Frantz Grenet

A Sogdian aristocrat prepares to drink from a golden horn, in this eighth-century A.D. painting from Panjikent, not far from Samarkand. In “Old Samarkand: Nexus of the Ancient World,” author Frantz Grenet notes that the Sogdians, an Iranian people who may have inhabited the steppes of Central Asia as early as the seventh century B.C., controlled trade along the Silk Road during much of the first millennium A.D. Their influence came to an end in 712, when Muslim Arabs conquered Central Asia. The serene and elegant wall painting suggests nothing of the Sogdians’ imminent decline.