The Goddess Nana and the Kušan Empire: Mesopotamian and Iranian Traces

  • Published : 2019.12.15


Nana was an important patron deity in the Kušan Empire and the most important deity worshipped by Emperor Kaniška (c. 127-150 CE). She was the head of the royal dynastic pantheon at this time. The cult of Nana may already have existed in Central Asia prior to the arrival of Indo-Iranians in the region, since she appears on a BMAC seal dating to the early second millennium BCE. Similarly, her cult in Bactria may pre-date her appearance in the Kušan pantheon by over two millennia. The spread of Nana's cult over such vast distances vividly illustrates the cultural connections (presumably stemming mostly from trade) that existed from prehistoric times linking the Mediterranean world to that of Central Asia and beyond, with the Iranian plateau at its center. The prevalence of Sogdian coins bearing Nana's name suggests that she was also the principal deity of Sogdiana. In Bactria, the goddess Ardoxšo (Avestan Aši vaŋvhī) was also worshipped by Kušāns and appeared on their coins. Nana, who was associated with war, fertility, wisdom, and water, was also equated with the Iranian goddesses Anāhitā, Aši, and Ārmaiti. The cult of Nana-Ārmaiti was widespread throughout eastern Iran.


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