Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Peoples of the empire: The Drangians

Geographical definition
Drangiana (O.P. Zranka, possibly meaning "sea" or "mountain peak," also in Greek Sarangiana or Zarangiana) lay in the Sīstān basin on the border between modern Iran and Afghanistan, south of Aria and southeast of Arachosia.  It is a desert but fertile land may be found on the banks of the Helmand River (Av. Haētumant, "dammed").  Wetlands were found around Lake Hāmūn as recently as the 1990s, though droughts and population pressures at the turn of the 21st century all but destroyed them.

The Drangians may have been tributary to the Medes and thus to the Persians who succeeded them.  According to Diodorus (17.81) a Drangian tribe called the Ariaspae (*Aryāspa, “having noble horses”) dwelling on the lower Helmand River rescued Cyrus' army when they ran out of food while marching in the desert.  In return, he exempted them from taxation and named them "the Benefactors" (Euergetai in Greek).

Drangiana is mentioned in the Behistun inscription, but not among the rebellious countries.

According to Herodotus, when Darius reorganized the empire's administration, he placed the Drangians in the district with the Utians, Thamanaeans, Myci and Sagartians (possibly ending the Ariaspae and Cedrosians' tax exemption).  An Achaemenid regional capital called Phráda may be identified with modern Farâh or the archaeological site of Dahan-i Ghulaman near Zabol.  During this time, the nomadic pastoralist Drangians began to settle, taking up farming and tin-mining.  In the days of Strabo, the Drangians lived in a similar manner to Persians, except that they produced little wine.

Drangians participated in the second invasion of Greece under Pherendates, son of the famous general Megabazus.  They are not mentioned among the fighting at Thermopylae or Plataea, and should not logically have been involved at Salamis, since the imperial forces who participated there were the seafaring nations who provided the ships and the Persians, Medes and Scythians who acted as marines.  This being the case, it is possible, as Briant suggests regarding the various levies who go unmentioned in accounts of the war, that the Drangian contingent was included merely as part of the show of imperial might.

Little history is recorded of Drangian history between then and the invasion of Alexander, who arrived in November of 330.  By this time, Drangiana had been combined with Arachosia as a single satrapy under Barsaentes.  It was he who, along with the officer Nabarzanes, actually carried out the assassination of Darius III, but it was Bessus on whom Alexander placed the blame for the great king's death.  Alexander renamed Phráda Prophthasia and replaced Barsaentes with a man named Arsames (I have no word on whether he is the same as the Cilician satrap who fought at the Granicus) who at some point rebelled.  Alexander then sent Stasanor, a Cyprian from Soli, to defeat Arsames in 328.  Stasanor replaced Arsames as satrap of Drangiana and Aria.

Drangian cavalry, along with cavalry from other Eastern Iranian satrapies, made up the royal guards at the mass wedding at Susa in 324.  After Alexander's death, Drangiana was part of the Seleucid empire.  It was seized in 184 by the Graeco-Bactrians, but shortly thereafter taken by the Arsacid empire.  Then, in 128, Scythians took the land and settled there, and the land became part of the historical region of Sakastan, Sīstān in its modern form.

Like other easterly parts of Greater Iran, Drangiana is associated with early Mazdaism.  It is mentioned in the Avesta (Fargard 1:13) as "the eleventh of the good lands" of Ahura Mazda.  The Sassanid-period Book of Arda Wiraz claims that Zoroastrianism was first reestablished in Sīstān after the chaotic interruption of Alexander's invasion.

I can find nothing about the Drangian language - apparently it is unattested - but given Drangiana's geographical and historical position, it was almost certainly an Eastern Iranian one.

Drangians dress identically to Arachosians in Achaemenid art, in simple headbands with the trailing ends tucked in in back, earrings with pointed pendants, pullover tunics and knotted sashes similar to Medo-Persian ones, baggy trousers and knee-high or mid-calf boots with upturned pointy toes and knotted bands around the tops.  (A reminder:  Boots and shoes are heel-less.  Heels are not accurate for any Achaemenid people covered so far.)  Herodotus (who calls the Drangians Sarangai, or Sarangae in Latin-style translations) says that they were "conspicuous in their dyed garments," which presumably indicates that their clothes were unusually brightly dyed even for peoples of the time.

Drangians used the akinakes, bows and "Median spears" (Herodotus 7.67), which probably means their spears were generally similar to the six- to seven-foot Medo-Persian spear with a round counterweight.  Bows were likely of Central Asian B-shaped recurve type and carried in a gorytos, though I wouldn't go so far as to speculate which style of gorytos is most appropriate.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Got my spear shaft window brush handle from Torrington Brush Works about an hour ago (thanks Matthew Amt for the link).  The lowdown:  It has a lightly varnished (but not stained) finish and is just a tiny bit warped, but fits the seller's description.  Can't imagine getting anything better at such a low price.  It remains to be seen how well it'll hold up, but as I ordered it for a sharp and not for combat, that's not quite so important and I'll give a probationary positive recommendation - this meets our basic criteria for length, width and material exactly.

I would not recommend it for blunt combat spears, because most spearheads I've seen of that type are socketed for larger (1.25-inch/32mm) handles and anyway, all other things being equal, a thicker handle will be less likely to break in use.
If you haven't seen this yet, part three of Orientalism and the Age of Steam's "Lady of Susa" series went up on Monday.

This post is particularly worth checking out because it includes the first reconstruction (at least that I've ever seen) of the Elamite strapped shoes.  These are a must if you're going for Achaemenid court dress.  Kudos to Orientalism and the Age of Steam for taking on such an important project.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Peoples of the empire: The Cyprians

I am skipping Colchis because, interesting as it is, the information available to me is of very poor quality.  On to Cyprus!

Geographical definition
Cyprus (Greek Kýpros) is a large island located off the south coast of Anatolia (specifically ancient Pamphylia) and rather farther west of Syria.  So far as I know, the term has always referred to the whole island, so there is no need to speak of borders.

Cyprus has been inhabited for roughly 10-12,000 years and experienced waves of settlement during the Neolithic, Chalcolithic and Bronze Age.  During the Archaic period, many Greeks and Phoenicians settled, and Herotodus claims that the population also partly descended from Ethiopians.  The island's native political order, which existed more-or-less as it was through the Achaemenid period, consisted of independent city-states ruled by local kings.  Cyprus had been under Assyrian rule in the 8th century and Egyptian in the 6th.

According to Xenophon, the Cyprian kings allied with Cyrus the Great and offered military aid in his conquests of Caria and Babylon.  As a result, the city-states maintained autonomy and political continuity during Achaemenid rule.  They minted their own coinage and a few, at Palaepaphos and Vouni, built palaces showing Persian influence.

Elsewhere, an interesting mix of architecture is seen:  Most towns featured mudbrick houses and walls, while the Phoenician city Carpasia used mostly stone masonry.  At the same time, religious sites were mostly Phoenician-style.  Partly through the Phoenicians, Cyprus maintained links with Egypt, evidenced in the early 5th-century sarcophagus from Amathus decorated with sphinxes and reliefs of the Egyptian god Bes and Phoenician goddess Astarte, and other funerary steles featuring paired sphinxes.

During the Ionian Revolt, Onesilus of Salamis-in-Cyprus used the occasion to overthrow his brother, King Gorgus.  Gorgus had been unwilling to take part in the revolt and joined the Persians.  In 498, Onesilus persuaded nearly all the other kingdoms of the island to join the revolt, except for Amathus on the southern coast.  Onesilus besieged the city until 497, at which time a Persian army under Artybius arrived to put down the rebellion and Onesilus requested and received help from Ionia.  In the ensuing war, some Cyprians defected to the Persians; both Artybius and Onesilus were killed, but the rebellion failed.  In spite of this, the basic political landscape of Cyprus remained unchanged.

Together, the Cyprian cities sent 150 ships to the second Persian invasion of Greece, comprising more than a tenth of the entire fleet, and were present at the Battle of Salamis.

In 410, Euagoras I (better-known by the modern form of his name, Evagoras) became king of Salamis.  An ambitious politician, he curried favor with Athens in the last stages of the Peloponnesian War, and facilitated the alliance between Athens and his lord Artaxerxes II that led to the defeat of Sparta at Cnidus (394) during the Corinthian War between Athens and Sparta.  However, within a few years, the Persians began to feel that strengthening Athens was unwise and the war had gone on long enough, and switched to supporting Sparta, making Salamis and Persia enemies.  Nonetheless, over the next few years, Euagoras managed to gain control over most of Cyprus, invaded Phoenicia and captured several cities.

But in 387, the Athenians were forced by threats of Persian intervention to sign the Peace of Antalcidas, which ended the Corinthian War and required, among other terms, that Greece recognize Persian control of Cyprus.  For the next 13 years, Euagoras fought the Persians alone except for periodic Egyptian support.  The empire invaded in 385 with its general King Orontes I of Armenia and admiral Tiribazus, satrap of Sardis.  Tiribazus destroyed Euagoras' fleet at the Battle of Citium, but the two imperial leaders were unable to take Salamis and had a falling-out that resulted in Tiribazus' recall to Persia.  In 376, Euagoras negotiated a peace and was allowed to remain as a vassal king.  However, he was assassinated by a eunuch only two years later.  His son Nicocles succeeded him.

Cyprus launched one last revolt in 350, but it was defeated in 343 by the Hecatomnid prince Idrieus and a force of Greek mercenaries.

Following the Battle of Issus (333), the kingdoms of Cyprus defected to Alexander.  The addition of Cyprian naval support helped Alexander maintain a sea route to Asia and doubtless accelerated the outcome of the war, as well as ensuring the Cyprians' political future by betting on Alexander's victory.  Kings Phytagoras of Salamis, Androcles of Amathus and Pasikratis of Soloi participated in the Siege of Tyre (332), assaulting the northern harbor and providing engineers for the earthworks by which the Macedonians managed to invade the island city.  In return, Alexander allowed the Cyprians to maintain their autonomy, although he abolished the individual currencies of the island as a symbol of his overlordship.

Cyprus was a front in the Wars of the Diadochi until 294, when it settled in the hands of the Ptolemies and would remain there until the Romans seized control in 58 BC under Cato the Younger.  During the Hellenistic period, Cyprus, already heavily Hellenized in culture, lost the last vestiges of its pre-Greek native and Phoenician cultures.

Classical Cyprian religion was heavily influenced by the Phoenicians.  The most popular deity was Astarte (Phoenician Ashtart), the Northwest Semitic cognate of Ishtar, whom the Greeks sometimes identified with Aphrodite.  Other attested deities include Anat, Ba'al Melkart and the Egyptian Hathor, Thoth, Bes and Ptah.

The native language of Cyprus, today klept as Eteocypriot ("original Cypriot"), is scarcely attested; it wasn't Greek, but what it was is pretty unclear despite a few bilingual inscriptions.  Its use declined throughout the Classical period and it became extinct around the 4th century BC.  It was written in the Cypriot syllabary, a descendent of Minoan Linear A.

Arcadocypriot Greek, a dialect possibly descended from Mycenaean Greek (and thus related more to Arcadian than any other dialects of mainland Greece or Asia Minor), became one of the primary languages on the island from the late Bronze Age onward.  It was also written in the Cypriot syllabary.  However, Evagoras I encouraged the use of the mainland Greek alphabet in favor of the syllabary and hastened its decline.

Phoenician, a Northwest Semitic language related to Hebrew, was also to be found in places like Carpasia and Citium (Kition) in the east.  It was written in the Phoenician alphabet, a consonantal writing system ancestral to the Greek and Aramaic alphabets along with countless others, including this (Latin) alphabet.

I can find no illustrations of Cyprians in Persian art.  Herodotus says that "their princes wore turbans (mitrhsi; at a guess, I would interpret this as referring to diadems) wrapped around their heads, and the people wore tunics, but in all else they were like the Greeks."  Thus you may want to consider Greek-style sandals and possibly cloaks for your Cyprian impression.  I am unsure why Herodotus seems to distinguish "tunics" (kithonas) from Greek clothing.  Possibly he means tunics of a different style from what Greeks commonly wore, such as sleeved ones in the Syrian style.

Herodotus' description above refers to both clothing and arms.  The heavy Greek influence on Cyprus almost certainly would extend to items like the Argive shield and doru with sauroter that were widespread in mainland Greece and Asia Minor.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Not new, but improved

Update 12/10/13:  This post contains information that is probably incorrect.  Please see here.

You may recall that last year, my swords were angular things in a rough scabbard with a pitted, home-cast pewter chape and ragged metal throat.

I'd long planned to replace them entirely with longer swords and all-new scabbards with sheet brass throats.  However, my research on the handful of akinakes finds that are clearly associated with the Achaemenids points to these weapons actually being quite small, though larger ones existed elsewhere in the Classical world (among some Scythians, for example).  As such, I'm keeping the ones I have, but I've reshaped the wooden hilt components to be more in line with iron examples.  The new hilts are vastly more comfortable to hold.

The scabbard needed to go, though.  The only evidence I've found for how Achaemenid scabbards were built indicates that they were made of wood.  Since I have not the time or tools to shape large pieces of wood, I've decided to go another route.  It's experimental and difficult to achieve, but the result has been acceptable.


The new scabbard is made of two layers of heavy (in this case, roughly 7-ounce) vegetable-tanned leather - the best type for this use; it stretches when wet, holds whatever shape you give it, dries stiff, and when it's still a bit damp, you can tool it to your heart's content, making it an easy-to-work alternative to the embossed metal covers used on fancier Medo-Persian scabbards.

The scabbard is made, like a wooden one, out of a front and back face.  These were cut out flat and sewn as per a two-piece knife sheath, but without a welt.  They were then soaked and a wooden scabbard core inserted.  This was the hardest part of the project:  The core was too thick, so I had to shave away a ton of wood on the outside until it fit.  A better technique may be to dispense with a core and just make the sheath welted, allowing it to dry with the sword inside (wrapped with scotch tape or something) to hold its shape.

Afterward, I stuffed the throat with tissue paper until it ballooned enough to accept the scabbard throat.

It's still a bit tight because of the inward curve near the top of the throat.  Luckily, the guard on my sparring sword is somewhat smaller and comes out with no trouble.  Iron hilts are less bulky and would be even less disposed toward this problem.

A leather thong is tied around the scabbard just above the chape, leaving two trailing ends, a long and a short.  When worn on the right hip, the short end points forward and ends in a bead or, as here, a small knot.  The long end loops (not ties) around the right thigh and ends in a slipknot, which is then tightened around the short end.

The chape is also leather, and should be replaced with one of bronze or bone when I can do so.  It features an abstract, curled-up goat, one of the most common motifs used on Achaemenid chapes.

The back of the scabbard is partly waxed to provide a water-resistant finish that won't rub off and contrasts nicely with the undyed back of the throat and chape - first painted with melted paraffin (beeswax would be the preferred ancient material), and, when that didn't work, held over a heater until the leather heated enough to absorb the wax.  Otherwise, the scabbard is finished with modern acrylic paints, as unfortunately I have not yet figured out what ancient paints to use.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Orientalism and the Age of Steam is doing a multi-part series on recreating Elamo-Persian royal women's dress.  Anyone wishing to reenact as such should check it out.  Currently parts one and two are up.

Word of warning - even though Orientalism and the Age of Steam's title banner is just a 19th-century Orientalist painting, let's just say those 19th-century Orientalist paintings could get pretty NSFW.

Thanks also to these articles for alerting me to Saudi Aramco's Millennia of Murex article, where you can see a beautifully-preserved example of authentic Achaemenid-period Persian patterned cloth.

Peoples of the empire: The Cilicians

While the Cilicians are a significant and interesting people, certain gaps in my knowledge leave me unable to advise on creating a Classical Cilician "kit."  I don't know the name in Old Persian, and can't find any art that unambiguously shows Cilician clothing or arms.

Geographical definition
Cilicia lay on the southern coast of Anatolia, along the top edge of a corner of the Mediterranean north of Syria.  It is surrounded on the northwest by the Taurus Mountains (modern Turkish Toros Dağları), the north by the Antitaurus (Aladağlar) and the east by the Nur Dağları, which separates this part of Turkey from the Middle East.  Greek writers referred to the western region dominated by the Taurus as Kilikia Tracheia ("rugged Cilicia") and the eastern plains as Kilikia Pedias ("flat Cilicia"), which Xenophon described as "a large and beautiful plain, well-watered and full of trees of all sorts and vines; in produces an abundance of sesame, millet, panic, wheat and barley..." (Anabasis, I.2).  These two areas roughly correspond to the ancient kingdoms of Khilakku or Hilakku and Quwê.

Khilakku and Quwê were Neo-Hittite kingdoms formed after the collapse of the Hittite empire in the late Bronze Age.  Quwê was twice conquered by the Assyrians in the 8th and 7th centuries BC, and Khilakku submitted to them in the mid-7th century in exchange for protection from the Cimmerians.  The two Cilician kingdoms were reunited under Khilakku after the end of the Assyrian empire.  The new kingdom's capital was Tarsus (Tarša), which in Xenophon's day was a large and wealthy city.  Its kings were called suuannassai ("belonging to the dog"...  huh?), which the Greeks rendered syennesis.  Herodotus uses Syennesis as the proper name of the Cilician king who, together with Labynetus of Babylon (probably an anachronistic placement of the later king Nabonidus), brokered the treaty between the Lydians and Medes which drew the famous dividing line between the two empires at the Halys River in 585.

While the peoples of Kilikia Tracheia and Pedias were all Luwian-speakers, Lendering notes that the differing lifestyles of mountain herdsmen and plains agriculturalists (as well as that all of Cilicia's major cities were in Pedias) seems to have caused a rift between the two regions, and there are records of fights from the 4th century that probably continue a state of conflict from centuries earlier.

It is not known when Cilicia became part of the Persian empire, but it probably occurred during Cyrus' campaigns in the 540s, or around the same time he conquered Lydia.  Initially, the syennesis was retained as a vassal king   Herodotus says that Cilicia gave the empire 360 horses and 500 talents of silver in tribute.

The Persians maintained military bases along the coast.  In the Histories, the Cilicians are said to have sent 100 ships to Xerxes' invasion of Greece, though Herodotus has Mardonius accuse the Cilicians, along with the other seafolk in Xerxes' forces (for the Persians, being landlocked, had no ships) of doing "less than brave men should" at the disaster of Salamis (VIII.100).  The syennesis at the time (named as a "Syennesis son of Oromedon") acted as a commander in the Persian navy, and gave his daughter's hand in marriage to Pixodarus, a Carian noble (not to be confused with the later Hecatomnid Pixodarus).

The last-known syennesis (again known as "Syennesis" in Greek history) was in 401 BC pressured by Cyrus the Younger and his massive personal army to join his insurrection against his brother Artaxerxes II.  According to Xenophon, this Syennesis' wife Epyaxa traveled with Cyrus for part of his march and it was rumored that the two had an affair before he arrived in Tarsus, from where the syennesis and all the city's inhabitants had temporarily retreated until Cyrus could convince him to join.  Cyrus' defeat seems to have led to the great king dethroning the native Cilician royal line and replacing them with appointed satraps. 

The second-to-last of these satraps was Mazaeus, who reigned from 361-336.  In 333, Alexander the Great entered Cilicia and stayed in Tarsus while recovering from an illness.  Evidently he found the mountain Cilicians troublesome, and launched a raid in the Taurus.  That November he faced and defeated Darius III at the Battle of Issus in eastern Cilicia near the feet of the Nur Dağları.  About 23 miles south of the site, he founded Alexandria or Alexandretta, modern Iskenderun.  He appointed a new satrap, Balacrus, who remained under orders to attack the mountainfolk.

Cilicia was fought over by the Seleucids and Ptolemies for two centuries, during which the land became mostly Hellenized.  Like many other nations, Cilicia began to disappear except as a traditional placename, though the mountain people, still maintaining a degree of independence, would turn to maritime piracy until finally conquered by the Romans in the 1st century BC.

Cilicians spoke Luwian, an Indo-European language of the Anatolian family widespread in western Anatolia since the late Bronze Age.  By the turn of the 2nd century BC it had been mostly replaced by Greek.

Cilicians followed various religious customs.  At Castabala, a shrine was maintained to Cybele, the mother goddess of many Anatolian religions, while at Mallus on the coast was an oracle that the Greeks said had been founded by the mythical Greek seer Amphilochus, one of the Epigoni.

Herodotus simply describes their clothing as "woolen tunics."  The same image from the Persepolis Apadana that Nirupars identifies with Syrians (which I have gone over in my article on the Assyrians) is sometimes identified as Cilicians - some sources incorrectly identify these as Sogdians, but Sogdians were Eastern Iranians and wore equestrian clothing.  It is, of course, possible that Cilicians dressed in a similar manner to their neighbors to the south.

Herodotus describes the Cilicians' equipment as "their native helmets,...  bucklers of raw oxhide for shields...  two javelins and a sword very close in style to the knives of Egypt" (VII.91, tr. Godley; the word he translates as "bucklers" is a declension of aspis, generic for "shield").  Not much to go by, although it does indicate that shields should be rawhide, not tanned leather.  A sheathed Egyptian longsword may be seen on the tomb of Darius the Great, with its pommel shaped like a ring missing the top, a short grip, apparently a long point and a flared chape.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Peoples of the empire: The Chorasmians

I'm skipping the Caspians because too little is known about them, in my estimation, to put on an effective historical impression.  They're not even attested in Old Persian, even though they are (in Western languages) the namesake of the Caspian Sea.

The next people on my list are the Chorasmians, the subjects of this week's installment.

Geographic definition
Chorasmia (O.P. Uvârazmiya, known in later periods as Khwarezm) lay far to the north and slightly east of Persia, just south of the Aral Sea in modern Uzbekistan, and watered by the Amu Darya, which flows north from the mountains of Afghanistan.  Owing to this, Chorasmia was a fertile land, even more so in antiquity than today because the Amu Darya is believed to have carried more water then.

The country first appears in the Behistun inscription (520 BC) among Darius the Great's list of countries of which he was king.  He does not mention it among the rebellious nations and it may have already been part of the empire when he ascended the throne.  A fortress at the modern site of Kyuzeli-gyr was burned down in this period and may represent an incident during the Persian conquest.  At this time, the historical Chorasmian culture was entering its formative "archaic" phase with the construction of large canals and mud-brick buildings and the use of pottery wheels.

Herodotus states that the Chorasmians were grouped with the Parthians, Sogdians and Arians as the sixteenth tax district of the empire, which paid a yearly tribute of 300 talents.  For this reason, Jona Lendering suggests that Chorasmia was governed by the satrap of Parthia.  They appear in his list of infantry units in Xerxes' invasion of Greece together with the Parthians under the command of Artabazus son of Pharnaces, later to become satrap of Phrygia.

After the defeat at Salamis, Artabazus escorted Xerxes back to Asia in 479, then killed the Thracian Bottiaeans who ruled Olynthus on suspicious of plotting revolt.  He also besieged the rebellious city of Potidaea, but a large part of his army died when attempting to cross the exposed seabed just before what appears to have been a tsunami.  The survivors rejoined Mardonius in Thessaly.  Following the Battle of Plataea, Artabazus led the remaining Persian army home by way of Thessaly.  I can find no word on whether his Chorasmian or Parthian troops took part in most of these deeds, though Dandamaev and Lukonin (Kul’tyra i èkonomika drevnego Irana) claim that they did not fight in the Battle of Plataea.

It appears that in the early 4th century, the Persians lost control over Chorasmia.  While a Chorasmian still appears on the table of nations on Artaxerxes II's tomb, the grand Achaemenid palace at Kalaly-gur was left unfinished and seemingly abandoned in this period.  No Chorasmians fought for Darius III against Alexander the Great, and though they supported the satrap Bessus during his bid for kingship, the country concluded an independent peace treaty with Alexander under a King Phrataphernes (or, per Arrian, Pharasmanes, whom Yuri Aleksandrovich Rapoport concludes was a son sent by Phrataphernes) in the winter of 328-27.

Chorasmia remained independent of the Seleucid and Arsacid dynasties.  A native dynasty, the Afrighids, emerged in the 4th century and ruled as clients of the Sassanids and the Arab Ummayads, but it was under a series of rulers of Turkic mamluk origin that the Khwarezmian empire would come to rule all of Greater Iran by the turn of the 13th century, only to fall spectacularly after Shah Muhammed II provoked Genghis Khan to war.  Predictably, Khwarezm thereafter ceased to exist as a distinct culture, though the name lingers, and today the region is a complex mixture of various Turkic peoples and Persians.

Chorasmian was an Eastern Iranian language and thus related most closely to Avestan, Bactrian, Pashto and Sogdian.  It is not attested from the Achaemenid period (and not all that well-attested after, though the Iranica has some analysis of its morphology as it stood during the Islamic period), but I surmise if we could see Achaemenid Avestan we would recognize it as bearing some resemblance to Avestan.  During early Islamic period, it began to be overtaken by Persian and Turkic languages, and ceased to be spoken around the High Middle Ages.


Certain Zoroastrian traditions link Chorasmia with Airyanəm Vaējah, the homeland of Zarathuštra.  The Bundahišn, a post-Sassanid compendium of Zoroastrian cosmology, states that the sacred fire of Yima (Jamshid) was located at Chorasmia.  Legend identifies the kingdom of Vištâspa, Zarathuštra's patron in the Avesta, as either Chorasmia or Aria.  While these much later traditions don't necessarily tell us anything reliable about the state of Chorasmian religion more than a thousand years earlier, it is likely that early forms of Mazdaism were at least as well-established in the Eastern Iranian cultural region where Zoroastrianism originated as it was in Persia by the Achaemenid period.  Another clue is the lack of graves in the archaic period, which would fit with the Zoroastrian tradition of not burying corpses.

Chorasmian male clothing is well-illustrated at Naqš-e Rostam and a bit less clearly but in general agreement at Persepolis as consisting of a slightly wrapped-around, belted coat with bordered edges, loose-fitting trousers, ankle shoes and a tiara or kidaris with a low peak.

It is identical to the clothing of the Scythians and Sogdians in Persian art, being a variant of the "cavalry costume" or equestrian clothing worn by most Iranian peoples, related to but markedly different from the "Median costume," and might be analogously termed "Scythian costume."

Herodotus states that Chorasmian weapons were like those of the Bactrians, which raises the same issues in reconstruction with regards to the reed bows.  Chorasmians at Persepolis and Naqš-e Rostam are equipped with an akinakes.