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Thursday, 11-Jan-2007 17:44 Email | Share | Bookmark
The northern Gate of Persia - Darband Castle

Darband castle, a Sassanid fortress in modern Russia
which was built at the time of Kasra Anushirvan the just

Darband Castle
Pursuing legends has taken me to so many interesting locales. Once I went to Daghestan [north of Azarbaijan, now part of Russia]. I met a man on the train with an artificial limb as his leg had been amputated. We were talking about the castle there in Darband and I mentioned that probably Alexander had built it." But he told me that this castle was related to Nushiravan. His proof was the legend that circulated about it.

The story goes like this: One day King Anushiravan suggested that he and his vizier go out and find out what the people were saying about him. He thought that he would hear marvelous things about himself that would cheer him up. But as soon as they left the palace, an old woman grabbed Anushiravan's horse and asked: "Where can I find that scoundrel Anushiravan to tell him of my grief. He asked what the problem was. She replied: "Anushiravan sent my son to war, but his own son comes to my house and tries to steal my son's wife."
Anushiravan ordered his vizier to go to her place and investigate the situation. He went and looked through window and realized that the woman was right. So then Nushiravan asked the woman to bring him some salt. The woman did. He put the salt on his tongue, entered the room, blew out the candle and took his sword and cut off the head of his own son.
The woman was grateful and said that Nushiravan had done right; he had made sure that justice was carried out. But the woman wondered why the king had put salt on his tongue and why he had blown out the candle. The king replied: "I asked for salt because I wanted to share salt with you" [An Azarbaijani expression says that if you cut bread and salt with someone, you cannot harm that person. You must always be loyal to him and never betray him]. "If I shared salt with you, then I would not be able to kill you."
"For you, I have killed my only son. I could never go beyond this and kill you. As for blowing out the candle, I'll tell you this: 'Love has eyes. Love is conveyed though the eyes. If I had seen my son's eyes, I would not have been able to kill him. My love for him would not have allowed me to hurt him. I had to take his life in darkness. Murders are carried out at night, not in the daylight".

Derbent (Russian: Дербе́нт; Avar: Дербенд; Azeri: Dərbənd; Persian: دربند, Darband) is a city in the Republic of Dagestan, Russia. It is the southernmost city in Russia, and it is the second most important city of Dagestan. Population: 101,031 (2002 Census); 78,371 (1989 Census). The Azeris are the main ethnic group, followed by Lezgins and Tabasarans.

Often identified with the legendary Gates of Alexander, Derbent claims to be the oldest city in the Russian Federation. Since antiquity the value of the area as the gate to the Caucasus has been understood and Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic particularity the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world. Over the years different nations gave the city different names, but all connected to the word 'gate'.

The modern city is built near the western shores of the Caspian Sea, south of the Rubas River, on the slopes of the Tabasaran mountains (part of the Bigger Caucasus range). Derbent is well served by transportation, with its own harbour, a railway going south to Baku, and the Baku to Rostov-on-Don road.
To the north of the town is the monument of the Kirk-lar, or forty heroes, who fell defending Dagestan against the Arabs in 728. To the south lies the seaward extremity of the Caucasian wall (fifty metres long), otherwise known as Alexander's Wall, blocking the narrow pass of the Iron Gate or Caspian Gates (Portae Athanae or Portae Caspiae). This, when entire, had a height of 29 ft (9 m) and a thickness of about 10 ft (3 m), and with its iron gates and numerous watch-towers formed a valuable defence of the Persian frontier


Derbent has a unique strategic location in the Caucasus: the city is situated on a thin strip of land (three kilometres) between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus mountains. Historically, this position allowed the rulers of Derbent to control land traffic between south-eastern Europe and the Middle East.

The first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BCE. Until the 4th century CE it was part of Caucasian Albania, and is traditionally identified with Albana, the capital. The modern name, a Persian word (دربند Darband) meaning "closed gates", came into use 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 walls and the citadel are believed to belong to the time of Kavadh's son, Khosrau I. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries Derbent becomes also an important centre for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.

Sassanian fortress in Derbent.During the 630s it was invaded by the Khazar khanate. In 654 Derbent was captured by the Arabs, who transformed it in an important administrative centre and introduced Islam to the area. The Caliph Harun al-Rashid spent time living in Derbent, and brought it into great repute as a seat of the arts and commerce. According to Arab historians, Derbent, with population exceeding 50,000, was the largest city of the 9th-century Caucasus. In the 10th century, with the collapse of the Arab Caliphate, Derbent became the capital of an emirate. This emirate often fought losing wars with the neighboring Christian state of Sarir, allowing Sarir to occasionally manipulate Derbent politics. Despite that, the emirate outlived its rival and continued to flourish at the time of the Mongol invasion in 1239.

In the 14th century Derbent was occupied by Tamerlane's armies. In 1437 it fell under the control of the Shirvanshahs of Azerbaijan. During the 16th century Derbent was the arena for wars between Turkey and Persia ruled by the Persian Safavid dynasty. By the early 17th century the Safavid Shah Abbas I inflicted a serious defeat on the Turks and recovered Derbent.
By the 1735 Ganja treaty Derbent fell within the Persian state. In 1722 during the Russo-Persian War Peter the Great of Russia wrested the town from the Persians, but in 1736 the supremacy of Nadir Shah was again recognized. In 1747 Derbent became the capital of the khanate of the same name. During the Persian Expedition of 1796 it was stormed by Russian forces under Valerian Zubov. As a consequence of the Gulistan Treaty of 1813—between Russian and Persia—Derbent became part of the Russian Empire.
The Caspian Gates.A large portion of the walls and several watchtowers have been preserved in reasonable shape till our days. The walls, reaching to the sea, date from the 6th century, Sassanid dynasty period. The city has a well preserved citadel (Narin-kala), comprising an area of 45,000 m², enclosed by strong walls. Historical attractions include the baths, the cisterns, the old cemeteries, the caravanserai, the 18th century Khan's mausoleum, as well as several mosques. The oldest mosque is the Juma Mosque, built over a 6th century Christian basilica; it has a 15th century madrassa. Other shrines include the 17th century Kyrhlyar mosque, the Bala mosque and the 18th century Chertebe mosque.

قباد يكم، شاه ساساني ايران، پس از عقب راندن خزرها به آن سوي رود ولگا و بازگرداندن نظم و آرامش به قفقاز شمالي، در ژوئيه سال 527 ميلادي (طبق محاسبه تقويم نگاران، پنجم ژوئيه) دستور بازسازي شهر دربند (واقع در داغستان امروز و تلفظ كنوني: دربنت) را صادر و بودجه لازم را اختصاص داد. وي خسرو انوشيروان وليعهد خود را به عنوان ناظر بر اين نوسازي تعيين كرد. خسرو در دوران پادشاهي خود هم بر استحكامات اين شهر افزود و آن را آبادتر كرد. داريوش بزرگ و شاپور يكم (پسر اردشير پاپكان) در سنگنبشته هاي، مناطق ايراني قفقاز را ذكر كرده اند. شهر دربند ميان درياي مازندران و كوههاي قفقاز در تنگه اي به عرض سه كيلومتر قرار گرفته و پادگان آن قرن ها مانع ورود اقوام مهاجر (آوارها، خزرها و ...) به قلمرو ايران و روم مي شد و امپراتوري روم بابت اين عمل، هرساله به ايران مقداري طلا مي داد. منطقه داغستان كه اينك يك ايالت (جمهوري خودمختار) فدراسيون روسيه است در طول حكومت ساسانيان، علاوه بر حكمران غير نظامي يك مرزبان (ژنرالي با درجه اسپهبد) داشت كه عملا مقام برتر منطقه بود. مرزبانان قفقاز پس از حمله عرب، همانند مرزبانان «فرارود» سازمانهاي خود را منحل نكردند بلكه مستقلا و يا با كمك حكمرانان ايراني محل تا زمان صفويه بكار ادامه دادند. ايستادگي آنان در سال 728 ميلادي در برابر حمله عرب كه قصد ورود به داغستان امروز را داشتند مشهور است و گور مقتولان اين ايستادگي كه به «چهل قهرمان» معروفند هنوز مورد احترام است.
قباد يكم در دوران حكومت خود سه بار خزرها را شكست داد: در سالهاي 489، 522 و 527 ميلادي. شهر دربند (اينك داراي 100 تا 105 هزار جمعيت) در جريان نوسازي دهه سوم قرن ششم ميلادي داراي ديوارهايي به ارتفاع 20 متر و 30 برج دفاعي شد كه اين برجهاي عمدتا در باروي شمالي شهر ساخته شدند زيرا كه شهر از قسمت جنوبي آن امن بود و تجاوزگر وجود نداشت. كالانكايك مورخ بزرگ ارمني قرون وسطا (تحصيلكرده آتن، اسكندريه، رم و قسطنطنيه) در كتاب خود «آلوانك» شهر دربند و ايالت هاي ايراني ارّان (آذربايجان و داغستان امروز)، ايبريا (گرجستان و آبخازياي امروز) و سرزمين خودمختار ارمنستان را دقيقا شرح داده است («آلبانيا» به معناي كوهستاني واژه اي لاتين است كه روميان بخشي از قفقاز را خطاب مي كردند). «استرابو» قبلا در كتاب خود به شرح منطقه ايراني قفقاز پرداخته بود (اين منطقه پس از 24 قرن، در جنگهاي سه دهه اول قرن نوزدهم از ايران گرفته شد).

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