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Distribution of Iranian peoples in 100 BC: shown is Sarmatia, Scythia, Bactria and the Parthian Empire

This list of ancient Iranian peoples or ancient Iranic peoples[1] includes names of Indo-European peoples speaking Iranian languages or otherwise considered Iranian in sources from the late 1st millennium BC to the early 2nd millennium AD.


Map of the Sintashta-Petrovka culture (red), its expansion into the Andronovo culture (orange) during the 2nd millennium BC, showing the overlap with the Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex (chartreuse green) in the south. The location of the earliest chariots is shown in magenta.

The Iranian languages form a sub-branch of the Indo-Iranian sub-family, which is a branch of the family of Indo-European languages. Having descended from the Proto-Indo-Iranians, the Proto-Iranians separated from the Proto-Indo-Aryans early in the 2nd millennium BCE.

Iranian peoples first appear in Assyrian records in the 9th century BCE. In Classical Antiquity, they were found primarily in Scythia (in Central Asia, Eastern Europe, the Balkans and the Northern Caucasus) and Persia (in Western Asia). They divided into "Western" and "Eastern" branches from an early period, roughly corresponding to the territories of Persia and Scythia, respectively. By the 1st millennium BCE, Medes, Persians, Bactrians and Parthians populated the Iranian plateau, while others such as the Scythians, Sarmatians, Cimmerians and Alans populated the steppes north of the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, as far as the Great Hungarian Plain in the west. The Saka tribes remained mainly in the far-east, eventually spreading as far east as the Ordos Desert (North-Central China).

Ancient Iranian peoples lived in many regions, and they had as farthest geographical points dwelt by them: to the west the Great Hungarian Plain (Alföld), east of the Danube river, and to the east the Altay Mountains western and northwestern foothills and slopes, western Gansu and even Ordos in northwestern China, to the north southern West Siberia and southern Ural Mountains/Riphean Mountains and to the south the northern coasts of the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea. The geographical area dwelt by ancient Iranian peoples was therefore vast (at the end of the 1st Millennium BC they dwelt in an area of several million square kilometers or miles thus roughly corresponding to half or slightly more than half of the geographical area that all Indo-European peoples dwelt in Eurasia).

During Late Antiquity, the Iranian populations of Scythia and Sarmatia in the Eurasian Steppe were marginalized and assimilated by Germanic, Slavic and Turkic migrations. By the 10th century, the Eastern Iranian languages were no longer spoken in many of the territories they were once spoken, with the exception of Pashto in Central Asia, Ossetic in the Northern Caucasus and Pamiri languages in Badakhshan. Various Persian empires flourished throughout antiquity, and fell to the Islamic conquest in the 7th century.


Persian Empire in Achaemenid era, 6th century BC, showing names of Iranian peoples in the Iranian Plateau and Central Asia on the right side of the map

Ancient peoples of uncertain origin with possible Iranian background

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Izady, Mehrdad R. "PERSIAN CARROT AND TURKISH STICK: Contrasting Policies Targeted at Gaining State Loyalty from Azeris and Kurds*." The International Journal of Kurdish Studies 3.2 (1989): 31.
  2. ^ Mayer, Antun (April 1935). "Iasi". Journal of the Zagreb Archaeological Museum. Zagreb, Croatia: Archaeological Museum. 16 (1). ISSN 0350-7165.
  3. ^ Schejbal, Berislav (2004). "Municipium Iasorum (Aquae Balissae)". Situla - Dissertationes Musei Nationalis Sloveniae. Ljubljana, Slovenia: National Museum of Slovenia. 2: 99–129. ISSN 0583-4554.
  4. ^ Prichard Cowles, James (1841). "Ethnography of Europe. 3d ed. p433.1841". 17 January 2015. Houlston & Stoneman, 1841. Retrieved 17 January 2015.
  5. ^ Minns, Ellis Hovell (2011-01-13). Scythians and Greeks: A Survey of Ancient History and Archaeology on the North Coast of the Euxine from the Danube to the Caucasus. ISBN 9781108024877.
  6. ^ Sinor, Denis (1 March 1990). The Cambridge History of Early Inner Asia, Volume 1. Cambridge University Press. p. 153. ISBN 0-521-24304-1. Retrieved 29 May 2015. ... the K'ang-chii who were perhaps the Sogdians of Iranian stock...
  7. ^ Scholars like V. S. Aggarwala etc locate the Kamboja country in Pamirs and Badakshan (Ref: A Grammatical Dictionary of Sanskrit (Vedic): 700 Complete Reviews.., 1953, p 48, Vasudeva Sharana Agrawala, Surya Kanta, Jacob Wackernagel, Arthur Anthony Macdonell, Peggy Melcher – India; India as Known to Pāṇini: A Study of the Cultural Material in the Ashṭādhyāyī, 1963, p 38, Vasudeva Sharana Agrawala – India; The North-west India of the Second Century B.C., 1974, p 40, Mehta Vasishtha Dev Mohan – Greeks in India; The Greco-Shunga period of Indian history, or, the North-West India of the second century B.C, 1973, p 40, India) and the Parama Kamboja further north, in the Trans-Pamirian territories (See: The Deeds of Harsha: Being a Cultural Study of Bāṇa's Harshacharita, 1969, p 199, Vasudeva Sharana Agrawala).
  8. ^ Dr Michael Witzel also extends Kamboja including Kapisa/Kabul valleys to Arachosia/Kandahar (See: Persica-9, p 92, fn 81. Michael Witzel).
  9. ^ Cf: "Zoroastrian religion had probably originated in Kamboja-land (Bacteria-Badakshan)....and the Kambojas spoke Avestan language" (Ref: Bharatiya Itihaas Ki Rup Rekha, p 229-231, Jaychandra Vidyalankar; Bhartrya Itihaas ki Mimansa, p 229-301, J. C. Vidyalankar; Ancient Kamboja, People and the Country, 1981, p 217, 221, J. L. Kamboj)
  10. ^ "The name Afghan has evidently been derived from Asvakan, the Assakenoi of Arrian..." (Megasthenes and Arrian, p 180. See also: Alexander's Invasion of India, p 38; J. W. McCrindle)
  11. ^ "Even the name Afghan is Aryan being derived from Asvakayana, an important clan of the Asvakas or horsemen who must have derived this title from their handling of celebrated breeds of horses" (See: Imprints of Indian Thought and Culture abroad, p 124, Vivekananda Kendra Prakashan)
  12. ^ "Afghans are Assakani of the Greeks; this word being the Sanskrit Ashvaka meaning 'horsemen" (Ref: Sva, 1915, p 113, Christopher Molesworth Birdwood)
  13. ^ Mahabharata 2.27.25.
  14. ^ Rüdiger Schmitt in Encyclopædia Iranica, s.v. "Caspians"
  15. ^ Rüdiger Schmitt, "Cadusii" in Encyclopædia Iranica
  16. ^ [1]
  17. ^ "Cimmerian". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. Retrieved 29 May 2015. The origin of the Cimmerians is obscure. Linguistically they are usually regarded as Thracian or as Iranian, or at least to have had an Iranian ruling class.
  18. ^ Sinor, Denis (1 March 1990). The Cambridge History of Early Inner Asia, Volume 1. Cambridge University Press. p. 300. ISBN 0-521-24304-1. Retrieved 29 May 2015. There is no consensus concerning the Hephthalite language, though most scholars seem to think that it was Iranian.
  19. ^ Sinor, Denis (1997). Aspects of Altaic Civilization III. Psychology Press. p. 237. ISBN 0-7007-0380-2. Retrieved 29 May 2015. seems likely, the Wu-sun were an Indo-European, perhaps Iranian people...
  20. ^ Harmatta, János (January 1, 1994). History of Civilizations of Central Asia: History of Civilizations of Central Asia: The Development of Sedentary and Nomadic Civilizations, 700 B. C. to A.D 250: Conclusion. UNESCO. p. 488. ISBN 9231028464. Retrieved 29 May 2015. Their royal tribes and kings (shan-yii) bore Iranian names and all the Hsiung-nu words noted by the Chinese can be explained from an Iranian language of Saka type. It is therefore clear that the majority of Hsiung-nu tribes spoke an Eastern Iranian language.
  21. ^ Felix, Wolfgang. "CHIONITES". Encyclopædia Iranica. Bibliotheca Persica Press. Retrieved 29 May 2015. CHIONITES... a tribe of probable Iranian origin that was prominent in Bactria and Transoxania in late antiquity.
  22. ^ "History of Central Asia: Early Eastern Peoples". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. Retrieved 1 June 2015. ... in the second half of the 2nd century bce the Xiongnu, at the height of their power, had expelled from their homeland in western Gansu (China) a people probably of Iranian stock, known to the Chinese as the Yuezhi and called Tokharians in Greek sources.
  23. ^ "Ancient Iran: The movement of Iranian peoples". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. Retrieved 29 May 2015. At the end of the 3rd century, there began in Chinese Turkistan a long migration of the Yuezhi, an Iranian people who invaded Bactria about 130 bc, putting an end to the Greco-Bactrian kingdom there. (In the 1st century bc they created the Kushān dynasty, whose rule extended from Afghanistan to the Ganges River and from Russian Turkistan to the estuary of the Indus.)


  • H. Bailey, "ARYA: Philology of ethnic epithet of Iranian people", in Encyclopædia Iranica, v, pp. 681–683, Online-Edition, Link
  • A. Shapur Shahbazi, "Iraj: the eponymous hero of the Iranians in their traditional history" in Encyclopædia Iranica, Online-Edition, Link
  • R. Curzon, "The Iranian Peoples of the Caucasus", ISBN 0-7007-0649-6
  • Jahanshah Derakhshani, "Die Arier in den nahöstlichen Quellen des 3. und 2. Jahrtausends v. Chr.", 2nd edition, 1999, ISBN 964-90368-6-5
  • Richard Frye, "Persia", Zurich, 1963

External linksEdit