Bactria or Bactriana was the name of a
historical region in Central Asia. Bactria was
located between the Hindu Kush mountains
and the Amu Darya river, covering the flat region
that straddles modern-day Afghanistan, Tajikistan,
The English name of Bactria derives from
the Ancient Greek.
Bactria, the territory of which Bactra
was the capital, originally consisted of the area
south of the Amu Darya with its string of
agricultural oases dependent on water taken from
the adjacent rivers. This region played a major
role in Central Asian history. At certain times the
political limits of Bactria stretched far beyond the
geographic frame of the Bactrian plain.
The Bactria–Margiana Archaeological
Complex (BMAC, also known as the "Oxus
civilization") is the modern archaeological
designation for a Bronze Age culture of Central
Asia, dated to ca. 2200–1700 BC, located in
present-day eastern Turkmenistan, northern
Afghanistan, southern Uzbekistan and western
Tajikistan, centred on the upper Amu Darya (Oxus
River), an area covering ancient Bactria. Its sites
were discovered and named by the Soviet
archaeologist Viktor Sarianidi (1976). Bactria was
the Greek name for Old Persian Baxtriš (from
(named for its capital Bactra, modern
Balkh), in what is now northern Afghanistan, and
Margiana was the Greek name for the Persian
satrapy of Margu, the capital of which was Merv,
in today's Turkmenistan.
The early Greek historian Ctesias, c. 400
BC (followed by Diodorus Siculus), alleged
that the legendary Assyrian king Ninus had
defeated a Bactrian king named Oxyartes in ca.
2140 BC, or some 1000 years before the Trojan
Since the decipherment of cuneiform in the 19th
century, however, which enabled actual Assyrian
records to be read, historians have ascribed little
value to the Greek account.