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Ancient Albania

At the end of 4th and at the beginning of 3rd centuries there was established one more ancient state at the territory of Azerbaijan and several southern regions of Dagestan – Albania. Albania was bounder with Sarmatia in the North, Iberia in the West, Armenia in the South-West and with Atropatena in the South. Its frontiers extended to the Caspian Sea in the East. So, the territory of ancient Albania surrounded the territory of the modern Azerbaijan Republic, the part of territories of Armenia and Georgia, as well as Southern Dagestan (Derbent) the capital city of this state was Gabala, then Barda.

Antique authors such as Herodotus, Ptolemy, Strabo, Pompey Trog, Yuli Solin, Arrian (first of all the name of Albans was mentioned in the works of Arrian) and others mentioned ethnic diversity of Albanian settlers. There settled Albans, sakasens, myukies, uties, qarqars, tsovdeys, caspians, legs, mards, silvs, lupenies and other tribes in Albania that, “they spoke in 26 languages” (Strabo).

Modern academic investigations about the ethno linguistic identity of Albanian settlers show that, although ancient settlers were differed from the ethno linguistic, viewpoint the prominent role in this region played Turkish element. Among them there were some Caucasians and Iranian tribes too. Although some researchers consider that, the name of “Albans” is not understandable, this word and calling of “Alban”, “Alpan” is referred to Turkish background. Basing on the ancient Turkish word of “alp//alb” (brave, courageous, daring, plucky, manly), we can say that, the name of Albania means” the country of braves, the state of men”.

The central, especially plain regions of Albania were settled by Turkish ethnos, but Dagestan was occupied by Caucasian-Iberian tribes. Multi linguistic specialties were referred to Dagestan too.

First tribal unities were shaped at the end of 2nd and at the beginning of 1st centuries BC in the territory of Albania.There became shown the signs of statehood in Albania, from the end of the 4th century BC, which was under the influence of Akhamani empire in 6th -4th centuries BC.

For example, there was obvious that Albanian, Caspian and sakasen troops participated in the army of Daria III during the Qavqamel battle as the independent entities. And it is the fact that, these troops were placed next to the line of Daria’s troop proved that they also possessed qualified military structure. Some antique authors referred Albania among the countries, captured by Alexander the Great, this region became an independent after the death of this magnificent king. May be the process of the subordination of small entities, also the centralized power began even in the period of Akhamanies and was over during the reign of Alexander the Great.

In the 1st century BC Albania confronted with the attacks of small country under the name of “Armn”- Armenia that was situated next to the Van lake and Eastern Anatolia. Armenians, who settled and came here from Balkan Peninsula did their best to enlarge their territory by capturing lands from Atrapatena, Albania and Iberia. So, the territories of Albania such as, near the lake of Goycha, the lands of modern Nakhichevan, the ancient Caspiana and others were often attacked by Armenia.

Most of Armenian historians, who referred to the invasions of Artashes I (189-160 BC) and Tigran II (95-55 BC) tried to prove that, ancient lands of neighbourhood countries, especially Azerbaijan concerned to Armenia and according to such claims they made the international world believe to the legend of the existence of “Great Armenia from Sea to Sea”. Some of these historians localized Caucasian Albania in the left shore of Kura and included the right shore of the river to Armenia under the name of “Aghvan district”. Nevertheless, antique manuscripts as well as linguistic, ethnographic and other sources confirmed that, Caucasian Albania extended the modern areas of the Azerbaijan Republic, part of Armenia, Georgia and Dagestan.

Roman Empire did not refuse from the goals about the capturing of Albania. As it was shown above, the attack of Mitridat Evpator VI and Tigran II to Minor Asia resulted bitterly for themselves.

After the campaigns of Lusy Litsinay Lukull against Mitridat VI and Tigran II, the senate of Rome appointed Q. Pompey as the governor of occupied Eastern provinces. Rome soldiers under the leadership of Pompey, which destroyed the troops of Tigran II, the successor of Mitridat VI moved to the South Caucasus in 66 BC. The first Albanian governor Oroys attacked to Rome army with his 40 thousand troops in the shore of Kura. Although Oroys chose a suitable moment for attacking (Rome soldiers were celebrating their holiday of Saturnalii) this attack was destroyed. So, Pompey defeated the troops of Oroys and made him sign the treaty.

Although, Pompey directed to Iberia after this victory, Albanians implemented different uprisings. Nervous Pompey came back to Albania and met with 72 thousandth troop of Kozis, the brother of oroys near the shore of Alazan in 65 BC. During the battle Kozis entered to the camp of Rome and did his best to kill Pompey. But Rome general wounded Kozis. This battle, where amazon women also participated ended with the victory of Rome. So, Oroys, who went to mountains and was obliged to sign treaty with Pompey again.

Nevertheless, the struggle of Albania did not let Pompey to reach to the Caspian shore.

During the famous expedition through Armenia (in 36 BC) under the leadership of general Antony, Roman army entered to Albania under the leadership of general Kanidie Kross. They won the battle over Albania and obliged governor Zober to subordinate them.

There are a few facts about the history of Albania in 1st and 2nd centuries BC. Frequent attacks of Rome, Parfia and other neighbourhood states to Albania proved that, this state could preserve its independence. The Roman emperor Adrian (117-138) sustained in friendly relationship with Albania, which could preserve its independence and territorial integrity during the Eastern campaign of Roman emperor Trayan (96-117).

According to many sources, Albania was governed by little line of Arshakid dynasty in 205 AD. New dynasty did his best to strengthen its foreign political positions as well. According to latest foreign sources that were confirmed by Albanian historian M.Kalankatlu, the territories from the shore of Kura till the river of Aras, the present time Agstafa belonged to Albania. The southern part of modern Dagestan was also included to Albania.

At the end of 3rd and at the beginning of 2nd centuries BC there was shaped social, class inequality in the Northern part of Azerbaijan and began the process of class society. In the second half of 1st millennium BC close neighbourhood, close relationship with Median and Akhamani empires pushed to the formation of slavery relations in socio-economic and social-political life stock of Albania. Close relations with neighbourhood states that archaeological facts also proved the results about the transition of Albania from the period of initial communities to feudalism without slavery phase did not possess any ground. In Albania, that did not differ from its neighbourhood countries in socio-economic development, the settlers worshiped to the Sun, Moon and other Gods. Superior priest of temple of Moon that was situated in the West of the country was considered the most influenced and prominent person after the tsar.

Economic life: Slavery in Albania and Atropatena did not reach to the level of classic slavery, the labour of slaves were utilized in the work of temples and houses. Antique authors gave evidences about the use of slaves that were called “ierodul” (“holy slave”) in the work of temples “holy places” (the area where the temple of God of Moon was situated in) in the west of the country.

During the slavery period the settlers of Azerbaijan were engaged in agriculture, craft and cattle-breeding as well. Strabo wrote that, Albanian fields produced “not only all kitchen garden harvests, but also various plants; there were planted ever-green plants too. The plains of Albania were irrigated much better than Babylon and Egypt rivers. And that’s why it preserves its beauty and harvested capability”.

Different agricultural implements, were discovered in archaeological excavations proved that arable forming was superior engagement among the population of Azerbaijan. Cultivated plains, suitable climate, suitable natural conditions provided arable farming to be the most developed engagement. In Albania that possessed the best irrigative system, there were gathered 2-3 harvests in a year. There were enlarged fishery in Azerbaijan too.

The most significant place in the agriculture of Albanian tribes played cattle-breeding. All types of tribes were engaged in this type of agriculture. The harvest plains gave suitable conditions for development of cattle breeding here. Cattles were used in the producing of cheese, butter and milk. The animals were utilized not only in milk producing, but also the producing of meat, leather also they were used as the power of cultivation of lands.

Albanians were engaged in poultry and hunting of wild birds too. Ancient authors gave some evidences about these. There are found the bones of deer, oxen, gazelle and other animals during the excavations. In the writings of Strabon and Yuly Solin were mentioned about the use of hunting dogs by Albanians during the hunting.

Craft and  trade: Archaeological materials prove that, there were developed jewellery, pottery, sewing and other implements of handicraft in Albania.

Ancient Azerbaijan cities, situated in suitable strategic regions and played an important role as trade centres, as well as there were places in the intersection of trade ways. There were crossed not only local (connecting separate regions of the country) but also international (connecting different countries) trade ways.

Qazaka, Gabala, Vera, Ayniana, Anariaka and other Azerbaijan cities had trade relations with Greek, Macedonian, Roman, Parfian and other antique cities. These were proved by the discoveries of foreign moneys and other objects in the territory of our country.

There were famous different versions of craft from ceramic in the agriculture life stock of Albanian population. Pottery was much more well-known among the craft types. The huge population that settled at the cities were engaged in this type of craft. There were discovered various plates, burned bricks in archaeological excavations, implemented in Minghachavir, Gabala, Shamakha, Ismailli, Quba and other cities of Azerbaijan.

Most of pottery things were related to local traditions, but there were felt the influence of the culture of Greece, Rome and the Middle East in the handicrafts of Albanian craftsmen.

There were existed the produce of a glass in Albania, in the beginning of our century. But most of glass products especially art products were brought from foreign countries. There were discovered different types of cloth such as silk and wool.

There were extended international relations along to local trade at the result of the creation of Albanian state in Azerbaijan. Developing agricultural life stock, being the intersection of international trade ways became the reasons of joining of this state to the world trade relations. This process intensified after the campaign of Alexander the Great.

The one of international ways crossed through the territory of Albania across the Caspian shore and united the North and the South.

Transit water way also crossed through Albanian area. Historians mentioned that, through the river of Amu-Derya “there are brought a lot of Indian products….. These products were directed to Albania from here and they were delivered to the Black sea through the river of Kura”. The international relations were confirmed by discovered of different brought materials, such as ceramics, glass and glass materials, metal plates, jewellery and also foreign moneys.

The population of Azerbaijan made trade relations by exchanging and they had no possess monetary till the establishment of Albanian state. Strabo described this trade even at the 1st century BC as: “They did not use coins and they are only engaged in barter (exchange trade)”. But the message of prominent antique author is denied by the reveal of coins and monetary treasures of the ancient time. The reveal of such moneys in Shamakha, in 1958 and silver moneys in Gabala (1966) confirmed that, Albanians use monetary before Strabo, that is 100 years ago. Earliest coins that were discovered in the historical territory of Albania belonged to the period of Alexander the Great.

Approximately, in the half of the 3rd century BC there began to mint their own coins in Albania that looked like to the coins of Alexander the Great. They were found in monetary treasures as well as in archaeological excavations. Along to local coins there were utilized the coins of Selevkids, Parfia, Rome and other huge states in Albania.

Religions points: There were extended different religious thoughts in Azerbaijan in the antique period. Totemizm, Fetishism, Fire-worshiping and polytheism were much more famous here.

Approximately, at the end of the 6th century BC Zoroastrianism that inclined to fire worshiping played an important role in religious life stock of Atropatena. The main points of this religion are described in the books of Avesta – Yasna, Yashta, Videvdat and etc. According to sources,   Zoroaster   (Zaratushtra,   Zardusht),   the   creator   of Zoroastrianism, which was enlarged in the central Asia, Iran, Afghanistan, Southern Azerbaijan lived in the 7th century BC. But neither of thoughts about the motherland of Zardusht (such as his motherland could be Iran, Azerbaijan or Central Asia) was able to be confirmed.

Religious thoughts of Zoroastrianism presented the world as the place of struggle between two powers Good and Bad, or Ahuramazda (Hormuzd) and Anqra Manyu (Ahriman) There were some considerations that, the thoughts of Avesta were extended not only in Atropotena, but also in some regions of Northern Azerbaijan. But most of the population in the North believed to sky Gods, such as “Helios, Zevs, especially Selena”.

We cannot also forget that, Turkish ethnos that settled here worshiped to the God (Tanri) of sky. This belief referred to the pray of Sun, Moon and other sky elements.

Not only Zoroastrianism priests – mags, but also the leaders of Albanian temples, especially superior priest of the God of Moon possessed great influence in the social – political life stock of the country.

About Ismayil bey Zardabli

Author of t extbook for the higher educational institutions "THE HISTORY OF AZERBAIJAN, from ancient times to the present day"