Medes and Media
MEDES AND MEDIA (Heb. מָדַי; in Akkadian inscriptions: Madai), a people of Indo-Iranian origin, closely related to the Persians, who inhabited the mountainous area of Iran and the northeastern and eastern region of Mesopotamia. The Medes, located in the Kermanshah-Hamadan (Ecbatana) region, are more prominent in Assyrian texts than the Persians. The Assyrian kings distinguish two groups of Medes inside the empire, and the distant Medes (madaya rūqūti). In the biblical passage enumerating Noah's sons, Madai, the progenitor of the Medes, like those of other Indo-Iranian peoples, is included among the sons of
(Gen. 10:2). In datable sources Medes are first mentioned in the historical inscriptions of the Assyrian kings of the end of the ninth century B.C.E., Shalamaneser III and his son Shamshi-Adad V. The Assyrian kings in military campaigns against Media, which then stretched southeast of Lake Urmia, inflicted heavy losses on its population. Although the Medes did not as yet have a central kingdom, they succeeded in repelling the Assyrian kings in sporadic encounters and by evasive tactics. In the eighth century B.C.E.,
, in his campaigns, which extended from
(Urartu) to the mountains south of the Caspian Sea, subdued the Medes. Annexing Media to Assyria, he deported 65,000 of its population, whom he replaced with inhabitants of other countries. However, in the days of
, at the end of the eighth century B.C.E., Media, under the leadership of a Median called Dayaukku, revolted against Assyria. In Sargon's military operations conducted in 716–15 B.C.E. against the centers of revolt, Dayaukku was captured and exiled to Hamath in Syria, whereupon 22 Median rulers, submitting to the sovereignty of Assyria, presented a gift to the king. Dayaukku is undoubtedly identical with Deioces, who is mentioned by Herodotus (1:96–101) as having united the tribes of Media and as having been its first king, reigning for 53 years. However, according to contemporary Assyrian sources, he was merely the forceful local chieftain of a region lying between Assyria
and Ararat. Apparently a later tradition attributed to him a royal title and the establishment of the Median Empire. Media became a united empire under the leadership of Kaštarita (according to the Persian pronunciation; in Assyrian: Kastarītu), who formed a military pact against the Assyrians in the region of the Zagros Mountains and rose to be king of Media (in the first half of the seventh century B.C.E.). The present tendency is to identify Kaštarita with Phraortes king of Media who, according to Herodotus (1:102), reigned 22 years, subdued the Persians, and was killed when advancing on Nineveh. Having consolidated their position at the end of the reign of Ashurbanipal king of Assyria (668–627 B.C.E.), the Medes, in the wars between Babylonia and Assyria in the days of the last Assyrian kings (626–616 B.C.E.), joined forces with the Babylonians, attacked Nineveh, and, after conquering it, assisted in the capture of Haran. The Medes (called in contemporary Babylonian documents Ummān manda, an old traditional term for barbarians) were then ruled by Cyaxares (i.e., native Huvaxšra; in Babylonian sources: Umakištar), who, Herodotus reports (1:100–4), defeated the Scythians. After the overthrow of Assyria, Cyaxares extended his sway over the northern part of the Assyrian Empire, as well as over large sections of Iran, Armenia, and Asia Minor. When unable in 500 B.C.E. to conquer Lydia, Cyaxares, through the mediation of the kings of Babylonia and Cilicia, made a treaty with the Lydians. This consolidation of Media under Cyaxares, constituting as it did a danger to Babylonia, finds expression in utterances of the prophets of Israel who saw in the army of Media a relentless foe rising to destroy Babylonia (Isa. 13:4–6, 17–19, 21:1–10) and uniting with other northern peoples to bring about, at God's command, the overthrow of the kingdom of the Chaldeans (Jer. 51:11–14, 25–36). Astyages (Ass. Ištumēgu) the son of Cyaxares and the last king of Media (584–550 B.C.E.) attempted to oust Babylonia from the region of Haran. However, after
king of Persia had revolted against Astyages and defeated him, Media became part of the Persian Empire (550 B.C.E.). The revolts which broke out against Persian rule at the beginning of
's reign were unsuccessful, and Media was incorporated into two Persian satrapies (the 11th and the 18th). Nevertheless it occupied an honorable and special position in the Persian Empire, as is reflected in the biblical combination (in Esther and Daniel) of "Persia and Media" or "Media and Persia," e.g., "the seven princes of Persia and Media" (Esth. 1:14); "the kings of Media and Persia" (10:2); or "the laws of the Persians and the Medes" (1:19). The Bible apparently expresses a view, then prevalent, about the part played by the two empires in the historical events preceding the fall of Babylonia. According to this view, not only did the one empire supplement the work of the other but the Persian Empire was the natural heir of Media. Echoes of this view appear in Daniel's vision of the destruction of Babylonia by the Medes and Persians (Dan. 5:26–28; cf. 6:1, 29; 8:20) as well as in the prophecies in Isaiah and Jeremiah concerning the overthrow of Babylonia by Media (see above). It is difficult to reconcile elements of the literary sources with archaeological evidence.
Ecbabtana has not yet been excavated but three other sizable Median sites of the seventh century were deserted by the sixth. No Median writing has been found, though some words that are either Median or part of Medo-Persian koinē have been identified in Old Persian inscriptions, nor has any distinctively Median style in art been identified.
J. von Prašek, Geschichte der Meder und Perser (1906); Luckenbill, Records, index, S.V. Madai, Matai, Medes, Media; J. Levy, Forschungen zur alten Geschichte Vorderasiens (1925); C.J. Gad, The Fall of Nineveh (1926); idem, in: Anatolian Studies, 8 (1958), 72–78; Landsberger and Bauer, in: ZA, 3 (1927), 81–88; F.W. Koenig, in: Der Alte Orient, 33 (1934), 3–4; G.G. Cameron, History of Early Iran (1936); C.C. Torrey, in; JAOS, 66 (1946), 1–15; H.L. Ginsberg, Studies in Daniel (1948), 5–23; R.G. Kent, Old Persian… (1950); R. Ghirshman, Iran (1954), 72–126; D.J. Wiseman, Chronicles of Chaldean Kings (1956); idem, in: Iraq, 20 (1958), 11ff.; I.M. Dyakonov (Diakonoff), Istoria Midii (1956), incl. bibl.; R. Labat, in: JA, 249 (1961), 1–12. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: I. Diakonoff, in: Scripta Hierosolymitana, 33 (… Studies …Tadmor; 1991), 13–20; A. Kuhrt, The Ancient Near East c. 3000–330 B.C. (1995), 652–56; H. Sancisi-Weerdenburg, in: OCD, 944–45; P. Briant, From Cyrus to Alexander (2002), 24–7.
[Samuel Abramsky /
S. David Sperling (2nd ed.)]
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