Massagetae

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Asia in 323 BC, showing the Massagetae located in Central Asia.

The Massagetae, or Massageteans,[1] were an ancient Eastern Iranian nomadic confederation,[2][3][4][5] who inhabited the steppes of Central Asia, north-east of the Caspian Sea in modern Turkmenistan, western Uzbekistan, and southern Kazakhstan.

The Massagetae are known primarily from the writings of Herodotus who described the Massagetae as living on a sizeable portion of the great plain east of the Caspian Sea.[6] He several times refers to them as living "beyond the River Araxes", which flows through the Caucasus and into the west Caspian.[7] Scholars have offered various explanations for this anomaly. For example, Herodotus may have confused two or more rivers, as he had limited and frequently indirect knowledge of geography.[8]

According to Greek and Roman scholars, the Massagetae were neighboured by the Aspasioi (possibly the Aśvaka) to the north, the Scythians and the Dahae to the west, and the Issedones (possibly the Wusun) to the east. Sogdia (Khorasan) lay to the south.[9]

Possible connections to other ancient peoples

Many scholars have suggested that the Massagetae were related to the Getae of ancient Eastern Europe.[10] A 9th century work by Rabanus Maurus, De Universo, states: "The Massagetae are in origin from the tribe of the Scythians, and are called Massagetae, as if heavy, that is, strong Getae."[11][12] In Central Asian languages such as Middle Persian and Avestan, the prefix massa means "great", "heavy", or "strong".[13]

Some authors, such as Alexander Cunningham, James P. Mallory, Victor H. Mair, and Edgar Knobloch have proposed relating the Massagetae to the Gutians of 2000 BC Mesopotamia, and/or a people known in ancient China as the "Da Yuezhi" or "Great Yuezhi" (who founded the Kushan Empire in South Asia). Mallory and Mair suggest that Da Yuezhi may at one time have been pronounced d'ad-ngiwat-tieg, connecting them to the Massagetae.[14][15][16] These theories are not widely accepted, however.

Culture

The original language of the Massagetae is little-known. While it appears to have had similarities to the Eastern Iranian languages, these may have resulted from interactions with neighbouring peoples, such as language contact or sprachbund-type assimilation.

According to Herodotus:

History

Concerning the death of Cyrus the Great of Persia, Herodotus writes:

Ammianus Marcellinus considered the Alans to be the former Massagetae.[17] At the close of the 4th 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).

Procopius writes in History of the Wars Book III: The Vandalic War:[18] "the Massagetae whom they now call Huns" (XI. 37.), "there was a certain man among the Massagetae, well gifted with courage and strength of body, the leader of a few men; this man had the privilege handed down from his fathers and ancestors to be the first in all the Hunnic armies to attack the enemy" (XVIII. 54.).

Evagrius Scholasticus (Ecclesiastical History. Book 3. Ch. II.): "and in Thrace, by the inroads of the Huns, formerly known by the name of Massagetae, who crossed the Ister without opposition".[19]

Tadeusz Sulimirski notes that the Sacae also invaded parts of Northern India.[20] Weer Rajendra Rishi, an Indian linguist[21] has identified linguistic affinities between Indian and Central Asian languages, which further lends credence to the possibility of historical Sacae influence in Northern India.[13][20]

According to Guive Mirfendereski at the Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies (CAIS), the Massagetae are synonymous with the Sakā haumavargā of South Asian historiography.

See also

References

  1. ^ Engels, Donald W. (1978). Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army. California: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-04272-7. 
  2. ^ Karasulas, Antony. Mounted Archers Of The Steppe 600 BC-AD 1300 (Elite). Osprey Publishing, 2004, ISBN 184176809X, p. 7.
  3. ^ Wilcox, Peter. Rome's Enemies: Parthians and Sassanids. Osprey Publishing, 1986, ISBN 0-85045-688-6, p. 9.
  4. ^ Gershevitch, I.; Fisher, William Bayne; Boyle, John Andrew; Yarshater, Ehsan; Frye, Richard Nelson (1968). The Cambridge History of Iran. Cambridge University Press. p. 48. ISBN 9780521200912. 
  5. ^ Grousset, René. The Empire of the Steppes. Rutgers University Press, 1989, ISBN 0-8135-1304-9, p. 547.
  6. ^ Herodotus, The Histories, 1.204.
  7. ^ Herodotus, The Histories, 1.202.
  8. ^ Herodotus, The Histories, translation by Robin Waterfield, with notes by Carolyn Deward (1998), p. 613, notes on 1.201-16.
  9. ^ Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus: Books 11-12, Volume 1, Marcus Junianus Justinus, John Yardley, & Waldemar Heckel
  10. ^ Leake, Jane Acomb (1967). The Geats of Beowulf: a study in the geographical mythology of the Middle Ages (illustrated ed.). University of Wisconsin Press. p. 68. 
  11. ^ Maurus, Rabanus (1864). Migne, Jacques Paul, ed. De universo. Paris. The Massagetae are in origin from the tribe of the Scythians, and are called Massagetae, as if heavy, that is, strong Getae. 
  12. ^ Dhillon, Balbir Singh (1994). History and study of the Jats: with reference to Sikhs, Scythians, Alans, Sarmatians, Goths, and Jutes (illustrated ed.). Canada: Beta Publishers. p. 8. ISBN 1-895603-02-1. 
  13. ^ a b Rishi, Weer Rajendra (1982). India & Russia: linguistic & cultural affinity. Roma. p. 95. 
  14. ^ Mallory, J. P.; Mair, Victor H. (2000), The Tarim Mummies: Ancient China and the Mystery of the Earliest Peoples from the West, London: Thames & Hudson. pages 98-99
  15. ^ John F. Haskins (2016). Pazyrik - The Valley of the Frozen Tombs. Read Books. p. 10. ISBN 978-1-4733-5279-7. 
  16. ^ THE STRONGEST TRIBE, Yu. A. Zuev, page 33: "Massagets of the earliest ancient authors... are the Yuezhis of the Chinese sources"
  17. ^ Ammianus Marcellinus: "iuxtaque Massagetae Halani et Sargetae"; "per Albanos et Massagetas, quos Alanos nunc appellamus"; "Halanos pervenit, veteres Massagetas".
  18. ^ Procopius: History of the Wars. http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/History_of_the_Wars/Book_III
  19. ^ Ecclesiastical History. Book 3. http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/evagrius_3_book3.htm
  20. ^ a b Sulimirski, Tadeusz (1970). The Sarmatians. Volume 73 of Ancient peoples and places. New York: Praeger. pp. 113–114. The evidence of both the ancient authors and the archaeological remains point to a massive migration of Sacian (Sakas)/Massagetan tribes from the Syr Daria Delta (Central Asia) by the middle of the second century B.C. Some of the Syr Darian tribes; they also invaded North India. 
  21. ^ Indian Institute of Romani Studies Archived 2013-01-08 at Archive.is

External links

  • Herodotus Histories
  • Ammianus Marcellinus
  • Schmitt, Rüdiger (2018). "MASSAGETAE". Encyclopaedia Iranica. 
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