By: Jona Lendering
In old Persian Karmanā: name of a region in ancient Iran, between the heartland of Persia and Gedrosia.
The northern part was and is extremely poor; its is currently known as the Dasht-e Lut, 'Desert of Emptiness'. The southern half, on the other hand, was considered to be very fertile by the Greeks; in an instant, we will see why. The river Hyctanis contained gold and there were silver mines.
The Greeks called its most important city Harmozia; its Persian name may have contained the name of the supreme god Ahuramazda. Today, this town is best known as Hormuz, but its true name is Mīnāb.
Carmania was part of the Achaemenid empire. The country must have been conquered by Cyrus the Great, the founder of this empire, who ruled 559-530 BCE. However, the ancient Persian lists of subject countries ignore Carmania. The Behistun inscription of king Darius I the Great and the Daeva inscription of his son Xerxes, which both contain long lists of countries subjected to the Persian ruler, do not mention Carmania. This suggests that administratively, the region belonged to the satrapy of Gedrosia or was reckoned to be a part of Persia proper.
Carmania is mentioned for the first time in an inscription from Susa known as DSz, as exporter of yakā wood - probably teak-wood. From the tablets of Persepolis, we know the name of one of the first governors in charge, Karki. (He is not called a satrap.) It is also clear from the Persepolis archive, that there was a royal road through Carmania.
At an unknown moment in the late fifth or early fourth century, Carmania must have received the status of satrapy, because we know that the Macedonian king Alexander the Great first reappointed the old satrap Astaspes and later -when he passed through the region- choose in quick succession candidates that were more to his liking, Sibyrtius and Tlepolemus (winter 325/324 BCE). During his stay in Carmania, Alexander founded a town for his veterans, which he called Alexandria (which has been identified with modern Golāshkerd, but not every scholar is convinced).
Alexander arrived in Carmania from the east; he and his men had traveled through the Gedrosian desert, which had cost many people their lives. When the Macedonian soldiers reached southern Carmania, they found food again ('all crops were born in abundance, except for olives', according to Alexander's admiral Nearchus). Consequently, Greek and Roman geographers wrote that Carmania was extremely fertile, which is exaggerated.
After the death of Alexander, Carmania became first part of the Seleucid empire, but in the middle of the second century, it was subjected by the Parthians. In the first quarter of the third century CE, their empire fell; the Persians founded a new empire after 224. The capital of Carmania was moved to Veh-Ardair, a new town between the salty Dasht-e Lut and the western mountains, now known as Kermān.
The Persian kings were Zoroastrians, i.e., they believed in Ahuramazda. One of their holy places was Bam, where the dead were ritually exposed on high platforms. The ruins of these 'towers of silence' can still be seen. The first Christian bishop can be dated in the middle of the seventh century, shortly before or after the Muslims took over (646 CE).