previous next


BACTRA (τὰ Βάκτρα, Strab. xi. pp. 513, 516, &c.; Βάκτρα Βαδίλειον, Ptol. 6.11.9; Arrian, 4.7. 15; Dion. Perieg. 10.734; Βακτρίον and Βάκτρα, [p. 1.364]Steph. B. sub voce Bactra, Curt. 7.4; Plin. Nat. 6.15; Virg. Georg. 2.138; Bactrum, Plin. Nat. 6.16, Adj. Βακτριανός), was one of the chief towns, if not the capital, of the province of Bactriana. It was one of the oldest cities in the world; and the modern Balkh, which is believed to occupy its site (Burnes, Bokhára, vol. i. p. 237), is still called by the Orientals Omm‘ ul-belád or “the mother of cities.” There has been some doubt, both in ancient and modern times, with regard to the name. Strabo (xi. p.513) and Pliny (6.18) evidently considered that Bactra and Zariaspa were one and the same. Arrian (4.7, 22) distinguishes between the two, though he does not definitely state their relative positions. Pliny (l.c.) adds that the appellation of Bactrum was derived from the river on which the town was situated; though this view, too, has been questioned. [BACTRUS] Curtius (7.4) places it on the Bactrus, in a plain below the Paropamisan range. Ptolemy (6.11.9) merely states that it was on the banks of a river, without giving any name to the stream. Alexander the Great appears to have passed the winter of B.C. 328--327 there, on his return from Sogdiana, as, early in the following spring, he commenced his invasion of the Panjáb. (Arrian, 4.22; Diod. 17.83; Curt. 7.5, 10.) Burnes speaks in the highest terms of the accuracy of the Roman historian. “The language of the most graphic writer,” says he, “could not delineate this country with greater exactness than Quintus Curtius has done.” (Bokhára, vol. i.p. 245.) At present, Balkh is about 6 miles from the mountains, and the river does not actually pass its walls. Heeren (Asiat. Nat. vol. ii. p. 29) has dwelt at considerable length on the natural and commercial advantages of the position of Bactra and of its neighbourhood; and has shown that, from very early times, it was one of the great commercial entrepôts of Eastern Asia. (Burnes, Bolkhára, vols. i. and ii.; Wilson, Ariana; Heeren, Asiat. Nat. vol. ii.)


hide References (7 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (7):
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 17.83
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 6.15
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 6.16
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 6.18
    • Curtius, Historiarum Alexandri Magni, 7.10
    • Curtius, Historiarum Alexandri Magni, 7.4
    • Curtius, Historiarum Alexandri Magni, 7.5
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: