village in northern Afghanistan that was formerly Bactra, the capital of ancient Bactria. It lies 14 miles (22 km) west of the city of Mazar-e Sharif and is situated along the Balkh River. A settlement existed at the site as early as 500 BC, and the town was captured by Alexander the Great about 330 BC. Thereafter it was the capital of the Greek satrapy of Bactria. In succeeding centuries the city fell to various nomadic invaders, including the Turks and Kushans, until it was decisively taken by the Arabs in the 8th century. Balkh then became the capital of Khorasan; it enlarged greatly in size until under the 'Abbasids and Samanids its fame as a capital and centre of learning earned it the title of "mother of cities." Balkh was completely destroyed by the Mongols under Genghis Khan in 1220. Thereafter it lay in ruins until, after its capture by Timur, it was rebuilt early in the 15th century. But in 1480 the alleged discovery of the tomb of 'Ali, the Prophet Muhammad's son-in-law, in neighbouring Mazar-e Sharif once again reduced Balkh to insignificance. Balkh was incorporated into Afghanistan in 1850
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