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Map of Iran and surrounding countries, showing location of Gorgan

Gorgan (گرگان); Hyrcania ; Hyrcana (Old Persian Varkāna, 'land of wolves'; modern Persian Gorgan): part of the ancient Persian empire, on the southern shores of the Caspian Sea (present day Golestan, Mazandaran, Gilan and parts of Turkmenistan). Parts of it have also been called Taparistan (or its arabicized version, Tabaristan) in history.

Today Gorgan is the capital city of the Iranian province of Golestan. It is approximately 400 km from Tehran. Some 150 km to east of Gorgan is the Golestan National Park. The Gorgan city has an airport and several universities. Athough the modern-day Gorgan is only a county and its central city (both by the same name), the ancient Hyrcania or Varkāna was the name of that whole general region.



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Pistachio trees , Dasht-e Gorgan & Gonbad

The wide Dasht-e Gorgan & Gonbad ,lies southeast of the Caspian Sea, bounded by the Caspian Sea in the west, high mountain ranges in the south and east and Iran-Turkmenistan border on the North. The proposed block is located North of the Town of Gorgan and is geographically bounded by 37o 00' 37o 30' latitdea and 54o-54o 30' longitude and covers an area of about 1,700 km


In general, Golestan has a moderate and humid climate known as "the moderate Caspian climate". The effective factors behind such a climate are: Alborz mountain range, direction of the mountains, height of the area, neighborhood to the sea, vegetation surface, local winds, altitude and weather fronts. As a result of the above factors, three different climates exist in the region: plain moderate, mountainous, and semi-arid . Gorgan valley has a semi-arid climate.The average annual temperature is 18.2 centigrade and the annual rainfal is 556mm.


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The famous gorgan wall

The name "Hyrcania" is how it was recorded by the Greek historians, but the local name in Old Persian was Varkāna as it is recorded in Darius the Great's Behistun Inscription, as well as other inscriptions in Old Persian in cuneiform. Hyrcania is situated between the Caspian Sea -which was called Hyrcanian Ocean in Antiquity- in the north and the Alborz mountains in the south and west. The country has a tropical climate and is very fertile; the Persians considered it one of 'the good lands and countries' which their supreme god Ahuramazda had created personally. To the northeast, Hyrcania is open to the Central-Asian steppe, where nomads have been living for centuries; on several occasions, they invaded the country.

Hyrcania became part of the Persian empire during the reign of king Cyrus the Great (559-530 BC) or Cambyses (530-522 BC). The satrap's capital was called Zadracarta, and was possibly identical to modern Sārī in Mazandaran. There is no report about the conquest of Hyrcania, but from the Behistun inscription we know that it was Persian by 522. The story is as follows: After the death of Cambyses, the Magian usurper Gaumāta, who did not belong to the Achaemenian dynasty, usurped the throne. The adherents of the Persian royal house, however, helped Darius to become king; he killed the usurper on September 29, 522 BC. Almost immediately, the subjects of the empire revolted. When Darius was suppressing these rebellions and stayed in Babylon, the Median leader Phraortes made his bid for power (December 522). His revolt soon spread to Armenia, Assyria, Parthia and Hyrcania. However the Persian garrison in Parthia still held out. It was commanded by Darius' father Hystaspes. On March 8, 521 BC, the Parthians and their allies, the Hyrcanians, attacked the Persian garrison, but they were defeated. Not much later, Darius was able to relieve his father. This was the first appearance in history of the Hyrcanians.

In the fifth century, the Greek researcher Herodotus of Halicarnassus mentions them several times in his Histories. He has a confused report on irrigation (3.117), which may be compared to the statement of the second-century historian Polybius that the Persians had built large irrigation works (World history 10.28.3). Herodotus also tells us that Hyrcanian soldiers were part of the large army which king Xerxes I (486-465) commanded against the Greeks in 480. The historian notes that they carried the same arms as the Persians. It is possible -but not proven- that during the Persian period, a wall was built to defend Hyrcania against the nomads of the Central-Asian steppe. The ruins of the wall north of the river Gorgān that are visible today and are called 'wall of Alexander', were built later, but they probably replaced a Persian defense work. In the confused years after the death of king Artaxerxes I Makrocheir (465-434), three of his sons succeeded to the throne: Xerxes II, Sogdianus and Darius II. The latter was satrap in Hyrcania and may have used troops from Hyrcania and the 'upper satrapies', that is Aria, Parthia, Arachosia, Bactria and Sogdiana.

Hyrcania makes its reappearance in history when the Macedonian king Alexander the Great (336-323) invaded Asia. Hyrcanians are mentioned during the battle of Gaugamela (October 1, 331), and in August 329, when the last Persian king, Darius III Codomannus, was dead, many Persian noblemen fled to Hyrcania, where they surrendered to Alexander (a.o. Artabazus). After Alexander's reign, his kingdom fell apart and Hyrcania became part of the new empire of the Seleucid rulers, a Macedonian-Greek dynasty. At the end of the 3rd century BC, northeastern nomads belonging to the tribe of the Parni, invaded Parthia and Hyrcania. Although Parthia was forever lost to the Seleucids, Hyrcania was in the last decade of the third century reconquered by Antiochus III the Great (223-187). After a generation, however, Hyrcania was lost again. To the Parthians -the new name of the Parni- Hyrcania was an important part of the empire, situated between their Parthian territories and their homeland on the steppe. It is certain that the Parthian kings used a Hyrcanian town as their summer residence. They were also responsible for the 'wall of Alexander', which is 180 km long and has forty castles. Nonetheless, it was not an uncontested part of their empire; for example, it is known to have revolted in AD 58. NB Present Gorgan was called Esterabad or Astarabad until 1937.


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Local costume, Gorgan

Gorgan has contributed to the rich literature, poetry and science of Iran and even world by celebrities such as Abdolqaher Gorgani, Sayed Esmail Gorgani, Mirdamad , Mirfenderski, Asad Gorgani and Esmail Hosseini Gorgāni.


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The origin pattern of Gorgan carpets

Gorgan and in general Golestan province has a world famous carpet and rug industry.Made by Turkmans, is inherited from the ancient Persian city of Boxārā (Buchara).Jajim carpets are the exclusives of this province.


  • Gorgan Defense Wall:

Gorgān's Defense Wall(155 km long and 6 to 10 m wide) is one of the most outstanding and gigantic architectural monuments in Dashte Gorgan and Gonbad Steppes (Gorgan Plain) history. This wall which is the largest defensive wall in the world after the Great Wall of China, starts from the Caspian coast, circles north of Gonbade Kavous, continues towards northwest and vanishes behind Pishkamar Mountains. A logistical archeological survey was conducted regarding the wall in 1999 due to problems in development projects specially during construction of the Golestan Dam, which irrigates all the areas covered by the wall. At the point of the connection of the wall and the drainage canal from the dam, architects discovered the remains of the above wall. At parts, this wall is 6 m wide and in other parts the width is 10 m, which proves that the thickness of the wall differs in various regions, according to the natural features and soil configuration. Castles have been built at different distances. The longest distance between castles is 50 km and the shortest is 10 km.The 40 identified castles vary in dimension and shape but the majority are square fortresses. Due to many difficulties in development and agricultural projects, archaeologists have been assigned to mark the boundary of the historical find by laying cement blocks. The Gorgan Wall has been named Alexander Dam, Anushirvān Dam, Firuz Dam and Qazal Al'an in various historical texts. Dr. Kiani who led the archeological team in 1971 believes that the wall was built during the Parthian Dynasty simultaneously with the construction of the Great Wall of China and it was restored during the Sassanid era (3-7th c. A.D.).

Gorgan has many traditional buildings, with tiled sloping roofs and wooden balconies such as :

  • Friday Mosque:

Which dates back to Seljuk era.



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