Who were the Samanids? Later Sogdians in Central Asia
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Who were the Samanids?

Mausoleum of the Samanids
The tomb of the Samanid rulers.
Bukhara, Uzbekistan, about 900 AD.

The Samanids were people who lived in the easternmost part of the Abbasid Empire, in the 800s AD. The Samanids were pretty much the descendants of the Sogdians who lived in that area before them, and like the Sogdians they were Indo-Europeans. The Samanids mostly spoke Persian (not Arabic) even though they followed the Islamic religion. The Samanid rulers were families descended from the old Zoroastrian aristocracy of the Sassanian Empire, but they too had converted to Sunni Islam.

Samanid rulers mostly supported the Abbasids and copied Abbasid government. They were technically part of the Abbasid Empire, though really they were pretty much independent. One of their capital cities was Samarkand, the old capital of the Sogdians.

Like the Sogdians before them, the Samanids continued to travel between West Asia and China as traders. Samanid coins were the common currency of the Silk Road in the 800s and 900s AD, so that even people as far away as the Vikings in Scandinavia often used Samanid coins. As educated traders, the Samanids ran a kingdom that supported education and art and so they attracted scholars like the scientists al-Razi and Ibn Sina. They probably brought crucible steel technology from India north to Afghanistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, selling steel to the Vikings and to China. They also supported Islamic architecture, building mosques and palaces all over Central Asia.

By the year 1000 AD, the Samanids lost power to the Turkish Ghaznavids and the Karakhanids, who dominated this area from then on.

Bibiography and further reading:

Central Asian history
More about Central Asia
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Professor Carr

Karen Eva Carr, PhD.
Assoc. Professor Emerita, History
Portland State University

Professor Carr holds a B.A. with high honors from Cornell University in classics and archaeology, and her M.A. and PhD. from the University of Michigan in Classical Art and Archaeology. She has excavated in Scotland, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and Tunisia, and she has been teaching history to university students for a very long time.

Professor Carr's PSU page

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