Why Nishapur?

In: Eurasian Studies
Richard W. Bulliet Columbia University

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Given the high cost of premodern land transport, inland cities not serviced by any sort of water transport were quite rare before the appearance of motorized vehicles. The emergence of Nishapur in northeastern Iran as the Abbasid caliphate’s second largest metropolis, with a population over 150,000 in the year 1000, thus presents a problem. That it was neither a major governing center during most of its growth period, nor a transshipment node or pilgrimage site, compounds the problem. This article proposes a set of economic, geographic, and social circumstances that taken together may account for its flourishing. It further suggests that these same factors contributed to the city’s emerging distinction as a Muslim religious and cultural center.

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