IRAN: THE BORDERLANDS

Friends and Neighbours

ATROPATENE (earlier MEDIA ATROPATENE)

Roughly the mountainous area between Lake Urmia and the Caspian Sea, now mostly Iranian Azerbaijan. Under the Sasanians the name evolved into Aturpakan, hence modern Azerbaijan.

Atropates, the satrap of Media under the Achaemenids - to whom he was related, and retained as such by Alexander, took advantage of the confusion following the death of Alexander in 323 BC to declare his corner of the former Persian empire his own fiefdom, and independent of Seleucus. It included the northern, mountainous half of the former Media, and soon became known as "Atropates' Media" or Media Atropatene. At about the same time Bactria seceded, and in India too Chandragupta terminated Macedonian control.

The dynasty founded by Atropates ruled for several centuries - independently at first, then as loyal vassals of the Parthians, whose Arsacid dynasty was linked to them. Atropatene was the final part of the Arsacid empire to hold out against the Sasanians.

Takht-i Suleiman, NW Iran

Remains of a fire-temple complex at the world heritage site of Takht-i Suleiman, NW Iran

The site of its main city - Gazaka in Greek, Ganzak in Armenian, has yet to be firmly identified. The site known as the Throne of Solomon (Takht-i Suleiman) since the Islamic conquest was an important Zoroastrian centre throughout the Persian period.

Significant events in later history (on other pages in the website) include:

Mark Antony's abortive invasion in 39 BC;

The invasion by the Alans in AD 72;

The invasion by the Byzantines under Heraclius in AD 623.

Atropatene was taken over by the Arabs around AD 640, but still remained a separate province. The Mongol Il-Khans chose it for their capitals (at Matageh, Tabriz and Sultanieh- its climate and vegetation suited their nomadic preferences..

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