Page 4: Eastern-Most Saka: Saka Para-Draya / Saka Para-Sugd
Turkic Peoples, Turks, Turan
Eastern-Most Saka: Saka Para-Draya / Saka Para-Sugd
In the Achaemenian inscriptions we find a Saka called Saka Para-Draya and Saka Para-Sugd. The Greeks made little distinction between the Saka and non-Saka Iranian-Aruans east of the Jaxartes (Syr Darya). But we have enough information to make those distinctions.
The word 'draya' in Old Persian, and 'darya' in Modern Persian, mean both a sea or a large river. Paradraya means over or across-the-sea or across-the-river. The default for most Western writers is that paradraya means across the Black Sea. Our research points to a far greater likelihood that paradraya means across-the-river, and in particular, across the Syr Darya or Jaxartes river. The literature is full of references of the Persian kings having to cross the Amu Darya (Oxus) and Syr Darya (Jaxartes*) rivers to enter the territory of the eastern-most Saka. We find no reference that they similarly crossed a sea. Further, we have mention, in an Achaemenian inscription of Darius the Great at Persepolis that mentions of a Saka para-Sugd, the Sakas beyond Sugd (Sogdiana), which means east across the Sugd whose land was bordered by the Syr Darya (Jaxartes River) on the east.
[Note: *Jaxartes or Syr Darya - also called the Sihun or Sayhoun in medieval literature and thought to to derived from the Old Persian Yakhsha Arta. See
BBC News images.]
Strabo in Geographia 11.8.2 states (translation by Jones, our notes in ): "But the best known of the nomads [Saka] are those who took away Bactriana from the Greeks, I mean the Asii, Pasiani, Tochari [commonly thought as originating in Tarim Basin, Khotan], and Sacarauli [see Sarikoli, the language spoken in Tashkurgan below], who originally came from the country on the other side of the Iaxartes (Jaxartes or Syr Darya) River that adjoins that of the Sacae and the Sogdiani and was occupied by the Sacae." Once again we hear mention of a nomadic people or Saka who came from a region east of the Jaxartes River, the Syr Darya. Saka-rauli appears to mean a Saka people called Rauli.
Today the lands suitable for nomads east of the Syr Darya are in Eastern Uzbekistan (Tashkent) and Southern Kazakhstan (Shymkent). The Persian Empire lands at one point extended eastward to Kashgar.
Saka Language - Middle Iranian
We know of the language of the Saka via the eastern-most Saka; the kingdoms of Khotan and Tumxuk in what in now Xinjiang, China. The language and dialects are classified as a part of the Middle Iranian family of languages. Other languages in this group are languages of this group are Khwarezmian (Chorasmian), Sogdian and Bactrian. Originally, these languages would have all derived from Old Iranian, the language of the Zoroastrian scriptures, the Avesta. According to Litvinsky and Vorobyova-Desyatovskaya, cited in Wikipedia, both the Saka dialects share features with modern Wakhi and Pashto. Many Prakrit terms were borrowed from Khotanese into the Tocharian languages. The Sakan language is also known as Khotanese. Khotanese itself is linguistically divided into old and new Khotanese. According to E.Leumann & M.Leumann, Das nordarische (sakische) Lehrgedicht des Buddhismus, vol I-III and V.S. Vorob'ev-Desjatovsky " Novye sakskoj rukopisi "E" pp 68-71 the old Khotanese is very rich in terms of noun and verb declensions.
According to Elizabeth Wayland Barber in The Mummies of Urumchi, p. 202, "When written records began in the Tarim Basin in the early centuries AD, the whole southern chain of oases was occupied by speakers of Iranian, the most prominent being the Sakas of Khotan...".
What is clear is that the Saka did not speak a Turkic language. They were replaced by a people who spoke Turkic languages.
Where Have all the Saka Gone?
Saka & Turkic Peoples
Today, the traditional Saka lands around the southern banks of the Aral Sea and along the banks of the Syr Darya River (northern Uzbekistan and southern Kazakhstan), are inhabited by a people who speak a Turkic/Altaic language and who are sometimes called the Turkoman. These Turkic speaking peoples now occupy an area that stretches from Turkey to Azarbaijan (Azerbaijan), Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan - forming a band in the shape of a dome over the traditional Iranian-Aryan nations. However, the appearance of the Turkic peoples and the establishment of the Turkic language in these areas is a relatively modern phenomenon.
Before the arrival of the Turkic people with Mongolian-like features, the native Saka were a buffer people and their land a buffer region between the Aryan heartland and the northern peoples - peoples from the north as well as from the region of today's Mongolia and Siberia in the northeast.
After 200 BCE and particularly after the turn of the millennium, there is evidence that large groups of people from the north had started to move into the lower Oxus (Khvarizem) region and as well the eastern banks of the Syr Darya River. By 1000 CE, peoples from the Altai region of Siberia (a region also shared with Mongolia, China, and Kazakhstan) had established themselves in the old Saka lands east of the Syr Darya or Jaxartes, and by the time it was written (8th and 9th centuries CE), the Bundahishn, a Middle Persian Zoroastrian text began to call the region Turkistan. At this point in history, the so-called Altai-Turkic groups had settled in the lands between the Syr and Amu Darya rivers.
|Theory regarding the spread of Turkic/Altaic language and peoples|
The migration of the Altai peoples into Central Asia was facilitated by their Mongol cousins. The two groups combined forces that invaded Central Asia. In their armies, the Mongols were the generals while the more numerous Altai-Turks were the soldiers. The Altai-Turks made up the bulk of the invading forces. After the Mongol invasions led by Genghis Khan (c. 1162-1227 CE), Altai-Turkic peoples quickly poured in to the conquered lands displacing the aboriginal Saka and Turanian inhabitants. When the Mongols left Central Asia and returned to Mongolia, leaders emerged from among the Turks, leaders who became Turkoman/Turcoman kings of the region.
The invaders from the north almost entirely displaced the aboriginal Saka and Turanian-Sogdian Aryan population. That displacement is very evident around the Amu Darya or Oxus River. There the old Zoroastrian kingdom was overrun and a community that supported a large dakhma, a Zoroastrian burial tower, at Chilpik was abandoned. Before they almost entirely displaced the aboriginal residents, the Altai-Turk adopted some of the regions cultural traits such as the celebration of Nowruz or the New Year on the spring equinox.
Turks & Turan
Turan, a land mentioned in Iranian legend, occupied lands otherwise known as Sugd, Sogdiana - southern Uzbekistan and northern Tajikistan today. Sughdha was the second nation mentioned in the Vendidad, a book of the Zoroastrian scriptures, the Avesta. We also find Sugd mentioned in the
Achaemenian inscriptions. In Iranian legend, this land was part of the Iranian-Aryan empire - a part ruled by Tur, one of the three sons of legendary Aryan emperor, King Feridoon. In these legends, we find the name Turanian, and not Sogdian, used for the people who lived in that land. The name Sugd came to be used during the Achaemenian Persian era (700 -330 BCE).
We also find a people called the Tuirya in the Avesta - people who were among the first to accept Zarathushtra's teachings (cf. Lands of Zarathushtra's Ministry.) Many believe that the name Tuirya evolved to Turan.
Given that the name Turkic is similar to the name Turi or Turanian, there is a strong temptation to identify the ancient Turanians, and even the Saka, with today's Turkic/Turkoman peoples.
'Turkic' is a relatively modern word and we find it used in Ferdowsi's Shahnameh. Ferdowsi who did not seem to have known about the invasions of the Altai from the north, calls the new occupants of the land Turki or Turkoman, blurring the distinction between the legendary Turanians and the modern Turkic peoples, who have been known historically as the Hun and as Tartars - a people with little or no cultural affiliation with the Saka or Turanians. Turk or Turki could very well be a name given to the new occupants of Turan by the Persians. The Persians did the same with India (Hind) and Hindu. Hind and Hindu are alien words to the Indians. They call they nation Bharat. The name Hind is a Persian word for the people who lived along the Indus. We are as yet unaware of the Turkic peoples calling themselves by that name in antiquity.
While the Saka and Turanians were an integral part of the Iranian-Aryan family, the Turkic peoples of Central Asia are ethnically from the area north of the Aral Sea, the Altai, as well as Mongolia and Siberia. The Turkic people may share linguistic roots but their physical features differ. There is also a distinct difference in the features of the Azerbaijani and Turkish Turkic peoples and those from Central Asia. Sharing a language through, say, conquest (the Kazakhs now speak Russian after their conquest by the Russians) does not always mean a sharing of physical characteristics, aboriginal origins or aboriginal culture.
The aboriginal Saka and Sogdian-Turanian Aryans have been for the main part been displaced by the Altai (Turkic or Turkoman) peoples in today's Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
Perhaps one of the reasons why the Altai-Turkic peoples are sometimes associated with the Saka is because they both had the reputation of being predatory.
Saka & Scythians Art - Links
» Prof. John Haskins' Scythian Artefacts Slide Collection
» Prehistoric Art: Scythians
» Art of the Scythians