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Median Empire
Median Kingdom

678 BC–549 BC
Median empire map.png
A map of the Median Empire at its greatest extent (6th century BC), according to Herodotus
Capital Ecbatana
Common languages Median
Old Iranian religion (related to Mithraism, early Zoroastrianism)
 678–665 BC
Deioces or Kashtariti
 665–633 BC
 625–585 BC
 589–549 BC
Historical era Iron Age
678 BC
 Conquered by Cyrus the Great
549 BC
585 BC [1] [2] 2,800,000 km2 (1,100,000 sq mi)
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Map of Assyria.png Neo-Assyrian Empire
13-Urartu-9-6mta.gif Urartu
Achaemenid Empire Standard of Cyrus the Great (Achaemenid Empire).svg
The Apadana Palace, northern stairway, 5th century BC Achaemenid bas-relief shows a Mede soldier behind a Persian soldier, in Persepolis, Iran Persepolis Apadana noerdliche Treppe Detail.jpg
The Apadana Palace, northern stairway, 5th century BC Achaemenid bas-relief shows a Mede soldier behind a Persian soldier, in Persepolis, Iran

The Medes [N 1] ( /mdz/ , Old Persian Māda-, Ancient Greek : Μῆδοι, Hebrew : מָדַיMadai) were an ancient Iranian people [N 2] who spoke the Median language and who inhabited an area known as Media between western and northern Iran. Under the Neo-Assyrian Empire, late 9th to early 7th centuries BC, the region of Media was bounded by the Zagros Mountains to its west, to its south by the Garrin Mountain in Lorestan Province, to its northwest by the Qaflankuh Mountains in Zanjan Province, and to its east by the Dasht-e Kavir desert. Its neighbors were the kingdoms of Gizilbunda and Mannea in the northwest, and Ellipi and Elam in the south. [5]

Hebrew language Semitic language native to Israel

Hebrew is a Northwest Semitic language native to Israel; the modern version of which is spoken by over 9 million people worldwide. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites and their ancestors, although the language was not referred to by the name Hebrew in the Tanakh. The earliest examples of written Paleo-Hebrew date from the 10th century BCE. Hebrew belongs to the West Semitic branch of the Afroasiatic language family. Hebrew is the only living Canaanite language left, and the only truly successful example of a revived dead language.

Iranian peoples diverse Indo-European ethno-linguistic group

The Iranian peoples, or the Iranic peoples, are a diverse Indo-European ethno-linguistic group that comprise the speakers of the Iranian languages.

The Median language was the language of the Medes. It is an Old Iranian language and classified as belonging to the Northwestern Iranian subfamily, which includes many other languages such as Azari, Gilaki, Mazandarani, Zaza–Gorani, Kurdish, and Baluchi.


In the 7th century BC, Media's tribes came together to form the Median Kingdom, which remained a Neo-Assyrian vassal. Between 616 and 609 BC, King Cyaxares (624–585 BC), allied with King Nabopolassar of the Neo-Babylonian Empire against the Neo-Assyrian Empire, after which the Median Empire stretched across the Iranian Plateau as far as Anatolia. Its precise geographical extent remains unknown. [5]

Cyaxares was the third and most capable king of Media, according to Herodotus, with a far greater military reputation than his father Phraortes or grandfather Deioces. He was the first to divide his troops into separate sections of spearmen, archers, and horsemen.

Nabopolassar King of Babylon

Nabopolassar (; cuneiform: 𒀭𒀝𒌉𒍑𒌶dAG.IBILA.URU3Akkadian: Nabû-apla-uṣur; c. 658 BC – 605 BC) was a Chaldean king of Babylonia and a central figure in the fall of the Neo-Assyrian Empire. The death of Assyrian king Ashurbanipal around 627 BC resulted in political instability. In 626 BC, a native dynasty arose under Nabopolassar. He made Babylon his capital and ruled over Babylonia for a period of about twenty years (626–605 BC). He is credited with founding the Neo-Babylonian Empire. By 616 BC, Nabopolassar had united the entire area under his rule.

Neo-Babylonian Empire former country

The Neo-Babylonian Empire was a period of Mesopotamian history which began in 626 BC and ended in 539 BC. During the preceding three centuries, Babylonia had been ruled by their fellow Akkadian speakers and northern neighbours, Assyria. A year after the death of the last strong Assyrian ruler, Ashurbanipal, in 627 BC, the Assyrian empire spiralled into a series of brutal civil wars. Babylonia rebelled under Nabopolassar. In alliance with the Medes, Persians, Scythians and Cimmerians, they sacked the city of Nineveh in 612 BC, and the seat of empire was transferred to Babylonia for the first time since the death of Hammurabi in the mid-18th century BC. This period witnessed a general improvement in economic life and agricultural production, and a great flourishing of architectural projects, the arts and science.

A few archaeological sites (discovered in the "Median triangle" in western Iran) and textual sources (from contemporary Assyrians and also ancient Greeks in later centuries) provide a brief documentation of the history and culture of the Median state. Apart from a few personal names, the language of the Medes is unknown. The Medes had an ancient Iranian religion (a form of pre-Zoroastrian Mazdaism or Mithra worshipping) with a priesthood named as "Magi". Later during the reigns of the last Median kings, the reforms of Zoroaster spread into western Iran.[ citation needed ]

Assyria major Mesopotamian East Semitic kingdom

Assyria, also called the Assyrian Empire, was a Mesopotamian kingdom and empire of the ancient Near East and the Levant. It existed as a state from perhaps as early as the 25th century BC until its collapse between 612 BC and 609 BC - spanning the periods of the Early to Middle Bronze Age through to the late Iron Age. From the end of the seventh century BC to the mid-seventh century AD, it survived as a geopolitical entity, for the most part ruled by foreign powers such as the Parthian and early Sasanian Empires between the mid-second century BC and late third century AD, the final part of which period saw Mesopotamia become a major centre of Syriac Christianity and the birthplace of the Church of the East.

Ancient Greece Civilization belonging to an early period of Greek history

Ancient Greece was a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history from the Greek Dark Ages of the 12th–9th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Roughly three centuries after the Late Bronze Age collapse of Mycenaean Greece, Greek urban poleis began to form in the 8th century BC, ushering in the Archaic period and colonization of the Mediterranean Basin. This was followed by the period of Classical Greece, an era that began with the Greco-Persian Wars, lasting from the 5th to 4th centuries BC. Due to the conquests by Alexander the Great of Macedon, Hellenistic civilization flourished from Central Asia to the western end of the Mediterranean Sea. The Hellenistic period came to an end with the conquests and annexations of the eastern Mediterranean world by the Roman Republic, which established the Roman province of Macedonia in Roman Greece, and later the province of Achaea during the Roman Empire.

Zoroastrianism Ancient Iranian religion founded by Zoroaster

Zoroastrianism, or Mazdayasna, is one of the world's oldest religions that remains active. It is a monotheistic faith, centered in a dualistic cosmology of good and evil and an eschatology predicting the ultimate destruction of evil. Ascribed to the teachings of the Iranian-speaking prophet Zoroaster, it exalts a deity of wisdom, Ahura Mazda, as its Supreme Being. Major features of Zoroastrianism, such as messianism, judgment after death, heaven and hell, and free will have influenced other religious systems, including Second Temple Judaism, Gnosticism, Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism.


According to the Histories of Herodotus, there were six Median tribes: [6]

<i>Histories</i> (Herodotus) book by Herodotus

The Histories of Herodotus is considered the founding work of history in Western literature. Written in 440 BC in the Ionic dialect of classical Greek, The Histories serves as a record of the ancient traditions, politics, geography, and clashes of various cultures that were known in Western Asia, Northern Africa and Greece at that time. Although not a fully impartial record, it remains one of the West's most important sources regarding these affairs. Moreover, it established the genre and study of history in the Western world.

The six Median tribes resided in Media proper, the triangular area between Rhagae, Aspadana and Ecbatana. [7] In present-day Iran, [8] that is the area between Tehran, Isfahan and Hamadan, respectively. Of the Median tribes, the Magi resided in Rhaga, [9] modern Tehran. [10] They were of a sacred caste which ministered to the spiritual needs of the Medes. [11] The Paretaceni tribe resided in and around Aspadana, modern Isfahan, [7] [12] [13] the Arizanti lived in and around Kashan (Isfahan Province), [7] and the Busae tribe lived in and around the future Median capital of Ecbatana, near modern Hamadan. [7] The Struchates and the Budii lived in villages in the Median triangle. [14]

Tehran City in Iran

Tehran is the capital of Iran and Tehran Province. With a population of around 8.4 million in the city and 15 million in the larger metropolitan area of Greater Tehran, Tehran is the most populous city in Iran and Western Asia, and has the second-largest metropolitan area in the Middle East. It is ranked 29th in the world by the population of its metropolitan area.

Isfahan City in Iran

Isfahan is a city in Iran. It is located 406 kilometres south of Tehran, and is the capital of Isfahan Province.

Kashan City in Isfahan, Iran

Kashan is a city in Isfahan province, Iran. At the 2017 census, its population was 396,987 in 90,828 families.


The original source for their name and homeland is a directly transmitted Old Iranian geographical name which is attested as the Old Persian "Māda-" (singular masculine). [15] The meaning of this word is not precisely known. [16] However, the linguist W. Skalmowski proposes a relation with the proto-Indo European word "med(h)-", meaning "central, suited in the middle", by referring to the Old Indic "madhya-" and Old Iranian "maidiia-" which both carry the same meaning. [15] The Latin medium, Greek méso and German mittel are similarly derived from it.

Old Persian is one of the two directly attested Old Iranian languages. Old Persian appears primarily in the inscriptions, clay tablets and seals of the Achaemenid era. Examples of Old Persian have been found in what is now Iran, Romania (Gherla), Armenia, Bahrain, Iraq, Turkey and Egypt, with the most important attestation by far being the contents of the Behistun Inscription. Recent research (2007) into the vast Persepolis Fortification Archive at the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago have unearthed Old Persian tablets which suggest Old Persian was a written language in use for practical recording and not only for royal display.

Jan Wojciech Skalmowski, born 24 June 1933 in Poznań, died 18 July 2008 in Brussels, was a Polish scholar, orientalist, essayist, writer, journalist and literary critic.

Proto-Indo-European language proto-language (last common ancestor) of the Indo-European language family

Proto-Indo-European (PIE) is the linguistic reconstruction of the common ancestor of the Indo-European languages, the most widely spoken language family in the world.

Greek scholars during antiquity would base ethnological conclusions on Greek legends and the similarity of names. According to the Histories of Herodotus (440 BC): [17]


In the Greek myth of Jason and the Argonauts, Medea is the daughter of King Aeëtes of Colchis and a paternal granddaughter of the sun-god Helios. [19] Following her failed marriage to Jason while in Corinth, for one of several reasons depending on the version, [20] she marries King Aegeus of Athens and bears a son Medus. After failing to make Aegeus kill his older son Theseus, she and her son fled to Aria , where the Medes take their name from her, according to several Greek and later Roman accounts, including in Pausanias' Description of Greece (1st-century AD). [21] According to other versions, such as in Strabo's Geographica (1st-century AD) and Justin's Epitoma Historiarum Philippicarum (2nd or 3rd century AD), she returned home to conquer neighboring lands with her husband Jason, one of which was named after her; while another version related by Diodorus Siculus in Bibliotheca Historica (1st-century BC) states that after being exiled she married an Asian king and bore Medus, who was greatly admired for his courage, after whom they took their name. [22]


Excavation from ancient Ecbatane, Hamadan, Iran Ecbatane - excavated house.jpg
Excavation from ancient Ecbatane, Hamadan, Iran

The discoveries of Median sites in Iran happened only after the 1960s. [23] For 1960 the search for Median archeological sources has mostly focused in an area known as the “Median triangle,” defined roughly as the region bounded by Hamadān and Malāyer (in Hamadan Province) and Kangāvar (in Kermanshah Province). [23] Three major sites from central western Iran in the Iron Age III period (i.e. 850–500 BC) are: [24]

The site is located 14 km west of Malāyer in Hamadan province. [23] The excavations started in 1967 with D. Stronach as the director. [25] The remains of four main buildings in the site are "the central temple, the western temple, the fort, and the columned hall" which according to Stronach were likely to have been built in the order named and predate the latter occupation of the first half of the 6th century BC. [26] According to Stronach, the central temple, with its stark design, "provides a notable, if mute, expression of religious belief and practice". [26] A number of ceramics from the Median levels at Tepe Nush-i Jan have been found which are associated with a period (the second half of the 7th century BC) of power consolidation in the Hamadān areas. These findings show four different wares known as “common ware” (buff, cream, or light red in colour and with gold or silver mica temper) including jars in various size the largest of which is a form of ribbed pithoi. Smaller and more elaborate vessels were in “grey ware”, (these display smoothed and burnished surface). The “cooking ware” and “crumbly ware” are also recognized each in single handmade products. [26]
The site is located 13 km east of Kangāvar city on the left bank of the river Gamas Āb". The excavations, started in 1965, were led by T. C. Young, Jr. which according to David Stronach, evidently shows an important Bronze Age construction that was reoccupied sometime before the beginning of the Iron III period. The excavations of Young indicate the remains of part of a single residence of a local ruler which later became quite substantial. [23] This is similar to those mentioned often in Assyrian sources. [24]
The site is located in northeastern Luristan with a distance of roughly 10 km from Nūrābād in Lurestan province. The excavations were conducted by C. Goff in 1966–69. The second level of this site probably dates to the 7th century BC. [27]

These sources have both similarities (in cultural characteristics) and differences (due to functional differences and diversity among the Median tribes). [24] The architecture of these archaeological findings, that can probably be dated to the Median period, show a link between the tradition of columned audience halls often seen in Achaemenid (for example in Persepolis) and Safavid Iran (for example in "Chehel Sotoun" from the 17th century AD) and the Median architecture. [24]

The materials found at Tepe Nush-i Jan, Godin Tepe, and other sites located in Media together with the Assyrian reliefs show the existence of urban settlements in Media in the first half of the 1st millennium BC which had functioned as centres for the production of handicrafts and also of an agricultural and cattle-breeding economy of a secondary type. [28] For other historical documentation, the archaeological evidence, though rare, together with cuneiform records by Assyrian make it possible, regardless of Herodotus' accounts, to establish some of the early history of Medians. [29]


An early description of Media from the end of the 9th century BC to the beginning of the 7th century BC comes from the Assyrians. The southern border of Media, in that period, is named as the Elamite region of Simaški in present-day Lorestan Province. To the west and northwest, Media was bounded by the Zagros Mountains and from the east by the Dasht-e Kavir desert. This region of Media was ruled by the Assyrians and for them the region fell "along the Great Khorasan Road from just east of Harhar to Alwand, and probably beyond." [30] The location of Harhar is suggested to be "the central or eastern" Mahidasht District in Kermanshah Province. [31]

It's borders were limited on the north by the non-Iranian states of Gizilbunda and Mannea, and to its south by Ellipi and Elam. [30] [5] Gizilbunda was located in the Qaflankuh Mountains, and Ellipi was located in the south of modern Lorestan Province. [5] On the east and southeast of Media, as described by the Assyrians, another land with the name of "Patušarra" appears. This land was located near a mountain range which the Assyrians call "Bikni" and describe as "Lapis Lazuli Mountain". There are differing opinions on the location of this mountain. Mount Damavand of Tehran and Alvand of Hamadan are two proposed sites. This location is the most remote eastern area that the Assyrians knew of or reached during their expansion until the beginning of the 7th century BC. [32]

In Achaemenid sources, specifically from the Behistun Inscription (2.76, 77–78), the capital of Media is Ecbatana, called "Hamgmatāna-" in Old Persian (Elamite:Agmadana-; Babylonian: Agamtanu-) corresponding to modern-day Hamadan. [33]

The other cities existing in Media were Laodicea (modern Nahavand) [34] and the mound that was the largest city of the Medes, Rhages (present-day Rey). The fourth city of Media was Apamea, near Ecbatana, whose precise location is now unknown. In later periods, Medes and especially Mede soldiers are identified and portrayed prominently in ancient archaeological sites such as Persepolis, where they are shown to have a major role and presence in the military of the Achaemenid Empire.



Timeline of Pre-Achaemenid era. Pre-Achaemenid Era.gif
Timeline of Pre-Achaemenid era.

At the end of the 2nd millennium BC, the Iranian tribes emerged in the region of northwest Iran. These tribes expanded their control over larger areas. Subsequently, the boundaries of Media changed over a period of several hundred years. [35] Iranian tribes were present in western and northwestern Iran from at least the 12th or 11th centuries BC. But the significance of Iranian elements in these regions were established from the beginning of the second half of the 8th century BC. [36] By this time the Iranian tribes were the majority in what later become the territory of the Median Kingdom and also the west of Media proper. [36] A study of textual sources from the region shows that in the Neo-Assyrian period, the regions of Media, and further to the west and the northwest, had a population with Iranian speaking people as the majority. [37]

This period of migration coincided with a power vacuum in the Near East with the Middle Assyrian Empire (1365–1020 BC), which had dominated northwestern Iran and eastern Anatolia and the Caucasus, going into a comparative decline. This allowed new peoples to pass through and settle. In addition Elam, the dominant power in Iran, was suffering a period of severe weakness, as was Babylonia to the west.

In western and northwestern Iran and in areas further west prior to Median rule, there is evidence of the earlier political activity of the powerful societies of Elam, Mannaea, Assyria and Urartu . [36] There are various and up-dated opinions on the positions and activities of Iranian tribes in these societies and prior to the "major Iranian state formations" in the late 7th century BC. [36] One opinion (of Herzfeld, et al.) is that the ruling class were "Iranian migrants" but the society was "autonomous" while another opinion (of Grantovsky, et al.) holds that both the ruling class and basic elements of the population were Iranian. [38]

Rhyton in the shape of a ram's head, gold – western Iran – Median, late 7th–early 6th century BC Rhyton media.jpg
Rhyton in the shape of a ram's head, gold – western Iran – Median, late 7th–early 6th century BC
The neighboring Neo-Babylonian Empire at its greatest extent after the destruction of the Neo-Assyrian Empire Neo-Babylonian Empire.png
The neighboring Neo-Babylonian Empire at its greatest extent after the destruction of the Neo-Assyrian Empire
Protoma in the form of a bull's head, 8th century BC, gold and filigree, National Museum, Warsaw Median Empire Protoma.jpg
Protoma in the form of a bull's head, 8th century BC, gold and filigree, National Museum, Warsaw

Rise and fall

From the 10th to the late 7th centuries BC, the western parts of Media fell under the domination of the vast Neo-Assyrian Empire based in northern Mesopotamia, which stretched from Cyprus in the west, to parts of western Iran in the east, and Egypt and the north of the Arabian Peninsula. Assyrian kings such as Tiglath-Pileser III, Sargon II, Sennacherib, Esarhaddon, Ashurbanipal and Ashur-etil-ilani imposed Vassal Treaties upon the Median rulers, and also protected them from predatory raids by marauding Scythians and Cimmerians. [39]

During the reign of Sinsharishkun (622–612 BC), the Assyrian empire, which had been in a state of constant civil war since 626 BC, began to unravel. Subject peoples, such as the Medes, Babylonians, Chaldeans, Egyptians, Scythians, Cimmerians, Lydians and Arameans quietly ceased to pay tribute to Assyria.

Neo-Assyrian dominance over the Medians came to an end during the reign of Median King Cyaxares, who, in alliance with King Nabopolassar of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, attacked and destroyed the strife-riven empire between 616 and 609 BC. [40] The newfound alliance helped the Medes to capture Nineveh in 612 BC, which resulted in the eventual collapse of the Neo-Assyrian Empire by 609 BC. The Medes were subsequently able to establish their Median Kingdom (with Ecbatana as their royal capital) beyond their original homeland and had eventually a territory stretching roughly from northeastern Iran to the Kızılırmak River in Anatolia. After the fall of Assyria between 616 BC and 609 BC, a unified Median state was formed, which together with Babylonia, Lydia, and ancient Egypt became one of the four major powers of the ancient Near East.

Cyaxares was succeeded by his son King Astyages. In 553 BC, his maternal grandson Cyrus the Great, the King of Anshan/Persia, a Median vassal, revolted against Astyages. In 550 BC, Cyrus finally won a decisive victory resulting in Astyages' capture by his own dissatisfied nobles, who promptly turned him over to the triumphant Cyrus. [41] After Cyrus's victory against Astyages, the Medes were subjected to their close kin, the Persians. [42] In the new empire they retained a prominent position; in honour and war, they stood next to the Persians; their court ceremony was adopted by the new sovereigns, who in the summer months resided in Ecbatana; and many noble Medes were employed as officials, satraps and generals.

Median dynasty

The list of Median rulers and their period of reign is compiled according to two sources. Firstly, Herodotus who calls them "kings" and associates them with the same family. Secondly, the Babylonian Chronicle which in "Gadd's Chronicle on the Fall of Nineveh" gives its own list. A combined list stretching over 150 years is thus:

However, not all of these dates and personalities given by Herodotus match the other near eastern sources. [43]

In Herodotus (book 1, chapters 95–130), Deioces is introduced as the founder of a centralised Median state. He had been known to the Median people as "a just and incorruptible man" and when asked by the Median people to solve their possible disputes he agreed and put forward the condition that they make him "king" and build a great city at Ecbatana as the capital of the Median state. [44] Judging from the contemporary sources of the region and disregarding [45] the account of Herodotus puts the formation of a unified Median state during the reign of Cyaxares or later. [46]

Culture and society

Greek references to "Median" people make no clear distinction between the "Persians" and the "Medians"; in fact for a Greek to become "too closely associated with Iranian culture" was "to become Medianized, not Persianized". [24] The Median Kingdom was a short-lived Iranian state and the textual and archaeological sources of that period are rare and little could be known from the Median culture which nevertheless made a "profound, and lasting, contribution to the greater world of Iranian culture". [47]


Median people spoke the Median language, which was an Old Iranian language. Strabo's Geographica (finished in the early first century) mentions the affinity of Median with other Iranian languages: "The name of Ariana is further extended to a part of Persia and of Media, as also to the Bactrians and Sogdians on the north; for these speak approximately the same language, but with slight variations". [48]

No original deciphered text has been proven to have been written in the Median language. It is suggested that similar to the later Iranian practice of keeping archives of written documents in Achaemenid Iran, there was also a maintenance of archives by the Median government in their capital Ecbatana. There are examples of "Median literature" found in later records. One is according to Herodotus that the Median king Deioces, appearing as a judge, made judgement on causes submitted in writing. There is also a report by Dinon on the existence of "Median court poets". [49] Median literature is part of the "Old Iranian literature" (including also Saka, Old Persian, Avestan) as this Iranian affiliation of them is explicit also in ancient texts, such as Herodotus's account [17] that many peoples including Medes were "universally called Iranian". [50]

Words of Median origin appear in various other Iranian dialects, including Old Persian. A feature of Old Persian inscriptions is the large number of words and names from other languages and the Median language takes in this regard a special place for historical reasons. [51] The Median words in Old Persian texts, whose Median origin can be established by "phonetic criteria", [51] appear "more frequently among royal titles and among terms of the chancellery, military, and judicial affairs". [51] Words of Median origin include:

The Ganj Nameh ("treasure epistle") in Ecbatana. The inscriptions are by Darius I and his son Xerxes I. Hamadan (Iran) Relief Achamenid Period.JPG
The Ganj Nameh ("treasure epistle") in Ecbatana. The inscriptions are by Darius I and his son Xerxes I.


Apadana Hall, 5th century BC Achaemenid-era carving of Persian and Median soldiers in traditional costume (Medians are wearing rounded hats and boots), in Persepolis, Iran Persepolis The Persian Soldiers.jpg
Apadana Hall, 5th century BC Achaemenid-era carving of Persian and Median soldiers in traditional costume (Medians are wearing rounded hats and boots), in Persepolis, Iran

There are very limited sources concerning the religion of Median people. Primary sources pointing to religious affiliations of Medes found so far include the archaeological discoveries in Tepe Nush-e Jan, personal names of Median individuals, and the Histories of Herodotus. The archaeological source gives the earliest of the temple structures in Iran and the "stepped fire altar" discovered there is linked to the common Iranian legacy of the "cult of fire". Herodotus mentions Median Magi as a Median tribe providing priests for both the Medes and the Persians. They had a "priestly caste" which passed their functions from father to son. They played a significant role in the court of the Median king Astyages who had in his court certain Medians as "advisers, dream interpreters, and soothsayers". Classical historians "unanimously" regarded the Magi as priests of the Zoroastrian faith. From the personal names of Medes as recorded by Assyrians (in 8th and 9th centuries BC) there are examples of the use of the Indo-Iranian word arta- (lit. "truth") which is familiar from both Avestan and Old Persian and also examples of theophoric names containing Maždakku and also the name "Ahura Mazdā". [62] Scholars disagree whether these are indications of Zoroastrian religion amongst the Medes. Diakonoff believes that "Astyages and perhaps even Cyaxares had already embraced a religion derived from the teachings of Zoroaster" which was not identical with doctrine of Zarathustra and Mary Boyce believes that "the existence of the Magi in Media with their own traditions and forms of worship was an obstacle to Zoroastrian proselytizing there". [62] Boyce wrote that the Zoroastrian traditions in the Median city of Ray probably goes back to the 8th century BC. [63] It is suggested that from the 8th century BC, a form of "Mazdaism with common Iranian traditions" existed in Media and the strict reforms of Zarathustra began to spread in western Iran during the reign of the last Median kings in the 6th century BC. [62]

It has also been suggested[ by whom? ] that Mithra is a Median name and Medes may have practised Mithraism and had Mithra as their supreme deity. [64]

Kurds and Medes

Russian historian and linguist Vladimir Minorsky suggested that the Medes, who widely inhabited the land where currently the Kurds form a majority, might have been forefathers of the modern Kurds. He also states that the Medes who invaded the region in the eighth century BC, linguistically resembled the Kurds. This view was accepted by many Kurdish nationalists in the twentieth century. However, Martin van Bruinessen, a Dutch scholar, argues against the attempt to take the Medes as ancestors of the Kurds. [65]

"Though some Kurdish intellectuals claim that their people are descended from the Medes, there is no evidence to permit such a connection across the considerable gap in time between the political dominance of the Medes and the first attestation of the Kurds" - van Bruinessen

Contemporary linguistic evidence has challenged the previously suggested view that the Kurds are descendants of the Medes. [66] [67] Gernot Windfuhr, professor of Iranian Studies, identified the Kurdish languages as Parthian, albeit with a Median substratum. [68] David Neil MacKenzie, an authority on the Kurdish language, said Kurdish was closer to Persian and questioned the “traditional” view holding that Kurdish, because of its differences from Persian, should be regarded a Northwestern Iranian language. [69] Garnik Asatrian stated that "The Central Iranian dialects, and primarily those of the Kashan area in the first place, as well as the Azari dialects (otherwise called Southern Tati) are probably the only Iranian dialects, which can pretend to be the direct offshoots of Median... In general, the relationship between Kurdish and Median are not closer than the affinities between the latter and other North Western dialects — Baluchi, Talishi, South Caspian, Zaza, Gurani, etc." [70]

See also


  1. According to the OED entry "Mede", the word is from Classical Latin Mēdus (usually as plural, Mēdī) from ancient Greek (Attic and Ionic) ΜῆδοςMê̄dos [mɛ̂ːdos] (Cypriot ΜᾶδοιMâdœ [mâdoi̯] , plural) from Old Persian Māda. [3]
  2. A) "Archaeological evidence for the religion of the Iranian-speaking Medes of the ..." (Diakonoff 1985, p. 140). B) "...and the Medes (Iranians of what is now north-west Iran)..." EIEC (1997:30). C) "... succeeded in uniting into a kingdom the many Median tribes" (from Encyclopædia Britannica [4] ). D) "Proto-Iranian split into Western (Median, and others) and Eastern (Scythian, Ossetic, Saka, Pamir and others)..." (Kuz'mina, Elena E. (2007), The origin of the Indo-Iranians, J. P. Mallory (ed.), BRILL, p. 303, ISBN   978-90-04-16054-5 )
  3. "..a great many Old Persian lexemes...are preserved in a borrowed form in non-Persian languages – the so-called “collateral” tradition of Old Persian (within or outside the Achaemenid Empire).... not every purported Old Iranian form attested in this manner is an actual lexeme of Old Persian." [61]

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Ecbatana ancient city that was the capital of Medes

Ecbatana was an ancient city in Media in western Iran. It is believed that Ecbatana is in Hagmatana Hill, an archaeological mound in Hamedan.

Elam ancient Pre-Iranic civilization

Elam was an ancient Pre-Iranian civilization centered in the far west and southwest of what is now modern-day Iran, stretching from the lowlands of what is now Khuzestan and Ilam Province as well as a small part of southern Iraq. The modern name Elam stems from the Sumerian transliteration elam(a), along with the later Akkadian elamtu, and the Elamite haltamti. Elamite states were among the leading political forces of the Ancient Near East. In classical literature Elam was also known as Susiana, a name derived from its capital Susa.

Deioces King of Medes

Deioces or Dia-oku was the founder and the first shah as well as priest of the Median government. His name has been mentioned in different forms in various sources; including Herodotus, who has written his name as Dēiokēs. Deioces' name is derived from the Iranian word Dahyu-ka-, meaning "the lands".

Phraortes, son of Deioces, was the second king of the Median Empire.

Cyrus the Great King and founder of the Achaemenid Empire

Cyrus II of Persia, commonly known as Cyrus the Great, and also called Cyrus the Elder by the Greeks, was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire, the first Persian Empire. Under his rule, the empire embraced all the previous civilized states of the ancient Near East, expanded vastly and eventually conquered most of Western Asia and much of Central Asia. From the Mediterranean Sea and Hellespont in the west to the Indus River in the east, Cyrus the Great created the largest empire the world had yet seen. Under his successors, the empire eventually stretched at its maximum extent from parts of the Balkans and Eastern Europe proper in the west, to the Indus Valley in the east. His regal titles in full were The Great King, King of Persia, King of Anshan, King of Media, King of Babylon, King of Sumer and Akkad, and King of the Four Corners of the World. The Nabonidus Chronicle notes the change in his title from simply "King of Anshan", a city, to "King of Persia". Assyriologist François Vallat wrote that "When Astyages marched against Cyrus, Cyrus is called ‘King of Anshan’, but when Cyrus crosses the Tigris on his way to Lydia, he is ‘King of Persia’. The coup therefore took place between these two events."

Astyages king of Media

Astyages was the last king of the Median Empire, r. 585–550 BCE, the son of Cyaxares; he was dethroned in 550 BCE by Cyrus the Great. His name derives from the Old Iranian Rishti Vaiga, which means "swinging the spear, lance-hurler." In the inscriptions of Nabonidus the name is written Ishtuvegu.

Battle of Nineveh (612 BC) battle

The Battle of Nineveh is conventionally dated between 613 and 611 BC, with 612 BC being the most supported date. An allied army composed of Medes and the Babylonian, rebelling against the Assyrians, together with Scythians and Cimmerians, besieged it and sacked 750 hectares of what was at that time, the greatest city in the world. This led to the destruction of the Neo-Assyrian Empire over the next three years as the dominant state in the Ancient Near East. After this battle, the archeological record shows that the capital of the once mighty Assyrian Empire was extensively de-urbanized and depopulated.

Media (region) region of Iran

Media is a region of north-western Iran, best known for having been the political and cultural base of the Medes. During the Achaemenid period, it comprised present-day Azarbaijan, Iranian Kurdistan and western Tabaristan. As a satrapy under Achaemenid rule, it would eventually encompass a wider region, stretching to southern Dagestan in the north. However, after the wars of Alexander the Great, the northern parts were separated due to the Partition of Babylon and became known as Atropatene, while the remaining region became known as Lesser Media.


The Sagartians were an ancient Iranian tribe, dwelling in the Iranian plateau. Their exact location is unknown; they were probably neighbors of the Parthians in northeastern Iran. According to Herodotus they were related to the Persians, but they may also have entered a political union with the Medians at some point. Ptolemy (6.2.6) locates them in Media, while Stephanus of Byzantium claims that there was a peninsula in the Caspian Sea called Sagartía. They were nomadic pastoralists, their main weapon being the lasso.

Drangiana satrapy of the Achaemenid Empire

Drangiana or Zarangiana (Greek: Δραγγιανή, Drangianē; also attested in Old Western Iranian as 𐏀𐎼𐎣, Zraka or Zranka, was a historical region and administrative division of the Achaemenid Empire. This region comprises territory around Hamun Lake, wetlands in endorheic Sistan Basin on the Iran-Afghan border, and its primary watershed Helmand river in what is nowadays southwestern region of Afghanistan.

Cyaxares II was said to be a king of the Medes whose reign is described by the Greek historian Xenophon. Some theories have equated this figure with the "Darius the Mede" named in the Book of Daniel. He is not mentioned in the histories of Herodotus or Ctesias, and many scholars doubt that he actually existed. The question of his existence impacts on whether the kingdom of the Medes merged peacefully with that of the Persians in about 537 BC, as narrated by Xenophon, or was subjugated in the rebellion of the Persians against Cyrus' grandfather in 559 BC, a date derived from Herodotus (1.214) and almost universally accepted by current scholarship.

Achaemenid Assyria

Athura, also called Assyria Babylonia, was a geographical area within the Achaemenid Empire in Upper Mesopotamia from 539 to 330 BC as a military protectorate state. Although sometimes regarded as a satrapy,

Neo-Assyrian Empire Historical state in Mesopotamia

The Neo-Assyrian Empire was an Iron Age Mesopotamian empire, in existence between 911 and 609 BC, and became the largest empire of the world up till that time. The Assyrians perfected early techniques of imperial rule, many of which became standard in later empires, and was, according to many historians, the first real empire in history. The Assyrians were the first to be armed with iron weapons, and their troops employed advanced, effective military tactics.

The Battle of Hyrba was the first battle between the Persians and Medians, taking place around 552 BC. It was also the first battle after the Persians had revolted. These actions were led by Cyrus the Great, as he shifted the powers of the ancient Middle East. The Persian success in the battle led to the creation of Persia's first empire and began Cyrus's decade long conquest of almost all of the known world. Though the only authority with a detailed account of the battle was Nicolaus of Damascus, other well-known historians such as Herodotus, Ctesias, and Strabo also mention the battle in their own accounts.

Parthia region of north-eastern Iran

Parthia is a historical region located in north-eastern Iran. It was conquered and subjugated by the empire of the Medes during the 7th century BC, was incorporated into the subsequent Achaemenid Empire under Cyrus the Great in the 6th century BC, and formed part of the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire following the 4th-century-BC conquests of Alexander the Great. The region later served as the political and cultural base of the Eastern-Iranian Parni people and Arsacid dynasty, rulers of the Parthian Empire. The Sasanian Empire, the last state of pre-Islamic Persia, also held the region and maintained the Seven Parthian clans as part of their feudal aristocracy.

Achaemenid Empire first Persian Empire founded by Cyrus the Great

The Achaemenid Empire, also called the First Persian Empire, was an empire based in Western Asia founded by Cyrus the Great. Ranging at its greatest extent from the Balkans and Eastern Europe proper in the west to the Indus Valley in the east, it was larger than any previous empire in history, spanning 5.5 million square kilometers. Incorporating various peoples of different origins and faiths, it is notable for its successful model of a centralised, bureaucratic administration, for building infrastructure such as road systems and a postal system, the use of an official language across its territories, and the development of civil services and a large professional army. The empire's successes inspired similar systems in later empires.

Hamadan City in Iran

Hamadān or Hamedān is the capital city of Hamadan Province of Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 473,149, in 127,812 families.


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Further reading