By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: The Seven Great Monarchies Of The Ancient Eastern World, Vol 3. (of 7): Media - The History, Geography, And Antiquities Of Chaldaea, - Assyria, Babylon, Media, Persia, Parthia, And Sassanian - or New Persian Empire; With Maps and Illustrations.
Author: Rawlinson, George, 1812-1902
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Seven Great Monarchies Of The Ancient Eastern World, Vol 3. (of 7): Media - The History, Geography, And Antiquities Of Chaldaea, - Assyria, Babylon, Media, Persia, Parthia, And Sassanian - or New Persian Empire; With Maps and Illustrations." ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.
















[Illustration: MAP]


Along the eastern flank of the great Mesopotamian lowland, curving
round it on the north, and stretching beyond it to the south and the
south-east, lies a vast elevated region, or highland, no portion of
which appears to be less than 3000 feet above the sea-level. This
region may be divided, broadly, into two tracts, one consisting of lofty
mountainous ridges, which form its outskirts on the north and on the
west; the other, in the main a high flat table-land, extending from the
foot of the mountain chains, southward to the Indian Ocean, and eastward
to the country of the Afghans. The western mountain-country consists,
as has been already observed, of six or seven parallel ridges, having
a direction nearly from the north-west to the south-east, enclosing
between them, valleys of great fertility, and well watered by a large
number of plentiful and refreshing streams. This district was known to
the ancients as Zagros, while in modern geography it bears the names of
Kurdistan and Luristan. It has always been inhabited by a multitude of
warlike tribes, and has rarely formed for any long period a portion
of any settled monarchy. Full of torrents, of deep ravines, or rocky
summits, abrupt and almost inaccessible; containing but few passes, and
those narrow and easily defensible; secure, moreover, owing to the rigor
of its climate, from hostile invasion during more than half the year;
it has defied all attempts to effect its permanent subjugation, whether
made by Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Parthians, or Turks, and remains
to this day as independent of the great powers in its neighborhood as it
was when the Assyrian armies first penetrated its recesses. Nature seems
to have constructed it to be a nursery of hardy and vigorous men, a
stumbling-block to conquerors, a thorn in the side of every powerful
empire which arises in this part of the great eastern continent.

The northern mountain country--known to modern geographers as Eiburz--is
a tract of far less importance. It is not composed, like Zagros, of
a number of parallel chains, but consists of a single lofty ridge,
furrowed by ravines and valleys, from which spurs are thrown
out, running in general at right angles to its axis. Its width is
comparatively slight; and instead of giving birth to numerous large
rivers, it forms only a small number of insignificant streams, often dry
in summer, which have short courses, being soon absorbed either by the
Caspian or the Desert. Its most striking feature is the snowy peak of
Demavend, which impends over Teheran, and appears to be the highest
summit in the part of Asia west of the Himalayas.

The elevated plateau which stretches from the foot of those two mountain
regions to the south and east is, for the most part, a flat sandy
desert, incapable of sustaining more than a sparse and scanty
population. The northern and western portions are, however, less arid
than the east and south, being watered to some distance by the streams
that descend from Zagros and Elburz, and deriving fertility also from
the spring rains. Some of the rivers which flow from Zagros on this side
are large and strong. One, the Kizil-Uzen, reaches the Caspian. Another,
the Zenderud, fertilizes a large district near Isfahan. A third, the
Bendamir, flows by Persepolis and terminates in a sheet of water of
some size--lake Bakhtigan. A tract thus intervenes between the mountain
regions and the desert which, though it cannot be called fertile, is
fairly productive, and can support a large settled population. This
forms the chief portion of the region which the ancients called Media,
as being the country inhabited by the race on whose history we are about
to enter.

Media, however, included, besides this, another tract of considerable
size and importance. At the north-western angle of the region above
described, in the corner whence the two great chains branch out to
the south and to the east, is a tract composed almost entirely of
mountains, which the Greeks called Atropatene, and which is now known
as Azerbijan. This district lies further to the north than the rest of
Media, being in the same parallels with the lower part of the Caspian
Sea. It comprises the entire basin of Lake Urumiyeh, together with the
country intervening between that basin and the high mountain chain which
curves round the south-western corner of the Caspian, It is a region
generally somewhat sterile, but containing a certain quantity of very,
fertile territory, more particularly in the Urumiyeh basin, and towards
the mouth of the river Araxes.

The boundaries of Media are given somewhat differently by different
writers, and no doubt they actually varied at different periods; but the
variations were not great, and the natural limits, on three sides at any
rate, may be laid down with tolerable precision. Towards the north the
boundary was at first the mountain chain closing in on that side the
Urumiyeh basin, after which it seems to have been held that the true
limit was the Araxes, to its entrance on the low country, and then the
mountain chain west and south of the Caspian. Westward, the line of
demarcation may be best regarded as, towards the south, running along
the centre of the Zagros region; and, above this, as formed by that
continuation of the Zagros chain which separates the Urumiyeh from
the Van basin. Eastward, the boundary was marked by the spur from the
Elburz, across which lay the pass known as the Pylse Caspise, and below
this by the great salt desert, whose western limit is nearly in the
same longitude. Towards the south there was no marked line or natural
boundary; and it is difficult to say with any exactness how much of the
great plateau belonged to Media and how much to Persia. Having regard,
however, to the situation of Hamadan, which, as the capital, should have
been tolerably central, and to the general account which historians and
geographers give of the size of Media, we may place the southern limit
with much probability about the line of the thirty-second parallel,
which is nearly the present boundary between Irak and Fars.

The shape of Media has been called a square; but it is rather a
long parallelogram, whose two principal sides face respectively the
north-east and the south-west, while the ends or shorter sides front to
the south-east and to the northwest. Its length in its greater direction
is about 600 miles, and its width about 250 miles. It must thus contain
nearly 150,000 square miles, an area considerably larger than that of
Assyria and Chaldaea put together, and quite sufficient to constitute a
state of the first class, even according to the ideas of modern Europe.
It is nearly one-fifth more than the area of the British Islands, and
half as much again as that of Prussia, or of peninsular Italy. It equals
three fourths of France, or three fifths of Germany. It has, moreover,
the great advantage of compactness, forming a single solid mass, with no
straggling or outlying portions; and it is strongly defended on almost
every side by natural barriers offering great difficulties to an

In comparison with the countries which formed the seats of the two
monarchies already described, the general character of the Median
territory is undoubtedly one of sterility. The high table-land is
everywhere intersected by rocky ranges, spurs from Zagros, which have
a general direction from west to east, and separate the country into a
number of parallel broad valleys, or long plains, opening out into the
desert. The appearance of these ranges is almost everywhere bare, arid,
and forbidding. Above, they present to the eye huge masses of gray rock
piled one upon another; below, a slope of detritus, destitute of trees
or shrubs, and only occasionally nourishing a dry and scanty herbage.
The appearance of the plains is little superior; they are flat and
without undulations, composed in general of gravel or hard clay, and
rarely enlivened by any show of water; except for two months in
the spring, they exhibit to the eye a uniform brown expanse, almost
treeless, which impresses the traveller with a feeling of sadness and
weariness. Even in Azerbijan, which is one of the least arid portions
of the territory, vast tracks consist of open undulating downs, desolate
and sterile, bearing only a coarse withered grass and a few stunted

Still there are considerable exceptions to this general aspect of
desolation. In the worst parts of the region there is a time after
the spring rains when nature puts on a holiday dress, and the country
becomes gay and cheerful. The slopes at the base of the rocky ranges are
tinged with an emerald green: a richer vegetation springs up over the
plains, which are covered with a fine herbage or with a variety of
crops; the fruit trees which surround the villages burst out into the
most luxuriant blossom; the roses come into bloom, and their perfume
everywhere fills the air. For the two months of April and May the
whole face of the country is changed, and a lovely verdure replaces the
ordinary dull sterility.

In a certain number of more favored spots beauty and fertility are
found during nearly the whole of the year. All round the shores of Lake
Urumiyeh, more especially in the rich plain of Miyandab at its southern
extremity, along the valleys of the Aras, the Kizil-uzen, and the
Jaghetu, in the great valley of Linjan, fertilized by irrigation from
the Zenderud, in the Zagros valleys, and in various other places,
there is an excellent soil which produces abundantly with very slight

The general sterility of Media arises from the scantiness of the water
supply. It has but few rivers, and the streams that it possesses run for
the most part in deep and narrow valleys sunk below the general level of
the country, so that they cannot be applied at all widely to purposes of
irrigation. Moreover, some of them are, unfortunately, impregnated
with salt to such an extent that they are altogether useless for
this purpose; and indeed, instead of fertilizing, spread around
them desolation and barrenness. The only Median streams which are
of sufficient importance to require description are the Aras, the
Kizil-Uzen, the Jaghetu, the Aji-Su and the Zenderud, or river of

The Aras is only very partially a Median stream. It rises from several
sources in the mountain tract between Kars and Erzeroum, and runs with
a generally eastern direction through Armenia to the longitude of Mount
Ararat, where it crosses the fortieth parallel and begins to trend
southward, flowing along the eastern side of Ararat in a south-easterly
direction, nearly to the Julfa ferry on the high road from Erivan to
Tabriz. From this point it runs only a little south of east to long.
46° 30' E. from Greenwich, when it makes almost a right angle and runs
directly north-east to its junction with the Kur at Djavat. Soon after
this it curves to the south, and enters the Caspian by several mouths in
lat. 39° 10' nearly. The Aras is a considerable stream almost from its
source. At Hassan-Kaleh, less than twenty miles from Erzeroum, where
the river is forded in several branches, the water reaches to the
saddle-girths. At Keupri-Kieui, not much lower, the stream is crossed
by a bridge of seven arches. At the Julfa ferry it is fifty yards wide,
and runs with a strong current. At Megree, thirty miles further down,
its width is eighty yards. In spring and early summer the stream
receives enormous accessions from the spring rains and the melting of
the snows, which produce floods that often cause great damage to the
lands and villages along the valley. Hence the difficulty of maintaining
bridges over the Aras, which was noted as early as the time of Augustus,
and is attested by the ruins of many such structures remaining along its
course. Still, there are at the present day at least three bridges over
the stream--one, which has been already mentioned, at Keupri-Kieui,
another a little above Nakshivan, and the third at Khudoperinski,
a little below Megree. The length of the Aras, including only main
windings, is 500 miles.

The Kizil-Uzen, or (as it is called in the lower part of its course) the
Sefid-Rud, is a stream of less size than the Aras, but more important
to Media, within which lies almost the whole of its basin. It drains a
tract of 180 miles long by 150 broad before bursting through the Elburz
mountain chain, and descending upon the low country which skirts the
Caspian. Rising in Persian Kurdistan almost from the foot of Zagros,
it runs in a meandering course with a general direction of north-east
through that province into the district of Khamseh, where it suddenly
sweeps round and flows in a bold curve at the foot of lofty and
precipitous rocks, first northwest and then north, nearly to Miana, when
it doubles back upon itself, and turning the flank of the Zenjan range
runs with a course nearly south-east to Menjil, after which it resumes
its original direction of north-east, and, rushing down the pass of
Budbar, crosses Ghilan to the Caspian. Though its source is in direct
distance no more than 320 miles from its mouth, its entire length, owing
to its numerous curves and meanders, is estimated at 490 miles. It is a
considerable stream, forded with difficulty, even in the dry season, as
high up as Karagul, and crossed by a bridge of three wide arches before
its junction with the Garongu river near Miana. In spring and early
summer it is an impetuous torrent, and can only be forded within a short
distance of its source.

The Jaghetu and the Aji-Su are the two chief rivers of the Urumiyeh
basin. The Jaghetu rises from the foot of the Zagros chain, at a very
little distance from the source of the Kizil-Uzen. It collects the
streams from the range of hills which divides the Kizil-Uzen basin from
that of Lake Urumiyeh, and flows in a tolerably straight course first
north and then north-west to the south-eastern shore of the lake. Side
by side with it for some distance flows the smaller stream of the Tatau,
formed by torrents from Zagros; and between them, towards their mouths,
is the rich plain of Miyandab, easily irrigated from the two streams,
the level of whose beds is above that of the plain, and abundantly
productive even under the present system of cultivation. The Aji-Su
reaches the lake from the north-east. It rises from Mount Sevilan,
within sixty miles of the Caspian, and flows with a course which is at
first nearly due south, then north-west, and finally south-west, past
the city of Tabriz, to the eastern shore of the lake, which it enters in
lat. 37° 50'. The waters of the Aji-Su are, unfortunately, salt, and it
is therefore valueless for purposes of irrigation.

The Zenderud or river of Isfahan rises from the eastern flank of the
Kuh-i-Zerd (Yellow Mountain), a portion of the Bakhti-yari chain, and,
receiving a number of tributaries from the same mountain district, flows
with a course which is generally east or somewhat north of east, past
the great city of Isfahan--so long the capital of Persia--into the
desert country beyond, where it is absorbed in irrigation. Its entire
course is perhaps not more than 120 or 130 miles; but running chiefly
through a plain region, and being naturally a stream of large size,
it is among the most valuable of the Median rivers, its waters being
capable of spreading fertility, by means of a proper arrangement of
canals, over a vast extent of country, and giving to this part of Iran a
sylvan character, scarcely found elsewhere on the plateau.

It will be observed that of these streams there is not one which reaches
the ocean. All the rivers of the great Iranic plateau terminate in lakes
or inland seas, or else lose themselves in the desert. In general the
thirsty sand absorbs, within a short distance of their source, the
various brooks and streams which flow south and east into the desert
from the northern and western mountain chains, without allowing them to
collect into rivers or to carry fertility far into the plain region. The
the river of Isfahan forms the only exception to this rule within the
limits of the ancient Media. All its other important streams, as has
been seen, flow either into the Caspian or into the great lake of

That lake itself now requires our attention. It is an oblong basin,
stretching in its greater direction from N.N.W. to S.S. E., a distance
of above eighty miles, with an average width of about twenty-five miles.
On its eastern side a remarkable peninsula, projecting far into its
waters, divides it into two portions of very unequal size--a northern
and a southern.

The southern one, which is the largest of the two, is diversified
towards its centre by a group of islands, some of which are of a
considerable size. The lake, like others in this part of Asia, is
several thousand feet above the sea level. Its waters are heavily
impregnated with salt, resembling those of the Dead Sea. No fish can
live in them. When a storm sweeps over their surface it only raises the
waves a few feet; and no sooner is it passed than they rapidly subside
again into a deep, heavy, death-like sleep. The lake is shallow, nowhere
exceeding four fathoms, and averaging about two fathoms--a depth which,
however, is rarely attained within two miles of the land. The water is
pellucid. To the eye it has the deep blue color of some of the northern
Italian lakes, whence it was called by the Armenians the Kapotan Zow or
"Blue Sea."

According to the Armenian geography, Media contained eleven districts;
Ptolemy makes the number eight; but the classical geographers in
general are contented with the twofold division already indicated,
and recognized at the constituent parts of Media only Atropatene (now
Azerbijan) and Media Magna, a tract which nearly corresponds with the
two provinces of Irak Ajemj and Ardelan. Of the minor subdivisions there
are but two or three which seem to deserve any special notice. One of
these is Ehagiana, or the tract skirting the Elburz Mountains from the
vicinity of the Kizil-Uzen (or Sefid-Eud) to the Caspian Gates, a long
and narrow slip, fairly productive, but excessively hot in summer, which
took its name from the important city of Rhages. Another is Nissea, a
name which the Medes seem to have carried with them from their early
eastern abodes, and to have applied to some high upland plains west
of the main chain of Zagros, which were peculiarly favorable to the
breeding of horses. As Alexander visited these pastures on his way from
Susa to Ecbatana, they must necessarily have lain to the south of the
latter city. Most probably they are to be identified with the modern
plains of Kbawah and Alishtar, between Behistun and Khorramabad, which
are even now considered to afford the best summer pasturage in Persia.

It is uncertain whether any of these divisions were known in the time of
the great Median Empire. They are not constituted in any case by marked
natural lines or features. On the whole it is perhaps most probable
that the main division--that into Media Magna and Media Atropatene--was
ancient, Astro-patene being the old home of the Medes, and Media Magna a
later conquest; but the early political geography of the country is too
obscure to justify us in laying down even this as certain. The minor
political divisions are still less distinguishable in the darkness of
those ancient times.

From the consideration of the districts which composed the Median
territory, we may pass to that of their principal cities, some of which
deservedly obtained a very great celebrity. Tho most important of all
were the two Ecbatanas--the northern and the southern--which seem to
have stood respectively in the position of metropolis to the northern
and the southern province. Next to these may be named Rhages, which was
probably from early times a very considerable place; while in the
third rank may be mentioned Bagistan--rather perhaps a palace than
a town--Concobar, Adrapan, Aspadan, Charax, Kudrus, Hyspaostes,
Urakagabarna, etc.

The southern Ecbatana or Agbatana--which the Medes and Persians
themselves knew as Hagmatan--was situated, as we learn from Polybius and
Diodorus, on a plan at the foot of Mont Orontes, a little to the east of
the Zagros range. The notices of these authors, combined with those of
Eratosthenes, Isidore, Pliny, Arrian, and others, render it as nearly
certain as possible that the site was that of the modern town of
Hamadan, the name of which is clearly but a slight corruption of the
true ancient appellation. [PLATE I., Fig. 2.] Mount Orontes is to
be recognized in the modern Elwend or Erwend--a word etymologically
identical with _Oront-es_--which is a long and lofty mountains standing
out like a buttress from the Zagros range, with which it is connected
towards the north-west, while on every other side it stands isolated,
sweeping boldly down upon the flat country at its base. Copious streams
descend from the mountain on every side, more particularly to the
north-east, where the plain is covered with a carpet of the most
luxuriant verdure, diversified with rills, and ornamented with numerous
groves of large and handsome forest trees. It is here, on ground sloping
slightly away from the roots of the mountain, that the modern town,
which lies directly at its foot, is built. The ancient city, if we may
believe Diodorus, did not approach the mountain within a mile or a mile
and a half. At any rate, if it began where Hamadan now stands, it most
certainly extended very much further into the plain. We need not suppose
indeed that it had the circumference, or even half the circumference,
which the Sicilian romancer assigns to it, since his two hundred and
fifty stades would give a probable area of fifty square miles, more than
double that of London! Ecbatana is not likely to have been at its most
flourishing period a larger city than Nineveh; and we have already seen
that Nineveh covered a space, within the walls, of not more than 1800
English acres.

[Illustration: PLATE I.]

The character of the city and of its chief edifices has, unfortunately,
to be gathered almost entirely from unsatisfactory authorities. Hitherto
it has been found possible in these volumes to check and correct the
statements of ancient writers, which are almost always exaggerated,
by an appeal to the incontrovertible evidence of modern surveys
and explorations. But the Median capital has never yet attracted a
scientific expedition. The travellers by whom it has been visited have
reported so unfavorably of its character as a field of antiquarian
research that scarcely a spadeful of soil has been dug, either in the
city or in its vicinity, with a view to recover traces of the ancient
buildings. Scarcely any remains of antiquity are apparent. As the site
has never been deserted, and the town has thus been subjected for nearly
twenty-two centuries to the destructive ravages of foreign conquerors,
and the still more injurious plunderings of native builders, anxious
to obtain materials for new edifices at the least possible cost and
trouble, the ancient structures have everywhere disappeared from sight,
and are not even indicated by mounds of a sufficient size to attract the
attention of common observers. Scientific explorers have consequently
been deterred from turning their energies in this direction; more
promising sites have offered and still offer themselves; and it is as
yet uncertain whether the plan of the old town might not be traced
and the position of its chief edifices fixed by the means of careful
researches conducted by fully competent persons. In this dearth of
modern materials we have to depend entirely upon the classical writers,
who are rarely trustworthy in their descriptions or measurements, and
who, in this instance, labor under the peculiar disadvantage of being
mere reporters of the accounts given by others.

Ecbatana was chiefly celebrated for the magnificence of its palace,
a structure ascribed by Diodorus to Semiramis, but most probably
constructed originally by Cyaxares, and improved, enlarged, and
embellished by the Achaemenian monarchs. According to the judicious
and moderate Polybius, who prefaces his account by a protest against
exaggeration and over-coloring, the circumference of the building
was seven stades, or 1420 yards, somewhat more than four fifths of an
English mile. This size, which a little exceeds that of the palace
mound at Susa, while it is in its turn a little exceeded by the palatial
platform at Persepolis, may well be accepted as probably close to
the truth. Judging, however, from the analogy of the above-mentioned
palaces, we must conclude that the area thus assigned to the royal
residence was far from being entirely covered with buildings. One half
of the space, perhaps more, would be occupied by large open courts,
paved probably with marble, surrounding the various blocks of buildings
and separating them from one another. The buildings themselves may be
conjectured to have resembled those of the Achaemenian monarchs at Susa
and Persepolis, with the exception, apparently, that the pillars, which
formed their most striking characteristic, were for the most part of
wood rather than o£ stone. Polybius distinguishes the pillars into
two classes, those of the main buildings, and those which skirted the
courts, from which it would appear that at Ecbatana the courts were
surrounded by colonnades, as they were commonly in Greek and Roman
houses. These wooden pillars, all either of cedar or of cypress,
supported beams of a similar material, which crossed each other at right
angles, leaving square spaces between, which were then filled in with
woodwork. Above the whole a roof was placed, sloping at an angle, and
composed (as we are told) of silver plates in the shape of tiles. The
pillars, beams, and the rest of the woodwork were likewise coated with
thin laminse of the precious metals, even gold being used for this
purpose to a certain extent.

Such seems to have been the character of the true ancient Median palace,
which served probably as a model to Darius and Xerxes when they designed
their great palatial edifices at the more southern capitals. In the
additions which the palace received under the Achaemenian kings, stone
pillars may have been introduced; and hence probably the broken shafts
and bases, so nearly resembling the Persepolitan, one of which Sir E.
Ker Porter saw in the immediate neighborhood of Hamadan on his visit
to that place in 1818. [PLATE I., Fig. 1.] But to judge from the
description of Polybius, an older and ruder style of architecture
prevailed in the main building, which depended for its effect not on the
beauty of architectural forms, but on the richness and costliness of the
material. A pillar architecture, so far as appears, began in this part
of Asia with the Medes, who, however, were content to use the more
readily obtained and more easily worked material of wood; while the
Persians afterwards conceived the idea of substituting for these
inartificial props the slender and elegant stone shafts which formed the
glory of their grand edifices.

At a short distance from the palace was the "Acra," or citadel, an
artificial structure, if we may believe Polybius, and a place of very
remarkable strength. Here probably was the treasury, from which Darius
Codomanus carried off 7000 talents of silver, when he fled towards
Bactria for fear of Alexander. And here, too, may have been the Record
Office, in which were deposited the royal decrees and other public
documents under the earlier Persian kings. Some travellers are of
opinion that a portion of the ancient structure still exists; and there
is certainly a ruin on the outskirts of the modern town towards the
south, which is known to the natives as "the inner fortress," and which
may not improbably occupy some portion of the site whereon the original
citadel stood. But the remains of building which now exist are certainly
not of an earlier date than the era of Parthian supremacy, and they can
therefore throw no light on the character of the old Median stronghold.
It may be thought perhaps that the description which Herodotus gives
of the building called by him "the palace of Deioces" should be here
applied, and that by its means we might obtain an exact notion of the
original structure. But the account of this author is wholly at variance
with the natural features of the neighborhood, where there is no such
conical hill as he describes, but only a plain surrounded by mountains.
It seems, therefore, to be certain that either his description is a pure
myth, or that it applies to another city, the Ecbatana of the northern
province. It is doubtful whether the Median capital was at any time
surrounded with walls. Polybius expressly declares that it was an
unwalled place in his day and there is some reason to suspect that it
had always been in this condition. The Medes and Persians appear to have
been in general content to establish in each town a fortified citadel or
stronghold, round which the houses were clustered, without superadding
the further defence of a town wall. Ecbatana accordingly seems never to
have stood a siege. When the nation which held it was defeated in the
open field, the city (unlike Babylon and Nineveh) submitted to the
conqueror without a struggle. Thus the marvellous description in the
book of Judith, which is internally very improbable, would appear to be
entirely destitute of any, even the slightest, foundation in fact.

The chief city of northern Media, which bore in later times the names of
Gaza, Gazaca, or Canzaca, is thought to have also been called Ecbatana,
and to have been occasionally mistaken by the Greeks for the southern or
real capital. The description of Herodotus, which is irreconcilably
at variance with the local features of the Hamadan site, accords
sufficiently with the existing remains of a considerable city in the
province of Azerbijan; and it seems certainly to have been a city in
these parts which was called by Moses of Chorene "the second Ecbatana,
the seven-walled town." The peculiarity of this place was its situation
on and about a conical hill which sloped gently down from its summit
to its base, and allowed of the interposition of seven circuits of wall
between the plain and the hill's crest. At the top of the hill, within
the innermost circle of the defences, were the Royal Palace and
the treasuries; the sides of the hill were occupied solely by the
fortifications; and at the base, outside the circuit of the outermost
wall, were the domestic and other buildings which constituted the town.
According to the information received by Herodotus, the battlements
which crowned the walls were variously colored. Those of the outer
circle were white, of the next black, of the third scarlet, of the
fourth blue, of the fifth orange, of the sixth silver, and of the
seventh gold. A pleasing or at any rate a striking effect was thus
produced--the citadel, which towered above the town, presenting to the
eye seven distinct rows of colors.

If there was really a northern as well as a southern Ecbatana, and if
the account of Herodotus, which cannot possibly apply to the southern
capital, may be regarded as truly describing the great city of the
north, we may with much probability fix the site of the northern town
at the modern Takht-i-Suleiman, in the upper valley of the Saruk, a
tributary of the Jaghetu. [PLATE I., Fig. 3.] Here alone in northern
Media are there important ruins occupying such a position as that which
Herodotus describes. Near the head of a valley in which runs the main
branch of the Saruk, at the edge of the hills which skirt it to the
north, there stands a conical mound projecting into the vale and rising
above its surface to the height of 150 feet. The geological formation of
the mound is curious in the extreme. It seems to owe its origin entirely
to a small lake, the waters of which are so strongly impregnated with
calcareous matter that wherever they overflow they rapidly form a
deposit which is as hard and firm as natural rock. If the lake was
originally on a level with the valley, it would soon have formed
incrustations round its edge, which every casual or permanent overflow
would have tended to raise; and thus, in the course of ages, the entire
hill may have been formed by a mere accumulation of petrefactions. The
formation would progress more or less rapidly according to the tendency
of the lake to overflow its bounds; which tendency must have been strong
until the water reached its present natural level--the level, probably,
of some other sheet of water in the hills, with which it is connected
by an underground siphon. The lake, which is of an irregular shape,
is about 300 paces in circumference. Its water, notwithstanding the
quantity of mineral matter held in solution, is exquisitely clear, and
not unpleasing to the taste. Formerly it was believed by the natives to
be unfathomable; but experiments made in 1837 showed the depth to be no
more than 156 feet.

The ruins which at present occupy this remarkable site consist of a
strong wall, guarded by numerous bastions and pierced by four gateways,
which runs round the brow of the hill in a slightly irregular ellipse,
of some interesting remains of buildings within this walled space, and
of a few insignificant traces of inferior edifices on the slope between
the plain and the summit. As it is not thought that any of these remains
are of a date anterior to the Sassanian kingdom, no description will be
given of them here. We are only concerned with the Median city, and that
has entirely disappeared. Of the seven walls, one alone is to be traced;
and even here the Median structure has perished, and been replaced by
masonry of a far later age. Excavations may hereafter bring, to light
some remnants of the original town, but at present research has done no
more than recover for us a forgotten site.

The Median city next in importance to the two Ecbatanas was Raga or
Rhages, near the Caspian Gates, almost at the extreme eastern limits of
the territory possessed by the Medes.

The great antiquity of this place is marked by its occurrence in the
Zendavesta among the primitive settlements of the Arians. Its celebrity
during the time of the Empire is indicated by the position which it
occupies in the romances of Tobit and Judith. It maintained its rank
under the Persians, and is mentioned by Darius Hystaspis as the scene of
the struggle which terminated the great Median revolt. The last Darius
seems to have sent thither his heavy baggage and the ladies of his
court, when he resolved to quit Ecbatana and fly eastward. It has been
already noticed that Rhages gave name to a district; and this district
maybe certainly identified with the long narrow tract of fertile
territory intervening between the Elburz mountain-range and the desert,
from about Kasvin to Khaar, or from long. 30° to 52° 30'. The exact site
of the city of Rhages within this territory is somewhat doubtful. All
accounts place it near the eastern extremity; and as there are in this
direction ruins of a town called Rhei or Rhey, it has been usual to
assume that they positively fix the locality. But similarity, or even
identity, of name is an insufficient proof of a site; and, in the
present instance, there are grounds for placing Rhages very much nearer
to the Caspian Gates than the position of Rhei. Arrian, whose accuracy
is notorious, distinctly states that from the Gates to Rhages was only a
single day's march, and that Alexander accomplished the distance in that
time. Now from Rhei to the Girduni Surdurrah pass, which undoubtedly
represents the Pylae Cacpise of Arrian, is at least fifty miles, a
distance which no army could accomplish in less time than two days.
Rhages consequently must have been considerably to the east of
Rhei, about half-way between it and the celebrated pass which it was
considered to guard. Its probable position is the modern Kaleh Erij,
near Veramin, about 23 miles from the commencement of the Surdurrah
pass, where there are considerable remains of an ancient town.

In the same neighborhood with Rhages, but closer to the Straits, perhaps
on the site now occupied by the ruins known as Uewanukif, or possibly
even nearer to the foot of the pass, was the Median city of Charax, a
place not to be confounded with the more celebrated city called Gharax
Spasini, the birthplace of Dionysius the geographer, which was on the
Persian Gulf, at the mouth of the Tigris.

The other Median cities, whose position can be determined with an
approach to certainty, were in the western portion of the country, in
the range of Zagros, or in the fertile tract between that range and the
desert. The most important of these are Bagistan, Adrapan, Concobar, and

Bagistan is described by Isidore as a "city situated on a hill, where
there was a pillar and a statue of Semiramis." Diodorus has an account
of the arrival of Semiramis at the place, of her establishing a royal
park or paradise in the plain below the mountain, which was watered
by an abundant spring, of her smoothing the face of the rock where it
descended precipitously upon the low ground, and of her carving on the
surface thus obtained her own effigy, with an inscription in Assyrian
characters. The position assigned to Bagistan by both writers, and the
description of Diodorus, identify the place beyond a doubt with the now
famous Behistun, where the plain, the fountain, the precipitous rock,
and the scarped surface are still to be seen, through the supposed
figure of Semiramis, her pillar, and her inscription have disappeared.
[PLATE II., Fig. 1.] This remarkable spot, lying on the direct route
between Babylon and Ecbatana, and presenting the unusual combination of
a copious fountain, a rich plain, and a rock suitable for sculptures,
must have early attracted the attention of the great monarchs who
marched their armies through the Zagros range, as a place where they
might conveniently set up memorials of their exploits. The works of this
kind ascribed by the ancient writers to Semiramis were probably either
Assyrian or Babylonian, and (it is most likely) resembled the ordinary
monuments which the kings of Babylon and Nineveh delighted to erect
in countries newly conquered. The example set by the Mesopotamians was
followed by their Arian neighbors, when the supremacy passed into
their hands; and the famous mountain, invested by them with a sacred
character, was made to subserve and perpetuate their glory by receiving
sculptures and inscriptions which showed them to have become the lords
of Asia. The practice did not even stop here. When the Parthian kingdom
of the Arsacidee had established itself in these parts at the expense
of the Seleucidse, the rock was once more called upon to commemorate
the warlike triumphs of a new race. Gotarzes, the contemporary of the
Emperor Claudius, after defeating his rival Meherdates in the plain
between Behistun and Kermanshah, inscribed upon the mountain, which
already bore the impress of the great monarchs of Assyria and Persia, a
record of his recent victory.

[Illustration: PLATE II.]

The name of Adrapan occurs only in Isidore, who places it between
Bagistan and Ecbatana, at the distance of twelve schoeni--36 Roman or 34
British miles from the latter. It was, he says, the site of an ancient
palace belonging to Ecbatana, which Tigranes the Armenian had destroyed.
The name and situation sufficiently identify Adrapan with the modern
village of Arteman, which lies on the southern face of Elwend near
its base, and is well adapted for a royal residence. Here, during the
severest winter, when Hamadan and the surrounding country are buried in
snow, a warm and sunny climate is to be found; whilst in the summer
a thousand rills descending from Elwend diffuse around fertility
and fragrance. Groves of trees grow up in rich luxuriance from the
well-irrigated soil, whose thick foliage affords a welcome shelter from
the heat of the noonday sun. The climate, the gardens, and the manifold
blessings of the place are proverbial throughout Persia; and naturally
caused the choice of the site for a retired palace, to which the court
of Ecbatana might adjourn when either the summer heat and dust or the
winter cold made residence in the capital irksome.

In the neighborhood of Adrapan, on the road leading to Bagistan, stood
Concobar, which is undoubtedly the modern Kungawar, and perhaps the
Chavon of Diodorus. Here, according to the Sicilian historian, Semiramis
built a palace and laid out a paradise; and here, in the time of
Isidore, was a famous temple of Artemis. Colossal ruins crown the summit
of the acclivity on which the town of Kungawar stands, which may be the
remains of this latter building; but no trace has been found that can be
regarded as either Median or Assyrian.

The Median town of Aspadan, which is mentioned by no writer but Ptolemy,
would scarcely deserve notice here, if it were not for its modern
celebrity. Aspadan, corrupted into Isfahan, became the capital of
Persia, under the Sen kings, who rendered it one of the most magnificent
cities of Asia. It is uncertain whether it existed at all in the time
of the great Median empire. If so, it was, at best, an outlying town of
little consequence on the extreme southern confines of the territory,
where it abutted upon Persia proper. The district wherein it lay was
inhabited by the Median tribe of the Parastaceni.

Upon the whole it must be allowed that the towns of Media were few
and of no great account. The Medes did not love to congregate in large
cities, but preferred to scatter themselves in villages over their
broad and varied territory. The protection of walls, necessary for
the inhabitants of the low Mesopotamian regions, was not required by a
people whose country was full of natural fastnesses to which they could
readily remove on the approach of danger. Excepting the capital and
the two important cities of Gazaca and Rhages, the Median towns were
insignificant. Even those cities themselves were probably of moderate
dimensions, and had little of the architectural splendor which gives
so peculiar an interest to the towns of Mesopotamia. Their principal
buildings were in a frail and perishable material, unsuited to bear the
ravages of time; they have consequently altogether disappeared, and in
the whole of Media modern researches have failed to bring to light a
single edifice which can be assigned with any show of probability to the
period of the Empire.

The plan adopted in former portions of this work makes it necessary,
before concluding this chapter, to glance briefly at the character of
the various countries and districts by which Media was bordered--the
Caspian district upon the north, Armenia upon the north-west, the Zagros
region and Assyria upon the west, Persia proper upon the south, and upon
the east Sagartia and Parthia.

North and north-east of the mountain range which under different names
skirts the southern shores of the Caspian Sea and curves round
its south-western corner, lies a narrow but important strip of
territory--the modern Ghilan and Mazanderan. [PLATE II., Fig. 2.] This
is a most fertile region, well watered and richly wooded, and forms one
of the most valuable portions of the modern kingdom of Persia. At first
it is a low flat tract of deep alluvial soil, but little raised above
the level of the Caspian; gradually however it rises into swelling
hills which form the supports of the high mountains that shut in this
sheltered region, a region only to be reached by a very few passes over
or through them. The mountains are clothed on this side nearly to their
summit with dwarf oaks, or with shrubs and brushwood; while, lower
down, their flanks are covered with forests of elms, cedars, chestnuts,
beeches, and cypress trees. The gardens and orchards of the natives
are of the most superb character; the vegetation is luxuriant; lemons,
oranges, peaches, pomegranates, besides other fruits, abound; rice,
hemp, sugar-canes, mulberries are cultivated with success; vines grow
wild; and the valleys are strewn with flowers of rare fragrance, among
which may be noted the rose, the honeysuckle, and the sweetbrier.
Nature, however, with her usual justice, has balanced these
extraordinary advantages with peculiar drawbacks; the tiger, unknown
in any other part of Western Asia, here lurks in the thickets, ready to
spring at any moment on the unwary traveller; inundations are frequent,
and carry desolation far and wide; the waters, which thus escape from
the river beds, stagnate in marshes, and during the summer and autumn
heats pestilential exhalations arise, which destroy the stranger,
and bring even the acclimatized native to the brink of the grave. The
Persian monarch chooses the southern rather than the northern side of
the mountains for the site of his capital, preferring the keen winter
cold and dry summer heat of the high and almost waterless plateau to the
damp and stifling air of the low Caspian region.

The narrow tract of which this is a description can at no time have
sheltered a very numerous or powerful people. During the Median period,
and for many ages afterwards, it seems to have been inhabited by various
petty tribes of predatory habits--Cadusians, Mardi, Tapyri, etc.,--who
passed their time in petty quarrels among themselves, and in plundering
raids upon their great southern neighbor. Of these tribes the Cadusians
alone enjoyed any considerable reputation. They were celebrated for
their skill with the javelin--a skill probably represented by the modern
Persian use of the _djereed_. According to Diodorus, they were engaged
in frequent wars with the Median kings, and were able to bring into the
field a force of 200,000 men! Under the Persians they seem to have been
considered good soldiers, and to have sometimes made a struggle for
independence. But there is no real reason to believe that they were
of such strength as to have formed at any time a danger to the Median
kingdom, to which it is more probable that they generally acknowledged a
qualified subjection.

The great country of Armenia, which lay north-west and partly north of
Media, has been generally described in the first volume; but a few
words will be here added with respect to the more eastern portion, which
immediately bordered upon the Median territory. This consisted of
two outlying districts, separated from the rest of the country, the
triangular basin of Lake Van, and the tract between the Kur and
Aras rivers--the modern Karabagh and Erivan. The basin of Lake Van,
surrounded by high ranges, and forming the very heart of the mountain
system of this part of Asia, is an isolated region, a sort of natural
citadel, where a strong military power would be likely to establish
itself. Accordingly it is here, and here alone in all Armenia, that we
find signs of the existence, during the Assyrian and Median periods, of
a great organized monarchy.

The Van inscriptions indicate to us a line of kings who bore sway in the
eastern Armenia--the true Ararat--and who were both in civilization
and in military strength far in advance of any of the other princes who
divided among them the Armenian territory. The Van monarchs may have
been at times formidable enemies of the Medes. They have left traces of
their dominion, not only on the tops of the mountain passes which lead
into the basin of Lake Urumiyeh, but even in the comparatively low plain
of Miyandab on the southern shore of that inland sea. It is probable
from this that they were at one time masters of a large portion of Media
Atropatene, and the very name of Urumiyeh, which still attaches to the
lake, may have been given to it from one of their tribes. In the tract
between the Kur and Aras, on the other hand, there is no sign of
the early existence of any formidable power. Here the mountains are
comparatively low, the soil is fertile, and the climate temperate. The
character of the region would lead its inhabitants to cultivate the arts
of peace rather than those of war, and would thus tend to prevent them
from being formidable or troublesome to their neighbors.

The Zagros region, which in the more ancient times separated between
Media and Assyria, being inhabited by a number of independent tribes,
but which was ultimately absorbed into the more powerful country,
requires no notice here, having been sufficiently described among the
tracts by which Assyria was bordered. At first a serviceable shield
to the weak Arian tribes which were establishing themselves along its
eastern base upon the high plateau, it gradually passed into their
possession as they increased in strength, and ultimately became a main
nursery of their power, furnishing to their armies vast numbers both of
men and horses. The great horse pastures, from which the Medes first and
the Persians afterwards, supplied their numerous and excellent
cavalry, were in this quarter; and the troops which it furnished--hardy
mountaineers accustomed to brave the severity of a most rigorous
climate--must have been among the most effective of the Median forces.

On the south Media was bounded by Persia proper--a tract which
corresponded nearly with the modern province of Farsistan. The complete
description of this territory, the original seat of the Persian nation,
belongs to a future volume of this work, which will contain an account
of the "Fifth Monarchy." For the present it is sufficient to observe
that the Persian territory was for the most part a highland, very
similar to Media, from which it was divided by no strongly marked line
or natural boundary. The Persian mountains are a continuation of the
Zagros chain, and Northern Persia is a portion--the southern portion--of
the same great plateau, whose western and north-western skirts formed
the great mass of the Median territory. Thus upon this side Media was
placed in the closest connection with an important country, a country
similar in character to her own, where a hardy race was likely to grow
up, with which she might expect to have difficult contests.

Finally, towards the east lay the great salt desert, sparsely inhabited
by various nomadic races, among which the most important were the
Cossseans and the Sagartians. To the latter people Herodotus seems to
assign almost the whole of the sandy region, since he unites them with
the Sarangians and Thamanseans on the one hand, with the Utians and
Mycians upon the other. They were a wild race, probably of Arian origin,
who hunted with the lasso over the great desert mounted on horses, and
could bring into the field a force of eight or ten thousand men. Their
country, a waste of sand and gravel, in parts thickly encrusted with
salt, was impassable to an army, and formed a barrier which effectively
protected Media along the greater portion of her eastern frontier.
Towards the extreme north-east the Sagartians were replaced by the
Cossseans and the Parthians, the former probably the people of the
Siah-Koh mountain, the latter the inhabitants of the tract known now
as the Atak, or "skirt," which extends along the southern flank of the
Elburz range from the Caspian Gates nearly to Herat, and is capable
of sustaining a very considerable population. The Cossseans were
plunderers, from whose raids Media suffered constant annoyance; but they
were at no time of sufficient strength to cause any serious fear.
The Parthians, as we learn from the course of events, had in them the
materials of a mighty people; but the hour for their elevation and
expansion was not yet come, and the keenest observer of Median times
could scarcely have perceived in them the future lords of Western Asia.
From Parthia, moreover, Media was divided by the strong rocky spur which
runs out from the Elburz into the desert in long. 52° 10' nearly, over
which is the narrow pass already mentioned as the Caspian Gates. Thus
Media on most sides was guarded by the strong natural barriers of seas,
mountains, and deserts lying open only on the south, where she adjoined
upon a kindred people. Her neighbors were for the most part weak in
numbers, though warlike. Armenia, however, to the north-west, Assyria to
the west, and Persia to the south, were all more or less formidable.
A prescient eye might have foreseen that the great struggles of
Media would be with these powers, and that if she attained imperial
proportions it must be by their subjugation or absorption.


Media, like Assyria, is a country of such extent and variety that, in
order to give a correct description of its climate, we must divide it
into regions. Azerbijan, or Atropatene, the most northern portion, has
a climate altogether cooler than the rest of Media; while in the more
southern division of the country there is a marked difference between
the climate of the east and of the west, of the tracts lying on the
high plateau and skirting the Great Salt Desert, and of those contained
within or closely abutting upon the Zagros mountain range. The
difference here is due to the difference of physical conformation, which
is as great as possible, the broad mountainous plains about Kasvin,
Koum, and Kashan, divided from each other by low rocky ridges, offering
the strongest conceivable contrast to the perpetual alternations of
mountain and valley, precipitous height and deep wooded glen, which
compose the greater part of the Zagros region.

The climate of Azerbijan is temperate and pleasant, though perhaps
somewhat overwarm, in summer; while in winter it is bitterly severe,
colder than that of almost any other region in the same latitude. This
extreme rigor seems to be mainly owing to elevation, the very valleys
and valley plains of the tract being at a height of from 4000 to 5000
feet above the sea level. Frost commonly sets in towards the end of
November--or at latest early in December; snow soon covers the ground
to the depth of several feet; the thermometer falls below zero; the sun
shines brightly except when from time to time fresh deposits of snow
occur; but a keen and strong wind usually prevails, which is represented
as "cutting like a sword," and being a very "assassin of life." Deaths
from cold are of daily occurrence; and it is impossible to travel
without the greatest risk. Whole companies or caravans occasionally
perish beneath the drift, when the wind is violent, especially if a
heavy fall happen to coincide with one of the frequent easterly gales.
The severe weather commonly continues till March, when travelling
becomes possible, but the snow remains on much of the ground till May,
and on the mountains still longer. The spring, which begins in April, is
temperate and delightful; a sudden burst of vegetation succeeds to the
long winter lethargy; the air is fresh and balmy, the sun pleasantly
warm, the sky generally cloudless. In the month of May the heat
increases--thunder hangs in the air--and the valleys are often close
and sultry. Frequent showers occur, and the hail-storms are sometimes so
violent as to kill the cattle in the fields. As the summer advances the
heats increase, but the thermometer rarely reaches 90° in the shade, and
except in the narrow valleys the air is never oppressive. The autumn is
generally very fine. Foggy mornings are common; but they are succeeded
by bright pleasant days, without wind or rain. On the whole the climate
is pronounced healthy, though somewhat trying to Europeans, who do not
readily adapt themselves to a country where the range of the thermometer
is as much as 90° or 100°. In the part of Media situated on the great
plateau--the modern Irak Ajemi--in which are the important towns of
Teheran, Isfahan, Hamadan, Kashan, Kasvin, and Koum. the climate is
altogether warmer than in Azerbijan, the summers being hotter, and the
winters shorter and much less cold. Snow indeed covers the ground
for about three months, from early in December till March; but the
thermometer rarely shows more than ten or twelve degrees of frost, and
death from cold is uncommon. The spring sets in about the beginning of
March, and is at first somewhat cool, owing to the prevalence of the
_baude caucasan_ or north wind,a which blows from districts where the
snow still lies. But after a little time the weather becomes delicious;
the orchards are a mass of blossom; the rose gardens come into bloom;
the cultivated lands are covered with springing crops; the desert itself
wears a light livery of green. Every sense is gratified; the nightingale
bursts out with a full gush of song; the air plays softly upon the
cheek, and comes loaded with fragrance. Too soon, however, this charming
time passes away, and the summer heats begin, in some places as early as
June 18 The thermometer at midday rises to 90 or 100 degrees. Hot gusts
blow from the desert, sometimes with great violence. The atmosphere is
described as choking; and in parts of the plateau it is usual for the
inhabitants to quit their towns almost in a body, and retire for several
months into the mountains. This extreme heat is, however, exceptional;
in most parts of the plateau the summer warmth is tempered by cool
breezes from the surrounding mountains, on which there is always a good
deal of snow. At Hamadan, which, though on the plain, is close to the
mountains, the thermometer seems scarcely ever to rise above 90°, and
that degree of heat is attained only for a few hours in the day. The
mornings and evenings are cool and refreshing; and altogether the
climate quite justifies the choice of the Persian monarchs, who selected
Ecbatana for their place of residence during the hottest portion of the
year. Even at Isfahan, which is on the edge of the desert, the heat is
neither extreme nor prolonged. The hot gusts which blow from the east
and from the south raise the temperature at times nearly to a hundred
degrees; but these oppressive winds alternate with cooler breezes from
the west, often accompanied by rain; and the average highest temperature
during the day in the hottest month, which is August, does not exceed

A peculiarity in the climate of the plateau which deserves to be noticed
is the extreme dryness of the atmosphere. In summer the rains which fall
are slight, and they are soon absorbed by the thirsty soil. There is a
little dew at nights, especially in the vicinity of the few streams;
but it disappears with the first hour of sunshine, and the air is left
without a particle of moisture. In winter the dryness is equally
great; frost taking the place of heat, with the same effect upon the
atmosphere. Unhealthy exhalations are thus avoided, and the salubrity of
the climate is increased; but the European will sometimes sigh for the
soft, balmy airs of his own land, which have come flying over the sea,
and seem to bring their wings still dank with the ocean spray.

Another peculiarity of this region, produced by the unequal rarefaction
of the air over its different portions, is the occurrence, especially in
spring and summer, of sudden gusts, hot or cold, which blow with great
violence. These gusts are sometimes accompanied with, whirlwinds, which
sweep the country in different directions, carrying away with them
leaves, branches, stubble, sand, and other light substances, and causing
great annoyance to the traveller. They occur chiefly in connection with
a change of wind, and are no doubt consequent on the meeting of two
opposite currents. Their violence, however, is moderate, compared
with that of tropical tornadoes, and it is not often that they do any
considerable damage to the crops over which they sweep.

One further characteristic of the flat region may be noticed. The
intense heat of the summer sun striking on the dry sand or the saline
efflorescence of the desert throws the air over them into such a state
of quivering undulation as produces the most wonderful and varying
effects, distorting the forms of objects, and rendering the most
familiar strange and hard to be recognized. A mud bank furrowed by the
rain will exhibit the appearance of a magnificent city, with columns,
domes, minarets, and pyramids; a few stunted bushes will be transformed
into a forest of stately trees; a distant mountain will, in the space of
a minute, assume first the appearance of a lofty peak, then swell out at
the top, and resemble a mighty mushroom, next split into several parts,
and finally settle down into a flat tableland. Occasionally, though not
very often that semblance of water is produced which Europeans are are
apt to suppose the usual effect of mirage. The images of objects are
reflected at their base in an inverted position; the desert seems
converted into a vast lake; and the thirsty traveller, advancing towards
it, finds himself the victim of an illusion, which is none the less
successful because he has been a thousand times forewarned of its
deceptive power.

In the mountain range or Zagros and the tracts adjacent to it, the
climate, owing to the great differences of elevation, is more varied
than in the other parts of the ancient Media. Severe cold prevails in
the higher mountain regions for seven months out of the twelve, while
during the remaining five the heat is never more than moderate. In
the low valleys, on the contrary, and in other favored situations, the
winters are often milder than on the plateau; while in the summers, if
the heat is not greater, at any rate it is more oppressive. Owing to the
abundance of the streams and proximity of the melting snows, the air is
moist; and the damp heat, which stagnates in the valleys, broods fever
and ague. Between these extremes of climate and elevation, every variety
is to be found; and, except in winter, a few hours' journey will almost
always bring the traveller into a temperate region.

In respect of natural productiveness, Media (as already observed)
differs exceedingly in different, and even in adjacent, districts. The
rocky ridges of the great plateau, destitute of all vegetable mold, are
wholly bare and arid, admitting not the slightest degree of cultivation.
Many of the mountains of Azerbijan, naked, rigid, and furrowed, may
compare even with these desert ranges for sterility. The higher parts
of Zagros and Elburz are sometimes of the same character; but more often
they are thickly clothed with forests, affording excellent timber and
other valuable commodities. In the Elburz pines are found near the
summit, while lower down there occur, first the wild almond and the
dwarf oak, and then the usual timber-trees of the country, the Oriental
plane, the willow, the poplar, and the walnut. The walnut grows to a
large size both here and in Azerbijan, but the poplar is the wood most
commonly used for building purposes. In Zagros, besides most of these
trees, the ash and the terebinth or turpentine-tree are common; the oak
bears gall-nuts of a large size; and the gum-tragacanth plant frequently
clothes the mountain-sides. The valleys of this region are full of
magnificent orchards, as are the low grounds and more sheltered nooks of
Azerbijan. The fruit-trees comprise, besides vines and mulberries, the
apple, the pear, the quince, the plum, the cherry, the almond, the nut,
the chestnut, the olive, the peach, the nectarine, and the apricot.

On the plains of the high plateau there is a great scarcity of
vegetation. Trees of a large size grow only in the few places which are
well watered, as in the neighborhood of Hamadan, Isfahan, and in a
less degree of Kashan. The principal tree is the Oriental plane, which
flourishes together with poplars and willows along the water-courses;
cypresses also grow freely; elms and cedars are found, and the orchards
and gardens contain not only the fruit-trees mentioned above, but also
the jujube, the cornel, the filbert, the medlar, the pistachio nut, the
pomegranate, and the fig. Away from the immediate vicinity of the rivers
and the towns, not a tree, scarcely a bush, is to be seen. The common
thorn is indeed tolerably abundant in a few places; but elsewhere the
tamarisk and a few other sapless shrubs are the only natural products of
this bare and arid region.

In remarkable contrast with the natural barrenness of this wide tract
are certain favored districts in Zagros and Azerbijan, where the herbage
is constant throughout the summer, and sometimes only too luxuriant.
Such are the rich and extensive grazing grounds of Khawah and Alishtar,
near Kermanshah, the pastures near Ojan and Marand, and the celebrated
Chowal Moghan or plain of Moghan, on the lower course of the Araxes
river, where the grass is said to grow sufficiently high to cover a
man on horseback. These, however, are rare exceptions to the general
character of the country, which is by nature unproductive, and scarcely
deserving even of the qualified encomium of Strabo.

Still Media, though deficient in natural products, is not ill adapted
for cultivation. The Zagros valleys and hillsides produce under a very
rude system of agriculture, besides the fruits already noticed, rice,
wheat, barley, millet, sesame, Indian corn, cotton, tobacco, mulberries,
cucumbers, melons, pumpkins, and the castor-oilplant. In Azerbijan the
soil is almost all cultivable, and if ploughed and sown will bring good
crops of the ordinary kinds of grain. Even on the side of the desert,
where Nature has shown herself most niggardly, and may seem perhaps to
deserve the reproach of Cicero, that she behaves as a step mother to
a man rather than as a mother, a certain amount of care and scientific
labor may render considerable tracts fairly productive. The only want
of this region is water; and if the natural deficiency of this necessary
fluid can be anyhow supplied, all parts of the plateau will bear crops,
except those which form the actual Salt Desert. In modern, and still
more in ancient times, this fact has been clearly perceived, and an
elaborate system of artifical irrigation, suitable to the peculiar
circumstances of the country, has been very widely established. The
system of _kanats_, as they are called at the present day, aims at
utilizing to the uttermost all the small streams and rills which descend
towards the desert from the surrounding mountains, and at conveying
as far as possible into the plain the spring water, which is the
indispensable condition of cultivation in a country where--except for
a few days in the spring and autumn--rain scarcely ever falls. As the
precious element would rapidly evaporate if exposed to the rays of the
summer sun, the Iranian husbandman carries his conduit underground,
laboriously tunnelling through the stiff argillaceous soil, at a depth
of many feet below the surface. The mode in which he proceeds is as
follows. At intervals along the line of his intended conduit he first
sinks shafts, which he then connects with one another by galleries,
seven or eight feet in height, giving his galleries a slight incline,
so that the water may run down them freely, and continuing them till he
reaches a point where he wishes to bring the water out upon the surface
of the plain. Here and there, at the foot of his shafts, he digs wells,
from which the fluid can readily be raised by means of a bucket and a
windlass; and he thus brings under cultivation a considerable belt of
land along the whole line of the _kanat_, as well as a large tract at
its termination. These conduits, on which the cultivation of the plateau
depends, were established at so remote a date that they were popularly
ascribed to the mythic Semiramis, the supposed wife of Ninus. It is
thought that in ancient times they were longer and more numerous than at
present, when they occur only occasionally, and seldom extend more than
a few miles from the base of the hills.

By help of the irrigation thus contrived, the great plateau of Iran will
produce good crops of grain, rice, wheat, barley, Indian corn, doura,
millet, and sesame. It will also bear cotton, tobacco, saffron, rhubarb,
madder, poppies which give a good opium, senna, and assafoetida.
Its garden vegetables are excellent, and include potatoes, cabbages,
lentils, kidney-beans, peas, turnips, carrots, spinach, beetroot, and
cucumbers. The variety of its fruit-trees has been already noticed.
The flavor of their produce is in general good, and in some cases
surpassingly excellent. No quinces are so fine as those of Isfahan,
and no melons have a more delicate flavor. The grapes of Kasvin are
celebrated, and make a remarkably good wine.

Among the flowers of the country must be noted, first of all, its roses,
which flourish in the most luxuriant abundance, and are of every variety
of hue. The size to which the tree will grow is extraordinary, standards
sometimes exceeding the height of fourteen or fifteen feet. Lilacs,
jasmines, and many other flowering shrubs are common in the gardens,
while among wild flowers may be noticed hollyhocks, lilies, tulips,
crocuses, anemones, lilies of the valley, fritillaries, gentians,
primroses, convolvuluses, chrysanthemums, heliotropes, pinks,
water-lilies, ranunculuses, jonquils, narcissuses, hyacinths, mallows,
stocks, violets, a fine campanula (Michauxia levigata), a mint (Nepeta
longiflora), several sages, salsolas, and fagonias. In many places the
wild flowers during the spring months cover the ground, painting it with
a thousand dazzling or delicate hues.

The mineral products of Media are numerous and valuable. Excellent stone
of many kinds abounds in almost every part of the country, the most
important and valuable being the famous Tabriz marble. This curious
substance appears to be a petrifaction formed by natural springs, which
deposit carbonate of lime in large quantities. It is found only in one
place, on the flanks of the hills, not far from the Urumiyeh lake. The
slabs are used for tombstones, for the skirting of rooms, and for the
pavements of baths and palaces; when cut thin they often take the place
of glass in windows, being semi-transparent. The marble is commonly of
a pale yellow color, but occasionally it is streaked with red, green, or
copper-colored veins.

In metals the country is thought to be rich, but no satisfactory
examination of it has been as yet made. Iron, copper, and native steel
are derived from mines actually at work; while Europeans have observed
indications of lead, arsenic, and antimony in Azerbijan, in Kurdistan,
and in the rocky ridges which intersect the desert. Tradition speaks
of a time when gold and silver were procured from mountains near
Takht-i-Suleman, and it is not unlikely that they may exist both there
and in the Zagros range. Quartz, the well-known matrix of the precious
metal, abounds in Kurdistan.

Of all the mineral products, none is more abundant than salt. On the
side of the desert, and again near Tabriz at the mouth of the Aji Su,
are vast plains which glisten with the substance, and yield it readily
to all who care to gather it up. Saline springs and streams are also
numerous, from which salt can be obtained by evaporation. But, besides
these sources of supply, rock salt is found in places, and this is
largely quarried, and is preferred by the natives.

Other important products of the earth are saltpetre, which is found
in the Elburz, and in Azerbijan; sulphur, which abounds in the same
regions, and likewise on the high plateau; alum, which is quarried near
Tabriz; naphtha and gypsum, which are found in Kurdistan; and talc,
which exists in the mountains near Koum, in the vicinity of Tabriz, and
probably in other places.

The chief wild animals which have been observed within the limits of
the ancient Media are the lion, the tiger, the leopard, the bear, the
beaver, the jackal, the wolf, the wild ass, the ibex or wild goat, the
wild sheep, the stag, the antelope, the wild boar, the fox, the hare,
the rabbit, the ferret, the rat, the jerboa, the porcupine, the mole,
and the marmot. The lion and tiger are exceedingly rare; they seem to
be found only in Azerbijan, and we may perhaps best account for their
presence there by considering that a few of these animals occasionally
stray out of Mazanderan, which is their only proper locality in this
part of Asia. Of all the beasts, the most abundant are the stag and the
wild goat, which are numerous in the Elburz, and in parts of Azerbijan,
the wild boar, which abounds both in Azerbijan, and in the country about
Hamadan, and the jackal, which is found everywhere. Bears flourish in
Zagros, antelopes in Azerbijan, in the Elburz, and on the plains near
Sultaniyeh. The wild ass is found only in the desert parts of the high
plateau; the beaver only in Lake Zeribar, near Sulefmaniyeh.

The Iranian wild ass differs in some respects from the Mesopotamian. His
skin is smooth, like that of a deer, and of a reddish color, the belly
and hinder parts partaking of a silvery gray; his head and ears are
large and somewhat clumsy; but his neck is fine, and his legs are
beautifully slender. His mane is short and black, and he has a black
tuft at the end of his tail, but no dark line runs along his back or
crosses his shoulders. The Persians call him the _gur-khur_, and chase
him with occasional success, regarding his flesh as a great delicacy.
He appears to be the _Asinus onager_ of naturalists, a distinct species
from the _Asinus hemippus_ of Mesopotamia, and the _Asinus hemionus_ of
Thibet and Tartary.

It is doubtful whether some kind of wild cattle does not still inhabit
the more remote tracts of Kurdistan. The natives mention among the
animals of their country "the mountain ox;" and though it has been
suggested that the beast intended is the elk, it is perhaps as likely
to be the Aurochs, which seems certainly to have been a native of the
adjacent country of Mesopotamia in ancient times. At any rate, until
Zagros has been thoroughly explored by Europeans, it must remain
uncertain what animal is meant. Meanwhile we may be tolerably sure that,
besides the species enumerated, Mount Zagros contains within its folds
some large and rare ruminant.

Among the birds the most remarkable are the eagle, the bustard, the
pelican, the stork, the pheasant, several kinds of partridges, the
quail, the woodpecker, the bee-eater, the hoopoe, and the nightingale.
Besides these, doves and pigeons, both wild and tame, are common; as are
swallows, goldfinches, sparrows, larks, blackbirds, thrushes, linnets,
magpies, crows, hawks, falcons, teal, snipe, wild ducks, and many other
kinds of waterfowl. The most common partridge is a red-legged species
(_Caccabis chukar_ of naturalists), which is unable to fly far, and is
hunted until it drops. Another kind, common both in Azerbijan and in
the Elburz, is the black-breasted partridge (_Perdix nigra_)--a bird not
known in many countries. Besides these, there is a small gray partridge
in the Zagros range, which the Kurds call seslca. The bee-eater (_Merops
Persicus_) is rare. It is a bird of passage, and only visits Media
in the autumn, preparatory to retreating into the warm district of
Mazandoran for the winter months. The hoopoe (_Upupa_) is probably still
rarer, since very few travellers mention it. The woodpecker is found in
Zagros, and is a beautiful bird, red and gray in color.

Media is, on the whole, but scantily provided with fish. Lake Urumiyeh
produces none, as its waters are so salt that they even destroy all the
river-fish which enter them. Salt streams, like the Aji Su, are equally
unproductive, and the fresh-water rivers of the plateau fall so low
in summer that fish cannot become numerous in them. Thus it is only in
Zagros, in Azerbijan, and in the Elburz, that the streams furnish any
considerable quantity. The kinds most common are barbel, carp, dace,
bleak, and gudgeon. In a comparatively few streams, more especially
those of Zagros, trout are found, which are handsome and of excellent
quality. The river of Isfahan produces a kind of crayfish, which is
taken in the bushes along its banks, and is very delicate eating.

It is remarkable that fish are caught not only in the open streams of
Media, but also in the _kanats_ or underground conduits, from which
the light of day is very nearly excluded. They appear to be of one sort
only, viz., barbel, but are abundant, and often grow to a considerable
size. Chardin supposed them to be unfit for food; but a later observer
declares that, though of no great delicacy, they are "perfectly sweet
and wholesome."

Of reptiles, the most common are snakes, lizards, and tortoises. In the
long grass of the Moghan district, on the lower course of the Araxes,
the snakes are so numerous and venomous that many parts of the plain are
thereby rendered impassable in the summer-time. A similar abundance
of this reptile near the western entrance of the Girduni Siyaluk pass
induces the natives to abstain from using it except in winter. Lizards
of many forms and hues disport themselves about the rocks and stones,
some quite small, others two feet or more in length. They are quite
harmless, and appear to be in general very tame. Land tortoises are also
common in the sandy regions. In Kurdistan there is a remarkable frog,
with a smooth skin and of an apple-green color, which lives chiefly in
trees, roosting in them at night, and during the day employing itself in
catching flies and locusts, which it strikes with its fore paw, as a cat
strikes a bird or a mouse.

Among insects, travellers chiefly notice the mosquito, which is in many
places a cruel torment; the centipede, which grows to an unusual size;
the locust, of which there is more than one variety; and the scorpion,
whose sting is sometimes fatal.

The destructive locust (the _Acridium peregrinum_, probably) comes
suddenly into Kurdistan and southern Media in clouds that obscure the
air, moving with a slow and steady flight and with a sound like that
of heavy rain, and settling in myriads on the fields, the gardens, the
trees, the terraces of the houses, and even the streets, which they
sometimes cover completely. Where they fall, vegetation presently
disappears; the leaves, and even the stems of the plants, are devoured;
the labors of the husbandman through many a weary month perish in a day;
and the curse of famine is brought upon the land which but now enjoyed
the prospect of an abundant harvest. It is true that the devourers are
themselves devoured to some extent by the poorer sort of people; but the
compensation is slight and temporary; in a few days, when all verdure is
gone, either the swarms move to fresh pastures, or they perish and cover
the fields with their dead bodies, while the desolation which they have
created continues. [PLATE III., Fig. 2.]

[Illustration: PLATE III.]

Another kind of locust, observed by Mr. Rich in Kurdistan, is called by
the natives _shira-kulla_, a name seemingly identical with the
_chargol_ of the Jews, and perhaps the best clue which we possess to
the identification of that species. Mr. Rich describes it as "a large
insect, about four inches long, with no wings, but a kind of sword
projecting from the tail. It bites," he says, "pretty severely, but
does no harm to the cultivation." We may recognize in this description
a variety of the great green grasshopper (_Locusta viridissima_), many
species of which are destitute of wings, or have wing-covers only, and
those of a very small size.

The scorpion of the country (_Scorpio crassicauda_) has been represented
as peculiarly venomous, more especially that which abounds in the city
and neighborhood of Kashan; but the most judicious observers deny that
there is any difference between the Kashan scorpion and that of other
parts of the plateau, while at the same time they maintain that if the
sting be properly treated, no danger need be apprehended from it. The
scorpion infests houses, hiding itself under cushions and coverlets, and
stings the moment it is pressed upon; some caution is thus requisite
in avoiding it; but it hurts no one unless molested, and many Europeans
have resided for years in the country without having ever been stung by
it. [PLATE III., Fig. 3.]

The domestic animals existing at present within the limits of the
ancient Media are the camel, the horse, the mule, the ass, the cow, the
goat, the sheep, the dog, the cat, and the buffalo. The camel is the
ordinary beast of burden in the flat country, and can carry an enormous
weight. Three kinds are employed--the Bactrian or two-humped camel,
which is coarse and low; the taller and lighter Arabian breed; and a
cross between the two, which is called _ner_, and is valued very
highly. The ordinary burden of the Arabian camel is from seven to eight
hundredweight; while the Bactrian variety is said to be capable of
bearing a load nearly twice as heavy.

Next to the camel, as a beast of burden, must be placed the mule the
mules of the country are small, but finely proportioned, and carry a
considerable weight. They travel thirty miles a day with ease, and are
preferred for journeys on which it is necessary to cross the mountains.
The ass is very inferior, and is only used by the poorer classes.

Two distinct breeds of horses are now found in Media, both of which seem
to be foreign--the Turkoman and the Arabian. The Turkoman is a large,
powerful, enduring animal, with long legs, a light body, and a big
head. The Arab is much smaller, but perfectly shaped, and sometimes
not greatly inferior to the very best produce of Nejd. A third breed is
obtained by an intermixture of those two, which is called the _bid-pai_,
or "wind footed," and is the most prized of all.

The dogs are of various breeds, but the most esteemed is a large kind of
gray hound, which some suppose to have been introduced into this part of
Asia by the Macedonians, and which is chiefly employed in the chase of
the antelope. The animal is about the height of a full sized English
grayhound, but rather stouter; he is deep-chested, has long, smooth
hair, and the tail considerably feathered. His pace is inferior to that
of our grayhounds, but in strength and sagacity he far surpasses them.

We do not find many of the products of Media celebrated by ancient
writers. Of its animals, those which had the highest reputation were its
horses, distinguished into two breeds, an ordinary kind, of which
Media produced annually many thousands, and a kind of rare size and
excellence, known under the name of Nisaean. These last are celebrated
by Herodotus, Strabo, Arrian, Ammianus Marcellinus, Suidas, and others.
They are said to have been of a peculiar shape; and they were equally
famous for size, speed, and stoutness. Strabo remarks that they resemble
the horses known in his own time as Parthian; and this observation seems
distinctly to connect them with the Turkoman breed mentioned above,
which is derived exactly from the old Parthian country. In color they
were often, if not always, white. We have no representation on the
monuments which we can regard as certainly intended for a Nissean horse,
but perhaps the figure from Persepolis may be a Persian sketch of the
animal. [PLATE III., Fig. 4.]

The mules and small cattle (sheep and goats) were in sufficient repute
to be required, together with horses, in the annual tribute paid to the
Persian king.

Of vegetable products assigned to Media by ancient writers, the most
remarkable is the "Median apple," or citron. Pliny says it was the sole
tree for which Media was famous, and that it would only grow there
and in Persia. Theophrastus, Dioscorides, Virgil, and other writers,
celebrate its wonderful qualities, distinctly assigning it to the same
region. The citron, however, will not grow in the country which has been
here termed Media. It flourishes only in the warm tract between Shiraz
and the Persian Gulf, and in the low sheltered region, south of the
Caspian, the modern Ghilan and Mazanderan. No doubt it was the inclusion
of this latter region within the limits of Media by many of the
later geographers that gave to this product of the Caspian country an
appellation which is really a misnomer.

Another product whereto Media gave name, and probably with more reason,
was a kind of clover or lucerne, which was said to have been introduced
into Greece by the Persians in the reign of Darius, and which was
afterwards cultivated largely in Italy. Strabo considers this plant to
have been the chief food of the Median horses, while Dioscorides assigns
it certain medicinal qualities. Clover is still cultivated, in the
Elburz region, but horses are now fed almost entirely on straw and

Media was also famous for its silphium, or assafoetida, a plant which
the country still produces, though not in any large quantity. No drug
was in higher repute with the ancients for medicinal purposes; and
though the Median variety was a coarse kind, inferior in repute, not
only to the Cyrenaic, but also to the Parthian and the Syrian, it seems
to have been exported both to Greece and Borne, and to have been largely
used by druggists, however little esteemed by physicians.

The other vegetable products which Media furnished, or was believed to
furnish, to the ancient world, were bdellium, amomum, cardamomum, gum
tragacanth, wild-vine oil, and sagaponum, or the _Ferula persica_. Of
these, gum tragacanth is still largely produced, and is an important
article of commerce. Wild vines abound in Zagros and Elburz, but no oil
is at present made from them. Bdellium, if it is benzoin, amomum, and
cardamomum were perhaps rather imported through Media than the actual
produce of the country, which is too cold in the winter to grow any good

The mineral products of Media noted by the ancient writers are nitre,
salt, and certain gems, as emeralds, lapis lazuli, and the following
obscurer kinds, the zathene, the gassinades, and the narcissitis. The
nitre of Media is noticed by Pliny, who says it was procured in
small quantities, and was called "halmyraga." It was found in certain
dry-looking glens, where the ground was white with it, and was obtained
there purer than in other places. Saltpetre is still derived from the
Elburz range, and also from Azerbijan.

The salt of Lake Urumiyeh is mentioned by Strabo, who says that it
forms naturally on the surface, which would imply a far more complete
saturation of the water than at present exists, even in the driest
seasons. The gems above mentioned are assigned to Media chiefly by
Pliny. The Median emeralds, according to him, were of the largest size;
they varied considerably, sometimes approaching to the character of the
sapphire, in which case they were apt to be veiny, and to have flaws
in them. They were far less esteemed than the emeralds of many other
countries. The Median lapis lazuli, on the other hand, was the best of
its kind. It was of three colors--light blue, dark blue, and purple.
The golden specks, however, with which it was sprinkled--really spots
of yellow pyrites--rendered it useless to the gem-engravers of Pliny's
time. The zathene, the gassinades, and the narcissitis were gems of
inferior value. As they have not yet been identified with any known
species, it will be unnecessary to prolong the present chapter by a
consideration of them.


"Pugnatrix natio et formidanda."--Amm. Marc, xxiii. 6.

The ethnic character of the Median people is at the present day scarcely
a matter of doubt. The close connection which all history, sacred and
profane, establishes between them and the Persians, the evidence of
their proper names and of their language, so far as it is known to us,
together with the express statements of Herodotus and Strabo, combine to
prove that they belonged to that branch of the human family known to us
as the Arian or Iranic, a leading subdivision of the great Indo-European
race. The tie of a common language, common manners and customs, and to
a great extent a common belief, united in ancient times all the dominant
tribes of the great plateau, extending even beyond the plateau in
one direction to the Jaxartes (Syhun) and in another to the Hyphasis
(Sutlej). Persians, Medes, Sagartians, Chorasmians, Bactrians, Sogdians,
Hyrcanians, Sarangians, Gandarians, and Sanskritic Indians belonged all
to a single stock, differing from one another probably not much more
than now differ the various subdivisions of the Teutonic or the Slavonic
race. Between the tribes at the two extremities of the Arian territory
the divergence was no doubt considerable; but between any two
neighboring tribes the difference was probably in most cases exceedingly
slight. At any rate this was the case towards the west, where the Medes
and Persians, the two principal sections of the Arian body in that
quarter, are scarcely distinguishable from one another in any of the
features which constitute ethnic type.

The general physical character of the ancient Arian race is best
gathered from the sculptures of the Achsemenian kings, which exhibit to
us a very noble variety of the human species--a form tall, graceful, and
stately; a physiognomy handsome and pleasing, often somewhat resembling
the Greek; the forehead high and straight, the nose nearly in the same
line, long and well formed, sometimes markedly aquiline, the upper lip
short, commonly shaded by a moustache, the chin rounded and generally
covered with a curly beard. The hair evidently grew in great plenty, and
the race was proud of it. On the top of the head it was worn smooth,
but it was drawn back from the forehead and twisted into a row or two of
crisp curls, while at the same time it was arranged into a large mass of
similar small close ringlets at the back of the head and over the ears.
[PLATE IV., Fig. 1.]

[Illustration: PLATE IV.]

Of the Median women we have no representations upon the sculptures; but
we are informed by Xenophon that they were remarkable for their stature
and their beauty. The same qualities were observable in the women of
Persia, as we learn from Plutarch, Ammianus Marcellinus, and others.
The Arian races seem in old times to have treated women with a certain
chivalry, which allowed the full development of their physical powers,
and rendered them specially attractive alike to their own husbands and
to the men of other nations.

The modern Persian is a very degenerate representative of the ancient
Arian stock. Slight and supple in person, with quick, glancing eyes,
delicate features, and a vivacious manner, he lacks the dignity and
strength, the calm repose and simple grace of the race from which he
is sprung, Fourteen centuries of subjection to despotic sway have left
their stamp upon his countenance and his frame, which, though still
retaining some traces of the original type, have been sadly weakened and
lowered by so long a term of subservience. Probably the wild Kurd or Lur
of the present day more nearly corresponds in physique to the ancient
Mede than do the softer inhabitants of the great plateau.

Among the moral characteristics of the Medes the one most obvious
is their bravery. "_Pugnatrix natio et formidanda_," says Ammianus
Marcellinus in the fourth century of our era, summing up in a few words
the general judgment of Antiquity. Originally equal, if not superior, to
their close kindred, the Persians, they were throughout the whole
period of Persian supremacy only second to them in courage and warlike
qualities. Mardonius, when allowed to take his choice out of the entire
host of Xerxes, selected the Median troops in immediate succession to
the Persians. Similarly, when the time for battle came he kept the Medes
near himself, giving them their place in the line close to that of
the Persian contingent. It was no doubt on account of their valor, as
Diodorus suggests, that the Medes were chosen to make the first attack
upon the Greek position at Thermopylae, where, though unsuccessful, they
evidently showed abundant courage. In the earlier times, before riches
and luxury had eaten out the strength of the race, their valor and
military prowess must have been even more conspicuous. It was then
especially that Media deserved to be called, as she is in Scripture,
"the mighty one of the heathen"--"the terrible of the nations."

Her valor, undoubtedly, was of the merciless kind. There was no
tenderness, no hesitancy about it. Not only did her armies "dash
to pieces" the fighting men of the nations opposed to her, allowing
apparently no quarter, but the women and the children suffered
indignities and cruelties at the hands of her savage warriors, which the
pen unwillingly records. The Median conquests were accompanied by the
worst atrocities which lust and hate combined are wont to commit when
they obtain their full swing. Neither the virtue of women nor the
innocence of children were a protection to them. The infant was slain
before the very eye of the parent. The sanctity of the hearth was
invaded, and the matron ravished beneath her own roof-tree. Spoil, it
would seem, was disregarded in comparison with insult and vengeance;
and the brutal soldiery cared little either for silver or gold, provided
they could indulge freely in that thirst for blood which man shares with
the hyena and the tiger.

The habits of the Medes in the early part of their career were
undoubtedly simple and manly. It has been observed with justice that the
same general features have at all times distinguished the rise and fall
of Oriental kingdoms and dynasties. A brave and adventurous prince, at
the head of a population at once poor, warlike, and greedy, overruns
a vast tract, and acquires extensive dominion, while his successors,
abandoning themselves to sensuality and sloth, probably also to
oppressive and irascible dispositions, become in process of time victims
to those same qualities in another prince and people which had enabled
their own predecessor to establish their power. It was as being braver,
simpler, and so stronger than the Assyrians that the Medes were able to
dispossess them of their sovereignty over western Asia. But in this,
as in most other cases of conquest throughout the East, success was
followed almost immediately by degeneracy. As captive Greece captured
her fierce conqueror, so the subdued Assyrians began at once to corrupt
their subduers. Without condescending to a close imitation of Assyrian
manners and customs, the Medes proceeded directly after their conquest
to relax the severity of their old habits and to indulge in the delights
of soft and luxurious living. The historical romance of Xenophon
presents us probably with a true picture when it describes the strong
contrast which existed towards the close of the Median period between
the luxury and magnificence which prevailed at Ecbatana, and the
primitive simplicity of Persia Proper, where the old Arian habits, which
had once been common to the two races, were still maintained in all
their original severity. Xenophon's authority in this work is, it must
be admitted, weak, and little trust can be placed in the historical
accuracy of his details; but his general statement is both in itself
probable, and is also borne out to a considerable extent by other
authors. Herodotus and Strabo note the luxury of the Median dress,
while the latter author goes so far as to derive the whole of the later
Persian splendor from an imitation of Median practices. We must hold
then that towards the latter part of their empire the Medes became a
comparatively luxurious people, not indeed laying aside altogether their
manly habits, nor ceasing to be both brave men and good soldiers,
but adopting an amount of pomp and magnificence to which they were
previously strangers, affecting splendor in their dress and apparel,
grandeur and rich ornament in their buildings, variety in their
banquets, and attaining on the whole a degree of civilization not very
greatly inferior to that of the Assyrians. In taste and real refinement
they seem indeed to have fallen considerably below their teachers. A
barbaric magnificence predominated in their ornamentation over artistic
effort, richness in the material being preferred to skill in the
manipulation. Literature, and even letters, were very sparingly
cultivated. But little originality was developed. A stately dress, and
a new style of architecture, are almost the only inventions to which the
Medes can lay claim. They were brave, energetic, enterprising, fond
of display, capable of appreciating to some extent the advantages of
civilized life; but they had little genius, and the world is scarcely
indebted to them for a single important addition to the general stock of
its ideas.

Of the Median customs in war we know but little. Herodotus tells us
that in the army of Xerxes the Medes were armed exactly as the Persians,
carrying on their heads a soft felt cap, on their bodies a sleeved
tunic, and on their legs trousers. Their offensive arms, he says, were
the spear, the bow, and the dagger. They had large wicker shields, and
bore their quivers suspended at their backs. Sometimes their tunic
was made into a coat of mail by the addition to it on the outside of a
number of small iron plates arranged so as to overlap each other, like
the scales of a fish. They served both on horseback and on foot, with
the same equipment in both cases.

There is no reason to doubt the correctness of this description of the
Median military dress under the early Persian kings. The only question
is how far the equipment was really the ancient warlike custom of the
people. It seems in some respects too elaborate to be the armature of a
simple and primitive race. We may reasonably suppose that at least the
scale armor and the unwieldy wicker shields (yeppa), which required to
be rested on the ground, were adopted at a somewhat late date from the
Assyrians. At any rate the original character of the Median armies,
as set before us in Scripture, and as indicated both by Strabo and
Xenophon, is simpler than the Herodotean description. The primitive
Modes seem to have been a nation of horse-archers. Trained from their
early boyhood to a variety of equestrian exercises, and well practised
in the use of the bow, they appear to have proceeded against their
enemies with clouds of horse, almost in Scythian fashion, and to have
gained their victories chiefly by the skill with which they shot their
arrows as they advanced, retreated, or manoeuvred about their foe. No
doubt they also used the sword and the spear. The employment of these
weapons has been almost universal throughout the East from a very remote
antiquity, and there is some mention of them in connection with the
Medes and their kindred, the Persians, in Scripture; but it is evident
that the terror which the Medes inspired arose mainly from their
dexterity as archers.

No representation of weapons which can be distinctly recognized as
Median has come down to us. The general character of the military dress
and of the arms appears, probably in the Persepolitan sculptures; but
as these reliefs are in most cases representations, not of Medes, but of
Persians, and as they must be hereafter adduced in illustration of the
military customs of the latter people, only a very sparing use of them
can be made in the present chapter. It would seem that the bow employed
was short, and very much curved, and that, like the Assyrian it was
usually carried in a bow-case, which might either be slung at the back,
or hung from the girdle. [PLATE V., Fig. 1.] The arrows, which were
borne in a quiver slung behind the right shoulder, must have been short,
certainly not exceeding the length of three feet. The quiver appears to
have been round; it was covered at the top, and was fastened by means of
a flap and strap, which last passed over, a button. [PLATE V. Fig. 1.]
The Median spear or lance was from six to seven feet in length. Its head
was lozenge-shaped and flattish, but strengthened by a bar or line down
the middle. It is uncertain whether the head was inserted into the top
of the shaft, or whether it did not rather terminate in a ring or socket
into which the upper end of the shaft was itself inserted. The shaft
tapered gradually from bottom to top, and terminated below in a knob or
ball, which was perhaps sometimes carved into the shape of some natural
object. [PLATE IV., Fig. 2.]

[Illustration: PLATE V.

The sword was short, being in fact little more than a dagger. It
depended at the right thigh from a belt which encircled the waist, and
was further secured by a strap attached to the bottom of the sheath, and
passing round the soldier's right leg a little above the knee.

Median shields were probably either round or oval. The oval specimens
bore a resemblance to the shield of the Boeotians, having a small oval
aperture at either side, apparently for the sake of greater lightness.
They were strengthened at the centre by a circular boss or disk,
ornamented with knobs or circles. They would seem to have been made
either of metal or wood. [PLATE IV., Fig. 3.]

The favorite dress of the Medes in peace is well known to us from the
sculptures; there can be no reasonable doubt that the long flowing robe
so remarkable for its graceful folds, which is the garb of the kings,
the chief nobles, and the officers of the court in all the Persian
bas-reliefs, and which is seen also upon the darics and the gems, is the
famous "Median garment" of Herodotus, Xenophon, and Strabo. [PLATE V.,
Fig. 2.] This garment fits the chest and shoulders closely, but falls
over the arms in two large loose sleeves, open at the bottom. At the
waist it is confined by a cincture. Below it is remarkably full and
ample, drooping in two clusters of perpendicular folds at the two sides,
and between these hanging in festoons like a curtain. It extends down
to the ankles, where it is met by a high shoe or low boot, opening in
front, and secured by buttons. [PLATE IV., Fig. 4.]

These Median robes were of many colors. Sometimes they were purple,
sometimes scarlet, occasionally a dark gray, or a deep crimson.
Procopius says that they were made of silk, and this statement is
confirmed to some extent by Justin, who speaks of their transparency.
It may be doubted, however, whether the material was always the same;
probably it varied with the season, and also with the wealth of the

Besides this upper robe, which is the only garment shown in the
sculptures, the Medes wore as under garments a sleeved shirt or tunic
of a purple color, and embroidered drawers or trousers. They covered the
head, not only out of doors, but in their houses, wearing either felt
caps like the Persians, or a head-dress of a more elaborate character,
which bore the name of _tiara_ or _cidaris_. This appears to have been,
not a turban, but rather a kind of high-crowned hat, either stiff or
flexible, made probably of felt or cloth, and dyed of different hues,
according to the fancy of the owner. [PLATE VI., Fig. 1.]

The Medes took a particular delight in the ornamentation of their
persons. According to Xenophon, they were acquainted with most of the
expedients by the help of which vanity attempts to conceal the ravages
of time and to create an artificial beauty. They employed cosmetics,
which they rubbed into the skin, for the sake of improving the
complexion. They made use of an abundance of false hair. Like many other
Oriental nations, both ancient and modern, they applied dyes to enhance
the brilliancy of the eyes, and give them a greater apparent size and
softness. They were also fond of wearing golden ornaments. Chains or
collars of gold usually adorned their nocks, bracelets of the same
precious metal encircled their wrists, and earrings were inserted into
their ears. [PLATE VI., Fig. 2.] Gold was also used in the caparisons of
their horses, the bit and other parts of the harness being often of this
valuable material.

We are told that the Medes were very luxurious at their banquets.
Besides plain meat and game of different kinds, with the ordinary
accompaniments of wine and bread, they were accustomed to place before
their guests a vast number of side-dishes, together with a great variety
of sauces. They ate with the hand, as is still the fashion in the East,
and were sufficiently refined to make use of napkins. Each guest had his
own dishes, and it was a mark of special honor to augment their number.
Wine was drunk both at the meal and afterwards, often in an undue
quantity; and the close of the feast was apt to be a scene of general
turmoil and confusion. At the Court it was customary for the king to
receive his wine at the hands of a cupbearer, who first tasted the
draught, that the king might be sure that it was not poisoned, and then
presented it to his master with much pomp and ceremony.

The whole ceremonial of the court seems to have been imposing. Under
ordinary circumstances the monarch kept himself secluded, and no one
could obtain admission to him unless he formally requested an audience,
and was introduced into the royal presence by the proper officer. On his
admission he prostrated himself upon the ground with the same signs of
adoration which were made on entering a temple. The king, surrounded by
his attendants, eunuchs, and others, maintained a haughty reserve, and
the stranger only beheld him from a distance. Business was transacted
in a great measure by writing. The monarch rarely quitted his palace,
contenting himself with such reports of the state of his empire as were
transmitted to him from time to time by his officers.

The chief amusement of the court, in which however the king rarely
partook, was hunting. Media always abounded in beasts of chase; and
lions, bears, leopards, wild boars, stags, gazelles, wild sheep, and
wild asses are mentioned among the animals hunted by the Median nobles.
Of these the first four were reckoned dangerous, the others harmless. It
was customary to pursue these animals on horseback, and to aim at them
with the bow or the javelin. We may gather a lively idea of some of
these hunts from the sculptures of the Parthians, who some centuries
later inhabited the same region. We see in these the rush of great
troops of boars through marshes dense with water-plants, the bands of
beaters urging them on, the sportsmen aiming at them with their bows,
and the game falling transfixed with two or three well-aimed shafts.
Again we see herds of deer driven within enclosures, and there slain by
archers who shoot from horseback, the monarch under his parasol looking
on the while, pleased with the dexterity of his servants. It is thus
exactly that Xenophon portrays Astyages as contemplating the sport
of his courtiers, complacently viewing their enjoyment, but taking no
active part in the work himself.

Like other Oriental sovereigns, the Median monarch maintained a seraglio
of wives and concubines; and polygamy was commonly practised among the
more wealthy classes. Strabo speaks of a strange law as obtaining with
some of the Median tribes--a law which required that no man should be
content with fewer wives than five. It is very unlikely that such a
burden was really made obligatory on any: most probably five legitimate
wives, and no more, were allowed by the law referred to, just as four
wives, and no more, are lawful for Mohammedans. Polygamy, as usual,
brought in its train the cruel practice of castration; and the court
swarmed with eunuchs, chiefly foreigners purchased in their infancy.
Towards the close of the Empire this despicable class appears to have
been all-powerful with the monarch.

Thus the tide of corruption gradually advanced; and there is reason to
believe that both court and people had in a great measure laid aside
the hardy and simple customs of their forefathers, and become enervated
through luxury, when the revolt of the Persians came to test the quality
of their courage, and their ability to maintain their empire. It would
be improper in this place to anticipate the account of this struggle,
which must be reserved for the historical chapter; but the well-known
result--the speedy and complete success of the Persians--must be adduced
among the proofs of a rapid deterioration in the Median character
between the accession of Cyaxares and the capture--less than a century
later--of Astyages.

We have but little information with respect to the state of the arts
among the Medes. A barbaric magnificence characterized, as has been
already observed, their architecture, which differed from the Assyrian
in being dependent for its effect on groups of pillars rather than on
painting or sculpture. Still sculpture was, it is probable, practised to
some extent by the Medes, who, it is almost certain, conveyed on to the
Persians those modifications of Assyrian types which meet us everywhere
in the remains of the Achsemenian monarch? The carving of winged genii,
of massive forms of bulls and lions, of various grotesque monsters,
and of certain clumsy representations of actual life, imitated from
the bas-reliefs of the Assyrians, may be safely ascribed to the Medes;
since, had they not carried on the traditions of their predecessors,
Persian art could not have borne the resemblance that it does to
Assyrian. But these first mimetic efforts of the Arian race have almost
wholly perished, and there scarcely seems to remain more than a single
fragment which can be assigned on even plausible grounds to the Median
period. A portion of a colossal lion, greatly injured by time, is still
to be seen at Hamadan, the site of the great Median capital, which the
best judges regard as anterior to the Persian period, and as therefore
most probably Median. It consists of the head and body of the animal,
from which the four legs and the tail have been broken off, and measures
between eleven and twelve feet from the crown of the head to the point
from which the tail sprang. By the position of the head and what
remains of the shoulders and thighs, it is evident that the animal was
represented in a sitting posture, with the fore legs straight and the
hind legs gathered up under it. To judge of the feeling and general
character of the sculpture is difficult, owing to the worn and mutilated
condition of the work; but we seem to trace in it the same air of calm
and serene majesty that characterizes the colossal bulls and lions of
Assyria, together with somewhat more of expression and of softness than
are seen in the productions of that people. Its posture, which is unlike
that of any Assyrian specimen, indicates a certain amount of originality
as belonging to the Median artists, while its colossal size seems to
show that the effect on the spectator was still to be produced, not so
much by expression, finish, or truth to nature, as by mere grandeur of
dimension. [PLATE VI., Fig. 3.]


The earliest form of the Median religion is to be found in those
sections of the Zendavesta which have been pronounced on internal
evidence to be the most ancient portions of that venerable compilation;
as, for instance, the first Fargard of the Vendidad, and the Gathas, or
"Songs," which occur here and there in the Yacna, or Book on Sacrifice.
In the Gathas, which belong to a very remote era indeed, we seem to have
the first beginnings of the Religion. We may indeed go back by their aid
to a time anterior to themselves--a time when the Arian race was not yet
separated into two branches, and the Easterns and Westerns, the
Indians and Iranians, had not yet adopted the conflicting creeds of
Zoroastrianism and Brahminism. At that remote period we seem to see
prevailing a polytheistic nature-worship--a recognition of various
divine beings, called indifferently Asuras (Ahuras) or Devas, each
independent of the rest, and all seemingly nature-powers rather
than persons, whereof the chief are Indra, Storm or Thunder; Mithra,
Sunlight; Aramati (Armaiti), Earth; Vayu, Wind; Agni, Fire; and Soma
(Homa), Intoxication. Worship is conducted by priests, who are called
_kavi_, "seers;" _karapani_, "sacriflcers," or _ricikhs_, "wise men." It
consists of hymns in honor of the gods; sacrifices, bloody and unbloody,
some' portion of which is burnt upon an altar; and a peculiar ceremony,
called that of Soma, in which an intoxicating liquor is offered to the
gods, and then consumed by the priests, who drink till they are drunken.

Such, in outline, is the earliest phase of Arian religion, and it is
common to both branches of the stock, and anterior to the rise of the
Iranic, Median, or Persian system. That system is a revolt from this
sensuous and superficial nature-worship. It begins with a distinct
recognition of spiritual intelligences--real persons--with whom
alone, and not with powers, religion is concerned. It divides these
intelligences into good and bad, pure and impure, benignant and
malevolent. To the former it applies the term _Asuras_ (_Ahuras_),
"living" or "spiritual beings," in a good sense; to the latter, the term
_Devas_, in a bad one. It regards the "powers" hitherto worshipped as
chiefly _Devas_; but it excepts from this unfavorable view a certain
number, and, recognizing them as _Asuras_, places them above the
_Izeds_, or "angels." Thus far it has made two advances, each of great
importance, the substitution of real "persons" for "powers," as objects
of the religious faculty, and the separation of the persons into good
and bad, pure and impure, righteous and wicked. But it does not stop
here. It proceeds to assert, in a certain sense, monotheism against
polytheism. It boldly declares that, at the head of the good
intelligences, is a single great Intelligence, Ahuro-Mazdao, the highest
object of adoration, the true Creator, Preserver, and Governor of the
universe. This is its great glory. It sets before the soul a single
Being as the source of all good and the proper object of the highest
worship. Ahuro-Mazdao is "the creator of life, the earthly and the
spiritual;" "he has made the celestial bodies, earth, water, and trees,
all good creatures," and "all good, true, holy, pure, things." He is
"the Holy God, the Holiest, the essence of truth, the father of all
truth, the best being of all, the master of purity." He is supremely
"happy," possessing every blessing, "health, wealth, virtue, wisdom,
immortality." From him comes all good to man; on the pious and the
righteous he bestows not only earthly advantages, but precious spiritual
gifts, truth, devotion, "the good mind," and everlasting happiness; and
as he rewards the good, so he punishes the bad, though this is an aspect
in which he is but seldom represented.

It has been said that this conception of Ahura-mazda as the Supreme
Being is "_perfectly identical_ with the notion of Elohim, or Jehovah,
which we find in the books of the Old Testament." This is, no doubt,
an over-statement. Ahura-mazda is less spiritual and less awful than
Jehovah. He is less remote from the nature of man. The very ascription
to him of health (_haurvat_) is an indication that he is conceived of
as possessing a sort of physical nature. Lucidity and brilliancy are
assigned to him, not (as it would seem) in a mere metaphorical sense.
Again, he is so predominantly the author of good things, the source of
blessing and prosperity, that he could scarcely inspire his votaries
with any feeling of fear. Still, considering the general failure of
unassisted reason to mount up to the true notion of a spiritual
God, this doctrine of the early Arians is very remarkable; and its
approximation to the truth sufficiently explains at once the favorable
light in which its professors are viewed by the Jewish prophets, and the
favorable opinion which they form of the Jewish system. Evidently,
the Jews and Arians, when they became known to one another, recognized
mutually the fact that they were worshippers of the same great Being.
Hence the favor of the Persians towards the Jews, and the fidelity of
the Jews towards the Persians. The Lord God of the Jews being recognized
as identical with Ormazd, a sympathetic feeling united the peoples. The
Jews, so impatient generally of a foreign yoke, never revolted from
the Persians; and the Persians, so intolerant, for the most part, of
religions other than their own, respected and protected Judaism.

The sympathy was increased by the fact that the religion of Ormazd was
anti-idolatrous. In the early nature-worship idolatry had been allowed;
but the Iranic system pronounced against it from the first. No images
of Ahura-mazda, or of the Izeds, profaned the severe simplicity of
an Iranic temple. It was only after a long lapse of ages that,
in connection with a foreign worship, idolatry crept in. The old
Zoroastrianism was in this respect as pure as the religion of the Jews,
and thus a double bond of religious sympathy united the Hebrews and the

Under the supreme God, Ahura-mazda or Ormazd, the ancient Iranic system
placed (as has been already observed) a number of angels. Some of these,
as _Vohu-mano_, "the Good Mind;" _Mazda_, "the Wise" (?); and _Asha_,
"the True," are scarcely distinguishable from attributes of the
Divinity. Armaiti, however, the genius of the Earth, and Sraosha or
Serosh, an angel, are very clearly and distinctly personified. Sraosha
is Ormazd's messenger. He delivers revelations, shows men the paths of
happiness, and brings them the blessings which Ormazd has assigned to
their share. Another of his functions is to protect the true faith.
He is called, in a very special sense, "the friend of Ormazd," and is
employed by Ormazd not only to distribute his gifts, but also to conduct
to him the souls of the faithful, when this life is over, and they enter
on the celestial scene.

Armaiti is at once the genius of the Earth, and the goddess of Piety.
The early Ormazd worshippers were agriculturists, and viewed the
cultivation of the soil as a religious duty enjoined upon them by God.
Hence they connected the notion of piety with earth culture; and it was
but a step from this to make a single goddess preside over the two. It
is as the angel of Earth that Armaiti has most distinctly a personal
character. She is regarded as wandering from spot to spot, and laboring
to convert deserts and wildernesses into fruitful fields and gardens.
She has the agriculturist under her immediate protection, while she
endeavors to persuade the shepherd, who persists in the nomadic life, to
give up his old habits and commence the cultivation of the soil. She is
of course the giver of fertility, and rewards her votaries by bestowing
upon them abundant harvests. She alone causes all growth. In a certain
cense she pervades the whole material creation, mankind included, in
whom she is even sometimes said to "reside."

Armaiti, further "tells men the everlasting laws, which no one may
abolish"--laws which she has learnt from converse with Ahura-mazda
himself. She is thus naturally the second object of worship to the old
Zoroastrian; and converts to the religion were required to profess their
faith in her in direct succession to Ahura-mazda.

From Armaiti must be carefully distinguished the _geus urva_, or "soul
of the earth"--a being who nearly resembles the "anima mundi" of the
Greek and Roman philosophers. This spirit dwells in the earth itself,
animating it as a man's soul animates his body. In old times, when man
first began to plough the soil, _geus urva_ cried aloud, thinking that
his life was threatened, and implored the assistance of the archangels.
They however were deaf to his entreaties (since Ormazd had decreed that
there should be cultivation), and left him to bear his pains as he best
could. It is to be hoped that in course of time he became callous to
them, and made the discovery that mere scratches, though they may be
painful, are not dangerous.

It is uncertain whether in the most ancient form of the Iranic worship
the cult of Mithra was included or no. On the one hand, the fact that
Mithra is common to both forms of the Arian creed--the Indian and
Iranic--would induce the belief that his worship was adopted from the
first by the Zoroastrians; on the other, the entire absence of all
mention of Mithra from the Gathas would lead us to the conclusion that
in the time when they were composed his cult had not yet begun. Perhaps
we may distinguish between two forms of early Iranic worship--one that
of the more intelligent and spiritual--the leaders of the secession--in
whose creed Mithra had no place; the other that of the great mass of
followers, a coarser and more material system, in which many points
of the old religion were retained, and among them the worship of the
Sun-god. This lower and more materialistic school of thought probably
conveyed on into the Iranic system other points also common to the
Zendavosta with the Vedas, as the recognition of Airyaman (Aryaman) as
a genius presiding over marriages, of Vitraha as a very high angel, and
the like.

Vayu, "the Wind," seems to have been regarded as a god from the first.
He appears, not only in the later portions of the Zenda vesta, like
Mithra and Aryaman, but in the Gathas themselves. His name is clearly
identical with that of the Vedic Wind-god, Vayu, and is apparently a
sister form to the ventus, or wind, of the more western Arians. The root
is probably vi, "to go," which may be traced in vis, via, vado, venio,

The ancient Iranians did not adopt into their system either Agni, "Fire"
(Lat. _ignis_), or Soma (Homa), "Intoxication." Fire was indeed retained
for sacrifice; but it was regarded as a mere material agent, and not as
a mysterious Power, the proper object of prayer and worship. The Soma
worship, which formed a main element of the old religion, and which was
retained in Brahminism, was at the first altogether discarded by the
Zoroastrians; indeed, it seems to have been one of the main causes of
that disgust which split the Arian body in two, and gave rise to the new
religion. A ceremony in which it was implied that the intoxication of
their worshippers was pleasing to the gods, and not obscurely hinted
that they themselves indulged in similar excesses, was revolting to the
religious temper of those who made the Zoaroastrian reformation; and it
is plain from the Gathas that the new system was intended at first to
be entirely free from the pollution of so disgusting a practice. But
the zeal of religious reformers outgoes in most cases the strength and
patience of their people, whose spirit is too gross and earthly to keep
pace with the more lofty flights of the purer and higher intelligence.
The Iranian section of the Arians could not be weaned wholly from their
beloved Soma feasts; and the leaders of the movement were obliged to
be content ultimately with so far reforming and refining the ancient
ceremony as to render it comparatively innocuous. The portion of the
rite which implied that the gods themselves indulged in intoxication
was omitted; and for the intoxication of the priests was substituted
a moderate use of the liquor, which, instead of giving a religious
sanction to drunkenness, merely implied that the Soma juice was a good
gift of God, one of the many blessings for which men had to be thankful.

With respect to the evil spirits or intelligences, which, in the
Zoroastrian system, stood over against the good ones, the teaching of
the early reformers seems to have been less clear. The old divinities,
except where adopted into the new creed, were in a general way called
Devas, "fiends" or "devils," in contrast with the Ahuras, or "gods."
These devas were represented as many in number, as artful, malicious,
deceivers and injurers of mankind, more especially of the Zoroastrians
or Ormazd-worshippers, as inventors of spells and lovers of the
intoxicating Soma draught. Their leading characteristics were
"destroying" and "lying." They were seldom or never called by distinct
names. No account was given of their creation, nor of the origin of
their wickedness. No single superior intelligence, no great Principle of
Evil, was placed at their head. Ahriman (Angro-mainyus) does not
occur in the Gathas as a proper name. Far less is there any graduated
hierarchy of evil, surrounding a Prince of Darkness, with a sort of
court, antagonistic to the angelic host of Ormazd, as in the latter
portions of the Zendavesta and in the modern Parsee system.

Thus Dualism proper, or a belief in two uncreated and independent
principles, one a principle of good and the other a principal of evil,
was no part of the original Zoroastrianism. At the same time we find,
even in the Gathas, the earliest portions of the Zondavesta, the germ
out of which Dualism sprung. The contrast between good and evil is
strongly and sharply marked in the Gathas; the writers continually harp
upon it, their minds are evidently struck with this sad antithesis which
colors the whole moral world to them; they see everywhere a struggle
between right and wrong, truth and falsehood, purity and impurity;
apparently they are blind to the evidence of harmony and agreement
in the universe, discerning nothing anywhere but strife, conflict,
antagonism. Nor is this all. They go a step further, and personify the
two parties to the struggle. One is a "white" or holy "Spirit" (_cpento
mainyus_), and the other a "dark spirit" (_angro mainyus_). But this
personification is merely poetical or metaphorical, not real. The "white
spirit" is not Ahura-mazda, and the "dark spirit" is not a hostile
intelligence. Both resolve themselves on examination into mere figures
of speech--phantoms of poetic imagery--abstract notions, clothed by
language with an apparent, not a real, personality.

It was natural that, as time went on, Dualism should develop itself
out of the primitive Zoroastrianism. Language exercises a tyranny
over thought, and abstractions in the ancient world were ever becoming
persons. The Iranian mind, moreover, had been strack, when it first
turned to contemplate the world, with a certain antagonism; and, having
once entered this track, it would be compelled to go on, and seek to
discover the origin of the antagonism, the cause (or causes) to which
it was to be ascribed. Evil seemed most easily accounted for by the
supposition of an evil Person; and the continuance of an equal struggle,
without advantage to either side, which was what the Iranians thought
they beheld in the world that lay around them, appeared to them to
imply the equality of that evil Person with the Being whom they rightly
regarded as the author of all good. Thus Dualism had its birth. The
Iranians came to believe in the existence of two co-eternal and co-equal
Persons, one good and the other evil, between whom there had been from
all eternity a perpetual and never-ceasing conflict, and between whom
the same conflict would continue to rage through all coming time.

It is impossible to say how this development took place. We have
evidence, however, that at a period considerably anterior to the
commencement of the Median Empire, Dualism, not perhaps in its ultimate
extravagant form, but certainly in a very decided and positive shape,
had already been thought out and become the recognized creed of the
Iranians. In the first Fargard, or chapter, of the Vendidad--the
historical chapter, in which are traced the only movements of the Iranic
peoples, and which from the geographical point whereat it stops must
belong to a time when the Arians had not yet reached Media Magna---the
Dualistic belief clearly shows itself. The term Angro-mainyus has
now become a proper name, and designates the great spirit of evil as
definitely and determinately as Ahura-mazda designates the good spirit.
The antagonism between Ahura-mazda and Angro-mainyus is depicted in the
strongest colors; it is direct, constant and successful. Whatever good
work Ahura-mazda in his benevolence creates, Angro-mainyus steps forward
to mar and blast it. If Ahura-mazda forms a "delicious spot" in a world
previously desert and uninhabitable to become the first home of his
favorites, the Arians, Angro-mainyus ruins it by sending into it a
poisonous serpent, and at the same time rendering the climate one of
the bitterest severity. If Ahura-mazda provides, instead of this blasted
region, another charming habitation, "the second best of regions and
countries," Angro-mainyus sends there the curse of murrain, fatal to
all cattle. To every land which Ahura-mazda creates for his worshippers,
Angro-mainyus immediately assigns some plague or other. War, ravages,
sickness, fever, poverty, hail, earthquakes, buzzing insects, poisonous
plants, unbelief, witchcraft, and other inexpiable sins, are introduced
by him into the various happy regions created without any such drawbacks
by the good spirit; and a world, which should have been "very good," is
by these means converted into a scene of trial and suffering.

The Dualistic principle being thus fully adopted, and the world looked
on as the battle-ground between two independent and equal powers engaged
in perpetual strife, it was natural that the imagination should complete
the picture by ascribing to those superhuman rivals the circumstantials
that accompany a great struggle between human adversaries. The two
kings required, in the first place, to have their councils, which
were accordingly assigned them, and were respectively composed of six
councillors. The councillors of Ahura-mazda--called Amesha Spentas,
or "Immortal Saints," afterwards corrupted into Amshashpands--wore
Vohu-mano (Bahman), Asha-va-hista (Ardibehesht), Khshathra-vairya
(Shahravar), Qpenta-Armaiti (Isfand-armat), Haurvatat (Khordad), and
Ameretat (Amerdat). Those of Angro-mainyus were Ako-mano, Indra, Qaurva,
Naonhaitya, and two others whose names are interpreted as "Darkness" and

Vohu-mano (Bahman) means "the Good Mind." Originally a mere attribute of
Ahura-mazda, Vohu-mano came to be considered, first as one of the
high angels attendant on him, and then formally as one of-his six
councillors. He had a distinct sphere or province assigned to him in
Ahura-mazda's kingdom, which was the maintenance of life in animals and
of goodness in man.

Asha-vahista (Ardibehesht) means "the Highest Truth"--"Voritas optima,"
or rather perhaps "Veritas lucidissima." He was the "Light" of the
universe, subtle, all-pervading, omnipresent. His special business
was to maintain the splendor of the various luminaries, and thereby to
preserve all those things whose existence and growth depend on light.

Khshathra-vairya (Shahravar), whose name means simply "possessions,"
"wealth," was regarded as presiding over metals and as the dispenser of

Qoonta-Armaiti (Isfand-armat)--the "white or holy Ar-maiti," represented
the Earth. She had from the first, as we have already seen, a distinct
position in the system of the Zoroastrians, where she was at once the
Earth goddess and the genius of piety.

Haurvatat (Khordad) means "health"--"sanitas"--and was originally one
of the great and precious gifts which Ahura-mazda possessed himself and
kindly bestowed on his creatures. When personification, and the needs
of the theology, had made Haurvatat an archangel, he, together with
Ameretat (Amerdat), "Immortality," took the presidency of the vegetable
world, which it was the business of the pair to keep in good condition.

In the council of Angro-mainyus, Ako-mano stands in direct antithesis to
Vohu-mano, as "the bad mind," or more literally, "the naught mind"--for
the Zoroastrians, like Plato, regarded good and evil as identical with
reality and unreality. Ako-mano's special sphere is the mind of man,
where he suggests evil thoughts and prompts to bad words and wicked
deeds. He holds the first place in the infernal council, as Vohu-mano
does in the heavenly one.

Indra, who holds the second place in the infernal council, is evidently
the Vedic god whom the Zoroastrians regarded as a powerful demon, and
therefore made one of Angro-mainyus's chief councillors. He probably
retained his character as the god of the storm and of war, the destroyer
of crops and cities, the inspirer of armies and the wielder of
the thunder-bolt. The Zoroastrians, however, ascribed to him only
destructive actions; while the more logical Hindoos, observing that the
same storm which hurt the crops and struck down trees and buildings was
also the means of fertilizing the lands and purifying the air, viewed
him under a double aspect, as at once terrible in his wrath and the
bestower of numerous blessings.

Qaurva, who stands next to Indra, is thought to be the Hindoo Shiva, who
has the epithet qarva in one of the Vedas. But the late appearance of
Shiva in the Hindoo system makes this highly uncertain.

Naonhaitya, the fourth member of the infernal council, corresponds
apparently to the Vedic Nasatyas, a collective name given to the two
Aswins, the Dioscuri of Indian mythology. These were favorite gods of
the early Hindoos, to whose protection they very mainly ascribed their
prosperity. It was natural that the Iranians, in their aversion to
their Indian brethren, should give the Aswins a seat at Angro-mainyus's
council-table; but it is curious that they should represent the twin
deities by only a single councillor.

Taric and Zaric, "Darkness" and "Poison," the occupants of the fifth and
sixth places, are evidently personifications made for the occasion, to
complete the infernal council to its full complement of six members.

As the two Principles of Good and Evil have their respective councils,
so have they likewise their armies. The Good Spirit has created
thousands of angelic beings, who everywhere perform his will and fight
on his side against the Evil One; and the Evil One has equally on
his part called into being thousands of malignant spirits who are his
emissaries in the world, doing his work continually, and fighting
his battles. These are the Devas or Dives, so famous in Persian fairy
mythology. They are "wicked, bad, false, untrue, the originators of
mischief, most baneful, destructive, the basest of all beings." The
whole universe is full of them. They aim primarily at destroying all
the good creations of Ahura-mazda; but if unable to destroy they content
themselves with perverting and corrupting. They dog the steps of men,
tempting them to sin; and, as soon as sin, obtaining a fearful power
over them.

At the head of Ahura-mazda's army is the angel Sraosha (Serosh). Serosh
is "the sincere, the beautiful, the victorious, the true, the master
of truth." He protects the territories of the Iranians, wounds, and
sometimes even slays the demons, and is engaged in a perpetual struggle
against them, never slumbering night or day, but guarding the world with
his drawn sword, more particularly after sunset, when the demons have
the greatest power.

Angro-mainyus appears not to possess any such general-in-chief. Besides
the six councillors above mentioned, there are indeed various demons
of importance, as Drukhs, "destruction;" Aeshemo, "rapine;" Daivis,
"deceit;" Driwis, "poverty," etc.; but no one of these seems to occupy
a parallel place in the evil world to that which is assigned to
Serosh in the good. Perhaps we have here a recognition of the anarchic
character of evil, whose attacks are like those of a huge undisciplined
host--casual, fitful, irregular--destitute wholly of that principle of
law and order which gives to the resisting power of good a great portion
of its efficacy.

To the belief in a spiritual world composed of all these various
intelligences--one half of whom were good, and the other half evil--the
early Zoroastrians added notions with respect to human duties and human
prospects far more enlightened than those which have usually prevailed
among heathen nations. In their system truth, purity, piety, and
industry were the virtues chiefly valued and inculcated. Evil was traced
up to its root in the heart of man; and it was distinctly taught that
no virtue deserved the name but such as was co-extensive with the whole
sphere of human activity, including the thought, as well as the word and
deed. The purity required was inward as well as outward, mental as
well as bodily. The industry was to be of a peculiar character. Man was
placed upon the earth to preserve the good creation; and this could only
be done by careful tilling of the soil, eradication of thorns and weeds,
and reclamation of the tracts over which Angro-mainyus had spread the
curse of barrenness. To cultivate the soil was thus a religious duty;
the whole community was required to be agricultural; and either as
proprietor, as farmer, or as laboring man, each Zoroastrian must
"further the works of life" by advancing tillage. Piety consisted in the
acknowledgment of the One True God, Ahura-mazda, and of his holy angels,
the Amesha Spentas or Amshashpands, in the frequent offering of prayers,
praises, and thanksgivings, in the recitation of hymns, the performance
of the reformed Soma ceremony, and the occasional sacrifice of animals.
Of the hymns we have abundant examples in the Gathas of the Zendavesta,
and in the Yagna haptanhaiti, or "Yaana of seven chapters," which
belongs to the second period of the religion. A specimen from the latter
source is subjoined below. The Soma or Homa ceremony consisted in the
extraction of the juice of the Homa plant by the priests during the
recitation of prayers, the formal presentation of the liquid extracted
to the sacrificial fire, the consumption of a small portion of it by one
of the officiating priests, and the division of the remainder among the
worshippers. As the juice was drunk immediately after extraction and
before fermentation had set in, it was not intoxicating. The ceremony
seems to have been regarded, in part, as having a mystic force, securing
the favor of heaven; in part, as exerting a beneficial influence upon
the body of the worshipper through the curative power inherent in the
Homa plant.

The sacrifices of the Zoroastrians were never human. The ordinary victim
was the horse; and we hear of occasions on which a single individual
sacrificed as many as ten of these animals. Mares seem to have been
regarded as the most pleasing offerings, probably on account of their
superior value; and if it was desired to draw down the special favor of
the Deity, those mares were selected which were already heavy in foal.
Oxen, sheep, and goats were probably also used as victims. A priest
always performed the sacrifice, slaying the animal, and showing the
flesh to the sacred fire by way of consecration, after which it was
eaten at a solemn feast by the priest and worshippers.

The Zoroastrians were devout believers in the immortality of the soul
and a conscious future existence. They taught that immediately after
death the souls of men, both good and bad, proceeded together along an
appointed path to "the bridge of the gatherer" (chinvatperetu). This was
a narrow road conducting to heaven or paradise, over which the souls of
the pious alone could pass, while the wicked fell from it into the gulf
below, where they found themselves in the place of punishment. The good
soul was assisted across the bridge by the angel Serosh--"the happy,
well-formed, swift, tall Serosh"--who met the weary wayfarer and
sustained his steps as he effected the difficult passage. The prayers
of his friends in this world were of much avail to the deceased,
and greatly, helped him on his journey. As he entered, the archangel
Vohu-mano or Bahman rose from his throne and greeted him with the words,
"How happy art thou who hast come here to us from the mortality to the
immortality!" Then the pious soul went joyfully onward to Ahura-mazda,
to the immortal saints, to the golden throne, to Paradise. As for the
wicked, when they fell into the gulf, they found themselves in outer
darkness, in the kingdom of Angro-mainyus, where they were forced to
remain and to feed upon poisoned banquets.

It is believed by some that the doctrine of the resurrection of the
body was also part of the Zoroastrian creed. Theopompus assigned this
doctrine to the Magi; and there is no reason to doubt that it was
held by the priestly caste of the Arian nations in his day. We find it
plainly stated in portions of the Zendavesta, which, if not among the
earliest, are at any rate of very considerable antiquity, as in the
eighteenth chapter of the Vendidad. It is argued that even in the
Gathas there is an expression used which shows the doctrine to have
been already held when they were composed; but the phrase adduced is so
obscure that its true meaning must be pronounced in the highest degree
uncertain. The absence of any plain allusion to the resurrection from
the earlier portions of the sacred volume is a strong argument against
its having formed any part of the original Arian creed--an argument
which is far from outweighed by the occurrence of a more possible
reference to it in a single ambiguous passage.

Around and about this nucleus of religious belief there grew up in
course of time a number of legends, some of which possess considerable
interest. Like other thoughtful races, the Iranians speculated upon the
early condition of mankind, and conceived a golden age, and a king
then reigning over a perfectly happy people, whom they called King
Yima--Yima-khshaeta--the modern Persian Jemshid. Yima, according to the
legend, had dwelt originally in Aryanem vaejo--the primitive seat of the
Arians--and had there reigned gloriously and peacefully for awhile; but
the evils of winter having come upon his country, he had removed from it
with his subjects, and had retired to a secluded spot where he and
his people enjoyed uninterrupted happiness. In this place was "neither
overbearing nor mean-spiritedness, neither stupidity nor violence,
neither poverty nor deceit, neither puniness nor deformity, neither huge
teeth nor bodies beyond the usual meassure." The inhabitants suffered no
defilement from the evil spirit. They dwelt amid odoriferous trees and
golden pillars; their cattle were the largest, best, and most beautiful
on the earth; they were themselves a tall and beautiful race; their food
was ambrosial, and never failed them. No wonder that time sped fast with
them, and that they, not noting its night, thought often that what was
really a year had been no more than a single day. Yima was the great
hero of the early Iranians. His titles, besides "the king" (khshaeta),
are "the brilliant," "the happy," "the greatly wealthy," "the leader
of the peoples," "the renowned in Aryanem vaejo." He is most probably
identical with the Yama of the Vedas, who was originally the first man,
the progenitor of mankind and the ruler of the blessed in Paradise, but
who was afterwards transformed into "the god of death, the inexorable
judge of men's doings, and the punisher of the wicked."

Next in importance to Yima among the heroes is Thraetona--the modern
Persian Feridun. He was born in Varena--which is perhaps Atropatene, or
Azerbijan--and was the son of a distinguished father, Athwyo. His chief
exploit was the destruction of Ajis-dahaka (Zohak), who is sometimes
represented as a cruel tyrant, the bitter enemy of the Iranian race,
sometimes as a monstrous dragon, with three mouths, three tails, six
eyes, and a thousand scaly rings, who threatened to ruin the whole of
the good creation. The traditional scene of the destruction was the
mountain of Demavend, the highest peak of the Elburz range south of the
Caspian. Thraetona, like Yima, appears to be also a Vedic hero. He may
be recognized in Traitana, who is said in the Rig-Veda to have slain a
mighty giant by severing his head from his shoulders.

A third heroic personage known in the early times was Keresaspa, of the
noble Sama family. He was the son of Thrita--a distinct personage from
Thraetona--and brother of Urvakh-shaya the Just and was bred up in the
arid country of Veh-keret (Khorassan). The "glory" which had rested upon
Yima so many years became his in his day. He was the mightiest among
the mighty, and was guarded from all danger by the fairy (pairika)
Enathaiti, who followed him whithersoever he went. He slew Qravara, the
queen and venomous serpent, who swallowed up men and horses. He killed
Gandarewa with the golden heel, and also Cnavidhaka, who had boasted
that, when he grew up, he would make the earth his wheel and heaven
his chariot, that he would carry off Ahura-mazda from heaven and
Angro-mainyus from hell, and yoke them both as horses to his car.
Keresaspa appears as Gershasp in the modern Persian legends, where,
however, but little is said of his exploits. In the Hindoo books he
appears as Krigagva, the son of Samyama, and is called king of Vaigali,
or Bengal!

From these specimens the general character of the early Iranic legends
appears sufficiently. Without affording any very close resemblances in
particular cases, they present certain general features which are common
to the legendary lore of all the Western Arians. They are romantic
tales, not allegories; they relate with exaggerations the deeds of men,
not the processes of nature. Combining some beauty with a good deal
that is bizarre and grotesque, they are lively and graphic, but somewhat
childish, having in no case any deep meaning, and rarely teaching a
moral lesson. In their earliest shape they appear, so far as we can
judge, to have been brief, disconnected, and fragmentary. They owe the
full and closely interconnected form which they assume in the Shahna-meh
and other modern Persian writings, partly to a gradual accretion during
the course of centuries, partly to the inventive genius of Firdausi, who
wove the various and often isolated legends into a pseudo-history,
and amplified them at his own pleasure. How much of the substance of
Firdausi's poems belongs to really primitive myth is uncertain. We
find in the Zend texts the names of Gayo-marathan, who corresponds to
Kaiomars; of Haoshyanha, or Hosheng; of Yima-shaeta, or Jemshid; of
Ajisdahaka, or Zohak; of Athwya, or Abtin; of Thraetona, or Feridun; of
Keresaspa, or Gershasp; of Kava Uq, or Kai Kavus; of Kava Hucrava, or
Kai Khosroo; and of Kava Vistaspa, or Gushtasp. But we have no mention
of Tahomars; of Gava (or Gau) the blacksmith; of Feridua's sons, Selm,
Tur, and Irij; of Zal, or Mino'chihr, or Eustem; of Afrasiab, or Kai
Kobad; of Sohrab, or Isfendiar. And of the heroic names which actually
occur in the Zendavesta, several, as Gayo-marathan, Haoshyariha, Kava
Uc, and Kava Hugrava, are met with only in the later portions, which
belong probably to about the fourth century before our era. The only
legends which we know to be primitive are those above related, which are
found in portions of the Zendavesta, whereto the best critics ascribe a
high antiquity. The negative argument is not, however, conclusive; and
it is quite possible that a very large proportion of Firdausi's tale may
consist of ancient legends dressed up in a garb comparatively modern.

Two phases of the early Iranic religion have been now briefly described;
the first a simple and highly spiritual creed, remarkable for its
distinct assertion of monotheism, its hatred of idolatry, and the
strongly marked antithesis which it maintained between good and evil;
the second, a natural corruption of the first, Dualistic, complicated
by the importance which it ascribed to angelic beings verging upon
polytheism. It remains to give an account of a third phase into which
the religion passed in consequence of an influence exercised upon it
from without by an alien system.

When the Iranic nations, cramped for space in the countries east and
south of the Caspian, began to push themselves further to the west, and
then to the south, they were brought into contact with various Scythic
tribes inhabiting the mountain regions of Armenia, Azerbijan, Kurdistan,
and Luristan, whose religion appears to have been Magism. It was here,
in these elevated tracts, where the mountains almost seem to reach the
skies, that the most venerated and ancient of the fire-temples were
established, some of which remain, seemingly in their primitive
condition, at the present day. [PLATE VI., Fig. 4.] Here tradition
placed the original seat of the fire-worship; and from hence many taught
that Zoroaster, whom they regarded as the founder of Magism, had sprung.
Magism was, essentially, the worship of the elements, the recognition
of fire, air, earth, and water as the only proper objects of human
reverence. The Magi held no personal gods, and therefore naturally
rejected temples, shrines, and images, as tending to encourage the
notion that gods existed of a like nature with man, i.e., possessing
personality--living and intelligent beings. Theirs was a nature worship,
but a nature worship of a very peculiar kind. They did not place gods
over the different parts of nature, like the Greeks; they did not
even personify the powers of nature, like the Hindoos; they paid their
devotion to the actual material things themselves. Fire, as the most
subtle and ethereal principle, and again as the most powerful agent,
attracted their highest regards; and on their fire-altars the sacred
flame, generally said to have been kindled from heaven, was kept burning
uninterruptedly from year to year and from age to age by bands of
priests, whose special duty it was to see that the sacred spark was
never extinguished. To defile the altar by blowing the flame with one's
breath was a capital offence; and to burn a corpse was regarded as an
act equally odious. When victims were offered to fire, nothing but a
small portion of the fat was consumed in the flame. Next to fire, water
was reverenced. Sacrifice was offered to rivers, lakes, and fountains,
the victim being brought near to them and then slain, while great care
was taken that no drop of their blood should touch the water and pollute
it. No refuse was allowed to be cast into a river, nor was it even
lawful to wash one's hands in one. Reverence for earth was shown by
sacrifice, and by abstention from the usual mode of burying the dead.

[Illustration: PLATE VI.]

The Magian religion was of a highly sacerdotal type. No worshipper could
perform any religious act except by the intervention of a priest, or
Magus, who stood between him and the divinity as a Mediator. The Magus
prepared the victim and slew it, chanted the mystic strain which gave
the sacrifice all its force, poured on the ground the propitiatory
libation of oil, milk, and honey, held the bundle of thin tamarisk
twigs--the Zendic barsom (baregma)--the employment of which was
essential to every sacrificial ceremony. The Magi were a priest-caste,
apparently holding their office by hereditary succession. They claimed
to possess, not only a sacred and mediatorial character, but also
supernatural prophetic powers. They explained omens, expounded dreams,
and by means of a certain mysterious manipulation of the barsom, or
bundle of twigs, arrived at a knowledge of future events, which they
communicated to the pious inquirer.

With such pretensions it was natural that the caste should assume a
lofty air, a stately dress, and an entourage of ceremonial magnificence.
Clad in white robes, and bearing Upon their heads tall felt caps, with
long lappets at the sides, which concealed the jaw and even the lips,
each with his barsom in his hand, they marched in procession to their
pynetheia, or fire altars, and standing around them performed for an
hour at a time their magical incantations. The credulous multitude,
impressed by sights of this kind, and imposed on by the claims to
supernatural power which the Magi advanced, paid them a willing homage;
the kings and chiefs consulted them; and when the Arian tribes, pressing
westward, came into contact with the races professing the Magian
religion, they found a sacerdotal caste all-powerful in most of the
Scythic nations.

The original spirit of Zoroastrianism was fierce and exclusive. The
early Iranians looked with contempt and hatred on the creed of their
Indian brethren; they abhorred idolatry; and were disinclined to
tolerate any religion except that which they had themselves worked out.
But with the lapse of ages this spirit became softened. Polytheistic
creeds are far less jealous than monotheism; and the development of
Zoroastrianism had been in a polytheistic direction. By the time that
the Zoroastrians were brought into contact with Magism, the first fervor
of their religious zeal had abated, and they were in that intermediate
condition of religious faith which at once impresses and is impressed,
acts upon other systems, and allows itself to be acted upon in return.
The result which supervened upon contact with Magism seems to have been
a fusion, an absorption into Zoroastrianism of all the chief points of
the Magian belief, and all the more remarkable of the Magian religious
usages. This absorption appears to have taken place in Media. It was
there that the Arian tribes first associated with themselves, and
formally adopted into their body, the priest-caste of the Magi, which
thenceforth was recognized as one of the six Median tribes. It is there
that Magi are first found acting in the capacity of Arian priests.
According to all the accounts which have come down to us, they soon
acquired a predominating influence, which they no doubt used to impress
their own religious doctrines more and more upon the nation at large,
and to thrust into the background, so far as they dared, the peculiar
features of the old Arian belief. It is not necessary to suppose that
the Medes ever apostatized altogether from the worship of Ormazd, or
formally surrendered their Dualistic faith. But, practically, the Magian
doctrines and the Magian usages--elemental worship, divination with
the sacred rods, dream expounding, incantations at the fire-altars,
sacrifices whereat a Magus officiated--seem to have prevailed; the
new predominated over the old; backed by the power of an organized
hierarchy, Magism over-laid the primitive Arian creed, and, as time went
on, tended more and more to become the real religion of the nation.

Among the religious customs introduced by the Magi into Media there are
one or two which seem to require especial notice. The attribution of a
sacred character to the four so-called elements--earth, air, fire and
water--renders it extremely difficult to know what is to be done with
the dead. They cannot be burnt, for that is a pollution of fire; or
buried, for that is a pollution of earth; or thrown into a river, for
that is a defilement of water. If they are deposited in sarcophagi, or
exposed, they really pollute the air; but in this case the guilt of the
pollution, it may be argued, does not rest on man, since the dead body
is merely left in the element in which nature placed it. The only mode
of disposal which completely avoids the defilement of every element
is consumption of the dead by living beings; and the worship of the
elements leads on naturally to this treatment of corpses. At present the
Guebres, or Fire-worshippers, the descendants of the ancient Persians,
expose all their dead, with the intention that they shall be devoured
by birds of prey. In ancient times, it appears certain that the Magi
adopted this practice with respect to their own dead; but, apparently,
they did not insist upon having their example followed universally by
the laity. Probably a natural instinct made the Arians averse to this
coarse and revolting custom; and their spiritual guides, compassionating
their weakness, or fearful of losing their own influence over them if
they were too stiff in enforcing compliance, winked at the employment by
the people of an entirely different practice. The dead bodies were first
covered completely with a coating of wax, and were then deposited in
the ground. It was held, probably, that the coating of wax prevented the
pollution which would have necessarily resulted had the earth come into
direct contact with the corpse.

The custom of divining by means of a number of rods appears to have
been purely Magian. There is no trace of it in the Gathas, in the Yagna
haptanhaiti, or in the older portions of the Vendidad. It was a Scythic
practice; and probably the best extant account of it is that which
Herodotus gives of the mode wherein it was managed by the Scyths of
Europe. "Scythia," he says, "has an abundance of soothsayers, who
foretell the future by means of a number of willow wands. A large bundle
of these rods is brought and laid on the ground. The soothsayer unties
the bundle, and places each wand by itself, at the same time uttering
his prophecy: then, while he is still speaking, he gathers the rods
together again, and makes them up once more into a bundle." A divine
power seems to have been regarded as resting in the wands; and they were
supposed to be "consulted" on the matter in hand, both severally and
collectively. The bundle of wands thus imbued with supernatural wisdom
became naturally part of the regular priestly costume, and was carried
by the Magi on all occasions of ceremony. The wands were of different
lengths; and the number of wands in the bundle varied. Sometimes there
were three, sometimes five, sometimes as many as seven or nine; but in
every case, as it would seem, an odd number.

Another implement which the priests commonly bore must be regarded, not
as Magian, but as Zoroastrian. This is the khrafgthraghna, or instrument
for killing bad animals, frogs, toads, snakes, mice, lizards, flies,
etc., which belonged to the bad creation, or that which derived its
origin from Angro-mainyus. These it was the general duty of all men,
and the more especial duty of the Zoroastrian priests, to put to death,
whenever they had the opportunity. The Magi, it appears, adopted this
Arian usage, added the khrafgthraghna to the barsom, and were so zealous
in their performance of the cruel work expected from them as to excite
the attention, and even draw upon themselves the rebuke, of foreigners.

A practice is assigned to the Magi by many classical and ecclesiastical
writers, which, if it were truly charged on them, would leave a very
dark stain on the character of their ethical system. It is said that
they allowed and even practised incest of the most horrible kind--such
incest as we are accustomed to associate with the names of Lot, OEdipus,
and Herod Agrippa. The charge seems to have been first made either by
Xanthus the Lydian, or by Ctesias. It was accepted, probably without
much inquiry, by the Greeks generally, and then by the Romans, was
repeated by writer after writer as a certain fact, and became finally a
stock topic with the early Christian apologists. Whether it had any real
foundation in fact is very uncertain. Herodotus, who collects with so
much pains the strange and unusual customs of the various nations whom
he visits, is evidently quite ignorant of any such monstrous practice.
He regards the Magian religion as established in Persia, yet he holds
the incestuous marriage of Cambyses with his sister to have been
contrary to existing Persian laws. At the still worst forms of incest
of which the Magi and those under their influence are accused, Herodotus
does not even glance. No doubt, if Xanthus Lydus really made the
statement which Clemens of Alexandria assigns to him, it is an important
piece of evidence, though scarcely sufficient to prove the Magi guilty.
Xanthus was a man of little judgment, apt to relate extravagant tales;
and, as a Lydian, he may have been disinclined to cast an aspersion
on the religion of his country's oppressors. The passage in question,
however, probably did not come from Xanthus Lydus, but from a much later
writer who assumed his name, as has been well shown by a living critic.
The true original author of the accusation against the Magi and their
co-religionists seems to have been Ctesias, whose authority is far
too weak to establish a charge intrinsically so improbable. Its only
historical foundation seems to have been the fact that incestuous
marriages were occasionally contracted by the Persian kings; not,
however, in consequence of any law, or religious usage, but because in
the plenitude of their power they could set all law at defiance, and
trample upon the most sacred principles of morality and religion.

A minor charge preferred against the Magian morality by Xanthus, or
rather by the pseudo-Xanthus, has possibly a more solid foundation.
"The Magi," this writer said, "hold their wives in common: at least
they often marry the wives of others with the free consent of their
husbands." This is really to say that among the Magians divorce was
over-facile; that wives were often put away, merely with a view to their
forming a fresh marriage, by husbands who understood and approved of the
transaction. Judging by the existing practice of the Persians, we must
admit that such laxity is in accordance with Iranic notions on the
subject of marriage--notions far less strict than those which have
commonly prevailed among civilized nations. There is, however, no other
evidence, besides this, that divorce was very common where the Magian
system prevailed; and the mere assertion of the writer who personated
Xanthus Lydus will scarcely justify us in affixing even this stigma on
the religion.

Upon the whole, Magism, though less elevated and less pure than the
old Zoroastrian creed, must be pronounced to have possessed a certain
loftiness and picturesqueness which suited it to become the religion
of a great and splendid monarchy. The mysterious fire-altars on
the mountain-tops, with their prestige of a remote antiquity--the
ever-burning flame believed to have been kindled from on high--the
worship in the open air under the blue canopy of heaven--the long troops
of Magians in their white robes, with their strange caps, and their
mystic wands--the frequent prayers--the abundant sacrifices--the long
incantations--the supposed prophetic powers of the priest-caste--all
this together constituted an imposing whole at once to the eye and to
the mind, and was calculated to give additional grandeur to the civil
system that should be allied with it. Pure Zoroastrianism was too
spiritual to coalesce readily with Oriental luxury and magnificence,
or to lend strength to a government based on the ordinary principles of
Asiatic despotism. Magism furnished a hierarchy to support the throne,
and add splendor and dignity to the court, while they overawed the
subject-class by their supposed possession of supernatural powers,
and of the right of mediating between heaven and man. It supplied a
picturesque worship which at once gratified the senses and excited
the fancy It gave scope to man's passion for the marvellous by
its incantations, its divining-rods, its omen-reading, and its
dream-expounding. It gratified the religious scrupulosity which finds
a pleasure in making to itself difficulties, by the disallowance of
a thousand natural acts, and the imposition of numberless rules
for external purity. At the same time it gave no offence to the
anti-idolatrous spirit in which the Arians had hitherto gloried, but
rather encouraged the iconoclasm which they always upheld and practised.
It thus blended easily with the previous creed of the people, awaking no
prejudices, clashing with no interests; winning its way by an apparent
meekness and unpresumingness, while it was quite prepared, when the
fitting time came, to be as fierce and exclusive as if it had never worn
the mask of humility and moderation.


On the language of the ancient Medes a very few observations will be
here made. It has been noticed already that the Median form of speech
was closely allied to that of the Persians. The remark of Strabo quoted
above, and another remark which he cites from Nearchus, imply at once
this fact, and also the further fact of a dialectic difference between
the two tongues. Did we possess, as some imagine that we do, materials
for tracing out this diversity, it would be proper in the present place
to enter fully on the subject, and instead of contenting ourselves with
asserting, or even proving, the substantial oneness of the languages,
it would be our duty to proceed to the far more difficult and more
complicated task of comparing together the sister dialects, and noting
their various differences. The supposition that there exist means for
such a comparison is based upon a theory that in the language of the
Zendavesta we have the true speech of the ancient people of Media, while
in the cuneiform inscriptions of the Achasmenian kings it is beyond
controversy that we possess the ancient language of Persia. It becomes
necessary, therefore, to examine this theory, in order to justify our
abstention from an inquiry on which, if the theory were sound, we should
be now called upon to enter.

The notion that the Zend language was the idiom of ancient Media
originated with Anquetil du Perron. He looked on Zoroaster as a native
of Azerbijan, contemporary with Darius Hystaspis. His opinion was
embraced by Kleuker, Herder, and Eask; and again, with certain
modifications, by Tychsen and Heeren. These latter writers even gave a
more completely Median character to the Zendavesta, by regarding it as
composed in Media Magna, during the reign of the great Cyaxares. The
main foundation of these views was the identification of Zoroastrianism
with the Magian fire-worship, which was really ancient in Azerbijan,
and flourished in Media under the great Median monarch. But we have seen
that Magianism and Zoroastrianism were originally entirely distinct, and
that the Zendavesta in all its earlier portions belongs wholly to the
latter system. Nothing therefore is proved concerning the Zend dialect
by establishing a connection between the Medes and Magism, which was
a corrupting influence thrown in upon Zoroastrianism long after the
composition of the great bulk of the sacred writings.

These writings themselves sufficiently indicate the place of their
composition. It was not Media, but Bactria, or at any rate the
north-eastern Iranic country, between the Bolor range and the Caspian.
This conclusion, which follows from a consideration of the various
geographical notices contained in the Zend books, had been accepted of
late years by all the more profound Zend scholars. Originated by Rhode,
it has also in its favor the names of Burnouf, Lassen, Westergaard, and
Haug. If then the Zend is to be regarded as really a local dialect, the
idiom of a particular branch of the Iranic people, there is far more
reason for considering it to be the ancient speech of Bactria than of
any other Arian country. Possibly the view is correct which recognizes
two nearly-allied dialects as existing side by side in Iran during its
flourishing period--one prevailing towards the west, the other towards
the east--one Medo-Persic, the other Sogdo-Bactrian--the former
represented to us by the cuneiform inscriptions, the latter by the Zend
texts. Or it may be closer to the truth to recognize in the Zendic and
Achsemenian forms of speech, not so much two contemporary idioms, as two
stages of one and the same language, which seems to be at present the
opinion of the best comparative philologists. In either case Media can
claim no special interest in Zend, which, if local, is Sogdo-Bactrian,
and if not local is no more closely connected with Media than with

It appears then that we do not at present possess any means of
distinguishing the shades of difference which separated the. Median from
the Persian speech. We have in fact no specimens of the former beyond a
certain number of words, and those chiefly proper names, whereas we know
the latter tolerably completely from the inscriptions. It is proposed
under the head of the "Fifth Monarchy" to consider at some length the
general character of the Persian language as exhibited to us in these
documents. From the discussion then to be raised may be gathered the
general character of the speech of the Medes. In the present place all
that will be attempted is to show how far the remnants left us of Median
speech bear out the statement that, substantially, one and the same
tongue was spoken by both peoples.

Many Median names are absolutely identical with Persian; e.g.,
Ariobarzanes, Artabazus, Artaeus, Artembares, Harpagus, Arbaces,
Tiridates, etc. Others which are not absolutely identical approach
to the Persian form so closely as to be plainly mere variants, like
Theodoras and Theodosius, Adelbert and Ethelbert, Miriam, Mariam, and
Mariamne. Of this kind are Intaphres, another form of Intaphernes,
Artynes, another form of Artanes, Parmises, another form of Parmys, and
the like. A third class, neither identical with any known Persian names,
nor so nearly approaching to them as to be properly considered mere
variants, are made up of known Persian roots, and may be explained
on exactly the same principles as Persian names. Such are Ophernes,
Sitraphernes, Mitraphernes, Megabernes, Aspadas, Mazares, Tachmaspates,
Xathrites, Spitaces, Spitamas, Ehambacas, and others. In Ophernes,
Sitra-phernes, Mitra-phernes, and Mega-bernes, the second element
is manifestly the pharna or frana which is found in Arta-phernes and
Inta-phernes (Vida-frana), an active participial form from pri, to
protect. The initial element in O-phernes represents the Zend hu, Sans,
su, Greek ev, as the same letter does in O-manes, O-martes, etc. The
Sitra of Sitra-phernes has been explained as probably Ichshatra, "the
crown," which is similarly represented in the Safro-pates of Curtius, a
name standing to Sitra-phernes exactly as Arta-patas to Arta-phernes. In
Mega-bernes the first element is the well-known baga, "God," under
the form commonly preferred by the Greeks; and the name is exactly
equivalent to Curtius's Bagfo-phanes, which only differs from it by
taking the participle of pa, "to protect," instead of the participle
of pri, which has the same meaning. In Aspa-das it is easy to recognize
aspa, "horse" (a common root in Persian names,) e.g., Aspa-thines,
Aspa-mitras, Prex-aspes, and the like, followed by the same element
which terminates the name of Oromaz-des, and which means either
"knowing" or "giving." Ma-zares presents us with the root meh, "much" or
"great," which is found in the name of the ilf-aspii, or "Big Horses,"
a Persian tribe, followed by zara, "gold," which appears in Ctesias's
"Arto-awes," and perhaps also in Zoro-aster. In Tachmaspates, the
first element is takhma, "strong," a root found in the Persian names
Ar-tochmes and Tritan-taechmes, while the second is the frequently
used pati, "lord," which occurs as the initial element in Pak-zeithes,"
Pafa-ramphes, etc., and as the terminal in Pharna-jjates, Avio-peithes,
and the like. In Xathrites we have clearly khshatra (Zend khshathra),
"crown" or "king," with a participial suffix -ita, corresponding to the
Sanscrit participle in -it. Spita-ces and Spita-mas contain the root
spita, equivalent to spenta, "holy," which is found in Spitho-hates,
Spita-mens, Spita-des, etc. This, in Spita-ces, is followed by a
guttural ending, which is either a diminutive corresponding to the
modern Persian -efc, or perhaps a suffixed article. In Spit-amas, the
suffix -mas is the common form of the superlative, and may be compared
with the Latin -mus in optimus, intimus, supremus, and the like.
Ehambacas contains the root rafno, "joy, pleasure," which we find in
Pati-ramphies, followed by the guttural suffix.

There remains, finally, a class of Median names, containing roots not
found in any known names of Persians, but easily explicable from Zend,
Sanscrit, or other cognate tongues, and therefore not antagonistic to
the view that Median and Persian were two closely connected dialects.
Such, for instance, are the royal names mentioned by Herodotus, Deioces,
Phraortes, Astyages, and Cyaxares; and such also are the following,
which come to us from various sources; Amytis, Astibaras, Armamithres or
Harmamithres, Mandauces, Parsondas, Eama-tes, Susiscanes, Tithaous, and

In Deioces, or (as the Latins write it) Dejoces, there can be little
doubt that we have the name given as Djohak or Zohak in the Shahnameh
and other modern Persian writings, which is itself an abbreviation of
the Ajis-dahaka of the Zendavesta. Dahaka means in Zend "biting," or
"the biter," and is etymo-logically connected with the Greek.

Phraortes, which in old Persian was Fravartish, seems to be a mere
variant of the word which appears in the Zendavesta as fravashi, and
designates each man's tutelary genius. The derivation is certainly from
fra, and probably from a root akin to the German wahren, French garder,
English "ward, watch," etc. The meaning is "a protector."

Cyaxares, the Persian form of which was "Uvakhshatara," seems to be
formed from the two elements it or hu, "well, good," and akhsha (Zend
arsnd), "the eye," which is the final element of the name Cyavarswa in
the Zendavesta. Cyavarsna is "dark-eyed;" Uvakhsha (= Zend Huvarsna)
would be "beautiful-eyed." Uvakhshatara appears to be the comparative
of this adjective, and would mean "more beautiful-eyed (than others)."

Astyages, which, according to Moses of Chorene, meant "a dragon" or
"serpent," is almost certainly Ajis-dahaka, the full name whereof
Dojoces (or Zohak) is the abbreviation. It means "the biting snake,"
from aji or azi, "a snake" or "serpent," and dahaka, "biting."

Amytis is probably ama, "active, great," with the ordinary feminine
suffix -iti, found in Armaiti, Khnathaiti, and the like. Astibaras
is perhaps "great of bone," from Zend agta (Sans, asthi), "bone," and
bereza, "tall, great." Harmamithres, if that is the true reading,
would be "mountain-lover" (monticolus), from hardam, ace. of hara, "a
mountain," and mithra or mitra, "fond of." If, however, the name should
be read as Armamithres, the probable derivation will be from rama, ace.
of raman, "pleasure," which is also the root of Rama-tea. Armamithres
may then be compared with Rheomithres, Siromitras, and Sysimithres,
which are respectively "fond of splendor," "fond of beauty," and "fond
of light." Mandauces is perhaps "biting spirit--esprit mordant," from
mand, "coeur, esprit," and dahaka, "biting." M Parsondas can scarcely
be the original form, from the occurrence in it of the nasal before the
dental. In the original it must have been Parsodas, which would mean
"liberal, much giving," from pourus, "much," and da, "to give." Ramates,
as already observed, is from rama, "pleasure." It is an adjectival form,
like Datis, and means probably "pleasant, agreeable." Susiscanes may be
explained as "splendidus juvenis," from quc, "splendere," pres. part,
cao-cat, and kainin, "adolescens, juvenis." Tithaeus is probably for
Tathaeus, which would be readily formed from tatka, "one who makes."
Finally, Zanasanes may be referred to the root zan or jan, "to kill,"
which is perhaps simply followed by the common appellative suffix -ana.

From these names of persons we may pass to those of places in Media,
which equally admit of explanation from roots known to have existed
either in Zend or in old Persian. Of these, Ecbatana, Bagistana, and
Aspadana may be taken as convenient specimens. Ecbatana (or Agbatana),
according to the orthography of the older Greeks was in the native
dialect Hagmatana, as appears from the Behistun inscription. This form,
Hagmatana, is in all probability derived from the three words ham,
"with" (Sans, sam, Latin cum), gam, "to go" (Zend gd, Sans, 'gam), and
ctana (Mod. Pers. -stan) "a place." The initial ham has dropped the
m and become ha, and cum becomes co- in Latin; gam has become gma
by metathesis; and gtan has passed into -tan by phonetic corruption.
Ha-gma-tana would be "the place for assembly," or for "coming together"
(Lat. comitium); the place, i.e., where the tribes met, and where,
consequently, the capital grew up.

Bagistan, which was "a hill sacred to Jupiter" according to Diodorus,
is clearly a name corresponding to the Beth-el of the Hebrews and the
Allahabad of the Mahometans. It is simply "the house, or place, of
God"--from baga, "God," and gtana, "place, abode," the common modern
Persian terminal (compare Farsi-stan, Khuzi-stan, Afghani-stan,
Belochi-stan, Hindu-stan, etc.), which has here not suffered any

Aspadana contains certainly as its first element the root acpa, "horse."
The suffix dan may perhaps be a corruption of ctana, analogous to that
which has produced Hama-dan from Hagma-ctan; or it may be a contracted
form of danhu, or dairihu, "a-province," Aspadana having been originally
the name of a district where horses were bred, and having thence become
the name of its chief town.

The Median words known to us, other than names of persons or places, are
confined to some three or four. Herodotus tells us that the Median word
for "dog" was spaka; Xenophon implies, if he does not expressly state,
that the native name for the famous Median robe was candys; Nicolas of
Damascus informs us that the Median couriers were called Angari; and
Hesychius says that the artabe was a Median measure. The last-named
writer also states that artades and devas were Magian words, which
perhaps implies that they were common to the Medes with the Persians.
Here, again, the evidence, such as it is, favors a close connection
between the languages of Media and Persia.

That artabe and angarus were Persian words no less than Median, we have
the evidence of Herodotus. Artades, "just men" (according to Hesychhis),
is probably akin to ars, "true, just," and may represent the ars-data,
"made just," of the Zendavesta. Devas (Seven), which Hesychius
translates "the evil gods" is clearly the Zendic daiva, Mod. Pers. div.
(Sans, deva, Lat. divus). In candys we have most probably a formation
from qan, "to dress, to adorn." Spaka is the Zendic cpa, with the
Scythic guttural suffix, of which the Medes were so fond, cpa itself
being akin to the Sanscrit cvan, and so to hvoov and canis. Thus we may
connect all the few words which are known as Median with forms contained
in the Zend, which was either the mother or the elder sister of the
ancient Persian.

That the Medes were acquainted with the art of writing, and practised
it--at least from the time that they succeeded to the dominion of the
Assyrians--scarcely admits of a doubt. An illiterate nation, which
conquers one in possession of a literature, however it may despise
learning and look down upon the mere literary life, is almost sure to
adopt writing to some extent on account of its practical utility. It
is true the Medes have left us no written monuments; and we may fairly
conclude from that fact that they used writing sparingly; but besides
the antecedent probability, there is respectable evidence that letters
were known to them, and that, at any rate, their upper classes could
both read and write their native tongue. The story of the letter sent
by Harpagus the Mede to Cyrus in the belly of a hare, though probably
apocryphal, is important as showing the belief of Herodotus on the
subject. The still more doubtful story of a despatch written on
parchment by a Median king, Artseus, and sent to Nanarus, a provincial
governor, related by Nicolas of Damascus, has a value, as indicating
that writer's conviction that the Median monarchs habitually conveyed
their commands to their subordinates in a written form. With these
statements of profane writers agree certain notices which we find in
Scripture. Darius the Mode, shortly after the destruction of the Median
empire, "signs" a decree, which his chief nobles have presented to him
in writing. He also himself "writes" another decree addressed to his
subjects generally. In later times we find that there existed at the
Persian court a "book of the chronicles of the kings of Media and
Persia," in which was probably a work begun under the Median and
continued under the Persian sovereigns.

If then writing was practised by the Medes, it becomes interesting to
consider whence they obtained their knowledge of it, and what was the
system which they employed. Did they bring an alphabet with them from
the far East, or did they derive their first knowledge of letters
from the nations with whom they came into contact after their great
migration? In the latter case, did they adopt, with or without
modifications, a foreign system, or did they merely borrow the idea of
written symbols from their new neighbors, and set to work to invent for
themselves an alphabet suited to the genius of their own tongue? These
are some of the questions which present themselves to the mind as
deserving of attention, when this subject is brought before it.
Unfortunately we possess but very scanty data for determining, and can
do little more than conjecture, the proper answers to be given to them.

The early composition of certain portions of the Zendavesta, which has
been asserted in this work, may seem at first sight to imply the use
of a written character in Bactria and the adjacent countries at a very
remote era. But such a conclusion is not necessary. Nations have often
had an oral literature, existing only in the memories of men, and have
handed down such a literature from generation to generation, through
a long succession of ages. The sacred lore of Zoroaster may have been
brought by the Modes from the East-Caspian country in an unwritten
shape, and may not have been reduced to writing till many centuries
later. On the whole it is perhaps most probable that the Medes were
unacquainted with letters when they made their great migration, and that
they acquired their first knowledge of them from the races with whom
they came into collision when they settled along the Zagros chain. In
these regions they were brought into contact with at least two forms of
written speech, one that of the old Armenians, a Turanian dialect, the
other that of the Assyrians, a language of the Semitic type. These two
nations used the same alphabetic system, though their languages were
utterly unlike; and it would apparently have been the easiest plan
for the new comers to have adopted the established forms, and to have
applied them, so far as was possible, to the representation of their own
speech. But the extreme complication of a system which employed between
three and four hundred written signs, and composed signs sometimes of
fourteen or fifteen wedges, seems to have shocked the simplicity of the
Medes, who recognized the fact that the varieties of their articulations
fell far short of this excessive luxuriance. The Arian races, so far
as appears, declined to follow the example set them by the Turanians of
Armenia, who had adopted the Assyrian alphabet, and preferred to invent
a new system for themselves, which they determined to make far more
simple. It is possible that they found an example already set them.
In Achaemenian times we observe two alphabets used through Media and
Persia, both of which are simpler than the Assyrian: one is employed to
express the Turanian dialect of the people whom the Arians conquered and
dispossessed; the other, to express the tongue of the conquerors. It
is possible--though we have no direct evidence of the fact--that
the Turanians of Zagros and the neighborhood had already formed for
themselves the alphabet which is found in the second columns of the
Achaemenian tablets, when the Arian invaders conquered them. This
alphabet, which in respect of complexity holds an intermediate position
between the luxuriance of the Assyrian and the simplicity of the
Medo-Persic system, would seem in all probability to have intervened
in order of time between the two. It consists of no more than about a
hundred characters, and these are for the most part far less complicated
than those of Assyria. If the Medes found this form of writing already
existing in Zagros when they arrived, it may have assisted to give them
the idea of making for themselves an alphabet so far on the old model
that the wedge should be the sole element used in the formation, of
letters, but otherwise wholly new, and much more simple than those
previously in use.

Discarding then the Assyrian notion of a syllabarium, with the enormous
complication which it involves, the Medes strove to reduce sounds to
their ultimate elements, and to represent these last alone by symbols.
Contenting themselves with the three main vowel sounds, a,i, and u, and
with one breathing, a simple h, they recognized twenty consonants,
which were the following, b,d,f,g,j,k,kh,m,n,n (sound doubtful),
p,r,s,sh,t,v,y,z,ch (as in much), and tr, an unnecessary compound. Had
they stopped here, their characters should have been but twenty-four,
the number which is found in Greek. To their ears, however, it would
seem, each consonant appeared to carry with it a short a, and as this,
occurring before i and u, produced the diphthongs ai and au, sounded
nearly as e and o, it seemed necessary, where a consonant was to be
directly followed by the sounds i or u, to have special forms to which
the sound of a should not attach. This system, carried out completely,
would have raised the forms of consonants to sixty, a multiplication
that was feared as inconvenient. In order to keep down the number,
it seems to have been resolved, that one form should suffice for the
aspirated letters and the sibilants (viz., h,kh; ch,ph or f,s,sh, and
z), and also for b,y, and tr; that two forms should suffice for the
tenues, k,p,t, for the liquids n and r, and for v; and consequently that
the full number of three forms should be limited to some three or
four letters, as d, m, j, and perhaps g. The result is that the known
alphabet of the Persians, which is assumed here to have been the
invention of the Medes, consists of some thirty-six or thirty-seven
forms, which are really representative of no more than twenty-three
distinct sounds.

It appears then that, compared with the phonetic systems in vogue among
their neighbors, the alphabet of the Medes and Persians was marked by
a great simplicity. The forms of the letters were also very much
simplified. Instead of conglomerations of fifteen or sixteen wedges in
a single character, we have in the Medo-Persic letters a maximum of five
wedges. The most ordinary number is four, which is sometimes reduced
to three or even two. The direction of the wedges is uniformly either
perpendicular or horizontal, except of course in the case of the double
wedge or arrow-head, where the component elements are placed obliquely.
The arrow-head has but one position, the perpendicular, with the angle
facing towards the left hand. The only diagonal sign used is a simple
wedge, placed obliquely with the point towards the right, which is a
mere mark of separation between the words.

The direction of the writing was, as with the Arian nations generally,
from left to right. Words were frequently divided, and part carried on
to the next line. The characters were inscribed between straight lines
drawn from end to end of the tablet on which they were written. Like the
Hebrew, they often closely resembled one another, and a slight defect in
the stone will cause one to be mistaken for another. The resemblance is
not between letters of the same class or kind; on the contrary, it
is often between those which are most remote from one another. Thus g
nearly resembles u; ch is like d; tr like p; and so on: while k and kh,
s and sh, p and ph (or J) are forms quite dissimilar.

It is supposed that a cuneiform alphabet can never have been employed
for ordinary writing purposes, but must have been confined to documents
of some importance, which it was desirable to preserve, and which
were therefore either inscribed on stone, or impressed on moist clay
afterwards baked. A cursive character, it is therefore imagined, must
always have been in use, parallel with a cuneiform one; and as the
Babylonians and Assyrians are known to have used a character of this
kind from a very high antiquity, synchronously with their lapidary
cuneiform, so it is supposed that the Arian races must have possessed,
besides the method which has been described as a cursive system of
writing. Of this, however, there is at present no direct evidence. No
cursive writing of the Arian nations at this time, either Median or
Persian, has been found; and it is therefore uncertain what form of
character they employed on common occasions.

The material used for ordinary purposes, according to Nicolas of
Damascus and Ctesias, was parchment. On this the kings wrote the
despatches which conveyed their orders to the officers who administered
the government of provinces; and on this were inscribed the memorials
which each monarch was careful to have composed giving an account of the
chief events of his reign. The cost of land carriage probably prevented
papyrus from superseding this material in Western Asia, as it did in
Greece at a tolerably early date. Clay, so much used for writing on both
in Babylonia and Assyria, appears never to have approved itself as a
convenient substance to the Iranians. For public documents the chisel
and the rock, for private the pen and the prepared skin, seem to have
been preferred by them; and in the earlier times, at any rate, they
employed no other materials.


Media . . . quam ante regnum Cyri superlovis et incrementa Persidos
legimus Asiae reginam totius.--Amm. Marc, xxiii. 6.

The origin of the Median nation is wrapt in a profound obscurity.
Following the traces which the Zendavesta offers, taking into
consideration its minute account of the earlier Arian migrations, its
entire omission of any mention of the Medes, and the undoubted fact that
it was nevertheless by the Medes and Persians that the document itself
was preserved and transmitted to us, we should be naturally led to
suppose that the race was one which in the earlier times of Arian
development was weak and insignificant, and that it first pushed itself
into notice after the ethnological portions of the Zendavesta were
composed, which is thought to have been about B.C. 1000. Quite in
accordance with this view is the further fact that in the native
Assyrian annals, so far as they have been, recovered, the Medes do not
make their appearance till the middle of the ninth century B.C., and
when they appear are weak and unimportant, only capable of opposing a
very slight resistance to the attacks of the Ninevite kings. The natural
conclusion from these data would appear to be that until about B.C. 850
the Median name was unknown in the world, and that previously, if Medes
existed at all, it was either as a sub-tribe of some other Arian race,
or at any rate as a tribe too petty and insignificant to obtain mention
either on the part of native or of foreign historians. Such early
insignificance and late development of what ultimately becomes the
dominant tribe of a race is no strange or unprecedented phenomenon to
the historical inquirer; on the contrary, it is among the facts with
which he is most familiar, and would admit of ample illustration, were
the point worth pursuing, alike from the history of the ancient and the
modern world.

But, against the conclusion to which we could not fail to be led by
the Arian and Assyrian records, which agree together so remarkably, two
startling notices in works of great authority but of a widely different
character have to be set. In the Toldoth Beni Noah, or "Book of the
Generation of the Sons of Noah," which forms the tenth chapter of
Genesis, and which, if the work of Moses, was probably composed at
least as early as B.C. 1500, we find the Madai--a word elsewhere always
signifying "the Medes"--in the genealogy of the sons of Japhet. The word
is there conjoined with several other important ethnic titles, as Gomer,
Magog, Javan, Tubal, and Meshech; and there can be no reasonable doubt
that it is intended to designate the Median people. If so, the people
must have had already a separate and independent existence in the
fifteenth century B.C., and not only so, but they must have by that time
attained so much distinction as to be thought worthy of mention by
a writer who was only bent on affiliating the more important of the
nations known to him.

The other notice is furnished by Berosus. That remarkable historian,
in his account of the early dynasties of his native Chaldaea, declared
that, at a date anterior to B.C. 2000, the Medes had conquered Babylon
by a sudden inroad, had established a monarchy there, and had held
possession of the city and neighboring territory for a period of 224
years. Eight kings of their race had during that interval occupied the
Babylonian throne, It has been already observed that this narrative must
represent a fact. Berosus would not have gratuitously invented a foreign
conquest of his native land; nor would the earlier Babylonians, from
whom he derived his materials, have forged a tale which was so little
flattering to their national vanity. Some foreign conquest of Babylon
must have taken place about the period named; and it is certainly a most
important fact that Berosus should call the conquerors Medes. He may no
doubt have been mistaken about an event so ancient; he may have misread
his authorities, or he may have described as Medes a people of which he
really knew nothing except that they had issued from the tract which
in his own time bore the name of Media. But, while these axe mere
possibilities, hypotheses to which the mind resorts in order to escape
a difficulty, the hard fact remains that he has used the word; and this
fact, coupled with the mention of the Medes in the book of Genesis, does
certainly raise a presumption of no inconsiderable strength against,
the view which it would be natural to take if the Zendavesta and the
Assyrian annals were our solo authorities on the subject. It lends a
substantial basis to the theories of those who regard the Medes as one
of the principal primeval races; who believe that they were well known
to the Semitic inhabitants of the Mesopotamian valley as early as the
twenty-third century before Christ--long ere Abraham left Ur for Harran;
and that they actually formed the dominant power in Western Asia
for more than two centuries, prior to the establishment of the first
Chaldaean kingdom.

And if there are thus distinct historical grounds for the notion of an
early Median development, there are not wanting these obscurer but to
many minds more satisfactory proofs wherewith comparative philology
and ethnology are wont to illustrate and confirm the darker passages of
ancient history. Recent linguistic research has clearly traced among the
Arba Lisun, or, "Four Tongues" of ancient Chaldaea, which are so often
mentioned on the ancient monuments, an Arian formation, such as would
naturally have been left in the country, if it had been occupied for
some considerable period by a dominant Arian power. The early Chaldaean
ideographs have often several distinct values; and when this is the
case, one of the powers is almost always an Arian name of the object
represented. Words like nir, "man", ar, "river," (compare the names
Aras, Araxes, Endanus, Rha, Rhodanus, etc., the Slavonic rika, "river,"
etc.), san, "sun," (compare German Sonne, Slavonic solnce, English
"sun," Dutch zon, etc.), are seemingly Arian roots; and the very
term "Arian" (Ariya, "noble") is perhaps contained in the name of a
primitive Chaldaean monarch, "Arioch, king of Ellasar." There is
nothing perhaps in these scattered traces of Arian influence in in Lower
Mesopotamia at a remote era that points very particularly to the Medes;
but at any rate they harmonize with the historical account that has
reached us of early Arian power in these parts, and it is important that
they should not be ignored when we are engaged in considering the degree
of credence that is to be awarded to the account in question.

Again, there are traces of a vast expansion, apparently at a very early
date, of the Median race, such as seems to imply that they must have
been a great nation in Western Asia long previously to the time of the
Iranic movements in Bactria and the adjoining regions. In the Matieni
of Zagros and Cappadocia, in the Sauro-matae (or Northern Medes) of the
country between the Palus Maeotis and the Caspian, in the Maetae or
Maeotae of the tract about the mouth of the Don, and in the Maedi of
Thrace, we have seemingly remnants of a great migratory host which,
starting from the mountains that overhang Mesopotamia, spread itself
into the regions of the north and the north-west at a time which
does not admit of being definitely stated, but which is clearly
anti-historic. Whether these races generally retained any tradition of
their origin, we do not know; but a tribe which in the time of Herodotus
dwelt still further to the west than even the Maedi--to wit, the
Sigynnae, who occupied the tract between the Adriatic and the
Danube--had a very distinct belief in their Median descent, a belief
confirmed by the resemblance which their national dress bore to that of
the Medes. Herodotus, who relates these facts concerning them, appends
an expression of his astonishment at the circumstance that emigrants
from Media should have proceeded to such a distance from their original
home; how it had been brought about he could not conceive. "Still," he
sagaciously remarks, "nothing is impossible in the long lapse of ages."

A further argument in favor of the early development of Median power,
and the great importance of the nation in Western Asia at a period
anterior to the ninth century, is derivable from the ancient legends
of the Greeks, which seem to have designated the Medes under the two
eponyms of Medea and Andromeda. These legends indeed do not admit of
being dated with any accuracy; but as they are of a primitive type, and
probably older than Homer, we cannot well assign them to an age later
than b.c. 1000. Now they connect the Median name with the two countries
of Syria and Colchis, countries remote from each other, and neither of
them sufficiently near the true Median territory to be held from it,
unless at a time when the Medes were in possession of something like
an empire. And, even apart from any inferences to be drawn from the
localties which the Greek Myths connect with the Medes, the very fact
that the race was known to the Greeks at this early date--long before
the movements which brought them into contact with the Assyrians--would
seem to show that there was some remote period--prior to the Assyrian
domination--when the fame of the Medes was great in the part of Asia
known to the Hellenes, and that they did not first attract Hellenic
notice (as, but for the Myths, we might have imagined) by the conquests
of Cyaxarea. Thus, on the whole it would appear that we must acknowledge
two periods of Median prosperity, separated from each other by a lengthy
interval, one anterior to the rise of the Cushite empire in Lower
Babylonia, the other parallel with the decline and subsequently to the
fall of Assyria.

Of the first period it cannot be said that we possess any distinct
historical knowledge. The Median dynasty of Berosus at Babylon appears,
by recent discoveries, to have represented those Susianian monarchs who
bore sway there from B.C. 2286 to 2052. The early Median preponderance
in Western Asia, if it is a fact, must have been anterior to this, and
is an event which has only left traces in ethnological names and in
mythological speculations.

Our historical knowledge of the Medes as a nation commences in
the latter half of the ninth century before our era. Shalmaneser
II.--probably the "Shalman" of Hosea,--who reigned from B.C. 859 to B.C.
824--relates that in his twenty-fourth year (B.C. 885), after having
reduced to subjection the Zimri, who held the Zagros mountain range
immediately to the east of Assyria, and received tribute from the
Persians, he led an expedition into Media and Arazias, where he took and
destroyed a number of the towns, slaying the men, and carrying off the
spoil. He does not mention any pitched battle; and indeed it would seem
that he met with no serious resistance. The Medes whom he attacks
are evidently a weak and insignificant people, whom he holds in small
esteem, and regards as only deserving of a hurried mention. They seem
to occupy the tract now known as Ardelan--a varied region containing
several lofty ridges, with broad plains lying between them.

It is remarkable that the time of this first contact of Media with
Assyria--a contact taking place when Assyria was in her prime, and Media
was only just emerging from a long period of weakness and obscurity--is
almost exactly that which Ctesias selects as a day of the great
revolution whereby the Empire of the East passed from the hands of the
Shemites into those of the Arians. The long residence of Otesias among
the Persians, gave him a bias toward that people, which even extended to
their close kin, the Medes. Bent on glorifying these two Arian races,
he determined to throw back the commencement of their empire to a period
long anterior to the true date; and, feeling specially anxious to cover
up their early humiliation, he assigned their most glorious conquests
to the very century, and almost to the very time, when they were in fact
suffering reverses at the hands of the people over whom he represented
them as triumphant. There was a boldness in the notion of thus inverting
history which almost deserved, and to a considerable extent obtained,
success. The "long chronology" of Ctesias kept its ground until
recently, not indeed meeting with universal acceptance, but on the whole
predominating over the "short chronology" of Herodotus; and it may be
doubted whether anything less than the discovery that the native records
of Assyria entirely contradicted Ctesias would have sufficed to drive
from the field his figment of early Median dominion.

The second occasion upon which we hear of the Medes in the Assyrian
annals is in the reign of Shalmanoser's son and successor, Shamas-Vul.
Here again, as on the former occasion, the Assyrians were the
aggressors. Shamas-Vul invaded Media and Arazias in his third year, and
committed ravages similar to those of his father, wasting the country
with fire and sword, but not (it would seem) reducing the Medes to
subjection, or even attempting to occupy their territory. Again the
attack is a mere raid, which produces no permanent impression.

It is in the reign of the son and successor of Shamas-Vul that the Medes
appear for the first time to have made their submission and accepted
the position of Assyrian tributaries. A people which was unable to offer
effectual resistance when the Assyrian levies invaded their country, and
which had no means of retaliating upon their foe or making him suffer
the evils that he inflicted, was naturally tempted to save itself from
molestation by the payment of an annual tribute, so purchasing quiet at
the expense of honor and independence. Towards the close of the ninth
century B.C. the Medes seem to have followed the example set them very
much earlier by their kindred and neighbors, the Persians, and to
have made arrangements for an annual payment which should exempt their
territory from ravage. It is doubtful whether the arrangement was made
by the whole people. The Median tribes at this time hung so loosely
together that a policy adopted by one portion of them might be entirely
repudiated by another. Most probably the tribute was paid by those
tribes only which boarded on Zagros, and not by those further to the
east or to the north, into whose territories the Assyrian arms has not
yet penetrated.

No further change in the condition of the Medes is known to have
occurred until about a hundred years later, when the Assyrians ceased
to be content with the semi-independent position which had been hitherto
allowed them, and determined on their more complete subjugation. The
great Sargon, the assailant of Egypt and conqueror of Babylon, towards
the middle of his reign, invaded Media with a large army, and having
rapidly overrun the country, seized several of the towns, and "annexed
them to Assyria," while at the same time he also established in new
situations a number of fortified posts. The object was evidently to
incorporate Media into the empire; and the posts wore stations in which
a standing army was placed, to overawe the natives and prevent them from
offering an effectual resistance. With the same view deportation of the
people on a large scale seems to have been practised and the gaps
thus made in the population were filled up--wholly or in part--by the
settlement in the Median cities of Samaritan captives. On the country
thus re-organized and re-arranged a tribute of a new character was laid.
In lieu of the money payment hitherto exacted, the Medes were required
to furnish annually to the royal stud a number of horses. It is probable
that Media was already famous for the remarkable breed which is so
celebrated in later times; and that the horses now required of her by
the Assyrians were to be of the large and highly valued kind known as

The date of this subjugation is about B.C. 710. And here, if we compare
the Greek accounts of Median history with those far more authentic ones
which have reached us through the Assyrian contemporary records, we are
struck by a repetition of the same device which came under our notice
more than a century earlier--the device of covering up the nation's
disgraces at a particular period by assigning to that very date certain
great and striking successes. As Ctesias's revolt of the Medes under
Arbaces and conquest of Nineveh synchronizes nearly with the first known
ravages of Assyria within the territories of the Medes, so Herodotus's
revolt of the same people and commencement of their monarchy under
Deioces falls almost exactly at the date when they entirely lose their
independence. As there is no reason to suspect Herodotus either of
partiality toward the Medes or of any wilful departure from the truth,
we must regard him as imposed upon by his informants, who were probably
either Medes or Persians. These mendacious patriots found little
difficulty in palming their false tale upon the simple Halicarnassian,
thereby at once extending the antiquity of their empire and concealing
its shame behind a halo of fictitious glory.

After their subjugation by Sargon the Medes of Media Magna appear to
have remained the faithful subjects of Assyria for sixty or seventy
years. During this period we find no notices of the great mass of the
nation in the Assyrian records: only here and there indications occur
that Assyria is stretching out her arms towards the more distant and
outlying tribes, especially those of Azerbijan, and compelling them to
acknowledge her as mistress. Sennacherib boasts that early in his
reign, about B.C. 702, he received an embassy from the remoter parts of
Media--"parts of which the kings his fathers had not even heard"--which
brought him presents in sign of submission, and patiently accepted his
yoke. His son, Esar-haddon, relates that, about his tenth year (B.C.
671) he invaded Bikni or Bikan, a distant province of Media, "whereof
the kings his fathers had never heard the name;" and, attacking the
cities of the region one after another, forced them to acknowledge his
authority. The country was held by a number of independent chiefs, each
bearing sway in his own city and adjacent territory. These chiefs have
unmistakably Arian names, as Sitriparna or Sitraphernes, Eparna or
Orphernes, Zanasana or Zanasanes, and Eamatiya or Ramates. Esar-haddon
says that, having entered the country with his army, he seized two of
the chiefs and carried them off to Assyria, together with a vast spoil
and numerous other captives. Hereupon the remaining chiefs, alarmed
for their safety, made their submission, consenting to pay an annual
tribute, and admitting Assyrian officers into their territories, who
watched, if they did not even control, the government.

We are now approaching the time when Media seems to have been first
consolidated into a monarchy by the genius of an individual. Sober
history is forced to discard the shadowy forms of kings with which Greek
writers of more fancy than judgment have peopled the darkness that rests
upon the "origines" of the Medes. Arbaces, Maudaces, Sosarmus, Artycas,
Arbianes, Artseus, Deioces--Median monarchs, according to Ctesias or
Herodotus, during the space of time comprised within the years B.C. 875
and 655--have to be dismissed by the modern writer without a word,
since there is reason to believe that they are mere creatures of the
imagination, inventions of unscrupulous romancers, not men who once
walked the earth. The list of Median kings in Ctesias, so far as it
differs from the list in Herodotus, seems to be a pure forgery--an
extension of the period of the monarchy by the conscious use of a system
of duplication. Each king, or period, in Herodotus occurs in the list
of Ctesias twice--a transparent device, clumsily cloaked by the cheap
expedient of a liberal invention of names. Even the list of Herodotus
requires curtailment. His Deioces, whose whole history reads more like
romance than truth--the organizer of a powerful monarchy in Media just
at the time when Sargon was building his fortified posts in the
country and peopling with his Israelite captives the old "cities of the
Medes"--the prince who reigned for above half a century in perfect
peace with his neighbors, and who, although contemporary with Sargon,
Sennacherib, Esar-haddon, and As-shur-bani-pal--all kings more or less
connected with Media--is never heard of in any of their annals, must
be relegated to the historical limbo in which repose so many "shades of
mighty names;" and the Herodotean list of Median kings must at any
rate, be thus far reduced. Nothing is more evident than that during the
flourishing period of Assyria under the great Sargonidae above named
there was no grand Median kingdom upon the eastern flank of the empire.
Such a kingdom had certainly not been formed up to B.C. 671, when
Esar-haddon reduced the more distant Medes, finding them still under the
government of a number of petty chiefs. The earliest time at which we
can imagine the consolidation to have taken place consistently with what
we know of Assyria is about B.C. 760, or nearly half a century later
than the date given by Herodotus.

The cause of the sudden growth of Media in power about this period, and
of the consolidation which followed rapidly upon that growth, is to
be sought, apparently, in fresh migratory movements from the Arian
head-quarters, the countries east and south-east of the Caspian. The
Cyaxares who about the year B.C. 632 led an invading host of Medes
against Nineveh, was so well known to the Arian tribes of the north-east
that, when in the reign of Darius Hystaspis a Sagartian raised the
standard of revolt in that region he stated the ground of his claim to
the Sagartian throne to be descent from Cyaxares. This great chief,
it is probable, either alone, or in conjunction with his father (whom
Herodotus calls Phraortes), led a fresh emigration of Arians from the
Bacterian and Sagartian country to the regions directly east of the
Zagros mountain chain; and having thus vastly increased the strength of
the Arian race in that quarter, set himself to consolidate a mountain
kingdom capable of resisting the great monarchy of the plain. Accepted,
it would seem, as chief by the former Arian inhabitants of the tract, he
proceeded to reduce the scattered Scythic tribes which had hitherto held
possession of the high mountain region. The Zimri, Minni, Hupuska,
etc., who divided among them the country lying between Media Proper and
Assyria, were attacked and subdued without any great difficulty; and the
conqueror, finding himself thus at the head of a considerable kingdom,
and no longer in any danger of subjugation at the hands of Assyria,
began to contemplate the audacious enterprise of himself attacking
the Great Power which had been for so many hundred years the terror of
Western Asia. The supineness of Asshur-bani-pal, the Assyrian king,
who must at this time have been advanced in years, encouraged his
aspirations; and about B.C. 634, when that monarch had held the throne
for thirty-four years, suddenly, without warning, the Median troops
debouched from the passes of Zagros, and spread themselves over the rich
country at its base, Alarmed by the nearness and greatness of the peril,
the Assyrian king aroused himself, and putting himself at the head of
his troops, marched out to confront the invader. A great battle
was fought, probably somewhere in Adiabene, in which the Medes were
completely defeated: their whole army was cut to pieces; and the father
of Cyaxares was among the slain. Such was the result of the first Median
expedition against Nineveh. The assailants had miscalculated their
strength. In their own mountain country, and so long as they should
be called upon to act only on the defensive, they might be right
in regarding themselves as a match for the Assyrians; but when they
descended into the plain, and allowed their enemy the opportunity
of manoeuvering and of using his war chariots, their inferiority was
marked. Cyaxares, now, if not previously, actual king, withdrew awhile
from the war, and, convinced that all the valor of his Medes would be
unavailing without discipline, set himself to organize the army on a
new system, taking a pattern from the enemy, who had long possessed some
knowledge of tactics. Hitherto, it would seem, each Median chief had
brought into the field his band of followers, some mounted, some on
foot, foot and horse alike armed variously as their means allowed them,
some with bows and arrows, some with spears, some perhaps with slings or
darts; and the army had been composed of a number of such bodies, each
chief keeping his band close about him. Cyaxares broke up these bands,
and formed the soldiers who composed them into distinct corps, according
as they were horsemen or footmen, archers, slingers, or lancers. He
then, having completed his arrangements at his ease, without disturbance
(so far as appears) from the Assyrians, felt himself strong enough to
renew the war with a good prospect of success. Collecting as large
an army as he could, both from his Arian and his Scythic subjects, he
marched into Assyria, met the troops of Asshur-bani-pal in the field,
defeated them signally, and forced them to take refuge behind the strong
works which defended their capital. He even ventured to follow up the
flying foe and commence the siege of the capital itself; but at this
point he was suddenly checked in his career of victory, and forced to
assume a defensive attitude, by a danger of a novel kind, which recalled
him from Nineveh to his own country.

The vast tracts, chiefly consisting of grassy plains, which lie north of
the Black Sea, the Caucasus, the Caspian, and the Jaxartes Syhun river,
were inhabited in ancient times by a race or races known to the Asiatics
as Saka, "Scythians." These people appear to have been allied ethnically
with many of the more southern races, as with the Parthians, the
Iberians, the Alarodians, the tribes of the Zagros chain, the
Susianians, and others. It is just possible that they may have taken
an interest in the warfare of their southern brethren, and that, when
Cyaxares brought the tribes of Zagros under his yoke, the Scyths of the
north may have felt resentment, or compassion, If this view seem too
improbable, considering the distance, the physical obstacles, and the
little communication that there was between nations in those early
times, we must suppose that by a mere coincidence it happened that the
subjugation of the southern Scyths by Cyaxares was followed within a few
years by a great irruption of Scyths from the trans-Caucasian region. In
that case we shall have to regard the invasion as a mere example of that
ever-recurring law by which the poor and hardy races of Upper Asia or
Europe are from time to time directed upon the effete kingdoms of the
south, to shake, ravage, or overturn them, as the case may be, and
prevent them from stagnating into corruption.

The character of the Scythians, and the general nature of their ravages,
have been described in a former portion of this work. If they entered
Southern Asia, as seems probable, by the Daghestan route, they would
then have been able to pass on without much difficulty, through Georgia
into Azerbijan, and from Azerbijan into Media Magna, where the Medes had
now established their southern capital. Four roads lead from Azerbijan
to Hamadan or the Greater Ecbatana, one through Menjil and Kasvin, and
across the Caraghan Hills; a second through Miana, Zenjan, and the
province of Khamseh; a third by the valley of the Jaghetu, through
Chukli and Tikan-Teppeh; and a fourth through Sefer-Khaneh and Sennah.
We cannot say which of the four the invaders selected; but, as they were
passing southwards, they met the army of Cyaxares, which had quitted
Nineveh on the first news of their invasion, and had marched in hot
haste to meet and engage them. The two enemies were not ill-matched.
Both were hardy and warlike, both active and full of energy; with both
the cavalry was the chief arm, and the bow the weapon on which they
depended mainly for victory. The Medes were no doubt the better
disciplined; they had a greater variety of weapons and of soldiers; and
individually they were probably more powerful men than the Scythians;
but these last had the advantage of numbers, of reckless daring, and of
tactics that it was difficult to encounter. Moreover, the necessity of
their situation in the midst of an enemy's country made it imperative on
them to succeed, while their adversaries might be defeated without any
very grievous consequences. The Scytho had not come into Asia to conquer
so much as to ravage; defeat at their hands involved damage rather than
destruction; and the Medes must have felt that, if they lost the battle,
they might still hope to maintain a stout defence behind the strong
walls of some of their towns. The result was such as might have been
expected under these circumstances. Madyes, the Scythian leader,
obtained the victory, Cyaxares was defeated, and compelled to make terms
with the invader. Retaining his royal name, and the actual government of
his country, he admitted the suzerainty of the Scyths, and agreed to pay
them an annual tribute. Whether Media suffered very seriously from their
ravages, we cannot say. Neither its wealth nor its fertility was such
as to tempt marauders to remain in it very long. The main complaint
made against the Scythian conquerors is that, not content with the
fixed tribute which they had agreed to receive, and which was paid them
regularly, they levied contributions at their pleasure on the various
states under their sway, which were oppressed by repeated exactions. The
injuries suffered from their marauding habits form only a subordinate
charge against them, as though it had not been practically felt to be
so great a grievance. We can well imagine that the bulk of the invaders
would prefer the warmer and richer lands of Assyria, Mesopotamia, and
Syria; and that, pouring into them, they would leave the colder and less
wealthy Media comparatively free from ravage.

The condition of Media and the adjacent countries under the Scythians
must have nearly resembled that of almost the same regions under
the Seljukian Turks during the early times of their domination. The
conquerors made no fixed settlements, but pitched their tents in any
portion of the territory that they chose. Their horses and cattle
were free to pasture on all lands equally. They were recognized as the
dominant race, were feared and shunned, but did not greatly interfere
with the bulk of their subjects. It was impossible that they should
occupy at any given time more than a comparatively few spots in the wide
tract which they had overrun and subjugated; and, consequently,
there was not much contact between them and the peoples whom they had
conquered. Such contact as there was must no doubt have been galling and
oppressive. The right of free pasture in the lands of others is always
irksome to those who have to endure it, and, even where it is exercised
with strict fairness, naturally leads to quarrels. The barbarous
Scythians are not likely to have cared very much about fairness. They
would press heavily upon the more fertile tracts, paying over-frequent
visits to such spots, and remaining in them till the region was
exhausted. The chiefs would not be able to restrain their followers
from acts of pillage; redress would be obtained with difficulty; and
sometimes even the chiefs themselves may have been sharers in the
injuries committed. The insolence, moreover, of a dominant race so
coarse and rude as the Scyths must have been very hard to bear; and we
can well understand that the various nations which had to endure the
yoke must have looked anxiously for an opportunity of shaking it off,
and recovering their independence.

Among these various nations, there was probably none that fretted and
winced under its subjection more than the Medes. Naturally brave and
high-spirited, with the love of independence inherent in mountaineers,
and with a well-grounded pride in their recent great successes, they
must have chafed daily and hourly at the ignominy of their position,
the postponement of their hopes, and the wrongs which they continually
suffered. At first it seemed necessary to endure. They had tried the
chances of a battle, and had been defeated in fair fight--what reason
was there to hope that, if they drew the sword again, they would be more
successful? Accordingly they remained quiet but, as time went on, and
the Scythians dispersed themselves continually over a wider and a
wider space, invading Assyria, Mesopotamia, Syria, Palestine, and again
Armenia and Cappadocia, everywhere plundering and marauding, conducting
sieges, fighting battles, losing men from the sword, from sickness, from
excesses, becoming weaker instead of stronger, as each year went by,
owing to the drain of constant wars--the Medes by degrees took heart.
Not trusting, however, entirely to the strength of their right arms, a
trust which had failed them once, they resolved to prepare the way for
an outbreak by a stratagem which they regarded as justifiable. Cyaxares
and his court invited a number of the Scythian chiefs to a grand
banquet, and, having induced them to drink till they were completely
drunk, set upon them when they were in this helpless condition, and
remorselessly slew them all.

This deed was the signal for a general revolt of the nation. The Medes
everywhere took arms, and, turning upon their conquerors, assailed them
with a fury the more terrible because it had been for years repressed.
A war followed, the duration and circumstances of which are unknown; for
the stories with which Ctesias enlivened this portion of his history can
scarcely be accepted as having any foundation in fact. According to him,
the Parthians made common cause with the Scythians on the occasion, and
the war lasted many years; numerous battles were fought with great loss
to both sides; and peace was finally concluded without either party
having gained the upper hand. The Scyths were commanded by a queen,
Zarina or Zarinsea, woman of rare beauty, and as brave as she was
fair; who won the hearts, when she could not resist the swords, of her
adversaries. A strangely romantic love-tale is told of this beauteous
Amazon. It is not at all clear what region Ctesias supposes her to
govern. It has a capital city, called Koxanace (a name entirely unknown
to any other historian or geographer), and it contains many other towns
of which Zarina was the foundress. Its chief architectural monument was
the tomb of Zarina, a triangular pyramid, six hundred feet high, and
more than a mile round the base, crowned by a colossal figure of the
queen made of solid gold. But--to leave these fables and return to
fact--we can only say with certainty that the result of the war was the
complete defeat of the Scythians, who not only lost their position of
pre-eminence in Media and the adjacent countries, but were driven across
the Caucasus into their own proper territory. Their expulsion was
so complete that they scarcely left a trace of their power or their
presence in the geography or ethnography of the country. One Palestine
city only, as already observed, and one Armenian province retained in
their names a lingering memory of the great inroad which but for them
would have passed away without making any more permanent mark on the
region than a hurricane or a snowstorm. How long the dominion of the
Scyths endured is a matter of great uncertainty. It was no doubt
the belief of Herodotus that from their defeat of Cyaxares to his
treacherous murder of their chiefs was a period of exactly twenty-eight
years. During the whole of this space he regarded them as the undisputed
lords of Asia. It was not till the twenty-eight years were over that
the Medes were able, according to him, to renew their attacks on the
Assyrians, and once more to besiege Nineveh. But this chronology is open
to great objections. There is strong reason for believing that Nineveh
fell about B.C. 625 or 624; but according to the numbers of Herodotus
the fall would, at the earliest, have taken place in B.C. 602. There is
great unlikelihood that the Scyths, if they had maintained their rule
for a generation, should not have attracted some distinct notice from
the Jewish writers. Again, if twenty-eight out of the forty years
assigned to Cyaxares are to be regarded as years of inaction, all his
great exploits, his two sieges of Nineveh, his capture of that capital,
his conquest of the countries north and west of Media as far as the
Halys, his six years' war in Asia Minor beyond that river, and his joint
expedition with Nebuchadnezzar into Syria, will have to be crowded most
improbably into the space of twelve years, two or three preceding and
ten or nine following the Scythian domination. These and other reasons
lead to the conclusion, which has the support of Eusebius, that
the Scythian domination was of much shorter duration than Herodotus
imagined. It may have been twenty-eight years from the original attack
on Media to the final expulsion of the last of the invaders from
Asia--and this may have been what the informants of Herodotus really
intended--but it cannot have been very long after the first attack
before the Medes began to recover themselves, to shake off the fear
which had possessed them and clear their territories of the invaders. If
the invasion really took place in the reign of Cyaxares, and not in the
lifetime of his father, where Eusebius places it, we must suppose that
within eight years of its occurrence Cyaxares found himself sufficiently
strong, and his hands sufficiently free, to resume his old projects, and
for the second time to march an army into Assyria.

The weakness of Assyria was such as to offer strong temptations to an
invader. As the famous inroad of the Gauls into Italy in the year of
Rome 365 paved the way for the Roman conquests in the peninsula by
breaking the power of the Etruscans, the Umbrians, and various other
races, so the Scythic incursion may have, really benefited, rather than
injured, Media, by weakening the great power to whose empire she
aspired to succeed. The exhaustion of Assyria's resources at the time is
remarkably illustrated by the poverty and meanness of the palace which
the last king, Saracus, built for himself at Calah. She lay, apparently,
at the mercy of the first bold assailant, her prestige lost, her army
dispirited or disorganized, her defences injured, her high spirit broken
and subdued.

Cyaxaros, ere proceeding to the attack, sent, it is probable, to make
an alliance with the Susianians and Chaldaeans. Susiana was the last
country which Assyria had conquered, and could remember the pleasures of
independence. Chaldaea, though it had been now for above half a century
an Assyrian fief, and had borne the yoke with scarcely a murmur during
that period, could never wholly forget its old glories, or the long
resistance which it had made before submitting to its northern neighbor.
The overtures of the Median monarch seem to have been favorably
received; and it was agreed that an army from the south should march up
the Tigris and threaten Assyria from that quarter, while Cyaxares
led his Medes from the east, through the passes of Zagros against the
capital. Rumor soon conveyed the tidings of his enemies' intentions to
the Assyrian monarch, who immediately made such a disposition of the
forces at his command as seemed best calculated to meet the double
danger which threatened him. Selecting from among his generals the
one in whom he placed most confidence--a man named Nabopolassar, most
probably an Assyrian--he put him at the head of a portion of his troops,
and sent him to Babylon to resist the enemy who was advancing from the
sea. The command of his main army he reserved for himself, intending to
undertake in person the defence of his territory against the Medes. This
plan of campaign was not badly conceived; but it was frustrated by an
unexpected calamity, Nabopolassar, seeing his sovereign's danger, and
calculating astutely that he might gain more by an opportune defection
from a falling cause than he could look to receive as the reward of
fidelity, resolved to turn traitor and join the enemies of Assyria.
Accordingly he sent an embassy to Cyaxares, with proposals for a close
alliance to be cemented by a marriage. If the Median monarch would
give his daughter Amuhia (or Amyitis) to be the wife of his son
Nebuchadnezzar, the forces under his command should march against
Nineveh and assist Cyaxares to capture it. Such a proposition arriving
at such a time was not likely to meet with a refusal. Cyaxares gladly
came into the terms; the marriage took place; and Nabopolassar, who had
now practically assumed the sovereignty of Babylon, either led or sent a
Babylonian contingent to the aid of the Medes.

The siege of Nineveh by the combined Medes and Babylonians was narrated
by Ctesias at some length. He called the Assyrian king Sardanapalus,
the Median commander Arbaces, the Babylonian Belesis. Though he thus
disguised the real names, and threw back the event to a period a century
and a half earlier than its true date, there can be no doubt that he
intended to relate the last siege of the city, that which immediately
preceded its complete destruction. He told how the combined army,
consisting of Persians and Arabs as well as of Medes and Babylonians,
and amounting to four hundred thousand men, was twice defeated with
great loss by the Assyrian monarch, and compelled to take refuge in
the Zagros chain--how after losing a third battle it retreated to
Babylonia--how it was there joined by strong reinforcements from
Bactria, surprised the Assyrian camp by night, and drove the whole host
in confusion to Nineveh--how then, after two more victories, it advanced
and invested the city, which was well provisioned for a siege and
strongly fortified. The siege, Ctesias said, had lasted two full years,
and the third year had commenced--success seemed still far off--when
an unusually rainy season so swelled the waters of the Tigris that they
burst into the city, sweeping away more than two miles of the wall.
This vast breach it was impossible to repair; and the Assyrian monarch,
seeing that further resistance was vain, brought the struggle to an end
by burning himself, with his concubines and eunuchs and all his chief
wealth, in his palace.

Such, in outline, was the story of Ctesias. If we except the extent
of the breach which the river is declared to have made, it contains no
glaring improbabilities. On the contrary, it is a narrative that hangs
well together, and that suits both the relations of the parties and
the localities. Moreover, it is confirmed in one or two points by
authorities of the highest order. Still, as Ctesias is a writer who
delights in fiction, and as it seems very unlikely that he would find a
detailed account of the siege, such as he has given us, in the Persian
archives, from whence he professed to derive his history, no confidence
can be placed in those points of his narrative which have not any
further sanction. All that we know on the subject of the last siege
of Nineveh is that it was conducted by a combined army of Medes
and Babylonians, the former commanded by Cyaxares, the latter by
Nabopolassar or Nebuchadnezzar, and that it was terminated, when
all hope was lost, by the suicide of the Assyrian monarch. The
self-immolation of Saracus is related by Abydenus, who almost certainly
follows Berosus in this part of his history. We may therefore accept
it as a fact about which there ought to be no question. Actuated by
a feeling which has more than once caused a vanquished monarch to die
rather than fall into the power of his enemies, Saracus made a funeral
pyre of his ancestral palace, and lighted it with his own hand.

One further point in the narrative of Ctesias we may suspect to contain
a true representation. Ctesias declared the cause of the capture to
have been the destruction of the city wall by an unexpected rise of the
river. Now, the prophet Nahum, in his announcement of the fate coming on
Nineveh, has a very remarkable expression, which seems most naturally to
point to some destruction of a portion of the fortifications by means of
water. After relating the steps that would be taken for the defence of
the place, he turns to remark on their fruitlessness, and says: "The
gates of the rivers are opened, and the palace is dissolved; and Huzzab
is led away captive; she is led up, with her maidens, sighing as with
the voice of doves, smiting upon their breasts." Now, we have already
seen that at the northwest angle of Nineveh there was a sluice or
floodgate, intended mainly to keep the water of the Khosrsu, which
ordinarily filled the city moat, from flowing off too rapidly into the
Tigris, but probably intended also to keep back the water of the Tigris,
when that stream rose above its common level. A sudden and great rise
of the Tigris would necessarily endanger this gate, and if it gave way
beneath the pressure, a vast torrent of water would rush up the moat
along and against the northern wall, which may have been undermined by
its force, and have fallen in. The stream would then pour into the city;
and it may perhaps have reached the palace platform, which being made
of sun-dried bricks, and probably not cased with stone inside the
city, would begin to be "dissolved." Such seems the simplest and best
interpretation of this passage, which, though it is not historical, but
only prophetical, must be regarded as giving an importance that it would
not otherwise have possessed to the statement of Ctesias with regard to
the part played by the Tigris in the destruction of Nineveh.

The fall of the city was followed by a division of the spoil between the
two principal conquerors. While Cyaxares took to his own share the land
of the conquered people, Assyria Proper, and the countries dependent on
Assyria towards the north and north-west, Nabopolassar was allowed, not
merely Babylonia, Chaldaea, and Susiana, but the valley of the Euphrates
and the countries to which that valley conducted. Thus two considerable
empires arose at the same time cut of the ashes of Assyria--the
Babylonian towards the south and the south-west, stretching from
Luristan to the borders of Egypt, the Median towards the north, reaching
from the salt desert of Iran to Amanus and the Upper Euphrates.
These empires were established by mutual consent; they were connected
together, not merely by treaties, but by the ties of affinity which
united their rulers; and, instead of cherishing, as might have been
expected, a mutual suspicion and distrust, they seem to have really
entertained the most friendly feelings towards one another, and to have
been ready on all emergencies to lend each other important assistance.
For once in the history of the world two powerful monarchies were seen
to stand side by side, not only without collision, but without jealousy
or rancor. Babylonia and Media were content to share between them the
empire of Western Asia: the world was, they thought, wide enough for
both; and so, though they could not but have had in some respects
conflicting interests, they remained close friends and allies for more
than half a century.

To the Median monarch the conquest of Assyria did not bring a time
of repose. Wandering bands of Scythians were still, it is probable,
committing ravages in many parts of Western Asia. The subjects of
Assyria, set free by her downfall, were likely to use the occasion for
the assertion of their independence, if they were not immediately shown
that a power of at least equal strength had taken her place, and was
prepared to claim her inheritance. War begets war; and the successes of
Cyaxares up to the present point in his career did but whet his appetite
for power, and stimulate him to attempt further conquests. In brief but
pregnant words Herodotus informs us that Cyaxares "subdued to himself
all Asia above the Halys." How much he may include in this expression,
it is impossible to determine; but, _prime facie_, it would seem at
least to imply that he engaged in a series of wars with the various
tribes and nations which intervened between Media and Assyria on the one
side and the river Halys on the other, and that he succeeded in bringing
them under his dominion. The most important countries in this direction
were Armenia and Cappadocia. Armenia, strong in its lofty mountains,
its deep gorges, and its numerous rapid rivers--the head-streams of
the Tigris, Euphrates, Kur, and Aras--had for centuries resisted with
unconquered spirit the perpetual efforts of the Assyrian kings to bring
it under their yoke, and had only at last consented under the latest
king but one to a mere nominal allegiance. Cappadocia had not even been
brought to this degree of dependence. It had lain beyond the furthest
limit whereto the Assyrian arms had ever reached, and had not as yet
come into collision with any of the great powers of Asia. Other minor
tribes in this region, neighbors of the Armenians and Cappadocians, but
more remote from Media, were the Ibenans, the Colchians, the Moschi, the
Tibareni, the Mares the Macrones, and the Mosynoeci. Herodotus appears
to have been of opinion that all these tribes, or at any rate all but
the Colchians, were at this time brought under by Cyaxares who thus
extended his dominions to the Caucasus and the Black Sea upon the north,
and upon the east to the Kizil Irmak or Halys.

It is possible that the reduction of these countries under the Median
yoke was not so much a conquest as a voluntary submission of the
inhabitants to the power which alone seemed strong enough to save them
from the hated domination of the Scyths. According to Strabo, Armenia
and Cappadocia were the regions where the Scythic ravages had been most
severely felt. Cappadocia had been devastated from the mountains down
to the coast; and in Armenia the most fertile portion of the whole
territory had been seized and occupied by the invaders, from whom it
thenceforth took the name of Sacassene, the Armenians and Cappadocians
may have found the yoke of the Scyths so intolerable as to have gladly
exchanged it for dependence on a comparatively civilized people. In
the neighboring territory of Asia Minor a similar cause had recently
exercised a unifying influence, the necessity of combining to resist
Cimmerian immigrants having tended to establish a hegemony of Lydia over
the various tribes which divided among them the tract west of the Halys.
It is evidently not improbable that the sufferings endured at the hands
of the Scyths may have disposed the nations east of the river to adopt
the same remedy and that, so soon as Media had proved her strength,
first by shaking herself free of the Scythic invaders and then
conquering Assyria. the tribes of these parts accepted her as at once
their mistress and their deliverer.

Another quite distinct cause may also have helped to bring about the
result above indicated. Parallel with the great Median migration from
the East under Cyaxares, or Phraortes (?), his father, an Arian influx
had taken place into the countries between the Caspian and the Halys.
In Armenia and Cappadocia during the flourishing period of Assyria,
Turanian tribes had been predominant. Between the middle and the end of
the seventh century these tribes appear to have yielded the supremacy to
Arians. In Armenia, the present language which is predominantly
Arian, ousted the former Turaman tongue which appears in the cuneiform
inscriptions of Van and the adjacent regions. In Cappadocia, the Moschi
and Tibareni had to yield their seats to a new race--the Katapatuka, who
were not only Arian but distinctly Medo-Persic, as is plain from their
proper names, and from the close connection of their royal house
with that of the kings of Persia. This spread of the Arians into the
countries lying between the Caspian and the Halys must have done much to
pave the way for Median supremacy over those regions. The weaker Arian
tribes of the north would have been proud of their southern brethren, to
whose arms the queen of Western Asia had been forced to yield, and
would have felt comparatively little repugnance in surrendering their
independence into the hands of a friendly and kindred people.

Thus Cyaxares, in his triumphant progress to the north and the
north-west, made war, it is probable, chiefly upon the Scyths, or upon
them and the old Turanian inhabitants of the countries, while by
the Arians he was welcomed as a champion come to deliver them from
a grievous oppression. Ranging themselves under his standard, they
probably helped him to expel from Asia the barbarian hordes which had
now for many years tyrannized over them; and when the expulsion was
completed, gratitude or habit made them willing to continue in the
subject position which they had assumed in order to effect it. Cyaxares
within less than ten years from his capture of Nineveh had added to his
empire the fertile and valuable tracts of Armenia and Cappadocia--never
really subject to Assyria--and may perhaps have further mastered the
entire region between Armenia and the Caucasus and Euxine.

The advance of their western frontier to the river Halys, which was
involved in the absorption of Cappadocia into the Empire, brought the
Medes into contact with a new power--a power which, like Media, had been
recently increasing in greatness, and which was not likely to submit to
a foreign yoke without a struggle. The Lydian kingdom was one of great
antiquity in this part of Asia. According to traditions current among
its people, it had been established more than seven hundred years at the
time when Cyaxares pushed his conquests to its borders. Three dynasties
of native kings--Atyadse, Heraclidse, and Mermnadae--had successively
held the throne during that period. The Lydians could repeat the names
of at least thirty monarchs who had borne sway in Sardis, their capital
city, since its foundation. They had never been conquered. In the old
times, indeed, Lydus, the son of Atys, had changed the name of the
people inhabiting the country from Maeonians to Lydians--a change which
to the keen sense of an historical critic implies a conquest of one race
by another. But to the people themselves this tradition conveyed no such
meaning; or, if it did to any, their self-complacency was not disturbed
thereby, since they would hug the notion that they belonged not to the
conquered race but to the conquerors. If a Ramcsos or a Sesostris had
ever penetrated to their country, he had met with a brave resistance,
and had left monuments indicating his respect for their courage.
Neither Babylon nor Assyria had ever given a king to the Lydians--on the
contrary, the Lydian tradition was, that they had themselves sent forth
Belus and Ninus from their own country to found dynasties and cities in
Mesopotamia. In a still more remote age they had seen their colonists
embark upon the western waters, and start for the distant Hesperia,
where they had arrived in safety, and had founded the great Etruscan
nation. On another occasion they had carried their arms beyond the
limits of Asia Minor, and had marched southward to the very extremity
of: Syria, where their general, Ascalus, had founded a great city and
called it after his name.

Such were the Lydian traditions with respect to the more remote times.
Of their real history they seem to have known but little, and that
little did not extend further back than about two hundred years before
Cyaxares. Within this space it was certain that they had had a change
of dynasty, a change preceded by a long feud between their two greatest
houses, which were perhaps really two branches of the royal family. The
Heraclidae had grown jealous of the Mermnadae, and had treated them with
injustice; the Mormnadae had at first sought their safety in flight,
and afterwards, when they felt themselves strong enough, had returned,
murdered the Heraclide monarch, and placed their chief, Gyges, upon
the throne. With Gyges, who had commenced his reign about B.C. 700, the
prosperity of the Lydians had greatly increased, and they had begun to
assume an aggressive attitude towards their neighbors. Gyges' revenue
was so great that his wealth became proverbial, and he could afford to
spread his fame by sending from his superfluity to the distant temple
of Delphi presents of such magnificence that they were the admiration
of later ages. The relations of his predecessors with the Greeks of
the Asiatic coast had been friendly, Gyges changed this policy, and,
desirous of enlarging his seaboard, made war upon the Greek maritime
towns, attacking Miletus and Smyrna without result, but succeeding in
capturing the Ionic city of Colophon. He also picked a quarrel with
the inland town of Magnesia, and after many invasions of its territory
compelled it to submission. According to some, he made himself master
of the whole territory of the Troad, and the Milesians had to obtain his
permission before they could establish their colony of Abydos upon the
Hellespont. At any rate he was a rich and puissant monarch in the
eyes of the Greeks of Asia and the islands, who were never tired of
celebrating his wealth, his wars, and his romantic history.

The shadow of calamity had, however, fallen upon Lydia towards the close
of Gyges' long reign. About thirty years before the Scythians from
the Steppe country crossed the Caucasus and fell upon Media, the same
barrier was passed by another groat horde of nomads. The Cimmerians,
probably a Celtic people, who had dwelt hitherto in the Tauric
Chersonese and the country adjoining upon it, pressed on by Scythic
invaders from the East, had sought a vent in this direction. Passing
the great mountain barrier either by the route of Mozdok--the Pylas
Caucasiae--or by some still more difficult track towards the Euxine,
they had entered Asia Minor by way of Cappadocia and had spread terror
and devastation in every direction. Gyges, alarmed at their advance, had
placed himself under the protection of Assyria, and had then confidently
given them battle, defeated them, and captured several of their chiefs.
It is uncertain whether the Assyrians gave him any material aid, but
evident that he ascribed his success to his alliance with them. In his
gratitude he sent an embassy to Asshur-bani-pal, king of Assyria, and
courted his favor by presents and by sending him his Cimmerian captives.
Later in his reign, however, he changed his policy, and, breaking with
Assyria, gave aid to the Egyptian rebel, Psammetichus, and helped him
to establish his independence. The result followed which was to be
expected. Assyria withdrew her protection; and Lydia was left to fight
her own battles when the great crisis came. Carrying all before them,
the fierce hordes swarmed in full force into the more western districts
of Asia Minor; Paphlagonia, Phrygia, Bithynia, Lydia, and Ionia were
overrun; Gyges, venturing on an engagement, perished; the frightened
inhabitants generally shut themselves up in their walled towns, and
hoped that the tide of invasion might sweep by them quickly and roll
elsewhere; but the Cimmerians, impatient and undisciplined as they
might be, could sometimes bring themselves to endure the weary work of a
siege, and they saw in the Lydian capital a prize well worth an effort.
The hordes besieged Sardis, and took it, except the citadel, which was
commandingly placed and defied all their attempts. A terrible scene of
carnage must have followed. How Lydia withstood the blow, and rapidly
recovered from it, is hard to understand; but it seems certain that
within a generation she was so far restored to vigor as to venture
on resuming her attacks upon the Greeks of the coast, which had been
suspended during her period of prostration. Sadyattes, the son of
Ardys, and grandson of Gyges, following the example of his father and
grandfather, made war upon Miletus; and Alyattes, his son and successor,
pursued the same policy of aggression. Besides pressing Miletus, he
besieged and took Smyrna, and ravaged the territory of Clazomenae.

But the great work of Alyattes' reign, and the one which seems to have
had the most important consequences for Lydia, was the war which he
undertook for the purpose of expelling the Cimmerians from Asia Minor.
The hordes had been greatly weakened by time, by their losses in war,
and, probably by their excesses; they had long ceased to be formidable;
but they were still strong enough to be an annoyance. Alyattes is said
to have "driven them out of Asia," by which we can scarcely understand
less than that he expelled them from his own dominions and those of his
neighbors--or, in other words, from the countries which had been the
scenes of their chief ravages--Paphlagonia, Bithynia, Lydia, Phrygia,
and Cilicia. But, to do this, he must have entered into a league with
his neighbors, who must have consented to act under him for the purposes
of war, if they did not even admit the permanent hegemony of his
country. Alyattes' success appears to have been complete, or nearly so;
he cleared Asia Minor of the Cimmerians; and having thus conferred a
benefit on all the nations of the region and exhibited before their
eyes his great military capacity, if he had not actually constructed an
empire, he had at any rate done much to pave the way for one.

Such was the political position in the regions west and south of the
Halys, when Cyaxares completed his absorption of Cappadocia, and looking
across the river that divided the Cappadocians from the Phrygians, saw
stretched before him a region of great fertile plains, which seemed to
invite an invader. A pretext for an attack was all that he wanted,
and this was soon forthcoming. A body of the nomad Scyths--probably
belonging to the great invasion, though Herodotus thought otherwise--had
taken service under Cyaxares, and for some time served him faithfully,
being employed chiefly as hunters. A cause of quarrel, however, arose
after a while; and the Scyths, disliking their position or distrusting
the intentions of their lords towards them, quitted the Median
territory, and, marching through a great part of Asia Minor, sought and
found a refuge with Alyattes, the Lydian king. Cyaxares, upon learning
their flight, sent an embassy to the court of Sardis to demand the
surrender of the fugitives; but the Lydian monarch met the demand with a
refusal, and, fully understanding the probable consequences, immediately
prepared for war.

Though Lydia, compared to Media, was but a small state, yet her
resources were by no means inconsiderable. In fertility she surpassed
almost every other country of Asia Minor, which is altogether one of
the richest regions in the world. At this time she was producing large
quantities of gold, which was found in great abundance in the Pactolus,
and probably in the other small streams that flowed down on all sides
from the Tmolus mountain-chain. Her people were at once warlike and
ingenious. They had invented the art of coining money, and showed
considerable taste in their devices. [PLATE VII., Fig. 1], They claimed
also to have been the inventors of a number of games, which were common
to them with the Greeks. According to Herodotus, they were the first
who made a livelihood by shop-keeping. They were skilful in the use of
musical instruments, and had their own peculiar musical mode or style,
which was in much favor among the Greeks, though condemned as effeminate
by some of the philosophers. At the same time the Lydians were not
wanting in courage or manliness. They fought chiefly on horseback, and
were excellent riders, carrying long spears, which they managed with
great skill. Nicolas of Damascus tells us that even under the Heraclido
kings, they could muster for service cavalry to the number of 30,000. In
peace they pursued with ardor the sports of the field, and found in the
chase of the wild boar a pastime which called forth and exercised every
manly quality. Thus Lydia, even by herself, was no contemptible enemy;
though it can hardly be supposed that, without help from others, she
would have proved a match for the Great Median Empire.

[Illustration: PLATE VII.]

But such help as she needed was not wanting to her. The rapid strides
with which Media had advanced towards the west had no doubt alarmed the
numerous princes of Asia Minor, who must have felt that they had a power
to deal with as full of schemes of conquest as Assyria, and more capable
of carrying her designs into execution. It has been already observed
that the long course of Assyrian aggressions developed gradually among
the Asiatic tribes a tendency to unite in leagues for purposes of
resistance. The circumstances of the time called now imperatively
for such a league to be formed, unless the princes of Asia Minor were
content to have their several territories absorbed one after another
into the growing Median Empire. These princes appear to have seen their
danger. Cyaxares may perhaps have, declared war specially against the
Lydians, and have crossed the Halys professedly in order to chastise
them; but he could only reach Lydia through the territories of other
nations, which he was evidently intending to conquer on his way; and
it was thus apparent that he was activated, not by anger against a
particular power, but by a general design of extending his dominions in
this direction. A league seems therefore to have been determined on. We
have not indeed any positive evidence of its existence till the close of
the war; but the probabilities are wholly in favor of its having taken
effect from the first. Prudence would have dictated such a course; and
it seems almost implied in the fact that a successful resistance was
made to the Median attack from the very commencement. We may conclude
therefore that the princes of Asia Minor, having either met in conclave
or communicated by embassies, resolved to make common cause, if the
Medes crossed the Halys; and that, having already acted under Lydia in
the expulsion of the Cimmerians from their territories, they naturally
placed her at their head when they coalesced for the second time.

Cyaxares on his part, was not content to bring against the confederates
merely the power of Media. He requested and obtained a contingent from
the Babylonian monarch, Nabopolassar, and may not improbably have had
the assistance of other allies also. With a vast army drawn from various
parts of inner Asia, he invaded the territory of the Western Powers,
and began his attempt at subjugation. We have no detailed account of
the war; but we learn from the general expressions of Herodotus that the
Median monarch met with a most stubborn resistance; numerous engagements
were fought with varied results; sometimes the Medes succeeded in
defeating their adversaries in pitched battles; but sometimes, and
apparently as often, the Lydians and their allies gained decided
victories over the Medes. It is noted that one of the engagements took
place by night, a rare occurrence in ancient (as in modern) times. The
war had continued six years, and the Medes had evidently made no serious
impression, when a remarkable circumstance brought it suddenly to
a termination. The two armies had once more met and were engaged in
conflict, when, in the midst of the struggle, an ominous darkness fell
upon the combatants and filled them with superstitious awe. The sun
was eclipsed, either totally or at any rate considerably, so that the
attention of the two armies was attracted to it; and, discontinuing the
fight, they stood to gaze at the phenomenon. In most parts of the
East such an occurrence is even now seen with dread--the ignorant mass
believe that the orb of day is actually being devoured or destroyed,
and that the end of all things is at hand--even the chiefs, who may have
some notion that the phenomenon is a recurrent one, do not understand
its cause, and participate in the alarm of their followers. On the
present occasion it is said that, amid the general fear, a desire for
reconciliation seized both armies. Of this spontaneous movement two
chiefs, the foremost of the allies on either side, took advantage.
Syennesis, king of Cilicia, the first known monarch of his name, on
the part of Lydia, and a prince whom Herodotus calls "Labynetus of
Babylon"--probably either Nabopolassar or Nebuchadnezzar--on the part
of Media, came forward to propose an immediate armistice; and, when the
proposal was accepted on either side, proceeded to the more difficult
task of arranging terms of peace between the contending parties. Since
nothing is said of the Scythians, who had been put forward as the
ostensible grounds of quarrel, we may presume that Alyattes retained
them. It is further clear that both he and his allies preserved
undiminished both their territories and their independence. The
territorial basis of the treaty was thus what in modern diplomatic
language is called the status quo; matters, in other words, returned to
the position in which they had stood before the war broke out. The only
difference was that Cyaxares gained a friend and an ally where he had
previously had a jealous enemy; since it was agreed that the two kings
of Media and Lydia should swear a friendship, and that, to cement the
alliance, Alyattes should give his daughter Aryenis in marriage to
Astyages, the son of Cyaxares. The marriage thus arranged took place
soon afterwards, while the oath of friendship was sworn at once.
According to the barbarous usages of the time and place, the two
monarchs, having met and repeated the words of the formula, punctured
their own arms, and then sealed their contract by each sucking from the
wound a portion of the other's blood.

By this peace the three great monarchies of the time--the Median, the
Lydian, and the Babylonian--were placed on terms, not only of amity,
but of intimacy and (if the word may be used) of blood relationship. The
Crown Princes of the three kingdoms had become brothers. From the shores
of the Aegean to those of the Persian Gulf, Western Asia was now ruled
by interconnected dynasties, bound by treaties to respect each other's
rights, and perhaps to lend each other aid in important conjunctures,
and animated, it would seem, by a real spirit of mutual friendliness and
attachment. After more than five centuries of almost constant war and
ravage, after fifty years of fearful strife and convulsion, during
which the old monarchy of Assyria had gone down and a new Empire--the
Median--had risen up in its place, this part of Asia entered upon a
period of repose which stands out in strong contrast with the long term
of struggle. From the date of the peace between Alyattes and Cyaxares
(probably B.C. 610), for nearly half a century, the three kingdoms
of Media, Lydia, and Babylonia remained fast friends, pursuing their
separate courses without quarrel or collision, and thus giving to the
nations within their borders a rest and a refreshment which they must
have greatly needed and desired.

In one quarter only was this rest for a short time disturbed. During the
troublous period the neighboring country of Egypt, which had recovered
its freedom, and witnessed a revival of its ancient prosperity, under
the Psamatik family, began once more to aspire to the possession of
those provinces which, being divided off from the rest of the Asiatic
continent by the impassable Syrian desert, seems politically to belong
to Africa almost more than to Asia. Psamatik I., the Psammetichus of
Herodotus, had commenced an aggressive war in this quarter, probably
about the time that Assyria was suffering from the Median and then
from the Scythian inroads. He had besieged for several years the strong
Philistine town of Ashdod, which commands the coast-route from Egypt
to Palestine, and was at this time a most important city. Despite a
resistance which would have wearied out any less pertinacious assailant,
he had persevered in his attempt, and had finally succeeded in taking
the place. He had thus obtained a firm footing in Syria; and his
successor was, able, starting from this vantage-ground, to overrun
and conquer the whole territory. About the year B.C. 608, Neco, son of
Psamatik I., having recently ascended the throne, invaded Palestine with
a large army, met and defeated Josiah, king of Judah, near Megiddo in
the great plain of Esdraelon, and, pressing forward through Syria to the
Euphrates, attacked and took Carchemish, the strong city which guarded
the ordinary passage of the river. Idumea, Palestine, Phoenicia, and
Syria submitted to him, and for three years he remained in undisturbed
possession of his conquest. Then, however, the Babylonians, who had
received these provinces at the division of the Assyrian Empire, began
to bestir themselves. Nebuchadnezzar marched to Carchemish, defeated the
army of Neco, recovered all the territory to the border of Egypt, and
even ravaged a portion of that country. It is probable that in this
expedition he was assisted by the Medes. At any rate, seven or eight
years afterwards, when the intrigues of Egypt had again created
disturbances in this quarter, and Jehoiakim, the Jewish king, broke
into open insurrection, the Median monarch sent a contingent, which
accompanied Nebuchadnezzar into Judaea, and assisted him to establish
his power firmly in South-Western Asia.

This is the last act that we can ascribe to the great Median king. He
can scarcely have been much less than seventy years old at this time;
and his life was prolonged at the utmost three years longer. According
to Herodotus, he died B.C. 593, after a reign of exactly forty years,
leaving his crown to his son Astyages, whose marriage with a Lydian
princess was above related.

We have no sufficient materials from which to draw out a complete
character of Cyaxares. He appears to have possessed great ambition,
considerable military ability, and a rare tenacity of purpose, which
gained him his chief successes. At the same time he was not wanting in
good sense, and could bring himself to withdraw from an enterprise, when
he had misjudged the fitting time for it, or greatly miscalculated its
difficulties. He was faithful to his friends, but thought treachery
allowable towards his enemies. He knew how to conquer, but not how to
organize, an empire; and, if we except his establishment of Magism,
as the religion of the state, we may say that he did nothing to
give permanency to the monarchy which he founded. He was a conqueror
altogether after the Asiatic model, able to wield the sword, but not to
guide the pen, to subdue his contemporaries to his will by his
personal ascendency over them, but not to influence posterity by the
establishment of a kingdom, or of institutions, on deep and stable
foundations. The Empire, which owed to him its foundation, was the most
shortlived of all the great Oriental monarchies, having begun and
ended within the narrow space of three score and ten years--the natural
lifetime of an individual.

Astyages, who succeeded to the Median throne about B.C. 593, had neither
his father's enterprise nor his ability. Born to an empire, and bred
up in all the luxury of an Oriental Court, he seems to have been quite
content with the lot which fortune appeared to have assigned him, and to
have coveted no grander position. Tradition says that he was remarkably
handsome, cautious, and of an easy and generous temper. Although
the anecdotes related of his mode of life at Ecbatana by Herodotus,
Xenophon, and Nicolas of Damascus, seem to be for the most part
apocryphal, and at any rate come to us upon authority too weak to
entitle them to a place in history, we may perhaps gather from the
concurrent, descriptions of these three writers something of the general
character of the Court over which he presided. Its leading features do
not seem to have differed greatly from those of the Court of Assyria.
The monarch lived secluded, and could only be seen by those who asked
and obtained an audience. He was surrounded by guards and eunuchs, the
latter of whom held most of the offices near the royal person. The Court
was magnificent in its apparel, in its banquets, and in the number and
organization of its attendants. The courtiers wore long flowing robes
of many different colors, amongst which red and purple predominated,
and adorned their necks with chains or collars of gold, and their wrists
with bracelets of the same precious metal. Even the horses on which
they rode had sometimes golden bits to their bridles. One officer of the
Court was especially called "the King's Eye;" another had the privilege
of introducing strangers to him; a third was his cupbearer; a fourth his
messenger. Guards torch-bearers, serving-men, ushers, and sweepers, were
among the orders into which the lower sort of attendants were divided;
while among the courtiers of the highest rank was a privileged class
known as "the King's table-companions". The chief pastime in which
the Court indulged was hunting. Generally this took place in a park or
"paradise" near the capital; but sometimes the King and Court went out
on a grand hunt into the open country, where lions, leopards, bears,
wild boars, wild asses, antelopes, stags, and wild sheep abounded,
and, when the beasts had been driven by beaters into a confined space,
despatched them with arrows and javelins.

Prominent at the Court, according to Herodotus, was the priestly caste
of the Magi. Held in the highest honor by both King and people, they
were in constant attendance, ready to expound omens or dreams, and
to give their advice on all matters of state policy. The religious
ceremonial was, as a matter of course, under their charge; and it is
probable that high state offices were often conferred upon them. Of all
classes of the people they were the only one that could feel they had
a real influence over the monarch, and might claim to share in his

The long reign of Astyages seems to have been almost undisturbed, until
just before its close, by wars or rebellions. Eusebius indeed relates
that he, and not Cyaxares, carried on the great Lydian contest; and
Moses of Chorene declares that he was engaged in a long struggle with
Tigranes, an Armenian king. But little credit can be attached to these
statements, the former of which contradicts Herodotus, while the latter
is wholly unsupported by any other writer. The character which Cyaxares
bore among the Greeks was evidently that of an unwarlike king. If he had
really carried his arms into the heart of Asia Minor, and threatened the
whole of that extensive region with subjugation, we can scarcely suppose
that he would have been considered so peaceful a ruler. Neither is
it easy to imagine that in that case no classical writer--not even
Ctesias--would have taxed Herodotus with an error that must have been
so flagrant. With respect to the war with Tigranes, it is just possible
that it may have a basis of truth; there may have been a revolt of
Armenia from Astyages under a certain Tigranes, followed by an attempt
at subjugation. But the slender authority of Moses is insufficient to
establish the truth of his story, which is internally improbable and
quite incompatible with the narrative of Herodotus.

There are some grounds for believing that in one direction Astyages
succeeded in slightly extending the limits of his empire. But he owed
his success to prudent management, and not to courage or military skill.
On the north-eastern frontier, occupying the low country now known as
Talish and Ghilan, was a powerful tribe called Cadusians, probably of
Arian origin, which had hitherto maintained its independence. This would
not be surprising, if we could accept the statement of Diodorus that
they were able to bring into the field 200,000 men. But this account,
which probably came from Ctesias, and is wholly without corroboration
from other writers, has the air of a gross exaggeration; and we may
conclude from the general tenor of ancient history that the Cadusians
were more indebted to the strength of their country, than to either
their numbers or their prowess, for the freedom and independence which
they were still enjoying. It seems that they were at this time under the
government of a certain king, or chief, named Aphernes, or Onaphernes.
This ruler was, it appears, doubtful of his position, and, thinking it
could not be long maintained, made overtures of surrender to Astyages,
which were gladly entertained by that monarch. A secret treaty was
concluded to the satisfaction of both parties; and the Cadusians, it
would seem, passed under the Medes by this arrangement, without any
hostile struggle, though armed resistance on the part of the people, who
were ignorant of the intentions of their chieftain, was for some time

The domestic relations of Astyages seem to have been unhappy. His
"marriage de convenance" with the Lydian princess Aryenis, if not wholly
unfruitful, at any rate brought him no son; and, as he grew to old
age, the absence of such support to the throne must have been felt very
sensibly, and have caused great uneasiness. The want of an heir perhaps
led him to contract those other marriages of which we hear in the
Armenian History of Moses--one with a certain Anusia, of whom nothing
more is known; and another with an Armenian princess, the loveliest of
her sex, Tigrania, sister of the Armenian king, Tigranes. The blessing
of male offspring was still, however, denied him; and it is even
doubtful whether he was really the father of any daughter or daughters.
Herodotus, and Xenophon, indeed give him a daughter Mandane, whom they
make the mother of Cyrus; and Ctesias, who denied in the most positive
terms the truth of this statement, gave him a daughter, Amytis, whom he
made the wife, first of Spitaces the Mede, and afterwards of Cyrus the
Persian. But these stories, which seem intended to gratify the vanity of
the Persians by tracing the descent of their kings to the great Median
conqueror, while at the same time they flattered the Medes by showing
them that the issue of their old monarchs was still seated on the Arian
throne, are entitled to little more credit than the narrative of the
Shahnameh, which declares that Iskander (Alexander) was the son of Darab
(Darius) and of a daughter of Failakus (Philip of Macedon). When an
oriental crown passes from one dynasty to another, however foreign and
unconnected, the natives are wont to invent a relationship between the
two houses, which both parties are commonly quite ready to accept; as
it suits the rising house to be provided with a royal ancestry, and it
pleases the fallen one and its partisans to see in the occupants of the
throne a branch of the ancient stock--a continuation of the legitimate
family. Tales therefore of the above-mentioned kind are, historically
speaking, valueless; and it must remain uncertain whether the second
Median monarch had any child at all, either male or female.

Old age was now creeping upon the sonless king. If he was sixteen
or seventeen years old at the time of his contract of marriage with
Aryenis, he must have been nearly seventy in B.C. 558, when the revolt
occurred which terminated both his reign and his kingdom. It appears
that the Persian branch of the Arian race, which had made itself a home
in the country lying south and south-east of Media, between the 32nd
parallel and the Persian gulf, had acknowledged some subjection to
the Median kings during the time of their greatness. Dwelling in their
rugged mountains and high upland plains, they had however maintained the
simplicity of their primitive manners, and had mixed but little with
the Medes, being governed by their own native princes of the Achasmenian
house, the descendants, real or supposed, of a certain Achajmenes. These
princes were connected by marriage with the Cappadocian kings; and their
house was regarded as one of the noblest in Western Asia. What the exact
terms were upon which they stood with the Median monarch is uncertain.
Herodotus regards Persia as absorbed into Media at this time, and the
Achsemenidse as merely a good Persian family. Nicolas of Damascus makes
Persia a Median satrapy, of which Atradates, the father of Cyrus, is
satrap, Xenophon, on the contrary, not only gives the Achajmenidae their
royal rank, but seems to consider Persia as completely independent of
Media; Moses of Chorene takes the same view, regarding Cyrus as a great
and powerful sovereign during the reign of Astyages. The native records
lean towards the view of Xenophon and Moses. Darius declares that eight
of his race had been kings before himself, and makes no difference
between his own royalty and theirs. Cyrus calls himself in one
inscription "the son of Cambyses, the powerful king." It is certain
therefore that Persia continued to be ruled by her own native monarchs
during the whole of the Median period, and that Cyrus led the attack
upon Astyages as hereditary Persian king. The Persian records seem
rather to imply actual independence of Media; but as national vanity
would prompt to dissimulation in such a case, we may perhaps accord so
much weight to the statement of Herodotus, and to the general tradition
on the subject, as to believe that there was some kind of acknowledgment
of Median supremacy on the part of the Persian kings anterior to Cyrus,
though the acknowledgment may have been not much more than a formality
and have imposed no onerous obligations. The residence of Cyrus at the
Median Court, which is asserted in almost every narrative of his life
before he became king, inexplicable if Persia was independent, becomes
thoroughly intelligible on the supposition that she was a great Median
feudatory. In such cases the residence of the Crown Prince at the
capital of the suzerain is constantly desired, or even required by the
superior Power, which sees in the presence of the son and heir the best
security against disaffection or rebellion on the part of the father.

It appears that Cyrus, while at the Median Court, observing the
unwarlike temper of the existing generation of the Medes, who had not
seen any actual service, and despising the personal character of the
monarch, who led a luxurious life, chiefly at Ecbatana, amid eunuchs,
concubines, and dancing-girls, resolved on raising the standard of
rebellion, and seeking at any rate to free his own country. It may be
suspected that the Persian prince was not actuated solely by political
motives. To earnest Zoroastrians, such as the Achgemenians are shown
to have been by their inscriptions, the yoke of a Power which had so
greatly corrupted, if it had not wholly laid aside, the worship of
Ormazd, must have been extremely distasteful; and Cyrus may have wished
by his rebellion as much to vindicate the honor of his religion--as to
obtain a loftier position for his nation. If the Magi occupied really
the position at the Median Court which Herodotus assigns to them--if
they "were held in high honor by the king, and shared in his
sovereignty"--if the priest-ridden monarch was perpetually dreaming and
perpetually referring his dreams to the Magian seers for exposition, and
then guiding his actions by the advice they tendered him, the religious
zeal of the young Zoroastrian may very naturally have been aroused, and
the contest into which he plunged may have been, in his eyes, not so
much a national struggle as a crusade against the infidels. It will be
found hereafter that religious fervor animated the Persians in most
of those wars by which they spread their dominion. We may suspect,
therefore, though it must be admitted we cannot prove, that a religious
motive was among those which led them to make their first efforts after

According to the account of the struggle which is most circumstantial,
and on the whole most probable, the first difficulty which the would-be
rebel had to meet and vanquish was that of quitting the Court. Alleging
that his father was in weak health, and required his care, he requested
leave of absence for a short time; but his petition was refused on the
flattering ground that the Great King was too much attached to him to
lose sight of him even for a day. A second application, however, made
through a favorite eunuch after a certain interval of time, was more
successful; Cyrus received permission to absent himself from Court for
the next five months; whereupon, with a few attendants, he left Ecbatana
by night, and took the road leading to his native country.

The next evening Astyages, enjoying himself as usual over his
wine, surrounded by a crowd of his concubines, singing-girls, and
dancing-girls, called on one of them for a song. The girl took her lyre
and sang as follows: "The lion had the wild boar in his power, but let
him depart to his own lair; in his lair he will wax in strength, and
will cause the lion a world of toil; till at length, although the
weaker, he will overcome the stronger." The words of the song greatly
disquieted the king, who had been already made aware that a Chaldaean
prophecy designated Cyrus as future king of the Persians. Repenting of
the indulgence which he had granted him, Astyages forthwith summoned an
officer into his presence, and ordered him to take a body of horsemen,
pursue the Persian prince, and bring him back, either alive or dead.
The officer obeyed, overtook Cyrus, and announced his errand; upon which
Cyrus expressed his perfect willingness to return, but proposed, that,
as it was late, they should defer their start till the next day. The
Medes consenting, Cyrus feasted them, and succeeded in making them
all drunk; then mounting his horse, he rode off at full speed with his
attendants, and reached a Persian outpost, where he had arranged with
his father that he should find a body of Persian troops. When the Medes
had slept off their drunkenness, and found their prisoner gone, they
pursued, and again overtaking Cyrus, who was now at the head of an armed
force, engaged him. They were, however, defeated with great loss, and
forced to retreat, while Cyrus, having beaten them off, made good his
escape into Persia.

When Astyages heard what had happened, he was greatly vexed; and,
smiting his thigh, he exclaimed, "Ah! fool, thou knewest well that it
boots not to heap favors on the vile; yet didst thou suffer thyself to
be gulled by smooth words; and so thou hast brought upon thyself this
mischief. But even now he shall not get off scot-free." And instantly
he sent for his generals, and commanded them to collect his host, and
proceed to reduce Persia to obedience. Three thousand chariots, two
hundred thousand horse, and a million footmen (!) were soon brought
together; and with these Astyages in person invaded the revolted
province, and engaged the army which Cyrus and his father Cambyses
had collected for defence. This consisted of a hundred chariots, fifty
thousand horsemen, and three hundred thousand light-armed foot, who were
drawn up in in front of a fortified town near the frontier. The first
day's battle was long and bloody, terminating without any decisive
advantage to either side; but on the second day Astyages, making skilful
use of his superior numbers, gained a great victory. Having detached one
hundred thousand men with orders to make a circuit and get into the
rear of the town, he renewed the attack; and when the Persians were all
intent on the battle in their front, the troops detached fell on the
city and took it, almost before its defenders were aware. Cambyses, who
commanded in the town, was mortally wounded and fell into the enemy's
hands. The army in the field, finding itself between two fires, broke
and fled towards the interior, bent on defending Pasargadse, the
capital. Meanwhile Astyages, having given Cambyses honorable burial,
pressed on in pursuit.

The country had now become rugged and difficult. Between Pasargadse and
the place where the two days' battle was fought lay a barrier of lofty
hills, only penetrated by a single narrow pass. On either side were two
smooth surfaces of rock, while the mountain towered above, lofty and
precipitous. The pass was guarded by ten thousand Persians. Recognizing
the impossibility of forcing it, Astyages again detached a body of
troops, who marched along the foot of the range till they found a place
where it could be ascended, when they climbed it and seized the heights
directly over the defile. The Persians upon this had to evacuate their
strong position, and to retire to a lower range of hills very near to
Pasargadge. Here again there was a two days' fight. On the first day
all the efforts of the Medes to ascend the range (which, though low,
was steep, and covered with thickets of wild olive) were fruitless. Their
enemy met them, not merely with the ordinary weapons, but with great
masses of stone, which they hurled down with crushing force upon their
ascending columns. On the second day, however, the resistance was weaker
or less effective Astyages had placed at the foot of the range, below
his attacking columns, a body of troops with orders to kill all who
refused to ascend, or who, having ascended, attempted to quit the
heights and return to the valley. Thus compelled to advance, his men
fought with desperation, and drove the Persians before them up the
slopes of the hill to its very summit, where the women and children
had been placed for the sake of security. There, however, the tide of
success turned. The taunts and upbraidings of their mothers and wives
restored the courage of the Persians; and, turning upon their foe, they
made a sudden furious charge. The Medes, astonished and overborne, were
driven headlong down the hill, and fell into such confusion that the
Persians slew sixty thousand of them. Still Astyages did not desist from
his attack. The authority whom we have been following here to a great
extent fails us, and we have only a few scattered notices from which to
reconstruct the closing scenes of the war. It would seem from these
that Astyages still maintained the offensive, and that there was a
fifth battle in the immediate neighborhood of Pasargadse, wherein he was
completely defeated by Cyrus, who routed the Median army, and pressing
upon them in their flight, took their camp. All the insignia of Median
royalty fell into his hands; and, amid the acclamations of his army,
he assumed them, and was saluted by his soldiers "King of Media and
Persia." Meanwhile Astyages had sought for safety in flight; the greater
part of his army had dispersed, and he was left with only a few friends,
who still adhered to his fortunes. Could he have reached Ecbatana, he
might have greatly prolonged the struggle; but his enemy pressed him
close; and, being compelled to an engagement, he not only suffered a
complete defeat, but was made prisoner by his fortunate adversary.
By this capture the Median monarchy was brought abruptly to an end.
Astyages had no son to take his place and continue the struggle. Even
had it been otherwise, the capture of the monarch would probably have
involved his people's submission. In the East the king is so identified
with his kingdom that the possession of the royal person is regarded as
conveying to the possessor all regal rights. Cyrus, apparently, had no
need even to besiege Ecbatana; the whole Median state, together with its
dependencies, at once submitted to him, on learning what had happened.
This ready submission was no doubt partly owing to the general
recognition of a close connection between Media and Persia, which made
the transfer of empire from the one to the other but slightly galling
to the subjected power, and a matter of complete indifference to the
dependent countries. Except in so far as religion was concerned,
the change from one Iranic race to the other would make scarcely a
perceptible difference to the subjects of either kingdom. The law of
the state would still be "the law of the Medes and Persians." Official
employments would be open to the people of both countries. Even the fame
and glory of empire would attain, in the minds of men, almost as much
to the one nation as the other. If Media descended from her preeminent
rank, it was to occupy a station only a little below the highest, and
one which left her a very distinct superiority over all the subject

If it be asked how Media, in her hour of peril, came to receive no
assistance from the great Powers with which she had made such close
alliances--Babylonia and Lydia--the answer would seem to be that Lydia
was too remote from the scene of strife to lend her effective aid, while
circumstances had occurred in Babylonia to detach that state from her
and render it unfriendly. The great king, Nebuchadnezzar, had he been
on the throne, would undoubtedly have come to the assistance of his
brother-in-law, when the fortune of war changed, and it became evident
that his crown was in danger. But Nebuchadnezzar had died in B.V. 561,
three years before the Persian revolt broke out. His son, Evil-Merodach,
who would probably have maintained his father's alliances, had survived
him but two years: he had been murdered in B.C. 559 by a brother-in-law,
Nergalsharezer or Neriglissar, who ascended the throne in that year and
reigned till B.C. 555. This prince was consequently on the throne at
the time of Astyages' need. As he had supplanted the house of
Nebuchadnezzar, he would naturally be on bad terms with that monarch's
Median connections; and we may suppose that he saw with pleasure the
fall of a power to which pretenders from the Nebuchadnezzar family would
have looked for support and countenance.

In conclusion, a few words may be said on the general character of the
Median Empire, and the causes of its early extinction.

The Median Empire was in extent and fertility of territory-equal if not
superior to the Assyrian. It stretched from Rhages and the Carmanian
desert on the east to the river Halys upon the west, a distance of
above twenty degrees, or about 1,300 miles. From north to south it
was comparatively narrow, being confined between the Black Sea, the
Caucasus, and the Caspian, on the one side, and the Euphrates and
Persian Gulf on the other. Its greatest width, which was towards the
east, was about nine, and its least, which was towards the west, was
about four degrees. Its area was probably not much short of 500,000
square miles. Thus it was as large as Great Britain, France, Spain, and
Portugal put together.

In fertility its various parts were very unequal. Portions of both
Medias, of Persia, of Armenia, Iberia, and Cappadocia, were rich and
productive; but in all these countries there was a large quantity of
barren mountain, and in Media Magna and Persia there were tracts of
desert. If we estimate the resources of Media from the data furnished by
Herodotus in his account of the Persian revenue, and compare them with
those of the Assyrian Empire, as indicated by the same document, we
shall find reason to conclude, that except during the few years when
Egypt was a province of Assyria, the resources of the Third exceeded
those of the Second Monarchy.

The weakness of the Empire arose chiefly from its want of organization.
Nicolas of Damascus, indeed, in the long passage from which our account
of the struggle between Cyrus and Astyages has been taken, represents
the Median Empire as divided, like the Persian, into a number of
satrapies but there is no real ground for believing that any such
organization was practised in Median times, or to doubt that Darius
Hystaspis was the originator of the satrapial system. The Median Empire,
like the Assyrian, was a congeries of kingdoms, each ruled by its own
native prince, as is evident from the case of Persia, where Cambyses was
not satrap, but monarch. Such organization as was attempted appears to
have been clumsy in the extreme. The Medes (we are told) only claimed
direct suzerainty over the nations immediately upon their borders;
remoter tribes they placed under these, and looked to them to collect
and remit the tribute of the outlying countries. It is doubtful if they
called on the subject nations for any contingents of troops. We never
hear of their doing so. Probably, like the Assyrians, they made their
conquests with armies composed entirely of native soldiers, or of
those combined with such forces as were sent to their aid by princes in
alliance with them.

The weakness arising from this lack of organization was increased by a
corruption of manners, which caused the Medes speedily to decline in
energy and warlike spirit. The conquest of a great and luxurious empire
by a hardy and simple race is followed, almost of necessity, by a
deterioration in the character of the conquerors, who lose the warlike
virtues, and too often do not replace them by the less splendid virtues
of peace. This tendency, which is fixed in the nature of things, admits
of being checked for a while, or rapidly developed, according to the
policy and character of the monarchs who happen to occupy the throne.
If the original conqueror is succeeded, by two or three ambitious and
energetic princes, who engage in important wars and labor to extend
their dominions at the expense of their neighbors, it will be some time
before the degeneracy becomes marked. If, on the other hand, a prince of
a quiet temper, self-indulgent, and studious of ease, come to the throne
within a short time of the original conquests, the deterioration will
be very rapid. In the present instance it happened that the immediate
successor of the first conqueror was of a peaceful disposition,
unambitious, and luxurious in his habits. During a reign which lasted
at least thirty-five years he abstained almost wholly from military
enterprises; and thus an entire generation of Medes grew up without
seeing actual service, which alone makes the soldier. At the same
time there was a general softening of manners. The luxury of the Court
corrupted the nobles, who from hardy mountain chieftains, simple if not
even savage in their dress and mode of life, became polite courtiers,
magnificent in their apparel, choice in their diet, and averse to all
unnecessary exertion. The example of the upper classes would tell on the
lower, though not perhaps to any very large extent. The ordinary Mede,
no doubt, lost something of his old daring and savagery; from disuse
he became inexpert in the management of arms; and he was thus no longer
greatly to be dreaded as a soldier. But he was really not very much less
brave, nor less capable of bearing hardships, than before; and it only
required a few years of training to enable him to recover himself and to
be once more as good a soldier as any in Asia.

But in the affairs of nations, as in those of men, negligence often
proves fatal before it can be repaired. Cyrus saw his opportunity,
pressed his advantage, and established the supremacy of his nation,
before the unhappy effects of Astyages' peace policy could be removed.
He knew that his own Persians possessed the military spirit in its
fullest vigor; he felt that he himself had all the qualities of a
successful loader; he may have had faith in his cause, which, he would
view as the cause of Ormazd against Ahriman, of pure Religion against a
corrupt and debasing nature-worship. His revolt was sudden, unexpected,
and well-timed. He waited till Astyages was advanced in years, and so
disqualified for command; till the veterans of Cyaxares were almost all
in their graves; and till the Babylonian throne was occupied by a king
who was not likely to afford Astyages any aid. Ho may not at first have
aspired to do more than establish the independence of his own country.
But when the opportunity of effecting a transfer of empire offered
itself, he seized it promptly; rapidly repeating his blows, and allowing
his enemy no time to recover and renew the struggle. The substitution
of Persia for Media as the ruling power in Western Asia was due less to
general causes than to the personal character of two men. Had Astyages
been a prince of ordinary vigor, the military training of the Medes
would have been kept up; and in that case they might easily have hold
their own against all comers. Had their training been kept up, or had
Cyrus possessed no more than ordinary ambition and ability, either
he would not have thought of revolting, or he would have revolted
unsuccessfully. The fall of the Median Empire was due immediately to
the genius of the Persian Prince; but its ruin was prepared, and its
destruction was really caused, by the shortsightedness of the Median

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Seven Great Monarchies Of The Ancient Eastern World, Vol 3. (of 7): Media - The History, Geography, And Antiquities Of Chaldaea, - Assyria, Babylon, Media, Persia, Parthia, And Sassanian - or New Persian Empire; With Maps and Illustrations." ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.