Writing at a similar time to Balādhurī, Ṭ now my one - Ṭabarī (AD 839-923) also refers to defensive construction works in the area. He does not name them, and he provides less information on their geographical location than one would wish, but more on their chronology. According to him, they were commissioned by Peroz (AD 457-484), Kavad I (AD 488-496 and 499-531) and Khusro I (AD 531-579). Notably ‘castles/ strongholds/ fortifications’ ( )ﺣﺼﻮﻥand ‘fortified mounds’, attributed to Khusro I, could well refer to forts on the wall. 1 The same may be true for ‘stone fortresses’ in the Gorgān area mentioned by Ṭa’ālibī, 2 writing about a century after Ṭabarī, 3 despite the author’s evident ignorance of the lack of stone in the area. Both Ṭa’ālibī and Ṭabarī appear to have based the relevant passages of their reports on the same earlier accounts. 4 It is tempting to argue that Ṭabarī’s work contains hidden references to the Gorgān Wall, implying that the Gorgān Wall was already in existence under Peroz. This king gave, according to Ṭabarī, orders for a town to be built between Gorgān and the Gate of Ṣūl. 5 The passage suggests that the latter gate has to be sought near the ancient city of Gorgān, thought to be at or near medieval Jorjān in the outskirts of modern Gonbad-e Kāvūs. 6 The Ṣūl also feature as an ethnic group settling north of Gorgān. 7 A gate named after the Ṣūl, i.e. probably located in or near their territory, or on the way towards the region occupied by them, has to be sought somewhere north of the Gorgān Plain. There was no impassable continuous mountain range in this area, and the Gate of Ṣūl (Bāb-e Ṣūl, )ﺑﺎﺏ ﺻﻮﻝthus cannot refer to a gate closing off a mountain pass. It is hard to see what purpose an isolated gate in the open plain could have served; only after an artificial barrier had been built would it have been possible to control traffic to and from the north via a gate. The Gate of Ṣūl is thus most plausibly explained as a gate in the Gorgān Wall. Such a gate could have allowed traffic between the Gorgān Plain and people of the steppe, the exchange of embassies or military sorties. If the ‘Gate of Ṣūl’ was in the Gorgān Wall, 8 and if Ṭabarī commits no anachronism when claiming that it featured as a 0F
Ṭabarī 1.874 = trans. Bosworth 1999: 112-13; Ṭabarī 1.895-96 = trans. Bosworth 1999: 152-53. Widengren (1952: 93, cf. 73-74) assumes, probably correctly, that Ṭabarī refers here to a ‘limes’ system in the Gorgān area. 2 Ṭa’ālibī = trans. Zotenberg 1900: 611; Widengren 1952: 81. 3 Bosworth 2000. 4 Howard-Johnston 2010b: 341-44. 5 Ṭabarī 1.874 = trans. Bosworth 1999: 112-13. 6 Perlmann (1987: 76 no. 217) and Barbier de Meynard (1861: 372-73) postulate, based on the authority of Yāqūt, Mu’jam, that Ṣūl was a city near Derbent. While a reference to the Ṣūl Gate in an earlier context (Ṭabarī 1.680 = trans. Perlmann 1987: 76) would be easier to explain, if the Ṣūl Gate was indeed a fortified pass in the Caucasus, the alleged use of stones from the vicinity of ancient Gorgān in building works in the region of Ṣūl under Kusrow I (Ṭabarī 1.895 = trans. Bosworth 1999: 152), suggests that the name Ṣūl applies to more than one northern locality, one of them being near Gorgān. Ṭa’ālibī also refers twice to the Gate of Ṣūl, closely following Ṭabarī. He implies that it existed under Peroz in the vicinity of Jorjān (= ed. and trans. Zotenberg 1900: 578), yet also that Khusro I built a Gate of Ṣūl just five farasang (30 km) long. Whether these are two different border walls or whether mistakes have crept into the latter passage is open to debate. See chapter 13.7 on Dasht Qal’eh as a possible site for ancient Gorgān. 7 Ṭabarī 1.874= trans. Bosworth 1999: 112-13; Ṭabarī 1.894-96 = trans. Bosworth 1999: 150-53; Ṭabarī 1.2839 = trans. Humphreys 1990: 45. 8 The almost complete robbing of the Gorgān Wall will make it difficult to locate any gates, even if heavily defended, other than in the forts. The magnetometer survey suggests that Fort 4 was provided with a gate both on the enemy and the defenders’ sides. No isolated gate on the wall has as yet been spotted on the satellite images, nor any obvious contemporary hollow ways leading through any opening in the wall. A possible exception may be formed by Fort 13 with possible hollow ways leading towards and past the compound from ancient Jorjān/ Gorgān and continuing north of the fort (Fig. 3:83; Kiani 1982b: fig. 3), though it is not clear whether any of these are as old as the wall. This fort is 1
geographic reference-point in the order of the king, then the wall must have been under construction, or already in existence, no later than the reign of Peroz. 9 Ṭabarī further informs us that Khusro I strongly fortified the region of the ‘Gates of Ṣūl’, blocked the ways and tracks, and that because of these fortifications in the vicinity of Gorgān, the Turks were unable to raid or conquer the area. 10 If this description is accurate, it strongly implies the existence of a linear barrier north of Gorgān, either built or strengthened by Khusro I. Of course, if our thoughts on the significance of the ‘Gate of Ṣūl’ are correct, the Gorgān Wall already existed under Peroz, and Khusro I can only have further strengthened or extended the existing barrier. This hypothesis, of course, depends in part on the reliability of our source, Ṭabarī, a native of Amol, 11 c. 170 km from the westernmost point of the Gorgān Wall known today, though writing some four to five centuries later.
unusual in many respects: it incorporates a substantial earlier settlement mound, Qarāvōl Tappeh (Kiani 1982b: 43-44, figs 14, 32, pls 4,2-4,3; id. 1982a: pl. Ib), which would have provided a convenient lookout post. The next fort (12) is very close, and there is a remarkable cluster of compounds south of the wall near this pair of forts (cf. Fig. 12:2 and chapter 23.1). Little would be gained by speculating further whether there might have been a gate in the wall at this point until any future fieldwork yields more concrete evidence for or against this hypothesis. Most linear barriers appear to have been provided with gates, such as the Tammīsheh Wall (see chapter 2.3). Many forts and fortlets on Hadrian’s Wall were provided with gated access to the enemy side. The ‘Limestor’ at Dalkingen, an elaborate isolated gate, would have allowed the ‘Limes’ to be crossed and to enter or leave Roman territory in Raetia (modern Germany): Hodgson 2005. 9 Ṭabarī 1.874 = trans. Bosworth 1999: 112-13 with no. 290. 10 Ṭabarī 1.896 = trans. Bosworth 1999: 153. 11 See chapter 2.3 on Ṭabarī.
Published on Feb 6, 2012