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Encyclopedia > Massagetae

The Massagetae were an Iranian people[1][2][3][4] of antiquity known primarily from the writings of Herodotus. Their name was probably akin to Getae and Thyssagetae. Image File history File links Broom_icon. ... Ancient Iranian peoples who settled Greater Iran in the 2nd millennium BC first appear in Assyrian records in the 9th century BC. They remain dominant throughout Classical Antiquity in Scythia and Persia. ... This article or section does not adequately cite its references or sources. ... The Getae (Γέται, singular Γέτης; Getae) was the name given by the Greeks and Romans to several Thracian tribes that occupied the regions south of the Lower Danube in what is today northern Bulgaria, especially near modern Dobruja and in the Muntenian plain. ... Thyssagetae were an ancient tribe described by Herodotus (IV. 22, 123) as occupying a district to the north-east of Scythia separated from the Budini by a desert seven days journey broad, perhaps the Voguls. ...



According to Herodotus:

[1.215] In their dress and mode of living the Massagetae resemble the Scythians. They fight both on horseback and on foot, neither method is strange to them: they use bows and lances, but their favourite weapon is the battle-axe. Their arms are all either of gold or brass. For their spear-points, and arrow-heads, and for their battle-axes, they make use of brass; for head-gear, belts, and girdles, of gold. So too with the caparison of their horses, they give them breastplates of brass, but employ gold about the reins, the bit, and the cheek-plates. They use neither iron nor silver, having none in their country; but they have brass and gold in abundance.
[1.216] The following are some of their customs; - Each man has but one wife, yet all the wives are held in common; for this is a custom of the Massagetae and not of the Scythians, as the Greeks wrongly say. Human life does not come to its natural close with this people; but when a man grows very old, all his kinsfolk collect together and offer him up in sacrifice; offering at the same time some cattle also. After the sacrifice they boil the flesh and feast on it; and those who thus end their days are reckoned the happiest. If a man dies of disease they do not eat him, but bury him in the ground, bewailing his ill-fortune that he did not come to be sacrificed. They sow no grain, but live on their herds, and on fish, of which there is great plenty in the Araxes. Milk is what they chiefly drink. The only god they worship is the sun, and to him they offer the horse in sacrifice; under the notion of giving to the swiftest of the gods the swiftest of all mortal creatures.

They were similar to the Scythians in their dress and mode of living. Each man had one woman, yet their wives were held in common, this custom differentiating the Massagetae from the Scythians. Queen Tomyris succeeded her dead husband, the former king of the Massagetae. The Massagetae worshipped only one god, the sun, and sacrificed a horse in its honour. Approximate extent of Scythia and Sarmatia in the 1st century BC (the orange background shows the spread of Eastern Iranian languages, among them Scytho-Sarmatian). ... Tomyris was, according to Herodotus, a queen of the Massagetae. ...


A number of different versions have been transmitted concering the passing away of Cyrus the Great. One version reported Cyrus the Great (Old Persian: Kūruš[1], modern Persian: کوروش بزرگ, Kurosh-e Bozorg) (ca. ...

[1.201] When Cyrus had achieved the conquest of the Babylonians, he conceived the desire of bringing the Massagetae under his dominion. Now the Massagetae are said to be a great and warlike nation, dwelling eastward, toward the rising of the sun, beyond the river Araxes, and opposite the Issedonians. By many they are regarded as a Scythian race.

According to Herodotus Cyrus the Great of Persia met his death in a battle with the Massagetae living beyond Araxes river. They were a people from the southern deserts of Khwarezm in today's Bukhara, Uzbekistan. The queen of the Massagetae, Tomyris, prevailed, although Cyrus had defeated Tomyris's son Spargapises. Herodotus mentions: Of all the combats in which the barbarians [a term meaning non-Greeks which was not a derogatory term in Herotodus's time] have engaged among themselves, I reckon this to have been the fiercest. Cyrus the Great (Old Persian: Kūruš[1], modern Persian: کوروش بزرگ, Kurosh-e Bozorg) (ca. ... The Persian Empire was a series of historical empires that ruled over the Iranian plateau, the old Persian homeland, and beyond in Western Asia, Central Asia and the Caucasus. ... Syr Darya (also known as Syrdarya or Sirdaryo) is a river in Central Asia. ... Khwarezmid Empire (1190-1220) Khwarezm was a series of states centered on the Amu Darya river delta of the former Aral Sea, in modern Uzbekistan, extending across the Ust-Urt plateau and possibly as far west as the eastern shores of the northern Caspian Sea. ... Bukhara (Tajik: Бухоро; Persian: ‎, Buxârâ; Uzbek: ; Russian: ), from the Soghdian βuxārak (lucky place), is the fifth-largest city in Uzbekistan, and capital of the Bukhara Province (viloyat). ... Tomyris was, according to Herodotus, a queen of the Massagetae. ...


Ammianus Marcellinus considered the Alans to be the former Massagetae.[5]. At the close of the fourth century CE, Claudian (the court poet of Emperor Honorius and Stilicho) wrote of Alans and Massagetae in the same breath: "the Massagetes who cruelly wound their horses that they may drink their blood, the Alans who break the ice and drink the waters of Maeotis' lake." (In Rufinem) Ammianus Marcellinus (325/330-after 391) was a Roman historian who wrote during Late Antiquity. ... The Alans, Alani, Alauni or Halani were an Iranian nomadic group among the Sarmatian people, warlike nomadic pastoralists of varied backgrounds, who spoke an Iranian language and to a large extent shared a common culture. ... Claudius Claudianus, Anglicized as Claudian, was the court poet to the Emperor Honorius and Stilicho. ... See: Flavius Augustus Honorius, western Roman emperor 395-423 Saint Honorius, archbishop of Canterbury 627-655 Pope Honorius I, pope 625-638 Pope Honorius II, pope 1124-1130 Pope Honorius III, pope 1216-1227 Pope Honorius IV, pope 1285-1287 Antipope Honorius II, 1061-1064 This is a disambiguation page... Stilicho (right) with his wife Serena and son Eucherius Flavius Stilicho (occasionally written as Stilico) (ca. ... The shallow Sea of Azov is clearly distinguished from the deeper Black Sea. ...


  1. ^ Karasulas, Antony. Mounted Archers Of The Steppe 600 Bc-ad 1300 (Elite),Osprey Publishing , 2004, pg 7[1]
  2. ^ Wilcox, Peter. Rome's Enemies: Parthians and Sassanids, Osprey Publishing , 1986, pg 9, [2]
  3. ^ Gershevitch, Ilya. The Cambridge History of Iran, 1985, Volume two, Cambridge University Press, 1985, pg 48 [3]
  4. ^ Grousset, René. The Empire of the Steppes, 1989, Rutgers University Press, pg 547 [4]
  5. ^ "iuxtaque Massagetae Halani et Sargetae", "per Albanos et Massagetas, quos Alanos nunc appellamus", "Halanos pervenit, veteres Massagetas"

External links

  • Herodotus Histories
  • Ammianus Marcellinus

  Results from FactBites:
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Numerous and fascinating studies show that the Tajiks ancestors were the Scythians, Massagetae, Bactrians Sogdians, Marvians and Aryans, who were living in Central Asia.
The Massagetae are well known to history because of their conflict with the Persian Emperor Cyrus.
Indeed, it was the female leader of the Massagetae, Tomyris, who killed the first and arguably greatest of the Persian kings, Cyrus the Great, in order to take revenge for the death of her son (sun?).
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In conventional wisdom the Massagetae and Saka Haumavarga are depicted as neighbors and inhabiting an area beyond Jaxartes [present-day Uzbekistan], with the Massagetae occupying the area north of Haumavarga.
The synonymy of Massagetae with Saka Haumavarga situates the latter on the eastern littoral of the Caspian Sea.
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