Imagining Samarkand: Fruitful Themes in 13th-16th Century Literature on a Silk Road City
Vexillum: The Undergraduate Journal of Classical and Medieval Studies, Vol 2, (2012)
The aim of this paper is to discuss the extent to which travelers, writers, poets and mythologies exchanged ideas about the city of Samarkand in the Mughal and Timurid eras causing the development of specific historical ideas surrounding this specific city. In order to do this, the paper lays out a brief history of the city, followed by literary analyses of histories of the city. It uses these analyses to illustrate the relationships between histories and myths which arose at various points on the silk road and to point to thematic development surrounding Samarkand. In doing this, it argues that an exchange of information about the city of Samarkand led to the development of an idea of the city which continues to impact academic discussions. The paper pays particular attention to Persian and Mughal Indian materials. It relys primarily on historical accounts from the 13th-16th centuries, myths and semi-historical accounts recorded in this time about earlier eras, and poetry from across Eurasia which references the city. In other words, this paper is not meant to be a history of Samarkand itself; it is rather provides a history of the myths and stories which surround the discourse of the Samarkand.