Firozkoh (Persian: فیروزکوه, Fīrōzkōh), or Turquoise Mountain, was the summer capital of the Ghurid dynasty, in the Ghor Province of central Afghanistan. It was reputedly one of the greatest cities of its age, but was destroyed in 1223 after a siege by Tolui, son of Genghis Khan. The location of the city was lost to history. It has been proposed that the Minaret of Jam, in Shahrak District, Ghor Province, is the only standing remains of the city.
The Ghurid sultanate was brought to prominence in 1150 by Ala Al-Din Husayn, who overthrew the previous Ghaznavid dynasty and burned their capital city, Ghazna, killing up to 60,000 inhabitants. A historian of the dynasty, Minhaj al-Siraj Juzjani, wrote that the remaining citizens of Ghazna, imprisoned, were used to transport building supplies to Firozkoh. Juzjani also claims that the blood of the prisoners was combined with mud to form additional building materials.
The city had been founded several years previously, in 1146, by another member of the dynasty, al-Din Husayn's brother, Qutb al-Din Muhammad. Throughout the reign of subsequent Ghurid sultans, Firozkoh continued to prosper as the dynasty expanded. Firozkoh was used as a summer capital, as the leadership of the Ghorid sultanate were semi-nomadic. The city competed with Herat as a center of Ghurid art, literature, and theology. In 1199, the Ghurid sultan, Ghiyath al-Din, ordered the empire to abandon the Karramiyya sect of Islam in favor of Shafi'i law. This decision was unpopular with the city's residents and led to riots.
The Ghurid empire began to collapse after the successive deaths of Ghiyath al-Din in 1203 and his successor Muizz al-Din in 1206. Firozkoh remained rich for a time, however - Juzjani wrote that the treasury contained "400 camel loads of gold in 800 chests", although this claim may be unreliable. By 1215, Firozkoh was attacked and defeated by Muhammad II of Khwarazm. However, the city rebelled against his rule when the Khwarazmenian Empire was attacked by the Mongols. Nevertheless, the Mongols laid siege to the city in 1220 before retreating at the start of winter. In 1223, the Mongols returned, and forced the city's ruler, Malik Mubariz al-Din, to evacuate to Herat. The Mongols then razed the city, according to Juzjani.
It is also believed that the ancient city was the home of a Jewish trading community, documented by inscriptions on tombstones found in the 1950s. The scholar Walter Fischel published an article reviewing the finds and establishing the connections of the Firozkoh community with other Jewish communities in early Medieval Afghanistan.
Sources describing the city
The primary contemporary source describing the history, layout, and buildings of Firozkoh is the Tabaqāt-i Nāsirī, written by Minhaj al-Siraj Juzjani. Juzjani lived in the city during his youth, but left in 1215 and did not write the work until 1260, while living in Delhi. While Juzjani is generally considered a reliable chronicler, like any source, his words must be put into context and considered a partial perspective on the city and its inhabitants.
With the War in Afghanistan in 2001, the Taliban's hold on ancient places was broken, leaving the Ghor Province open to pillagers. Therefore, after the invasion, hundreds of diggers flocked to the Minaret to uncover lost gold. When visited by Rory Stewart in 2002, the remains of the city had been heavily damaged by looters, and many of the treasures that were in the city have now been sold in markets in Herat, Kabul, and Tehran.
- Thomas, David (2007). "Firuzkuh: The Summer Capital of the Ghurids". In Bennison, Amira K.; Gascoigne, Alison L. (eds.). Cities in the pre-modern Islamic world : the urban impact of religion, state and society (1st ed.). Milton Park, Abingdon, UK. pp. 115–144. ISBN 9780415424394. OCLC 77520630.
- Vercellin, Giorgio (1976). "The Identification of Firuzkuh: a Conclusive Proof". East and West. 26 (3/4): 337–340. ISSN 0012-8376. JSTOR 29756314.
- Boissoneault, Lorraine (2016-02-10). "Afghanistan's Ancient and Beautiful Minaret of Jam". JSTOR Daily. Archived from the original on 2019-05-13. Retrieved 2019-05-13.
- Leshnik, Lorenz S. (1968). "Ghor, Firuzkoh, and the Minar-i-jam". Central Asiatic Journal. Heidelberg. 12 (1): 36–49. ISSN 0008-9192 – via JSTOR.
- Stewart, Rory (2006). The Places In Between. Harvest Books. pp. 149–160. ISBN 978-0-15-603156-1..