Khwarazm

 Aral
Sea
Ustyurt
Plateau
Kyzylkum
Khwarazm
Karakum
The Khwarazm oasis on a satellite image from 2009
Faravahar background
History of Greater Iran

Khwarazm m/, or Chorasmia ə/ (Persian: خوارزم‎, Xwârazm or Xârazm) is a large oasis region on the Amu Darya river delta in western Central Asia, bordered on the north by the (former) Aral Sea, on the east by the Kyzylkum desert, on the south by the Karakum desert, and on the west by the Ustyurt Plateau. It was the center of the Iranian[1] Khwarazmian civilization, and a series of kingdoms such as the Persian Empire, whose capitals were (among others) Kath, Gurganj (the modern Konye-Urgench) and – from the 16th century on – Khiva. Today Khwarazm belongs partly to Uzbekistan, partly to Kazakhstan and partly to Turkmenistan.

Names and etymology

Names

Khwarazm has been known also as Chorasmia, Khaurism,[2] Khwarezmia, Khwarizm, Khwarazm, Khorezm, Khoresm, Khorasam, Kharazm, Harezm, Horezm, and Chorezm.[3]

In Avestan the name is Xvairizem; in Old Persian Huwarazmish; in Modern Persian: خوارزمXvārazm; in Arabic: خُـوَارِزْمXuwārizm; in Old Chinese *qʰaljɯʔmriɡ (呼似密); in Modern Chinese Huālázǐmó (花剌子模 / Xiao'erjing: خٗوَلاذِموْ); in Tajik: Хоразм, Xorazm, خارَزم; in Kazakh: Хорезм (Xorezm), حورەزم; in Uzbek: Xorazm, Хоразм, خورەزم; in Turkmen: Horezm, Хорезм, خوْرِزم; in Turkish: Harezm; in Greek language Χορασμία (Chorasmía) and Χορασίμα (Chorasíma) by Herodotus.

Etymology

The Arab geographer Yaqut al-Hamawi in his Muʿǧam al-buldan wrote that the name was a Persian compound of khwar (خوار), and razm (رزم), referring to the abundance of cooked fish as a main diet of the peoples of this area.[4]

C.E. Bosworth, however, believed the Persian name to be made up of xor (خور "the sun") and zam (زم "earth, land"), designating "the land from which the sun rises",[5] although a similar etymology is also given for Khurasan. Another view is that the Iranian compound stands for "lowland" from kh(w)ar "low" and zam "land.".[3] Khwarazm is indeed the lowest region in Central Asia (except for the Caspian Sea to the far west), located on the delta of the Amu Darya on the southern shores of the Aral Sea. Various forms of khwar/khar/khor/hor are commonly used also in the Persian Gulf to stand for tidal flats, marshland, or tidal bays (e.g., Khor Musa, Khor Abdallah, Hor al-Azim, Hor al-Himar, etc.)

The name also appears in Achaemenid inscriptions as Huvarazmish, which is declared to be part of the Persian Empire.

Some of the early scholars believed Khwarazm to be what ancient Avestic texts refer to as Airyanem Vaejah (Ariyaneh Waeje; later Middle Persian Iran vij).[6] These sources claim that Old Urgench, which was the capital of ancient Khwarazm for many years, was actually Ourva, the eighth land of Ahura Mazda mentioned in the Pahlavi text of Vendidad.[7] However, Michael Witzel, a researcher in early Indo-European history, believes that Airyanem Vaejah was located in what is now Afghanistan, the northern areas of which were a part of ancient Khwarazm and Greater Khorasan.[8] Others, however, disagree. University of Hawaii historian Elton L. Daniel believes Khwarazm to be the "most likely locale" corresponding to the original home of the Avestan people, and Dehkhoda calls Khwarazm "the cradle of the Aryan tribe" (مهد قوم آریا).[9]