Hyrcania was the the name of a
satrapylocated in the territories of present day Golestan, Mazandaran, Gilanand part of Turkmenistan, lands south of the Caspian Sea. To the Greeks, the Caspian Seawas the "Hyrcanian Sea".
The name "Hyrcania" is the name attested in Greek historiographic accounts. This Greek name is a calque of
Old Persian"Verkâna", as it is recorded in Darius the Great's Behistun Inscription, as well as in other inscriptions in Old Persian cuneiform. "Verkā" means "wolf" in Old Persian( New Persian"gorg") and consequently, "Hyrcania" means the "Land of the Wolves".
Hyrcania was situated between the
Caspian Sea, which was in ancient times called the "Hyrcanian Ocean", in the north and the Alborzmountains in the south and west. The country had a tropical climate and was very fertile. The Persiansconsidered it one of "the good lands and countries" which their supreme god Ahura Mazdahad created personally. To the northeast, Hyrcania was open to the Central Asian steppes, where nomadic tribes had been living for centuries.
Hyrcania became part of the
Persian Empireduring the reign of Cyrus the Great(559- 530 BC) or Cambyses(530- 522 BC). Under the Achaemenids, it seems to have been administered as a sub-province of Parthia and is not named separately in the provincial lists of Darius and Xerxes. From the Behistun inscriptionwe know that it was Persian by 522. The story is as follows: After the death of Cambyses, the Magian usurper Gaumâta, who did not belong to the Achaemenian dynasty, usurped the throne. The adherents of the Persian royal house, however, helped Darius to become king; he killed the usurper on September 29, 522 BC. Almost immediately, the subjects of the empire revolted. When Darius was suppressing these rebellions and stayed in Babylon, the Median leader Phraortes made his bid for power (December 522). His revolt soon spread to Armenia, Assyria, Parthiaand Hyrcania. However the Persian garrison in Parthia still held out. It was commanded by Darius' father Hystaspes. On March 8, 521 BC, the Parthians and their allies, the Hyrcanians, attacked the Persian garrison, but they were defeated. Not much later, Darius was able to relieve his father. This was the first appearance in history of the Hyrcanians.
In the fifth century BC, the Greek researcher
Herodotusof Halicarnassus mentions them several times in his Histories. He has a confused report on irrigation (3.117), which may be compared to the statement of the second-century historian Polybiusthat the Persians had built large irrigation works (World history 10.28.3). Herodotus also tells us that Hyrcanian soldiers were part of the large army which king Xerxes I(486-465) commanded against the Greeks in 480. The historian notes that they carried the same arms as the Persians.
It is possible -but not proven- that during the Persian period, a wall was built to defend Hyrcania against the nomads of the Central Asian steppe. The ruins of the wall north of the river "Gorgân", which are still visible today, called the "
Gates of Alexander", were built later, but they probably replaced a Persian defense work.
In the confused years after the death of king Artaxerxes I Makrocheir (465-434), three of his sons succeeded to the throne:
Xerxes II, Sogdianusand Darius II. The latter was a satrap in Hyrcania and may have used troops from Hyrcania and the 'upper satrapies' - that is Aria, Parthia, Arachosia, Bactria, and Sogdiana.Fact|date=February 2007
Hyrcania makes its reappearance in history when the Macedonian king
Alexander the Great(336-323) invaded Asia. Hyrcanians are mentioned during the battle of Gaugamela ( October 1, 331), and in August 329, when the last Persian king, Darius III Codomannus, was dead, many Persian noblemen fled to Hyrcania, where they surrendered to Alexander (a.o. Artabazus).
After Alexander's reign, his empire fell apart and Hyrcania became part of the new
Seleucid Empire. At the end of the 3rd century BC, northeastern nomads belonging to the tribe of the Parni, invaded Parthia and Hyrcania. Although Parthiawas forever lost to the Seleucids, Hyrcania was in the last decade of the third century reconquered by Antiochus III the Great(223-187). After a generation, however, Hyrcania was lost again.
To the Arsacid Parthians - the new name of the Parni tribe - Hyrcania was an important part of the empire, situated between their Parthian territories and their homeland on the steppe. It is certain that the Parthian kings used a Hyrcanian town as their summer residence. They were also responsible for the 'Wall of Alexander', which is 180 km long and has forty castles. Nonetheless, it was not an uncontested part of their empire; for example, an uprising is known to have started in AD 58 and lasted at least until AD 61, ending with a compromise treaty. [Tacitus, "Annales" ]
Hyrcania was a province of the
Sassanid Empireuntil its conquest by the Arabs. It was an important territory in that it kept out inner Asian tribes from invading. Due to this, the Sassanids built many fortresses in the region. [ Encyclopaedia Iranica[www.iranica.com online] , article on Gorgan]
After the fall of the Sassanian Empire to Muslim Arab invaders, many noblemen fled to Hyrcania, where they settled permanently. In the
8th century, the caliphatedid not manage to conquer Hyrcania. This was mostly because of the geographical location but also due to significant resistance from notables such as Vandad Hormoz, Mâziar, and Babak Khorramdin. Under the leadership of a few remaining aristocratic families such as the Karens and the Bavands, Hyrcania remained independent or semi-independent for many years after the collapse of the Sassanids.
In Latin literature, Hyrcania is often mentioned in relationship to tigers, which were apparently particularly abundant there during the Classical Age. Tigers have, however, become extinct in the area since the early 1970's.
* [http://www.livius.org/ho-hz/hyrcania/hyrcania.html Livius.org: Hyrcania]
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Hyrcania — ancient region southeast of the Caspian Sea, from Gk. Hyrkania, said to be from an Indo European *verkana country of wolves [Zonn, I., et al., The Caspian Sea Encyclopedia, 2010] … Etymology dictionary
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Hyrcania — Pour la stratapie perse, voir Hyrcanie. 31° 43′ 08″ N 35° 21′ 58″ E / … Wikipédia en Français
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Hyrcania — geographical name province of ancient Persia on SE coast of Caspian NE of Media & NW of Parthia • Hyrcanian adjective … New Collegiate Dictionary
HYRCANIA — an ancient province of Persia, on the E. and SE. of the Caspian Sea, celebrated for the savage animals that inhabited its forests, as well as the savagery of its inhabitants … The Nuttall Encyclopaedia
Hyrcania — Hyr•ca•ni•a [[t]hərˈkeɪ ni ə[/t]] n. anh geg a province of the ancient Persian empire, SE of the Caspian Sea Hyr•ca′ni•an, adj. n … From formal English to slang
Hyrcania — Hyrcanian, adj. /heuhr kay nee euh/, n. an ancient province of the Persian empire, SE of the Caspian Sea … Useful english dictionary