Modern Sistan (PerB|سیستان) is a border region in southeastern Iran (see Sistan and Baluchestan Province) and southwestern Afghanistan (see Nimruz Province). In ancient times the area was known as Arachosia; it became known as 'Sakastan' in the 1st century BC, after it was conquered by the Saka (Scythians of Central Asia) tribes. Later Sakastan was changed to "Seistan" and in modern times, Sistan.

In the Shahnameh, Sistan is also referred to as Zabulistan, after Zabul, originally a pure Tajik (Persian) province. In Ferdowsi's epic, Zabulistan is in turn described to be the homeland of the mythological hero-king Rostam.

History of Sistan

In prehistoric times, the Jiroft Civilization covered parts of Sistan and Kerman Province (possibly as early as the 3rd millennium BC).

Later the area was occupied by Aryan tribes related to the Indo-Aryans and Iranian Peoples. Eventually a kingdom known as Arachosia was formed, parts of which were ruled by the Medean Empire by 600 BC. The Medes were overthrown by the Achaemenid Persian Empire in 550 BC, and the rest Arachosia was soon annexed. In the 3rd century BC, Alexander the Great annexed the region during his conquest of the Persian Empire and founded the colony of "Alexandria in Arachosia" (modern Kandahar).

Alexander's Empire fragmented after his death, and Arachosia came under control of the Seleucid Empire, which traded it to the Mauryan dynasty of India in 305 BC. After the fall of the Mauryans, the region fell to their Greco-Bactrian allies in 180 BC, before breaking away and becoming part of the Indo-Greek Kingdom.

After the mid 100s BC, much of the Indo-Greek Kingdom was overrun by tribes known as the Indo-Scythians or Sakas, from which Sistan (from Sakastan) eventually derived its name. The Indo-Scythians were defeated around 100 BC by the Parthian Empire, which briefly lost the region to its Suren vassals (the Indo-Parthian) around 20 AD, before the region was conquered by the Kushan Empire in the mid 1st century AD. The Kushans were defeated by the Sassanid Persian Empire in the mid 3rd century, first becoming part of a vassal Kushansha state, before being overrun by the Hephthalites in the mid 400s. Sassanid armies reconquered Sistan in by 565 AD, but lost the area to the Arab Rashidun Caliphate after the mid 640s. (For Sistan's history after the Islamic conquest, see History sections of Afghanistan and Iran).

The Saffarids (861-1003 CE), one of the early Iranian dynasties of the Islamic era, were originally rulers of Sistan.

Sistan has a very strong connection with Zoroastrianism and during Sassanid times Lake Hamun was one of two pilgrimage sites for followers of that religion. In Zoroastrian tradition, the lake is the keeper of Zoroaster's seed and just before the final renovation of the world, three maidens will enter the lake, each then giving birth to the "saoshyans" who will be the saviours of mankind at the final renovation of the world.

The most famous archaeological site in Sistan is on Kuh-e Khwajeh, a hill rising up as an island in the middle of Lake Hamun.


* [ Britannica]

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