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By Prof. Mary Boyce

GANZAK (Ganja, Gk. Gazaca, Lat. Gaza, Ganzaga, Ar. Janza, Jaznaq), a town of Achaemenid foundation in Azarbaijan province.

The name means "treasury" and is a Median form (against Pers. gazn-), adopted in Persian administrative use (Hübchmann, pp. 231-32; Marquart, p. 160 n. 2; Henning, pp. 196-98). Like other towns similarly named, notably Ghazna (q.v.) in Afghanistan, and Gazioura in Pontic Cappadocia (place of the treasury; Russell, pp. 28 n. 24, 73-74), Ganzak was presumably the satrap's seat. Little is known of Achaemenid Azarbaijan (Kleiss, p. 218), but Iranian settlement was probably then mainly in the fertile lands around the south of Lake Urmia, where Ganzak stood. Its site has been identified with impressive ruin-mounds near Laylân in the Mîândôâb plain (Minorsky, pp. 244 n. 2, 254). It was presumably the capital of Atropates (q.v.) and his descendants, under whom, it seems, the chief Median sacred fire Âdur Gušnasp (q.v.) was established on a hill nearby. Later developments show that the fire became closely associated with both Ganzak and Lake Urmia (identified by the Median magi with Av. Lake Chaêchasta, see Tafazzolî), all three being probably on a planned pilgrimage route (Boyce and Grenet, Zoroastrianism, III, pp. 70-77); and this would have brought wealth and fame to Ganzak.

Thereafter Azarbaijan became a vassal kingdom of the Arsacids; and the first mention of Ganzak (Gazaca) is by Strabo (11.13.3), in connection with Mark Antony's attack on Parthia in 36 B.C.E. (Schippmann, "Arsacids," p. 528; on corruptions in the passage, see idem, Feuerheiligtümer, pp. 311-12). A reference in Ptolemy's Geography (4.2) to "Zazaca" has been emended to "Gazaca" (Minorsky, pp. 261-62). Pliny (Natural History 6.42-43) names "Gaza" as a town in Atropatene, and Ammianus Marcellinus (23.6.39) calls "Gazaca" one of Media's three greatest cities.

In the early 5th century C.E., it seems, Âdur Gušnasp was moved from near Ganzak to Takht-e Solaymân, where its priests maintained the connection with Chaêchasta by giving this name, in its evolved colloquial form of Šêz/Šîz (< Chêch by dissimilation) to the little hilltop lake there (Boyce and Grenet, Zoroastrianism III, pp. 77-78). A town grew up which was presumably called the "town of/by Šîz," and then simply Šîz; and because of Ganzak's centuries-old association with Âdur Gušnasp, some confusion occurred, with Ganzak being occasionally identified in written sources as Šîz. (All texts concerned with Ganzak and Šîz are brought together in translation by Schippmann, 1971, pp. 311-25. That by Abu'l- Fedâ÷, referring to "Janza," is expressly said, however, to be to Janza (Ganza) in Arrân (Le Strange, Lands, p. 178). An occasional confused linking of Šîz with "al-Rân" has been shown to be due to a textual corruption, see Minorsky, p. 247).

Ganzak appears in the late Pahlavi text Š (sec. 56) as one of Azarbaijan's two cities (the other being then probably Ardabîl, Markwart, Provincial Capitals, pp. 22, 106). It figures also in two late episodes of Sasanian history. In 590 Khosrow II Parvêz finally defeated Bahrâm Chôbîn (q.v.) in a battle nearby; and in 628 Ganzak itself was taken by the Byzantine emperor Heraclius, who reported it to be a large town, with "about 3000 houses" (Minorsky, p. 251; Schippmann, 1971, p. 316). It survived into Islamic times, and is last mentioned by Yâqût (III, pp. 353-55; Schippmann, Feuerheiligtümer, p. 323) as "a fairly flourishing small town in Azarbaijan, near Marâgha, where are to be seen ruins of edifices built by the ancient kings of Persia, and a fire temple;" but whether this was the situation in Yâqût's own day, and when and by whom Ganzak was devastated, is not known. Mostawfî, writing in the 14th century, knew only its successor, the unremarkable Laylân/Nîlân, then inhabited by Mongols (Nozhat al-qolûb, ed. Le Strange, p. 87; Le Strange, Lands, p. 165).



W. B. Henning, "Coriander," Asia Major, N.S. 10, 1963, pp. 195-99 (= his Selected Papers II, Acta Iranica 15, Leiden, 1977, pp. 583-87). 

H. Hübschmann, Persische Studien, Strassburg, 1895. 

A. V. W. Jackson, Persia Past and Present, New York, 1906, pp. 124-44. W. Kleiss, "Azerbaijan ii. Archeology" in EIr. III, pp. 215-21. 

J. Marquart, Untersuchungen zur Geschichte von Eran I, Göttingen, 1896. V. Minorsky, "Roman and Byzantine Campaigns in Atropatene," BSO(A)S 11/2, 1944, pp. 243-65. 

Nozhat al-qolûb, ed. Le Strange, p. 64. 

H. Rawlinson, "Notes on a Journey to Takhti Soleïma‚n and on the Site of the Atropatenian Ecbatana," JRGS 10, 1841, pp. 1-158 (erronously identifying the site as ancient Ecbatana). 

J. R. Russell, Zoroastrianism in Armenia, Harvard Iranian Series 5, Cambridge, Mass., 1987. K. Schippmann, "Arsacids ii. The Arsacid Dynasty" in EIr. III, pp. 525-36. 

Idem, Die iranischen Feuerheiligtümer, Berlin, 1971. 

A. Tafazzolî, "Chêchast" in EIr. V, pp. 107-8. 

F. H. Weissbach, "Gazaca" in Pauly-Wissova, VII/1, cols. 896-97.




Source/Extracted From: Encyclopaedia Iranica


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