Ancient Iranian peoples

Ancient Iranian peoples

Ancient Iranian peoples who settled Greater Iran in the 2nd millennium BC first appear in Assyrian records in the 9th century BC. They remain dominant throughout Classical Antiquity in Scythia and Persia.


The Iranian languages form a sub-branch of the Indo-Iranian sub-family, which is a branch of the family of Indo-European languages. Having descended from the Proto-Indo-Iranians, the Proto-Iranians separated from the Indo-Aryans around in the early 2nd millennium BC. The Proto-Iranians are traced to the Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex, a Bronze Age culture of Central Asia. The area between northern Afghanistan and the Aral Sea is hypothesized to have been the region where the Proto-Iranians first emerged, following the separation of Indo-Iranian tribes. [ "The Paleolithic Indo-Europeans"] — (retrieved 4 June 2006)]

By the 1st millennium BC, Medes, Persians, Bactrians and Parthians populated the Iranian plateau, while others such as the Scythians, Sarmatians, Cimmerians and Alans populated the steppes north of the Black Sea. The Saka and Scythian tribes remained mainly in the south and spread as far west as the Balkans and as far east as Xinjiang.

The division of Proto-Iranian into an "Eastern" and a "Western" group is attested in the form of Avestan and Old Persian, the two oldest known Iranian languages.


*West Iranian
***Pallavas, descended from Parthian invaders of India [Venkayya 1907, p.219-220]
**Sagarthians (whose name survives in the name of the Zagros MountainsFact|date=July 2007).
**Corduchi []
**Cyrtii (mentioned by Strabo and possible ancestor of Kurds according to Muhammad Dandamayev)(See Carduchi in Encyclopedia Iranica)

*East Iranian
**Bulgars (see also Mount Imeon)
***Sarmatians, including the Rhoxolani, Iazyges, Siraces
***Alans (sometimes considered a branch of the Sarmatians)
***Saka, some scholars note that Pashtuns are probable modern day descendants of the Saka.
***Parama Kambojas, of the Allai valley/Allai mountains, north of Hindukush. In ancient Sanskrit texts, their territory was known as "Kumudadvipa" and it formed the southern tip of the Sakadvipa or Scythia. In classical literature, this people are known as Komedes. Indian epic Mahabharata designates them as Parama Kambojas [ Mahabharata 2.27.25.] .

Ancient Indo-Iranian group having Iranian as well as Indian affinities
*Kambojas :*Parasika Kingdom
*Ashvakas: Scholars link the historical "Afghans" (modern Pashtuns) to the Ashvakas (the Ashvakayanas and Ashvayanas of Panini or the Assakenoi and Aspasio of Arrian). The name "Afghan" is said to have derived from the Ashvakan of Sanskrit texts [Indische Alterthumskunde, Vol I, fn 6; also Vol II, p 129, Christian Lassen et al; Megasthenes and Arrian, p 180; See also: The Invasion of India by Alexander the Great as Described by Arrian, Q. Curtius, Diodoros, 1893, p 38, John Watson M'Crindle, Quintus Curtius Rufus, Marcus Junianus Justinus, Plutarch, Arrian, Diodorus; Etude Sur la Geog Grecque & c, pp 39-47, M. V. de Saint Martin; Imprints of Indian Thought and Culture abroad, p 124, Vivekananda Kendra Prakashan; Scottish Geographical Magazine, 1999, p 275, Royal Scottish Geographical Society); Sva, 1915, p 113, Christopher Molesworth Birdwood; Hobson-Jobson: A Glossary of Colloquial Anglo-Indian words and phrases, and of kindred terms, Henry Yule, AD Burnell; The Numismatic Chronicle, 1893, p 100, Royal Numismatic Society (Great Britain); Awq, 1983, p 5, Giorgio Vercellin; Der Islam, 1960, p 58, Carl Heinrich Becker, Maymūn ibn al-Qāsim Tabarānī; Journal of Indian History: Golden Jubilee Volume, 1973, p 470, Trivandrum, India (City), University of Kerala. Dept. of History; Literary History of Ancient India in Relation to Its Racial and Linguistic Affiliations, 1970, p 17, Chandra Chakraberty; Stile der Portugiesischen lyrik im 20 jahrhundert, p 124, Winfried Kreutzen.; See: Works, 1865, p 164, Dr H. H. Wilson; The Earth and Its Inhabitants, 1891, p 83; Chants populaires des Afghans, 1880, p clxiv, James Darmesteter; Nouvelle geographie universelle v. 9, 1884, p 59, Elisée Reclus; Alexander the Great , 2004, p 318, Lewis Vance Cummings (Biography & Autobiography; Nouveau dictionnaire de géographie universelle contenant 1o La géographie physique ... 2o La .., 1879, Louis Rousselet, Louis Vivien de Saint-Martin; An Ethnic Interpretation of Pauranika Personages , 1971, p 34, Chandra Chakraberty; Revue internationale, 1803, p 803; Journal of Indian History: Golden Jubilee Volume, 1973, p 470, Trivandrum, India (City). University of Kerala. Dept. of History; Edinburgh University Publications, 1969, p 113, University of Edinburgh; Shi jie jian wen, 1930, p 68 by Shi jie zhi shi chu ban she. Cf also: Advanced History of Medieval India, 1983, p 31, Dr J. L. Mehta. ] . Scholars identify Ashvakas as a branch of the Kambojas [Historie du Bouddhisme Indien, p 110, E. Lamotte; East and West, 1950, pp 157-58, Istituto italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente, Editor, Prof Giuseppe Tucci, Co-editors Prof Mario Bussagli, Prof Lionello Lanciotti; Panjab Past and Present, pp 9-10, Dr Buddha Parkash; Hindu Polity, A Contitutional History of India in Hindu Times, 1978, p 140, Dr K. P. Jayswal; Political History of Ancient India, 1996, p 133 fn 6, pp 216-20, (Also Commentary, op. cit., p 576, fn 22), Dr H. C. Raychaudhury, Dr B. N. Mukerjee; Raja Poros, 1990, Publication Buareau, Punjabi University, Patiala; History of Panjab, Vol I, (Editors): Dr Fauja Singh, Dr L. M. Josh, Publication Bureau, Panjabi University, Patiala; History of Poros, 1967, pp 12,39, Dr Buddha Prakash; Ancient Kamboja, People and country, 1981, pp 271-72, 278, Dr J. L. Kamboj; These Kamboj People, 1979, pp 119, 192; Kambojas, Through the Ages, 2005, pp 129, 218-19, S Kirpal Singh etc. Dr J. W. McCrindle says that the modern Afghanistan -- the Kaofu (Kambu) of Hiun Tsang was ancient Kamboja, and the name Afghan evidently derives from the Ashavakan, the Assakenoi of Arrian (Alexandra's Invasion of India, p 38; Megasthenes and Arrian, p 180, J. McCrindle). Sir Thomas H. Holdich, in the his classic book, (The Gates of India, p 102-03), writes that the Aspasians (Aspasios) represent the modern Kafirs. But the modern Kafirs, especially the Siah-Posh Kafirs (Kamoz/Camoje, Kamtoz) etc are considered to be modern representatives of the ancient Kambojas. Other noted scholars supporting this view are Dr Romilla Thapar, Dr R. C. Majumdar etc.] .

Possible Ancient Iranian peoples whose designation is uncertain
*Cimmerians (ethnicity as Iranians specifically unknown)
*Sigynnae (uncertain, known only by obscure reports)
*Xionites (uncertain, known only by obscure reports)
*Hephthalites (uncertain but highly possible, it should be noted that some other scholars link the Pashtuns to the Hephthalites)

ee also

*Iranian peoples
*Iranian languages
*Demographics of Iran
*Demographics of Afghanistan
*Demographics of Tajikistan
*Irani and Parsi



* H. Bailey, "ARYA: Philology of ethnic epithet of Iranian people", in Encyclopaedia Iranica, v, pp. 681-683, Online-Edition, [ Link]
* A. Shapur Shahbazi, "Iraj: the eponymous hero of the Iranians in their traditional history" in Encyclopaedia Iranica, Online-Edition, [ Link]
* R. Curzon, "The Iranian Peoples of the Caucasus", ISBN 0-7007-0649-6
* Jahanshah Derakhshani, "Die Arier in den nahöstlichen Quellen des 3. und 2. Jahrtausends v. Chr.", 2nd edition, 1999, ISBN 964-90368-6-5
* Richard Frye, "Persia", Zurich, 1963

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