City in eastern Afghanistan that served as the capital of the Ghaznavid dynasty from 977 to 1163. In pre-Islamic times the city was a Buddhist centre, and excavations have uncovered remains of a stupa and clay and terracotta Buddhas. In ad 977 the Samanid slave commander Sebüktigin (reg 977–97) rose to power in Ghazna and founded the Ghaznavid dynasty (reg 977–1186). Ghazna became the capital of an empire that at the death of Sebüktigin’s son Mahmud (reg 998–1030) stretched from western Iran to the Ganges valley. The city commanded a dominating position on the borderland between the Islamic and Indian worlds and was an important entrepôt for trade. It was also a centre of literature and art: the poet Firdawsi (940–1020), for example, composed the Shāhnāma (‘Book of kings’) at the court of Mahmud c. 1010.
According to the late 10th-century geographer al-Muqaddasi, Ghazna was a thriving frontier town with many markets. It had a citadel (modern Bala-Hisar) with the ruler’s palace in the centre. The suburbs had more markets and houses for the wealthy, some of which have been excavated on the hill to the east of the town. Both ...