Herat, an ancient city, is identified with the Haroyu of the Vendidad (Zoroastrian priestly code), the Haraiva of Achaemenian inscriptions, and the Aria of the Greeks. Its strategic location on the trade route from Persia to India and on the caravan road from China and central Asia to Europe has long made Herat an object of contention among the powers of the day. Although taken by various conquerors, it remained under the Persian empire for several centuries. The Mongols under Jenghiz Khan devastated Herat in 1221. Timur took the city in 1383; under his later successors, Shah Rukh and Husayn, it enjoyed prosperity, and its court was a center of art and learning. The Uzbeks took Herat in the early 16th cent.; later it was disputed between the Persians and the rulers of an emerging Afghanistan. In the mid-19th cent., British pressure checked Persian claims to Herat, which in 1881 was taken by Abd ar-Rahman Khan and finally confirmed as part of a united Afghanistan. During the 1979–89 Soviet occupation, it was a military command center for Soviet forces.
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