Thomas Brüggemann

Thomas Brüggemann, (University of Freiburg): “The Establishment of Macedonian Rule in Outer Iran (Turkestan) and the Role and Status of the Local Elites (4/3 cent. BC.)”


The paper’s starting point is the observation that the indigenous populations and tribes inhabiting the NE Iranian frontier of the Achemenid Empire (Outer Iran) offered Alexander the Great the most protracted and fierce resistance of his entire campaign. Therefore, the talk will focus both on the ways Macedonian kings, beginning with Alexander, acted in estabishing their ‘new’ system of rule at the NE frontiers of the oikouméne and on the shape of the system as well. Evidence suggests that the conspicuous and ongoing indigenous restistance could be seen as an indication that the Macedonians had deviated in the Bactrian-Sogdian border-area from their apporoved modus operandi of resorting to political strategies in dealing with multi-ethnic populations that had been implemented by the Achaemenids. The paper will not only show what the Macedonian kings surprisingly enough did in that region differently than the Achaemenids, but also why they choose just here other ways in dealing with the indiginous. That is why the contribution, although its main topics will be Alexander’s Asian Campaign from about 330 BC and the early Seleucid rule in Turkestan (Seleucus I, Antiochus I, Seleucus II), has to take into account the prevailing circumstances in that region during the 4th century under Achaemenid as well. Finally, the loss of the Seleucid Upper Satrapies to the Parthians around 238 BC will be the endpoint.


Particularly in regions like the Outer Iran, where the infrastructural and power-political presence of the central government was rather weak, the local elites traditionally possessed a stronger position. Findings are to be expected especially in such settings regarding the interdependencies beween central government and local elites during the transition from one upper level authority to another. Therefore, the contribution will show how the position and the self-conception of local elites were affected by those changes at the top of the ‘state’, namely when the new upper level authority did not accept a the para-state position of the endemic Iranian elites based on their autochthonous legitimacy. Furthermore, the talk will examine to what degree the implementation of the Macedonian system of domination caused disturbances to the everyday-life of the local populations as well as to the traditional status and influence of their elites. In respect thereof, one has to take into account that the political and social stratigraphy Alexander and the Seleucid kings were confronted with the in the NE frontier-zone of the former Achaimenid Empire was in no way comparable to the classical urban and sedentary culture of the Mediterranean hemisphere they came from. The local settings in the Bactrian-Sogdian territories were characterized rather by oriental civilization-manners and habits, pasture and nomadism, sparsely urbanized landscapes and in political and administrative terms by low-level and only little diversified forms of political or statelike organization. The common top-down-approach in dealing with the mentioned phenomena neglects the fact that the ‘ruling capacity’ of these local elites was not or only little granted by the central government. In contrast, the paper will argue that the local elites of the Outer Iran should better be seen in a bottom-up-perspective that concedes that they have been primarily a military and / or political and economic leading group that exercises its power in a defined area parallel to the state.



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