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HYRCA´NIA ( Ὑρκανία: Eth.Ὑρκανός, Eth. Ὑρκάνιος, Eth. Hyrcanius), a province of Asia, which was bounded on the north by the Caspian, sometimes called from it the Hyrcanian sea; on the east by the Oxus (the Jihon or Amu-Darja), which separates it from Margiana; on the S. bythe northern spurs of the Montes Sariphi (now Hazari), which separate [p. 1.1106]it from Ariana and Parthia; and on the W. by the M. Coronus and the river Charindas, which formed its limits in the direction of Media. Its boundaries at different periods of history were, however, various; and it is probable that in later times it comprehended the greater part of the districts now known by the names of Mazanderán, Khorassán, Dabistán, and Dahistán. More strictly, it would have included only Mazanderán. According to Arrian, the district was situated on the left of the road which led to Bactra, and was intersected by high and steep mountains, but with, however, a champaign country extending along the sea (3.25). This would correspond with the present state of Mazanderán. According to Strabo, it extended along the Caspian sea, which was very marshy along its shores, and was watered by both the Ochus and the Oxus on their way into that sea; he states also that it was separated from the desert by the river Sarneius (xi. pp. 508-511). Professor Wilson has remarked that this view would give far too great an extent to this province, the name of which is undoubtedly preserved in the modern Gurkan or Jorjan, a town to the E. of Asterabad. (Ariana, p. 142.) The principal rivers of Hyrcania were the Sarneius (now the Atrek), the Socanaa, the Syderis, the Maxera, and the Charindas. Its chief city appears to have borne at different times various appellations; but it is most probable that the TAPE of Strabo (xi. p.508), the Zadracarta of Arrian (3.23, 25), and the CARTA of Strabo (l.c.) were, as the chief residence of the rulers of the land, one and the same place. Besides this, was TALABROCA (Strab. l.c.), probably the same as the TAMBRAX of Polybius (10.31); HYRCANIA or HYRCANA; and SAMARIANA. Some part of Hyrcania, especially that near the sea, is stated to have been very fertile, especially in wine and fruits (Strab. xi: p. 508): corn, however, was not sown there (Strab. 1. c.), and the mountain land was covered with dense woods (Diod. 17.75), which were full of wild bees (Strab. l.c.). The land also contained many wild beasts, as the tiger. (Mela, 3.5; Amm. Marc. 23.6.) The people of the land bore the generic name of Hyrcani; but the country itself was divided into several smaller districts, such as Astabene, Siracene, and Arsitis.

Of the Hyrcani, as distinct from the nations in their neighbourhood, the ancient writer's say little; but Xenophon states that they were subdued by the Assyrians (Cyrop. 1.5), and Curtius that 6000 of them were in the army of Dareius when he was preparing to resist the invasion of Alexander (3.2). They probably partook of the character of the wild tribes adjoining them; and the statement of Strabo, that no corn was sown in Hyrcania, would lead to the inference that the bulk of the population was an unsettled one. On their NE. frontier we know that many Scythian tribes were settled, as the Dane.


hide References (3 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (3):
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 17.75
    • Polybius, Histories, 10.31
    • Ammianus Marcellinus, Rerum Gestarum, 23.6
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