If it is to be said that there is a Paradise to be seen in this world, then the Paradise of this world is Samarqand,’ thus wrote the Iranian historian ’Ata Malik Juvaini in the 13th century.
Samarqand occupied a strategic position on communication routes from the Iranian plateau in the west to China in the east. These connections contributed to Samarqand’s rich material culture which in turn had a significant impact on the arts of other cultures, particularly Sasanian and Islamic Persian and Sui and Tang China in the Pre-Islamic period.
This course explores both the real and legendary status of Samarqand and its surrounding region, as reflected in art, archaeology, architecture and poetry. The Sogdians, great traders and middlemen along the ‘Silk Routes’ from the 5th – 9th centuries, commissioned elaborately painted palaces, rich textiles and silverware. The advent of Islam brought with it great city building programmes, particularly under the Samanids (9th and 10th centuries) and the Timurids (founded by Tamerlane in 1370), not only in Samarqand but also in the artistic centres at Bukhara and Khiva.
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