Who invented the line 'Afghanistan is graveyard of empires'?

Recusant

Ad Honorem
Sep 2009
2,624
Sector N after curfew
#13
I thought to try the Google Ngrams function. It may give the lie to the claims of the authors I cited in post #9.



In The Wasted Vigil, Nadeem Aslam claims that the term was invented by "British historians."

Afghanistan was known as the Graveyard of Empires, yes, but these and other appellations of ferocity were thought up by British historians attempting to explain the end of the First Anglo--Afghan War of the nineteenth century, the most notorious defeat in British history.
But then we have Terry Anderson seemingly supporting the "ancient epithet" school:

Most of these conquests were brutal, and the invading armies eventually realized that Afghans were a fiercely independent people who resisted foreign conquest and eventually overcame their invaders; for centuries the rugged terrain had been called the Graveyard of Empires.
However, "centuries" only requires two of same, so if it came into use in the mid to late 1800s that qualifies.
 
Aug 2014
996
pakistan
#14
I thought to try the Google Ngrams function. It may give the lie to the claims of the authors I cited in post #9.



In The Wasted Vigil, Nadeem Aslam claims that the term was invented by "British historians."



But then we have Terry Anderson seemingly supporting the "ancient epithet" school:



However, "centuries" only requires two of same, so if it came into use in the mid to late 1800s that qualifies.
Afghans did have reputation for resisting foreign occupiers and their hilly country was termed Yaghistan (land of rebels) by 19th century British sources but i have yet to come across a single British source in which they have recognized Afghanistan as graveyard of empires. None of these authors would be able to trace back the epithet to any British or any earlier sources.
 

Recusant

Ad Honorem
Sep 2009
2,624
Sector N after curfew
#15
Afghans did have reputation for resisting foreign occupiers and their hilly country was termed Yaghistan (land of rebels) by 19th century British sources but i have yet to come across a single British source in which they have recognized Afghanistan as graveyard of empires. None of these authors would be able to trace back the epithet to any British or any earlier sources.

The more I look into it the more I'm coming to agree with you. As Todd Feinman already said, the earliest uses of the term by English language writers that can be found online apparently date to the latter part of the 19th century, and the phrase was applied to Mesopotamia or Chaldea, not Afghanistan. What I've been able to find conforms with what Todd Feinman found.

There were two authors of that era who used the phrase in that context. In 1886 Zénaïde Alexeïevna Ragozin and in 1891 Sarah Maria Burnham, both writing in America. The very first instance of the phrase that I could find was in a florid article from 1870 titled "The World's Future," by E H Gillett, an American Presbyterian minister, applied poetically to either history or the world in general as far as I can tell. It has a nice ring to it though, and was likely applied to Afghanistan more recently.
 
Last edited:
Dec 2018
51
India
#16
Funny thing is, every invader that conquered India or parts of India first conquered Afghanistan.

Huns, Aryans, Turks, Mongols, Greeks etc.
 

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