The Bazrangids (also known as Bazrangi or Badhrangids) were an ancient mountain-dwelling Iranian tribe that established a maritime empire outside the
Iranian plateau. Their first major overseas possession entailed Mazun (present-day Oman) and the port of Suharbecame the region's capital. By the end of the 1st century BC, most of the islands of East Africawere annexed by the Bazrangids. These islands entailed Socotra, Zanzibar, Pemba, Mafia, Combolo/Comoros and Madagascar. By the 1st centuryAD, they became the dominant maritime power in the Indian Oceanwith headquarters at newly-founded ports from Madagascar to Somalia.
Origin and history
The Bazrangids were the local rulers of
Persis(present-day Fars) and Carmania (present-day Kerman) as clients of the Arsacids(Parthians). They were expelled from their original home in the Middle Eastby the Parthians. Gocihr, the last king of the Bazrangids, was deposed by King Papag in 205AD. In the late 3rd centuryAD up until the early 4th centuryAD, the Sassaniansconquered Mazun and other regions on the southern coast of the Persian Gulf. Eventually, the Sassanid Empire managed to push the Bazrangids into East Africa. The Bazrangids managed to survive in East Africa for 500 years after their exile, but not without complications.
As a result of their exile, the Bazrangids had difficulties establishing new trading outposts in the
Persian GulfBasin and the Arabian SeaBasin. In order to overcome their losses, the Bazrangids began to expand eastward. They established maritime outposts on the coastal regions of India, Indochina, southern China, and the eastern Pacific Ocean. Navigation logs that date back to 110AD indicate brisk levels of trade between the Bazrangi ports located on the Persian Gulf, the Sea of Oman, and in East Africa. [Periplus Maris Erythraei (translated and edited by Lionel Casson). Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989]
Iranian peoplessettled extensively on the East African coast and established commercial settlements on the islands during pre-Islamic times. [Reusch, Richard. History of East Africa. New York: Ungar, 1961.] Due to the dominance the Bazrangids had over East Africa, the area they settled became known as "Bazrangibar", which means "Bazrangi coast". The name was eventually shortened to "Zangibar" and was slightly altered etymologically to produce the word "Zanzibar". The African slaves that were marketed from Bazrangibar were known as "zangi" or "zingi", which means "a native from Zangibar". Today, both words are seen as pejoratives for black Africans who speak Middle Eastern languages.
In East Africa, the Bazrangids founded many colonial cities in the Zanzibar archipelago, as well as on the mainland. The cities of Zangibar and Manda were soon rivaled and surpassed by cities like Mombasa, Malindi, Brava, Mogadishu, Kisimayu, and the Bazrangi colonial capital of Kilwa Kisiwani. The capital city was located south of modern-day Dar es Salaam. The Kilwa Empire stretched from the
Horn of Africato Mozambiqueand included settlements from Madagascar, the Comoros, the Seychelles, and the Zanzibar archipelago.
Kilwa Empirebecame an independent entity after Ardashir I of the Sassanid dynasty conquered its parent Bazrangi state in southern Persia in 224AD. Emperor Ardashir's successor, Shapur I, annexed the southern shores of the Persian Gulf, as well as the region of Muscat on the Indian Ocean. This led to the removal of all final vestiges of Bazrangi independence on the Asian continent.
In the middle of the
5th centuryAD, the Sassanians took great interest in continuing the Bazrangi maritime enterprise. The Sassanians gained from the Bazrangis control of the sea routes in the western half of the Indian Ocean. [Gervase, Matthew (edited by Matthew Gervase and Oliver Roland). The East African Coast until the Coming of the Portuguese, History of East Africa. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1963.] This continuing interest, however, would have certain negative implications for the Bazrangids.
In the middle of the
6th centuryAD, the Sassanid Empire managed to conquer Yemen from the Ethiopian Empire. This conquest effectively cut off the East African Bazrangids from all of their Middle Eastern trade routes. Afterwards, the Bazrangids of the Kilwa Empire began to search for new markets since the Sassanians controlled the ports and markets of Persia and Arabia. By the 7th centuryAD, Persian colonies were flourishing in south China, the East Indies, south India, and East Africa.
Currently, there is little evidence to prove whether the Sassanians dominated the maritime trade and the colonies in East Africa, south China, and Southeast Asia. The numismatic evidence on exhibit at the Beit al-Amani Museum at Zanzibar city includes four Parthian coins and one Sassanian coin with Ardashir I from the mint at
The Bazrangids expanded eastward and engaged in commerce with India, the Malay archipelago, and even regions of south China. The Malabar coast in India etymologically means "Malay coast" in modern Iranian languages, such as Persian and Kurdish, and has a parallel meaning to the word "Zanzibar". The extent of the Kilwa Empire could have very well reached the
Philippines. The name of the third largest island in the entire Filipino archipelago is called "Palawan/Pahlawan", which means "hero" in Middle Persian. This word is used in all of the languages of Southeast Asia. Zoroastrian fire temples within the Kilwa Empire were preserved as a result of Bazrangi custodians. Sassanian sources, which include rock inscriptions and documents, discuss how the Bazrangids served important custodial functions at the Great Temple of the goddess Anahitain Istakhr(near Persepolis). The Kilwa Empire prospered even during the early Islamic era. However, the capital city of Kilwa was under siege by members of the native populations of East Africa. The city fell and nearly 2000 of its inhabitants were devoured in a single week. In 980AD, the Zanj Empirewas founded by Ali ibn Hasan and succeeded the Kilwa Empire.
Recent archaeological excavations in the old Kilwa imperial sites such as Unguja Ukuu, Tumbatu, Mtambwe, and Mkumbuu are shedding new light on the history of the Bazrangid founded Kilwa Empire and its status as a maritime power.
History of Iran
* [http://www.kurdistanica.com/english/history/articles-his/his-articles-10.html Kurdistanica]
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