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Marzobān or Marzbān (Middle Persian transliteration: mlcpʾn', derived from marz "border, boundary" and the suffix -bān "guardian"; Modern Persian: مرزبان Marzbān) were a class of margraves or military commanders in charge of border provinces of the Sassanid Empire of Persia (Iran) between the 3rd and 7th centuries CE.


The Persian word marz is derived from Avestan marəza "frontier"; bān is cognate with Avestan and Old Persian pat "protector". The word was borrowed from New Persian into Arabic as مرزبان marzubān (plural مرازبة marāziba). Al-Marzubani (المرزباني) has been used as a nisba (family title) for some Arabian families whose ancestor was a Marzban. The prominent Islamic scholar Abū Ḥanīfa, whose formal name is given in Islamic sources as Nuʿmān ibn Thābit ibn Zūṭā ibn Marzubān (نعمان بن ثابت بن زوطا بن مرزبان), might have been descended from the Sassanid Marzbans of Kabul, Afghanistan, where his father came from.


Marzbans were granted the administration of the border provinces and were responsible for maintaining the security of the trade routes, fighting the encroaching nomadic tribes such as Bedouin Arabs, White Huns and Oghuz Turks, and holding the first line of defense against settled enemies such as Romans and Kushans. Sassanid Shahanshah (king of kings) usually selected Marzbans from Wuzurgan, Persian noble families who held the most powerful positions in the imperial administration. The rank of Marzban, like most imperial administration, was mostly patrimonial, and was passed down through a single family for generations. Marzbans of greatest seniority were permitted a silver throne, while Marzbans of the most strategic border provinces, such as the province of Armenia, were allowed a golden throne. In military campaigns the regional Marzbans could be regarded as field marshals, while lesser spahbods could command a field army.

It is not clear whether they had authority over castles in their area of operation, as Argbadhs were responsible for castles. In many ways, Persian Marzbans had the same function and status as medieval Germanic Margraves. The Marzban of Abarshahr in Central Asia was called "Kanarang".

See also

  • Marzpanate of Albania
  • Marzpanate of Iberia
  • Marzpanate Period
  • Spahbod Sassanid commandership rank
  • Sassanid army
  • Ban A noble title which was used in various South European Balkan countries

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