An important country of Asia above Persia, and bounded on the
north by the Araxes, on the west and southwest by the range of mountains called
Zagros and Parachoatras (Mountains of Kurdistan and Louristan), which divided
it from the Tigris and Euphrates valley, on the east by the Desert, and on the
northeast by the Caspii Montes (Elburz Mountains). It was a fertile country, well
peopled, and one of the most important provinces of the ancient Persian Empire.
After the Macedonian conquest it was divided into two parts--Great Media and Atropatene.
The earliest history of Media is involved in much obscurity. Herodotus reckons only four kings of Media, namely: (1) Deioces, B.C. 710-657; (2) Phraortes, 657-635; (3) Cyaxares, 635-595; (4) Astyages, 595-560. The last king was dethroned by a revolution, which transferred the supremacy to the Persians, who had formerly been the subordinate people in the united Medo-Persian Empire. The Medes made more than one attempt to regain their supremacy; the usurpation of the Magian pseudo-Smerdis was no doubt such an attempt; and another occurred in the reign of Darius II., when the Medes revolted, but were soon subdued (B.C. 408). With the rest of the Persian Empire, Media fell under the power of Alexander; it next formed a part of the kingdom of the Seleucidae, from whom it was conquered by the Parthians in the second century B.C., from which time it belonged to the Parthian, and then to the later Persian Empire. See Persia, with bibliography there given.
It is important to notice the use of the names Medus and Medi by the Roman poets for the nations of Asia east of the Tigris in general and for the Parthians in particular.
This text is cited Oct 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
Media (he Media: Eth. Medos: Adj. Medikos), a country of considerable
extent and importance, in the western part of Asia, between the Caspian Sea on
the N. and the great rivers of Mesopotamia on the W. It is by no means easy to
determine what were its precise boundaries, or how much was comprehended under
the name of Media. Thus Herodotus, who speaks repeatedly of the Medes, gives little
or no description of the country they inhabited, and perhaps all that could be
inferred from his language is, that it must have been a mountainous district between
the Halys in Asia Minor and Persia, fit for raising a warlike and independent
race of men (i. 72). Again, during the wars of Alexander, Media had to a considerable
extent taken the place of Persia, and was the great country E. of Mesopotamia,
and extending indefinitely along the Caspian sea eastwards to Ariana and Bactriana.
Still later, at the close of the Roman Republic and under the earlier emperors,
Media was restricted by the encroachments of the Parthian empire to its most mountainous
parts, and to the Caspian coast westwards,- the province of Atropatene forming,
in fact, all that could be strictly called Media. Indeed, its limits were constantly
changing at different periods. General consent, however, allows that Media was
divisible into three leading divisions, each of which from time to time was apparently
held to be Media Proper. These were: - 1. A northern territory along the shores
of the Caspian, extending more or less from Armenia on the W. to Hyrcania on the
E., comprehending much of the country now known by the names of Mazanderan and
Gilan; 2. Media Atropatene, a very mountainous district, to the west and south
of the preceding; and 3. Media Magna, the most southern, extensive, and, historically,
the most important, of the three divisions, with its capital Ecbatana (the present
Of the ancient geographers, Ptolemy gives this country the widest boundaries. Media, says he, is bounded on the N. by the Hyrcanian (i. e. the Caspian) sea, on the W. by Armenia and Assyria, on the S. by Persis and a line drawn from Assyria to Susiana, and on the E. by Hyrcania and Parthia (vi. 2. § § 1, 3). It is clear from this, and still more so from the mention he makes of the tribes and towns in it, that he is speaking of Media in its most extended sense: while, at the same time, he does not recognise the triple division noticed above, and speaks of Atropatene (or, as he calls it, Tropatene, vi. 2, 5) as one only of many tribes.
Strabo, in the tolerably full account which he gives of ancient Media, is content with a twofold division, into Media Atropatene and Media Magna; to these he gives nearly the same limits as Ptolemy, comprehending, however, under the former, the mountain tract near the Caspian (xi. pp. 522-526). Pliny, in stating that what was formerly the kingdom of the Persians, is now (in his time) under the Parthians, appears only to recognise Media Magna as Media Proper (vi. 14. s. 17). Atropatene, though subject to Ecbatana, the capital of Media Magna, he does not seem to consider has any thing to do with it (vi. 13. s. 16).
We proceed now to describe Media Magna, the first or most northern part of what was popularly called Media having been fully noticed under Atropatene and Ecbatana. It is very difficult to distinguish the classical accounts of the different divisions to which we have alluded, the name Media being used very indefinitely. It may, however, be stated generally, that Media Magna comprehended the whole of the rich and fertile plain-country which was shut in between the great chain of the Carduchian mountains and of Mt. Zagros in the W. and by Mt. Coronus on the N. It appears to have extended as far south as Elymais and Susiana, and to have bordered on the eastern side on Caramania and Ariana, or on what, in later times, was better known by the name of Parthia. Some have attempted to prove that it derived its name from its lying in the middle part of Asia (Gesenius, Thes. ii. p. 768; cf. also Polyb. v. 44, who states, He Media keitai peri mesen ten Asian). The derivation, however, admits of doubt. On the Cuneiform Inscriptions the name is read Mada (Rawlinson, Behistun Inse. As. Journ. vol. x.). Much of this land was of a high elevation above the sea, but it abounded in fertile valleys, famous for their richness, and in meadow land in which a celebrated breed of horses, called the Nisaean horses, were raised. (Herod. vii. 40, iii. 106; Diod. xvii. 100 ; Strab. xi. p. 525 ; Aelian, Hist. Anim. iii. 2 ; Ammian. xxiii. 6.; cf. also the modern travellers, Ker Porter, vol. i. p. 216, Chardin, and Morier.) It is comprehended for the most part in the modern province of Irak Ajem.
The principal town of Media Magna was Ecbatana (doubtless the present Hamadan), which, during the time of the wars of Alexander, as for many years before, was the capital of the whole country. Besides Ecbatana, were other towns of importance, most of them situated in the NE. part of the country, on the edge of, if not within, Atropatene, as Rhagae and Heracleia.
It is equally difficult to determine with accuracy what states or tribes belong to Media Magna. It is probable, however, that the following may be best comprehended in this division : - The Sagartii, who occupied the passes of Mt. Zagros ; Choromithrene, in the champaign country to the south of Ecbatana; Elymais, to the north of Choromithrene - if indeed this name has not been erroneously introduced here by Ptolemy and Polybius; the Tapyri or Tapyrrhi, S. of Mt. Coronus as far as Parthia and the Caspian Gates; Rhagiana, with its capital Rhagae; Sigriane, Daritis, and, along the southern end of the Parachoatras, what was called Syromedia. (See these places under their respective names.)
The Medi, or inhabitants of Media, are the same people as the Madai of the Bible, from which Semitic word the Greek name is most likely derived. Madai is mentioned in Genesis, as one of the sons of Japhet (x. 2), in the first repeopling of the earth after the Flood; and the same name occurs in more than one place, subsequently, indicating, as it would seem, an independent people, subject to the king of Nineveh (2 Kings, xvii. 6), or in connection with, if not subject to, the Persians, as in Dan. v. 28, vi. 15; Esth. i. 3, 14. The first Greek author who gives any description of them is Herodotus. According to him, they were originally called ARII, but changed their name to that of Medi on the coming of Medeia from Athens (vii. 62). They were divided into six tribes, the Busae (Steph. Byz.), Paraetaceni (Strab. xi. p. 522, xvi. p. 739, &c.; Arrian, iii. 19), Struchates, Arizanti, Budii (Steph. Byz.), and the Magi. Von Hammer has attemped to show that most, if not all, of these names occur under their Persian form in the Zendavesta and Shah-nameh ( Wiener. Joahrb. ix. pp. 11, 12), but it may be questioned whether the identification can be considered as satisfactory. Some, however, of these names indicate the Eastern origin of the inhabitants of Media, as Arii and Arizanti; though it may be doubted whether others of them, as the Magi, ought to be considered as separate tribes. The general evidence is, that the Magi were a priest-class among the Median people; not, like the Achaemenidae in Persia, a distinct or dominant tribe. (Cf. Strab. xvi. p. 962; Cic. Divin. i. 41; Porphyr. Abstinent. 4. 16, &c.) In other authors we find the following peoples counted among the inhabitants of Media, though it may be doubted whether some of them do not more properly belong to one or more of the adjacent nations: the Sagartii, Tapyri or Tapyrrhi, Matiani Caspii, Cadusii, Gelae, and the Mardi or Amardi. Herodotus proceeds to state that originally the Medes were a free people, who lived in separate villages, but that at length they chose for themselves a king in the person of Deioces, who built the celebrated city of Ecbatana, and was succeeded by Phraortes and Cyaxares (i. 95-103). The reign of the former was, he adds, terminated by a defeat which he sustained (at Rhages, Judith, i. 15); while, during the commencement of that of the latter, all Western Asia was overrun by a horde of Scythians (i. 103). There can be no doubt that for awhile they were subject to, and formed a satrapy of, the Assyrian empire, as stated by Diodorus (ii. 2); that then they threw off the Assyrian yoke, as stated by Herodotus (i. 106), and were ruled over by a series of kings of their own for a long period. (Cf. Strab. xi. p. 524.) The order and the names of these rulers are differently stated; and it would be out of place here to discuss at length one of the most difficult and disputed points of ancient chronology. (Cf., however, Diod. ii. 24, 32; Herod. i. 95; and Euseb. Chron. Armen. i. 101; Clinton, Fast. Hellen. vol. i. p. 257, app.) It may be remarked, that in the Bible the first notice we find of the Medes, exhibits them as the subjects of the Assyrian king Salmaneser (2 Kings, xvii. 6), who was contemporary with the Jewish king Hoshea; while in the later times of Nebuchadnezzar, they appear as a warlike nation, governed by their own rulers. (Isaiah, xiii. 17; Jerem. xxv. 25, li. 11, 28.) It is equally clear that the Medians were united to the Persians by Cyrus, and formed one empire with them (Herod. i. 129; Diod. ii. 34; Justin, i. 6), and hence are spoken of in the later books of the Bible as a people subject to the same ruler as the Persians. (Dan. v. 28, viii. 20 ; Esth. i. 3, &c.) From this time forward their fate was the same as that of the Persian monarchy; and they became in succession subject to the Greeks, under Alexander the Great, to the Syro-Macedonian rulers after his death, and lastly to the Parthian kings. (Cf. 1 Macc. vi. 56, xiv. 2; Strab. xvi. p. 745; Joseph. Antiq. xx. 3. § 3.)
The consent of history shows that in early times the Medes were held to be a very warlike race, who had a peculiar skill in the use of the bow. (Isaiah, xiii. 18; Herod. vii. 62; Xen. Anab. ii. 1. 7; Strab. xi. p. 525,) They had also great knowledge and practice in horsemanship, and were considered in this, as in many other acquirements, to have been the masters of the Persians. (Strab. xv. pp. 525, 526, 531.) Hence, in the armament of Xerxes, the Medes are described as equipped similarly with the Persians, and Herodotus expressly states that their dress and weapons were of Median, not Persian origin (l. c.). In later ages they appear to have degenerated very much, and to have adopted a luxurious fashion of life and dress (cf. Xen. Cyrop. i. 3. 2 ; Strab. l. c.; Ammian. xxiii. 6), which passed from them to their Persian conquerors. The religion of the Medes was a system of Starworship; their priests bearing, as we have remarked, the name of Magi, which was common to them with the Persians, indeed was probably adopted by the latter from the former. (Xen. Cyr. iv. 5 ; Strab. xv. pp. 727, 735;; Cic. Div. i. 3. 3) The principal object of their adoration was the Sun, and then the Moon and the five planets, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn, Mercury, and Mars.
This text is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited August 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
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