Sunday, 20 March 2011

The Medes

In a region in north-west of Iran there was once a people known to the Greeks as the "Medes". It is supposed that this name is a mispronounciation of the word Mada.

It had been theorised that the name Media came from the old Iranian word "Mediya" which meant "middle". Such a supposition might make some sense, supposing that there were other tribes speaking a similar language to assosciate with, being "upper" and "lower". The only Iranian speaking tribes, that lived either to the north or south, historically recorded as contempories with the Medes, were the Saka (Scyths) of the Caucasus and the tribes living in Anshan, later known as Persis.

Media might derive from the name "Mittani" who inhabited north Iraq and the south of lake Urmia. They spoke and Indo-Iranian language and their kingdom lasted until around 1250 BC by which it was occupied by the Assyrians.

The Medes appear in Assyrian records around 850 BC, occupying a region bounded by the Zagros to its west, the Arax river to the north, the desert of Dast-e-Kavir to the east and the land of Elam to the south.

According to Herodotus the Medes were originally known only as "Aryan". In modern Armenian the word "Aryun" means blood. It must derive from the word "Aryan". As late as the Sassanid dynasty only the "Aryans" were permitted into the ruling class. This implies a long tradition of a ruiling minority in that region.
The name "Iran" is from "Ayran", a variant of the word "Aryan"

Herodotus listed 6 clans of Medes: 
  1. Magi, who dressed in white, they killed most animals with their own hands but revered the dog. They are recorded as sacrificing horses to Cyrus at his tomb. 
  2. Paratokeni (Partakka/Patishuwarish) who inhabited the region between the western mountains and the salt desert. 
  3. Boudi who are described as farmers 
  4. Stroukhates who are described as nomads 
  5. Bousai who are described as the natives 
  6. Arizanti

Median kings: 

Phraortes (Frwartish)

Deiokes (Daiaukku) Ruled 700-647 BC He founded Hamgmadana (Hamadan)

Phraortes II Ruled 647-625 BC Subjected Pars, died in battle against the Assyrians

Kyaxares (Kashtariti/Kyshar, possibly same person as Phraortes II) Ruled 625-585 BC. The nomadic Iranian Saka tribe made war against Media,  led by Protothyes (Bartatua/Paruyr Skayordi)
Paruyr Skayordi (Paruyr the son of the Saka) is recorded in Armenian history as a ruler of Urartu who later allied with Kyaxares to destroy Nineveh.
Nineveh was destroyed in 612 BC. 
Then the Medes made war against Lydia in 590 BC.
My drawing of the sculpture of king Kyaxares. He wears a "Kandys" coat which is of north Iranian origin. This is in a tomb at Surdash, Dukan district, As Sulaymaniyah province in the Autonomous Kurdish Region, Iraq. At the tomb there is a figure on the right hand side, it is of the Lydian king Alyattes. This commemorates the two kings making an oath, after the Battle of the Halys.
Peace brokered by the rulers of Cilicia and Baylon. Aryenis, the daughter of the Lydian king Alyattes, marries Kyaxares' son Astyges. 

Astyges (Azhdahak/Zahak) Ruled 585-550 BC. According to Herodotus his daughter married Cambyses, father of Cyrus, his counsellor Harpagos later betrayed him to Cyrus. 
There are many legends about the overthrow of king Astyges by Cyrus.
Historically Astyges was overthrown later when Cyrus was ruling Anshan.
In Middle Persian "Azhdaha" meant a Dragon.

During the reign of the Persian empire (known also as the Achaemenid) a Satrapy was established in what was the eastern part of the kingdom of Urartu. Although it took the name of a region to the east of lake Urmia, that region was known to the Greeks as "Matiene" and may well be a variant of the name "Mediya" or "Mada"

The Medes remained the dominant military force in the early decades of the Persian empire, which was referred to as Median by the likes of Herodotus who described the military and civil dress of the Persian empire as Median. The Parthians who later ruled Iran adopted the common "Median" style of dress.

In the reign of Darius I (522-486 BC) Frwartish rebelled in Media, he clamed descent from Kyshar. This seems to have been an attempt by the Medes to regain power. Frwartish was defeated in May 521 BC. Out of that campaign 30,000 men were killed and 18,000 were captured.
After this the Medes presence decreased at the Persian court, though they are listed as gold smiths for Darius' new palace at Susa.
Darius had stud farms set up in Media (as well as Armenia) were the famed "Nisean horses" were raised and then sent to the king on the Mithra festival held on 21 September.


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