Eastern Iran in Late Antiquity: The Post-Kushan Central Asia

Khodadad Rezakhani is presently a Post-Doctoral Researcher at the Max Planck Institute for History of Science and a Humboldt Fellow at the Iranistic Institute of the Free University of Berlin. His time is largely devoted to the completion of two monographs relating to Sasanian history with a focus on the eastern parts of the empire. An edited volume on the Achaemenids was recently released by Mazda Publishers.

His doctoral research is concerned with the economic and social history of the Sasanian Empire and the larger late-antique world, including both Byzantium and Central Asia. Future projects will focus more on the social aspectx of history, including deeper work with primary sources in Middle Persian, Armenian, and Syriac concerned with the prospography of the late Sasanian period.


grant was awarded in 2012 to complete two parts of a project relating to the history of Central Asia during late antiquity (200-700 CE). The first part of the project was a trip to Afghanistan to visit the sites of Madr/Ruy, and the endangered site of Mes Aynak which was at the time being threatened to demolition by a Chinese mining company (fortunately abandoned since). The second part of the project supported by the grant was to provide specialised maps for the books that will result from the completion of the full project.

Another grant for travel to Tokharistan/Bactria and Tajikistan from the British Institute of Persian Studies, allowed for a better preparation of the project and expanding its scope to include additional publishable results. One manuscript, entitled Creating the Silk Road: Travel, Trade, and Myth Making has been granted a publishing contract by IB Tauris of London. Another manuscript, titled Sasanians and the East: Central Asia in Late Antiquity, is under final review by the Edinburgh University Press, appears to be close to being awarded a contract as well. Both manuscripts will be taking advantage of the maps created especially for them by De Vries Cartographer, Vienna, Austria, supported by the funds made available by the Soudavar Memorial Foundation.

The maps prepared with the support of the Soudavar Memorial Foundation will feature in two forthcoming books by Dr. Rezkhani:

1-ReOrienting the Sasanians: East Iran in Late Antiquity (Edinburgh University Press)

This book addresses the greatly neglected history of East Iran and its relationship with the Sasanian Empire, as well as its position as the backdrop to the important events of the early Islamic period and the emergence of Khurasan. Defined as the southern parts of “Central Asia”, East Iran is the region distributed between the modern countries of Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, as well as parts of Pakistan. The events of this region between 200-700 CE, from the fall of the Kushans to the rise of the Islamic power in the region, are recounted in this book based on the latest sources and research. The aim of the book is to provide a continuous narrative of the rule of Kushano-Sasanian, Kidarite, Alkhan, Hephthalite, and Western Turk presence in this region and study their role in formation of the cohesive region of Khurasan, as well as the events of the early Islamic period like the Abbasid Revolution.

2- Creating the Silk Road: Travel, Trade, and Myth Making (IB Tauris)

The idea of the Silk Road, a continuous route of trade between China and the “West” has been an attractive and pervasive concept for over 100 years. Most common knowledge of Central Asia is based on romantic notions of the presence of this road. Additionally, many scholarly works concerned with pre-modern cultural, economic, and social exchange operate based on the assumption that such a road existed as an open avenue of communication between the two extremes of Eurasia. By identifying the modern, 19th century roots of the idea of the Silk Road, this volume concentrates on dismantling the idea of the Silk Road as a continuous road. Instead, it encourages a move away from the romantic notions of dusty roads and “trade oases” in order to understand the nature of the civilisations of Central Asia, as well as the precise routes and means of trade and exchange between China and the west, which in most cases actually refers to Central and West Asia, instead of the presumed “terminus” of the trade routes in either Rome or Mediaeval Europe.