GHOR, or Ghur, an ancient kingdom of Afghanistan. The name of Ghor was in the middle ages, and indeed locally still is, applied to the highlands east of Herat, extending eastward to the upper Helmund valley, or nearly so. Ghor is the southern portion of that great peninsula of strong mountain country which forms the western part of modern Afghanistan. The northern portion of the peninsula was in the middle ages comprehended under the names of Gharjistan (on the west), and Juzjana (on the east), whilst the basin of the Herat river, and all south of it, constituted Ghor. The name as now used does not include the valley of the Herat river; on the south the limit seems to be the declivity of the higher mountains dominating the descent to the lower Helmund, and the road from Farah to Kandahar. It is in Ghor that rise all those affluents of the closed basin of Seistan, the Hari-rud, the Farah-rud, the Khash-rud, besides other considerable streams joining the Helmund above Girishk.
Ghor is mentioned in the Shahnama of Firdousi (A.D. 1010), and in the Arab geographers of that time, though these latter fail in details almost as much as we moderns, thus indicating how little accessible the country has been through all ages. Ibn Hauḳal's map of Khorasan (c.976) shows Jibal-al-Ghur, "the hill-country of Ghor," as a circle ring-fenced with mountains. His brief description speaks of it as a land fruitful in crops, cattle and flocks, inhabited by infidels, except a few who passed for Mahommedans, and indicates that, like other pagan countries surrounded by Moslem populations, it was regarded as a store of slaves for the faithful. The boundary of Ghor in ascending the valley of the Hari-rud was six and a half easy marches from Herat, at Chist, two marches above Obeh.
The chief part of the present population of Ghor are Taimanis, belonging to the class of nomad or semi-nomad clans called Aimak, intermingled with Zuris and Tajiks.
The people and princes of Ghor first become known to us in connexion with the Ghaznevid dynasty, and the early medieval histories of Ghor and Ghazni are so intertwined that little need be added on that subject to what will be found under Ghazni (q.v.). What we read of Ghor shows it as a country of lofty mountains and fruitful valleys, and of numerous strongholds held by a variety of hill-chieftains ruling warlike clans whose habits were rife with feuds and turbulence, - indeed, in character strongly resembling the tribes of modern Afghanistan, though there seems no good reason to believe that they were of Afghan race. It is probable that they were of old Persian blood, like the older of those tribes which still occupy the country. It is possibly a corroboration of this that, in the 14th century, when one of the Ghori kings, of the Kurt dynasty reigning in Herat, had taken to himself some of the insignia of independent sovereignty, an incensed Mongol prince is said to have reviled him as "an insolent Tajik." Sabuktagin of Ghazni, and his famous son Mahmud, repeatedly invaded the mountain country which so nearly adjoined their capital, subduing its chiefs for the moment, and exacting tribute; but when the immediate pressure was withdrawn, the yoke was thrown off and the tribute withheld. In 1020 Masa'ud, the son of Mahmud, being then governor of Khorasan, made a systematic invasion of Ghor from the side of Herat, laying siege to its strongholds one after the other, and subduing the country more effectually than ever before. About a century later one of the princely families of Ghor, deriving the appellation of Shansabi, or Shansabaniah, from a certain ancestor Shansab, of local fame, and of alleged descent from Zohak, acquired predominance in all the country, and at the time mentioned Malik 'Izzuddin al Hosain of this family came to be recognized as lord of Ghor. He was known afterwards as "the Father of Kings," from the further honour to which several of his seven sons rose. Three of these were - (1) Amir Kutbuddin Mahommed, called the lord of the Jibal or mountains; (2) Sultan Saifuddin Suri, for a brief period master of Ghazni, - both of whom were put to death by Bahram the Ghaznevid; and (3) Sultan Alauddin Jahansoz, who wreaked such terrible vengeance upon Ghazni. Alauddin began the conquests which were afterwards immensely extended both in India and in the west by his nephews Ghiyasuddin Mahommed b. Sam and Mahommed Ghori (Muizuddin b. Sam or Shahabuddin b. Sam), and for a brief period during their rule it was boasted, with no great exaggeration, that the public prayer was read in the name of the Ghori from the extremity of India to the borders of Babylonia, and from the Oxus to the Straits of Ormus. After the death of Mahommed Ghori, Mahmud the son of Ghiyasuddin was proclaimed sovereign (1200) throughout the territories of Ghor, Ghazni and Hindustan. But the Indian dominion, from his uncle's death, became entirely independent, and his actual authority was confined to Ghor, Seistan and Herat. The whole kingdom fell to pieces before the power of Mahommed Shah of Khwarizm and his son Jelaluddin (c.1214-1215), a power in its turn to be speedily shattered by the Mongol flood.
Besides the thrones of Ghor and Ghazni, the Shansabaniah family, in the person of Fakhruddin, the eldest of the seven sons of Malik 'Izzuddin, founded a kingdom in the Oxus basin, having its seat at Bamian (q.v.), which endured for two or three generations, till extinguished by the power of Khwarizm (1214). And the great Mussulman empire of Delhi was based on the conquests of Muizuddin the Ghorian, carried out and consolidated by his Turki freedmen, Kutbuddin Aibak and his successors. The princes of Ghor experienced, about the middle of the 13th century, a revival of power, which endured for 140 years. This later dynasty bore the name of Kurt or Kărt. The first of historical prominence was Malik Shamsuddin Kurt, descended by his mother from the great king Ghiyasuddin Ghori, whilst his other grandfather was that prince's favourite minister. In 1245 Shamsuddin held the lordship of Ghor in some kind of alliance with, or subordination to, the Mongols, who had not yet definitively established themselves in Persia; and in 1248 he received from the Great Khan Mangu an investiture of all the provinces from Merv to the Indus, including by name Sijistan (or Seistan), Kabul, Tirah (adjoining the Khyber pass), and Afghanistan (a very early occurrence of this name), which he ruled from Herat. He stood well with Hulagu, and for a long time with his son Abaka, but at last incurred the latter's jealousy, and was poisoned when on a visit to the court at Tabriz (1276). His son Ruknuddin Kurt was, however, invested with the government of Khorasan (1278), but after some years, mistrusting his Tatar suzerains, he withdrew into Ghor, and abode in his strong fortress of Kaissar till his death there in 1305. The family held on through a succession of eight kings in all, sometimes submissive to the Mongol, sometimes aiming at independence, sometimes for a series of prosperous years adding to the strength and splendour of Herat, and sometimes sorely buffeted by the hosts of masterless Tatar brigands that tore Khorasan and Persia in the decline of the dynasties of Hulagu and Jagatai. It is possible that the Kurts might have established a lasting Tajik kingdom at Herat, but in the time of the last of the dynasty, Ghiyasuddin Pir-'Ali, Tatardom, reorganized and re-embodied in the person of Timur, came against Herat, and carried away the king and the treasures of his dynasty (1380). A revolt and massacre of his garrison provoked Timur's vengeance; he put the captive king to death, came against the city a second time, and showed it no mercy (1383). Ghor has since been obscure in history.
The capital of the kingdom of Ghor, when its princes were rising to dominion in the 12th century, was Firoz Koh, where a city and fortress were founded by Saifuddin Suri. The exact position of Firoz Koh is difficult to determine, unless it be represented by the ruins of one or other of the ancient cities in the upper Murghab valley, the habitat of the Firoz Kohi section of the Chahar Aimak, which were visited by the surveyors of the Russo-Afghan boundary delimitation of 1884-1885. Extensive ruins were also found at Taiwara on one of the main affluents of the Farah Rud, where walls and terraces still existing supported the local tradition that this place was the ancient capital of Ghor. The valleys of the Taimani tribes though narrow are fertile and well cultivated, and there are many walled villages and forts about Parjuman and Zarni in the south-eastern districts. The peak of "Chalap Dalan" (described by Ferrier as "one of the highest in the world") is the Koh-i-Kaisar, which is a trifle over 13,000 ft. in height. All the country now known as Ghor was mapped during the progress of the Russo-Afghan boundary delimitation.
See the "Tabakát-i-Násiri," in the Bibl. Indica, transl. by Raverty; Journal asiatique, ser. v. tom. xvii.; "Ibn Haukal," in J. As. Soc. Beng. vol. xxii.; Ferrier's Caravan Journeys; Hammer's Ilkhans, etc.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)