Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

Hyrcania (the wolf) and the great wall of Gorgan

Posted by Fredsvenn on August 2, 2014

The Great Wall of Gorgan

The Great Wall of Gorgan, also called the Gorgan Defence Wall, Anooshirvan Barrier, Firooz Barrier and sometimes Alexander Dam is an ancient defensive facility located in the Gorgan region of northeastern Iran. It is also known as The Red Snake among archaeologists due to the color of its bricks. It protects the Caspian Gates which in turn gave access for the nomads of the northern steppes to the Iranian heartland, and through which Alexander passed on his hasty march to Hyrcania and the east.

The wall is second only to the Great Wall of China as the longest defensive wall in existence, but over a thousand years older and of more solid construction than the present form of the Great Wall.

Hyrcania or Verkâna was the name of a satrapy located in the territories of the present day Gilan, Mazandaran and Golestan provinces of Iran and part of Turkmenistan, lands south of the Caspian Sea.

Gorgan (Persian: Gorgān‎, also Romanized as Gorgān and Gūrgān; Caspian: Wergen; formerly, Astarabad (Persian: Astarābad‎, also Romanized as Asterābād), is the capital of Golestan Province, Iran.

To the Greeks, the Caspian Sea was the “Hyrcanian Sea”. Verkā means “wolf” in Old Iranian, cf. Avestan vəhrkō, Gilaki and Mazandarani verk, Modern Persian gorg, and Sanskrit vŗka. Consequently, Hyrcania means “Wolf-land”.

Hyrcania is the Greek name for the region in historiographic accounts. It is a calque of the Old Persian Verkâna as recorded in Darius the Great’s Behistun Inscription, as well as in other Old Persian cuneiform inscriptions.

The name was extended to the Caspian Sea and underlies the name of the city Sari (Zadracarta), the first and then-largest city in northern Iran (Mazandaran, Golestan and Gilan) and the capital of ancient Hyrcania.

The capital of Hyrcania was Zadracarta, the largest city and site of the “royal palace” of Hyrcania. According to Arrian, this was the largest city of Hyrcania. The term signifies “the yellow city “; and it was given to it from the great number of oranges, lemons, and other fruit trees which grew in the outskirts of that city. At the time of the Sassanids,Gorgan appeared as the name of a city, province capital, and province.

Hyrcania became part of the Persian Empire during the reign of Cyrus the Great (559-530 BC) – the first emperor of the first Persian imperial dynasty, the Achaemenids – or his successor Cambyses (530-522 BC). It maintained its independence as a Zoroastrian state even after Persia was conquered by Arabs in 8th century and by Mongols in the 13th century.

The Great Wall of Gorgan is a series of ancient defensive fortifications located near Gorgan in the Golestān Province of northeastern Iran, at the southeastern corner of the Caspian Sea.

The wall is located at a geographic narrowing between the Caspian Sea and the mountains of northeastern Iran. It is one of several Caspian Gates at the eastern part of a region known in antiquity as Hyrcania, on the nomadic route from the northern steppes to the Iranian heartland. The wall is believed to have protected the Sassanian Empire to the south from the peoples to the north.

It is 195 km (121 mi) long and 6–10 m (20–33 ft) wide, and features over 30 fortresses spaced at intervals of between 10 and 50 km (6.2 and 31.1 mi). It is surpassed only by the Great Wall of China as the longest defensive wall in existence.

Among archaeologists the wall is also known as The Red Snake due to the colour of its bricks. It is also known as the Gorgan Defence Wall, Anushirvân Barrier, Firuz Barrier and Qazal Al’an, and Sadd-i-Iskandar (Persian for dam or barrier of Alexander), as Alexander the Great is said to have passed through the Caspian Gates on his hasty march to Hyrcania and the east.

The Gates of Alexander was a legendary barrier supposedly built by Alexander the Great in the Caucasus to keep the uncivilized barbarians of the north (typically associated with Gog and Magog) from invading the land to the south. The gates were a popular subject in medieval travel literature, starting with the Alexander Romance in a version from perhaps the 6th century. The wall has been frequently identified with the Caspian Gates of Derbent, Russia, and with the Pass of Dariel or Darial.

An alternative theory links it to the so-called “Alexander’s Wall” (the Great Wall of Gorgan) on the south-eastern shore of the Caspian Sea, 180 km of which is still preserved today, albeit in a very poor state of repair.

In reality, both structures were built by Persian monarchs. Derbent (in Persian Darband, meaning “closed gates”), was established in the end of the 5th or the beginning of the 6th century, when the city was refounded by Kavadh I of the Sassanid dynasty of Persia. The Great Wall of Gorgan was built during the Parthian dynasty simultaneously with the construction of the Great Wall of China and it was restored during the Sassanid era (3-7th century).

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