As the ancient Greek astronomer and geographer Claudius Ptolemy wrote in his treatise Geographia, Alexander the Great set out to conquer Bactria after having subjugated Sogdiana. On the right bank of the river Amu Darya, then known as the Oxus, at the river convenient crossing spot, he built a fortress town - Alexandria Oxiana. After Greeks left the region, nomads destroyed the fortress. One hundred years later Antioch I restored the town and named it Antiochia Tarmita, which a few centuries later developed into one of the largest towns in Bactria and then the Kushan Kingdom.
The ruins of Antiochia Tarmita are hidden under the ancient settlement of Old Termez, which is 500 hectares in area. It is located at a distance of only 5 kilometers from modern Termez. Over the precipitous bank of the Amu Darya there still rise ancient walls with a vestige of large city gate. In the west of the site a few weather-beaten turrets have survived. The walled territory contains the remains of Greek-Bactrian citadel. The walls separated the central part shakhristan from the suburbsrabid, where,judging from numerous archeological findings, potters, smelters and blacksmiths would live and work. The city was split by a canal supplying its residents with water. The busiest caravan routes from Central Asia to Balkh and India ran through Old Termez.
The depth of cultural layer on the territory of the citadel is about 19 metres. Modern scientists proved that ancient Termez was not only a large trading center but also a nucleus of spiritual life of the Great Kushans. Several Buddhist monasteries have survived at the site of Old Termez. Among them are the cave temple complex Karatepa and the monastery Fayaztepa.These complexes had sanctuaries and stupas with Buddhist relics; their interiors were decorated with wall paintings, sculptures of Buddha and Kushan rulers.
The town reached its apex between the 9th and 13th centuries, when it was a large trading and crafts center of Nothern Tokharistan. The walls of the citadel were reinforced and faced with kilned bricks, and the second town wall was built. During the excavation work there were unearthed the ruins of a mosque dating back to the 9th – 10th centuries and an eleven-century minaret, the ruins of a madrassah and craftsmen quarters with unique water-supply system. The archeologists also found the remains of the local rulers’ palace. It was a grand building with a tall arched portal. Interior opened onto courtyard centered around rectangular stepped swimming pool. Along the perimeter of the yard there were built living quarters. Across from the entrance, deep inside a large ayvan, was the throne hall of the ruler. Its walls were decorated with ornamental paintings, gunch stucco carvings, heraldic images of lions, griffins and other fabulous creatures. The palace was built of adobe bricks, but the decorative facing was made of shaped kilned bricks.
The mazar of the sheikh at-Termezi, the spiritual patron of the town, has survived almost intact at the site.
According to the legend, in the autumn of 1220 Genghis Khan set up his military camp near Termez. After the residents rejected his suggestion of surrender, Genghis Khan laid siege to the fortress and on the ninth day he took it by storm. The town was plundered and its residents were slain in the frightful massacre. Within the next four centuries people tried to render the ruins habitable but finally they abandoned the place.
Over fifteen hundred years the site of Old Termez was full of life; civilizations superseded one another and there coexisted different religions… Today the silent ruins are fraught with many hidden archeological sensations and historical discoveries.