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Kidarite kingdom
Kidarite Tamga
The Kidarite kingdom in 400 CE.
Capital Bactria, Peshwar, Taxila
Languages Bactrian (written)
Government Nomadic empire
 •  fl. 320 Kidara
 •  fl. 425 Varhran I
 •  fl. 500 Kandik
Historical era Late Antiquity
 •  Established 320
 •  Disestablished 500
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Kushano-Sasanian Kingdom
Today part of  Turkmenistan

The Kidarites (Chinese: 寄多羅 Jiduolo[1]) were a dynasty of the "Ki" clan named after their ruler Kidara, they were part of the complex of tribes known collectively as Xionites or "Hunas". Referred to as the "Red Huns", they established the first of four major "Hunic" states in Southern Asia, the others being the Hephthalites, the Alchon, and the Nezak.

During the 4th-5th century they established the Kidarite kingdom when they replaced the Kushano-Sasanians in Bactria and northwestern Pakistan.[2]


Kidarite king Kidara II, circa 425-457. AR Drachm (29mm, 3.76 g, 3h). Mint C in Gandhara. Crowned bust facing slightly right.

The Kidarites, a nomadic clan, are supposed to have originated in China and arrived in Bactria with the great migrations of the second half of the 4th century.

When Shi Le established the Later Zhao state, it is thought that many of the Uar (Chinese 滑 Huá) fled (c. 320 CE) from the area around Pingyang (平陽; modern Linfen, Shanxi) and fled west along the Silk Road. This put pressure on the Xionites, who increasingly encroached upon Khorasan and the frontiers of the Kushan state.

The Kidarite king Grumbat mentioned by Ammianus Marcellinus was a cause of much concern to the Persians. Between 353 AD and 358 AD, the Xionites under Grumbat attacked in the eastern frontiers of Shapur II's empire along with other nomad tribes, after a prolonged struggle they were forced to conclude a peace, and their king Grumbat accompanied Shapur II in the war against the Romans. Victories of the Xionites during their campaigns in the Eastern Caspian lands are described by Ammianus Marcellinus:

Grumbates Chionitarum rex novus aetate quidem media rugosisque membris sed mente quadam grandifica multisque victoriarum insignibus nobilis.
"Grumbates, the new king of the Xionites, while he was middle aged, and his limbs were wrinkled, he was endowed with a mind that acted grandly, and was famous for his many, significant victories."

— Ammianus Marcellinus, 18.6.22.

The southern or "Red" Kidarite vassals to the Kushans in the North-Western Indus valley became known as Kermikhiones.

A "Kidarite dynasty", south of the Oxus, was at war with the Sassanids in the fifth century. Peroz I fought Kidara and then his son Kungas, forcing Kungas to leave Bactria. They entered Kabul and replaced the last of the Kushan Empire rulers. However, the Kidarites in turn were soon overwhelmed by the Hephthalites.[3]


Kidara I gold coin, circa 350-385 CE, derived from the Kushans. “Kushana Kidara Karan” in Brahmi across fields/ Ardoxsho on the back.
Kidara II, circa 425-457. AR Drachm (29mm, 3.76 g, 3h). Mint C in Gandhara. Crowned bust facing slightly right / Fire altar flanked by attendants.
Kidarites, uncertain king, imitating Sasanian king Shapur III, late 4th-early 5th century CE.
Coin of king Yinayaditya (also Vinayaditya), one of the "Kidarite successors", late 5th century CE, Jammu and Kashmir.

According to the Chinese sources Kidarites appeared in Kazakhstan and Bactria in 4th century and were branch of the Little Yuezhi, some of them inherited the Kushan Empire and were called little Kushans.[4][5] Kidarites were also called Red Huns,[6][7] they practiced artificial cranial deformation[8] and were displayed on Sogdian coins as archers riding on the reverse.[9]

Kidarite kingdom[edit]

The migrating Kidarites settled in Bactria and northwestern Pakistan, where they replaced the Kushano-Sasanids, a branch of the Sasanids that had displaced the weakening Kushans in the area.[2] The Kidarites were then displaced by the Hephthalites, and were forced to take refuge in the Punjab.[2]

The only 4th century evidence are gold coins discovered in Balkh dating from c. 380, where 'Kidara' is usually interpreted in a legend in the Bactrian language. Most numismatic specialists favor this idea. All the other data we currently have on the Kidarite kingdom are from Chinese and Byzantine sources from the middle of the 5th century.

They may have risen to power during the 420s in Northern Afghanistan before conquering Peshawar and part of northwest India, then turning north to conquer Sogdiana in the 440s, before being cut from their Bactrian nomadic roots by the rise of the Hephthalites in the 450s. The Kidarites were then displaced by the Hephthalites, and were forced to take refuge in the Punjab.[2]

Many small Kidarite kingdoms seems to have survived in northwest India up to the conquest by the Hephthalites during the last quarter of the 5th century are known through their coinage.

The Kidarites are the last dynasty to regard themselves (on the legend of their coins) as the inheritors of the Kushan empire, which had disappeared as an independent entity two centuries earlier.

Kidara I fl. c. 320 CE
Kungas 330's ?
Varhran I fl. c. 340
Grumbat c. 358-c. 380
Kidara (II ?) fl. c. 360
Brahmi Buddhatala fl. c. 370
(Unknown) fl. 388/400
Varhran (II) fl. c. 425
Goboziko fl. c. 450
Salanavira mid 400's
Vinayaditya late 400's
Kandik early 500's

The Kidarites were the first "Hunas" to bother India. Indian records note that the Hūna had established themselves in modern Afghanistan and the North-West Frontier Province in present-day Pakistan by the first half of the 5th century, and the Gupta emperor Skandagupta had repelled a Hūna invasion in 455.

See also[edit]

Part of a series on the
History of Turkmenistan
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References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ Touraj Daryaee (2009), Sasanian Persia, London and New York: I.B.Tauris, p. 17 
  2. ^ a b c d Sasanian Seals and Sealings, Rika Gyselen, Peeters Publishers, 2007, p.1
  3. ^ Grousset, Rene (1970). The Empire of the Steppes. Rutgers University Press. pp. 68–69. ISBN 0-8135-1304-9. 
  4. ^ COINS OF THE TOCHARI, KUSHÂNS, OR YUE-TI, A. Cunningham, The Numismatic Chronicle and Journal of the Numismatic Society,
  5. ^ A NOTE ON KIDARA AND THE KIDARITES, WILLIAM SAMOLIN, Central Asiatic Journal, Vol. 2, No. 4 (1956), pp. 295-297, „The Yueh-chih origin of Kidara is clearly established...“,
  6. ^ Kuṣāṇa Coins and Kuṣāṇa Sculptures from Mathurā, Gritli von Mitterwallner, Frederic Salmon Growse, page 49,
  7. ^ Ancient Coin Collecting VI: Non-Classical Cultures, Wayne G. Sayles, p. 79,
  8. ^ The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Attila, Michael Maas, page 185,
  9. ^ History of Civilizations of Central Asia, Ahmad Hasan Dani, B. A. Litvinsky, page 120,
  • ENOKI, K., « On the Date of the Kidarites (I) », Memoirs of the Research Department of the Toyo Bunko, 27, 1969, p. 1–26.
  • GRENET, F. « Regional Interaction in Central Asia and North-West India in the Kidarite and Hephtalite Period », in SIMS-WILLIAMS, N. (ed.), Indo-Iranian Languages and Peoples, (Proceedings of the British Academy), London, 2002, p. 203–224.