Forg and the Fortress
An inscription found in Forg village, dating back to 919 AD reads: “O Lord, ‘t is better to carve a mountain with ones fingernails than to ask favors from the wrong people.”
This saying is just one of the many old stone writings found in Forg village that attest to the village’s deep roots in Iranian culture and history. Forg is in fact one of the oldest villages of Darmian County, east of Birjand city in South Khorasan Province. It is said the village was named after Pur-Qobad, the son of Kai Qobad II,who built it. Later, when the dominant language became Arabic, the ‘pur’ of Pur-Qobad was replaced with ‘fur’ and the village was called Fur-Qobad. The name was later shortened to Furq, then Furk, and finally Forg.
Since the village lies on the foothills, it is full of steps. There are barberry gardens everywhere. The walls are of adobe and stone. The roofs are reinforced with timber. But the most charming features of the village are the numerous covered passageways paved with bricks. They stretch for long distances and bend playfully left and right.
Anywhere in the village, one can turn around and see the mighty fortress of Forg on top of the mountain. There are five neighborhoods in Forg village; the oldest is Hoz-Saravanan near the fortress, according to Young Journalists Club (YJC).
In an area of about 9,300 sq meters, the large fortress is perched, looming over the surrounding gardens, narrow alleys, and desert horizon all around.
Made of fired brick, stone, clay, gypsum, lime and mortar, the fortress stretches in the east-westerly direction. Its main gate faces east, the lowest end of the fort. The fortress complex includes servant quarters, animal shelters and an ammunition depot.
The first people, who molded the clay and raised the walls of the fort, were Sagartians, an ancient Iranian tribe whose exact origin is unknown. According to the writings of Stephanus of Byzantium in 6th century AD, there was a peninsula in the Caspian Sea called Sagartia. What happened to the peninsula is unclear, but the Sagartians continued to live as nomadic pastoralists before merging with the Achaemenids and Medians.
After the siege of the fortress during the Arab conquests of the mid-7th century AD, it was ruled and inhabited by Abbasid forces, but was later replaced by Ismailis. It became a significant fortress for Ismailis – the second important fortress after Alamut fortress, near modern day Qazvin.
After the fall of the Ismailis in the mid-13th century, the fortress was abandoned, until it passed to Amir Alam Khan, a commander of Nader Shah of the Afshar dynasty. He restored the fortress, raised the outer walls and erected the eight round towers as we can see them today.
Alam Khan’s children inherited the fortress and ruled the surrounding lands well into the Qajar era, until 1925. It has since been abandoned as place of residence, but instead has become among the most visited attractions of Darmian.