empire at times also controlled the Herat district. (For the coin evidence, see Dani and Litvinsky, 1996.)

In the last two centuries of Sasanian rule, the area and town of Areia/Herat had great strategic importance in the endless wars between the Sasanian Iranians and the Chionites and Hephthalites (qq.v.), of Hunnish origin, who had been settled in modern northern Afghanistan since the late fourth century; but exact information is scarce. The city of Herat, however, became well known with the advent of the Arabs in the middle of the seventh century.


F. R. Allchin and N. Hammond, The Archaeology of Afghanistan. From Earliest Times to the Timurid Period, London , 1978.

Warwick Ball, Archaeological Gazetteer of Afghanistan / Catalogue des sites archéologiques d’Afghanistan, Paris, 1982.

A. H. Dani and B. A. Litvinsky, “The Kushano-Sasanian Kingdom,” in History of Civilizations of Central Asia III.The cross-roads of civilizations, A.D. 250 to 750, Paris, 1996, pp. 103-18.

Veronika Gervers-Molnár, The Hungarian Szür. An Archaic Mantle of Eurasian Origin, Toronto, 1973.

Ph. Gignoux, Glossaire des Inscriptions Pehlevies et Parthes (Corpus Inscr. Iran., Supplementary Series, Vol. I), London, 1972, p. 52.

Robert Göbl, Sasanian Numismatics, Braunschweig, 1971.

Kent, Old Persian, p. 213.

M. Kervran et al., “Une statue de Darius decouvert à Suse,” JA 260, 1972, pp. 235-66.

H. Torrens, Ṍn a Cylinder and certain Gems, collected in the neighbourhood of Herat, by Major Pottinger,” Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal 11, 1842, pp. 316-21.

W. J. Vogelsang, The Rise and Organisation of the Achaemenid Empire. The Eastern Iranian Evidence, Leiden, 1992.

Idem, The Afghans, Oxford, 2002.

(W. J. Vogelsang)


Herat at the time of the Arab conquest. When the Arab armies appeared in Khorasan in the 30s/650s, Herat was counted among the twelve capital towns of the Sasanian Empire (Markwart, pp. 8-13). The period from the 3rd to the 5th century was one of urban growth in the eastern Iranian world (Grenet). To that period belong the rare data witnessing the presence of Christians in Herat (Gignoux). Herat is described by Eṣṭaḵri and Ebn Ḥawqal in the 10th century as a prosperous town surrounded by strong walls with plenty of water sources, extensive suburbs, an inner citadel, a congregational mosque, and four gates, each gate opening to a thriving market place (see iv.). The government building was outside the city at a distance of about a mile in a place called Ḵorāsānābād. A church was still visible in the countryside northeast of the town on the road to Balḵ, and farther away on a hilltop stood a flourishing fire temple, called Serešk, or Aršak according to Mostawfi (Eṣṭaḵri, pp. 263-65, tr. pp. 277-82; Ebn Ḥawqal, pp. 437-39, tr. pp. 424; Moqaddasi, p. 307; Mostawfi, p. 151, tr., p. 150). At the time of the Arab invasion, the Sasanian central power seemed already largely nominal in the province in contrast with the role of the Hephtalite (q.v.) tribal lords, who were settled in the Herat region and in the neighboring districts, mainly in pastoral Bādḡis and in Qohestān. It must be underlined, however, that Herat remained one of the three Sasanian mint centers in the East, the other two being Balḵ and Marv (Grenet, p. 381). The Hephtalites from Herat and some unidentified Turks opposed the Arab forces in a battle of Qohestān in 31/651-52, trying to block their advance on Nišāpur, but they were defeated (Ṭabari, I, p. 2886, tr., XV, p. 91); they were still actively opposing the Arabs in 51/671-72 (Ṭabari, II, p. 156, tr., XVIII, p. 163, n. 488; Bivar, p. 304).

Early Muslim sources give scarce and slightly diverging accounts of the Arab conquest of Herat, especially compared with similar information on other cities of Khorasan, such as Marv and Nišāpur. In 31/651-52, the main Arab army approaching Khorasan via Kermān advanced on Nišāpur, then on Marv and Balḵ. The governor of the East, ʿAbd-Allāh b. ʿAmer (q.v.) sent a detachment under the general command of Aḥnāf b. Qays, who battled the Hephtalites from Herat in Qohestān, then apparently passed Herat. According to another version, the governor sent yet another commander, ʿAbd-Allāh b. Ḵāzem (Ṭabari, I, pp. 2885-86, tr., XV, pp. 90-91; variant versions give other names; Aws b. Ṯaʿlaba according to Balāḏori, p. 405, tr., II, p. 163). Herat submitted to the Arabs, and a treaty was drawn including the regions of Bādḡis and Bušanj (Balāḏori, p. 405). As did many other places in Khorasan, Herat rebelled and had to be re-conquered several times (Ṭabari, I, pp. 2904-6, tr., XV, pp. 107-9, the revolt of Qāren; also see Kolesnikov, pp. 131-46, 177). During the Omayyad caliphate, Herat was the scene of power struggle among Arab tribal commanders, especially during the sedition (fetna) of ʿAbd-Allāh b. Ḵāzem (64/863-64) and the fights of the Banu Tamim against the united Rabiʿa and Azd tribes (Balāḏori, pp. 415-16, tr., p. 179; Ṭabari, II, pp. 489 ff., 496, tr., XX, pp. 71 ff., 79; see also translator’s introd., pp. xv-xvi; Bosworth, “Khurāsān,” p. 57). It seems evident that during the early Muslim period Herat was of only secondary strategic importance, compared to Nišāpur and Marv, the main military bases for the conquest of Transoxiana.

It is difficult to assess the participation of Herat in the ʿAbbasid movement, of which Marv was the headquarters, but it is certain that ʿAbbasid emissaries circulated in all Khorasan. Herat is not quoted in the lists of towns that supplied volunteers to reinforce Abu Moslem’s army in Marv (cf. Daniel, p. 51), but a follower from Herat is explicitly mentioned in the ʿAbbasid encampment at Jiranj, east of Marv (Ṭabari, II, pp. 1956-57, tr., XXVII, pp. 67-68 and n. 176). In 747, Abu Moslem dispatched Nażr b. Noʿaym Żabbi to Herat, who drove out ʿIsā b. ʿAqil Layṯi, the local deputy of NasÂr b. Sayyār, the last Omayyad governor of Khorasan (Ṭabari, II, p. 1966, tr., XXVII, p. 77; Daniel, p. 51 and n. 140). In 767 Herat and Bādḡis were the main scene of the revolt of Ostāḏsis, a ruler (amir, malek) of Herat (see Daniel, pp. 133-37, and n. 65 for the date; Amoretti, pp. 497-98). Ostāḏsis took control of the districts of Herat and Bušanj and was supported by some Turk groups (probably the Oḡuz of Bādḡis) and the Kharijites of Sistān (Daniel, pp. 134, 137). In 778, the amirof Herat, Saʿid Ḥaraši, was placed in the sole command of the campaign against the rebellious movement of Sapid Jāmagān under al-Moqannaʿ, after the unsuccessful attempt of Moʿāḏ b. Moslem, the governor of Khorasan (Ṭabari, III, p. 484, tr., XXIX, pp. 196-97; Daniel, p. 142). Since the ʿAbbasid revolution in Khorasan and the eventual death of Abu Moslem (q.v.), many sectarian and socio-religious movements had appeared in the Herat region, such as the Kharijites, the Karramites, the Ismaʿilis, etc., all of which were linked to Abu Moslem by various trends (Bosworth, 1994, p. 81; Daniel, p. 131).

The local dynasties in Herat. In 205/820-21, the caliph al-Maʾmun appointed one of his major military commanders, Ṭāher b. Ḥosayn Ḏu’l-yaminayn, to the governorship of Khorasan. Ṭāher’s grandfather, Moṣʿab b. Rozayq, a Persian mawlā of the Arab governor of Sistān, had participated in the ʿAbbasid movement. He had governed Bušanj and probably Herat at around 776-77. Ṭāher b. Ḥosayn founded the first hereditary dynasty of Muslim rulers in Khorasan, with Nišāpur as its capital (Ṭabari, III, p. 1040, tr., XXXII, p. 100; Kaabi, pp. 148-51; Bosworth, 1975a, pp. 91-95; Daniel, pp. 181-82). Herat was a part of the Taherid dominion in Khorasan until the rise of the Saffarids in Sistān under Yaʿqub b. Layṯ in 861, who, in 862, started launching raids on Herat before besieging and capturing it on 11 Šaʿbān 253/16 August 867, and again in 872 (Tāriḵ-e Sistān, ed. Bahār, pp. 208, 217, followed by Bosworth, 1994, pp. 112-13) or 873 (Gardizi, ed. Ḥabibi, p. 140). The Saffarids succeeded in expelling the Taherids from Khorasan in 873 (Tāriḵ-e Sistān, ed. Bahār, pp. 219-23., ed. Ṣādeqi, pp. 111-15; Bosworth, 1994, pp. 81, 111-14; idem, 1975a, pp. 103, 110, 372). In 875, ʿAmr b. Layṯ was given the office of governor of Herat, and four years later he succeeded his brother Yaʿqub (d. 265/879) as supreme ruler (amir) of the Saffarid dynasty. The authority of the Saffarids in the Herat area was frequently challenged by former Taherid vassals. Between 267-68/880-82, Aḥmad b. ʿAbd-Allāh Ḵojestāni, a former ally of Yaʿqub, aimed at independent sovereignty; and in 882, Rāfeʿ b. Harṯama, supported by the people of Herat, read the Friday sermon (ḵoṭba) in the name of the Taherids. The control of Herat returned to the Saffarids in 893, but Rāfeʿ remained a major threat for them until his death in 896 (Tāriḵ-e Sistān, ed. Bahār, pp. 233-41, 457-53, ed. Ṣādeqi, pp. 124-27, 129-32; Ebn al-Aṯir, Beirut, VII, pp. 296-304, 367-69; Bosworth 1975a, pp. 116-20; idem,1994, pp. 194 ff., 200-201, 210-22).

Among the Taherid governors of Herat were Elyās b. Asad b. Sāmān Ḵodāt (d. 856) and his son Ebrāhim. Ebrāhim led the Taherid army against Yaʿqub at the battle of Bušanj in 867 and eventually submitted to Yaʿqub after Yaʿqub’s conquest of Nišāpur (Tāriḵ-e Sistān, ed. Bahār, pp. 177-78, 182-83, 208-9, 225; Ebn al-Aṯir, Beirut, VII, pp. 279-80). The Samanid dynasty was established in Transoxiana by three brothers, Nuḥ, Yaḥyā, and Aḥmad. The defeat and capture of ʿAmr b. Layṯ at Balḵ at the end of August 900 by Esmāʿil b. Aḥmad Sāmāni opened the way for the Samanid dynasty to the conquest of Khorasan, including Herat, which they were to rule for one century. The centralized Samanid administration served as a model for later dynasties (Tāriḵ-e Sistān, ed. Bahār, pp. 254-56; Naršaḵi, pp. 105-9, 119-27, tr. Frye, pp. 77-80, 87-92; Ebn al-Aṯir, Beirut, VII, pp. 500-502; Barthold, 1968, pp. 202-25; Frye, 1975, pp. 136-61; Bosworth, 1994, pp. 228-30). The Samanid power was destroyed in 999 by the Qarakhanids, who were advancing on Transoxiana from the northeast, and by the Ghaznavids, former Samanid retainers, attacking from the southeast (Ebn al-Aṯir [Beirut], IX, pp. 148-49; Frye, 1975, pp. 158-60).

Sultan Maḥmud of Ḡazna officially took control of Khorasan in 998. Herat was one of the six Ghaznavid mints in the region (Ebn al-Aṯir [Beirut], IX, pp. 146-48; Bosworth, 1963, pp. 44-46; idem, 1975b, p. 169; Miles, p. 377). The Ghaznavids adopted the policy of heavy tax collection, mostly in order to support their armies and finance their military campaigns. This drained the resources of Khorasan, inducing the landed nobility to look forward to the Qarakhanid invasion in 1006-8 and not to oppose the later Saljuq conquests (Barthold, 1968, p. 291; Bosworth, 1963, pp. 67-79; idem, 1975b, pp. 186-87). The brief occupation of Khorasan by the Qarakhanids was marked by monetary issues from Herat and Nišāpur (Kochnev, p. 67). When Saljuq armies, led by Toḡril Beg and Čaḡri Beg Dāwud (q.v.), invaded Khorasan in 1038, the notables of Herat surrendered the city. The declining Ghaznavids recaptured the town briefly before losing it again after their final defeat at Dandānqān (q.v.) in 1040 (Bayhaqi, ed. Fayyāż, pp. 781-85, 834 ff.; Bosworth, 1963, pp. 265-66; idem, 1968, pp. 20-21; idem, 1975b, p. 195). Khorasan was ruled by Čaḡri Beg (d. 542/1060), who entrusted the government of eastern Khorasan territories (some still to be conquered), with Herat as capital, to Musā Yabḡu (Rāvandi, p. 104; Bosworth, 1968, pp. 49-51; idem, 1994, p. 378). In 1147, Malek ʿAlāʾ-al-Din Ḥosayn Ḡuri, a Saljuq tributary and the founder of the independent Ghurid dynasty in the mountain region of Ḡur (q.v.) to the east of Herat, drove the Ghaznavid Bahrāmšāh out of Ḡazna and, challenging the Saljuqs, occupied Herat. He was defeated, however, in 1152 by Sultan Sanjar in the battle of Nāb in the vicinity of Herat (Ebn al-Aṯir [Beirut], XI, pp. 164-66; Juzjāni, Ṭabaqāt, pp. 258-59, 346-49; Rāvandi, p. 176; Bosworth, 1961; idem, 1968, pp. 149, 160-61).

The Ghurid rulers (malek) reappeared on the scene after the defeat of Sultan Sanjar at the hand of the Ḡoz and his eventual death in 1157, taking part in the struggle for power in Khorasan against various post-Saljuq commanders and the Ḵᵛārazmšāhs. The Ghurid state, with the capital at Firuzkuh (q.v.), flourished under Ḡiāṯ-al-Din (Sayf-al-Din) Moḥammad (r. 1163-1203) and his brother Moʿezz-al-Din (Šehāb-al-Din) Moḥammad (r. 1203-6). In the Herat and Bušanj area, Sayf-al-Din challenged and killed in 1164 Tāj-al-Din Yïldïz (Yelduz), the post-Saljuq amirof Herat, and extended his control over Bādḡis. He then fought against another Turkic commander, Moʾayyed-al-Din Āy Aba of Nišāpur (d. 1174), who had been invited by local people to assume power in Herat and its region. The Ghurids finally took Herat in 571/1175-76 (Juzjāni, Ṭabaqāt, pp. 355-58; Ebn al-Aṯir [Beirut], XI, pp. 311-12, 316; Bosworth, 1968, pp. 163, 185-87; idem, 1994, pp. 397, 399). The Ḵᵛarazmšāhs continued to challenge the Ghurids in Khorasan. In Ḏu’l-qaʿda 598/August 1202, Sultan ʿAlāʾ-al-Din Moḥammad Ḵᵛarazmšāh set out for Herat and besieged it. Towers and walls were breached and the city commander (kut-vāl), ʿEzz-al-Din Marḡazi, sought for quarter, but the news that the Ghurid king Moʿezz-al-Din had set out in full force for Khorasan made Sultan Moḥammad raise the siege and return. Sultan Moḥammad made another attempt on Herat in 1204, and again had to return on hearing the news of the Ghurid march on his dominion. This time the Ghurids suffered a disastrous defeat at Andḵoy (q.v.) on the Oxus at the hand of the Qara Khitay, who had come to help Sultan Moḥammad, but Herat remained in their possession (Jovayni, ed. Qazvini, II, pp. 50-51, 53-59, tr. Boyle, I, pp. 317-25; Barthold, 1968, pp. 349-51). It was only after Moʿezz-al-Din’s death, when the Ghurid kingdom began to disintegrate, that Sultan Moḥammad was able to take control over all Ghurid territories in Khorasan. His peaceful accession in Herat was at the invitation of ʿEzz-al-Din Ḥosayn b. Ḵarmil, the Ghurid viceroy (wāli) of Herat, whom he confirmed in his position as governor. ʿEzz-a-Din soon changed sides and tried to reinstate the Ghurid rule, which led to his death on the order of Sultan Moḥammad and the siege of the city, during which Sultan Moḥammad had the water of the river diverted against the walls, causing great damage (Jovayni, ed. Qazvini, I, pp. 61-69, tr. Boyle, I, pp. 327-36; Ebn Aṯir [Beirut], XII, pp. 226-30, 260-64). In 605/1208-9, he named a new governor in Herat. Soon, the Ghurid regained some simulacra of power in Herat, with Malek Ḡiāṯ-al-Din Maḥmud as a puppet ruler of the Ḵᵛarzamšāh (Jovayni, ed. Qazvini, II, pp. 84-85, tr. Boyle, p. 352; Bosworth, 1968, pp. 165-66, 192). During the Ghurid period, Herat appeared as the key town for the control of the Harirud valley and the gateway towards the western Muslim world. Although Herat was not their official capital, the Ghurids built a dynastic mausoleum there, which was still visited in the 17th century (Maḥmud b. Wali, foll. 236b-239b, tr., p. 83).

The Mongol invasion of Herat and its consequences. The Mongols attacked the Chorasmian Empire in 1221, conquering Transoxiana and then sweeping across Khorasan. A contingent of their army, led by Tolui (Tuli), son of Čengiz Khan, reached the vicinity of Herat and invited the city to surrender in peace. The offer was rejected by Šams-al-Din Moḥammad Juzjāni, the Chorasmian governor, who also killed the Mongol envoy. Tolui entered Herat after a short siege and killed the entire garrison (reportedly of 12,000 men), but he spared the lives of general population, who had surrendered in peace after Šams-al-Din’s death in the fighting (Sayf Heravi, pp. 66-72). After the departure of the main army, the people, learning of the Mongol’s defeat at Parvān, killed Tolui’s deputies in the Great Mosque. The Mongol punitive expedition under the command of Eljigedei (Iljigdāy) Noyān re-conquered the city in 619/1221-22 after a siege of six months, destroying it totally and massacring the entire population and sending search parties throughout the countryside to exterminate any possible survivor (Sayf Heravi, pp. 73, 76-80, 83, 86, 93; Esfezāri, ed. Emām, II, pp. 69-71; Ḵᵛāndamir, Ḥabib al-siar III, pp. 41-44; Boyle, pp. 314-16).

The Mongol invasion of Khorasan left long-term effects. Herat suffered heavily from its consequences (Petrushevsky, pp. 484-91, 505-6; Morgan, pp. 73-83). The flourishing town described by the early Muslim geographers was destroyed and the region devastated. There followed a drastic demographic decline, while agricultural and other economic activities were profoundly disrupted. The destruction of the canal network of the Harirud valley had particularly disastrous effects. Sources give a picture of total desolation, even if the actual numbers quoted by them must be treated with caution (Rašid-al-Din, pp. 557-58; Sayf Heravi, pp. 83, 87; Petrushevsky, p. 491). According to Ḥamd-Allāh Mostawfi (p. 152, tr. pp. 150-51), in the Ghurid period there were 444,000 households, that is, about 2 million individuals, living in Herat (evidently the greater Herat would be meant here, not the inner city only). On the eve of the Mongol invasion, the town was supposedly able to muster 190,000 armed men (Sayf Heravi, p. 67), a figure usually accounting to about 10 percent of the population, which also suggests a total population of about 2 million people (Petrushevsky, p. 485, n. 5). During the second Mongol capture of Herat in 1222, 1,600,000 people are said to have been killed, while only one hundred souls to have survived in the town and in the countryside (Sayf Heravi, pp. 182-83).

Herat recovered only in the 15th century under the Timurids. There were about 400 villages reported in the Herat province (welāyat) in the 10th century (Ebn Rosta, p. 173), while, at the beginning of the 15th century, Ḥāfeẓ-e Abru gave the total number of about 200 (Ḥāfeẓ-e Abru, 1984, I, pp. 23-29; Petrushevsky, p. 496). The list of villages cited in Persian sources at the end of the Timurid period amounts to over 250 names (Allen, 1981, nos. 107-11, 132-391).

Post-Mongol Herat, from the Karts to the Safavids (mid-13th to mid-18th century). The first attempt at restoring the canals after the Mongol invasion is reported for the year 1236. It is ascribed to a group of weavers (jāmabāf) who had been allowed to return to Herat by Ögedei Khan (Sayf Heravi, pp. 106-11). Some economic revival can be observed in the later 13th and in the 14th century, but on a much lower scale than in the earlier times (Petrushevsky, p. 513). A royal kār-ḵāna was opened in Herat in 663/1264-65 on the Il-khan Abaqa’s order (Sayf Heravi, p. 285).

Among the powers struggling for domination in Khorasan after the Mongol period, the Karts (or Korts; see ĀL-E KART) were a local dynasty descending from the Šansabāni family, a distant branch of the Ghurids. The line was founded by Šams-al-Din Moḥammad Kart (1254-78), who took the title of malek and was granted by the great khan Möngke (Mangu Qāʾān) the governorship of Herat, Balḵ, Sistān, and the entire area between them to the border of India (Jovayni, II, p. 255, tr. Boyle, pp. 518-19; Sayf Heravi, pp. 165-70; Waṣṣāf, pp. 47-48). His removal from Herat in 1276 and his eventual death in a Tabriz prison two years later did not have any lasting effect on the rule of the dynasty, despite prolonged disturbances that erupted in the city in his absence (Sayf Heravi, pp. 343-62; Rašid-al-Din, pp. 119-20, 148-50; Waṣṣāf, pp. 49-51; Ḵᵛāndamir, Ḥabib al-siar III, pp. 370-71).

Herat became the capital of the Karts (1245-1389), who must certainly be acknowledged as the builders of the post-Mongol Herat. The period of their rule remains understudied, although it appears as one of the most important in the history of the town, the period when all the bases of the future urban, economic, and political development of Herat had been laid.

The Karts ruled first as Il-khanid governors, supporting them in several tight situations (Boyle, pp. 341, 358-60, 383); then they exercised de facto power independently. Faḵr-al-Din Kart (d. early 1307) was the first to manifest some independence towards the Il-khanids. He did not travel to the capital to offer his allegiance to the new Il-khan Öljeytü (Uljāytu), which prompted the latter to send an expedition against Herat. In spite of the death of Faḵr-al-Din in the early days of the siege, the city held for six months from February to June 1307 (Sayf Heravi, pp. 509-24; Ḥāfeẓ-e Abru, 1938, pp. 18 ff.; Ḵᵛāndamir, Ḥabib al-siar III, pp. 370 ff.; Mirḵᵛānd [Tehran], V, pp. 443-68; Boyle p. 401). Later on, his brother and successor Malek Ḡiāṯ-al-Din (d. 728/1326-27) supported the Il-khan Abu Saʿid against the revolt of Amir Yasaʾur (Yāsāʾur, Yasāvor, Yasur) and the Chaghatayids established in Bādḡis, and defended Herat against them in 1319 (Sayf Heravi, p. 649; Ḥāfeẓ-e Abru, 1938, pp. 92-96; Ḵᵛāndamir, Ḥabib al-siar III, pp. 213, 378-79; ʿAbd-al-Razzāq Samarqandi, ed. Navāʾi, pp. 36-38, 45 ff.; Boyle, pp. 408, 411). After the death in 1335 of Abu Saʿid, the last Il-khan, the Karts of Herat stepped in to fill the vacuum of power in Khorasan and remained in power until the rise of Timur (Aubin, 1976).

The later Kart period was that of independent rulers. Moʿezz-al-Din Moḥammad Pir-Ḥosayn (r. 1332-70) turned Herat principality into a viable military power in Khorasan and took the title of solṭān in 1349, following his victory over the rival Amir Masʿud Sarbadār in July 1342 and his success in repelling the incursion of the Chaghatayid Amir Q/Ḡazaḡan into Khorasan (Ḥāfeẓ-e Abru, 2001, I, pp. 139-45; ʿAbd-al-Razzāq Samarqandi, ed. Navāʾi, pp. 185-88, 241-46; Ḵᵛāndamir, Ḥabib al-siar III, pp. 358, 360, 380-84; Mirḵᵛānd [Tehran], IV, pp. 681 ff.; Aubin, 1976, pp. 26-31; Roemer, 1986a, pp. 47-48; idem, 1986d, pp. 25-26; Smith, pp. 117-18). However, the internal situation of the Kart state was unstable; and after the death of Moʿezz-al-Din (771/1369-70) each of his two sons, Ḡiāṯ-al-Din II Pir-ʿAli (ruler in Herat, a Chaghatayid by his mother) and Malek Moḥammad (ruler in Saraḵs), struggled for power. Both had contacts with Amir Timur (r. 1370-1405) in Transoxiana and tried to secure his military support. Likewise a part of the landed nobility, headed by the Kart vizier, Moʿin-al-Din Jāmi, who had written to Timur inviting him to bring Khorasan under his command, had close economic and family ties with Transoxiana and was supportive of Timur’s conquering Khorasan. When Timur’s armies arrived in Herat in 1381 after destroying Bušanj, the elites, supported by the population, surrendered the town in Moḥarram 783/April 1381 after some initial fighting, on the promise that the lives and properties of the people who had not taken part in the battle would be spared; they also undertook the payment of a substantial tribute (māl-e āmān). The city’s fortification were dismantled, and the Kart treasures and the iron gates of the city were sent to Šahr-e Sabz (Kaš) in Transoxiana. Timur kept the Kartid government officials but installed his own son Mirānšāh as his deputy in Herat (1380-93). In 1383, Herat had to pay another heavy tribute after a short-lived and limited rebellion, and numerous craftsmen, artists, and religious scholars were deported to Transoxiana. The last ruler, Ḡiāṯ al-Din II Pir-ʿAli, was eliminated by Mirānšāh in 1389 (Ḥāfeẓ-e Abru, 2001, I, pp. 446-50, 514, II, pp. 556 ff., 591-95, 699 ff.; Neẓām-al-Din Šāmi, pp. 81 ff.; Ḵᵛāndamir, Ḥabib al-siar III, pp. 387-89, 429-34; Allen, 1983, p. 17; Aubin, 1963, pp. 97-105, 112-13; idem, 1976, pp 34-45, 45-53; Roemer, 1986a, pp. 47-48).

Under the Timurids, Herat assumed the role of the main capital of an empire that extended in the West as far as central Persia. On the whole, the period was one of relative stability, prosperity, and development of economy and cultural activities. It began with the nomination of Šāhroḵ, the youngest son of Timur, as governor of Herat in 1397. After the death of Timur, Šāhroḵ consolidated his position as ruler of Khorasan and of the whole Timurid state in the years 1405-9 and remained the Timurid supreme ruler under the title of Mirzā until his death in 1447 (Roemer, 1986b, pp. 101-5). In 1427, he escaped a spectacular assassination attempt in the Great Mosque (ʿAbd-al-Razzāq Samarqandi, ed. Šafiʿ, II, p. 314; Esfezāri, ed. Emām, II, pp. 84-45). The reign of Šāhroḵ in Herat was marked by intense royal patronage, building activities, and promotion of manufacturing and trade, especially through the restoration and enlargement of the Herat’s bāzār.

After a short period of succession struggle after Šāhroḵ’s death, Solṭān-Abu Saʿid (r. 1451-69), a descendent of Mirānšāh, succeeded in taking power in Herat with the help of Uzbek tribes. Under his rule, in 1458, Herat suffered a brief occupation by the armies of Jahānšāh Qarā Qoyunlu, ruler of the western Persia and Azerbaijan (Roemer, 1986b, pp. 114-15). Solṭān-Abu Saʿid repeatedly had to face internal challengers, and in the end he was unable to maintain the unity of the early Timurid state. After his death, both the territories to the west of Khorasan and Transoxiana were lost to the control of the Herat ruler. The loss of Transoxiana, fragmented into smaller holdings under several Timurid princes, eventually paved the way to the future conquest of the region by the Uzbek Shaybanid (Abu’l-Khayrid) tribes, who were to take Herat in 1507 (Semenov).

Solṭān-Ḥosayn Bāyqarā (r. 1470-1506, q.v.), who seized power after the initial period of internal struggle, is certainly the most famous Timurid ruler of Herat (Roemer, 1986b, pp. 121-22). Later Persian historiography viewed his reign in Herat as the golden age of modern times, not only because of relative stability of political and economic life, but also for cultural and scientific achievements associated with his court. The Herat royal court was celebrated in the whole Muslim East for its patronage of arts and scholarly activities, which attracted leading artists and scholars of the age.

During the long reign of Solṭān-Ḥosayn Bāyqarā, Herat underwent substantial development, and its countryside prospered. Major pious charitable foundations (waqf) were established in the last decades of the 15th century by Timurid princes and dignitaries, such as Mir ʿAli-Šir Navāʾi (e.g., see Subtelny, 1991). A treatise on agriculture written in 1515 in Herat, Eršād al-zerāʿa (q.v.) of Qāsem b. Yusof Abunaṣri, illustrates the importance of horticultural activities in the Herat region (Subtelny, 1993). According to the Turko-Mongol political tradition, the members of the Timurid house and the military aristocracy, amirs, were relatively independent from the central power through a system of land tenure (soyurḡāl; see EQṬĀʿ), and fiscal and legal privileges. This situation certainly contributed to the weakening of the Timurid state. The reforms of the fiscal and land systems intended under Solṭān-Ḥosayn Bāyqarā met with strong opposition from the Timurid amirs, and, therefore, were not effective (Subtelny, 1988).

After conquering Transoxiana, the Uzbek Shaybanids, under the leadership of Moḥammad Khan (d. 1510) threatened the territories governed by Solṭān-Ḥosayn Bāyqarā, from about 1501 (Semenov, 1954; Roemer, 1986b, p. 124). After the death of Solṭān-Ḥosayn during a military campaign against the Uzbeks in 1506, two of his sons, Badiʿ-al-Zamān Mirzā and Moẓaffar-Ḥosayn Mirzā, fought for the succession. In 1507, when the army of Moḥammad Khan Šaybāni (Šibak Khan) arrived at Herat, only the garrison, besieged in the citadel, resisted, while the notables surrendered the town without fight (Ḵᵛāndamir, IV, pp. 376-78). On the whole, the Shaybanids administered Herat through former Timurid dignitaries who were maintained in office (Szuppe, 1992, pp. 72-77).

The fall of the Timurids under the pressure from the Shaybanids opened a period of unrest and struggle all over Khorasan. During the 16th century, control of Khorasan was disputed between the Shaybanids and the Safavids (1501-1722), relative newcomers from western Persia, who entered Herat in 1510, following the victory of Shah Esmāʿil I (r. 1501-24, q.v.) over the Šibak Khan at the battle of Marv. The Safavids proclaimed Twelver Shiʿism as state religion. The great majority of the Herat population had always been Sunnites, with an ever-present Shiʿite minority; some persecutions and incidents involving both communities are recorded by contemporary sources, especially during the early Safavid period (esp. Amini, foll. 479a-480b; Amir Maḥmud, foll. 261-63; Wāṣefi, ed. Boldyrev, pp. 1058-59; Ḵᵛāndamir, Ḥabib al-siar IV, p. 514; Ḥasan Rumlu, pp. 130-31; see also Dickson, pp. 155-60, 141; Szuppe, 1992, pp. 121-42).

The Safavid period. Under the Safavids, Herat was again relegated to the position of a provincial capital, albeitone of a particular importance. In the 16th century, all future Safavid rulers, from Ṭahmāsb I to ʿAbbās I, were governors of Herat in their youth. Consequently, the town was governed by a military commander (ḥākem, wāli; later, beglerbegi, q.v.) who remained under the nominal rule of a resident royal prince. Since the beginning of the Safavid power in Herat, the office of ḥākem fell into the hands of the Šāmlu Turkman tribe. One particular Šāmlu family, descendants of ʿAbdi Beg Šāmlu (d. 911/1505-6), who had kinship ties with the Safavid dynasty, governed Herat in a defacto hereditary way for most of the 16th and the 17th centuries (Szuppe, 1993, pp. 220-21; Tumanovich, 1989, pp. 142, 153andpassim). At one point, the Šāmlu governed Herat in semi-independent way, especially under ʿAliqoli Khan (1577-88), who seriously challenged the central Safavid power (Eskandar Beg, I, pp. 262, 276-78, 279, 283-86, tr. Savory, I, pp. 387, 407-9, 414-17; Barnābādi, fol. 5b; see also Tumanovich, 1989, pp. 127-33).

Until 1540, Herat suffered from numerous sieges, pillages, arbitrary tax levies, raiding of the countryside, famines, etc. (Ḵᵛāndamir, Ḥabib al-siar IV, pp. 528-36, 552-53, and passim; Amir Maḥmud, ed. ṬabāṭabāʾI, esp. pp. 310-15, on the anti-Safavid popular revolt under the leadership of the ḵᵛājas of Ziāratgāh; Rumlu, p. 196; see also Dickson, pp. 315-29; Szuppe, 1992, pp. 84-109). The Safavids remained in control of Herat until the fall of the dynasty, with the notable exception of the years 1588-98, when the Shaybanid ʿAbd-Allāh Khan II conquered Khorasan. From its re-conquest by Shah ʿAbbās I in 1598, the town became the Safavid political and military base against the Janid (Astrakhanid) Uzbeks, the successors of the Shaybanids in Bukhara, and against the Mughals of India for the control of Qandahār (Eskandar Beg, I, pp. 363 ff., 386 ff., 564 ff., tr. Savory, II, pp. 502 ff., 558 ff., 748 ff.; Afuštaʾi, pp. 290 ff., 584 ff.; Tuma-novich, 1989, pp. 133-35, 144-46, 153; Burton; McChesney). In 1631, Herat was seriously threatened by a regular army of Chorasmian Uzbeks under Abu’l-Ḡāzi Khan. In the later 17th century, the Herat region was under pressure from the Astrakhanids, who were periodically launching military raids (Tumanovich, 1989, pp. 151-52).

In 1716, the Abdāli/Dorrāni (see DORRĀNĪ) confederation of Afghan Pashtun tribes of the Herat area, led by Aḥmad Khan (later Aḥmad Shah), challenged the Safavid governor of Herat and took control of the town and the region (Roemer, 1986c, pp. 316-17; Tumanovich, 1989, pp. 156-68). Nāder Shah Afšār, the successor of the Safavids, recaptured Herat in 1729, and it remained a part of the Persian state throughout his reign; but it seceded again after his death in 1747 and remained effectively in the hands of the Afghans and outside the frontiers of Persia (Mahdi Astarābādi, pp. 194 ff., 275 ff; Moḥammad-Kāẓem Marvi, I, pp. 93 ff., 168 ff.; Lockhart, pp. 32-34, 51, 54). In the 19th century, the recovery of Herat remained an important element of the Qajar political discourse, but all attempts made in this direction (in 1838, 1856, etc.) were unsuccessful.


Pre-Mongol period. In the medieval period, Herat, together with Nišāpur, Marv, and Balḵ, was one of the four main urban centers of the eastern Iranian world. Although its antiquity cannot be doubted, the origins of Herat remain largely unresearched, as no complex archeological study has been conducted until now (Frye, “Harāt”; Ball, 1982, pp. 123-25). In contrast to other ancient towns of the Iranian east, such as Marv or Samarqand, which successively occupied two or more sites, Herat has existed on the same location since its foundation. The ancient and medieval Herat is today covered by the modern city, making, all throughout, archeological excavation and study difficult if not impossible.

It can be reasonably assumed that the round mound to the north of the medieval ramparts, known as Qohan-dež-e M.s.r.q. (later, Tal-e Bangiān), is the location of the ancient Herat, or Alexandria of Aria, which had been founded by Alexander the Great (4th cent. B.C.E.) on some sort of an urban structure that pre-existed the Greek foundation (Ṭabari, I, p. 702; Qodāma, Ketāb al-ḵarāj, p. 265; Ball, 1982, no. 428; Allen 1983, p. 13; Grenet, pp. 379-81; Mirḵᵛānd, VII, pp. 512-14; Barthold, 1984, tr., p. 49). In a later period, the medieval town was annexed to this most ancient site, and the two parts of Herat functioned simultaneously for a long time.

The first topographic descriptions of Herat are given by Muslim geographers of the 10th century (Eṣṭaḵri, pp. 264-67; Ḥodud al-ʿālam, ed. Sotuda, p. 91, tr. Minorsky, pp. 103-5; Ebn Ḥawqal, pp. 437-38, tr. Kramers and Wiet, pp. 423-24; Moqaddasi, pp. 307-8, tr., pp. 249-50; Ebn Rosta, p. 173). The city occupied an area of about 2 km2 within four walls of about half of a farsakh each, forming a rough square (Ebn Ḥawqal, p. 437, tr. Kramers and Wiet, p. 423; cf. Eṣṭaḵri, p. 264, whose version, although slightly different, is followed by Ebn Ḥawqal). The walls had an irregularity on the northern side, where the Qohan-dež (the old round city) touched the square city. In the 11th century, the Qohan-dež (Allen, 1981, no. 53) was still an inhabited quarter, before it became a cemetery in the later period. The dimensions of the walled inner city remained unchanged from the 10th century until modern times; it was the outer city and the suburbs that grew over the centuries (cf. Esfezāri, ed. Emām, I, p. 78). The walls were massive and were frequently reinforced and rebuilt over several centuries. In 1154, Herat could resist the raids of Oḡuz tribes (see ḠOZZ) roaming in the area only because of its strong walls (Ebn al-Aṯir [Beirut], IX, pp. 180-83; Rāvandi, p. 183; Bosworth, 1968, pp. 153-54). Four gates (darb, bāb) are mentioned by the Muslim geographers, each opening in one of the four walls facing a cardinal point of the compass (Eṣṭaḵri, pp. 264-65, tr., p. 278; Ebn Ḥawqal, p. 437, tr. Kramers and Wiet, p. 423; Moqaddasi, p. 307). The road led from the Malek or Sarāy Gate (N), later also called the Maydān or Barāmān Gate (Ḥāfeẓ-e Abru, 1984, I, p. 18), to Balḵ; from the Firuzābād or Firuz (since the 19th cent., Qandahār) Gate (S) to Sistān; from the Ḵošk (Ḵoš in Ḥāfeẓ-e Abru) Gate (E) to Ghur; and from the Ziād (since the 14th cent., ʿErāq) Gate (W) to Nišāpur. The Sarāy Gate was in cast iron, while the three others were built in wood. Because of the Qohan-dež touching the north wall, the Sarāy Gate was not situated in the middle section of the wall, but towards its western end. Two main alleys ran across the town in the north-south and east-west directions, joining the Sarāy and Firuzābād gates, and the Ḵošk and Ziād gates, and crossing at a right angle in the center, where the main bāzār (čahār-su) was located. Secondary bāzārs were located at the proximity of the gates and were named after them. A network of smaller alleys covered the town, distributing the access to other bāzārs and to living quarters, still largely observed in 1842 by Charles North and Edward Sanders, who drew a map of the town. It is not quite clear if the fifth Herat gate, named Darb-e Qepčāq and situated in the north wall towards its eastern end (on the other side of the Qohan-dež), mentioned in later sources (e.g., Ḥāfeẓ-e Abru, 1984, I, p. 18; idem, ed. Māyel Heravi, pp. 12-13), was already in existence in the pre-Mongol period. There was no specific bāzār associated with this gate, but it opened towards a quarter where the main official and public buildings of Herat were concentrated, such as the Great Mosque (Masjed-e Jāmeʿ), a feature that probably reflects an original urban pattern (Esfezāri, ed. Esḥāq, I, pp. 57-59; Allen, 1983, p. 13).

The citadel, located inside the walled city, had its own system of fortified walls with four gates, each one facing a city gate and named after it (Eṣṭaḵri, p. 265, tr., p. 278; Ebn Ḥawqal, 437, tr. Kramers and Wiet, p. 423; Moqaddasi, p. 307, tr., p. 249). Since the early 14th century, the citadel has been known as the Qalʿa-ye (or Ḥeṣār-e) Eḵtiār-al-Din (q.v.), after a military commander of the Kart dynasty; it occupied a site of about 18 x 42 m on a raised terrace (Allen, 1981, no. 54).

Muslim geographers of the 10th century locate the Great Mosque of Herat inside the square walls, surrounded by the bāzārs, in the central part of the city (Eṣṭaḵri, p. 264, tr., p. 279; Ebn Ḥawqal, 438, tr. Kramers and Wiet, p. 423; Moqaddasi, p. 307, tr., p. 350; Allen, 1981, no. 428). The mosque, repaired many times over the centuries, was extensively restored in the 12th century by the Ghurid ruler Ḡiāṯ-al-Din Moḥammad; an inscription commemorating this event is still visible today (Ḵᵛāndamir, Ḥabib al-siar III, pp. 378-79; Melikian-Chirvani, 1970; Allen, 1981, pp. 108-10). A Ghurid dynastic mausoleum was built north to the mosque (Fischer, p. 383; Allen, 1981, no. 477, p. 108; only its south wall was extant at the end of the 20th cent.; Allen, 1983, p. 14). The madrasa of Ḡiāṯ al-Din Ḡuri, (built ca. 1200-1203), situated in the same area, remained one of the most important madrasas of Herat until the Timurid period, when it was eclipsed by the madrasa of Šāhroḵ (Ḵᵛāndamir, Ḥabib al-siar III, p. 379; Allen, 1981, no. 460).

Figure 1. Topographical landmarks of Timurid Herat (after Allen 1981, Map 2).

Figure 1. Topographical landmarks of Timurid Herat (after Allen 1981, Map 2).Figure 1. Topographical landmarks of Timurid Herat (after Allen 1981, Map 2).

Among other important buildings of the early Muslim period, the first government-sponsored madrasa, a Neẓā-miya, was erected by the Ziād (ʿErāq) Gate in the years 1067-92. A Saljuq mosque was also located in this area (Allen, 1981, nos. 423, 477; Bosworth, 1968, p. 72).

The key question concerning the urban development of Herat at this early stage is the date of the square town, and consequently the origin of the specific quadrate plan of the inner town, already observed by the geographers in the 10th century and still largely visible today. There is a strong presumption that the quadrate street plan of the square town might be a Greek-Roman heritage transmitted to the Iranian East throughSasanian influence during the period of urban expansion in Persia and Central Asia between the 3rd and the 5th centuries. Among other Sasanian foundations of this period in the eastern provinces are Pušang (seeFŪŠANJ), founded by Šāpur I (r. 240-72; see Ball, I, no. 1259), Marv al-Rud (Maručāq on the Morḡāb River) founded by Bahrām V (r. 421-38; Ball, I, no. 711), etc., while in Central Asia, the 5th century saw the birth or the re-foundation of Paykant, Panjikant, and perhaps Bukhara (Grenet, pp. 372-76, 381 with n. 39, refuting the theory of the Indian origin of the quadrate plan, suggested in Gaube, pp. 55-57). Recent researches in urban history of the Iranian East suggest that the citadel of Herat might have been located on the southern edge of the ancient round city (Qohan-dež). It cannot be excluded that the citadel has always occupied its present site, since pieces of pre-Islamic ceramics were found there (unpub. material mentioned in Grenet, 1996, p. 381; for a different view, see Allen, 1981, no. 54).

Muslim authors confirm the importance of the suburban area (rabaż) outside the square city, which was covered with fields, gardens, and pastures. Agriculture was most flourishing in the countryside south of Herat. Although it is impossible to retrace the pre-Mongol network of canals in its totality, the Muslim geographers evidence their significance and the abundance of water (Ḥodud al-ʿālam, ed. Sotuda, p. 91, tr. Minorsky, p. 103; Eṣṭaḵri, pp. 294-66, tr. p. 278; Ebn Ḥawqal, p. 438, tr. Kramers and Wiet, p. 424). The earliest reference to any canal flowing to the city is that of Enjil (Anjir) nahr, mentioned by Eṣṭaḵri, (p. 266, tr. p. 280) and, following him, Ebn Ḥawqal (p. 439, tr., Kramers and Wiet, p. 424; Edrisi, p. 471; Allen, 1981, no. 18). Other references to Herat canals come from the historical sources describing restorations after the Mongol invasion. Thus, the Juy-e Mālān and the Juy-e Now (637/1239) and the Juy-e Ālenjān (638/1240) existed in the pre-Mongol Herat (Sayf Heravi, pp. 123, 127; Allen, 1981, nos. 26, 29, 11). The most famous bridge on the Harirud, the Mālān Bridge (Allen, 1981, No. 78), located on the road from Herat to Farāh and Qandahār, dated from the Saljuqid period. It was frequently repaired, and, up to modern times, remains one of the most famous landmarks of Herat countryside.

Post-Mongol urban developments. After the Mongol destructions of 1221-22, Herat was progressively rebuilt during the Kart period (1245-1389), having started already in 1236 with the reconstruction of the main Herat canal, the Juy-e Enjil (Sayf Heravi, p. 111). The Karts did not only rebuild the town but also were responsible for larger scale urban developments in the inner city, the suburbs, and the oasis of Herat (on Herat under the Karts, see Allen, 1981, pp. 228-31). Canals and bridges were restored or new ones were constructed, as was the water supply system inside the town. The Great Mosque was repaired and embellished (Ḵᵛāndamir, Ḥabib al-siar III, pp. 378-79). In 776/1374-55, a huge decorated bronze cauldron was given to the mosque by the Kart ruler for the community’s use; it served as a model for a similar cauldron donated by Timur (Tamerlane) to the mausoleum of Shaikh Aḥmad Yasavi in Yasi (present-day Turkestan, in Kazakstan) at the end of the 14th century (Melikian-Chirvani, 1982, p. 232 and fig. 58). At least six shrines (mazār) and cemeteries were functioning in Herat and around it during the period (Sayf Heravi, p. 441). The Karts sponsored the repair and construction of other religious buildings, mosques, madrasas, ḵānaqāhs, etc. Important works were accomplished under Faḵr-al-Din and Ḡiāṯ-al-Din Kart, at the end of the 13th and beginning of the 14th century, when the Pāy-e Ḥeṣār quarter was developed around the Great Mosque and the citadel (started in 1299). A big, walled maydān was added at the northern foot of the citadel and was called the ʿIdgāh-e divāri or moṣallā (Allen, 1981, no. 228). Another quarter with an important concentration of Kart constructions was around the ʿErāq Gate; for example, three ḵānaqāhs were endowed by the successive Kart rulers Faḵr-al-Din, in 1299, Ḡiāṯ-al-Din, before 1321, Moʿezz-al-Din Pir-Ḥosayn, around 1330-69 (Allen, 1981, nos. 499, 502, 509), and others. A new royal residence, Bāḡ-e Šahr, was also built in the northern part of the walled square city, while in the suburbs of Herat residential gardens (bāḡs; čahār-bāḡs) were created, such as the Bāḡ-e Safid in the countryside northeast of the town, the Bāḡ-e Zāḡān to the west (Allen, 1981, nos. 645, 651, 653), etc. The Herat system of fortifications was restored and in many ways improved. The citadel structures were completely rebuilt under the Karts and are still visible today even after having been submitted to periodical repairs and developments under the Timurids and the Safavids. After the Karts, the citadel functioned less as ruler’s residence and more as treasure house and prison; it resumed its military and defensive role only at specific moments. The Malek Gate (now called darvāza) was recast in iron. Under Moʿezz-al-Din Pir-Ḥosayn (r. 1332-70) an external protective wall was erected in the countryside, where the Enjil canal marked the northeastern limits of the extended Herat (Esfezāri, ed. Emām, I, pp. 81-82).

The Timurid period (1405-1507). This period was one of intense urban development. Timurid constructions amount to more than sixty structures. Large-scale transformations in urban design took place under Šāhroḵ (r. 1405-47) and Solṭān-Abu Saʿid (r. 1451-69) and culminated under Solṭān-Ḥosayn Bāyqarā (r. 1470-1506; Allen, 1983, pp. 29-31; O’Kane, pp. 104-10).

Timur destroyed the Kart outer oasis wall (never to be rebuilt) and the city walls in 1381, and took away the iron Malek Gate with him to Transoxiana as spoils of war (Esfezāri, ed. Emām, II, p. 41; Ḵᵛāndamir, Ḥabib al-siar III, p. 431). Šāhroḵ ordered the reconstruction of the city walls and of the citadel (completed in 818/1415-16), but also of the main Herat Čahār-su bāzār and other bāzārs (since 813/1410-11; Allen, 1983, p. 18; Tumanovich, 1999). He also erected many public buildings in the official quarters of Herat, namely around the Great Mosque and the citadel (old Kartid quarter), and completed the reconstruction of Kartid gardens (Allen, 1983, p. 35). He built and endowed in 813/1410-11 the famous Šāhroḵiya madrasa and ḵānaqāh located east of the citadel (Allen, 1981, no. 486). He was the first, followed by other Timurid rulers, to sponsor the construction of the Ḵiābān, a new residential quarter of Herat located to the north of the town, outside the Malek Gate. The Ḵiābān quarter remained the main landmark of Timurid urbanism in Herat. Numerous religious and public buildings, garden residences, funerary complexes, and shrines were sponsored along the Ḵiābān quarter by Timurid rulers, princes, and dignitaries. Among them are, the madrasa and the mosque of Šāhroḵ’s wife, the princess Gowhar-Šād Āḡā (q.v.), built during the years 1417-37, and the madrasa of Solṭān-Ḥosayn Bāyqarā, built in 1477-86, part of a complex later known as the Moṣallā, as well as the Eḵlāsiya complex of Mir ʿAli-Šir Navāʾi (q.v.), the construction of which started in 880/1475-76 (Allen, 1981, nos. 413, 431, 457, 491; Subtelny, 1991), etc. The Timurid repairs to the Jāmeʿ Mosque date from 903/1497-98 onwards (Mirḵᵛānd, VII, pp, 519, 525-28; Allen, 1983, p. 29). The ʿErāq Gate quarter, where Saljuq, Ghurid, and Kartid patrons had traditionally endowed public and religious buildings, was another scene of extensive Timurid building activity. The palatial complex of Solṭān-Abu Saʿid, called the Āq Sarāy (Ḵᵛāndamir, Faṣl-i az … , p. 27), was built in the suburbs outside the ʿErāq Gate in 1459-69 (Allen, 1981, no. 675). Later, Ḵᵛāja Afżal-al-Din Kermāni sponsored (in 1497-1505) the construction of a large complex of religious buildings, situated in the same area (Allen, 1981, nos. 429, 449, 494).

The intensive development of the Harirud canal system, and especially the digging of a major canal, the Juy-e Solṭāni (Allen, 1981, no. 35), on Solṭān-Abu Saʿid’s order (1467-69), improved the irrigation of agricultural districts south of Herat on both sides of the river (ʿAbd-al-Razzāq Samarqandi, ed. Šafiʿ, II, p. 1343; Esfezāri, ed. Emām, I, p. 85). It also permitted the extension of the recreational area to the slopes of the mountains east and north of the town, thus extending the outer Herat beyond its former limit at the Juy-e Enjil. Under Solṭān-Ḥosayn Bāyqarā, the region was completely covered by a series of royal and aristocratic gardens and terraces (taḵt). In 1469, the ruler ordered the construction of a monumental residential royal garden east of Herat, the Bāḡ-e Jahānārā (Esfezāri, ed. Emām, II, pp. 316-19; Ḵᵛāndamir, Ḥabib al-siar IV, p. 136; see also Ball, 1981; Allen 1981, no. 632; Szuppe, 1993, pp. 272-76). Timurid princes and dignitaries sponsored and endowed many shrines in Herat and other towns and boroughs of the region, such as Ziāratgāh, Owba, etc. (Wāʿeẓ Ḥosayni, especially chap. 3; Allen, 1981, nos. 556-622). The most famous shrine of Herat, still functioning, was at Gāzorgāh (q.v.), where Ḵᵛāja ʿAbd-Allāh Anṣāri (d. 1089, q.v.) is buried (Allen, 1981, no. 204; Ball, 1982, no. 346; also Seljuqi; Golombek). In the Timurid period, the ʿIdgāh square moved to the open space outside the city walls, to the MosÂallā area at the north end of the Ḵiābān quarter, at the foot of the Kuh-e Moḵtār hill (Allen, 1981, no. 532).

The town in the main preserved its earlier topogra-phy during the Safavid period (1510-1716); a plan of Herat drawn by Natalia Tumanovich shows the major buildings mentioned in Safavid sources (Tumanovich, 1989, pp. 46-47 and pp. 45, 48-64 for the commentary). During the early years of the Safavid rule in Khorasan and their struggle against the Uzbeks, the residential suburbs shrank and a part of the agricultural countryside declined (Ḵᵛāndamir, Ḥabib al-siar IV, pp. 532, 552-53). Many gardens situated closer to the town, such as Bāḡ-e Safid, Bāḡ-e Zāḡān, or Bāḡ-e Āhu, were temporarily turned into fortified advance quarters (Szuppe, 1993, pp. 270-78). The walls of the citadel of Herat were maintained in good condition, and the five gates (darvāza) are referred to in the sources by their Timurid names. To them might be added the names of four main corner towers and of some secondary ones that are frequently mentioned, giving some indications on the importance of town defence strategy in the 16th century (Szuppe, 1992, pp. 28-29; Tumanovich, 1989, pp. 48-50). From 1537 onwards, the Safavids pursued an urban development policy after a long period of neglect of the town. The Safavid governor Moḥammad Khan Takkalu ordered the restoration of Timurid residential gardens and public buildings, but also of farming gardens, as well as of some shrines (Jonābādi, pp. 502-3; Amir Maḥmud, p. 388; ʿObayd-Allāh Heravi, pp. 99-141, lists the shrines existing in Herat in 1783-84). He also commanded repairs and extensions of the bāzārs, and had a maydān built to the north of the citadel, probably as the restoration and extension of the old Kartid ʿIdgāh-e divāri; under the Safavids the maydān had military and commercial use (Amir Maḥmud, ms., foll. 299a-300a, the chapter on the building of the maydān and other repairs in Herat is missing from the published text; see also Szuppe, 1992, pp. 115-16). Very little material evidence has been left from the Safavid period, and it is rather impossible to ascertain the part of the royal patronage in it, with the rare exceptions of the dome of the Emāmzāda Ab’l-Qāsem shrine in the Qohan-dez (repairs dated in or after 941/1534-35, as argued by Seljuqi in the commentaries to his editions of Wāʿeẓ Ḥosayni and ʿObayd-Allāh Heravi, part IV, pp. 37-40) and architectural repairs at the Gāzorgāh shrine in 970/1562-63 (tile inscription published in Golombek, pp. 91-92). From the reign of Shah ʿAbbās I (1588-1629), Herat was linked with the Caspian provinces of northern Persian by a royal road. The system of water supply was improved; a Safavid cistern, dated 1044/1634, at the Čahār-su, has been preserved until the modern period (Najimi, 1982; Tumanovich, 1989, pp. 46-47). The countryside enjoyed relative prosperity, and Safavid and local dignitaries sponsored buildings and shrines in Herat and other towns in the region (e.g., Maḥmud b. Wali, foll. 236b-239b, for Herat and its countryside; ʿObayd-Allāh Heravi, ed. Māyel Heravi, p. 126 and passim). Maḥmud b. Wali, who visited Herat in 1631, described its fortifications and important buildings, most of which were restored edifices from the earlier periods, namely Ghurid and Timurid constructions (Maḥmud b. Wali, foll. 236b-239b, tr., pp. 80-83). During the 17th century, architectural repairs were again accomplished at Gāzorgāh by unknown patrons (tile inscription dated 1014/1605-6, see Seljuqi, pp. 25-26; Golombek, p. 92). Two ḥawżes were constructed or repaired by the donation of a “Mahd-e ʿOlyā” (d. 1684-85), a lady descending from a minor branch of Astrakhanid khans of Bukhara and Balḵ, one in 1092/1681-82 and another in Gāzorgāh, dated 1100/1688-89 (Seljuqi, pp. 23-24). Among the major patrons of late Safavid Herat were members of the Barnābādi family of local kvājas and Safavid administrators (Māyel Heravi; Tumanovich 1989). They sponsored shrines and gardens in their native borough and in the city itself (Barnābādi, fol. 4a, tr. p. 35, for their activities in Barnābād, and fol. 67a and passim, tr. p. 117 and passim, for repairs of Pir-e Sabuzpuš shrine in Herat and building of a garden). In addition, the Mughal Mosque (Masjed-e Moḡol) was constructed during the period of Shah Solaymān (1666-94; cf. Tumanovich, pp. 50, 155).


The history of later medieval developments of Herat and its region is found in Persian geographical and historical sources, many of them locally written. Archeological observations supplement this evidence, as many later medieval urban features have been preserved until modern times.

Primary sources. ʿAbd-Allāh Morvārid, Šaraf-nāma, facs. ed. and tr. Hans Robert Roemer as Staatsschreiben derTimuridenzeit: Das Šaraf-Nāmä des ʿAbdallāh Marwārīd, Wiesbaden, 1952.

Kamāl-al-Din ʿAbd-al-Razzāq Samarqandi, Maṭlaʿ-e sadayn wa majmaʿ-e baḥrayn, ed. Moḥammad Šafiʿ, 2 vols., Lahore, 1946-49; ed. ʿAbd-al-Ḥosayn Navāʾi, I, Tehran, 1978.

Maḥmūd b. Hedāyat-Allāh Afuštaʾi Naṭanzi, Noqāwat al-āṯār fi ḏekr al-aḵyār, ed. Eḥsān Ešrāqi, Tehran, 1971.

Amir Maḥmud b. Ḵᵛāndamir, Šāh Esmāʿil-e awwal wa Šāh Ṭahmāsp-e awwal, ms. Ketāb-ḵāna-ye melli-ye Tabriz, no. 3614; ed.

Moḥammad-ʿali Jarrāḥi, Tehran, 1991; ed.

Ḡolām-Reżā Ṭabāṭabāʾi Majd as Irān dar ruzgār-e Šāh Esmāʿil-e awwal wa Šāh Ṭahmāsp-e awwal,Tehran, 1991.

Aḥmad b. Yaḥyā Balāḏori, Ketāb fotuḥ al-boldān, ed. Michaël Jan de Goeje, Leiden, 1936; tr. as The Origins of the Islamic State I, by Philip Khûri Hitti, New York, 1916; repr. Beirut, 1966; II, by Francis Clark Murgotten, New York, 1924, repr., New York, 1969.

Moḥammad-Reżā Barnābādi, Taḏkera, facs. ed. and tr. Nataliya Nikolaevna Tumanovich as Tazkire (“Pamyatnye zapiski”), Pamyatniki pis’mennosti Vostoka 66, Moscow, 1984.

Abu ʿAbd-Allāh Šarif Edrisi, Ketāb nozhat al-moštāq fi eḵterāq al-āfāq, ed. A. Bombaci et al., Naples, 1970; tr. with comm. P.-A. Jaubert as La Géographie d’Edrisi, 2 vols., Paris, 1836-40, repr. Amsterdam, 1975.

Moʿin-al-Din Moḥammad Zamči Esfezāri, Rawżāt al-jannāt fi awsÂāf madinat al-Herāt, ed. Moḥammad Esḥāq, Calcuta, 1961; ed.

Sayyed Moḥammad-Kāżem Emām, 2 vols., Tehran, 1959-60.

Eṣṭaḵri, Ketābal-masālek wa’l-mamālek, tr. Moḥammad b. Asʿad Tostari as Masālek wa mamālek, ed.

Iraj Afšār, Tehran, 1974. Šehāb-al-Din ʿAbd-Allāh Ḥāfeẓ-e Abru, Ḏayl-e Jāmeʿ al-tawāriḵ-e rašidi, ed., Ḵānbābā Bayāni, Tehran, 1938.

Idem, Joḡrāfiā-ye Ḥāfeẓ-e Abru: qesmat-e rabʿ-e Ḵorāsān, Herāt, ed.

Reżā Māyel Heravi, Tehran, 1970. Idem, Joḡrāfiyā, ed. and tr. Dorothea Krawulsky as Ḫorāsān zur Timuridenzeit nach dem Tāriḫ-e Ḥāfeẓ-e Abru (verf. 817-823 h.), 2 vols., Wiesbaden, 1982-84.

Idem, Zobdat al-tawāriḵ, ed. Sayyed Kamāl Ḥājj Sayyed-jawādi, 4 vols., Tehran, 2001.

Mirzā Ḥasan Beg Jonābādi, Rowżat al-ṣafawiya, ed. Ḡolām-Reżā Ṭabāṭabāʾi Majd, Tehran, 1999.

Ḡiāṯ-al-Din Ḵᵛāndamir, Faṣl-i az Ḵolāṣat al-aḵbār fi aḥwāl al-aḵyār, ed. Guyā Eʿtemādi, Kabul, 1945.

Mirzā Mahdi Khan Astarābādi, Dorra-ye nādera, ed. Sayyed Jaʿfar Šahidi, Tehran, 1962.

Moḥammad b. Wali, Baḥr al-asrār fi manāqeb al-aḵyār, facs. ed. and tr. of the geographical part B. A. Akhmedov as More taĭn otnositel’no doblesteĭ blagorodynkh (geographiya), Tashkent, 1977.

Moḥammad-Kāẓem Marvi, ʿĀlamārā-ye nāderi, ed. Moḥammad-Amin Riāḥi, 3 vols., Tehran, 1985.

Moqaddasi (Maqdesi), Aḥsan al-taqāsim fi maʿrifat al-aqālim, ed.

M. J. de Goeje, Leiden, 1906; tr., Basil Anthony Collins and reviewed by Muhammad Hamid Taʾi as The Best Divisions for Knowledge of the Regions, London, 1994, repr., London, 2001.

Ḥamd-Allāh Mostawfi, Nozhat al-qolub, ed. and tr. Guy Le Strange, 2 vols., London, 1916-19.

Abu Bakr Moḥammad b. Jaʿfar Narašaḵi, Tāriḵ-e Boḵārā, ed. Moḥammad-Taqi Modarres Reżawi, 2nd. ed., Tehran, 1984; tr. Richard N. Frye as The History of Bukhara, Cambridge, Mass., 1954.

Neẓām-al-Din Šāmi, Ẓafar-nāma, ed. Felix Tauer, Prague, 1937.

ʿObayd-Allāh b. Abu Saʿid Heravi, (Ḏayl-e) Maqṣad al-eqbāl yā resāla-ye dovvom-e mazārāt-e Herāt, publ. with Wāʿeẓ Ḥosayni, Maqṣad al-eqbāl, pp. 99-141 (see below).

Rašid al-Din Fażl-Allāh, Jāmeʿ al-tawāriḵ, ed. ʿAbd-al-Karim ʿA. ʿAlizāda, and tr. A. K. Arends, Baku, 1957.

Moḥammad b. ʿAli b. Solaymān Rāvandi, Rāḥat al-ṣodur wa āyat al-sorur, ed. Moḥammad Eqbāl, rev. ed. Mojtabā Minovi, Tehran, 1985.

Ḥasan Rumli, Aḥsan al-tawāriḵ, ed.

ʿAbd-al-Ḥosayn Navāʾi, Tehran, 1978.

Jaʿfar Modarres Ṣādeqi, ed., Tāriḵ-e Sistān, Tehran, 1994.

Sayf b. Mo-ḥammad b. Yaʿqub Heravi, Tāriḵ-nāma-ye Herāt, ed.

Moḥammad Zobayr Ṣeddiqi, Calcutta, 1944. Abu Ja’far Muḥammad b. Jarir Ṭabari, Taʾriḵ al-rosul wa’l-moluk; tr. by a number of scholars as The History of al-Ṭabari, 40 vols., New York, 1989-.

Aṣl-al-Din ʿAbd-Allāh Wāʿeẓ Ḥosayni, Resāla-ye mazārāt-e Herāt: Maqṣad al-eqbāl solṭāniya wa marṣad al-aʿmāl ḵāqāniya, ed.

Reżā Māyel Heravi, Tehran, 1972, pp. 3-96.

Zayn-al-Din Moḥammad Wāṣefi, Badāyeʿ al-waqāyeʿ, ed.

A. N. Boldyrev, Moscow, 1961, re-ed., Tehran, 1970.

Šehāb-al-Din ʿAbd-Allāh Waṣṣāf, Tajziat al-al-amṣār wa tazjiat al-aʿṣār, redacted by ʿAbd-al-Ḥamid Āyati as Taḥrir-e tāriḵ-e Waṣṣāf, Tehran, 1967.

Secondary sources. Terry Allen, The Catalogue of the Toponyms and Monuments of Timurid Herat, Cambridge, Mass., 1981.

Idem, Timurid Herat, Beihefte zum Tübinger Atlas des Vorderen Orients, Reihe B 56, Wiesbaden, 1983.

Thomas T. Allsen, Commodity and Exchange in the Mongol Empire: A Cultural History of Islamic Textiles, Cambridge and New York, 1997.

Biancamaria Scarcia Amoretti, “Sects and Heresies,” in Camb. Hist. Iran IV, pp. 481-519.

Jean Aubin, “Comment Tamerlan prenait les villes,” Studia Islamica 19, 1963, pp. 83-122.

Idem, “Éléments pour l’étude des agglomérations urbaines dans l’Iran médiéval,” in Albert Habib Hourani and Samuel Miklos Stern, eds., The Islamic City, Oxford, 1970, pp. 65-76.

Idem, “Réseau pastoral et réseau caravanier: les grand’routes du Khurassan à l’époque mongole,” Le Monde Iranien et l’Islam 1, 1971, pp. 105-30.

Idem, “Le khanat de Čaḡatai et le Khorassan (1334-1380),” Turcica 8/2, 1976, pp. 16-60.

Warwick Ball, “The Remains of a Monumental Timurid Garden Outside Herat,” East and West, N.S. 31/1-4, 1981, pp. 79-82.

Idem (with the collaboration of Jean-Claude Gardin), The Archaeological Gazetteer of Afghanistan: Catalogue des sites archéologiques d’Afghanistan, 2 vols., Paris, 1982.

Vasiliĭ Vladimirovich Barthold, Four Studies in the History of Central Asia, tr. V. and T. Minorsky, 3 vols., Leiden, 1956-62, III, pp. 1-72.

Idem, Turkestan down to the Mongol Invasion, London, 1928; new ed. revised by Clifford E. Bosworth, London, 1968.

Idem, “Istoriko-geograficheskiĭ obzor Irana,” in idem, Sochineniya (Collected works), Moscow, 1971, pp. 31-225; tr. Svat Soucek as An Historical Geography of Iran, ed.

Clifford E. Bosworth, Princeton, New Jersey, 1984, pp. 47-63.

Alexandr Markovich Belenitskiĭ, “Istoricheskaya geografiya Gerata XV v.,” in Aleksandr Konstantinovich Borovkov, ed., Alisher Navoi, Moscow and Leningrad, 1946, pp. 175-202.

A. D. H. Bivar, “Hayāṭila,” in EI2 III, pp. 303-4.

Clifford E. Bosworth, “Ḵurāsān,” in EI2 V, pp. 55-59.

Idem, “The Early Islamic History of Ghur,” Central Asiatic Journal 6, 1961, pp. 116-33; repr. in idem, The Medieval History of Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia, Variorum Reprints, London, 1977, chap. IX.

Idem, The Ghaznavids: Their Empire in Afghanistan and Eastern Iran, 994-1040, Edinburgh, 1963.

Idem, “The Political and Dynastic History of the Iranian World (AD 1000-1217),” in Camb. Hist. Iran V, 1968, pp. 1-202.

Idem, “The Ṭāhirids and Ṣaffarids,” in Camb. Hist. Iran IV, 1975a, pp. 90-106; Idem, “The Early Ghaznavids,” in Camb. Hist. Iran IV, 1975b, pp. 162-97.

Idem, The History of the Ṣaffārids of Sistān and the Maliks of Nimruz (247/861 to 949/1542-43), Costa Mesa, Calif. and New York, 1994.

John Andrew Boyle, “Dynastic and Political History of the Il-Khāns,” in Camb. Hist. Iran V, pp. 303-421.

Dietrich Brandenburg, Herat: Eine timuridische Haupstadt, Graz, 1977.

Audrey Burton, “The Fall of Herat to the Uzbegs in 1588,” Iran 26, 1988, pp. 119-23.

Elton L. Daniel, The Political and Social History of Khurasan under Abbasid Rule, 747-820, Minneapolis and Chicago, 1979.

Martin B. Dickson, “Shàh Ṭahmàsb and the Uzbeks: The Duel for Khuràsàn with ‘Ubayd Khàn, 930-946/1524-1540,” Ph.D. diss., Princeton University, 1958.

K. Fischer, “From the Mongols to the Mughals,” in Frank Raymond Allchin and Norman Hammond, eds., The Archaeology of Afghanistan from Earliest Time to the Timurid Period, London, New York, and San Francisco, 1978, pp. 357-404.

Richard N. Frye, “Harāt,” in EI2 III, pp. 177-78.

Idem, “The Sāmānids,” in Camb. Hist. Iran IV, pp. 136-61.

Heinz Gaube, “Innenstadt-Ausenstadt: Kontinuität und Wendel im Grundriss von Herat (Afghanistan) zwischen dem X. und XV. Jahrhundert,” in Günter Schweizer, ed., Beiträge zur Geographie orientalische Städtund Märkte, Beihefte zum Tübinger Atlas des Vorderen Orients, Reihe B 24, Wiesbaden, 1977, pp. 213-40.

Idem, “Herat: An Indo-Iranian City?” in idem, Iranian Cities, New York, 1979, pp. 31-63.

Philippe Gignoux, “Une croix de procession de Hérat inscrite en pehlevi,” Le Muséon 114/3-4, 2001, pp. 291-304.

Lisa Golombek, The Timurid Shrine at Gāzur Gāh, Toronto, 1969.

Frantz Grenet, “Crise et sortie de crise en Bactriane-Sogdiane aux IVe-Ve siècles, de l’héritage antique à l’adoption des modèles sassanides,” in La Persia e l’Asia Centrale, da Alessandro al X secolo, Atti dei Convegni Lincei 127, Accademia Nationale dei Lincei, Rome, 1996, pp. 367-90.

Mongi Kaabi, “Les origines Ṭāhirides dans la daʿwa ʿabbāside,” Arabica 19, 1972, pp. 145-64.

Boris D. Kochnev, “La chronologie et la généalogie des Karakhanides du point de vue de la numismatique: annexes, les cours monétaires des Karakhanides,” Cahiers d’Asie Centrale 9, Études kara-khanides, 2001, pp. 49-75.

Afḡān Ḵalili, Āṯār-e Herāt, ed. ʿAbd-al-ʿAlim, 3 vols., Herat, 1930-31.

Aliĭ Ivanovich Kolesnikov, Zavoevanie Irana arabami: Iran pri pervykh khalifakh (The conquest of Iran by the Arabs: Iran under the early Caliphs), Moscow, 1982.

Laurence Lockhart, Nader Shah: ACritical Study Based Mainly upon Contemporary Sources, London, 1938.

Josef Markwart, A Catalogue of the Provincial Capitals of Ērānshahr, ed. by G. Messina, Analecta Orientalia 3, Rome 1931.

Robert D. McChesney, “The Conquest of Herat 995-96/1587-88: Sources for the Study of Safavid/qizilbāsh – Shībānid/Uzbak Relations,” in Jean Calmard, ed., Etudes safavides, Institut Français de Recherche en Iran, Bibliothèque iranienne 39, Paris and Tehran, 1993, pp. 69-107.

Assadullah Souren Melikian-Chirvani, “Eastern Iranian Architecture: a Propos of the Ghurid Parts of the Great Mosque of Harāt,” BSO(A)S 33, 1970, pp. 322-37.

Idem, Islamic Metalwork from the Iranian World, 8th-18th Centuries, Victoria and Albert Museum Catalogue, London, 1982.

George Miles, “Numismatics,” in Camb. Hist. Iran IV, pp. 364-77.

David Morgan, The Mongols, Cambridge, Mass. and Oxford, 1986.

Abdul Wasay Najimi, “The Cistern of Char-suq: A Safavid Building in Herat, Built after 1634,” Afghanistan Journal 2, 1982, pp. 38-41.

Idem, Herat, The Islamic City: A Study in Urban Conservation, Scandinavian Institute of Asian Studies, Occasional Papers 2, London, 1988.

Oskar von Niedermeyer, Afghanistan, Leipzig, 1924.

Charles F. North and Edward Sanders, Plan of Herat Fort, 1842, Public Record Office, FO 925/2014.

Bernard O’Kane, Timurid Architecture in Khurasan, Costa Mesa, Calif., 1987.

Jürgen Paul, “The Local Histories of Herat,” Iranian Studies 33/1-2, 2000, pp. 93-115.

Ilya Pavlovich Petrushevsky, “The Socio-Economic Condition of Iran under the Il-Khāns,” in Camb. Hist. Iran V, pp. 483-537.

Lawrence Goddard Potter, “The Kart Dynasty of Herat: Religion and Politics in Medieval Iran,” Ph.D. diss., Columbia University, 1992.

Hans R. Roemer, “Timur in Iran,” in Camb. Hist. Iran VI, 1986a, pp. 42-97.

Idem, “The Successors of Timur,” in Camb. Hist. Iran VI, 1986b, pp. 98-146.

Idem, “The Safavid Period,” in Camb. Hist. Iran VI, 1986c, pp. 189-350.

Idem, “The Jalayirids, Muzaffarids, and Sarbadārs,” in Camb. Hist. Iran VI, 1986d, pp. 1-41.

Fekri Saljuqi, Gāzorgāh, Kabul, 1962.

Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Semenov, “Sheybani Khan i zovoevanie im imperiĭ timuridov” (Šaybāni Khan and his conquest of the Timurid Empire), in Trudy Akademii Nauk Tadzhikskoĭ SSR 12, Dushanbe, 1954, pp. 39-83.

John Masson Smith, Jr., The History of the Sarbadār Dynasty1336-1381 A.D. and Its Sources, The Hague, 1970.

Maria Eva Subtelny, “Centralizing Reform and Its Opponents in the Late Timurid Period,” Iranian Studies 21/1-2, 1988, pp. 123-51.

Idem, “A Timurid Educational and Charitable Foundation: the Ikhlâsiyya Complex of ʿAlî Shîr Navâʾî in 15th-Century Herat and Its Endowment,” JAOS 111/1, 1991, pp. 38-61.

Idem, “A Medieval Persian Agricultural Manuel in Context: The Irshād al-zirāʿa in Late Timurid and Early Safavid Khorasan,” Studia Iranica 22/2, 1993, pp. 167-217.

Maria Szuppe, Entre Timourides, Uzbeks et Safavides: questions d’histoire politique et sociale de Hérat dans la première moitié du XVIe siècle, Studia Iranica, Cahier 12, Paris, 1992.

Idem, “Les résidences princières de Hérat: questions de continuité fonctionnelle entre les époques timouride et safavide, première moitié du XVIe siècle,” in Jean Calmard, ed., Etudes safavides, Institut Français de Recherche en Iran, Bibliothèque iranienne 39, Paris and Tehran, 1993, pp. 267-86.

Nataliya Nikolaevna Tumanovich, Gerat v XVI-XVIII vekakh (Herat in the 16th-18th centuries), Moscow, 1989.

Idem, “The Bazaar and Urban Life of Herat in the Middle Ages,” in Rika Gyselen and Maria Szuppe, eds., Matériaux pour l’histoire économique du monde iranien, Studia Iranica, Cahier 21, Paris 1999, pp. 277-85.


Local histories of Herāt belong to three distinct literary genres: the biographical dictionary, the dynastic history, and the guide for pilgrims. Chronologically, the biographical dictionaries belong to the pre-Mongol period, the dynastic histories to the centuries when Herāt was the capital of a regional or imperial state (Kartid and Timurid periods); and the guides for pilgrims begin in the Timurid period and continue into the 20th century. The large compendium of Sufi biographies, Ṭabaqāt al-Ṣufiya, of the patron saint of the city, Ḵᵛāja ʿAbd-Allāh Anṣāri (q.v.), has been excluded here, since it is not local in outlook, although of course many local people are mentioned in it. All the books discussed here (but one) carry the name of the city in their title and thus are explicit in their local focus.

Biographical dictionaries. Ḥāji Ḵalifa (Kašf al-ẓonun, ed. Flügel, II, p. 157) names five biographical dictionaries for the city of Herāt, all of which were written in Arabic. None of these seems to be extant, not even in fragmentary form. Later authors, among them the local historiographers Sayfi Heravi and Esfezāri (q.v.), mention only two out of the five, but this is not to say that there never were more than that. The first author is Abu Esḥāq Aḥmad b. Yāsin Ḥaddād (d. 343/954), whose work is quoted in Esfezāri at the beginning of the part devoted to history “in a narrower sense” (ed. Emām, I, pp. 378-87), but it is not certain whether Esfezāri still had access to the work in question, since he quotes it from ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Fāmi, who in turn is said to quote from Abu ʿObayd Moʾaddeb, one of Abu Esḥāq’s disciples. Abu Esḥāq himself was a transmitter of Hadith, but perhaps not very highly esteemed among his colleagues and even his compatriots (Paul, pp. 100-101).

The second work is a city history of Herat written by Ṯeqat-al-Din ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān b. ʿAbd-al-Jabbār Fāmi (1079-1151), which is quoted by both Sayfi and Esfezāri and mentioned in some of the great biographical dictionaries compiled in Mamluk Syria and Egypt in the 14th century. Not much of the biographical material is available, however. The quotations in Sayfi and Esfezāri concern the foundation legends of Herāt, of which there are several, and a list of governors from the Samanid period in addition to a very brief list of “events” (Sayfi, pp. 25 ff.; Esfezāri, ed. Esḥāq, pp. 41 ff., ed. Emām, I, pp. 55 ff.). Taken together, it seems that Fāmi was the only pre-Mongol source still available to 14th and 15th-century writers, the authors of biographical compilations in the Arab world, and the regional dynastic historians of eastern Iran. Obviously it is highly probable that the works of Abu Esḥāq and Fāmi were both mainly biographical dictionaries, but they certainly must have also contained some sort of introduction (as is common with this literary genre) that provided information on the geography and history of the region, including its legendary past. Besides, they may also have included a list of “events” (ḥawādeṯ; for a more detailed study of the biographical dictionaries concerning Herāt, see the editors’ introduction to Sayfi; see also Paul).

Regional dynastic historiography. This category consists of lost and extant works written in Persian. The first of these, called the Kart-nāma, was composed by the 13th-century poet Ṣadr-al-Din Rabiʿi Bušanji at the order of Malek Faḵr-al-Din Kart. It was an epic in couplet form verse (maṯnawi) in emulation of Ferdowsi’s Šāh-nāma, elaborating on the accomplishments of the Ghurids and the Kartid rulers (moluk) of Herāt (Eqbāl, pp. 469-71; Nafisi, Naẓm o naṯr, I, pp. 296-98; Ṣafā, Adabi-yāt III, pp. 671-81). It seems to be lost, except for 250 couplets (bayt) quoted in Sayfi’s history (see the editor’s introd., pp. 7 ff.).

The first work to have come down to us, albeit in very few manuscripts, is Sayfi’s Tārik-nāma-ye Herāt. The author’s full name was Sayf b. Moḥammad b. Yaʿqub Heravi, about whom we know only what he tells us in his work. He was born in 681/1282; the date of his death is not known, but he must have died after 1321, when his history was completed (Ṣafā, Adabiyāt III, pp. 1240-42). The book is a detailed history of the Kartid rulers and their reign. Pre-Mongol history is dealt with only very briefly, but the work is a precious source for Herāt under the Mongols in the decades immediately following the Mongol conquest (e.g., the dealings of the local people and their militia groups, the ʿayyārs [q.v.], with the representatives of Mongol power). It also provides a wealth of information on the difficult and intricate situation of northeastern Iran for the period it covers. The main body of the book is divided into 138 chapters, each one devoted to an event or a group of events. It does not follow an annalistic arrangement, although dates are consistently provided. Poetry is quoted throughout, but the prose style is rather straightforward and fluent; descriptions of battle scenes and the like are, however, much embellished (e.g., pp. 210 ff., 669 ff.). The author uses the standard works of Mongol-Persian historiography (including Rašid-al-Din’s Jāmeʿ al-tawāriḵ) as his source, but he also relies on eyewitness reports and on what he could gather from family transmissions (for the remoter past). The book was used as source by the subsequent historians, in particular from the Timurid period. It was probably their need to assert themselves in the face of Mongol dominance that persuaded the Kartid rulers to commission works of regional dynastic historiography in verse as well as in prose.

The next work is the Rawżāt al-jannāt fi awṣāf madinat Harāt (Gardens of paradise on the descriptions of the city of Herāt), written in 1470 (Browne, IV, p. 430-31) by Moʿin-al-Din Moḥammad Zamči Esfezāri (q.v.). Almost nothing is known about the author. He is said to have been a lecturer (modarres) in one of the renowned colleges (madrasa) of Herāt, and the Rawżāt seems to be his only extant work, although a manual of official correspondences (tarassol) is credited to him by Ḵᵛāndamir (Ḥabib al-siar IV, p. 348). The year of his death is sometimes given as 915/1509-10 (Esmāʿil Pasha, apud editor’s introd. to Rawżāt, p. ḥā). The work was written apparently during the reign of the last eminent Timurid ruler of Herāt, Ḥosayn Bāyqarā (q.v.) and completed in 1470. The book is divided into twenty-six chapters called rawżas (gardens), which in turn are subdivided into sections called čamans (meadows) The first five chapters deal with geography, giving descriptions of the city of Herāt and of those parts of eastern Persia that were under the Timurids of Herāt. The following chapters are all on history. Ancient history is treated briefly, and the author begins a more detailed narrative only when he starts dealing with the Kart rulers; but the period after 1321, which Sayfi does not cover, again receives little attention. The focus of the work is on Timur and the Timurids. The division into chapters follows the dynastic outlook, which is typical for this book. For instance, Abu Saʿid’s reign in Khorasan (1459-69) is broken down into five chapters (18-22): Abu Saʿid comes to Herat; the Turkmens drive him out; his second enthronement (and the beginnings of Ḥosayn’s career); Abu Saʿid’s ill-fated campaign into western Persia and his defeat; and his end. The work differs from imperial Timurid historiography in that it retains a local (regional) perspective.

Both these works of regional dynastic historiography are important sources for regional geography and history, that is, the history of the Kartid rulers and the Timurids in particular. The information to be garnered from these two works for the toponymy of Herat has been collected by Terry Allen.

Guides for pilgrims. The third group of works incorporates what could be called guides for pilgrims or lists of shrines and other venerated sites in Herāt and its environs. Of these there are three that fall under the common title of Resāla-ye mazārāt-e Herāt (Treatise on Herāt’s pilgrimage places [i.e., graves]). The first treatise, Maq-ṣad al-eqbāl-e solṭāniya … by Aṣil-al-Din ʿAbd-Allāh Wāʿeẓ Heravi, lists 209 items in rough chronological order according to death dates, the last of which bears the date 864 (1460). A new section is devoted to the saintly persons who died after Timur. Quite a few entries concern persons that seem to be devoid of any historical basis (e.g., those with a day of the week in their name); they rather seem to be about local shrines that are so typical for city quarters (maḥalla), a custom not confined to Persia. The author mentions a certain Tārik-e Herāt (not further identified) and the Ṭabaqāt of ʿAbd-Allāh Anṣāri as his sources. Most of the material, however, seems to come from systematic research all over the city. Although the book possibly was written on the request of Abu Saʿid (and at any rate during his reign), it does not at all belong to court literature. There is no perceptible bias in favor of any of the great Sufi orders then present in Herat, and the percentage of the so-called fools of God (majnun, divāna) is rather high.

The second treatise was written by ʿObayd-Allāh b. Abu Saʿid Heravi, probably some time in the middle of the 17th century. It has ninety-four entries in all, but not so well ordered as in the first treatise. The first person listed is the great Persian poet and mystic of Herāt ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Jāmi, followed by a large number of venerated persons who died around the turn of the 16th century. Only a few dates deal with the 17th century, which might be later additions. In this part, there is no clear orientation toward Sufi chains of spiritual descent (selselas), either.

The last treatise, which does not have a title, concerns the later periods, starting toward the end of the 18th century (end of the 12th cent. H. ) and continuing well into the 19th century. It was written by one Mawlawi Moḥammad-Ṣādeq Heravi, who included thirty-five persons into his work. In this book, the affiliation of the persons on record is a prime issue, as well as their political influence and local importance.

In all, local historiography of Herāt offers a clear example of the general evolution of the genre: from a focus on scholars, particularly transmitters of Hadith (moḥaddeṯin), in the pre-Mongol period, when local histories were written in Arabic, to works of regional dynastic outlook in the 14th and 15th centuries (when Herat was a real political center; before and after, it was a provincial town with no outstanding political and military weight) to “guides for pilgrims,” focusing on venerated religious figures mostly from a Sufi background.


Terry Allen, Timurid Herat, Beihefte zum Tübinger Atlas des Vorderen Orients, Reihe B 56,Wiesbaden, 1983.

Brown, Lit. Hist. Persia III, pp. 150-52, 173-74, 430-31.

ʿAbbās Eqbāl, “Rabiʿi Pušangi,” Mehr 1, 1933, pp. 169-78; republ. in idem, Majmuʿa-ye maqālāt-e ʿAbbās EqbālĀštiāni, ed. Moḥammad Dabirsiāqi, Tehran, 1980, pp. 466-77.

Moʿin-al-Din Moḥammad Zamči Esfezāri, Rawżāt al-jannāt fi awṣāf madinat Harāt, ed.

Moḥammad Esḥāq, Calcutta, 1961; ed.

Sayyed Moḥammad-Kāẓem Emām, 2 vols, Tehran, 1959-60; abridged tr.

Charles Barbier de Meynard as “Extraits de la chronique persane de Herat,” JA, 5th Ser., 16, 1860, pp. 461-520; 17, 1861, pp. 438-57, 473-522; 20, 1862, pp. 268-319.

Esmāʿil Pasha Baḡdādi, Hadiat al-ʿārefin: asmāʾ al-moʾallefin wa āṯār al-moṣannefin, Bagdad, 1972.

Faṣiḥ Aḥmad b. Moḥammad Ḵᵛāfi, Mojmal-e faṣiḥi, ed.

Maḥmud Farroḵ, 3 vols., Mašhad, 1960-62, III, pp. 4 ff.

Ḵᵛāndamir, Ḥabib al-siar III, pp. 367, 376-78.

Jürgen Paul, “The Local Histories of Herāt,” Iranian Studies 33/1-2,2000, pp. 93-115.

ʿObayd-Allāh b. Abu Saʿid Heravi, (Ḏayl-e) MaqsÂad al-eqbāl yā resāla-ye dovvom-e mazārāt-e Herāt, publ. with Wāʿeẓ Ḥosayni, Maqṣad al-eqbāl, ed.

Māyel Heravi, pp. 99-141 (see below).Ṣafā, Adabiyāt IV, pp. 537-38.

Sayf (Sayfi) b. Moḥammad b. Yaʿqub Heravi, Tārik-nāma-ye Herāt,ed. Moḥammad Zobayr Ṣeddiqi, Calcutta, 1943.

Asiál-al-Din ʿAbd-Allāh Wāʿeẓ Ḥosayni, Resāla-ye mazārāt-e Herāt: Maqṣad al-eqbāl-e solṭāniya wa marṣad al-aʿmāl-e ḵāqāniya, ed.

Fekri Saljuqi, 3 parts, Kabul, 1967; ed.

Reżā Māyel Heravi, Tehran, 1972.


From the middle of the 18th century, following Nāder Shah’s assassination in 1747, Herat became the focus of a century-long power struggle and regional rivalry that came to an end only with Persia renouncing its sovereignty over the city in 1857. Early Qajar shahs were committed to the preservation of Herat as an inseparable part of “The Guarded Domains of Iran” (mamālek-e maḥrusa-ye Irān), treating it mostly as a frontier vassalage that had to be protected, if necessary, by military means. Memories of the city as the capital of the late Timurid empire and the second capital of the Safavids, known by the epithet dār-al-Salṭana, were fresh in the minds of the Qajar rulers, whose grand strategy was to reconstitute the Safavid empire. Moreover, at the turn of the 19th century, Herat was a city of major strategic importance, with fertile hinterlands, an abundant water-supply, and secure defenses. Herat’s population, estimated at about 100,000, consisted mostly of Persian-speakers from various Afghan ethnic groups, including Hazāras and Pashtuns, as well as Hindus and a sizable Jewish minority. The city’s vast bazaars and its manufacturing base served as the chief emporium of trade between India, Kashmir, Kabul, Kandahar, Bukhara, Marv, Khorasan, Yazd, and Kermān (Fraser, appendix, pp. 30-33).

The weakening of Safavid control of the periphery of the empire had provided an opportunity for the restive Abdāli Afghan confederacy in the vicinity of Herat to take control of the city, and the region as a whole, as early as 1717. Tahmāsp-qoli Khan, later Nāder Shah, who recaptured Herat in 1728, preferred to reinstate the Abdāli chief Allāh-Yār Khan as governor of the city. Three years later, Nāder returned to quash a local Abdāli resistance, and recaptured Herat for the second time on his way to Isfahan. In 1738, taking advantage of the Abdālis’ old rivalry with the Ḡilzi (q.v.) Pashtuns, Nāder included them among his troops in his march on Kandahar, where he destroyed the old city and put an end to Ḡilzi domination (Marvi, I, pp. 93-102, 168-98; II, pp. 484-91).

Upon the disintegration of the Afsharid empire at the end of the 18th century (see AFSHARIDS), Herat, to be followed soon after by the rest of Khorasan, fell under Aḥmad Khan of the Sadōzi clan. An Abdāli tribal chief in Nāder Shah’s army, he soon expanded his empire from Kashmir and Jammu to Herat and Mašhad. Aḥmad Shah Dorrāni, as he came to be known, treated Šāh-roḵ Mirzā, the blind descendant of Nāder Shah who ruled over the remnants of Afsharid Khorasan, as his subordinate. Dor-rāni control of Herat at this juncture, fragile though it was, served as the historical grounds for the later inclusion of the city in the newly constituted country of Afghanistan. Later, to preserve Herat, Qajar shahs continuously had to play off the feuding Sadōzi claimants against each other as well as against chiefs of other Pashtun tribal clans (Eʿteżād-al-Salṭana, pp. 34-45).

Āqā Moḥammad Shah’s campaigns in central and western Iran during this period left no time for the recapture of Khorasan beyond taking control of Mašhad in 1795. Fatḥ-ʿAli Shah’s (q.v.; 1797-1834) consolidation in Khorasan, and his subduing of Kurdish and Qarāʾi khans (see KARĀʾI), renewed Qajar interest in Herat and in the neighboring Guriān and Farāh frontier provinces as areas of key importance for maintaining the security of Khorasan. The ambition of the Qajars clashed with the claims of Zamān Shah Sadōzi, the amir of Kabul and grandson of Aḥmad Shah, who contemplated seizing control of the whole of Khorasan. To ward off this threat, Fatḥ-ʿAli Shah welcomed an anti-Afghan alliance proposed by Lord Wellesley, the governor general of India, who in 1800 dispatched Captain John Malcolm on his first mission to Iran. In 1216/1801, the shah, who had harbored Maḥmud Mirzā and Fēruz-al-Din Mirzā, the rebellious brothers of Zamān Shah, provided money and troops for Maḥmud to march on Kabul. Zamān Shah was deposed and blinded by Maḥmud, who declared himself the new amir under Qajar suzerainty, with a kingdom stretching from Kabul to Herat and Peshawar. Relieved of the Afghan threat in the northwest, the East India Company condoned nominal Persian sovereignty over western Afghanistan (Kelly, pp.68-74; Ḵāvari, I, pp. 73-75, 95, 117-19, 134-39, 172-73).

Despite much internecine conflict within the feuding Dorrāni house, Qajar Iran maintained its fragile control over Herat. When in 1807 Maḥmud’s brother, Fēruz-al-Din, the governor of Herat, rebelled against the Qajars in collaboration with Ṣufi Eslām, a messianic claimant from Bukhara, a Qajar army headed by Moḥammad Khan Davallu crushed the movement, killed Ṣufi Eslām, and marched on Herat. Once more the Qajars subdued Fēruz-al-Din and restored Persian domination. In 1814, sensing Iran’s evident weakness after defeat in the first round of Russo-Persian wars, Fēruz-al-Din Mirzā again entered Herat, only to be confronted there by his own nephew, Kāmrān Mirzā Sadōzi, the governor of Kandahar. Facing defeat, the vulnerable Fēruz-al-Din took refuge with the Qajar chief, Esmāʿil Khan Dāmḡāni; he deterred Kāmrān Mirzā from approaching and reinstated Fēruz-al-Din as a subordinate, in exchange for a payment of 50,000 tomāns to cover the cost of the campaign in addition to an annual tribute to Tehran. Fēruz-al-Din issued coins in the name Fatḥ-ʿAli Shah and acknowledged him in the Friday sermon (ḵoṭba). Only a year later, however, a general insurrection in Khorasan that led to the removal of Moḥammad-Wali Mirzā, the prince-governor of the province, prompted Fēruz-al-Din to evade his commitment. The new Persian governor of Khorasan, Ḥasan-ʿAli Mirzā Šajāʿ-al-Salṭana, another senior son of Fatḥ-ʿAli Shah, once again marched on Herat and forced Fēruz-al-Din to pay the monetary tribute that was due and to restate his loyalty to the shah (Ḵāvari, I, pp. 265-68, 328-29, 392-93, 344-49).

A greater threat emerged, however, from a coalition headed by the influential Pashtun chief, Fatḥ Khan Bār-akzi of Kandahar, who served as a nominal minister of Maḥmud Shah, the amir of Kabul. In a broad anti-Qajar coalition, Fatḥ Khan allied himself with Moḥammad Khan, the chief of the powerful Qarāʾi tribe of Torbat Ḥaydariya, as well as with the governor (wali)of Ḵiva and the amir of Bukhara. The alliance marked the first serious Bārakzi attempt to dominate Herat. Šajāʿ-al-Salṭana once again rushed to Herat and, in collaboration with a local Dāmḡāni chief, in 1817 soundly defeated the Afghan-Uzbek forces at the battle of Kāfer-Qalʿa. Some 12,000 Afghan troops were captured, and Maḥmud was forced to acknowledge Persia’s sovereignty over Herat. Fatḥ Khan was blinded at Tehran’s request, but his numerous brothers did not stop rebelling against Maḥmud and Persia’s overlordship (Watson, pp. 178-81; Ḵāvari, I, pp. 478-85; Donboli, pp. 326-32). In the period between 1818 and 1826, Dōst-Moḥammad Khan (q.v.), the most daring of Fatḥ Khan’s brothers, in collaboration with the others, tried to impose a Bārakzi hegemony over all Afghan principalities. As a result the Sadōzi princes, Maḥmud and his son Kāmrān, took refuge in Herat, where they embarked on a turbulent quest for autonomy between Kabul and Tehran. In 1825 the Qajar Šajāʿ-al-Salṭana once again returned to Herat, this time to reinstate Kāmrān as Persia’s protégé. His more independent-minded father was again forced out of the city (Eʿteżād-al-Salṭana, pp. 62-85. Ḵāvari, I, pp. 513-18, 528-29, Fayż-Moḥammad, I, pp. 88-108).

Less than a decade later Persia’s control of Herat was seriously jeopardized because of endemic anti-Persian unrest in the city and also Britain’s growing involvement in Afghanistan. Despite earlier support for Qajar control of Herat (see GREAT BRITAIN iii.), the East India Company began to favor Herat’s autonomy as a buffer against Perso-Russian agitation in northwestern India (Ingram, pp. 46-82). In the aftermath of Persia’s 1827 defeat in the second round of wars with Russia, the whole of Khorasan plunged into a phase of tribal insurrection. Fearing the immanent loss of the province to Afghans, Turkmans, and Kurds, in 1830 the shah summoned ʿAbbās Mirzā from Azerbaijan and gave him the task of pacifying Khorasan, a move that was bound to arouse British suspicion. In the view of most British observers, the Turkmanchay treaty of 1828, which guaranteed the crown prince’s succession, had turned ʿAbbās Mirzā into a virtual captive of Russian favor if not an agent implementing their wishes. Moreover, defeat had weakened ʿAbbās’s position in relation to his competing brothers, especially Ḥasan-ʿAli Mirzā Šajāʿ-al-Salṭana, who had defied Tehran, after he had been denied the viceroyship of Azerbaijan in place of ʿAbbās. Campaigning in Khorasan would have allowed ʿAbbās to restore his military credibility and prove the worth of the New Army of Azerbaijan.

By 1833, after sweeping campaigns against the local chiefs of Khorasan and the Turkman chiefs of the Saraḵs frontier, ʿAbbās Mirzā was ready to move on Herat, in part to underscore his military prowess but also to carry out Russian strategic wishes in the east, as directed through diplomatic channels in the Tehran court. The Russians, who had just embarked on an expansionist policy against the khanates of Turkistan, regarded Iran’s possession of Herat as a challenge to the British ambitions in Afghanistan, and even as a potential threat to British India. From the Russian perspective, ʿAbbās’s preoccupation in the east had the additional benefit of distracting him from contemplating any restoration of the lost Caucasian provinces (Ḵāvari, II, pp. 836-40; Fraser, appendix, pp. 33-39).

ʿAbbās Mirzā’s Herat campaign was marred from the start by this Anglo-Russian clash of interests, which formed the first major episode of colonial power rivalry in Qajar history and the prelude to what came to be known as the Great Game (Ingram, pp. 249-55). From the start, Russia pressured the reluctant ʿAbbās Mirzā, whose judgement was impaired because of a grave illness, to take Herat. This forced Kāmrān Mirzā, the governor of Herat, who earlier had declared himself a tributary of the Persian state, to switch sides and ally himself with the British, whose agents persuaded the adventurous prince to resist a Qajar military occupation. He even contemplated the capture of some Persian territory in Sistān. A third camp in Herat, led by the cunning Yār-Moḥammad Khan, the vizier of Herat, advocated instead a temporary reconciliation with Persia. In the face of Kāmrān’s intransigence, two of ʿAbbās Mirzā’s senior sons, Moḥammad Mirzā and Ḵosrow Mirzā, accompanied by the crown prince’s capable minister, Mirzā Abu’l-Qāsem Qāʾem-maqām Farahāni, were instructed to lay siege to the seemingly penetrable Herat. However, news of ʿAbbās’s death in Mašhad in November 1833 compelled Moḥammad Mirzā to lift the siege and return to the capital, where he was installed as the new crown prince. The relieved Kāmrān Mirzā agreed only to pay an annual tribute to Tehran (Hedāyat, X, pp. 30-31, 56-61).

Soon after his accession in 1834, Moḥammad Shah focused his attention again on Herat. He viewed military victory over Herat necessary not only for the consolidation of his throne, but also to please the Russian representative at his court, the energetic Comte Simonitch. Moreover, Moḥammad Shah could not afford to overlook the Afghan and Turkman ravaging sorties in the east, backed by Kāmrān Mirzā and Yār-Moḥammad Khan. Paying little heed to the advice of the British envoy in Tehran, in July 1837 the shah ordered troop assembly, and in September he marched towards Herat at the head of sizeable regular and tribal forces. Dr. John McNeill, who had earlier dissuaded ʿAbbās Mirzā from capturing Herat, this time warned Moḥammad Shah of British retaliation, even though he could offer for his threat little sound legal grounds: in the event of a war between Iran and the Afghans, Article 9 of the 1814 Anglo-Persian treaty denied the British government the right “to interfere with either party unless their mediation to effect a peace shall be solicited by both parties” (Hurewitz, II, p. 201). Yet the Russophobes in the British establishment, headed by Lord Palmerston, viewed with alarm the growing Russian influence in Tehran. In their eyes, Persian control of Herat was a sure license for Russians to foment tribal anti-British agitation in Afghanistan. The East India Company’s efforts to counter this perceived threat to India had proven ineffective, for it had failed to persuade the Bārakzi amir of Kabul to back Kāmrān Mirzā against Persian presence in Herat. Dōst-Moḥammad and his brother, Kohandel Khan, the governor of Kandahar, were sufficiently impressed by Russian might to offer their allegiance to her apparent ally, the shah of Persia. Yet their promised support never materialized, either in the course of the Qajar campaign or afterwards (Rawlinson, pp. 28-33; Kelly, pp. 286-87; Etteḥādiya, pp. 55-78).

Yār-Moḥammad Khan, on the other hand, switched sides to the British camp, and his Sunni tribal forces prepared for the defense of Herat. As a result, the Persian army remained stranded before Herat’s gates for nearly ten months; the Qajar artillery proved ineffective, and the Persian siege strategy failed to penetrate the fortifications of Herat. Ḥāji Mirzā Āqāsi (q.v.) had allowed a level of humanitarian relief to go through and declared some city gates safe for civilian traffic. In April 1838, McNeill, who had arrived at the Qajar camp with threats of British military retaliation, put pressure on the shah to accept his mediation. However, the shah was left unimpressed by the unfavorable terms that were offered by the British envoy. Another British ultimatum issued in May was followed by McNeill’s angry departure from the camp in June. He protested the detention of the British legations’ courier outside Herat and the alleged opening of sensitive diplomatic dispatches. On such frivolous pretexts, on 7 June 1838 he declared a break in diplomatic relations with Persia. Ten days later the British Indian fleet that had been dispatched months earlier from Bombay occupied the Persian Gulf of Ḵārk and threatened the port of Bušehr. The small force of 500 Indian Sepoys faced virtually no resistance. Anxious to bring the campaign to an end, on 23 June, the shah ordered a new offensive but failed to break through Herat’s defenses despite high Persian casualties. The enhanced fortifications under the supervision of a British officer, Major Eldred Pottinger, had made Herat’s city walls even more difficult to penetrate. Finally in August 1838 troop exhaustion and the high cost of the war forced the shah to accept McNeill’s earlier offer and thus return to the capital in September 1838 empty-handed. The public announcement issued by the government spoke of the shah’s frustration. Moreover, as a direct result of the Qajar campaign, Herat and its environs sustained enormous agricultural, commercial, and material damage (Kelly, pp. 290-301, 306-20; Etteḥādiya, pp. 79-116). The whole affair signified a clear British strategic victory over Russian advances in Central Asia.

McNeill, who after the break in relations headed towards Tabriz, on the way dispatched a letter to the celebrated senior jurist (mojtahed)of Isfahan, Sayyed Moḥammad-Bāqer Šafti, criticizing the Persian government for bringing about the break in relations and urging that “leader of the community,” as he referred to Šafti, to stay clear of the conflict between the two governments. This was a veiled warning to him not to declare jihad against Britain at the behest of the shah and his premier. The mojtahed’s rejoinder, which reached McNeill in September 1838, was conciliatory and showed his awareness of the futility of declaring jihad as had been done in the 1826 war against Russia. Yet he refuted McNeill’s charges and defended the shah’s campaign on the grounds that it was aimed to pacify the eastern frontiers against Turkman and Afghan raids and stop the abduction and enslavement of the Shiʿite inhabitants of Khorasan. Šafti further stated in no unambiguous terms that, regardless of differences with the government, he recognized the shah’s authority and did not consider foreign affairs within his own judicial sphere (Amanat, 1990, pp. 11-41).

The failure of the Herat campaign and its aftermath discredited Moḥammad Shah and further exposed the Persian state to internal strife and diplomatic abuse. It emboldened Yār-Moḥammad in his anti-Qajar stance, contributed to Khorasan’s insecurity, demonstrated Persia’s vulnerability to a naval threat in the Persian Gulf, and encouraged deeper British involvement in Afghanistan from 1839 onwards. In February 1842, the East India Company dispatched expeditionary forces to depose and exile the now pro-Russian Dōst-Moḥammad in Kabul, and to secure in his place on the throne of Afghanistan the British puppet, Shah Šajāʿ Sadōzi. The British however, were soon obliged to withdraw from Kabul in the face of a popular uprising; and the retreating forces, numbering some 3000 troops, were massacred in Jalā-lābād by the Afghans under Akbar Khan, Dōst-Mo-ḥammad’s son (see ANGLO AFGHAN WARS i.). Dōst-Moḥammad was subsequently restored to power, and soon afterwards he began to consolidate his base. Facing a new threat from Kabul and a change in the political climate, especially after the British setback, Yār-Moḥammad now tilted back towards Iran and sought the shah’s help against Dōst-Moḥammad in as early as 1839. Viewing Kāmrān Mirzā as a nuisance, three years later he murdered the Sadōzi prince and declared himself the governor of Herat. The prevailing of a new Sunni emir over Herat, who effectively put an end to Sadōzi rule, further complicated Iran’s policy toward Herat and added to its concern for the maltreatment of the Shiʾi population.

To restore relations with Britain and request withdrawal from Ḵārk, in early 1839 the shah dispatched Ḥosayn Khan Ājudān-bāši to Europe. After much delay and humiliating treatment, he negotiated a settlement according to which the Persian government was obliged not only to apologize for charges already made by McNeill, but to punish its own officers and officials for their actions. Under pressure Iran signed, in October 1841, a long-resisted commercial treaty that was meant to match Russian commercial privileges as stipulated in the Turk-manchay supplementary treaty. The increasing hardship suffered by the Shiʿites of Herat at the hands of the Sunni tribesmen, a major motivation for the Herat campaign, forced many of them to take refuge in the towns and cities of Khorasan. Despite these setbacks, the Persian government still refused to renounce its sovereignty over Herat.

With the accession of Nāṣer-al-Din Shah in 1848 and the premiership of Amir Kabir (q.v.), Iran saw a new chance to reassert itself in Herat. Britain’s temporary hands-off policy persuaded the khans in Herat to adopt a friendly attitude towards Tehran and, in effect, to serve as a mini-buffer between Iran, India, and Kabul. During the Sālār revolt (1847-51), when Turkman and Kurdish tribes in northern Khorasan rose against the Qajar state, Yār-Moḥammad even offered logistic and intelligence support to the Persian troops, for which he received from Tehran the title of Ẓahir-al-Dawla (the supporter of the state). After his death, his son, Sayd Moḥammad Khan, also recognized Persian suzerainty and adopted a pro-Shiʿite stance in exchange for Tehran’s backing against Kohandel Khan, the amir of Kandahar, who in early 1851, in league with his brother Dōst-Moḥammad Khan, marched on Herat. He claimed he was appointed by Moḥammad Shah as the legitimate ruler of Herat. The Persian expeditionary force of one thousand strong that was dispatched to Herat after the fall of Amir Kabir by the new prime minister, Mirzā Āqā Khan Nuri, entered the citadel of Herat in late 1851 and disbanded the pro-Bārakzay forces there under Kohandel Khan and Dōst-Moḥammad Khan (Ādamiyat, pp. 605-44).

The Qajar success in Herat through backing Sayd Moḥammad Khan enraged Colonel Justin Sheil, the British minister plenipotentiary in Tehran, who demanded an immediate Persian withdrawal. His initiative opened a new chapter in the Anglo-Persian scramble over Herat that eventually led to the 1856 confrontation. Once in office, Nuri, who had come to power with the blessing of the British, was obliged to adjust his orientation and shift to a more independent course of policy so as to accommodate the young Nāṣer-al-Din Shah’s aspirations for Persian sovereignty in Herat. The British anxiety was intensified by the possibility of a Russian consular presence in the city, should Iran be allowed to obtain a permanent foothold there. Like McNeill, Sheil believed the northwest Indian frontier would be exposed to Russian intrigue. His argument gained backing in the Foreign Office and the Indian Government, especially on the eve of the Crimean war, once the period of relative calm in Anglo-Russian relations came to a close (Sheil, pp. 301-6, 370-75).

Under intense British pressure, the Persian expeditionary force withdrew from Herat in January 1852, but only after Kohandel’s forces had retreated from the vicinity of the city. Despite the Persian withdrawal, Nuri resisted Sheil’s wishes to declare Herat outside of Persia’s sphere of control; but, after long and acrimonious negotiations, in January 1853 he was compelled to give a unilateral undertaking to the British government. The Sheil-Nuri agreement obliged Iran “not to send troops on any account to the territory of Herat, excepting when troops from without attack the place.” It also demanded that, immediately on the retreat of the foreign troops, Persian forces must “return to the Persian soil without delay.” Iran was to “abstain from all interference whatsoever in the internal affairs of Herat” except for whatever influence it already exerted on Yār-Moḥammad Khan. Iran was also required to relinquish “all claim or pretension of coinage of money and to the ‘Khootbeh’ (ḵoṭba) or to any other mark whatever of subjection or of allegiance on the part of the people of Herat to Persia.” The only consolation was that these engagements were valid so long as there was “no interference whatsoever” by the British Government “on the internal affairs of Herat and its dependencies” (Hurewitz, I, pp. 305-6; Amanat, 1997, pp. 225-32).

The ensuing turmoil in Herat caused further deterioration in Anglo-Persian relations and exposed the fragil-ity of the recent agreement. Upon learning of the Sheil-Nuri undertaking, Sayd-Moḥammad Khan lost no time in switching to the British side, while the Persian government, in response, sided with another pretender to the government of Herat, Moḥammad-Yusof Mirzā, a nephew of the slain Kāmrān Mirzā of the Sadōzi house. In September 1855, Moḥammad-Yusof removed Sayd-Moḥammad from power and subsequently murdered him. This happened just after the death of Kohandel Khan in Kandahar, which persuaded his brother Dōst-Moḥammad, the amir of Kabul since 1842, to take Kandahar in February 1856. Already in March 1855, Dōst-Moḥammad had concluded a decisive treaty with the East India Company that recognized him as the amir of the whole of Afghanistan. The Treaty of Peshawar (18 March 1855) was designed in part to impede Persian designs on Herat (Hurewitz, I, p. 310). Dōst-Moḥammad, who despite his earlier anti-British history now enjoyed full British backing, declared his intention to march on Herat. His pretext was to avenge the murder of Sayd-Moḥammad, his son-in-law. In fear Moḥammad-Yusof, who was uncertain of Persian support, switched sides to join the British after the people of Herat had almost managed to remove him from power and to force the Persian regiment that had come to his support out of the citadel. In desperation, the governor of Persian Khorasan, Solṭān-Morād Mirzā Ḥosām-al-Salṭana, an uncle of Nāṣer-al-Din Shah, helped to stage a bloodless coup in Herat that brought to power yet another contender, ʿIsā Khan, an influential chief with equally questionable loyalties. Yet the Persian government was backing a wrong contender. Handing Mo-ḥammad-Yusof to Morād Mirzā, ʿIsā Khan lost no time in pleading for support from Dōst-Moḥammad and the British government against Persia’s impending threat (Rawlinson, pp. 80-87; Amanat, 1997, pp. 277-82).

International developments in the mid-19th century contributed to the gravity of the situation in Herat. Most significantly, the British preoccupation with the Crimean War and its setbacks in late 1854 and early 1855 gave a false impression to Nāṣer-al-Din Shah that, if he could secure the backing of the new tsar of Russia, Alexander II, he would then be able to capture Herat and put an end to half a century of domestic feuding and colonial scrambles. Russia’s gains in Kars in December 1855 confirmed this impression. After a series of acrimonious exchanges with the British Legation, in November 1855, diplomatic relations between the two countries finally ruptured. This came after a vehement quarrel with the British minister plenipotentiary Charles Murray over his alleged affair with a certain Parvin Ḵānom, a sister-in-law of the shah. Nāṣer-al-Din Shah used this occasion to embark on a swift mobilization of his forces to march on Herat with Morād Mirzā at the head. The shah’s motives were partly military glory, but more than anything he feared the rise of a united Afghanistan under the aegis of the British as a threat to Persia’s eastern frontiers. The Treaty of Peshawar had recognized Dōst-Moḥammad’s control over Kabul and “of those countries of Afghanistan now in his possession,” and required of the amir “to be the friend of his friend and enemy of the enemies of the Honorable East India Company,” the latter being a clear reference to Iran (Hurewitz, I, p. 310; Amanat, 1997, pp. 265-77).

From the Persian perspective, a divided Afghanistan with Herat under Persia’s direct or indirect control would strengthen her hand in the face of increasing British strategic and diplomatic presence. Adopting a two-track policy of military campaigns and diplomatic negotiations, the shah and his premier hoped to arrive at a fair settlement with Britain. In late 1855, they dispatched to Europe Farroḵ Khan Amin-al-Molk Ḡaffāri (later Amin-al-Dawla), a gifted statesman and diplomat, to negotiate with the British ambassadors in Istanbul and in Paris on Persia’s conditions for ending the Herat campaign. He was also instructed to solicit the mediation of France and seek a loan and military support from the United States. This was at a time when a 15,000-strong Persian force was stranded before the formidable walls of Herat. After nearly nine months, the technical assistance of M. Buhler, a French army engineer in the service of the Persian government, who dug a series of subterranean tunnels under the city walls, eventually brought the famine-stricken Herat to its knees. In October 1856, the Persian forces finally captured the city. In the epinicium (fatḥ-nāma) issued by Morād Mirzā, he boasted about securing the city; he also minted coins in the name of Nāṣer-al-Din Shah and instructed the adoption of the Shiʿite call to prayer (aḏān) and the acknowledgment of the shah’s authority by the symbolic mention of his name in the Friday sermon (Kelly, pp. 452-99; Amanat, 1997, p. 80).

The Persian victory was short-lived and turned out to be the final Qajar attempt to retrieve Herat. As expected, the breakdown in negotiations at Istanbul was followed by a second British declaration of war and the landing, in December 1856, of a substantial force of British and Indian troops at Bušehr. Soon the British forces moved northwards through the province of Fārs, and in February 1857 they exacted a heavy blow on the Persian regular army in the battle of Ḵušāb. Facing an empty war-chest and the threat of political ruin, the terrified Nāṣer-al-Din Shah and his bewildered premier instructed Farroḵ Khan in Paris to accept the harsh British conditions for a ceasefire and the eventual restoration of diplomatic relations. On 4 March 1857, the conclusion of the Treaty of Paris ended hostilities between the two countries. Two days after the draft of the treaty reached Tehran, however, in late March 1857, British naval forces arrived at the Persian port of Mohammara and, in early April, began bombarding the city of Ahvāz. Apart from serving as a punitive action, the attack did not accomplish any strategic objectives.

The Treaty of Paris put a definite end to any Persian claims of sovereignty in Afghanistan. While Article 5 engaged “His Majesty the Shah of Persia” to withdraw from Herat within three months, Article 6 demanded that he “relinquish all claims to sovereignty over the territory and the city of Herat or the countries of Afghanistan, and never to demand from the Chiefs of Herat, or of the countries of Afghanistan, any mark of obedience, such as coinage or ‘Khootbeh’ or tribute.” His Majesty further promised “to abstain hereafter from all interference with the internal affairs of Afghanistan” and to “recognize the independence of Herat and the whole of Afghanistan, and never to attempt to interfere with the independence of that state.” In case of differences between Herat and Iran, the same article stipulated, “the Persian Government engages to refer them for adjustment to the friendly offices of the British Government, and not take up arms unless those friendly offices fail to effect.” The British government promised in exchange to exert influence to resolve problems between Afghanistan and Iran. The only right that Article Seven reserved for the Persian government in case of any violation of its frontier, was that, if the due satisfaction was not given, they could “undertake military operations for the repression and punishment of the aggressors” without the Persian forces being able to stay longer than necessary or to occupy Herat (Hurewitz, I, p. 342; Ette-ḥādiya, pp. 119-97; Amanat, 1997, pp. 292-308).

After more than half a century of Persian involvement, Qajar ambitions to retain Herat as a frontier vassalage were brought to an end as a result primarily of British strategic interests in Afghanistan—an early consequence of the Great Game. The Treaty of Paris ended three and a half centuries of almost unbroken, though often turbulent, inclusion of Herat in the Persian domain. Under the Bārakzi dynasty and with British blessing, Herat was incorporated into Afghanistan as a relatively stable province, although it remained culturally distinct from the rest of the new country. The loss of Herat also initiated a gradual demarcation of Persia’s eastern frontiers, a process that continued up to the end of the 19th century. Defeat in the war convinced Nāṣer-al-Din Shah and the Qajar state never to engage militarily against Persia’s imperial neighbors. In the longer historical span, the humiliation of losing Herat invoked in Persian memory, especially during the Pahlavi era, the image of Qajar infirmity and ineptitude, and a painful national loss second only to that of the Caucasian provinces three decades earlier.


Fereydun Ādamiyat, Amir Kabir wa Iran, 3rd ed., Tehran, 1969.

Abbas Amanat, Pivot of the Universe: Nasir al-Din Shah Qajar and the Iranian Monarchy, 1831-1896, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1997.

Idem, “ ‘Pišvā-ye ommat’ wawazir-e moḵtār-e ‘bi-tadlis-e’ Engelis,” Irān-šenāsi 2, 1990, pp. 11-41.

George Curzon, Persia and the Persian Question, 2 vols., London, 1892.

Idem, Russia in Central Asia, London, 1899.

ʿAbd-al-Razzāq Donboli, Maʾāṯer-e solṭāniya, Tabriz, 1241/1825.

ʿAli-qoli Mirzā Eʿteżād-al-Salṭana, Tāriḵ-e waqāyeʿ wa sawāneḥ-e Afḡānestān, ed. Mir Hāšem Moḥaddeṯ, 2nd ed., Tehran, 1997.

Fayż-Moḥammad Kāteb, Serāj al-tawāriḵ, 3 vols. in 2, Kabul, 1331-33/1913-15.

J. P. Ferrier, Caravan Journey and Wandering in Persia, Afghanistan, Turkistan, and Beloochestan, London, 1857, pp. 144-200.

James B. Fraser, Narrative of a Journey into Khorasan in the year 1821 and 1822, 2nd ed., Delhi, 1984.

Reżā-qoli Khan Hedāyat, Rawżat al-ṣafā-ye nāṣeri, Tehran, 1960, IX and X.

G. H. Hunt, Outram and Havelock’s Campaign, 1857, London, 1858.

C. J. Hurewitz, The Middle East and North Africa in World Politics: A Documentary Record, 2 vols., New Haven, 1975.

Edward Ingram, The Beginning of the Great Game in Asia, 1828-1834, Oxford, 1979.

Fażl-Allāh Širāzi Ḵāvari, Tāriḵ-e Ḏu’l-Qarnayn, 2 vols., ed. Nāṣer Afsārfar, Tehran, 2001, I, pp. 172-73.

John William Kaye, History of the War in Afghanistan, 2 vols., London, 1851.

J. B. Kelly, Britain and the Persian Gulf, 1795-1880, Oxford, 1968.

Moḥammad-Kāẓem Marwi, ʿĀlam-ārā-ye nāderi, ed.

Moḥammad-Amin Riāhi, 3 vols., 3rd ed., Tehran, 1995, I, pp. 93-102, 168-98; II, pp. 484-91.

Laurence Lockhart, Nadir Shah, London, 1938, chap. 5. George Pottinger, The Afghan Connection, Edinburgh, 1983.

Henry Rawlinson, England and Russia in the East, London, 1875.

Mary Sheil, Glimpses of Life and Manners in Persia, London, 1856.

Percy Sykes, A History of Afghanistan, 2 vols., London, 1940.

Pio-Carlo Terenzio, La Rivalite Anglo-Russe en Perse et en Afghanistan, Paris, 1947.

Robert Grant Watson, A History of Persia, London, 1866.


In the latter half of the 19th century, following the settlement of the Khorasan frontier with Persia in 1857, the rulers of Kabul, with British support, sought to make Herat a part of the Afghan state and to defend it from Russian military advances. In the spring of 1863, Dōst-Moḥammad Khan (r. 1826-38 and 1842-63) surrounded and took the city, allowing his four thousand soldiers to plunder it as compensation (Fayż Moḥammad Kāteb, pp. 77-78; Vam-bery, p. 202; Noelle, pp. 264-65). Thus, Herat fell into the possession of the Afghans, although its inhabitants were mainly Shiʿite and though Nāṣer-al-Din Shah’s name could still be heard in the city’s mosques during the Friday prayer for the ruler (Vambery, pp. 203, 212). The gray-bearded Dōst-Moḥammad Khan died shortly after his conquest and lies buried in the cemetery of the Gāzargāh village, on the outskirts of Herat (Fayż Mo-ḥammad Kāteb, p. 77; Holdich, p. 141).

The following decades revealed the precarious hold of the Afghan sovereign over Herat, as internal dissensions and fratricidal wars broke out among the Dorrānis. Dōst-Moḥammad Khan’s successor Amir Šir ʿAli Khan (r. 1863-79) left his eleven year old son Yaʿqub in command of the city. Throughout much of the 1870s, Herat would be semi-autonomous and in revolt against the Amir, as Yaʿqub Khan and his younger brother Ayyub used the city as a base to challenge the authority of their father in Kabul. In 1874, Yaʿqub Khan was imprisoned, while his brother was exiled to Persia. In 1879, following the death of Šir ʿAli Khan, Yaʿqub was named Amir, while Ayyub Khan returned from a five-year exile in Mašhad to assume the governorship of Herat, later becoming a hero at the Battle of Maywand, as he led a group of ḡāżis and sardārs against the British in the Second Anglo Afghan War (q.v.; Fayż Moḥammad, pp. 193-96, 210). After the war, the new Amir, ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Khan (q.v. 1881-1901) defeated Sardār Ayyub Khan and captured Herat, forcing his cousin into exile in Persia once again. Although this time, Sardār Ayyub Khan was taken from the Afghan borderlands to Tehran, he continued to raise British fears that he would conspire with the Russians to recapture Herat. In 1887, the he fled from Persia and made one last desperate and unsuccessful march toward the city (Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana, pp. 165, 512-14, 523).

Unsure of the Afghan state project, the British came to reconsider the “question of Herat” with the Foreign Secretary Lord Salisbury suggesting that Herat be ceded to Persia at the conclusion of the war. Although the Government of India countered that such a move would alienate the Afghans and possibly even open Khorasan to the Russians, the Foreign Office approved a plan to cede Herat and parts of Sistān to Persia on the condition that Nāṣer-al-Din Shah assent to have British officers resident in the city, to resist Russian encroachments, to not oppose a railway scheme from Qandahār to Herat, and to consider the opening of the Karun River in southwest-ern Persia to navigation. In December 1879, the British Government offered Herat to Persia on these terms, and Nāṣer-al-Din Shah accepted. Two months later, when the Shah suddenly insisted on an unconditional occupation of Herat and Sistān, the plan was dropped (Sykes, pp. 134-35; Greaves, p. 403).

Subsequently, the question of Herat came to rest on the security of its northern frontier and the fate of the Turkmen tribes on the peripheries of the valley. Both the Russians and the British took measures to tame the so-called “wild” and “turbulent” Turkmen tribes of Khorasan (Marvin, pp. 1-29, 316-406). The Turkmen frontier remained beyond the pale of both the Persian and Af-ghan states. Following the failure of the 1860-61 Marv campaign, the Qajars abandoned much of the Turkmen country on Persia’s northeastern frontiers to the Russians, who sought to fill the void by colonizing Turkmenistan (Amanat, p. 419).

Between the 1860s and 1880s, Russia pursued a policy of pacification, either annexing or capturing the Turkmen oases of Central Asia: Tashkent and Khokand in 1866, Samarqand and Bukhara in 1868, Khiva in 1873. In 1878, a Russian staff officer, Colonel N. L. Grodekov, rode from Samarqand to Herat, surveying the route and the city’s defenses. In 1881, a Russian army under General Mikhael Skobelev captured the fortress of Geok Tepe (“Blue Hill”) at Akhal, defeating the powerful Tekke tribe in what some have called “the last stand of the Turkmen” (Hopkirk, p. 402). In 1884, the Russians completed their pacification of the Tekke by annexing the oasis of Marv and moving the Russian frontier even closer to Herat. Advancing in a line from the eastern shore of the Caspian toward the Morḡāb country, paralleling the course of the nascent Trans-Caspian Railroad, the Russians had annexed sections of the Yamut, Salor, and Tekke, making an “ethnographical claim” on the Turkmen tribes (Marvin, pp. 111-16).

At the same time, the Russians were extending the Trans-Caspian Railroad further into Central Asia (O’Donovan; Marvin). As Russian troops continued to pursue the pacification of the Turkmen, the British attempted to secure northern Afghanistan and the Herat region through the making of borders. Russian advances in the region alarmed the Government of India, which pressed for the settlement of the Afghan frontier. Already by 1884, cartographers in St. Petersburg had printed an official map that placed the Russian border at twenty miles from Herat (Greaves, p. 69). Because Herat’s fertile valley possessed the resources to maintain a large army and a strategic location on the road to Qandahār, it came to be seen as “the gate to India.” British opinion wavered between the principles of “masterly inactivity” and a forward policy, which advocated that the British seize Herat before the Russians did (Marvin, p. 52; Greaves, pp. 394-401). Moreover, Herat remained largely out of Amir ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Khan’s control, whose apathy and disregard for the region had also led the Qajars to station troops in the Bādḡis (q.v.; Sykes, pp. 160-61). In 1884, however the British and Russian Governments agreed that a joint boundary commission should survey and delimit the northern border of Afghanistan, a four-hundred mile stretch between the Hari Rud and the Oxus (Holdich, p. 99; Greaves, p. 69).

In the winter of 1885 however, Russian troops from Akhal and Marv marched up the Morḡāb River towards the Panjdeh Oasis, claiming that the Sarik Turkmen of the Panjdeh were independent of Afghanistan and part of the Turkmen nation of Akhal and Marv. The following spring, a large Russian force attacked and handily defeated five hundred Afghan soldiers dispatched to defend the oasis. In what became known as the “Panjdeh Incident,” the Russians annexed the oasis, heightening fears about the security of Herat and nearly bringing about a war with Britain (Sykes, pp. 163-64). But there would be no war, only the demarcation of a boundary. The Joint Afghan Boundary Commission concluded its work in 1887, with the Russians retaining Panjdeh, which they exchanged with Afghanistan for the strategically important Ḏu’l-faqār Pass, “the old plundering road of the Turkmen and the traditional way out of Persia” (Greaves, p. 77).

Subsequently, Amir ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Khan, in his zeal to fortify Herat against an attack and with the approval of the British, leveled the madrasa and mosque in Herat’s northern suburb of the Moṣallā (Holdich, p. 143; Yate, p. 65). In addition, thousands of workmen from the countryside were employed to plow a series of cemetery mounds north of the city, even though the people of Herat submitted petitions to the Amir requesting that the graves not be disturbed (Yate, p. 25). Moreover, armed Afghan irregulars wearing English red coats poured into the city, temporarily displacing much of the civilian population (Yate, p. 29).

Although Herat was incorporated into the buffer state of Afghanistan under the strong rule of Amir ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Khan, in some ways the city remained a provincial outpost, isolated from the rest of the country. Though the Amir introduced major changes in taxation and land tenure, he opposed road building and telegraphs, fearing they would undermine the natural independence afforded by Afghanistan’s mountains. As a consequence, regionalism prevailed in Afghanistan. ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān’s grandson, Amir Amān-Allāh Khan (r. 1919-29) opened and improved roads in his efforts to modernize Afghanistan’s transportation networks but was overthrown by tribal and religious uprisings in 1929. It was not until the 1960s, when the Soviet Union built the Herat-Qandahār highway, that a modern road connected Herat to the country’s other urban centers (Rubin, pp. 49, 55, 66).


Abbas Amanat, Pivot of the Universe: Nāṣer-al-Din Shah Qajar and the Iranian Monarchy, 1831-1896, Berkeley. George N. Curzon, Russia in Central Asia, London, 1889.

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Charles Marvin, Merv, Queen of the World; and the Man-Stealing Turcomans, London, 1881.

Idem, Colonel Grodekoff’s Ride from Samarkand to Herat, London, 1880.

Idem, The Russians at Merv and Herat, London, 1883.

Idem, The Russians at the Gates of Herat, New York, 1885.

Idem, The Railway Race to Herat, London, 1885.

Oskar Niedermayer, Im Weltkrieg vor Indiens Toren, Hamburg, 1936.

Edmund O’Donovan, The Merv Oasis: Travels and Adventures East of the Caspian during the years 1879-80-81, including Five Months Residence among the Tekkes of Merv, 2 vols. London, 1882.

Barnett Rubin, The Fragmentation of Afghanistan, New Haven, 2002.

Freya Stark, The Minaret of Djam, London, 1970.

Percy Sykes, A History of Afghanistan, 2 vols. London, 1940.

Arminius Vambery, Travels in Central Asia, London, 1864.

Idem, Central Asia and the Anglo-Russian Frontier Question, London, 1874.

A. C. Yate, Travels with the Afghan Boundary Commission, Edinburgh, 1887.

C. E. Yate, Northern Afghanistan, Edinburgh, 1888.


See Supplement.

Cite this page
Khazeni, Arash, Vogelsang, Willem J., Szuppe, Maria, Paul, Jürgen and Amanat, Abbas, “HERAT”, in: Encyclopaedia Iranica Online, © Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York. Consulted online on 28 February 2024 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/2330-4804_EIRO_COM_3014>
First published online: 2020
First print edition: 20031215

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