ANBĀR or ANBĪR, a town of the medieval Islamic province of Gūzgān or Jūzǰān in northern Afghanistan, probably to be identified with the modern Sar-e Pol. The variable spelling of the sources (in Yāqūt, I, pp. 257, 259, there are separate entries for each of the two forms) doubtless reflects a contemporary pronunciation Anbēr or Ambēr. The modern town of Sar-e Pol lies upstrearn from the larger town of Šebargān (medieval Ošbūrqān or Šobūrqān) in 35° 32δ north latitude and 66° 43δ east longitude at an altitude of 610 m on the middle course of the Āb-e Sefīd, the eastern of the two Oxus affluents draining the region of Gūzgān. According to Yāqūt, Anbār was one stage (marḥala)south of Šobūrqān. Sar-e Pol now comes administratively within the Afghan province of Jūzǰān; ethnically, it lies in the Uzbek zone of northern Afghanistan, but with a Tajik admixture increasing as one goes southwards. In early Islamic times, Anbār was one of the main towns, together with Šobūrqān, Maymana (or Yahūdīya), Fāryāb, and Tālaqān, of what seems originally to have been an autonomous petty principality, possibly under rulers of Hephthalite stock. Much fighting took place in this region between the Omayyad Arab governors and the Hephthalite princes of Bactria during the first half of the 2nd/8th century, and it was at Anbār that the ʿAlid pretender Yaḥyā b. Zayd b. Ḥasan was killed in 125/743 (Ṭabarī, II, p. 1773; Yāqūt, I, p. 259, s.v. Anbīr). By the 4th/10th century, Gūzgān was under the rule of the Farighunid family (see Āl-e Farīgūn), who retained power there till the annexation of the province by Sultan Maḥmūd of Gāzna early in the 5th/11th century. The geographers of this period are rather confused about what had formerly been and what was in their own time the capital of Gūzgān. Thus Ebn Ḥawqal (II, p. 443; tr. II, p. 428) says that Anbār was the winter capital (qaṣaba)of the Farighunids, whereas their summer one was higher up in the mountains in the district of Jorzevān, towards Ḡūr. Somewhat earlier, Yaʿqūbī (p. 287, tr. p. 100) stated that Anbār was the capital of the wolāt “governors” of Gūzgān, perhaps referring to the Arab governors who preceded the Farighunids in power there; other sources (such as Maqdesī [Moqaddasī], p. 298) mention Yahūdīya as the capital. At all events, it was an important and flourishing town in the 4th/10th century. It was larger than Marv-al-rūdÂ², according to Eṣṭaḵrī and Ebn Ḥawqal, with extensive vineyards and orchards; the Ḥodūd al-ʿālam(p. 107, par. 23.58, cf. commentary, p. 335) says that it lay at the foot of a mountain and that it was the emporium (bārgāh)of BalkÂ² and a resort of merchants, producing for export the famed Gūzgānī leather. During the next century, Anbār seems to have been identical with the chief town of Jūzǰānān where the philosopher-poet NāsÂ¡er-e Kǰosrow spent a month in 437/1045-46 drinking wine and living riotously, before experiencing the vision which transformed his life and made him resolve to go on the pilgrimage to Mecca (Safar-nāma,ed. M. Dabīrsīāqī, Tehran, 1335 Š./1956, p. 1; cf. pp. 128-29, mention of Sar-e Pol-e Jūzǰānān?). Thereafter, Anbār drops out as such from mention in the historical sources.
See also Le Strange, Lands, p. 426.
Barthold, Turkestan3, pp. 79-80.
Ḥodūd al-ʿālam, tr. Minorsky, p. xxiv.
(C. E. Bosworth)
Originally Published: December 15, 1985
Last Updated: August 3, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. II, Fasc. 1, p. 6
C. E. Bosworth, “ANBAR,” Encyclopædia Iranica, II/1, p. 6, available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/anbar-town-of-medieval-guzgan-in-northern-afghanistan-probably-the-modern-sar-e-pol (accessed on 30 December 2012).