Tomyris

Last updated

Tomyris
Tomyris-Castagno.jpg
Tomyris as imagined by Castagno, 15th century
Queen of the Massagetae
Reignunknown – c.520s BCE
Predecessorunnamed husband
Successor Skunkha (?)
Diedc.520s BCE
Spouseunnamed husband
Issue Spargapises
Religion Scythian religion
Tomyris and the Head of Cyrus, Frankenthal porcelain, c. 1773 Tomyris and the Head of Cyrus MET DP238532 (cropped).jpg
Tomyris and the Head of Cyrus, Frankenthal porcelain, c. 1773
Queen Tomyris learns that her son Spargapises has been taken alive by Cyrus, by Jan Moy (1535-1550). Queen Tomyris learns that her son Spargapises has been taken alive by Cyrus, by Jan Moy (1535-1550).jpg
Queen Tomyris learns that her son Spargapises has been taken alive by Cyrus, by Jan Moy (1535–1550).
Tomyris Plunges the Head of the Dead Cyrus Into a Vessel of Blood by Rubens Head of Cyrus Brought to Queen Tomyris, Peter Paul Rubens.jpg
Tomyris Plunges the Head of the Dead Cyrus Into a Vessel of Blood by Rubens

Tomyris ( /ˈtɒmɪrɪs/ ; Saka: *Taumuriyaʰ; Ancient Greek : Τομυρις , romanized: Tomuris; Latin : Tomyris [1] [2] ) also called Thomyris, Tomris, or Tomiride, is known only from the Greek historian Herodotus. According to him, she reigned over the Massagetae, an Iranian Saka people of Central Asia. [3] Tomyris led her armies to defend against an attack by Cyrus the Great of the Achaemenid Empire, and defeated and killed him in 530 BC. She had his severed head placed in a bag or bowl filled with blood, saying to it "There: drink your fill of blood!"

Contents

She is not mentioned in the few other early sources covering the period, especially Ctesias.

Tomyris became a fairly popular subject in European art and literature during the Renaissance. In art the usual subject was her receiving the head of Cyrus, or putting it into the blood-filled container. This became part of the Power of Women group of women subjects who triumphed in various ways over men.

Name

The name Tomyris is the Latin form of the Ancient Greek name Tomuris (Τομυρις), which is itself the Hellenisation of the Saka name *Taumuriyaʰ, meaning "of family" derived from a cognate of the Avestan word taoxman (𐬙𐬀𐬊𐬑𐬨𐬀𐬥) and of the Old Persian word taumā ( 𐎫𐎢𐎶𐎠 ), meaning "seed," "germ," and "kinship." [1] [2]

History

Background

Tomyris was the widow of the king of the Massagetae, whom she succeeded as the queen of the tribe after he died. [4]

War with Persia

When the founder of the Persian Achaemenid Empire, Cyrus, asked for the hand of Tomyris with the intent of acquiring her kingdom through the marriage, she understood Cyrus's aims and rejected his proposal. On the advice of the Lydian Croesus, Cyrus responded to Tomyris's rejection by deciding to invade the Massagetae. [3] [5] [4]

When Cyrus started building a bridge on the Araxes river with the intent of attacking the Massagetae, Tomyris advised him to remain satisfied with ruling his own kingdom and to allow her to rule her kingdom. Cyrus's initial assault was routed by the Massagetae, after which he set up a fancy banquet with large amounts of wine in the tents of his camp as an ambush and withdrew. [6] [7] [4]

Death of Spargapises

The Massagetae, led by Tomyris's son and the commander of their army, Spargapises, who primarily used fermented mare's milk and cannabis as intoxicants like all Iron Age steppe nomads, and therefore were not used to drinking wine, became drunk and were easily defeated and slaughtered by Cyrus, thus destroying a third of the Massagetaean army. Spargapises had been captured by Cyrus, and, once he had become sober and understood his situation, he asked Cyrus to free him, and after Cyrus acquiesced to his pleas, he killed himself. [6] [7] [4]

After Tomyris found out about the death of Spargapises, she sent Cyrus an angry message in which she called the wine, which had caused the destruction of her army and her son, a drug which made those who consumed it so mad that they spoke evil words, and demanded him to leave his land or else she would, swearing upon the Sun, "give him more blood than he could drink." [6] [4]

Death of Cyrus

Silver dish showing Tomryis with Cyrus' corpse, Stourhead Stourhead Death of Cyrus dish January2024 NT CCBYSA open.jpg
Silver dish showing Tomryis with Cyrus' corpse, Stourhead

Tomyris herself led the Massagetaean army into war, and, during the next battle opposing the Massagetae to the forces of Cyrus, Tomyris defeated the Persians and destroyed most of their army. Cyrus himself was killed in the battle, and Tomyris found his corpse, severed his head and put it in a bag filled with blood while telling Cyrus, "Drink your fill of blood!" [3] [6] [5] [8]

Aftermath

According to another version of the death of Cyrus recorded by Ctesias, Cyrus died in battle against the Derbices, who were either identical with the Massagetae or a Massagetaean sub-tribe: according to this version, he was mortally wounded by the Derbices and their Indian allies, after which Cyrus's ally, the king Amorges of the Amyrgians, intervened with his own army and helped the Persian soldiers defeat the Derbices, following which Cyrus endured for three days, during which he organised his empire and appointed Spitaces son of Sisamas as satrap over the Derbices, before finally dying. [9] [10] [1] [11]

Little is further known about Tomyris after the war with Cyrus. By around 520 BCE and possibly earlier, her tribe was ruled by a king named Skunxa, who rebelled against the Persian Empire until one of the successors of Cyrus, the Achaemenid king Darius I, carried out a campaign against the Sakas from 520 to 518 BCE during which he conquered the Massagetae, captured Skunxa, and replaced him with a ruler who was loyal to Achaemenid power. [11] [12]

Legacy

Mattia Preti, Tomyris Receiving the Head of Cyrus, 1670-72 Preti, Mattia - Queen Tomyris Receiving the Head of Cyrus, King of Persia - 1670-72.jpg
Mattia Preti, Tomyris Receiving the Head of Cyrus, 1670–72
Queen Tomyris and the head of Cyrus, by Mattia Preti. Queen Tomyris and the head of Cyrus the Great.jpg
Queen Tomyris and the head of Cyrus, by Mattia Preti.

The history of Tomyris has been incorporated into the tradition of Western art; Rubens, [13] Allegrini, [14] Luca Ferrari, [15] Mattia Preti, Gustave Moreau and the sculptor Severo Calzetta da Ravenna [16] are among the many artists who have portrayed events in the life of Tomyris and her defeat of Cyrus and his armies.

Eustache Deschamps added Tomyris to his poetry as one of the nine Female Worthies in the late 14th century.

In Shakespeare's earliest play King Henry VI (Part I), the Countess of Auvergne, while awaiting Lord Talbot's arrival, references Tomyris (Act II, Sc. iii). [17]

Shakespeare's reference to Tomyris as 'Queen of the Scythians', rather than the usual Greek designation 'Queen of the Massagetae', points to two possible likely sources, Marcus Junianus Justinus' "Abridged Trogus Pompeius" [18] in Latin, or Arthur Golding's translation (1564). [19]

In 1707 the opera Thomyris, Queen of Scythia was first staged in London. [20] [21]

The name "Tomyris" also has been adopted into zoological taxonomy, for the Tomyris species group of Central American moths and the Tamyris genus of skipper butterflies. [22]

590 Tomyris is the name given to one of the minor planets.

The present-day country of Kazakhstan has adopted Tomyris as its national heroine and issues coins in her honour. [6]

See also

Footnotes

  1. 1 2 3 Schmitt, Rüdiger (2003). "Die skythischen Personennamen bei Herodot" [Scythian Personal Names in Herodotus](PDF). Annali dell'Università degli Studi di Napoli l'Orientale (in German). 63: 1–31.
  2. 1 2 Bukharin, Mikhail Dmitrievich [in Russian] (2011). "Колаксай и его братья (античная традиция о происхождении царской власти у скифов" [Kolaxais and his Brothers (Classical Tradition on the Origin of the Royal Power of the Scythians)]. Аристей: вестник классической филологии и античной истории (in Russian). 3: 20–80. Retrieved 2022-07-13.
  3. 1 2 3 Schmitt 2018.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 Gera, Deborah Levine (2018). Warrior Women: The Anonymous Tractatus De Mulieribus. Leiden, Netherlands; New York City, United States: Brill. p. 187-199. ISBN   978-9-004-32988-1.
  5. 1 2 Rollinger 2003.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 Mayor 2017.
  7. 1 2 Mayor 2014.
  8. Faulkner, Robert (2000). "CYRUS iiia. Cyrus II as Portrayed by Xenophon and Herodotus". Encyclopædia Iranica . Retrieved 8 August 2011.
  9. Francfort 1988, p. 171.
  10. Dandamayev 1994.
  11. 1 2 Schmitt, Rüdiger (1994). "AMORGES". Encyclopædia Iranica . Retrieved 2022-07-12.
  12. Shahbazi, A. Shapur (1994). "DARIUS iii. Darius I the Great". Encyclopædia Iranica . Retrieved 8 August 2022.
  13. "Питер Пауэль Рубенс (Peter Paul Rubens). Queen Tomyris before the Head of Cyrus. Масло на холсте. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA". staratel.com (Russian). 2006. Retrieved 2010-05-14.
  14. "Francesco Allegrini, attrib. to Italian, 1587 – 1663, Tomyris and Cyrus, 17th century". Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. 2006. Archived from the original on 2009-09-15. Retrieved 2010-05-14.
  15. "Queen Tomyris with the head of Cyrus the Great by Ferrari, Luca (1605–54)". Bridgeman Art Library. Archived from the original on 2011-07-19. Retrieved 2010-05-14.
  16. "The Frick Collection". collections.frick.org. 1998–2005. Archived from the original on 2013-10-05. Retrieved 2010-05-14.
  17. "Henry VI, part 1: Entire Play". shakespeare.mit.edu. Retrieved 2023-09-07.
  18. "Iustini Historiae Philippicae". 1831.
  19. The Reader's Companion to The Death of Shakespeare, by Jon Benson https://books.google.com/books?id=ekygCwAAQBAJ%5B%5D
  20. "Thomyris, queen of Scythia. An opera, as it is perform'd at the Theatre Royal in Drury-Lane. Most humbly inscrib'd to the Right Honourable the Lord Ryalton. By P. Motteux". hathi.trust.org. HathiTrust Digital Library. Retrieved 8 December 2019.
  21. Margaret Ross Griffel (21 December 2012). Operas in English: A Dictionary. Scarecrow Press. p. 13. ISBN   978-0-8108-8325-3.
  22. "Butterflies and Moths of the World". Natural History Museum Website. Retrieved September 22, 2016.
  23. "Акан Сатаев раскрыл имя актрисы, которая сыграет Томирис". 16 February 2018.
  24. "Tomiris (Kazakhstan)".
  25. "Civilization VI: Tomyris Leads Scythia". Official Civilization Website. August 9, 2016. Retrieved August 27, 2016.
  26. "Tomyris of the Scythians will slake your thirst for blood in 'Civilization VI'". Digital Trends. August 9, 2016. Retrieved August 24, 2016.
  27. Tomyris by A Sound of Thunder , retrieved 2018-07-20

Sources

Tomyris
Regnal titles
Preceded by
unnamed husband
Queen of the Massagetae
unknown – c.520s BCE
Succeeded by
Skunkha (?)

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tissaphernes</span> Persian Satrap of Lydia and Ionia (445–395 BC)

Tissaphernes was a Persian commander and statesman, Satrap of Lydia and Ionia. His life is mostly known from the works of Thucydides and Xenophon. According to Ctesias, he was the son of Hidarnes III and therefore, the great grandson of Hydarnes, one of the six conspirators who had supported the rise of Darius the Great.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Saka</span> Historical group of nomadic Iranian peoples

The Saka were a group of nomadic Eastern Iranian peoples who historically inhabited the northern and eastern Eurasian Steppe and the Tarim Basin.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Immortals (Achaemenid Empire)</span> Elite force of soldiers who fought for the Achaemenid Empire

Immortals or Persian Immortals was the name given by Herodotus to an elite heavy infantry unit of 10,000 soldiers in the army of the Achaemenid Empire. The unit served in a dual capacity through its role as imperial guard alongside its contribution to the ranks of the Persian Empire's standing army. While it primarily consisted of Persians, the Immortals force also included Medes and Elamites. Essential questions regarding the historic unit remain unanswered because authoritative sources are missing.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Atossa</span> Persian Achaemenid empress (550–475 BC)

Atossa was an Achaemenid empress. She was the daughter of Cyrus the Great, and the wife of Darius the Great.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cyaxares</span> Median king

Cyaxares was the third king of the Medes. Cyaxares ascended to the throne in 625 BCE, after his father Phraortes lost his life in a battle against the Assyrians.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Achaemenes</span> Apical ancestor of the Achaemenid dynasty

Achaemenes was the apical ancestor of the Achaemenid dynasty of rulers of Persia.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cyrus the Great</span> Founder of the Achaemenid Empire (c. 600–530 BC)

Cyrus II of Persia, commonly known as Cyrus the Great, was the founder of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. Hailing from Persis, he brought the Achaemenid dynasty to power by defeating the Median Empire and embracing all of the previous civilized states of the ancient Near East, expanding vastly and eventually conquering most of West Asia and much of Central Asia to create what would soon become the largest polity in human history at the time. Widely considered the world's first superpower, the Achaemenid Empire's largest territorial extent was achieved under Darius the Great, whose rule stretched from the Balkans and the rest of Southeast Europe in the west to the Indus Valley in the east.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Scythian languages</span> Group of Eastern Iranic languages

The Scythian languages are a group of Eastern Iranic languages of the classical and late antique period, spoken in a vast region of Eurasia by the populations belonging to the Scythian cultures and their descendants. The dominant ethnic groups among the Scythian-speakers were nomadic pastoralists of Central Asia and the Pontic–Caspian steppe. Fragments of their speech known from inscriptions and words quoted in ancient authors as well as analysis of their names indicate that it was an Indo-European language, more specifically from the Iranic group of Indo-Iranic languages.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mandane of Media</span> Wife of Cambyses I

Mandane was a Median princess and, later, the queen consort of the Persian king Cambyses I and the mother of Cyrus the Great, the founder of the Achaemenid Empire. The name likely originates from the Old Iranian *Mandanā-, which means “delighting, cheerful”.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Massagetae</span> Ancient Iranian nomadic confederation in Central Asia

The Massagetae or Massageteans, also known as Sakā tigraxaudā or Orthocorybantians, were an ancient Eastern Iranian Saka people who inhabited the steppes of Central Asia and were part of the wider Scythian cultures. The Massagetae rose to power in the 8th to 7th centuries BCE, when they started a series of events with wide-reaching consequences by expelling the Scythians out of Central Asia and into the Caucasian and Pontic Steppes. The Massagetae are most famous for their queen Tomyris's alleged defeating and killing of Cyrus, the founder of the Persian Achaemenid Empire.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dahae</span> Ancient Iranian people of Central Asia

The Dahae, also known as the Daae, Dahas or Dahaeans were an ancient Eastern Iranian nomadic tribal confederation, who inhabited the steppes of Central Asia.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Alireza Shapour Shahbazi</span> Iranian archaeologist (1942–2006)

Alireza Shapour Shahbazi was a prominent Persian archaeologist, Iranologist and a world expert on Achaemenid archaeology. Shahbazi got a BA degree in and an MA degree in East Asian archaeology from SOAS. Shahbazi had a doctorate degree in Achaemenid archaeology from University of London. Alireza Shapour Shahbazi was a lecturer in Achaemenid archaeology and Iranology at Harvard University. He was also a full professor of archaeology at Shiraz University and founded at Persepolis the Institute of Achaemenid Research in 1974. After the Islamic revolution, he moved to the US, firstly teaching at Columbia University and then later becoming a full professor of history in Eastern Oregon University.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cassandane</span> Queen consort of the Achaemenid Empire

Cassandane or Cassandana was a Persian Achaemenian shahbanu and the dearly loved wife of Cyrus the Great.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Skudra</span> Achaemenid province

Skudra was a province (satrapy) of the Persian Achaemenid Empire in Europe between 510s BC and 479 BC. Its name is attested in Persian and Egyptian inscriptions (an Egyptian record of c. 498–497 BC, and a list on the tomb of Darius the Great at Naqsh-e Rustam, c. 486 BC. It is believed to have comprised the lands now known as Thrace and Macedon.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Amyrgians</span> People group

The Amyrgians were a Saka tribe.

Skunkha, was king of the Sakā tigraxaudā, a group of the Saka, in the 6th century BC.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Spargapises</span> 6th-century BC Massagetae general and son of queen Tomyris

Spargapises was the son of queen Tomyris of the Massagetai.

<i>Tomiris</i> (film) Historical film about Massagetae queen Tomyris

Tomiris is a 2019 Kazakhstani feature film directed by Akan Satayev, which tells the story of the queen of the Massagetae, Tomyris, and the Persian king, Cyrus the Great. The film co-stars Almira Tursyn, Aizhan Lighg, and Ghassan Massoud.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sakez</span>

Sakez also known as Sekez, Sekakez and Scyth (Eskit) was a sizable urban settlement and historical ancient city in the first millennium BC in Iran. It was the political and military capital of Scythians in western Iran and one of the few ancient cities that has been the residence of people and the center of civilization and it still is. Archaeologists believe that the present-day city of Saqqez in Kurdistan is the remnant of the city of Sakez, which takes its name from the Scythians and, with a slight change in pronunciation, is still called by the same name.

The names of the Scythians are a topic of interest for classicists and linguists. The Scythians were an Iranic people best known for dominating much of the Pontic steppe from about 700 BC to 400 BC. The name of the Scythians is believed to be of Indo-European origin and to have meant "archer". The Scythians gave their name to the region of Scythia. The Persians referred to all Iranic nomads of the steppes, including the Scythians, as Sakas. Some modern scholars apply the name Scythians to all peoples of the Scytho-Siberian world, but this terminology is controversial.