FARĀVA (Parau), a small medieval town in eastern Persia, lying east of the Caspian Sea and just beyond the northern edge of the Kopet-Dag range facing the Kara Kum desert. In the early Islamic period it was one of a string of strongly defended fortresses (rebātás), also including Abīvard, Nasā, and Dehestān (qq.v.), along the northern frontiers of Khorasan, meant to hold back the Oḡuz and other Turkic peoples of the Asian steppes. Administratively it seems to have lain on the frontier between Khorasan and Gorgān, having been included by the geographers in either province.
In the 10th century the rebātá at Farāva (ascribed by some authorities to the governor of Khorasan ʿAbd-Allāh b. Ṭāher) was manned by a small but bellicose garrison of morābeṭūn (fighters for the faith), taking turns at spells of duty. The population was less than a thousand, though there was a mosque with a spring running through its center, which supplied drinking water; no market is mentioned, and the absence of agricultural lands at that time meant that grain had to be imported from Dehestān and Nasā. Later in the 10th century Farāva passed into the political control of the Maʾmūnid ḵ¯ᵛārazmshahs of Gorgānj, and in the early 11th century it became part of the expanding military empire of Maḥmūd of Ghazna (388-421/998-1030). As pressure from the Oḡuz Turks increased, Masʿūd b. Maḥmūd (421-32/1030-41) was forced, in 426/1035, to cede it to their Saljuq leaders Ṭoḡrel, Čaḡrï, and Yabḡu. With the gradual Islamization of the Central Asian Turks, Farāva lost its raison d’être as a frontier bastion, however. By the 14th century, according to Ḥamd-Allāh Mostawfī, it was prosperous, with cultivation of cereals and fruit (Nozhat al-qolūb, ed. Le Strange, I, p. 151; II, p. 150), but thereafter it faded from historical mention. The site is now marked by Kizyl-Arvat (Red Ribat; 39° N, 56° 23′ E), a town that has sprung up in present-day Turkmenistan as a station on the Transcaspian Railway from Krasnovodsk to Marv and beyond.
Bibliography (for cited works not given in detail, see “Short References”):
Barthold, Turkestan3, pp. 154, 277, 308.
Idem, An Historical Geography of Iran, tr. S. Soucek, Princeton, N. J., 1984, pp. 89-90.
Ebn Ḥawqal, pp. 445, 454; tr. Kramers, pp. 431, 438.
Eṣṭaḵrī, p. 273.
Ḥodūd al-ʿālam, tr. Minorsky, pp. 133-34.
Le Strange, Lands, pp. 380, 472.
Moqaddasī, p. 333.
A. M. Prokhorov et al., eds., Bol’shaya sovetskaya éntsiklopediya, 2nd ed., 51 vols., Moscow, 1950-58, XII, p. 104.
Yāqūt, Boldān (Beirut), IV, p. 245.
(C. Edmund Bosworth)
Originally Published: December 15, 1999
Last Updated: December 15, 1999