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Darius I (Dârayavauš)  in Thracia and Dacia. The Achemenid Empire to the Danube, Skudra/Thracia, and the Getai (Sakâ tyaiy paradraya), 600 BC

The original image of Darius The Great from an antique Greek vase. He had red hair and beard ?.  Side A   

 I am Darius the great king, king of kings, king of countries containing all kinds of men, king in this great earth far and wide, son of Hystaspes, an Achaemenid, a Persian, son of a Persian, an Aryan, having Aryan lineage.  Naqs-e-Rustam, Persepolis


Naskos. Side B of the “Phrixos krater”, an Apulian red-figure volute-krater, ca. 340 BC  (Photo) Altes Museum Berlin, Kompartiment XXIII (Tarent), case 7 (Vasen aus einem Grab in Apulien), Inv. 1984.41

Phrixos Krater, attributed to the Dareios painter, apulian Krater around 340 B.C., A-Side 

The depiction of Darius on his name-vase is possibly derived in its details from the Persae of Phrynikos, C. Anti concluded in 1952, and Schmidt 1960 follows him. However Oliver Taplin notes in Pots and Plays, 2007, p.235-7, the only strong indications of tragic reference are Darius himself and the old man in paidagogos outfit on the plinth inscribed ΠΕΡΣΑΙ, who might be performing the messenger role. Taplin speculates that the iconography of tragedy "could be assimilated into other contexts without danger of confusion", op. cit. p.237.

Greek depiction of Darius the Great (seated on throne in top row at center)
debating with his advisers as to whether he should invade Greece in 490 BC.
Prince Xerxes is seen on the top row, second from the right. Some are wearing the Phrigian-Thracian-Ionian Greek costumes. On the eve of battle in 490 BC, King Darius attends a debate about taking on Greek forces at Marathon. A Persian counselor (on round dias) argues for what was to be a futile engagement; on either side, counselors- including Crown Prince Xerxes (second from right) - interject their opinions.... The scene, copied from a Greek vase painted around 330 BC, was intended as anti-Persian propaganda.

Code: AF00416
Artist: Darius Painter (4th cent. BCE)
Title: The Persians Krater, from Canosa - side A, detail (treasurer of king Darius and subject)
Location: National Museum
City: Naples
Country: Italy
Period/Style: Greek Art (Magna Graecia)
Genre: Ceramics

Note: Volute krater, red-figured. Inv. 81947

Note: Credits:Photo Scala, Florence/Fotografica Foglia - courtesy of the Ministero Beni e Att. Culturali 


 Side A

Table of Contents-Cuprins:

The Battle for Scythia, the Conquest of Thrace 

Conflictul dintre Geti si Darius, 514 i.e.n.  (Romanian only)

 Saka, Scythians of the Black Sea and Danube

Darius I Inscription from Gherla, Romania 

Skudra, an Achemenid Empire Satrapy in Europe (510-479 BC)  

The Bridges of Darius and Xerxes and their Engineers

Darius and the Getai

Cyrus Killed in Battle by Queen Tomyris of the Massagetai

Jordanes about Cyrus, Darius, Xerxes, Philip Macedon and Sitalces 

The Achemenids and their history, Taxilla

Decebalus contacts with Pacorus from the Parthian Arsacid Dynasty

The Battle for Scythia, the Conquest of Thrace

He started for Thrace and Moesia. Later he built a bridge over the Danube in like manner, but he was wearied by two brief months of effort and lost eight thousand armed men among the Tapae. Then, fearing the bridge over the Danube would be seized by his foes, he marched back to Thrace in swift retreat, believing the land of Moesia would not be safe for even a short sojourn there.   Jordanes, Getica (63)

Naqs-e-Rustam, Persepolis, where hewn out of a cliff rest the tombs believed to be of Darius I and II, Atraxerxes and Xerxes I.

Darius was buried at Naqš-i Rustam. The double inscription on his tomb (see picture) reads as follows:
Upper inscription (DNa)
A great god is Ahuramazda, who created this earth, who created yonder sky, who created man, who created happiness for man, who made Darius king, one king of many, one lord of many.   
Darius' tomb
I am Darius the great king, king of kings, king of countries containing all kinds of men, king in this great earth far and wide, son of Hystaspes, an Achaemenid, a Persian, son of a Persian, an Aryan, having Aryan lineage.
King Darius says: By the favor of Ahuramazda these are the countries which I seized outside of Persia; I ruled over them; they bore tribute to me; they did what was said to them by me; they held my law firmly; Media, Elam, Parthia, Aria, Bactria, Sogdia, Chorasmia, Drangiana, Arachosia, Sattagydia, Gandara, India, the haoma-drinking Scythians, the Scythians with pointed caps, Babylonia, Assyria, Arabia, Egypt, Armenia, Cappadocia, Lydia, the Greeks, the Scythians across the sea        (Sakâ tyaiy paradraya) , Thrace, the sun hat-wearing Greeks, the Libyans, the Nubians, the men of Maka and the Carians.

 Jordanes, Getica

(63) Afterwards Darius, king of the Persians, the son of Hystaspes, demanded in marriage the daughter of Antyrus, king of the Goths (Getai), asking for her hand and at the same time making threats in case they did not fulfill his wish. The Goths spurned this alliance and brought his embassy to naught. Inflamed with anger because his offer had been rejected, he led an army of seven hundred thousand armed men against them and sought to avenge his wounded feelings by inflicting a public injury. Crossing on boats covered with boards and joined like a bridge almost the whole way from Chalcedon to Byzantium, he started for Thrace and Moesia. Later he built a bridge over the Danube in like manner, but he was wearied by two brief months of effort and lost eight thousand armed men among the Tapae. Then, fearing the bridge over the Danube would be seized by his foes, he marched back to Thrace in swift retreat, believing the land of Moesia would not be safe for even a short sojourn there.

The Scythian Expedition

 Darius embarked on what is commonly called the 'Scythian expedition' or the first historic attack of Asia upon Europe which he lead in person. We have to rely almost solely on Herodotus for our knowledge of events of this campaign.

Darius' objectives seem to have been to:
-Greater access to the surrounding cities around the Black Sea
-Subdue the Scythian tribes which had made continual raids into his territory.
-Establish a foothold for further expansion into Europe.
-Access to the minerals, metals and forest deposits. 


The expedition was carefully prepared, utilizing both land and sea forces drawn from all parts of the empire. According to (Herodotus 4.88), Darius assembled a fleet of 600 ships and an army of 700,000. Since Darius took personal command of the expedition the forces would have been considerable, but Herodutus' numbers are considered an exaggeration. As the fleet was drawn solely from the Ionian Greeks, the actual numbers are thought to be 200 - 300 ships and probably closer to 1/10th the number of troops or 70,000 men under arms.


 Persian Royal Road

Darius marched with the army from Sardis to Chalcedon on the Bosphorus. It is here he met up with the fleet and crossed over the bridge of boats that had been constructed in advance. The bridge had been designed by Mandrocles of Samos and built by the Greeks from Ionia, Aeolia and the Hellespont. The fleet was then ordered to sail into the Black Sea and then to construct a bridge over the Danube river and await Darius' arrival. It could be assumed that Darius had kept the goal of his expedition a secret. The fleet reached the Danube and sailed up the river for two days until where the main stream divided and there built a bridge.


 Darius marched with the army through Thrace, subduing the Gatae, a Thracian tribe after fierce fighting and placing them in slavery. Other Thracians including the Salmydessus, Scyrmiadae and Nipsaeans surrendered without fighting. Darius forced some or possibly all of the remaining Gatae to accompany him the army as he continued the march to the Danube.

It appears that Darius' intention after crossing the bridge that all the troops from the fleet join his march into Scythia. After receiving advice from a Lesbian named Coes. Darius left the bridge intact and with a large force to guard it. It would seem that it was not his original intention to return by the same route. He left orders that the Greeks were to guard the bridge for sixty days after which they were free to sail home.

The Greeks guarding the bridge and Darius' lifeline, were incited both by Miltiades, the tyrant of the Thracian Chersonese, and also the Sycthians, to unmoor their ships and sail home. The reasons cited that they chose to remain was that the destruction of the Darius' army and the subsequent revolts of the Ionian cities would not have guaranteed that the ruling tyrants would maintain their positions. It is not mentioned, but I do not doubt that Darius did not take his own precautions to preserve his line of retreat. If Darius did not actually hold any hostages, the lives of the fellow Greeks in the Persian army would have been in danger if the bridge was destroyed.

The Persians marched through the steppes but encountered little. Herodutus, says the Scythians retreated before the army, driving off their herds and destroying crops, blocking up wells and springs and burning anything of use.

The Scythian nomads were not unable to defeat the Persian army in a straight fight, although the cavalry were equal or better than the Persian cavalry, they had no answer to the Persian infantry and refused to stand and fight.

This decorative frieze dates from the reign of Darius I in the Achaemenid period of Persia, about 510 BC; he had it made for his palace in Susa. It was excavated from the Tell of the Apadana at Susa under Marcel Dieulafoy, 1884-6, and brought back to the Louvre. It was found in fragments, so its exact original position in the palace is not known.  This decorative frieze shows soldiers carrying bows and spears, possibly representing the 'ten thousand immortals' of Darius' army.The two symmetrical lines of archers create a processional frieze; they wear long Persian robes, and are bearded, with thick curly hair held in a ponytail. 

Persian forces were drawn from across the Persian Empire. According to Herodotus, a vivid variety of ethic races served the Persians. Swordsmen and bowmen from the banks of the river Indus, Scythians, Armenians, Syrians, Ethiopians, Sakans, Indians and even Ionians and Greeks are referred to have been under the service of the Persians, most the army was made up of lightly armed infantry wearing thick leather armour to protect their torso’s and a tightly wrapped woollen headscarf’s would have been commonly worn by the lower social classed Persian warriors. Iranians however provided the core force of the military, the heavily armoured elite Immortals and aristocracy made up the Iranian regiment of the army. War horses and heavy cavalry are also documented as being utilized by Persians, these cavalry numbered to about 1,000 troops. The nomadic Iranic tribes provided the solid backbone of the cavalry force. Herodotus specifically mentions the presence of the Saka peoples. The Persian navy was primarily made up of Phoenician, Ethiopian, Cilician, Cypriot and Arab marines. The ships were made from the high quality cedar wood grown in Phoenicia. 

Darius was not able to force a decisive battle with the Scythians. Lacking food and continually harassed, he was forced to retreat back to the bridge of boats which the Ionian allies were guarding. Darius is said to have left behind the sick and wounded in his panic, but considering that Megabazus went on to successfully campaign in Thrace with the pick of the troops, Herodotus may have also exaggerated Darius retreat as a panic.

Darius also was further embarrassed by the destruction of the Bosphorous bridge and was forced to find an alternate location to cross back into Asia.

Darius retreated to Sardis and never again campaigned in person, but the expedition was not a total failure. The Scythians now stopped their constant raids into Media. The Persian army now had another source of mercenaries and the general Megabazus proceeded to conquer most of Thrace and formed an allegiance with Alexander, king of Macedonia. 

The landmark Herodotus: the histories

 By Herodotus, Robert B. Strassler

Persian invasions (6th - 5th centuries BC)

Around 513 BC the Persian leader Darius invaded Thrace in preparation for a war with the Greeks. The Thracians did not resist the Persians they knew Darius' intention was to attack the Greeks. The Getae did offer some resistance, but without success.

Around 490-479 BC Xerxes set out to fight the Greeks. When passing through Thrace the Thracians knew that Xerxes's primary goal was to destroy the powerful city of Athens, far to the south, and so they offered no resistance to the Persian army.

 Herodotus provided a description of the great nomadic Scythian empire of the sixth century and the Agathyrsi Scythians, and elaborately recounted the expedition (516 - 513 BC) of Darius I of Persia (522-486 BC) against the Scythians in the N. Pontic (See Herodotus 4.10, 4.48, 4.49, 4.78, 4.100, 4.102, 4.104, 4.119, 4.125).

Herodotus mentioned the Agathyrsi together with another tribe, the Geloni. The Agathyrsi refused to join in a fight against the Persians unless directly provoked — highlighting the autonomy and voluntary association of the members of the Scythian confederation.[citation needed]

Herodotus records the name of Spargapeithes, a king of the Agathyrsi. He also reported that Greeks viewed the Agathyrsi, Gelons, and Scythians as brothers. They are described by Herodotus as of luxurious habits, wearing many gold ornaments (the district is still auriferous) and having many wives (Herod. 4. 104). Herodotus recorded the Pontic Greek myth that the Agathyrsi were named after a legendary ancestor Agathyrsus, an oldest son of Hercules and the monster Echidna (Herod. 4. 8-10).


 Darius European Expedition


A major event in Darius' reign was his European expedition. The region from the Ukraine to the Aral Sea was the home of north Iranian tribes (Rostovtzeff; Vasmer) known collectively as Sakâ (Gk. Scythians). Some Sakâ had invaded Media (Herodotus, 1.103-06), others had slain Cyrus in war (1.201, 1.214), and some groups had revolted against Darius (DB 2.8). As long as they remained hostile his empire was in constant danger, and trade between Central Asia and the shores of the Black Sea was in peril (Meyer, pp. 97-99).





Scythian Warrior




The geography of Scythia was only vaguely known (Figure above), and it seemed feasible to plan a punitive campaign through the Balkans and the Ukraine, returning from the east, perhaps along the west coast of the Caspian Sea (Meyer, pp. 101-04; Schnitzler, pp. 63-71). Having first sent a naval reconnaissance mission to explore shores of the Black Sea (cf. Fol and Hammond, pp. 239-40), in about 513 Darius crossed the Bosporus into Europe (Shahbazi, 1982, pp. 232-35), marching over a pontoon bridge built by his Samian engineer, Mandrocles. He continued north along the Black Sea coast to the mouth of the Danube, above which his fleet, led by Ionians, had bridged the river; from there he crossed into Scythia (Herodotus, 4.87-88, 4.97). The Scythians evaded the Persians, wasting the countryside as they retreated eastward. After following them for a month Darius reached a desert and began to build eight frontier fortresses; owing to Scythian harassment of his troops and the October weather, which threatened to hinder further campaigning, he left them unfinished and returned via the Danube bridge. He had, however, "advanced far enough into Scythian territory to terrify the Scythians and to force them to respect the Persian forces" (Herodotus, 4.102-55; cf. Meyer, pp. 105-07; Macan, pp. 2-45; Prašek, II, pp. 91-108; Rostovtzeff, pp. 84-85; Junge, 1944, pp. 104-05, 187-88; Schnitzler, pp. 63-71; Fol and Hammond, pp. 235-43; Ùernenko, with further references). Shortly afterward Megabyzus reduced gold-rich Thrace and several Greek cities of the northern Aegean; Macedonia submitted voluntarily (Herodotus, 4.143, 5.1-30), and Aryandes (q.v.), satrap of Egypt, annexed Cyrene (Libya; 4.167, 4.197-205). Four new "satrapies" were thus added to Darius' empire: Sakâ tyaiy paradraya "Overseas Scythians," Skudra (Thrace and Macedonia), Yaunâ takabarâ or Yaunâ tyaiy paradraya (Thessalians and Greek islanders), and Putâyâ (Libya).






By 510 B.C.E. the Asiatic Greeks and many islanders had accepted Persian rule and were being governed by tyrants responsible to Darius. There were also pro-Persian parties, the "Medizing Greeks," in Greece itself, especially at Athens (Herodotus, 6.115, 6.124; Gillis, pp. 39-58; on the term "Medism," see Graf). Darius encouraged these tendencies and opened his court and treasuries to those Greeks who wanted to serve him—as soldiers, artisans, mariners, and statesmen (Junge, 1944, pp. 98 ff.). Greek fear of growing Persian might and Persian annoyance at Greek interference in Ionia and Lydia made conflict between them inevitable, however (Meyer, pp. 277-80; Hignett, pp. 83-85). When, in 500 B.C.E., deposed oligarchs of Naxos in the Cyclades appealed to Artaphernes (see ARTAPHRENEÚS), Darius' brother and satrap of Lydia, he sent a fleet to Naxos; partly owing to a falling out with Aristagoras (q.v.), tyrant of Miletus, the expedition failed, however. Aristagoras then organized the "Ionian revolt." Eretrians and Athenians supported him by sending ships to Ionia and burning Sardis. Military and naval operations continued for six years, ending with the Persian reoccupation of all Ionian and Greek islands. The prudent statesman Artaphernes then reorganized Ionia politically and financially. As anti-Persian parties gained ascendance in Athens, however, and aristocrats favorable to Persia were exiled from there and from Sparta, Darius retaliated by sending a force, led by his son-in-law Mardonius, across the Hellespont. Owing to a violent storm and harassment by Thracians he was defeated. Darius then sent a second expedition (of about 20,000 men; Hignett, p. 59) under Datis (q.v.) the Mede, who captured Eretria and, guided by Hippias, exiled tyrant of Athens, landed at Marathon in Attica. In the late summer of 490 the Persians were defeated by a heavily armed Athenian infantry (9,000 men, supported by 600 Plataeans and some 10,000 lightly armed "attendants") under Miltiades (Meyer, pp. 277-305; Hignett, pp. 55-74).


Conflictul dintre Geti si Darius, 514 i.e.n.


Conflictul dintre Geţi şi Darius (514 î.e.n.)

 Cauzele conflictului declanşat în anul 514 î.e.n., între Imperiul persan şi sciţi au fost complexe. Potrivit explicaţiei date de Herodot, ar fi fost vorba de o expediţie ce a avut ca scop pedepsirea sciţilor care locuiau în spaţiul nord pontic, întinzându-se la vest până către linia Nistrului.

 Urmărindu-i pe cimmerieni, sciţii efectuau dese incursiuni în provinciile asiatice ale Imperiului persan. Dar asemenea incursiuni avuseseră loc cu circa două secole înainte, astfel încât pedepsirea atât de târzie a făptaşilor, dacă ar fi fost invocată de perşi, a putut servi cel mult ca pretext pentru atacarea sciţilor.

 O explicaţie plauzibilă este aceea că Imperiul persan, aflat într-o perioadă de intense pregătiri în vederea unei confruntări cu polisurile greceşti din Peninsula Balcanică, a urmărit să-şi asigure frontierele asiatice nordice şi de el, a forţelor scitice. Expediţia putea fi şi o demonstraţie de forţă în Peninsula Balcanică, pentru captarea tracilor şi macedonenilor în sfera influenţei persane şi implicit, pentru izolarea Eladei.

În cazul în care ar fi reuşit, expediţia din anul 514 î.e.n. ar fi creat nu numai uriaşe avantaje strategice Imperiului persan, aducând în stăpânirea lui Darius întregul complex al comunicaţiilor pe uscat şi pe mare dintre Europa şi Asia, cu toate foloasele economice şi politice care decurgeau din aceasta; oricum, Marea Neagră ar fi devenit, în fapt, un "lac" persan.

Pentru războiul împotriva sciţilor au fost concentrate forţe uriaşe - Herodot le evaluează la 700.000 de luptători şi 600 de corăbii. După trecerea pedestrimii şi cavaleriei pe ţărmul european al Hellespontului, flota a primit ordin să se îndrepte spre gurile Dunării şi să pătrundă în amonte pe fluviu până la un loc potrivitunde trebuia să construiască un pod destinat forţelor terestre care, între timp, urmau să înainteze prin zona tracă spre nord.

Podul fusese întins "cale de două zile" în susul fluviului, de la mare, acolo "unde se răsfiră gurile Istrului" (Herodot, IV, 89) - undeva între oraşele de azi Tulcea şi Isaccea (jud. Tulcea).

Marşul forţelor terestre persane s-a desfăşurat pe un itinerar care, în linii generale, a urmat linia ţărmului vestic al Mării Negre, neabătându-se mult spre interiorul peninsulei. Nici coloniile greceşti, nici triburile trace nu s-au ridicat împotriva forţei de invazie persane.

 Singura rezistenţă de care s-a izbit Darius în înaintarea lui a venit din partea geţilor. Din păcate, Herodot nu dă nici un amănunt în privinţa locului sau a desfăşurării acţiunii. Se poate presupune numai că împotrivirea cu armele a fost iniţiată de o uniune de triburi getice.

Având în vedere superioritatea covârşitoare a armatei persane, atacurile geto-dacilor vor fi îmbrăcat forma hărţuirii, executată de arcaşi călări. Faptul că Herodot a menţionat acest episod s-a datorat, desigur, înainte de toate caracterului lui neobişnuit, singular în raport cu atitudinea neamurilor tracilor de sud - care "i s-au închinat lui Darius fără nici un fel de împotrivire" (Herodot, IV, 93) - dar nu este exclus ca atacurile geţilor să fi avut şi o amploare deosebită căci, referindu-se la rezultat, istoricul grec atribuie o importanţă demnă a fi subliniată biruinţei repurtate de perşi.

Acest episod constituie prima afirmare militară a locuitorilor spaţiului carpato-danubiano-pontic într-o confruntare cu armata unei mari puteri expansioniste cum era, în epocă, Imperiul persan. Apreciind calităţile militare ale geţilor şi tactica aplicată de ei în luptă, regele Darius s-a străduit apoi să determine o parte din ei să se alăture armatei persane în expediţia desfăşurată la nord de Dunăre.

Despre etapele următoare ale înaintării oştirii persane prin spaţiul dintre fluviu şi mare se cunosc puţine detalii. Este de admis că alte rezistenţe nu au mai fost întâlnite în cale, iar cetăţile-colonii greceşti se vor fi supus fără rezistenţă.

 Oastea sciţilor condusă de Idanthyrsos continua să rămână - judecând după aprecierile lui Herodot -, superioară celei persane în ceea ce priveşte mărimea efectivelor, în schimb, ea era inferioară adversarului dinpunctul de vedere al organizării şi dotării cu material. În această situaţie, sciţii au adoptat de la începutul campaniei singura tactică adecvată: evacuarea familiilor şi a bunurilor din calea adversarului şi hărţuirea acestuia, fără a angaja o bătălie decisivă care le-ar fi fost fatală.

Prin această tactică, aplicată se pare şi în alte împrejurări asemănătoare - scria Herodot - "este cu neputinţă să le scape cineva când vine cu oaste împotriva lor, şi nimănui nu-i stă în putere să dea de ei dacă ei înşişi nu vor să se arate. Căci sciţii n-au nici cetăţi, nici ziduri întărite ci toţi îşi poartă casa cu ei şi sunt arcaşi călări, trăind nu din arat, ci din creşterea vitelor şi locuiesc în căruţe; cum să nu fie ei de nebiruit şi cu neputinţă să te apropii de ei?" (Herodot, IV, 46).

Lipsa de provizii şi privaţiunile de tot felul l-au determinat pe Darius să ordone retragerea. Aceasta s-a efectuat pe un itinerar nu mult diferit de cel urmat în prima parte a războiului, armata persană fiind adeseori hărţuită de sciţi.

Consecinţele războiului din anul 514 î.e.n. au fost complexe. Pe de o parte, puterea scitică a rămas intactă şi, deşi nu s-a mai revărsat spre vest, s-a dovedit în continuare capabilă de periculoase incursiuni în zona litoralului vest-pontic, până în Peninsula Balcanică.

Datorită rezistenţei geto-dacilor, acţiunilor de împotrivire ale sciţilor şi înfrângerilor înregistrate de perşi în alte zone, trupele expediţionare nu au reuşit să-şi stabilească autoritatea la nord de Dunăre.

Mai mult, probabil şi ca o consecinţă a zdruncinării prestigiului Imperiului persan, Darius a avut ulterior de înfruntat puternicele frământări, transformate într-o răscoală, ale cetăţilor greceşti din Asia Mică.

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Last edited by Tricoderonga; 06-03-10 at 05:13 PM.


Conflictul dintre Uniunea Geto-Odrisă cu Grecii in timpul razboaiele medice

Prefaţată de războiul din 514 şi de răscoala cetăţilor ioniene, seria marilor confruntări militare dintre Imperiul ahemenid şi Elada - cunoscute sub denumirea de războaiele medice - a fost inaugurată de puternica expediţie terestră şi navală pusă sub comanda generalului Mardonios, ginerele regelui Darius I, care în anul 494 î.e.n. a fost dirijată de-a lungul litoralului tracic al Mării Egee împotriva polisurilor continentale.

Desfăşurate cu intermitenţă pe uscat şi pe mare, până la 449 î.e.n., războaiele medice au fost jalonate de bătălii cu rezonanţă în istoria lumii antice: Marathon (490 î.e.n.), Thermopyle şi Salamina (480 î.e.n.), Plateea şi Mycale (479 î.e.n.), gurile râului Eurymedon (467 î.e.n.), Salamina (449 î.e.n.). Nu se consumaseră încă ultimele bătălii cu perşii când vechile rivalităţi dintre polisurile continentale - trecute pe un plan secundar, dar nu dispărute în timpul războaielor medice - au degenerat într-un lanţ nesfârşit de conflicte armate denumite îndeobşte războiul peloponesiac.

Spaţiul carpato-danubiano-pontic a fost implicat şi el, episodic, în marile desfăşurări istorice din secolul al V-lea î.e.n. Repetatele modificări survenite în raporturile de forţe dintre beligeranţi, însoţite de schimbări notabile în configuraţia politică a Peninsulei Balcanice, au avut urmări directe asupra soartei geto-dacilor, îndeosebi a celor de la sud de Dunăre.

Profitând de desfăşurarea generală a războaielor medice, care a condus la slăbirea şi ulterior la lichidarea prezenţei persane de pe litoralul vestic al Pontului Euxin, odrisii au pus, după 480 î.e.n., bazele primului stat atestat documentar în lumea sud-tracă.

Nucleul iniţial al acestui stat a cuprins un teritoriu restrâns, limitat de văile cursurilor inferioare ale fluviilor Mariţa şi Ergenes (Erghene), precum şi de masivul Strangea spre nord-vest. Ulterior, sub regii Teres I (450-431 î.e.n.) şi mai ales, Sitalkes (431-424 î.e.n.), regatul odris s-a extins considerabil, înglobând alte triburi trace şi cuprinzând în hotarele lui o parte a teritoriului locuit de geto-daci între Balcani şi Dunăre.

 Astfel, geţii dintre Balcani şi Dunăre au fost angajaţi în evenimente militare atât spre nord, cât şi spre sud, unde regii traci, în special Sitalkes, s-au vădit preocupaţi să-şi extindă continuu stăpânirea. Un asemenea eveniment a avut loc în timpul domniei regelui Teres I. Concomitent cu extinderea stăpânirii odrise spre nord, în unele zone dintre Haemus şi Istru, asupra teritoriului geto-dac se produsese şi o înaintare a triburilor scitice conduse de Ariapeithes către gurile Dunării, astfel că fluviul devenise aici hotar între cele două puteri.

Relaţiile dintre acestea s-au menţinut la început paşnice, întărite şi prin căsătoria lui Ariapeithes cu fiica regelui odris. Dar după moartea lui Teres şi a lui Ariapeithes raporturile scito-odrise au înregistrat o înrăutăţire bruscă datorită amestecului reciproc în disputele dinastice în care erau antrenate deopotrivă păturile conducătoare respective.

Scitul Octamasades, care reuşise în acest timp să preia moştenirea lui Ariapeithes, şi Sitalkes I, urmaşul lui Teres la tronul odris, şi-au concentrat ostile în zona Dunării maritime, în ultimul moment conflictul armat a fost totuşi evitat iar relaţiile de vecinătate paşnică s-au restabilit.

După ce s-a asigurat în prealabil de asentimentul Atenei şi a primit promisiuni de sprijin, Sitalkes I a trecut la pregătirea unei campanii militare decisive împotriva statului macedonean rival, în zona principală de concentrare a oastei trace - situată, probabil, nu departe de confluenţa râurilor Hebros (Mariţa), Tonzos (Tungea) şi Ardă - s-au adunat, potrivit relatării lui Tucidide, circa 150.000 de luptători.

Dacă nucleul acestui uriaş corp de oaste îl formau triburile odrise şi cele vecine înrudite cu ele, în schimb marea lui masă de luptători era compusă din contingente furnizate de alte neamuri trace, inclusiv unele din afara stăpânirii lui Sitalkes. Alături de acestea, la campanie au luat parte masiv şi triburile geto-dace dintre Haemus şi Istru, până la vărsarea fluviului în mare. Aproape toate triburile trace de nord şi nord-est, împreună cu geto-dacii, au format partea dominantă a cavaleriei înarmate cu arcuri, care, în ansamblul oştirii odrise, reprezenta circa o treime, celelalte două treimi fiind alcătuite din pedestraşi.

Parcurgând aproximativ itinerarul Pazargik - Dolna - Bania - Samokov - valea Strymonului (Struma) - masivul Kerkine (Ograjden) - Doberos (Dojran), armata comandată de Sitalkes I a pătruns în Macedonia şi a înaintat relativ uşor până la est de Felia, capitala statului rival. Dar, nepregătită pentru a asedia aşezările fortificate, resimţind acut lipsa de alimente şi gerurile iernii, ea a trebuit să se retragă după o lună de la declanşarea campaniei.

A fost un război cu rezultate nedecise, care nu a rezolvat nici unul din obiectivele vizate de regatul odris. Dimpotrivă, în interiorul acestuia s-au resimţit curând puternice tendinţe separatiste.

După moartea lui Sitalkes I, survenită în împrejurări neclare cu prilejul unei expediţii împotriva triballilor, soldate printr-o înfrângere de proporţii, decăderea regatului odris nu a mai putut fi oprită; într-o fază ulterioară el s-a divizat în două şi apoi în trei stătuleţe cârmuite de "regi" rivali.

Sub cârmuirea lui Seuthes - din păcate, izvoarele antice nu precizează care anume, primul sau al doilea - geto-dacii sunt pomeniţi pentru ultima oară ca aliaţi ai armatei odrise; ei au participat, ca oşteni plătiţi, la luptele (de data aceasta încununate cu succes) duse în Chersonesul trac împotriva unor forţe ateniene.

Din relatarea lui Polyainos rezultă că geto-dacii sud-dunăreni au avut un rol important în obţinerea victoriei: "Pe când atenienii pustiau ţărmul mării, prin părţile Chersonesului, Seuthes angaja două mii de geţi uşor înarmaţi şi le porunci în taină să năvălească - ca şi cum ar fi duşmani - să pârjolească ţara şi să atace pe cei de la ziduri. Văzând atenienii aceste lucruri ei - judecând după cele întâmplate - îi crezură pe geţi duşmanii tracilor; deci prinseră inimă şi coborâră din corăbii şi se apropiară de ziduri.

Seuthes ieşi dinlăuntrul zidurilor şi-i întâmpină pe atenieni, deoarece geţii urmau să se alăture trupelor sale. Când aceştia ajunseră în spatele atenienilor, îi atacară pe duşmani din spate; şi luându-i dintr-o parte tracii, dintr-alta geţii, îi nimiciră pe toţi" (Polyainos, Stratagemata, VII, 38).

Rămas la nivelul unor contingente sporadice cu confruntările militare pustiitoare din Peninsula Balcanică în perioada războaielor medice şi peloponesiace, spaţiul carpato-danubiano-pontic a cunoscut în secolul al V-lea î.e.n. o linişte relativă şi din celelalte direcţii - situaţie menţinută, în linii generale, neschimbată până în cea de a doua jumătate a secolului următor, în aceste condiţii societatea geto-dacă a înregistrat progrese atât pe plan economic, concretizate în înflorirea civilizaţiei ei originale, cât şi în dezvoltarea organizării ei politice. Preluat din :

Saka, Scythians of the Black Sea and Danube

The Saka Nomenclature

A Persian appraisal


By: Guive Mirfendereski

Like a hot wind of the high hills... he cometh up as clouds... his chariots ... as the whirlwind, his horses ... swifter than eagles.
-- Thus prophesized Jeremiah of Judea around 627 BC (Jeremiah, iv, 11-13). In about 625 BC the horsemen known to the Assyrians as Iskhuzai and Greeks as Skythos or Skutai (Scythian) invaded Syria and Judea and would press as far south as Egypt.

This essay examines the nomenclature of the nation known to Darius I the Great (r. 522-486 BC) as Saka and it is based primarily on the words and images contained in Darius' records. Where there is need for extrinsic evidence or material to illustrate a point, I shall rely on other Achaemenian records and on Herodotus (d. ca. 425).

Generally, for Achaemenian texts I have relied on a collection of translated Achaemenian inscriptions, with transliteration, at based on Ronald G. Kent, Old Persian Grammar, Texts, Lexicon (New Haven, Connecticut: American Oriental Society, 1950). I have consulted extensively the on-line pictorial offerings by the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago and the photographs contained in a Time-Life publication The Persians. For Herodotus I have used George Rawlinson, trans. and E. H. Blakeney, ed., The History of Herodotus, 2 volumes (London: J. M. Dent & Sons, 1949). Other sources are H.W. Bailey, "Khotanese Saka Literature," in Cambridge History of Iran, vol. 3(2) (Ehsan Yarshater, ed.) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983): 1230-1243; J. M. Cook, "The Rise of the Achaemenids and Establishment of their Empire," in Cambridge History of Iran, vol. 2  (Ilya Gershevitch, ed.) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985): 200-291; Roman Ghirshman, Iran (New York: Penguin Books, 1954), pp. 96-98; J.P. Mallory & Victor H. Mair, The Tarim Mummies (London: Thames & Hudson, 2000); Oswald Szemerényi, Four Old Iranian Ethnic Names: Scythian - Skudra - Sogdian - Saka (Vienna: Verlag der Osterreischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1980); Tamara Talbot Rice, The Scythians (London: Thames and Hudson, 1957); Tamara Talbot Rice, "Scythians," in Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th ed. (Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., 1981), Macropaedia, vol. 16: 438-442; T. Sulimirski, "The Scyths," in Cambridge History of Iran, vol. 2: 149-99.

The assembly of the research and interpretation of the data herein benefited most singularly from the generous advice, suggestions, corrections and insights of Fatema Soudavar-Farmanfarmaian, an exceptionally learned scholar who shared her knowledge generously and completely, remaining all along a guiding light in a sea otherwise ravaged by dark motives of academe's "specialists." I am also grateful for the unkind ribbing of an anonymous reviewer at a publication that specializes in ancient Persia; his or her criticism prompted me to do more research and better articulate my observations. I am most of all grateful to Jahanshah Javid for devoting a good part of this site to the advancement of research into Iranian history, geography and language.

The First Encounter
The rapid descent of the Saka horsemen from southern Russia into western Iran in the 7th century BC owed much to their mastery of the horse and, according to Herodotus, to a lousy sense of direction. As for the first, in the words of the late Tamara Talbot Rice ("Scythians," p. 438), the Saka were "accomplished horsemen, among the earliest people to master the art of riding." As for the second point, according to Herodotus (I: 103), while pursuing the Kimmerian in Anatolia, a Saka group "turned out of the straight course" and rode eastward keeping the Caucasus on their right. When they dead-ended at the Caspian Sea, they turned south, passed through Darband and entered the Iranian plateau, coming to rest at present-day Sakkiz some 75 miles south of Lake Urumia and 140 miles northwest of Ecbatana (mod. Hamadan), the seat of the Median Kingdom (Rice, "Scythians," p. 438; Rice, The Scythians, p. 45; Ghirshman, p. 106).

To underscore Saka's serendipitous arrival in the central Zagros region, Herodotus remarked that "missing their road" brought them to the borders of Media (IV:12). It is likely that Saka intended to attain this region in order to explore new lands: They rode the circuitous route in order to bypass the impediment offered by the Zagros Mountains. In addition, the similarity of the names of their leaders Partatua and his son Madyes with and the names Parsua (Persians) and Mada (Medes) suggests perhaps a different affinity on the part of the Saka to reach a region inhabited by Median and Persian groups. See generally Matthew W. Waters, "The Earliest Persians in Southwestern Iran: The textual Evidence," Iranian Studies vol. 32, no. 1 (Winter 1999): 99-107, pp. 100-101.


In about 612 BC when Kiakhares (Cyaxares) of Media was busy laying siege to the Assyrian capital at Nineveh, the wily Saka horsemen burst into Media and thence harried much of western Asia for the next twenty-eight years. By 584 BC they ran out of steam. In that year, Kiakharez, invited them to a banquet, made them drunk with wine, and then massacred them (Herodotus, I: 106). Those who were spared retreated into Armenia (Rice, "Scythians," p. 438) and some others, according to Rice, retreated eastward and settled between the Caspian and Aral seas, where they intermingled with their Daha kinsmen ("Scythians," p. 438). And others from among them were allowed to settle in the Luristan area where, according to Rice (The Scythians, p. 45), "[a]s the price for their clemency" the Saka were "to train and establish cavalry units for the Median army."




We do not know what the Medes called these horsemen who settled among them. They could have called them in a manner after the name of their kings. Or because the horsemen inhabited the lush prairies and plains at the foothills of the Zagros Mountains, they could have been called hill men, nomad, or horsemen. But instead it was their pointed headwear that was most impressive about them. And so they were called 'ones with tall hats.' We surmise this from Herodotus' description of Darius' 10th administrative division (satrapy), in which the Orthocorybantes [ones who wore peaked bonnets] formed a part of Media (III:92). Orthocorybantes is the plural from of Greek orthokorvas, which is made-up of ortho (up-right) and kirvasia (Persian bonnet or hat with a peaked crown), resulting in "one who wears a peaked bonnet." I am indebted to Stefano Kotsonis for this explanation by Dino Politis of the British Museum. It is worth noting, in the procession of national delegates memorialized on the eastern stairway at Apadana, the Hall of Audience, the pointed- cap Saka were ushered before the king by a Mede.

Achaemenian Designations
The foregoing paints a picture of the Saka horsemen as a tribe or, as Herodotus pointed out (I: 201), a race, fragmented about the ancient world. Certainly in Darius' time they were found from Jaxartes (Syr Darya) to the Black Sea and Balkans, with colonies in Egypt and southeastern Persia. The view that Saka were also present in Sistan in Achaemenian times, if not sooner, is discussed in V.F. Büchner, "Sistan," in The Encyclopaedia of Islam (Th. Houstma, et al, eds.), vol. IV (London: Luzac & Co. 1934): 456-461, p. 458.

 Below are all figures.(Left-hand side of the base) from right to left :

 Scenes from the base of an Egyptian representation of Darius the Great

 Below are all figures.(Left-hand side of the base) from right to left :

Babylonia, Armenia, Sparda= Lydia, Cappadocia, Thrace,Assyria,Arabia,Egypt,Cyrenaica,Kush,Ma ka(North Libya),Hindus= India

Below are all figures. (right-hand side of the base)From left to right

? ,Media,"Chiefs of Irem", Aria,Parthia,?, Sogdia,?, Drangiana , Sattagydia,Chorasmia, Scythians


While Darius distinguished the Saka by different descriptive names, in all of his records, from Persia and Egypt, these horsemen were called Saka.

In Darius' Persian records, the term Saka appeared as a place name, first as a dahya (BD2:8), which Darius understood to be situated  para Sugdam (DPh:5-6) [beyond Sogdiana], past the Oxus (Amu Darya) and Jaxartes in Central Asia. Later, he noted also Skudra as Saka tyaiy paradraya [DNa:28-29], meaning "Saka beyond sea," even though darya could have meant any body of water.

In Darius' time draya meant any considerable body of water. As the substitute for the Avestan zraya, meaning lake, the term meant 'lake' (see discussion below about Zraka). In the Suez inscriptions (draya tya hacha Parsa aity) the term referred to what is known presently as the Persian Gulf. In Tigram adaraya (BD1: 85) the term meant Tigris, clearly a river, the crossing of which into Babylon by Darius' army took place on inflated skins, camels and horses. Then there was the draya across which he went, with mention of no naval or maritime aid, to reduce the Saka to obedience. It is my contention that the hieroglyph used to describe the 'Saka of marshes,' a more or less round shape with an inflowing and out-flowing rivulets, suggested Darius' notion of draya to be more than marsh or swamp.

While one could differentiate Skudra and Saka Paradraya as two separate entities, they referred to the same polity, namely the Saka of the Black Sea/Danube region whose land Darius invaded in 513 BC.
I note this coincidence or synonym in reference to the following. First, where there is a mention of Saka Paradraya there is always mention of Skudra right after it (DNa: 28-29, DNe: 24-25), or somewhere in the list not far behind (such as in Susa.D.statue 12 and 17). The redundancy implicit in this appears to have been corrected in Darius' time, as we see in DSe (24-25, 29) reference to Saka haumavarga, Saka tigraxauda and Skudra. The Daiva inscription from the time of Xerxes (XPh) reflected this correction when it noted Saka in seriatim as Saka haumavarga, Saka tigraxauda and Skudra (26-27), with no reference to Saka paradraya. Second, while the throne bearers at the Persepolis south tomb were labeled as 30 ethnics, there were only 28 of them shown bearing the throne of Artaxerxes II, a deficit that may have been in part the result of correcting the redundancy implicit in Saka Paradraya and Skudra (DNe: 24-25).

In the reference Saka tyaiy xaudam tigram barati (BD5:21-22) -- Saka who wear long hood - later Saka Tigraxauda, for short -- the term Saka clearly referred to a group of people. The reference to them and the representation of their leader Skuxa at Behistun (Bisotun) were the earliest reference to Saka in the Achaemenian records as ethnics. As retold by Darius (DB5:20-30), the country called Saka rebelled against him and so in the second or third year of his reign as king, 519 BC, he went with an army to Saka and after crossing the draya with all his army he smote the Saka Tigraxauda.

The carvings and inscriptions at Behistun described the events in Darius' first three years as king (522-519 BC). His expedition to Egypt/Suez was in 518. He campaigned against the Skudra in the Black Sea/Danube area in 513. His statue made in Egypt or in Egyptian style found at Susa was from toward the end of his reign ca. 466.

We know from Darius' account of the Saka campaign that he had stepped into a divided Saka community, as the Saka surrendered two of their own leaders to him, including Skuxa (shown below in the procession of the captured rebels, at far right, with his tall cap and tied hands), whom Darius replaced with another chief. However, after this campaign in 519 BC, any mention of Saka Tigraxauda in Darius' inscriptions was preceded by the name of Saka haumavarga (DSe: 24-25; DNa: 25-26; DNe: 14,15).

In images, too, Saka Haumavarga, were represented in a precedential manner. At Darius' tomb in Naqshi Rustam, the throne-bearer Saka Haumavarga is shown in the 14th position in the upper row, followed by Saka Tigraxauda in the 15th position on the in lower row.

Saka Haumavarga, according to conventional wisdom, were so called because they consumed hauma. The term varga [or varka] is said to have represented an ingestion function such as drinking, eating or inhalation - conveniently 'taking' or broadly 'consuming.' According to J.M. Cook (pp. 254-255), the late Ilya Gershevitch was content with leaving it at "consuming."

The hauma that the Saka consumed has been equated with homa or hom, of the Avesta. According to the Avestan glossary, hom was a plant with medicinal and spiritual properties ( The preponderance of research tends to view it as a mixture of ephedra and other ingredients. See Mallory & Mair, pp. 138, 262.

A brief note on homa in Achaemenian religious practice is found in Shahrokh Razmjou, "The Lan Ceremony and Other Ritual Ceremonies in the Achaemenid Period: The Persepolis Fortification Tablets," in Iran: Journal of the British Institute of Persian Studies, volume 42: 103-117 (2004), pp. 113-114.

In the Avesta there is an entire sacred hymn called The Hom Yasht, in which Yasna 10 speaks of hom's properties: vanishes waste and foulness (sec. 7), healing and health-bringing (sec. 7 and 8), toxicant and stirring (sec. 8), exhilarant (sec. 14), "makes the poor man's thoughts as great as any of the richest whatsoever" (sec. 13), grows in mountainous (sec. 3, 4, 11 and 12), liquor (sec. 12), liquid (sec.17), "tasting of thy juice (sec. 5), "drink mixed with milk" (sec. 13). On the basis of these qualities, I had equated hom with grape-wine, a substance with which the Saka were intimately familiar. Herodotus (Book IV) described the place of wine in the rituals of the European Scythians.

Among their possessions they valued a drinking cup (IV: 5); once a year those who slew in combat partook from a bowl of wine (IV: 66); in an oath ceremony, the parties to an oath partook wine from a bowl that contained drops of the parties' blood (IV:70). In their early history in western Iran, they were made drunk with wine and massacred (I:106). While I stand corrected (see Guive Mirfendereski, "High Times Homavarka: The Potheads of Ancient Iran" on 17 May 2005), I do note that the inscription at Ka'ab Zartusht by Shahpour (ruled: 241-272 AD) listed in the daily offerings for the happiness of the souls of his predecessors 4 pas of wine.

I believe the term Saka Haumavarga/Haumavarka referred not to the consumption of hom, but rather it referred to the Saka of the land (~ka) that produced (bar/var) hom.

Lastly, in Darius' records in Egyptian hieroglyphics, the Saka were represented as Saka of the marshes (waters), Saka of the plains, and Skudra [Suez stele ca. 518 and Susa statue ca. 480]. On the stele discovered near Suez, the Saka were represented as:

However, on the base of the statue (Susa), the Saka were represented as:

See G. Posner, La Première Domination Perse en Egypte (Cairo: L'Institut Français d'Archéologie Orientale, 1936), vol. 11 (Receuil d'Inscription Hiéroglyphiques), p. 54; Jean Yoyotte, "Les Inscriptions Hiéroglyphiques Darius et L'Egypte," in Journal Asiatique 260:253-266 (1972), p. 256, text 5a: 12 and 5b: 17.

While there are differences in writings, I look at the hieroglyphs and can only conclude the notations to say 'Saka water', 'Saka highland.'

The Legacy of the Tall Cap
Two reasons can explain the conic shape of a Saka xaud, the precursor word for today's hood in English and khud, meaning "helmet" in Persian. First, the tall pointed shape of the headwear indicated station. The high conical hood of the high priests comes to mind as analogous. He who wore it thus could be distinguished from the rest of the tribe. From a practical standpoint, the distinctive architecture of the hood was owed to the part of the animal, probably leg or hind part, in which the pointed portion corresponded with the foot or tail.

The Tigraxauda cornered the trademark headwear, but other Saka wore them too. A corps of Saka Haumavarga [Herodotus: Amyrgian], which was a part of the army assembled by Xerxes (r. 486-465) for the Greek expedition (481-480 BC) at Salamis, wore tall stiff caps rising to a point (V:64). From their representation at Persepolis, the Skudra too bore caps that came up to a protrusion on top (Apadana E Stairway), albeit in the shape of a modest knob.

The shared fetish of a distinctive headwear points to a history shared by all Saka. If the legend spoken by the Saka of the Black Sea region was any indication, Saka Tigraxauda were the first Saka. As recorded by Herodotus, the Saka of the Black Sea region had descended from their first king Targitaüs, the first man who lived in their country around 1,500 BC, which place before his time was a desert without inhabitants (IV: 5-7). Targitaüs was the later or Greek name for Tigraxauda, no doubt the eponymous ancestor of Saka Tigraxauda. The similarities in the two names aside, as Herodotus pointed out, the Saka differentiated themselves on the basis of their royal lines of descent, whereby, as an example, the Skoloti among them were named after one of their kings of that name (IV: 6). So one may conclude that the Saka Tigraxauda were named after Tigraxauda.

The fact of a tall cap is probably the reason why the carvers/architects who designed the procession of Darius' captives at Bisotun (Behistun) appear to have placed Skuxa slightly at a lower level. This would have allowed the representation of the fallen Saka king to appear shorter than Darius. Only Ahuramazda (Faravahar, really) held a superior situation to the king. Similarly, the fact of the tall cap represented a challenge when depicting the Saka as throne bearers. The pointed part of the cap was therefore bent into an arc in order to avoid the asymmetry that the tall pointed tip of the cap otherwise would produce.

The Legacy of Horses
The procession of national delegates depicted on the Apadana stairway showed a mix of animals brought forth as tribute to the king - camel, donkey, oxen and ram aside, horses were presents of choice that Saka Tigraxauda and their kinsmen from Skudra gave to the Persian king.

For what is worth, in 1931 H. Sköld posited that the name Saka derived from Ispakai, a name associated with the people in 7th century BC whom the Assyrians knew as A‰guzai. Sköld equated Ispaka with *spaka meaning 'dog' (Szemerenyi, pp. 40-41). The late Oswald Szemerenyi however refuted this theory on the basis of contradictory evidence found for the word 'dog' in Khotanese language. Yet the word spaka, which Mede called a female dog (Herodotus, I: 110), no doubt is related to sabaka of the Slavic languages. Regardless, I believe Sköld was onto something: In his Ispaka I read Aspa, taken to mean 'horse' in Persian. The Arimaspians are said to have their name derived from asp, horse, in Persian, yet location continues to remain a mystery of sorts among historians. See Mallory & Mair, pp. 42-43.

Saka in the Satrapies
The fact that Saka rebelled against ["went away from"] Darius at the start of his reign is proof that the dahya was already an Achaemenian province prior to Darius' ascendance to the throne
. Exactly how that inclusion had come about is not clear from Achaemenian records. Herodotus wrote of Cyrus II the Great (r.550-529 BC) that he had planned to campaign personally against Bactria, Saka and Egypt after he had taken Babylon (I: 153). Yet there is no record of him pursuing any of the remaining enterprises after Babylon. Instead, according to Herodotus, Cyrus crossed the Araxes and did battle with the queen of Massagetae (I: 201-216) and was, per Herodotus, defeated by the Massagetae.

Cyrus' successor and Darius's immediate predecessor, Cambyses II (r. 529-522), campaigned only in Egypt. The task of securing the allegiance of the Saka therefore would have fallen on the lesser princes of the kingdom and must have come about during Cambyses' reign. The prime candidate as the linchpin of the imperial order in the northeast would have been Darius' own father, Hystaspes [Vishtaspa].

Hystaspes had been the governor of Parthava (DB2: 93-94), probably since the time of Cyrus. According to Herodotus (I:209-210) he was in Cyrus's company in the war against the Massagetae. It must have been routine for the provincial governors to subdue their neighbors that were farther from the center. When Parthia and Hyrcania rebelled against Darius, the task of subduing the province fell on Hystaspes who, with the aid of an army sent by Darius, managed to quell the rebellion (BD3: 1-8). When Margush [Margiana] farther east rebelled, Darius delegated the operations to the governor of the neighboring Bactria (BD3: 11-19). But when the Saka rebelled Darius chose to proceeded personally against them. That may have indicated a new conquest.

The Saka were included in several other administrative divisions of the realm. Besides the aforementioned Orthocorybantes of the 10th satrapy, the Saka [Sacae] were included clearly in the 15th satrapy, along with the Caspians (III: 96). They [Pausicae] [=Apa-saka, Saka of Waters] were also counted in the 11th satrapy, again along with the Caspians (III: 92). If present also in eastern Persia, they would have been counted as part of 14th satrapy that covered east central and southeast Persia. The 14th satrapy included the Sagartians, Sarangians, Thammanaeans, Utians, and Mycians, together with the inhabitants of the islands in the Erythraean Sea [southern seas in southwest Asia], where Darius sent those whom he banished (Herodotus, III:93).

The Saka were also found in Egypt. Egypt formed Darius' 6th satrapy, with its capital at Memphis, north of Lake Moeris. According to Herodotus, a 120,000-man Persian force was stationed there (III: 91) and its cavalry, according to J.M. Cook (p. 255) consisted of the Saka. It is possible that the designation of the Saka as "Saka of the marshes" and "Saka of the plains" in Egyptian hieroglyphs was framed exclusively in reference to the presence of the Saka force on the Egyptian landscape which, according to Herodotus, was flat and full of swamps (II: 22). Perhaps the universe of an Egyptian's impression of the extent of the Persian Empire, too, was influenced by the multinational components of the Persian army that occupied it. We know from Herodotus, for example, Cambyses' army that went to Egypt drew from all nations of the Achaemenian Empire (II: 1).

In Xerxes's army, according to Herodotus, Bactrians [12th satrapy] and Amyrgian Saka [Haumavarga] were under the command of Hystaspes, Darius' son. (VII:64).

The Saka soldier - beside the trademark pointed cap, wore trousers and carried the bow and arrow, dagger, and battle-axe (VII:64), among which the battle-ax, aheaven-sent, was considered sacred (Herodotus, IV:5-7). Other bestowments  were a drinking-cup, a plough and a yoke. The implement was a handy tool for beheading and flaying the fallen enemy, as was custom among the Saka soldiers (IV: 64). Ceremonially, the dipping of the battle-axe in a bowl of wine-and-blood sealed an oath (IV: 70). A scymitar was dipped in the ceremonial oath-taking bowl, which symbolized the solemnity of the undertaking under penalty of death: The breaking of an oath or bearing false testimony, after a trial by jury, begot death by beheading (IV:68).

In Xerxes's navy, on every ship there was a band of soldiers, Persians, Medes or Saka (VII: 96).

In the procession of national delegates depicted on the stairway at Apadana, the Saka were among the few who were allowed before the king bearing arms. This no doubt was a mark of the trust that the king had in them.

A Geographical Reorientation
In conventional wisdom the Massagetae and Saka Haumavarga are depicted as neighbors and inhabiting an area beyond Jaxartes [present-day Uzbekistan], with the Massagetae occupying the area north of Haumavarga. The Saka Tigraxauda are depicted as inhabiting the eastern littoral of the Caspian Sea between Hyrcania and Chorasmia [present-day Turkmenistan]. See, for example, Cook, pp. 282-283 (map).

There is sufficient evidence in Herodotus to call for the reorientation of the geographical positioning of the Saka so that Saka Tigraxauda are placed in the Jaxartes watershed and Massagetae and Haumavarga are relocated to the eastern littoral of the Caspian Sea. There is also evidence to suggest strongly that the term Massagetae was a Greek (Herodotus) name for the Saka Haumavarga.

The term Saka Haumavarga did not appear in Herodotus. Instead one learns of the Amyrgian Saka who formed a part of Xerxes' army [VII:64], a name that is said to have derived from the name of the plains [Amyrgium] that these Saka inhabited. It is equally plausible that the Amyrgian plain received its name from the Amyrgian Saka themselves. Regardless, by the process of elimination, considering that the Achaemenian records in Susa and Naqsh-e Rostam identified the Saka as Haumavarga and Tigraxauda, one may conclude that Herodotus' Amyrgian Saka must have been a reference to Saka Haumavarga. To futher intimate the connection, the names Amyrgian and Haumavarga are not phonetically that far apart for the Greek name (Amyrgian) to be considered a corruption of the Persian (Haumavarga).

The Achaemenian records and Herodotus suggest that Massagetae and Haumavarga were one and the same and they inhabited the present-day region east of the Caspian Sea and west of the Aral Sea.
This area that presently is watered by Gorganrud and Atrak in the south and the Oxus and Jaxartes in the north had a different look in the views of the ancient geographers. The Oxus and Jaxartes were deemed to empty into the Caspian Sea, thereby creating a milieu consisting of plains intersected by various rivers closer to the Iranian heartland. See, for example, Atlas of Ancient and Classical Geography (London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1950), pp. 2-5.

The coincidence of Massagetae and Saka Haumavarga obtains from the correlation of a few shreds of evidence. First, Herodotus stated that Massagetae were viewed according to some as a nation belonging to the Saka race (I:201). Second, Herodotus placed the Massagetae in the plains that stretched eastward of the Caspian Sea (I:204), against whom Cyrus the Great led an expedition right after the taking of Babylon according to an itinerary that Herodotus described to have included a campaign against the Saka (I: 153). In reaching the Massagetae/Saka, Cyrus crossed the Araxes, which in antiquity was viewed as a watershed area consisting of the present-day Aras River, southern Caspian littoral and Atrak and Gorgan rivers and, possibly, the Oxus (old course). See Atlas of Ancient and Classical Geography (London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1950), pp. 2-5.

Third, etymologically, many have concluded that the name Massagetae meant "Great Saka" (Mallory & Mair, pp. 98-99). Massagetae, the reasoning goes, referred to Saga/Saka and "ma" or "massa" meant "big" or "great" so the whole name meant "Great Saka" in the language of Persia or Central Asia. This etymology is dubious at best. One would be hard pressed to find an example of the word "massa" in any of the Old Persian texts. The one word that would have meant "great" was "meh" or "mah-a" in Sanskrit but in Persian that would have dated to Middle Persian, as did "amavand" (powerful). The equation of "massa" with "great" or "heavy" or "big" or "powerful" is tainted apparently by the Latin notion or connotation of the word form "massa," "mass" or "mas." If quantum of the Saka was the emphasis, then a more appropriate word for "big" would have been "s*g" that meant "numerous;" "mah" would have been "moon." See generally, D.N. Mackenzie, A Concise Pahlavi Dictionary (London: Oxford University Press, 1971).

To understand what Herodotus meant by the name Massagetae should be left to Herodotus to answer. The same way that Herodotus did not refer to Saka Tigraxauda and Saka Haumavarga by their Persian names (he used Orthocorybantes and Amyrgian instead), one should not expect him to have referred to Massagetae by their Persian name either. At best, Massagetae was Greek for a nation that was known to the Achaemenians by another name, as one finds no direct by-name reference to a group called Massagetae in Achaemenian records. However, according to Herodotus, the Massagetae lived in the plains east of the Caspian Sea and the Amyrgian Saka also inhabited a plain. Arguably, because the word "nomas" in Greek means pasture, the label Massagetae may have referred to the pastoral Saka.

The fourth factor that intimates a connection between the Massagetae and Haumavarga is the place of milk in their cultures. "Milk is what they chiefly drink," wrote Herodotus [I: 216] of the Massagetae. For the Haumavarga the importance of milk would have been in connection with the preparation of hom, which according to the Avesta [Hom Yasht, Yasna 10: 13] was mixed with milk. If a nation is called "consumer of hom" and uses milk to mix with it, then it is easy to see how milk in the Saka Haumavarga tradition too would be a chief drink.

The key to the etymological significance of "Massagetae" is likely in Massagetae being a Greek rendition of Haumavarga -- in which "hauma" appeared in the form of the first syllable "ma" and Saka was represented in "sagetae" or "saketae". Therefore, Herodotus' Massagetae was a corruption of the name "Hauma Saka."

The synonymy of Massagetae with Saka Haumavarga situates the latter on the eastern littoral of the Caspian Sea. This relocation is significant in that it provides a rational basis for the reference to the "Saka of the marshes" and "Saka of the plains" in Darius' Egyptian hieroglyphs [Susa statue and Suez stele]. The "Saka of the marshes" were depicted in relation to a watershed resembling a lagoon-looking shape (diagramed like a stomach) with rivers connecting to it, just like the Caspian would have appeared to the ancient geographers. For that reason the "Saka of the marshes" (or later "Saka of the waters") would have been the ones inhabiting this region east of the Caspian. By the same token, the "Saka of the plains" referenced in Darius' hieroglyphs would have been the Saka who inhabited the plains of Central Asia and farther to the east of Jaxartes. It was no coincidence therefore that the mentioning of Saka Haumavarga by Darius preceded the mention of the farther Saka Tigraxauda, just as the nearer "Saka of the marshes" were mentioned before the distant Saka of the plains.

The relocation of Saka Haumavarga (Amyrgian and Massagetae of Herodotus) to a region immediately east of the Caspian Sea is consistent with Darius' scheme of imperial administration. According to Herodotus, the method of administration employed by the Medes and later adopted by the Persians was to rule directly their immediate neighbors and then let the neighbors rule the peoples and lands farther out [I:134]. When Darius smote the Saka Tigraxauda he appointed for them another chief. While it is not said whom he appointed to the task, it is significant to note that in Darius' records after the campaign - such as at Susa and Naqshi Rustam -- the name Saka Haumavarga preceded the Saka Tigraxauda. This would have made perfect sense within the linear administrative method: The Saka Haumavarga, who were closer to the Persian heartland (east of the Caspian) were put in charge of Saka Tigraxauda farther away in the plains beyond Soghdia in Central Asia.

Etymology of Saka
The Skudra were the Saka (Scythians) who inhabited the Black Sea/Balkan region. The late Oswald Szemerenyi believed that the Skudra got their name from skeu and skuda, meaning 'archer,' because of their facility as archers, capable of fighting on horseback with bows and arrows (Szemerenyi, pp. 16, 19). This agility with bows-and-arrows did not impress the Persians, however, as the Persians themselves were equally skillful at riding and archery. The Persians chose to called them Saka instead.

The term Saka was explained by Szemerenyi as meaning 'nomad' in Persian, from the stem sak- meaning 'go, roam,' 'wanderer and roamer' (p. 45). This interpretation fitted conveniently with the description given by the Greek historian Strabo (d. ca. 25 AD) about the Skuthai [(......)], who lived east of the Caspian Sea and beyond Jaxartes, as nomad [(......)]. As convenient as this is, Szemerenyi's conclusion does not square with two general observations.

First -- If sak indeed had meant nomad in Persian then why was it not used to describe other peoples in that meaning? If indeed the Achaemenians used the term Saka to refer to the people north of the settled areas (Szemerenyi, p. 44), then why is it that in Xerxes' Daiva Inscription (XPh:26) the term Saka did not qualify the name of Daha, a nomadic people who also inhabited the area east of the Caspian? In contrast with Greek and Assyrian city civilizations, among the Persians, themselves being relatively recently settled in southwestern Persia, nomadic tribes were a common phenomenon. By the time of Cyrus, according to Herodotus (I: 125), the Persian nation consisted of many tribes among which four were nomads, including the aforementioned Daha [Daa].

Second -- While it is true as a matter of human geography that Saka were nomadic, there is no independent etymological reason however to conclude, as did Szemerenyi (p. 45), that the word "Saka is nomad" or that sak meant "roam." Yet this interpretation persists because the study of the nomenclature of Saka, in my opinion, has been overly restrained by the assumption that the name must have derived from some sk- or sak-based root or stem. The culprit in part has been the appearance of the noun Sak in writings found in Kashgar dating to 2nd century BC, even though the later pronunciation of the same in Chinese writings were Sö and Sai. See Bailey, p. 1230; Mallory & Mair, p. 91.

I believe, in the area of etymology of Saka, an alternative explanation is offered by the proto-stem sa and this is suggested entirely by Darius' own inscriptions.

In the place-names that populate Darius' inscriptions, six end in the sound ka. In addition to Saka, they are Kuganaka, a town in Persia, Zraka [Drangiana/Sistan], Maka [Makran], Katpatuka [Cappadocia/East Central Anatolia] and Karka [Caria/Southwest Anatolia]. In Xerxes' place-names I also note Akaufaka (XPh: 27). I focus on Zraka and Maka to illustrate my point.

In Avestan, Zra meant lake. See, for example, Yasht 19 (Zamyad) [Hymn to the Earth], part 9, section 66 [zrayo]. Wilfred Schoff equated Zraka with both "lake dweller" and "land of lake dweller." See Wilfred H. Schoff, trans., Parthian Stations [from Mansiones Parthicae of Isidorus of Charax Spasini] (London, 1917) (Chicago: Ares, 1976), p. 32 (Zareh: Note to § 17 - Zarangiana). The term zra in the Avesta (Zam Yasht, paragraph 66) is in reference to Lake Kasa at Haetuman (Hirmand/Hilmand/Helmund) River and Zaranj of modern times is in Sistan north of Ab-zareh Lake where the mouth of the Hirmand empties into the lake. Zraka as toponym is noted in DB1: 16 and as ethnic in DNe:9. Then, the suffix ka in Zraka denoted the inhabitant and the country of the inhabitant.

Maka, too, was a compound noun, in which ma meant marsh or muddy swamp, certainly a feature in eastern Makran, in southeast Persia. See Cursetjee M. Cursetjee (b. 1847), The Land of the Date (Reading, England: Garnet Publishing, 1994), p. 22 (relying on Percy Sykes' observation re origin of Makran); Joseph P. Ferrier, Caravan Journeys and Wanderings in Persia, Afghanistan, Turkistan, and Baloochistan, trans. William Jesse, editor H.D. Seymour (London: Murray, 1856), p. 428, editor's footnote re meshila (as in Meshila-Seistan, Lake Seistan) which in Arabic meant "muddy swamp." In Darius' hieroglyphs Maka is represented by two symbols -- the familiar owl for ma and the symbol for ka (DSuez: 23; D.Susa.Statue: 23). There is no notation for mak as a morpheme. While the term Maka appeared as a place-name (BD1: 17), men from Maka were denoted as Makiya (DNa: 30). Curiously, the hieroglyph for "Saka of the marshes" contains no diagram of the sound ma, but rather the topographical feature is denoted by a symbol resembling a reservoir or watershed.

As a matter of etymology then Szemerenyi's Saka could be made to have meant 'nomad' in Persian only if the proto-stem sa was connected to the essence of nomas that, at least, in Greek was 'pasture,' which one, the nomad, sought by wandering from place to place. See Oxford English Dictionary. Compact edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971 [nomad, q.v.]. Certainly, labels that placed the Saka at paradraya and in marshes and plains tell us something about their preferred habitat. From Darius' records, we know in general terms that Saka lived near bodies of water and in the plains. The Saka who dwelled in the European region that Darius invaded in 513 BC inhabited a land that was level, watered by intersection of many rivers and streams, and abounded in pasture. This topography, as described by Herodotus, favored their need for military security (torch-and retreat across rivers) and subsistence on cattle (IV: 46-47). The Saka were by all indications pastoral.

If one where to believe that the term Saka was made up of sa and ka, just like Zra+ka, then what topographical feature would sa represent? I am inclined to believe that sa in Old Persian meant something. One place to look for its meaning, I surmise, is in the Avesta itself. After all, the Saka were an Iranian people and, in the words of Rice (The Scythians, p. 39), the language spoken by them was "basically an Iranian tongue, but it may have been more closely allied to Avestic then [sic] to ancient Persian.*" The Avestan words like asanghamca (land), asasca (district) and asanghamca (region), for example, uniformly referred to places with fields, pastures and abodes with springs of water. Yasna 1:16 (asanghamca=land), Yasna 2:16 (asasca=districts) and Yasna 3:18 (asanghamca=region).

The availability of the suffix ka as a locative indicator in Old Persian permits a different interpretation for the term Haumavarka, in which avar or var would have signified raising or bringing forth the subject hom. In today's Persian bar continues to mean "bear," "produce," or "be laden."

In conclusion -- Can it not be then that sa meant 'pasture' or grassland in Old Persian? The acceptance of this definition will then open the mystery of the place-name Zadrakarta. This was the capital of Hyrcania (Mazandaran and Astarabad) in Achaemenian times and it was where the governor of Hyrcania-Parthia tendered his submission to Alexander. See A. B. Bosworth, Conquest and Empire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), p. 98; Quintus Curtius Rufus, The History of Alexander, translated by John Yardley, with introduction and notes by Waldemar Heckel (Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books, 1984), p.125 (Quintius Curtius, Book 4:23) and note corresponding with endnote 23. It is identified with present-day area of Gorgan. See Ali-Akbar Dehkhoda, Loghat-Nameh [Dictionary] (Tehran: Tehran University, 1946), vol. 27, p. 23;  Masih Zabihi, "Yaddashatha-i darbareh-e jografiya-i tarikhi-e Gorgan" [Notes on the Historical Geography of Gorgan] in Masih Zabihi, Gogan-Nameh [Book of Gorgan] 2nd ed. (Iraj Afshar, ed.) (Tehran: Entesharat-e Babak 1363/1993-94): 28-66, p. 61;  But see, E. Badian, "Alexander in Iran," in Cambridge History of Iran, vol. 2 (Ilya Gershevitch, ed.) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985): 420-501, p. 451 (estimates Zadracarta to be possibly Sari); Soroush Sepehri, "Gorgan va Shahnameh-e Ferdowsi" [Gorgan in Ferdowsi's Book of Kings], in Asad-Allah Imadi, ed., Bazkhani-i Tarikh-i Mazandaran [History of Mazandaran: A Reappraisal] (Sari: Farhangkhaneh Mazandaran, 1372/1994): 99-115, p. 99 (equates it with present day Gonbad-e Qabus, northeast of Gorgan).

Phonetically at least, in the name one hears the echo of the proto-toponym Sa-karta [= village of Saka], where karta in Old Persian of the Achaemenians meant "village," as in a karta Abiradush nama (a village named Abiradu) in Susa Inscription (Darius Sf, line 46). Consequently, I am inclined to believe that the place-name related to "sa" -- meaning pasture, grassland. That a village could be called "Sa-karta" - i.e., village of pastures -- is not far-flung (viz. Sabzevar in Khorasan). It is then that the people who hailed from Sakarta came to be known to the Achaemenians as Saka, for short.



Darius Inscription from Gherla, Romania

An inscription of Darius the Great from Rumania


    Darius I (Old Persian Dârayavauš): king of ancient Persia, whose reign lasted from 522 to 486. He seized power after killing king Gaumâta, fought a civil war (described in the Behistun inscription), and was finally able to refound the Achaemenid empire, which had been very loosely organized until then. Darius fought several foreign wars, which brought him to the valley of the Indus and Thrace. When he died, the Persian empire had reached its largest extent. He was succeeded by his son Xerxes.

One of the most remarkable inscriptions from Antiquity is the following fragmentary text, written in Persian cuneiform script, found in 1937 on a clay tablet in Gherla, and published in 1954:

    [...] king [Darius] son of Hystaspes [...]
    [...] did [...]

This is of course not a text full of very important information, but the fact that it exists is remarkable, because Gherla is in the northwestern part of modern Rumania., the online home of Ancient Warfare magazine
Although this is the only Achaemenid royal inscription that was ever found in Europe, it is not entirely without parallels. The Greek researcher Herodotus of Halicarnassus tells us in his famous Histories that Darius, after conquering the eastern part of Thrace (in c.513), visited the source of a river and left the following inscription:

    The head-springs of the Tearos give the best and fairest water of all rivers; and to them came (leading an army against the Scythians) the best and fairest of all men, Darius, son of Hystaspes, of the Persians and of all the continent king.
    [Herodotus, Histories 4.91]

The first two thirds of this text do not resemble other Achaemenid inscriptions, but the last line and the location of the site remind one of Darius' inscription (DE, especially the last part) near the waters of Gandj Nameh.

Although Herodotus renders the contents of the Persian inscription in Thrace erroneously, there are reports that the inscription itself was still visible until 1830.

Back to Gherla. Another question is how this tablet reached Rumania. It is unlikely (although not impossible) that the Persian armies ever crossed the Carpathian mountains. Probably, the tablet was originally placed somewhere in the satrapy of Thrace, and later taken, as booty, to the place where it was excavated.


A fragmentary Old Persian inscription from Gherla, Rumania (Harmatta), and a letter from Darius to Gadates, preserved in a Greek text of the Roman period (F. Lochner-Hüttenbach, in Brandenstein and Mayrhofer, pp. 91-98) also belong to this category. The third source is a detailed and colorful narrative by Herodotus (books 3-6; cf. How and Wells).  



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Scopasis or Skôpasis was a Scythian king of the tribe Sauromatae. He commanded one of the three divisions of his countrymen, when Scythia was invaded by Darius I of Persia. It was the body under the command of Scopasis, which, arriving at the Istros (Danube) river, before Darius reached it in his retreat, endeavoured, though without success, to prevail on the Ionians to destroy the bridge of boats over the river, and thus ensure the destruction of the Persians.



The Bridges of Darius and Xerxes and their Engineers. The Achemenide Navy.

  The Achemaenide Navy



Iranian marine archaeologists of the Aero-Marine research Center of Malek Ashtar University in Iran. The Archaeological wing of this university (under the direction of Dr. Kambiz Alampour) has studied the Achaemenid Navy extensively. Consulting 47 different sources (Iranian and non-Iranian) The Alampour team reconstructions in Shiraz pertain to Iranian vessels of the of the Darius-Xerxes era. Note the example  of a reconstructed Achaemenid ship (see prototype in the scale of 120 by 40 by 60 cm)

"Darius I seems to have been the first to commission the construction of ships for specific military tasks – ships of the line , transports, horse carriers, supply ships and shortly thereafter the Persians had fully integrated the use of naval warfare and tactics in their grand strategy, designed to counter Greek powers in the Aegean and Mediterranean"
Gabriel, R.A., The Great Armies of Antiquity, Published by Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002.

It was Darius who built the fleet in the Caspian to help in his imperial conquest of the Saka Tigrakhauda (Pointed-Hat Scythians/Saka) in Central Asia (Burn, 1985, p.222). just as a powerful fleet was built up to project imperial Achaemenid expansionistic aims into the Mediterranean and Europe.

See also:

The construction material of choice was wood, but some armored Achaemenid ships had metallic blades on the front, often meant to slice enemy ships using the ship's momentum. Naval ships were also equpied with hooks on the side to grab enemy ships, or to negotiate their position. The ships were propelled by sails or manpower. As far as maritime engagement, the ships were equipped with two mangonels that would launch projectiles such as stones, or flammable substances.[55]

Xenophon describes his eye account of a massive military bridge created by joining 37 Persian ships across the Tigris river. Persians utilized each boats' buoyancy, in order to support a connected bridge above which supply could be transferred.[55] Herodotus also gives many accounts of Persians utilizing ships to build bridges.[57][58] Darius the Great, in an attempt to subdue the Scythian horseman north of Black sea, crossed over at Bosphorus, then marching up to Danube crossing it over an enormous bridge made by connecting Achaemenid boats.[59] This bridge essentially, connected the farthest most geographic tip of Asia, to Europe, encompasing at least some 1000 meters of open water if not more. Herodotus describes the spectacle, and calls it "bridge of Darius":[60]

"Strait called Bosphorus, across which the bridge of Darius had been thrown is hundred and twenty furlongs in length, reaching from the Euxine, to the Propontis. The Propontis is five hundred furlongs across, and fourteen hundred long. Its waters flow into the Hellespont, the length of which is four hundred furlongs..."

Years later, a similar boat bridge would be constructed by Xerxes the Great (Xerxes I), in his invasion of Greece. Although Persians fail to capture the Greek city states completely, the tradition of maritime involvement is carried down Persian kings, most notably Artaxerxes II. Years later, when Alexander invades Persia and during his advancement into India, he takes a page from the Persian art of war, by having Hephaestion and Perdiccas construct a similar boat-bridge at the Indus river, in India in spring of 327 BCE[61]


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Mandrocles was an ancient Greek engineer from Samos who built a pontoon bridge over the Bosporus for King Darius I to conquer Thrace. Mandrocles dedicated a painting, depicting the brigding of the straits, to goddess Hera in the Heraion of Samos, commemorating his achievement.


Pontoon Bridges

The Greek writer Herodotus in his Histories, records several pontoon bridges. For Emperor Darius I The Great of Persia (522 BC–485 BC), the Greek Mandrocles of Samos once engineered a pontoon bridge that stretched across the Bosporus, linking Asia to Europe, so that Darius could pursue the fleeing Scythians as well as move his army into position in the Balkans to overwhelm Macedon. Harpalus (engineer)
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Harpalus or Harpalos (Greek: Ἂρπαλος) is a name reported by modern historical books (tertiary sources) as the engineer who built the pontoon bridge over the Hellespont (from Abydos to Sestos) for Xerxes in 480 BC. The primary source Herodotus (7.34-36)[1] gives no specific name, except the following information:

the Phoenicians made a bridge of flaxen cables, and the Egyptians a papyrus one - a great storm swept them down - Xerxes, angry, commanded that the sea receive the punishment of whipping and that the overseers of the bridge be beheaded - and new engineers he set about making the bridges.

The secondary source may have been some later writer, who may have invented a name in order to provide a name for this impressive engineering achievement, in the manner of Mandrocles, recorded by Herodotus as bridging the Bosporus for Darius I. The oldest and relevant source seems to be a work published in 1904 by Hermann Alexander Diels which he titled Laterculi Alexandrini ("Alexandrian lists"[2]), out of a damaged 1st or 2nd-century BC papyrus he found, which lists artists and scientists by their achievements.[3]

The tertiary sources report the following: One of Mandrocles' successors, not named by Herodotus (7.34-36), was Harpalos of Tenedos who, succeeding where Egyptian and Phoenician engineers had failed, built the bridge over the Hellespont[4] (Hofstetter 1978, no. 130; on the bridge, see Hammond and Roseman 1996). It is important for a right estimate of Ionian science to remember the high development of engineering in these days. Mandrokles of Samos built the bridge over the Bosporos for King Dareios (Herod. iv. 88), and Harpalos of Tenedos bridged the Hellespont for Xerxes when the Egyptians and Phoenicians had failed in the attempt (Diels, Laterculi Alexandrini, Abh. der Berl. Akad., 1904, p. 8).[5] Harpalus, a Macedonian contractor, who took on the bridging project, according to Peter Green.[6] The astronomer Harpalus supervised the construction of the bridges. according to Hugh Pembroke Vowles.[7]


  1. ^ Hdt. 7.33- 36 (Perseus project)
  2. ^ The word laterculus in Classical Latin means 'a brick', or 'a tile' or something of the sort, but in the early Middle Ages it came to mean a list[1]
  3. ^ The forgotten revolution: how science was born in 300 BC and Why it Had to Be Reborn by Lucio Russo Page 96 ISBN 3540203966 (2004)
  4. ^ Commerce and Monetary Systems in the Ancient World. Page 204 ISBN 978-3-515-08379-9 (2004)
  5. ^ Early Greek Philosophy By John Burnet Page 40 ISBN 978-0766128262 (2005)
  6. ^ Peter Green The Greco-Persian Wars , Xerxes at Salamis (London 1996) 75
  7. ^ The quest for power from prehistoric times to the present day Page 102 By Hugh P. Vowles, Margaret Winifred Pearce Vowles (1931)


Another spectacular pontoon bridge was a pair of floating bridges across the 

Hellespont by Xerxes I in 480 BC to transport his huge army into Europe:

and meanwhile other chief-constructors proceeded to make the bridges; and thus they made them: They put together fifty-oared galleys and triremes, three hundred and sixty to be under the bridge towards the Euxine Sea, and three hundred and fourteen to be under the other, the vessels lying in the direction of the stream of the Hellespont (though crosswise in respect to the Pontus), to support the tension of the ropes. They placed them together thus, and let down very large anchors, those on the one side towards the Pontus because of the winds which blow from within outwards, and on the other side, towards the West and the Egean, because of the South-East and South Winds. They left also an opening for a passage through, so that any who wished might be able to sail into the Pontus with small vessels, and also from the Pontus outwards. Having thus done, they proceeded to stretch tight the ropes, straining them with wooden windlasses, not now appointing the two kinds of rope to be used apart from one another, but assigning to each bridge two ropes of white flax and four of the papyrus ropes. The thickness and beauty of make was the same for both, but the flaxen ropes were heavier in proportion, and of this rope a cubit weighed one talent. When the passage was bridged over, they sawed up logs of wood, and making them equal in length to the breadth of the bridge they laid them above the stretched ropes, and having set them thus in order they again fastened them above. When this was done, they carried on brushwood, and having set the brushwood also in place, they carried on to it earth; and when they had stamped down the earth firmly, they built a barrier along on each side, so that the baggage-animals and horses might not be frightened by looking out over the sea.



Darius and the Getai

 The Getae (Greek: Γέται, singular Γέτης) was the name given by the Greeks to several Thracian tribes that occupied the regions south of the Lower Danube, in what is today northern Bulgaria, and north of the Lower Danube, in Romania.

From the 7th century BC onwards, the Getae came into economic and cultural contact with the Greeks, who were establishing colonies on the western side of Pontus Euxinus, nowadays the Black Sea.

The Getae are mentioned for the first time together in Herodotus in his narrative of the Scythian campaign of Darius I in 513 BC. According to Herodotus, the Getae differed from other Thracian tribes in their religion, centered around the god (daimon) Zalmoxis whom some of the Getae called Gebeleizis.

The Thracians did not resist the Persians they knew Darius' intention was to attack the Greeks. The Getae -Sacae 'beyond the sea' -did offer resistance, but without success.  

Herodotos relates that during the expedition King Dareios I led against the Skythai north of the Black Sea in 513 BC, the Getai alone resisted the advance of the Persian Army. Though they fought valiantly enough for Herodotos to declare them “the manliest and most just of the tribes of the Thraikes,” they were eventually defeated and at least some of their number enslaved by the king of kings. 

 Already in the end of the sixth century BC the king of kings Darius I (521 – 486 BC) had to fight the Getai who Herodotus defined as the most fair and brave among the Thracians. This took place in 514 BC during the march of Darius against the Scythians across the Danube River. Since that time, the glorious name of this numerous ethno-cultural Thracian community along both sides of the Lower Danube has kept its magnificence.



In spite of the fact that the written sources are not reliable enough for tracing the succession of the dynastic genealogy or the names of the particular rulers, the historical role of the king, home of the Getai has been confirmed for the Pre-Roman Epoch by the remarkable archaeological sites and finds, by the masterly works of the toreutics and by the impressive mythological and legendary figure of Zalmoxis.

The Cambridge ancient history: Persia, Greece and the Western Mediterranean ...By John Boardman




Skudra, an Ahemenid Empire Satrapy in Europe (510-479 BC)  (very good maps)

 Notwithstanding this reconstructed Persian form, the Greek word satrapeia (satrapēiē) was derived from a Northwest Iranian (Median) dialect. In the OP inscriptions dahyu- (pl. dahyāva; q.v.; see below the section on Terminology), and not *xsaça-pā-vana-, is employed for the administrative units that formed the empire, and this usage may indicate that *xsaça-pā-vana- had a more specific meaning, making dahyu- the apparently appropriate term.


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Skudra or Scudra (Greek: Σκύδρα) was a satrapy in Europe between 510s BC and 479 BC. It is attested in Persian and Egyptian inscriptions[1]. According to N. G. L. Hammond:

The name 'Skudra' was probably Phrygian for the homeland, later called Thrace, which the Phrygians had left in migrating to Asia (See Bryges). The peoples of the satrapy were named in c. 492 BC as three : The Saka Paradraya, meaning Sacae (a general name for Scythian-type people) beyond the sea, probably the Getae, who resembled the Scythians in customs and equipment; the Skudra themselves, mainly Thracians; and Yauna Takabara or Ionians with a shield-like hat. The last were mentioned also on glazed bricks at the palace at Susa. Some scholars have supposed that the Sacae 'beyond the sea' were Scythian peoples of the Crimea whom Darius had subjugated, but it seems improbable that Persia did hold that area, and that if she had it was assigned to Skudra rather than to the territories in Georgia, centred on Tbilisi. Envoys from Skudra bringing tribute carried two javelins, a long knife and a small round shield, which were characteristic of Thracian troops later (See Pls. Vol., p1,.40 XIX.). The Greek-speaking people with the shield-like hat were the Macedones, renowned for wearing the sun hat, as Alexander I of Macedon did on his fine coins from 478 B.C . The Greek-speaking citizens of the colonial city states on the seaboard were not mentioned; nor did they wear a sun-hat.The Persepolis Fortification Archive has numerous references to workers from Skudra and the most obvious candidates for Europeans working in some numbers deep within the Persian empire are the Paionians whom Herodotus makes so much of in his narrative (5. 1. 12-16, 98)


Thracian and Scythian regions were conquered by Darius I around 512 BC ; Macedonian kingdom by Mardonius in 492 BC.



See also


  1. ^ ...The existence of a satrapy in Europe, called 'Skudra', is known from Persian inscriptions (B44, 58f), 'Lands beyond the sea', that is beyond the waters of Asia Minor from the Persian point of view, were recorded in an inscription on the terrace-wall of Persepolis c. 513 B.C and a satrapy 'Skudra' was mentioned in an egyptian record of c.498-7 B.C and then on a list on Darius' tomb at Naqsh-i Rustam, c.486 BC. Cambridge Ancient History Page 147


Megabazus was a highly regarded Persian general under Darius. Most information about him comes from The Histories by Herodotus. Troops left behind in Europe after a failed attempt to conquer the Scythians were put under the command of Megabazus. He was given a mission to conquer Thrace, in which he defeated several cities, including Perinthus and Paeonia. He then removed the Paeonians from their homeland and brought them to Darius in Sardis. Megabazus was suspicious of Histiaeus and advised Darius to bring him to Susa to keep a closer eye on him. His suspicions turned out to be true as Histiaeus provoked a revolt in the town he was formally in charge of and later sided with the Greeks against Persia. The successor to Megabazus's command was Otanes.


Skudra, a Minor Satrapy

Thrace was won during the Scythian campaign of Darius I and consequently appears in the Achaemenid inscriptions soon after 512 BCE. It was subjoined as a Minor Satrapy to the Main Satrapy Lydia (cf. Stronach, pp. 442-43; Balcer, 1988, pp. 7-8). Skudra/Thrace was not incorporated into the administrative hierarchy as a Main Satrapy, although its appearance in the dahyāva lists at first suggests this rank. This interpretation follows from the observation that it is not mentioned in the contemporary inscriptions that describe the corner points of the empire (DH 4-6, DPh 5-8). The entities named as such—Kūša/Nubia in the southwest, Hinduš/India in the southeast, and Sakā/Sacae beyond Sogdia in the northeast—apparently had to be at least Main Satrapies, and the northwest is represented by Sparda/Lydia. The province of Skudra at first remained autonomous—the huparchos was king Amyntas (Hdt., 5.17- 20)—but was later more firmly tied to the empire (Balcer, 1988, pp. 4-6; Jacobs, 1999, p. 46).


Coes of Mytilene

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Coes of Mytilene, attended Darius Hystaspes in his Scythian expedition as commander of the Mytilenaeans, and dissuaded the king from breaking up his bridge of boats over the Danube, and so cutting off his own retreat. For this good counsel he was rewarded by Darius on his return with the tyranny of Mytilene. In 501 BC, when the lonians had been instigated to revolt by Aristagoras, Coes, with several of the other tyrants, was seized by latragoras at Myus, where the Persian fleet that had been engaged at Naxos was lying. They were delivered up to the people of their several cities, and most of them were allowed to go uninjured into exile; but Coes, on the contrary, was stoned to death by the Mytileneans.


This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology by William Smith (1870).

Decebalus and Pacorus the Parthian King

Decebalus and Pacorus Parthian King 


The successor of Volagases I. was Pacorus, whom most writers on Parthian history have regarded as his son.  We know absolutely nothing of this Pacorus except that he gave encouragement to a person who pretended to be Nero; that he enlarged and beautified Ctesiphon; that he held friendly communications with Decebalus, the great Dacian chief, who was successively the adversary of Domitian and Trajan; and that he sold the sovereignty of Osrhoene at a high price to the Edessene prince who was contemporary with him.  The communication with the Dacian chief was most likely earlier.


 The Dacians, in one of those incursions into Moesia which they made during the first years of Domitian, took captive a certain Callidromus, a Greek, if we may judge by his name, slave to a Roman of some rank, named Liberius Maximus. This prisoner Decebalus (we are told) sent as a present to Pacorus, in whose service and favor he remained for a number of years.


This circumstance, insignificant enough in itself, acquires an interest from the indication which it gives of intercommunication between the enemies of Rome, even when they were separated by vast spaces, and might have been thought to have been wholly ignorant of each other's existence. Decebalus can scarcely have been drawn to Pacorus by any other attraction than that which always subsists between enemies of any great dominant power.


He must have looked to the Parthian monarch as a friend who might make a diversion on his behalf upon occasion; and that monarch, by accepting his gift, must be considered to have shown a willingness to accept this kind of relation.

Sellwood Type 73

PDC 5557Pacorus II (c. A.D. 78 - 105)

AR Tetradrachm, 14.11 g

Mint/ Seleucia, A.D. 77/78, month unknown

Obv/ beardless bare-headed bust left wearing diadem with loop at the top and two ends visible; behind head broken-bar Α

Rev/ king enthroned left receiving diadem from Tyche with scepter; Greek legend [ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ Β]ΑΣΙΛΕΩ[Ν] / ΑΡΣΑ[ΚΟΥ] ΠΑΚΟΡ[ΟΥ] / ΔΙΚΑΙΟ[Υ] / ΕΠΙΦΑ[ΝΟΥΣ ΦΙΛΕΛΛΗΝΟΣ] with date ΘΠΤ = 389 Seleucid Era above the diadem; Month in exergue off flan

Photo/ by permission Classical Numismatic Group

- Sellwood 73.2 



The Parthian Arsacids do not seem to have used Parthian until relatively late, and the language first appears on Arsacid coinage during the reign of Vologases I (51-58 CE).[19] Evidence that use of Parthian was nonetheless widespread comes from early Sassanid times; the declarations of the early Persian kings were – in addition to their native Middle Persian – also inscribed in Parthian. 











The Persians referred to their satrapy Thrace as Skudra (conquered by Darius I the Great, abandoned shortly after Xerxes' campaigns).

This is just as simple as it is:Thrace = Skudra
Macedonians = Yauna Takabara

See also:


Jordanes about Cyrus, Darius, Xerxes, Philip Macedon and Sitalces


The Goths by Jordanes
Translated by Charles Gaius Mierow

Chapter 10: Persians and Macedonia.[559 BC]
(61) Then Cyrus, king of the Persians, after a long interval of almost exactly six hundred and thirty years (as Pompeius Trogus relates), waged an unsuccessful war against Tomyris, Queen of the Getae. Elated by his victories in Asia, he strove to conquer the Getae, whose queen, as I have said, was Tomyris. Though she could have stopped the approach of Cyrus at the river Araxes, yet she permitted him to cross, preferring to overcome him in battle rather than to thwart him by advantage of position. And so she did.
(62) As Cyrus approached, fortune at first so favored the Parthians that they slew the son of Tomyris and most of the army. But when the battle was renewed, the Getae and their queen defeated, conquered and overwhelmed the Parthians and took rich plunder from them. There for the first time the race of the Goths saw silken tents. After achieving this victory and winning so much booty from her enemies, queen Tomyris crossed over into that part of Moesia which is now called Lesser Scythia, -- a name borrowed from Great Scythia, -- and built on the Moesian shore of Pontus the city of Tomi, named after herself.

(63) Afterwards Darius, king of the Persians, the son of Hystaspes, demanded in marriage the daughter of Antyrus, king of the Goths (Getai), asking for her hand and at the same time making threats in case they did not fulfil his wish. The Goths spurned this alliance and brought his embassy to naught. Inflamed with anger because his offer had been rejected, he led an army of seven hundred thousand armed men against them and sought to avenge his wounded feelings by inflicting a public injury. Crossing on boats covered with boards and joined like a bridge almost the whole way from Chalcedon to Byzantium, he started for Thrace and Moesia. Later he built a bridge over the Danube in like manner, but he was wearied by two brief months of effort and lost eight thousand armed men among the Tapae. Then, fearing the bridge over the Danube would be seized by his foes, he marched back to Thrace in swift retreat, believing the land of Moesia would not be safe for even a short sojourn there.

(64) After his death, his son Xerxes planned to avenge his father's wrongs and so proceeded to undertake a war against the Goths with seven hundred thousand of his own men and three hundred thousand armed auxiliaries, twelve hundred ships of war and three thousand transports. But he did not venture to try them in battle, being overawed by their unyielding animosity. So he returned with his force just as he had come, and without fighting a single battle.

(65) Then Philip, the father of Alexander the Great, made alliance with the Goths and took to wife Medopa, the daughter of king Gudila, so that he might render the kingdom of Macedon more secure by the help of this marriage. It was at this time, as the historian Dio relates, that Philip, suffering from need of money, determined to lead out his forces and sack Odessus, a city of Moesia, which was then subject to the Goths by reason of the neighboring city of Tomi. Thereupon those priests of the Goths that are called the Holy Men suddenly opened the gates of Odessus and came forth to meet them. They bore harps and were clad in snowy robes, and chanted in suppliant strains to the gods of their fathers that they might be propitious and repel the Macedonians. When the Macedonians saw them coming with such confidence to meet them, they were astonished and, so to speak, the armed were terrified by the unarmed. Straightway they broke the line they had formed for battle and not only refrained from destroying the city, but even gave back those whom they had captured outside by right of war. Then they made a truce and returned to their own country.

(66) After a long time Sitalces, a famous leader of the Goths, remembering this treacherous attempt, gathered a hundred and fifty thousand men and made war upon the Athenians, fighting against Perdiccas, king of Macedonia. This Perdiccas had been left by Alexander as his successor to rule Athens by hereditary right, when he drank his destruction at Babylon through the treachery of an attendant. The Goths engaged in a great battle with him and proved themselves to be the stronger. Thus in return for the wrong which the Macedonians had long before committed in Moesia, the Goths overran Greece and laid waste the whole of Macedonia.

The Achemenids and their History, Taxilla and the Saca Getae


Achaemenids (Hakhâmanišiya): royal dynasty of ancient Persia, named after its legendary founder Achaemenes (Hakhâmaniš).

According to the official story, the Achaemenid or Persian empire was founded by Cyrus the Great, who became king of Persis in 559 BCE and defeated his overlord Astyages of Media in 550. The size of the Median empire is not exactly known, but it seems to have included Cappadocia and Armenia in the west and Parthia, Aria and Hyrcania in the east. Cyrus added Lydia (perhaps in 547, but probably later), Bactria and Sogdia, campaigned in India, and captured the city of Babylon in 539. His capital was Pasargadae, built on the site where he had defeated Astyages. In 530, Cyrus was killed during a campaign against the Massagetae, a Scythian tribe.

He was succeeded by his son Cambyses, who conquered Egypt (525). Three years later, civil war broke out when his courtier Gaumâta revolted. Cambyses returned home but died in Syria. A distant relative of Cambyses, the Achaemenid prince Darius, however, killed Gaumâta. After the second coup in one year, many provinces of the Achaemenid empire revolted; the most important rebellions were those of Phraortes of Media and Nidintu-Bêl of Babylonia. After nineteen battles, tranquillity returned to the Achaemenid empire. Darius described his victory in the Behistun inscription, in which he presents himself as the faithful servant of the Persian supreme god Ahuramazda. (We do not know whether the Achaemenids adhered to the teachings of the Bactrian prophet Zarathustra, although later Persian dynasties certainly were Zoroastrians.)

It should be stressed that there is not a single piece of contemporary evidence that calls Cyrus or Cambyses Achaemenids. (The texts that do, were written during the reign of Darius.) It is possible that there was no link between the two first Persian kings and the family of Darius.

Darius reorganized the empire and created satrapies, territorial units that also served as tax districts. He also founded Persepolis, where many administrative texts were discovered, and built a palace in Susa. Capable generals like Mardonius added new countries to the empire, which now extended from Macedonia in the west to Pakistan in the east, and from the river Syrdar'ya and the Caucasus mountains in the north to the Libyan desert and the Persian Gulf in the south.

During the reign of Darius' son Xerxes, the expansion of the empire came to an end. Gandara and Taxila in the far east were lost. The Greek researcher Herodotus of Halicarnassus describes in his Histories Xerxes' ill-fated campaign against the Greeks (480-479). In the west, Macedonia, Thrace and several Greek towns in Asia Minor became independent. However, Xerxes was able to keep the empire intact during the transition from an expansionist to a more static organization.

Under his successors Artaxerxes I Makrocheir (465-424) and Darius II Nothus (423-404), the empire remained as it was: the strongest power on earth. In several regions (e.g., Asia Minor) we detect strong Persian cultural influence. In Greece, the Athenians copied many institutions of their powerful neighbor. They were not the only ones. To the north of the Achaemenid empire, the Cadusians learned how to organize itself. The war against this tribe was to flare up several times in the fourth century.

After the death of Darius II, civil war broke out between Artaxerxes II Mnemon and his younger brother Cyrus, who marched with an army of Greek mercenaries to the east, but was defeated at Cunaxa near Babylon. This event was important, because it was now obvious that the Persian infantry was no match to the Greek hoplites. The Achaemenids developed a policy of dividing the Greek powers (Athens, Sparta, Thebes) and were able to strengthen their grip on Asia Minor, where the Greek towns were again subdued.

On the other hand, Egypt became independent under Amyrtaeus. Several times, the Persians tried to reconquer the former satrapy, usually employing Greek mercenaries. (The Egyptians did the same.) These attempts came to nothing until two generals of king Artaxerxes III Ochus (358-338), Bagoas and Mentor of Rhodes, were finally successful and forced the last pharaoh of independent Egypt, Nectanebo II, to flee (342/341).

Achaemenid kings
Royal Inscriptions


Taxila was the capital of a kingdom that was called Hinduš (or Indus-country) and consisted of the western half of the Punjab. It was added to the Achaemenid empire under king Darius I the Great, but the Persian occupation did not last long. There are no archaeological traces of the presence of western armies in the Punjab, although in 2002, archaeologists have claimed to have found a Persian building.
When the Macedonian conqueror Alexander the Great occupied Gandara and the Punjab in 326, the Indian kingdoms had already regained their independence. King Ambhi of Taxila, who is called Taxiles ("the man from Taxila") and Omphis in the Greek sources, had invited Alexander in 329, because he needed support against king Porus (Indian: Puru) of Pauravas, a state that was situated in the eastern Punjab. Alexander did what he had been asked to do: he defeated Porus on the banks of the river Hydaspes (modern Jhelum). However, he unexpectedly allied himself to Porus, and forced Ambhi and Porus to reconcile themselves. Leaving the region, he left behind an occupation force of Macedonian and Greek veterans under a satrap named Philip. When this man was murdered in 325, Alexander sent a Thracian Eudamus to share the reign with Ambhi.
'Coin' of Chandragupta
Alexander died on 11 June 323, in far-away Babylon. Immediately, the veterans in the eastern satrapies decided to fight themselves a way back to Greece. They were defeated by an army commanded by Peithon, the newly appointed satrap of Media. For the time being, all remained quiet in the east, but many Europeans had died, and the grip of the survivors on the eastern periphery -never very firm- became very weak indeed. In 316, king Chandragupta of Magadha (321-297) could conquer the Indus valley. Taxila lost its independence and became a provincial capital.
Chandragupta was succeeded by Bindusara. His son Ashoka was governor of Taxila until 269, when he succeeded his father. Ashoka became famous for his religious policy: he stimulated Buddhism wherever possible. At Taxila, the existing monastery, which was situated on the other bank of the river, was abandoned. Two new monasteries were built to the east. The Dharmarajika monastery, where Ashoka buried several relics of Buddha, is still famous for its stupa.

In 184, the Greeks, who had maintained a kingdom in Bactria, invaded Gandara and the Punjab again. From now on, there was a Greek king living in Taxila. His name was Demetrius. The town was rebuilt on the plains on the other bank. This second Taxila, now called the Sirkap ("severed head"; satellite photo), was built according to the Hippodamaean plan, that is: according to Greek fashion, like a gridiron. The largest sanctuary, now called "apsidal temple", measured 70x40 meters. The Sun temple and a sanctuary known as "shrine of the double-headed eagles" are near the apsidal temple (more...).
Demetrius' kingdom consisted of Gandara, Arachosia, the Punjab and a part of the Ganges valley. It was a multi-ethnic society, in which Greeks, Bactrians, western Iranians and Indians lived together. Greek religious practices, Iranian cults, Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism are all known from second-century Taxila. (For example, there was a Zoroastrian sanctuary at Jandial, directly north of Sirkap; satellite photo.)
Gondophares (British Museum)
After 110 BCE, the Punjab was gradually taken over by the Sacae. This is a common name for the nomad tribes of Central Asia, who always tried to invade the territories to their south, such as Bactria. They had been kept away since the age of king Cyrus the Great, but had ravaged the Graeco-Bactrian kingdom in c.130 and had finally settled in Drangiana, which was henceforth called Sacastane or Sistan. At the beginning of the first century BCE, they launched raids on Gandara and infiltrated in the southern Indus valley and settled in Taxila.
In the first quarter of the first century CE, the Parthians became interested in the region and started to take over the Greek petty kingdoms of Gandara and the Punjab. One of the Parthian leaders, living in Taxila, was named Gondophares. According to an old and wide-spread Christian tradition, he was baptized by the apostle Thomas. The story is not impossible: as we already noted, adherents of several religions lived together in Gandara and the Punjab, and there may have been an audience for a representative of a new Jewish sect.

Taxila / Sirkap
Another visitor was a Greek philosopher named Apollonius of Tyana. A description of Taxila can be found in the Life of Apollonius of Tyana by the Greek author Philostratus. In section 2.20 he writes that the town is as big as Nineveh and was fortified like the Greek cities.
While Apollonius was engaged in this conversation, messengers and an interpreter presented themselves from the king, to say that the king would make him his guest for three days, because the laws did not allow of strangers residing in the city for a longer time; and accordingly they conducted him into the palace. I have already described the way in which the city is walled, but they say that it was divided up into narrow streets in the same irregular manner as in Athens, and that the houses were built in such a way that if you look at them from outside they had only one storey, while if you went into one of them, you at once found subterranean chambers extending as far below the level of the earth as did the chambers above.
[Philostratus, Life of Apollonius, 2.23;
tr.F.C. Conybeare]  
Taxila / Sirsukh
In ca. 80 CE, the Yuezhi nomads or Kushans took over the area. Again, Taxila was refounded, this time even further to the north. This third town is known as Sirsukh (satellite photo). It must have looked like a large military base. The wall is 5 kilometers long and no less than 6 meters thick. From now on, Taxila was visited by Buddhist pilgrims from countries as far as Central Asia and China. There were many sanctuaries and monasteries in the neighborhood, like Jaulian and Mohra Moradu.  
The city was badly damaged when the Huns invaded the Punjab in the fifth century, and never recovered.

r the death of Artaxerxes III, there was a crisis in the Achaemenid dynasty. The new king was Artaxerxes IV Arses, but after a brief reign, he was replaced by a distant relative, Darius III Codomannus (336-330). Several satrapies revolted, but Darius immediately put down these rebellions. However, in the meantime, the Macedonian king Alexander the Great had invaded Asia Minor. Although Darius sent out a Greek mercenary leader, Memnon of Rhodes, and a Persian admiral, Pharnabazus, the Macedonians were able to reach Syria, where they defeated Darius at Issus (333).

The Persians built a new army, but two years later, they were defeated at Gaugamela. Darius was murdered (330) and Alexander started to reign as an Achaemenid king, keeping the empire together. After Alexander's death in Babylon (11 June 323), his empire was divided into three parts: Macedonia was ruled by Antipater, Ptolemy reconstituted the Egyptian kingdom, and Seleucus ruled the Asian parts of Alexander's realms. In fact, the Seleucid empire was a continuation of the Achaemenid empire.

An overview of articles on the Achaemenid empire can be found here; a list of kings is here.



Cyrus Killed in Battle by Queen Tomyris of the Massagetai



Pasargadae, tomb of Cyrus the Great


Herodotus:The Defeat of the Persians under Cyrus the Great by Queen Tomyris of the Massagetai


I.201: When Cyrus had achieved the conquest of the Babylonians, he conceived the desire of bringing the Massagetai under his dominion. Now the Massagetai are said to be a great and warlike nation, dwelling eastward, toward the rising of the sun, beyond the river Araxes, and opposite the Issedonians. By many they are regarded as a Scythian race.

I.215: In their dress and mode of living the Massagetai resemble the Scythians. They fight both on horseback and on foot, neither method is strange to them: they use bows and lances, but their favorite weapon is the battle-axe. Their arms are all either of gold or brass. For their spear-points, and arrow-heads, and for their battle-axes, they make use of brass; for head-gear, belts, and girdles, of gold. So too with the caparison of their horses, they give them breastplates of brass, but employ gold about the reins, the bit, and the cheek-plates. They use neither iron nor silver, having none in their country; but they have brass and gold in abundance.

I.216: The following are some of their customs: Each man has but one wife, yet all the wives are held in common; for this is a custom of the Massagetai and not of the Scythians, as the Hellenes wrongly say. Human life does not come to its natural close with this people; but when a man grows very old, all his kinsfolk collect together and offer him up in sacrifice; offering at the same time some cattle also. After the sacrifice they boil the flesh and feast on it; and those who thus end their days are reckoned the happiest. If a man dies of disease they do not eat him, but bury him in the ground, bewailing his ill-fortune that he did not come to be sacrificed. They sow no grain, but live on their herds, and on fish, of which there is great plenty in the Araxes. Milk is what they chiefly drink. The only god they worship is the sun, and to him they offer the horse in sacrifice; under the notion of giving to the swiftest of the gods the swiftest of all mortal creatures.

I.205: At this time the Massagetai were ruled by a queen, named Tomyris, who at the death of her husband, the late king, had mounted the throne. To her Cyrus sent ambassadors, with instructions to court her on his part, pretending that he wished to take her to wife. Tomyris, however, aware that it was her kingdom, and not herself, that he courted, forbade the men to approach. Cyrus, therefore, finding that he did not advance his designs by this deceit, marched towards the Araxes, and openly displaying his hostile intentions; set to work to construct a bridge on which his army might cross the river, and began building towers upon the boats which were to be used in the passage.

I.206: While the Persian leader was occupied in these labors, Tomyris sent a herald to him, who said, "King of the Medes, cease to press this enterprise, for you cannot know if what you are doing will be of real advantage to you. Be content to rule in peace your own kingdom, and bear to see us reign over the countries that are ours to govern. As, however, I know you will not choose to hearken to this counsel, since there is nothing you less desirest than peace and quietness, come now, if you are so mightily desirous of meeting the Massagetai in arms, leave your useless toil of bridge-making; let us retire three days' march from the river bank, and do you come across with your soldiers; or, if you like better to give us battle on your side the stream, retire yourself an equal distance." Cyrus, on this offer, called together the chiefs of the Persians, and laid the matter before them, requesting them to advise him what he should do. All the votes were in favor of his letting Tomyris cross the stream, and giving battle on Persian ground.

I.207: But Croesus the Lydian, who was present at the meeting of the chiefs, disapproved of this advice; he therefore rose, and thus delivered his sentiments in opposition to it: "Oh! my king! I promised you long since, that, as Zeus had given me into your hands, I would, to the best of my power, avert impending danger from your house. Alas! my own sufferings, by their very bitterness, have taught me to be keen-sighted of dangers. If you deem yourself an immortal, and your army an army of immortals, my counsel will doubtless be thrown away upon you. But if you feel yourself to be a man, and a ruler of men, lay this first to heart, that there is a wheel on which the affairs of men revolve, and that its movement forbids the same man to be always fortunate.

"Now concerning the matter in hand, my judgment runs counter to the judgment of your other counselors. For if you agree to give the enemy entrance into your country, consider what risk is run! Lose the battle, and therewith your whole kingdom is lost. For, assuredly, the Massagetai, if they win the fight, will not return to their homes, but will push forward against the states of your empire. Or, if you win the battle, why, then you win far less than if you were across the stream, where you might follow up your victory. For against your loss, if they defeat you on your own ground, must be set theirs in like case. Rout their army on the other side of the river, and you may push at once into the heart of their country. Moreover, were it not disgrace intolerable for Cyrus the son of Cambyses to retire before and yield ground to a woman?

"My counsel, therefore, is that we cross the stream, and pushing forward as far as they shall fall back, then seek to get the better of them by stratagem. I am told they are unacquainted with the good things on which the Persians live, and have never tasted the great delights of life. Let us then prepare a feast for them in our camp; let sheep be slaughtered without stint, and the wine cups be filled full of noble liquor, and let all manner of dishes be prepared: then leaving behind us our worst troops, let us fall back towards the river. Unless I very much mistake, when they see the good fare set out, they will forget all else and fall to. Then it will remain for us to do our parts manfully."

I.208: Cyrus, when the two plans were thus placed in contrast before him, changed his mind, and preferring the advice which Croesus had given, returned for answer to Tomyris that she should retire, and that he would cross the stream. She therefore retired, as she had engaged; and Cyrus, giving Croesus into the care of his son Cambyses (whom he had appointed to succeed him on the throne), with strict charge to pay him all respect and treat him well, if the expedition failed of success; and sending them both back to Persia, crossed the river with his army.

I.209: The first night after the passage, as he slept in the enemy's country, a vision appeared to him. He seemed to see in his sleep the eldest of the sons of Hystaspes, with wings upon his shoulders, shadowing with the one wing Asia, and Europe with the other. Now Hystaspes, the son of Arsames, was of the race of the Achaimenidai, and his eldest son, Darius, was at that time scarce twenty years old; wherefore, not being of age to go to the wars, he had remained behind in Persia. When Cyrus woke from his sleep, and turned the vision over in his mind, it seemed to him no light matter. He therefore sent for Hystaspes, and taking him aside said, "Hystaspes, your son is discovered to be plotting against me and my crown. I will tell you how I know it so certainly. The gods watch over my safety, and warn me beforehand of every danger. Now last night, as I lay in my bed, I saw in a vision the eldest of your sons with wings upon his shoulders, shadowing with the one wing Asia, and Europe with the other. From this it is certain, beyond all possible doubt, that he is engaged in some plot against me. Return you then at once to Persia, and be sure, when I come back from conquering the Massagetai, to have your son ready to produce before me, that I may examine him."

I.210: Thus Cyrus spoke, in the belief that he was plotted against by Darius; but he missed the true meaning of the dream, which was sent by God to forewarn him, that he was to die then and there, and that his kingdom was to fall at last to Darius. Hystaspes made answer to Cyrus in these words: "Heaven forbid, sire, that there should be a Persian living who would plot against you! If such an one there be, may a speedy death overtake him! You found the Persians a race of slaves, you have made them free men: you found them subject to others, you have made them lords of all. If a vision has announced that my son is practicing against you, I resign him into your hands to deal with as you will." Hystaspes, when he had thus answered, recrossed the Araxes and hastened back to Persia, to keep a watch on his son Darius.

I.211: Meanwhile Cyrus, having advanced a day's march from the river, did as Croesus had advised him, and, leaving the worthless portion of his army in the camp, drew off with his good troops towards the river. Soon afterwards, a detachment of the Massagetai, one-third of their entire army, led by Spargapises, son of the queen Tomyris, coming up, fell upon the body which had been left behind by Cyrus, and on their resistance put them to the sword. Then, seeing the banquet prepared, they sat down and began to feast. When they had eaten and drunk their fill, and were now sunk in sleep, the Persians under Cyrus arrived, slaughtered a great multitude, and made even a larger number prisoners. Among these last was Spargapises himself.

I.212: When Tomyris heard what had befallen her son and her army, she sent a herald to Cyrus, who thus addressed the conqueror: "You bloodthirsty Cyrus, pride not yourself on this poor success: it was the grape-juice---which, when you drink it, makes you so mad, and as you swallow it down brings up to your lips such bold and wicked words---it was this poison by which you ensnared my child, and so overcame him, not in fair open fight. Now hear what I advise, and be sure I advise you for your good. Restore my son to me and get you from the land unharmed, triumphant over a third part of the host of the Massagetai. Refuse, and I swear by the sun, the sovereign lord of the Massagetai, bloodthirsty as you are, I will give you your fill of blood."

I.213: To the words of this message Cyrus paid no manner of regard. As for Spargapises, the son of the queen, when the wine went off, and he saw the extent of his calamity, he made request to Cyrus to release him from his bonds; then, when his prayer was granted, and the fetters were taken from his limbs, as soon as his hands were free, he destroyed himself.

I.214: Tomyris, when she found that Cyrus paid no heed to her advice, collected all the forces of her kingdom, and gave him battle. Of all the combats in which the barbarians have engaged among themselves, I reckon this to have been the fiercest. The following, as I understand, was the manner of it: First, the two armies stood apart and shot their arrows at each other; then, when their quivers were empty, they closed and fought hand-to-hand with lances and daggers; and thus they continued fighting for a length of time, neither choosing to give ground. At length the Massagetai prevailed. The greater part of the army of the Persians was destroyed and Cyrus himself fell, after reigning nine and twenty years. Search was made among the slain by order of the queen for the body of Cyrus, and when it was found she took a skin, and, filling it full of human blood, she dipped the head of Cyrus in the gore, saying, as she thus insulted the corpse, "I live and have conquered you in fight, and yet by you am I ruined, for you took my son with guile; but thus I make good my threat, and give you your fill of blood." Of the many different accounts which are given of the death of Cyrus, this which I have followed appears to me most worthy of credit.



Cyrus did not venture into Egypt, as he himself died in battle, fighting the Massagetae along the Syr Darya in December 530 BC.

The details of Cyrus's death vary by account. The account of Herodotus from his Histories provides the second-longest detail, in which Cyrus met his fate in a fierce battle with the Massagetae, a tribe from the southern deserts of Khwarezm and Kyzyl Kum in the southernmost portion of the steppe regions of modern-day Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, following the advice of Croesus to attack them in their own territory.[58] The Massagetae were related to the Scythians in their dress and mode of living; they fought on horseback and on foot. In order to acquire her realm, Cyrus first sent an offer of marriage to their ruler, Tomyris, a proposal she rejected. He then commenced his attempt to take Massagetae territory by force, beginning by building bridges and towered war boats along his side of the river Jaxartes, or Syr Darya, which separated them. Sending him a warning to cease his encroachment in which she stated she expected he would disregard anyway, Tomyris challenged him to meet her forces in honorable warfare, inviting him to a location in her country a day's march from the river, where their two armies would formally engage each other. He accepted her offer, but, learning that the Massagetae were unfamiliar with wine and its intoxicating effects, he set up and then left camp with plenty of it behind, taking his best soldiers with him and leaving the least capable ones. The general of Tomyris's army, who was also her son Spargapises, and a third of the Massagetian troops killed the group Cyrus had left there and, finding the camp well stocked with food and the wine, unwittingly drank themselves into inebriation, diminishing their capability to defend themselves, when they were then overtaken by a surprise attack. They were successfully defeated, and, although he was taken prisoner, Spargapises committed suicide once he regained sobriety. Upon learning of what had transpired, Tomyris denounced Cyrus's tactics as underhanded and swore vengeance, leading a second wave of troops into battle herself. Cyrus the Great was ultimately killed, and his forces suffered massive casualties in what Herodotus referred to as the fiercest battle of his career and the ancient world. When it was over, Tomyris ordered the body of Cyrus brought to her, then decapitated him and dipped his head in a vessel of blood in a symbolic gesture of revenge for his bloodlust and the death of her son.[59][60] However, some scholars question this version, mostly because Herodotus admits this event was one of many versions of Cyrus's death that he heard from a supposedly reliable source who told him no one was there to see the aftermath.

Ctesias, in his Persica, has the longest account, which says Cyrus met his death while putting down resistance from the Derbices infantry, aided by other Scythian archers and cavalry, plus Indians and their elephants. According to him, this event took place northeast of the headwaters of the Syr Darya.[61] An alternative account from Xenophon's Cyropaedia contradicts the others, claiming that Cyrus died peaceably at his capital.[62] The final version of Cyrus's death comes from Berossus, who only reports that Cyrus met his death while warring against the Dahae archers northwest of the headwaters of the Syr Darya.[63]




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