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Oxus

Oxus: Greek name of a river in Central-Asia, now known as Amudar'ya.

The river Oxus
The river Oxus
Although its real ancient name, Waxš, means "the wild one", which suggests that it was not navigable, the river Amudar'ya can be used by ships for at least 1460 km, of a total length of more than 2400 km. Rafts may be used over an even greater distance. So, a very substantial part of it is not so wild that it becomes impossible for use by ships.

The sources of this stream are on the western slopes of the Pamir mountain range, where the ancient Silk road crossed into China.

Map of Sogdia
Map of Sogdia
The Upper Oxus flows from the east to the west and separated Bactria (northern Afghanistan) from Sogdia (modern Uzbekistan and parts of Tajikistan), which has also been called Transoxiana.

Beyond Bactria, the river turns to the northwest. It divides two deserts, the Kara Kum (the "black desert", to the southwest) and the Kizil Kum (the "red desert", to the northeast). The waters were not used for irrigation, nor were there many palms along the river; unlike the Nile, Euphrates, or Tigris, the Oxus was something of an intrusion in a desert landscape.

At the banks of the Oxus river
At the banks of the Oxus river
The delta immediately south of Lake Aral used to be called Chorasmia. Here, the waters were heavily used to irrigate the land. It is possible that in Antiquity one of its branches continued to the Caspian Sea.note

Not far from its sources, Alexander the Great (or his friend Hephaestion, to be more precise) founded the city of Alexandria, which controlled the trade in lapis lazuli.

This page was created in 2006; last modified on 26 March 2014.