(1864-1930), German historian and orientalist, specialist in historical geography. His monumental Ērānšahr (1901) is still an authoritative work and probably his most important. His books are full of profound and nearly inexhaustible erudition, revealing that their author was a learned historian, philologist, geographer, and ethnologist.


MARKWART, JOSEF (Marquart until 1922), German historian and orientalist, specialist in historical geography (b. Reichenbach near Spaichingen [Württemberg], 9 December 1864; d. Berlin, 4 February 1930; Figure 1, Figure 2).

Life. The son of a peasant farmer, Markwart enrolled in Tübingen University to study Catholic theology, but he soon changed subjects and devoted his time to philological and historical studies, focusing in particular on ancient history and classical and Oriental languages. The teachers to whom he felt indebted most were Albert Socin (1844-99), the Swiss orientalist, who at that time taught in Tübingen, and the theologian Paul Vetter (1850-1906), from whom he acquired thorough knowledge of the Armenian language. In 1889, on the recommendation of Socin, Markwart went to Bonn as an assistant secretary of the orientalist Eugen Prym (1843-1913) in order to assist him in editing Ṭabari’s History. Working with Prym not only gave Markwart the opportunity to devote himself more deeply to Arabic, and more specifically to Arabic historians, but also brought him into contact with the Dutch Arabist Michael Jan de Goeje (1836-1909), the chief editor of Ṭabari’s compendious work. Having submitted his Assyriaka des Ktesias (Markwart, 1893) as his doctoral thesis, he graduated from Tübingen in 1892, and in 1897 he qualified as a university lecturer for ancient history (cf. Markwart, 1896b). 

Since he could not gain a professorship or another permanent position, in 1900 he went to Leiden as an assistant (and later as curator) at the ethnographical museum (Museum Volkenkunde). In 1902, he again qualified for a position at Leiden University in the subject of languages of the Christian Orient, and by 1910 had become an assistant to their department of Central Asiatic languages. He finally achieved his goal in 1912, when he was appointed extraordinary (and ordinary from 1920 forward) professor of Iranian and Armenian philology at Berlin University. In 1922 he changed the spelling of his last name from “Marquart” to the more Germanic “Markwart,” paralleling his tendency to make use of an idiosyncratic orthography in his writings.

Studies on the history and (historical) geography of Iran. Markwart’s first book (1893), his doctoral thesis, aims at reconstructing and critically appreciating the Assyriaká of Ctesias of Cnidus, one of the major works of Greek historiography on the early history of the Near East. The Assyriaká has only survived through excerpts and later quotations, though it was read up until Byzantine times. From analyzing this work he expected to gain a significant insight into the author’s and, in general, the Greek historians’ methodologies, and not necessarily a deeper familiarity with the general historical facts. The main source for our knowledge of Ctesias’s work is Diodorus Siculus (2.1-34), who alone presents a fairly coherent account of ancient Near Eastern history before the Persian empire; it is taken partly from Ctesias, partly from other authors, but always raises the problem of whether Diodorus drew his wisdom directly from Ctesias (whom he quotes several times by name) or from other sources depending on Ctesias as well. 

Contrary to the former method of comparing the Ctesianic elements in Diodorus with fragments and quotations preserved elsewhere, Markwart started his study with those passages in Diodorus that expressly go back to later authors of the Hellenistic period. Because Markwart realized that some passages are clearly based on various writings of Agatharchides of Cnidus (2nd century BCE), Markwart (1893, pp. 504-20) ventures the statement that this author (and particularly his Asiatiká [or whatever may have been its exact title], a history of the Near East up to the Diadochi) is the only source of Diodorus for the Assyrian and Median history in book II of his work. In addition, he tries to uncover and establish beyond doubt the truly Ctesianic elements in Diodorus (and other sources).

Moreover, Markwart examines the correlation between Photius’s excerpts from Ctesias and the structure of Ctesias’s Persiká itself (or the range of its single parts, its “books”). Here he observes a considerable imbalance, which he explains with the deduction (1983, p. 592) that Photius did not read the original of Ctesias’s work but only an epitome of it, or, in other words, that his excerpt is an extract of an extract (viz., that of Nero’s contemporary Pamphila). This also explains why the Assyrian and Median histories are missing entirely from Photius’ excerpt, and why he often includes names in modernized forms (e.g., Ekbátana, instead of Ctesias’s Agbátana, as confirmed by Stephanus Byzantius). In addition, Markwart deals with the sources used by Ctesias himself and with the way Ctesias used them (pp. 594-630). 

Ctesias’s account of the facts he thought worth reporting is based on sources of various kinds (e.g., on narrations he heard from courtiers or from eunuchs at the court, descriptions of the ancient Iranian heroic legends, etc.) which he combined loosely, provided that he did not make up the story himself; Ctesias often changed things arbitrarily or placed them into other contexts for the sole purpose of arguing against Herodotus. Examples of these changes include projecting persons and/or their names from his own time back into the past and ascribing certain deeds to the responsible party’s son rather than to the responsible party himself, a method often referred to as the “generational shift” (e.g., when Mardonius is quoted as one of Darius I’s fellow conspirators instead of his father, Gobryas). Markwart emphasizes that “it is seriously out of the question that Ctesias set his eyes on any official records” (p. 629).

As we see repeatedly in all of Markwart’s publications, a great number of special problems and questions of minor details are discussed and solved, even if the solution is not always ideal or even adequate. This is the way he studies, inter alia, the information that ancient authors provide on Zoroaster and his doctrine (1893, pp. 529 ff.), or the chronology of the Assyrian and Median kings according to Ctesias (pp. 562 ff.). Moreover, his commentary on the list of Persian kings is followed by a discussion of when exactly Ctesias finished his book (according to Markwart, at least by 389 B.C.E.) and how many years Ctesias stayed in Persia altogether. The favored place for such discussions are excursuses (pp. 633 ff.), so here are found those on the chronology of the events reported by Darius in the Bisotun inscription, on the original home of the Persians, or on the lists of the Assyrian and Median kings according to Yaʿqubi and Masʿudi. His proposed linguistic interpretations are frequently untenable, e.g., on the Greek rendering of particular Iranian phonetic sequences (as Gk. oi from Iran. *au, via Phrygian [sic]) or on the etymological interpretation of names (including that of Zōroástrēs).

Markwart’s dissertation was followed by a series of general studies of the political, cultural, linguistic, and religious histories of Iran, first in a long paper (1895), then in a two-volume work titled Untersuchungen zur Geschichte von Eran (1896b; 1905). Here, Markwart based his studies on foreign sources or those handed down in foreign languages; thus he always takes into consideration the neighboring peoples, whether hostile or friendly. This is because most information on the Achaemenids, the Parthians, and the Sasanians are handed down by their neighbors. According to Markwart, the basis of the name Ērān is gen. pl. Ariyānām, and he holds the view that Greek Arianoí denoted the Aryans (Iranians) independent from the Seleucid rulers at the time of Eratosthenes, and that the word retained this meaning owing to Eratosthenes’ authority (1895, pp. 628 ff.). 

Another subject is the lists of the Arsacid kings in Iran and Armenia according to Mār Abā and Pseudo-Moses Khorenatsʿi (1985, pp. 646 ff.; 1896b, pp. 37-42). One cannot understand why Markwart (1895, pp. 667-69) argued at that time for interpreting the common element of Old Iranian personal names as *franah- instead of farnah-; later he changed his opinion at least partially (1905, pp. 183 ff.), claiming he was led astray by Rawlinson’s outdated readings of the name Vindafarnā, which gave him the impression that *farnah- had already become *farrah- by Darius’s time. It is interesting that he partially succeeded in demonstrating the incorrect syntax of the inscriptions of Artaxerxes II at Susa and Hamadan (1895, pp. 669-72; cf. also 1930b, pp. 49-50, n. 5); so in any case he was among those who dealt with the oddities in the Old Persian of the later Achaemenids.

In the study of the origin of the later Pontic and Cappadocian ruling dynasties, Markwart (1896b, pp. 5 ff.) again takes up the problem of Diodorus’s sources, and in particular the method of Agatharchides, who now is generally considered to be the main source exploited by Diodorus; he regards the family tree of the Cappadocian kings as the invention of a learned author who invented their fictional superiority to the neighboring Pontic dynasty in nobility and age. When discussing the relation of Pompeius Trogus to Diodorus, Agatharchides becomes involved, because Trogus depends on him to a great extent. But much remains unclear, because many of the relevant books are lost and even Trogus’s Historiae Philippicae are known only fragmentarily from Iustinus’s epitome. 

For some pieces of information Markwart compared the Armenian-language book transmitted under the name of Faustus of Byzantium with parallel accounts in other sources, especially Ammianus Marcellinus (1896b, pp. 44 ff.); and here some improvements in chronology were made regarding the Armenian kings Arshak II (350-68 C.E.) and Pap (369-74 C.E.), as well as the Christianization of Armenia under Trdat the Great, ca. 295 C.E. (p. 52). After having clarified (pp. 56-63) the position and duties of the office of the hazārbed, Markwart turns for the first time to the Old Persian calendar (Markwart, 1896b, pp. 63 ff.; cf. idem, 1905, esp. pp. 192 ff.). His arrangement of the months (e.g., OPers. Garmapada as equivalent of Bab. Nisannu), as well as his explanation of the festival magophónia (Herodotus 3.79.3) as a misunderstanding of OPers. *Baga-yāda- “(the festival of) worship of the gods” (Markwart, 1896b, pp. 231-33) have long been refuted.

The second volume of the Untersuchungen (Markwart, 1905) also contains studies on noteworthy events of different periods of Iranian history; it deals with problems of chronology, politics, geography, ethnography, epigraphy, and even myth. Chap. 1 (pp. 1-19) is on the names of the Magi, the so-called Three Kings worshipping Jesus in the crib, for whom the Syrian tradition knows many names, which are often corrupt in the manuscripts. Markwart was unquestionably a pioneer on this topic, putting those lists of mostly twelve names in order and discovering the more-often-Iranian-than-Semitic sources of the names. To explain Alexander’s march from Persepolis via Rhagai to Herat in pursuit of Darius III and the sequence of related events (pp. 19-71), he found it necessary to contrast the Greek texts with later itineraries and the information provided by the medieval Persian and Arab geographers, as well as the actual relevant topographical conditions. 

The following chapters look at some names formed with the preposition *para “before, in front of,” e.g., the ethnic name Gk. Paropanisádai (pp. 71-77), and at the names of various Scythian tribes (pp. 77-96); here he deals also with the Scythian language and gives a number of astute, though somewhat daring, etymologies. In chap. 5 (pp. 96-126), before interpreting several Greek and Aramaic inscriptions from Cappadocia (of which he had only insufficient copies), he gives a thorough survey of the geography and history of that region, and for the first time attempts to discover the Achaemenid satraps of Cappadocia in the historical sources. 

Finally he studies the chronology of all the historical events from Cyrus’s death until the murder of Gaumāta and the various rebellions against Darius. Markwart also discovered that the Armenian revolt was not related to the one in Media under Fravartiš, but instead was instigated from Babylon (p. 167). According to our current knowledge, the resulting chronological survey for the years 522-19 B.C.E. (pp. 188-91) is inconsistent in many points with the relative and absolute chronologies, chiefly because the events reported in Columns I-III of the Bisotun text are distributed over much too long a period. It must be admitted, however, that at that time crucial passages of the text had not yet been correctly understood: neither Darius’s claim that he did all that he did “in one and the same year” (several times in DB IV), nor that the deeds reported in Col. V belong to his second and third regnal years (DB V.2-3).

Prompted by Arsène Soukry’s edition and translation of the longer redaction of the Armenian Ašxarhac‘oyc‘ “Geography” (Venice, 1881), Markwart wrote the monumental Ērānšahr (Markwart, 1901), which is still an authoritative work and probably his most important. While writing Ērānšahr, Markwart dealt with an essential part of the text edited by Soukry, which was a translation of the major work of early medieval Armenian historical geography and is based (via the lost Chōrographía oikoumeniké by Pappus of Alexandria) primarily on the age-old authority of Ptolemy and other Greek sources. It had been extended, however, for Armenia, the Caucasus, and Iran (i.e., here, the Sasanian empire) prior to the Arab invasions in the middle of the 7th century. Apart from the Persian provinces recorded by Ptolemy, the work lists the four great governorships of the Sasanian empire. It is currently believed that its author was not Moses of Khoren (Movsês Xorenac‘i), to whom it is ascribed by most of the manuscripts (first by one of 1178: Matenadaran library, no. 582), but rather Ananias of Shirak (Anania Širakac‘i; see Markwart, 1930a, p. 56*, etc.; idem, 1930b, p. 8, n. 2, etc.; idem, 1931, p. 5), and the prevailing view is that the longer redactions (preserved only in a single Venetian manuscript [Mechit. no. 1245] discovered by Soukry) is older than the shorter one, of which more than fifty copies are known; according to this view, the longer redaction is actually the original version. The shorter recension is not simply a later abridgement dating from the period after the Arab invasions, but at the same time an improved emendation containing a number of additions in order to incorporate the territorial changes that had occurred in the meantime.

Markwart dealt only with the not very extensive parts describing the Persian empire of the Sasanians. After careful critical revision, he published (and translated) both the shorter and the longer redactions (pp. 8-17, 137-42) and restored them to their original form; this holds true in particular for all the toponyms attested in this text, for which, apart from identifying and locating each place, he attempted to establish the original Armenian form, which is often maltreated (falsely split up or joined together, etc.); so in the end, the new text was improved in many places. But the actual masterstroke is the voluminously detailed critical commentary, in which the Ašxarhac‘oyc‘ is profoundly studied as a historical source and to which are added a number of excursuses dealing with, for example, the history of the Armenian margraves (bdeašxk‘; see BIDAXŠ) and their position within the hierarchy of offices, the historical geography of East Iranian Toḵārestān according to Chinese and Arabic sources (including several itineraries), the Kushan coins, and the topography of Kerman and Makrān

The excursus on Toḵārestān by itself is of momentous importance, as it attempts as complete as possible a historical-topographical study of this country (located between Iran, India, and China), based on every available source, regardless of format or language. Markwart’s commentary explains the succinct lists of choronyms (names of regions), toponyms, and other names attested in the text by comparing them with all other available sources; it is thus an excellent treasure-house on the historical topography of pre-Islamic Iran. 

This imposing book not only deals with the historical geography of Iran, but also with the frontier areas in the north and east, as well as the regions beyond, where a large number of tribes and races contended for rule. Thus the commentary on the eastern provinces of Sasanian Iran (Khorasan) is introduced by a very detailed survey of the historical and political relationships between the Sasanians and their eastern neighbors. Markwart notably discovered that the text does not list political provinces throughout, but partly includes church provinces; he therefore assumed that the author expanded his model from his own knowledge when treating the western parts of the area, and additionally made use of lists compiled by Nestorian bishops, Persian books, and books of Armenian historians such as Ełišê, Łazar of P‘arp, and Sebêos. 

Even if the author may not have been correct in every respect (e.g., regarding his view that the work was written in late Umayyad times at the earliest), Ērānšahr is, in totality, an extremely learned work that unfolds an enormous amount of source material before the reader with astute interpretation. Therefore this exhaustive historical-geographical account is of fundamental importance for the historical, topographical, and ethnographical knowledge of ancient Iran, especially the Sasanian empire and its extent during various periods of its existence, and even of the neighboring countries in the north and east with their non-Iranian (“barbarian”) inhabitants.

Among the many manuscripts left by Markwart, only one in principle was ready for press: a short piece of an unfinished translation of the Gathas he had prepared over the course of many years. Edited posthumously by his pupil Giuseppe Messina (Markwart, 1930b), it transcribes, translates, and comments upon Yasna 43. The text itself offers little beyond Bartholomae’s views; the extensive introductory essay (pp. 1-51) is the more interesting part of the book. Here he defends his own transcription of the Avestan script vis-à-vis F. C. Andreas’s theory; his conclusions rarely agree with those of Andreas, and he uses, instead, a complicated, intractable system of his own, an unsuitable mixture of transliteration and transcription that says nothing about how Avestan words were actually pronounced. Rather than leaning on paleographic studies, he tries to deduce the phonetic value of Avestan letters primarily on the rendering of Iranian (geographical and other) names in foreign languages regardless of their age or original Iranian dialect. Therefore, today the book is only of historical interest. He takes the strange view that the Gathas were originally recorded on wooden plates in the Old Persian cuneiform script (pp. 15 ff.). Likewise, with regard to the etymology the name (Av.) Zarauštra- (see Zoroaster. The name), which he glosses “with yellow camels,” it is unacceptable to separate that form completely from its Greek equivalent Zōroástrēs, in which he sees the reflex of an (unattested) form OIran. *Z(a)rvah-vāstra- “with green pastures” (pp. 22-28).

A second book edited posthumously by Messina is the edition and translation of the Šahrestānīhā ī Ērānšahr (Markwart, 1931), a list of the capital cities of Iran, specifically of Ērānšahr “the domain of the Iranians,” in Middle Persian (Pahlavi) script and language. This small treatise of geographical interest, composed probably under the caliph Manṣur (8th century) but based on older sources, mentions various regions and towns, as well as the names of their founders or builders and, occasionally, significant events known from the local tradition, which is often similar to the epic tradition. Regrettably, the text (particularly in the many names mentioned) is full of scribal errors and the like (as is often the case with onomastic material), which had to be emended by the editor by means of other evidence. Markwart gives the text in Pahlavi characters and in his personal transcription synoptically arranged side by side above the German translation. He was very comfortable annotating the text (pp. 24 ff.), based on his vast knowledge of the historical-geographical literature on Iran, and he etymologized the various forms of the names where it seemed appropriate. 

This may be the place also for mentioning the edition and translation of another short Middle Persian catalogue work, commonly called Māh ī Frawardīn rōz ī Hordād, where the events on the sixth day of the first month (the best day of the year) from the creation to the future resurrection of the dead are enumerated; it is the most valuable part of a longer paper on the Nowruz (Markwart, 1930c, pp. 742 ff.).

In a sense, Ērānšahr (Markwart, 1901) is followed by Wehrot und Arang (idem, 1938), which, though already mostly finished by 1907, was edited and published only posthumously by Hans Heinrich Schaeder. As suggested by its title, consisting of the Middle Persian forms of the names of the Oxus and Jaxartes, the book deals primarily with the toponymy of (north)eastern Iran and western Turkestan. Markwart’s research on the geography, history, and mythology of that region, which for antiquity and the Middle Ages can only come from Chinese sources or the writings of their western neighbors, starts with the name of the Oxus River (see Āmu Daryā) as attested in a Chinese source and turns then to the other evidence for the hydronym, Gk. Ôchos and Iran. *Vahu-, respectively. In antiquity, however, the name Ôchos denoted, not the Oxus but the river Balkh (called also Gk. Báktros or Zariáspēs), as well as the Harirud (Gk. Áreios) or the Tejen, which must also be meant by Gk. Ákēs attested in Herodotus (3.117.2) for the outlet of a gigantic, seemingly mythical, barrage. 

Markwart is led by association with this river system to a discussion of the myth of (Av.) Fraŋrasiian (see Afrāsiāb) and an attempt to identify the nine rivers enumerated in Yašt 19.67. By revealing errors of Ptolemy regarding the rivers of Bactria, he concludes that, in spite of Alexander’s campaign and the existence of the Greco-Bactrian kingdom, the Greeks had only a poor knowledge of the geography of Central Asia. He then turns to the Oxus River (Gk. Ôxos from Iran. *Vaxšu- “rising, growing”), which the Sasanian Persians called Weh-rōd. Because this name is found also in the Chinese “History of the Northern Dynasties,” Markwart was induced to discuss this work’s account of the Hephthalites and their capital city. However, several Chinese sources also list the name Å-hu for the Oxus in its entire course, from Wakhan to Ḵvārazm (see Chorasmia), which may be explained as a rendering of *Vahvī- (fem.) “the good one.” Consequently, he looks for toponomastic traces of this East Iranian name and finds one in the hydronym Vaḵ-āb (today Vaḵān/Wakhan), the name of the Oxus proper’s headstream; this means that MPers. Weh-rōd in the end is nothing other than a translation of the local East Iranian name *Vahvī (Markwart, 1938, pp. 51-52).

In chap. III, following a short discussion of the tributaries of the Upper Oxus and of the mountainous country Kumēd (Ptolemy’s Kōmêdai), between Dushanbe and Kashgar, he deals with Lake Oaxus (mentioned by Pliny, Naturalis historia 6.48, as the source of the Oxus River) and with several names of the Zarafšān area. This leads him further to the thesis that *Vaxšu- originally was not a proper name, but a common noun denoting a stretch of running or standing water (p. 86). He further quotes from Abu Rayḥān Biruni (on the Sogdian Mazdā worshippers and on the kingdom of Bolōr) and mentions the ethnography of the eastern Hindu Kush to explain the strange belief held throughout Wakhan that the Vaḵāb forks into two arms (Oxus and Gilgit rivers), so that the Oxus and the Indus (Arab. Mehrān) come from the same source, or that (as it is written in Bundahišn XIA2, fol. 45a, 14 ff.) the Wehrōd in India pours out into the sea (pp. 113-14). 

Another question, as to whether this Mazdayasnian cosmological view is genuinely Iranian, is taken up in chap. IV “Wehrōt, Waṅuhi Dāitya und Raṅha” (pp. 114-33). While in Yašt 10.104 an eastern and a western river (hiṅdu-) are mentioned (as in the Bundahišn, the Iranian world in the north is bound by two great rivers, the Arang towards the west and the Wehrōd towards the east), the Vidēvdād (1.18) knows only of hapta hiṇdu “seven rivers”; since this common noun OIran. *hiṇdu- “river” had been lost and the Sasanian Persians knew only hindūg “Indian,” they applied this also in Yašt 10.104 hiṇdu- to the Indus River.

As to the Iranian legendary world, it is of interest that, according to Markwart the Iranian model of Princess Odátis in the famous love story told by Chares of Mitylene is the river (Av.) Vaŋuhī- Dāitiiā-, or its supposed Persian equivalent *Hudātiš (p. 129), and that her father Omártēs is the king of the Marathoí, whose name Markwart explains (pp. 187-88) as Iran. *mṛ-θu̯a- “who must die” (cf. Av. fra-mərəβa-); so for Markwart he actually becomes the king of the dead. In chap. V (pp. 133-65) about the river (Av.) Raŋhā-, which for him is the western one of the two rivers of Yašt 10.104, he must leave some questions open. Whereas Raŋhā- in the Avesta is a mythical water, originally it certainly was a real river, viz., the Volga, which is called Rhâ by Ptolemy (from Iran. *Rahā-). From the Armenian “Geography” (Ašxarhac‘oyc‘) we know only that in ancient times the Raŋhā- or (MPers.) Arang was sought north of Khorasan; but in Markwart’s opinion (pp. 138 ff.) a more precise location seems possible only by resolving the question of how far the expedition of Bahrām VI Čōbin against the Turks led him, a question for which the legendary tradition offers many alternatives.

Finally it should be stressed that it was Markwart (1927, p. 91 with n. 1) who coined the term Reichsaramäisch for the Aramaic official language used in the Achaemenid empire. In the same article (pp. 107 ff.), he also dealt with the “apostasy” of Iran to Islam (refusing to speak of conversion, because he believed that few Mazdayasnian converted to Islam voluntarily and by conviction). The gradual nature of Islamization in the various Iranian cities and provinces, he hoped, would be discerned, most likely from the local histories (as far as those exist), as is the case with Isfahan, where we learn from Abu Musā Ašʿari that first the nobles became Muslim, whereas the other parts of the population committed to paying a per-capita tribute.

Armenian studies. Another field to which Markwart felt attracted was, as one can already see in Ērānšahr (Markwart, 1901), Armenian studies. He published a number of studies on Armenian history, the first of which dealt with the origins of the Armenian alphabet and the biography of the script’s inventor, Saint Mesrop Mašt‘oc‘ (Markwart, 1917). He looks primarily at ancient historical sources on the topic, the historical milieu of the time in question, and the process of the script’s development, whereas paleography for him plays only a secondary role in the matter. In other words, he first takes into consideration the background, that is, the language(s) used in the churches of the then politically divided country and also the usage of writing in Armenia in public and private life. He presents the most ancient reports on this subject by Koriwn (and Łazar P‘arpec‘i), whom he endorses to a large extent. The first man who used an alphabet for writing Armenian was in all probability Bishop Daniel, a Syrian; and this writing system was improved by Mašt‘oc‘ (in 402-03 CE, according to Markwart), based on the model of the Greek uncial letters. So, all in all, in Markwart’s view we have to reckon with an eclectic sign-choosing procedure rather than with a single model, be it Greek, Syriac, or other.

Under the title Die Entstehung und Wiederherstellung der armenischen Nation (The origin and restoration of the Armenian nation) Markwart published a succinct survey of both the ethnography of Armenia in antiquity and of the history of the Armenians (Markwart, 1919), who had never been able to live together in a single state. In this connection he also attempted to bring out the causes determining the historical development of Armenia, such as geographical situation, the nature of the land, the interests of individual groups, etc., and here he rightly assumed that the Armenians avoided complete Hellenization solely because the Romans made them vassals, but did not establish a province proper. Markwart understood the Armenians’ settlement in the former Urartian empire as a settlement of Armenian military colonists by the Medes, initially at locations of strategic importance (p. 16). Furthermore, he detected a number of Iranian geographical names in Armenia (supposedly even two Iranian names of the upper Euphrates), from which he drew the conclusion that the Armenians were preceded there by Iranian nomads who grazed their cattle in the summer (pp. 18-19). Markwart is absolutely wrong (pp. 66-68), however, in recognizing the earliest trace of the Armenians, and indeed their forefathers, in the “Árimoi” (Homer, Iliad, 2.783), because the form attested there is de facto the geographical name Árima (ntr. plur.), which cannot be localized. 

The text of this booklet is based on a paper read in 1914, greatly elaborated by the time of its publication in 1919 with an epilogue (pp. 39-63) commemorating the 1915-16 genocide. He sketched the decimation and nearly complete eradication of the Armenians since the 11th century by Muslims, and especially by the Ottoman Turks, in whose empire the Armenians were practically outlaws. In sharp and furious words he denounced the Turks and the like-minded Europeans, especially the attitude of official German politics before and during World War I, which he characterized again and again as “turkoman.” This text was up-to-the-minute and can be understood only within the context of German and global politics in the year 1919, during which time the peace negotiations were taking place. 

Two of Markwart’s studies dealt with the topography and history of Armenia and the area south of the Caucasus; the first (Markwart, 1928) is especially devoted to the only classical itinerary that includes regions beyond the frontiers of the Roman Empire, viz., the map known as the Tabula Peutingeriana. Markwart took a close look at the route from the Armenian capital Artaxata (Arm. Artašat) in the direction of the Caspian Sea and then seemingly back towards the Iberian capital Armastica, i.e., Armazi. Contrary to the methods of other scholars, he did so neither from the classical philologist’s nor the modern geographer’s point of view, but rather with reference to the information found in the medieval Arabic, Armenian, Georgian, and other historians and geographers, particularly the anonymous 7th-century Ravennas Geographus. He went into the reports on the fortress of Armazi and on the region Gardman (Iber. Gardaban) in more detail, over which Iberians, Armenians, and Albanians often fought, and the region and fortress of the same name in the Armenian province of Uti. On that occasion the historical events are also discussed, in the context of which those names are mentioned; among them in particular is Ebn al-Aṯir’s account of Alp Arslān’s campaign against Byzantine Armenia in 1064 CE, in which Markwart saw an early model of the hostile attacks of the Turks against the Armenians during World War I.

The other study is on South Armenia (i.e., the principalities of Sōphēnē and Gordyēnē annexed by Tigran the Great) and the sources of the Tigris River (Markwart, 1930a), sent to the press only shortly before his untimely death. Large parts of this manuscript had been written in 1904 and were published in installments from 1913, but they were always expanded by additions until they had been put into their final forms. The starting point for the study was his observation that the source rivers of the Tigris and the lakes situated in that region are not correctly distinguished in the relevant ancient literature after Eratosthenes, but that the difficulties and contradictions can be solved to a certain extent by means of an Arabic author, viz., the description of the course of the Tigris and its tributaries by ʿAli b. Mahdi al-Kesrawi (ca. 900 CE, preserved by Yāqut), to which therefore the main part of the book is devoted (pp. 232-434). All other relevant accounts (Armenian, Byzantine, Syriac, and Arabic) are also taken into consideration. 

Even if Markwart primarily looked at the hydrography and topography and tried to reconstruct them, these studies also had unavoidable consequences on the assessment of historical events and developments; in fact, he expressly intended to combine past and present. A considerable number of Iranian geographical names are also dealt with in the course of this study, among them rather ancient ones in Armenia itself (pp. 8*-27*), where genuinely Armenian names from ancient times are scarcely known. He also observes toponyms of Iranian origin even in Kartvelian territory, far in the northwest. A special study is devoted to the localization of Tigranakert/Tigranókerta with the help of information found in itineraries and other writings, including modern travel books. Markwart decidedly argues for the identification with (Syr.) Maifarqeṭ, (Arab.) Mayyāfāreqin (pp. 86 ff.).

Markwart always showed sincere sympathy with the Armenian people and their fate, even beyond the years of their oppression and genocide in the first quarter of the 20th century, and he sharply attacked the persecution of Armenians throughout history by the Arabs, Kurds, and especially by the Turks. But in the end he traced the so-called “Armenian question” back to antiquity (Markwart, 1930a, pp. 111* f.), when Armenia for some time was a kind of bone of contention between the Roman empire (the great western power) and the states of the Arsacids and Sasanians, respectively. In his occasional studies about Armenian historical linguistics (especially the complicated historical phonology) he expressly held the view that the oldest layer of Iranian borrowings (see ARMENIA AND IRAN iv. Iranian Influences in Armenian) was already taken over into Armenian during the Achaemenid period, and that it was still affected by the Armenian sound shift.

Other fields. Markwart’s theological studies found their only expression in Fundamente israelitischer und jüdischer Geschichte (Markwart, 1896a), a series of ten short pieces on the Old Testament. The texts were examined with great philological care, and all share a common quality of referring to contemporary or nearly contemporary events, so that it is highly possible to come close to the original text by means of philological-historical methods and to find chronological fixed points. By this Markwart hopes to establish a standard that may also be applied to other texts or particular facts more disputed in this respect. In any case he broke new ground for the historical interpretation of the Old Testament and of the historical events described there. The only longer studies that at the same time are of Iranian interest deal with the organization of the post-Exilic Jewish community and with the apocryphal books Daniel and Esther. Since Judaism of that period was closely interlinked with Persian history, it is Markwart’s advantage to be able to tackle this problem with all his knowledge of Iranian history and its sources.

Immediately after the decipherment of the Old Turkic runes by Vilhelm Thomsen (made public in his Inscriptions de l’Orkhon déchiffrées, Helsingfors, 1896), Markwart endeavored to analyze and evaluate those newly accessible historical sources and to confront them with the historical tradition of the Byzantine Greeks, Arabs, and others, in his book about the first Turkic empire, Die Chronologie der alttürkischen Inschriften (Markwart, 1898a), which he soon followed with a longer article on similar subject matters (Markwart, 1898b). He compared the dates given chiefly in the longer inscriptions of Bilgä Kaġan and Köl-Tegin with those found in Chinese sources and Arabic historians like Ṭabari; and he is forced to revise Thomsen’s entire chronology of the runic inscriptions, because he recognized that a number of dates are set by 10 years too high, that is, too late (in the case of the compound numbers with the unit before the ten). He realized that the description of the events in the inscriptions is arranged after episodes that follow a precise chronological sequence and thus is able to give an improved chronological survey for the period from the end of the first (East) Turkic empire in 630 CE to the death of Bilgä Kaġan (734). 

Two excursuses deal with the political structure and topography of the Sogdiana according to the Arabic and Chinese sources, which do not always agree, and with the list of the (Proto-)Bulgarian princes found in several Slavic (especially Russian) chronographic writings. The most important conclusion Markwart posited in the subsequent article (Markwart, 1898b) is his identification of the new religion introduced in the Uighur empire about 760 CE as Manicheism—a discovery which was soon confirmed. In consequence of the decipherment of those inscriptions, the main focus of his research shifted more to Central Asia and the neighboring regions in the north and east, especially since the peoples of that area run into Iran in Sasanian times again and again at the Caucasus or at the Oxus River.

The five substantial studies put together as Chronologische Untersuchungen (Markwart, 1900) are entirely concentrated on the history of ancient Egypt and the ancient Near East. They are devoted to a critical examination of Berossus and Manetho. Berossus’s list of the Babylonian kings is confronted with the cuneiform sources and chronicle texts; by acute chronological calculations Markwart is able to reveal a good deal of differences between Berossus and other lists. Furthermore, he shows that Manetho, whose list is purely reconstructed, and his sources knew of only one dynasty of Hyksos with six kings ruling in Egypt; and he proves that Manetho’s account of the expulsion of the heretics and outcasts was associated with the Exodus of the Children of Israel arbitrarily; he is confident that he had found the historical background of the story of Joseph and the Egyptian model of this figure. 

Manetho’s information on the 18th and 19th dynasties prompts Markwart to reconstruct the lists of kings by comparing the excerpts of Flavius Josephus, Africanus, and Eusebius as well as the hieroglyphic monuments; thus he could prove that the summing up of the regnal years was done by Manetho’s excerptors. As to the chronology of the 25th (Ethiopian) and 26th (Saïtic) dynasties, for which Manetho can be compared with Herodotus (or his informants) and contemporary Egyptian and Assyrian inscriptions, he can establish that the regnal lists and the chronological tables are not Manetho’s work at all, but are condensed by later writers from the names and numbers they found in his historical oeuvre. It is not only in this book, however, that Markwart’s affinity for lists of Oriental kings becomes apparent (cf. already Markwart, 1893, pp. 649-53 on Yaʿqubi and Masʿudi about the Assyrian kings).

Only a few years later came the Osteuropäische und ostasiatische Streifzüge (Markwart, 1903), an impressive work on the history and geography of Eurasia in the period between 840 and 940 C.E., when the ethnic distribution over Europe and Asia was given a hard shake-up and partly took on its present shape. The long preface and outline of the general political situation of that time is followed by a discussion of the further development decisive for the maze of peoples between the East Franconian empire and the Caspian Sea and for the Turkic peoples farther to the east, that is, mainly the spread of the Scandinavian Rūs and the Turkic Khazars over Eastern Europe and the western migration of the Magyars (Hungarians), who escaped from the Turks. In Markwart’s eyes the entire area in the north before the formation of nation states has to be regarded as a unity from Central Europe to China. Since useful contemporary reports on the political and ethnic conditions, chiefly those knowing about the more remote and less civilized foreign peoples, are basically lacking (with the exception of Constantine Porphyrogennetus), our main sources are the geographical writings in the Arabic language, especially Gardizi, Masʿudi, and ʿAwfi (cf. also Markwart, 1924).

Markwart draws extensively from the Arabic and other sources and deals critically with the topographical, chronological, and historical differences between them. The reader learns much new information about the Khazars (q.v.; that is, about the localization of their capital city Itil at the Volga; their conversion to Judaism; their relations to other, especially neighboring peoples), the Magyars (i.e., about their prehistory and ethnographical position, especially their Byzantine designation as Toûrkoi; their raid on the Byzantine Empire and Constantinople in 934 CE), the Slavs, and in particular the Russians (and their name, Rōs) according to the accounts of Masʿudi and Geyhāni based on various, sometimes contradictory sources. To Geyhāni’s sources belongs also the report of one Hārun b. Yaḥyā’s journey from Constantinople to Rome with a description of those two cities; it is translated and in detail commented upon (pp. 206-70). In an excursus to Geyhāni’s account of the northern countries Markwart deals with the origin of the Iberian (Georgian) Bagratid dynasty (pp. 391-465), as far as light can be shed on it by Byzantine, Arabic and Armenian sources; this discussion leads to a survey of the Iberian kings from Gurgēn (contemporary to Justinus and Justinian I) and a genealogy of the Bagratids until the 9th century.

Motivated by the work of his orientalist friend Willy Bang (Louvain) about the Codex Cumanicus, Markwart dealt with the national character of the Cumans (Markwart, 1914). Starting from Constantine Porphyrogennetus’s ethnographical survey of South Russia in the Middle Ages, he collects all information he could find about the Cumans (Byz.-Gk. Kómanoi) or (Russ.) Polovtsy, the Petchenegs, Oghuz, Kipchaks, Tatars, and others in all sorts of sources, and he attempts to filter out of the exaggerating reports and stories the reliable facts on their origin and ethnic character. He presents the relevant accounts (especially in Arabic and Chinese language), analyzes them in detail and compares them with one another; as always he undertakes to identify the persons quoted and to localize the places (towns, rivers, mountains, etc.) mentioned. Thus historical geography and ethnography received a pioneering work dealing with an area for which the time seemed not yet ripe even for its author. In a diagram on p. 162, Markwart summarizes the layers of peoples who followed each other in the particular regions of the steppes on both sides of the Volga River from the 7th to the 13th century. Of direct Iranistic relevance is an appendix (pp. 196-98) on the significance of historical topography for textual criticism of the Šāh-nāma, which is illustrated by an instructive example, viz. marz i Kūšān meaning “march towards the Kushan empire.”

Here may be added a reference to the paper on the Sigynnians (Markwart, 1932), one of the most disputed peoples of antiquity. It is one of those tribes of whom the ancient historians, geographers, and other writers knew hardly anything except the name, so that they felt free to put them simply somewhere on their maps. Here Markwart opposes the widespread view that the Sigynnians are an Iranian nomadic tribe and prefers the explanation of the name as the ethnicon belonging to the toponym Sígynnos, the name of a town at the south coast of the Black Sea.

Far from all the other publications of Markwart is the catalogue of the “Benin collection” in the Leiden ethnographical museum (Markwart, 1913), the fruit of his work there. The main topic is the description of the antiquities that came to the Netherlands from Benin (Nigeria), the capital of the former kingdom of Benin at the Gulf of Guinea. But much more interesting are the hundreds of pages of Markwart’s prolegomena about the history of the trade routes from the Mediterranean and the Red Sea area to West Africa, about the history of the former empires from Ghana to Sudan and Ethiopia, as well as the great movements of North African populations from the earliest times, which he undertook to substantiate above all from the Arabic sources (among them the valuable account of Yaʿqubi). The thorough knowledge of those North African conditions shown therein is fairly surprising and for that time quite astonishing.

Evaluation. Josef Markwart was an Oriental scholar of exceptionally wide knowledge and remarkable skill in Oriental languages. He has furthered research in a vast field of historical studies devoted to linguistics and philology, epigraphy and paleography, geography and ethnography; and historical research for him always included cultural history and history of the languages and religions. His studies are based on thorough familiarity with the relevant classical historians and the historical-geographical literature (including itineraries). This is valid especially for all the works relevant for Iranian geography in classical and Byzantine Greek, Latin, Syriac, Armenian, Middle and New Persian, Arabic, and other languages. Without any doubt Markwart was an authority on the medieval geographical and ethnographical literature, whether in Arabic or Persian language, not least on the surviving Middle Persian books and the Sasanian forerunners of the Šāh-nāma.

He combined a good command of the philological methods with the ability for historical criticism. All his writings are of great value chiefly for the reason that he had an exceptional knowledge of the classical languages and literature and had a good command of the languages of all the sources he had to take into account for the Iranian and neighboring areas studied by him (in addition to Greek, Latin, and Hebrew, the Iranian, Semitic, and Turkic languages, and Armenian). Such feeling and talent proved to be of particular importance in the case of the numerous personal and geographical names he dealt with, which in the manuscripts often are rather corrupt (since their correct reading was not known to the scribes and copyists), so that an especially careful argumentation and if necessary a prudent emendation of their form was needed.

Markwart’s books are full of profound and nearly inexhaustible erudition, revealing that their author, who actually was originally rather a classical scholar, was a learned historian, philologist, geographer, and ethnologist. He was able to write them only owing to his broad knowledge of languages, but most of them are no simple reading matter, are unsystematic and all too confused, though this is partly compensated by full, but not complete, indexes and detailed tables of content. Incessantly continuing his reasoning, Markwart always had trouble finishing a study; he would expand his works repeatedly, so that at the end he often had entirely lost the thread. Neither are his aims always clearly formulated, nor is a clarifying conclusion drawn at the end. But for the reader this procedure has the advantage that usually he or she is able to reconstruct quite exactly the way in which Markwart advanced and achieved his results, sometimes being forced to turn back from a wrong track. That confusing, or at least incoherent, arrangement characteristic of his books is the consequence of the fact that he often went into quite special (and not actually relevant) questions and then could not stop thinking about them before he had settled them with his immense wealth of knowledge, even if by a risky supposition or by a forcible solution (e.g., a daring conjecture). Not rarely his studies took him so far away from the actual subject that the connection is lost. So, in total, we have to summarize that, although Markwart dealt with a large number and variety of sources of the history, geography, and ethnography of the pre-Islamic Near East and Central Asia, his influence perhaps is rather underestimated, because he did not write great handbooks and general surveys, but preferred to concern himself with unsolved specific problems.

The principal merit of Markwart is that he collected and analyzed a large quantity of source material and that he rather clearly saw where philological work such as publishing manuscript matter or preparing reliable critical text editions was still needed. Therefore he himself now and then dared to tackle such editorial work (cf., e.g., Markwart, 1901; idem, 1931). He also tried to understand the texts out of themselves and to explain them from matter-of-fact points of view without (thanks to his outstanding powers of reasoning) being misled in his topographical studies by similarly sounding names. On the other hand, it is typical for all of Markwart’s studies that they are always attempting to etymologically interpret the names studied (personal names as well as toponyms, choronyms, hydronyms, etc.) with reference to comparable or cognate forms from quite different traditions or languages and that they therefore are important works for Iranian onomastics in all its aspects. But it must be clearly expressed also that those etymologies often are set up without the necessary linguistic meticulousness and circumspection and therefore nothing else than bold, if not untenable, hypotheses. Incidentally, it is interesting that Markwart (1915, pp. 251-52) recognized that, not only the Greeks, but also (and even more) the Chinese, reinterpreted Iranian names and that this process has nothing to do with folk etymology and with the folk, but rather results from a kind of play instinct.



Major works of Josef Markwart.

Die Assyriaka des Ktesias, Göttingen, 1893.

“Beiträge zur Geschichte und Sage von Erān,” ZDMG 49, 1895, pp. 628-72.

Fundamente israelitischer und jüdischer Geschichte, Göttingen, 1896a.

Untersuchungen zur Geschichte von Eran I, Göttingen, 1896b (first published in Philologus 54, 1895, pp. 489-527; 55, 1896, pp. 212-40).

Die Chronologie der alttürkischen Inschriften, Leipzig, 1898a.

“Historische Glossen zu den alttürkischen Inschriften,” WZKM 12, 1898b, pp. 157-200.

Chronologische Untersuchungen, Leipzig, 1900.

Ērānšahr nach der Geographie des Ps. Moses Xorenac‘i. Mit historisch-kritischem Kommentar und historischen und topographischen Excursen, Abh. Gessellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen, N.F. 3/2, Berlin, 1901.

Osteuropäische und ostasiatische Streifzüge. Ethnologische und historisch-topographische Studien zur Geschichte des 9. und 10. Jahrhunderts (ca. 840-940), Leipzig, 1903, 2nd ed., Darmstadt, 1961.

Untersuchungen zur Geschichte von Eran II, Leipzig, 1905.

Die Benin-Sammlung des Reichsmuseums für Völkerkunde in Leiden, beschrieben und mit ausführlichen Prolegomena zur Geschichte der Handelswege und Völkerbewegungen in Nordafrika versehen, Leiden, 1913.

“Über das Volkstum der Komanen,” in W. Bang and J. Marquart, eds., Osttürkische Dialektstudien, Berlin, 1914, pp. 25-238; repr., Nendeln and Göttingen, 1970.

(with Johann Jakob Maria de Groot) “Das Reich Zābul und der Gott Žūn vom 6.-9. Jahrhundert,” in G. Weil, ed., Festschrift Eduard Sachau zum siebzigsten Geburtstage gewidmet, Berlin, 1915, pp. 248-92.

Ueber den Ursprung des armenischen Alphabets in Verbindung mit der Biographie des heil. Mašt‘oc‘, Vienna, 1917.

Die Entstehung und Wiederherstellung der armenischen Nation, Potsdam, 1919.

“Ein arabischer Bericht über die arktischen (uralischen) Länder aus dem 10. Jahrhundert,” Ungarische Jahrbücher 4, 1924, pp. 261-334.

“Np. āđīna ‘Freitag’,” Ungarische Jahrbücher 7, 1927, pp. 89-121.

Skizzen zur historischen Topographie und Geschichte von Kaukasien. Das Itinerar von Artaxata nach Armastica auf der römischen Weltkarte, Vienna, 1928.

Südarmenien und die Tigrisquellen nach griechischen und arabischen Geographen, Vienna, 1930a.

Das erste Kapitel der Gāþā uštavatī (Jasna 43), ed. Josef Messina, Rome, 1930b.

“Das Naurōz, seine Geschichte und seine Bedeutung,” in Dr. Modi Memorial Volume, Bombay, 1930c, pp. 709-65B.

A Catalogue of the Provincial Capitals of Ērānshahr (Pahlavi text, version and commentary), ed. Giuseppe Messina, Analecta Orientalia 3, Rome, 1931.

“Die Sigynnen,” Caucasica 10, 1932, pp. 1-42.

Wehrot und Arang. Untersuchungen zur mythischen und geschichtlichen Landeskunde von Ostiran, ed. Hans Heinrich Schaeder, Leiden, 1938; Pers. tr. by Davoud Monchi-Zadeh, Tehran: Bonyād-e mawqufāt-e Dr. Maḥmud-e Afšār, 1989.


Obituaries and studies. 

Hans Heinrich Schaeder, “Josef Markwart†,” Ungarische Jahrbücher 10, 1930, pp. 113-19. 

V. Minorsky, “Essai de bibliographie des travaux de J. Markwart,” JA 217, 1930, pp. 313-24. 

Josef Messina, “Josef Markwart†,” in Markwart, 1930b, pp. 1*-7* (with bibliography). 

V. V. Bartol’d, “Pamyati Iosifa Markvarta,” Izvestiya Akademii Nauk SSSR. Otdelenie obshchestvennykh nauk, 1931, pp. 387-402 (German tr. H. H. Schaeder, in Markwart, 1938, pp. 16*-29*). 

Hans Heinrich Schaeder, “Vorwort des Herausgebers,” in Markwart, 1938, pp. 13*-52* (with “Verzeichnis der Schriften von Josef Markwart,” ibid., pp. 53*-61*). 

Rüdiger Schmitt, “Markwart, Josef,” Neue Deutsche Biographie 16, 1991, p. 227.


(Rüdiger Schmitt)

Last Updated: April 11, 2014