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The Ancient Greek Origins of the Pashtuns' Attan Dance

Athena, according to Greek myth, was born out of Zeus' head, with a sword in one hand and a shield in the other. The Oracle, Gaia, had predicted a god from the 3rd generation of the Mt. Olympus pantheon to take over the reigns from Zeus.

Revered by the ancient Greeks as the goddess of both war and intellect, Athena was believed to be that god/goddess.

To celebrate her during festivals dedicated to her worship, Athenians would perform the Pyrrhic dance. The Pyrrhic dance was an inter-tribal athletic competition at the Panathenaica festival performed in armor by young Athenian men. According to Roger Dunkle, a Professor of Greek Mythology in the Classics Department at Brooklyn College, the dancers, in a kind of ballet, would emulate offensive and defensive movements derived from warfare. The dance is said to have been first performed by Athena herself in a celebration of her fellow Olympians' epic victory over the Giants. This dance, and other athletic events from the Panathenaica Festival basically continued until Christianity came to Greece and eliminated much of the Ancient Greek pagan traditions from the region.

When Alexander the Great came to power after the assassination of hs father, Phillip of Macedonia, in 336 BC, the newly appointed 20-year-old king saw himself as a second coming of Achilles, with a destiny devoted to defeating 'barbarians'. He began by quelling Greek rebellions, and moved on to revenge against the Persians. Along the way, he conquered Asia Minor, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and Mesopotamia, before subduing Persia. He then went further and defeated Transoxania before reaching as far as the Indus River, before being forced by his troops to turn back. On his way back, en route to taking over Arabia, he fell ill and died.

Alexanders army consisted of over 30,000 Greek and Macedonian soldiers. Each trained with a Greek-style military training.

Alexander the Great, wherever he went, settled new cities. It is estimates that he created over 70 cities. Every city in which he conquered, he supplanted Greek men to govern ad intermarry with the local population. His brief empire was called the Hellenistic Empire. After his death, the empire fell into three Hellenistic kingdoms; Egypt, Bactria, and Macedonia/Greece.

It is towards the Eastern end of Bactria that I now shift my focus. During Alexanders stay, and continued conflict with the Pashtuns (or who would come to be known as Pashtuns), in what we know today as the Federally-Administered Tribal Area along the border of modern-day Afghanistan and Pakistan, Greek soldiers mixed with some local Pashtun tribes. Chief among the tribes making claims to some kind of Greek ancestry are the Khattak tribe and the Ghilzai tribe. Genetic studies have shown a small trace of Greek ancestry among some Pashtun tribes, confirming these historical claims.

It also helps to clarify the origins of the Attan Dance. Te dance itself is now an umbrella name for numerous variations of the dance, including the Kibali Attan, Wardaki, Logari, Paktia/Khosti, Kochyano/Kuchi, Kattak, and Nuristani styles.

The dance itself is believed to have originated from the Greek Pyrrhic dance, performed for the Greek goddess Athena. Among the countless aforementioned variations, the Khattak style is thought to be the closest version to the Pyrrhic dance.

According to, the Khattak style is as follows: performed this dance with their weapons in their hands. A Khattak dancer performs with the zeal of a hero, displaying his physical fitness through body movements, while holding one, two, or even three swords at a time. Each sword weighs about one-and-a-half kilograms. The dance is a 5 step routine involving spins, with the swords crossed over their backs and elbows outward, or it can be performed with the swords out the sides and typical Attan half-spin in place while landing to a full spin. Depending on the rhythm of that beat, this spin can be completely reversed in full synchronicity. This dance is performed with the musician tuning the beat to the technique of the performers.

Today, the Attan dance is considered a traditional Afghan dance. It was accepted into the fold of Afghani-Islamic society during the rule of the Mughal Dynasty, when the dance was modified into a Muslim dance soldiers used to get 'closer to God' before try advanced on their missions. A concept that no doubt is attributable to Afghanistan's rich Sufi history.

Today, the dance is often performed at large Pashtun functions, like wedding celebrations.

The beauty of the Attan dance is that it is like a microcosm of the long-standing impact foreign invasions have on people and cultures. No other significant remnants from Alexander the Great outwardly remains in Northwest Pakistan, and the Pashtun-dominated areas of Afghanistan, yet this dance, a very core ritual in Ancient Greek tradition, used to celebrate the very foundation of their society, lives on, and thrives not on those tiny Mediterranean islands, but rather, in some of the most culturally and religiously conservative communities in all the world. Atop mountains, and among people that have had more foreigners attempt to invade over the past 2500 years than just about any other current-standing civilization.

If you want to see the Attan Dance, click here

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Anonymous said... December 3, 2009 at 1:59 AM

Perhaps you should study abit more, the descendants of the greeks through genetics today are known as the people of Nuristan who are dominated under pashtun rule, however the people of nuristan are not poshtun or tajik or any ethnic group in Afghanistan. There are called nuristanis brazing with blonde hair and green eyes, they are the descendants of the greeks

Anonymous said... December 15, 2009 at 8:08 PM

Its not Attan, its Attanr it has roots to Dance mentioned in Avesta as "Attar" meaning Fire, and Attanr has to do with Fighters dancing around the fire after winning the war, and it represents happyness.

ALSO Pakhtuns still call their happy days as "Akhtar" which again is the same root to Gathas Avest which is older than Athana town or Greek related. If you can prove that Attan came from Athan and that it was before Alexander's invasion of 326 BCE at least by 900 years then yes we agree otherwise Attanr is the real word don't confuse yourself like idoits just study Gathas before such foolish claims cause you gonna end up with Athanians being Aryans that came from Afghanistan (Aryana) not vis-versa.

Anonymous said... June 16, 2010 at 4:01 PM

If it can help the discussion the Ancient Greek Pyrrhic dance, still performed today in several areas in today's Greece and in some greek villages in Bulgaria, it is known as the fire dance. Between us, when it comes to tradition and customs, you don't need so much DNA tests and racial documents. All you need is a bit of an open mind to see that between people there are no borders as long as the mind and the heart know how to share experiences.

Anonymous said... February 9, 2012 at 3:31 PM

Bulgarians descent from Afghans bulg comes from the city Balkh and arians from the arian tribes that came from northern afghanistan there are many similarities between Afghans and Bulgarians maybe thats why we share the same dance because it was practiced in ancient times, the first report was when the Aryan kin Yama celebrated his victory and all his warriors danced around fires. Bulgarians are one of the many tribes that left afghanistan and settled in the west.

Anonymous said... February 18, 2012 at 1:12 PM

so what you are saying is that Afghans were migrate to Bulgaria? so is there any evidential sign that could support your claim or how? and I would like to know more about it you mentioned few books. if you read it have you found more information that relate to Afghanistan? or references?. I would appreciate that and plz find me on facebook @ Alko Zee Thanks.

Anonymous said... December 8, 2013 at 8:02 AM


poor greeks, learned all the science knowledge and some civilized topic by the Iranian race so called Persians, Pashtuns, Sakas, Khushans etc. The Avesta and Sanskrit books is older than the whole Greek-Macedon race, yet you claim you thought us this dances? go to hell and take your hellenic culture from Aryana/Iranian lands.

Anonymous said... September 5, 2014 at 4:18 PM

As pashtun girl ma whole family is blonde and i believe we got greek blood in us not israeli and ma grandpa got red hair blue eyes even ma grandma

Unknown said... November 12, 2014 at 8:17 AM
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said... November 12, 2014 at 8:18 AM

My great great great grandfather was Pashtun and he had black hair there are many greeks up to now who still have black hair and look middle eastern .

Unknown said... November 28, 2014 at 10:15 PM

You have it backwards! Attan as stated above is hundreds of years older than the Greek conquests of Afghanistan and was a Zoroastrian fire dance. Most of Greek culture comes from Afghanistan and not the other way around. The Gypsy's of Eastern Europe are all ethnic Pashtuns which is why they carry so much of our culture. Even the concept of wearing pants was borrowed from Afghan horse riders who were ridiculed by the Greek soldiers and called "sack wearers" on first impression. Prior to that the Greek men were running around in mini skirts. You have to remember, in that era Afghanistan was not a worn torn wasteland as it is today. It was home to some of histories greatest civilizations and men like Rumi and Avicenna.

Anonymous said... February 20, 2016 at 1:25 AM

"kirou anavasis" of Xenophon?Xenophon was from Athena,but he admired the Spartans more than his own city.The result was that the proud Spartans because of his attitude and courage(He lead an army of 10,000 Greek mercenaries from the deapth of Asia(the area of the today Iraq) to safety and back to Greece) accept him as a citizen of Sparta.Can you imagine that?they accepted an Athenean as Spartan.And he also wrote 2 books about his trip and in there is giving alot of descriptions about the Greek army of every city as well as the descriptions of the foreign nations that they had to fight in order to return to Greece.From what he wrote we can clearly see thousands of soldiers with fairer skin of the skin of natives of Asia,but this Greek army had Black hair and eyes and that is given in a very absolute way."The black eyes of our army cryed when they met the blue color of the sea" and also on other lines"The former shinny black hair of the Spartans had now turned white from the dust of the road" and then "the locals were as we knew fierced warrios and so we decided to make circle and if possible avoid them,we didnt want or black haired heads to become a trophies at the walls of their cities."

Anonymous said... February 20, 2016 at 1:34 AM

The Trojans, who inhabited what today is Anatolia en Turkey, had black hair, and their women’s hairstyles were carefully elaborated. Married women used long hair with long braids, as a sign of their marital status. In this mural painting, "The Blue Ladies", from 1.600 BC are notorious these hairstyles

The Minoans are considered the first European civilization. They were in one sense the first "Greek" civilization. But the people were not Greek. They came from Asia Minor (Anatolia) around 2600 BCE while still in the neolithic age. They were of medium height with black curly hair and brown eyes.
During the Bronze Age, starting around 1900 BCE, they developed into a sophisticated trade power in the Mediterranean minoans in yellow areas they were also fair in color
This empire reached its height during the mid-14th century BC under Suppiluliuma I, when it encompassed an area that included most of Asia Minor as well as parts of the ((((northern Levant and Upper Mesopotamia)))). After c. 1180 BC, the empire came to an end during the Bronze Age collapse, splintering into several independent "Neo-Hittite" city-states, some of which survived until the 8th century BC.))))))))))))))))))))))))))
((( The Medes were an ancient Iranian people who lived in an area known as Media (North-western Iran and south-east Turkey))))
Lydia arose as a Neo-Hittite kingdom following the collapse of the Hittite Empire in the twelfth century BC. According to Greek sources, the original name of the Lydian kingdom was Maionia. (medes(kurds) mixed with indo aryan Lydians who are the neo hittites who r the minoans

Dravidians were in Crete as well
Dravidians In Crete they were known by the name which the Greeks wrote as Termilai, in Asia Minor as 'Trimmili' or Trimalai (Sastri p60), and in India as Dramiza, Dravida, Dramila and finally Tamil. Their deity was "Mother-Earth" who gave them grain, vegetables and food. The 'Mother Goddess' cult belonged exclusively to Crete where it was known as Durgha (compare Trqqas mentioned in Lycian inscriptions in Asia Minor) as Uma or Parvati. (Sastri p61) They probably brought along with them to India this Mediterranean or Aegean Saivaism, Mother Goddess with her consort Siva. ( from tamil scholar)
The Mediterranean Peoples (Dravidians)
(Extracts from ‘The Original Indians â€" An Enquiry’ by Dr. A. Desai)
How the Mediterranean people came to be called Dravidians makes interesting story. The Pre-Hellenistic Lycians of Asi Minor, who where probably the Mediterranean stock called themselves Trimmili. Another tribe of this branch in the island of Crete was known by the name Dr(a)mil or Dr(a)miz. In ancient Sanskrit writings we find the terms Dramili and Dravidi, and then Dravida which referred to the southern portion of India.
South India was known to the ancient Greek and Roman geographers as Damirica or Limurike. Periplus Maris Erithroei (Periplus of the Eritrean Sea) in the second or third century AD described the maritime route followed by Greek ships sailing to the South Indian ports: “Then follow Naoura and Tundis, the first marts of Limurike and after these Mouziris and Nelkunda, the seats of government.â€
Dramila, Dravida and Damirica indicated the territory. Then it was applied to the people living in the territory and the language they spoke, in the local parlance Tamil and Tamil Nadu or Tamilakam.
The Mediterraneans or Dravidians were associated with the ancient Sumerian civilizations of Mesopotamia and of Elam (southern Iran).

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