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[494] Herod. 1, 98, 99.

[495] Polyb. 10, 27.

[496] 17, 110.

[497] “Mans. Parth.” c. 6.

[498] Judith, i. 2-4. On the date of the composition of this book, cf.

Volkmar. “Rheinisches Museum,” 12, 481. In any case it dates from the end of the first or the second century of our reckoning.

[499] Thuc. 2, 13, and the Scholia.

[500] Diod. 2, 8.

[501] Diod. 17, 71.

[502] Hence I see no reason for connecting the colours of the turrets with the Babylonian star-worship. The only fact in favour of this is the black of the second wall; but as the highest turrets exhibited the two most precious metals, the others may have received the colours of the remaining five, over all of which Kshathra vairya presided, and in the order of the Avesta in which silver and copper follow gold, while iron and steel end the list. It can hardly be proved that Babylonian star-worship had a decisive influence among the Medes at the time of Cyaxares. Isaiah xiii. 17 might be quoted against the wealth of Ecbatana, but this pa.s.sage only gives the idea of the writer that the Medes would not be bought off by Babylonian money, and abandons the destruction of Babylon for the sake of gold. Setting this aside, the episodes quoted above show that at the time of Astyages men could regret the loss of ancient simplicity in Media, and extol it against the gold which had come from Nineveh to Ecbatana, and against the gold of Babylon (p. 301). The nation may also have remained in simple habits of life however brilliant the royal citadel may have been. Yet it has already been observed in the text that at the time of Cyaxares and Astyages the upper lived in wealth and comfort.

[503] Diod. 17, 66, 71; 19, 48; Strabo, p. 731; Plut. “Alex.” 72.

[504] Strabo, p. 523.



The oldest subjects in the Median kingdom were the Persians. Their country lay in the south-west corner of the table-land of Iran. The heights of the Zagrus, which run down to the sea in a south-easterly direction, divide it from the ancient kingdom of Elam, and the land of the Tigris, just as in the north they divide the land of the Medes from the valley of the two rivers. The Eastern border of the Persian territory was formed, almost down to the coast, by the great desert, which fills the centre of Iran; the northern boundary towards the land of the Medes is marked by the range which the Greeks call Parachoatras; the name would be _Kuruhvathra_, _i.e._ very brilliant, in Old Persian.

The southern boundary of Persia was the sea. Nearchus, who sailed along the coast of Persia, gives it an extent of 4400 stades, _i.e._ 550 miles; their land began at the mouth of the Oroatis (Old Persian, _Aurvaiti_, _i.e._ the swift),[505] the Tsab, which falls into the Persian Gulf below the modern Hindian, and reached to the east almost as far as the entrance into this gulf, where it ended opposite the island of Coloe (Kishm).[506] Euripides contrasts the sun-lit mountain flats of Persia with the wintry land of Media and the citadels of Bactria.[507] According to Strabo the coast of Persia was hot and sandy, and, with the exception of some palms, produced no fruit. But beyond the coast was a land of very great fertility, abounding in lakes and rivers, and providing the most excellent pasture. Further to the north, the Persian land became cold and mountainous, and supported nothing but droves of camels and their keepers. Arrian tells us that to the north of the coast of Persia the air was temperate, and the land traversed by the clearest streams, in addition to which there were also lakes; the meadows were and well watered, and provided excellent pastures for horses and other beasts of draught. The soil produced all kinds of fruits and even wine, but not olives. The forests were extensive and rich in game, and all kinds of water-fowl were to be found there. But further to the north the land of the Persians was wintry and full of snow.[508] What the Greeks relate of the desolation of the Persian coast is still applicable; it consists of naked sand-flats, broken only by scanty groves of palms. Above this coast the soil rises in terraces, which are separated from each other by yet higher ranges. Further to the north the slopes of the mountains provide excellent pastures, till the ground becomes more bare as we approach Media, while on the east it gradually into the great desert of the centre. On the mountain terraces and in the depressions between them are some favoured lands and valleys. The warmth of the southern situation is tempered by the elevation of the soil and the winds blowing from the sea. This happy climate allows a perpetual spring to reign, and increases the fertility which the abundant mountain springs produce in such a degree that groves of orchard trees, cypresses, and myrtles alternate with vineyards and carpets of flowers. The beauty of Persia and the fertility of the vegetation is concentrated in the valleys of Kazerun, Shiras, and Merdasht, which lie in stages one above the other, between mountain walls which rise to a height of 8000 feet. The most extensive and at the same time the highest valley is that of Merdasht. It is traversed by the Murghab, which brings an abundant supply of water from the snow-covered heights in the north-west. The upper course is surrounded by steep cones, and jagged walls of rock; in the lower part it takes another name, and is called the Pulwar. Further down, it unites with the k.u.m-i-Firuz (the Araxes of the Greeks), and from this confluence down to the mouth in the great lake of Bakhtegan it is known as the Bendemir.

The Greeks called the Pulwar the Medus, and the Bendemir, which is also known as the Kur in modern times, they named the Cyrus.[509]

According to Herodotus the Persians regarded their land as of moderate extent, poorly equipped, and filled with rocks. In the Books of the Laws which are ascribed to Plato, we are told that the Persian land is naturally adapted to produce strong shepherds, and as they had to watch their flocks night and day, they were thus in a position to do good service in war. As a fact Persia is a mountainous country; the slopes are admirably fitted for cattle breeding, but there is little room or encouragement for agriculture. According to Xenophon’s description, the Persians in ancient times were much occupied in the chase, and in riding; they only ate once in the day, and at their banquets goblets might indeed be seen, but no pitchers of wine. Strabo remarks, with reference to a later period, that the Persian youth remained long in the open air with their flocks, and were eager hunters; when thus engaged, their only drink was water, their food bread, flesh, and salt. The Greeks with one consent describe the Persians of ancient times as simple, hardy, self-controlled men, of great endurance and martial vigour, with few requirements. They were also called “Eaters of Terebinths,” in order to mark the scantiness of their food: their drink was water; and their clothing, coats as well as trousers, were of leather.[510]

The nation of the Persians consisted of various tribes. Herodotus gives a special prominence to three, on which the rest were dependent. These were the Pasargadae, the Maraphians, and the Maspians. “Other tribes are the Panthialaei, the Derrusiaei, the Germanii, all of which are agricultural; while the remainder, the Dai, Mardi, Dropici, and Sagartii are Nomads.”[511] According to this statement six of the Persian tribes carried on agriculture, and four were pastoral. But the Germanians and Sagartians were distinguished from the tribes of the Persians in the narrower sense. The Sagartians (Acagarta) are spoken of in the inscriptions of Darius, and by Herodotus himself in other pa.s.sages, as a separate nation; we have already found their country on the western edge of the great desert, and observed its character (p. 6). The Germanians of Herodotus are the Carmanians of the later Greeks, who also pa.s.sed with them as a separate nation, though closely allied to the Persians and Medes.[512] They wandered to and fro to the east of Persia in the district now called Kirman. The number of the tribes mentioned by Herodotus would therefore have to be reduced to the Pasargadae, Maraphians, Maspians, Panthialaeans, Derusiaeans, Dai, Mardi, and Dropici, if we did not hear of two others in the inscriptions of Darius, the Yutiyas and the Patisuvaris, whose names were known to the later Greeks in the form Utei and Pateisch.o.r.ei. These later authorities tell us also of other Persian tribes: Kyrtians, Rhapaesans, Stobaeans, Suzaeans, etc. They also reckon the Paraetaci, or Paraetaceni, among the Persians.[513] The Mardians of Herodotus are also called Amardians by later writers, who place them in the West, among the mountains which divide Persia from Elam.[514] With regard to the position of the rest of the tribes, we can only ascertain that the Pasargadae occupied the best part of the Persian land–the valley of the Pulwar; that the Maraphians[515] and the Maspians were their neighbours, and the land of the Pateisch.o.r.ei followed next after that of the Pasargadae on the eastern side, towards Carmania. Besides these three chief tribes, the Pasargadae, Maraphians, and Maspians, the Persian nation, according to these statements, was made up of a considerable number of more or less powerful tribes, of whom each one, like the chief tribes themselves, must have had a separate territory, or, at any rate, a pasture for its flocks.

If the name Parsua could signify Persians, the inscriptions of the kings of a.s.shur would confirm the division of the Persians into several tribes. Shalmanesar II. tells us, that in the year 833 B.C. he received tribute from the heads of the Parsuas, as the inscription says: from twenty-seven princes of the Parsuas. Afterwards Tiglath Pilesar II.

traversed the land of the Parsuas and imposed tribute upon them (744 B.C.).[516] The books of the Hebrews confirm Esarhaddon’s dominion over Persia, inasmuch as they tell us that he settled Persians and Dai (Dahas) in Samaria (III. 154).

It must have been in the period of the supremacy of a.s.syria, at the latest in the first half of the seventh century B.C., that the worship of the G.o.ds, which the Persians shared from all antiquity with their fellow-tribesmen on the table-land of Iran, the worship of Mithra, Vayu, Anahita, and fire, underwent the change which bears the name of Zarathrustra. As we saw good reason to a.s.sume, the new doctrine first came to the Medes from the North-East; from the Medes it pa.s.sed, without doubt, to the Persians. If Herodotus places the Magians, or special priestly order, among the tribes of the Medes and not among those of the Persians, among whom Strabo is the first to mention them, the conclusion is, as has been sufficiently proved, not that the Persians were without priests before and after the reform, but rather that even after the reform the priestly families remained in their natural unions, and did not form themselves into a special tribe (p. 192).

The supremacy of a.s.syria over the West of Iran came to an end when Phraortes united the tribes of the Medes under his leadership, and, towards the year 640 B.C., undertook to maintain the independence of Media against a.s.surbanipal, the successor of Esarhaddon. In this struggle the Persians joined the Medes and ranged themselves under them.

Herodotus, who obviously follows the tradition of the Medes, represents Phraortes as marching against the Persians, conquering and subjugating them; according to the Persian account, which is preserved in Ctesias, the chief of the Medes induced the Persians to revolt against the a.s.syrians, and to join him, by the promise that they should remain free under his leadership (III. 250). The situation of affairs agrees better with the second version than with the first. Considering the enormous power which a.s.syria under a.s.surbanipal possessed down to the middle of the seventh century, it is hardly probable that Phraortes would have inaugurated the recent independence of Media by an attack on the Persians, which might, and indeed must, drive them into the arms of the a.s.syrians. It is far more probable that the two nations formed a league against a.s.syria. As already observed, the annihilation of the kingdom of Elam, which a.s.surbanipal accomplished in the year 645 B.C., would supply the Persians with a strong incentive to unite themselves with the kindred and more powerful nation of the Medes.

Of the three tribes of the Pasargadae, Maraphians, and Maspians, the most prominent–so Herodotus tells us–are the Pasargadae.[517] To them belongs the race of the Achaemenids, from which sprang the Persian kings.

In the inscription of Behistun, King Darius says: “From old time we were kings; eight of my family have been kings (Kshayathiya), I am the ninth; from very ancient times we have been kings.”[518] He enumerates his ancestors: “My father was Vistacpa, the father of Vistacpa was Arsama, the father of Arsama was Ariyaramna, the father of Ariyaramna was Khaispis, the father of Khaispis was Hakhamanis; hence we are called Hakhamanisiya (Achaemenids).” In these words Darius gives the tree of his own family up to Khaispis; this was the younger branch of the Achaemenids. Teispes, the son of Achaemenes, had two sons; the elder was Cambyses (Kambujiya), the younger Ariamnes; the son of Cambyses was Cyrus (Kurus), the son of Cyrus was Cambyses II.[519] Hence Darius could indeed maintain, that eight princes of his family had preceded him; but it was not correct to maintain that they had been kings before him, and that he was the ninth king.[520]

In this series of the ancestors of Darius we find names belonging not only to the East of Iran, but also to the Arians of India. The name Cambyses (Kambujiya) points to the Cambojas, a nation which we found in the north-west of India (IV. 249); the name Cyrus (Kurus) to the ancestors of the ancient princely race who founded the first great empire in the land of the Ganges on the upper course of the river, whose contest with and overthrow by the Pandus is celebrated by the Indian epic, while the name Vistacpa repeats the name of the King of Bactria, whom the prayers of the Avesta extol as the protector of Zarathrustra (p. 132). Of Achaemenes we are told that an eagle nourished him;[521] a prophet of the Hebrews calls Cyrus “the eagle;” we know the importance which the Avesta ascribes to the two eagles of the sky, and the modern Persian epic to Simurgh; and we have seen that the standard of the Achaemenids was an eagle (p. 173). Hence from this notice we may with certainty conclude that the tradition of the Persians ascribed to this ancestor of their kings a youth distinguished by the favour of heaven.

As Cambyses the father of Cyrus is a contemporary of Astyages of Media, Teispes the father of Cambyses must be reckoned a contemporary of Cyaxares, and Achaemenes, the father of Teispes, as a contemporary of Phraortes.[522] We must therefore a.s.sume either that Achaemenes was at the head of the Persians, at the time when they joined Media, or that he was established by Phraortes as the chief of Persia and his va.s.sal-king, and that his throne pa.s.sed with the duties of va.s.salage to his descendants Teispes and Cambyses. It is not very probable that the traditions of the Persians should have accorded signs of divine favour to the youth of a man, who had been placed over them after their subjugation as viceroy of Media. Moreover, we find among the Persians, according to this tradition, a form of const.i.tution, such as a Median viceroy would hardly have established, even for the object of overthrowing the Median power. The race of the Achaemenids belonged to the tribe of the Pasargadae; we may therefore a.s.sume that Achaemenes was the first to become chief of this tribe.

Aeschylus enumerates the seven men who stand at the side of the king of the Persians.[523] Josephus says that the “seven houses” of the Persians had named Darius as king. As a fact we see that when Darius, after the extinction of the older line of the descendants of Achaemenes, sets himself to ascend the throne, six men stand at his side, whom Herodotus distinguishes as the “first of the Persians.” The Laws ascribed to Plato say that the empire was then divided into seven parts between Darius and the Six, and that a relic of this division was still in existence.[524]

In regard to the privileges of the Six and their descendants we find that they consisted in the right of free access to the king, and that the king could choose his chief wife only from their families;[525] the descendants of the Six had also the right to wear the head-dress of the king, the upright _kidaris_, which was the symbol of royal dignity. In the kingdom of the Sa.s.sanids, we find seven hereditary princes under the king; these princes, like the king, wear crowns, but their crowns are lower than that of the king; the “sons of the houses,” _i.e._ the members of these seven families, form the highest rank of the n.o.bility.

Hence in these six chieftains of the Persians standing at the side of and beneath the seventh, who is the prince of the Pasargadae, we may suppose that we have the princes of the remaining tribes.[526] And in respect of the privileges of the six co-chieftains in the kingdom of the Achaemenids we may a.s.sume that they originally occupied a position close to the king, and formed the council and court of the chief tribal prince. These privileges the Greeks ascribe to the services which the Six rendered at the time when Darius ascended the throne. But as the seven houses existed before, and the Six had previously been “the first of the Persians,” their privileged position must have been of an older date; it must have been introduced by Cyrus or be of even more remote origin. It is not probable that such a mighty warrior prince as Cyrus would, after the reduction of the Medes, impose limitations on his power by sharing the symbols of royalty and hereditary privileges. According to the narrative of Herodotus, Cyrus does not simply command the Persians to take up arms against the Medes, but he a.s.sembles the tribes, and ascertains their feeling. In considering the peculiar position of these six families we may certainly a.s.sume, that under the ancestors of Cyrus there were chiefs among the Persians with whom the Achaemenids had to deal. If the Achaemenids were the heads of the tribe of the Pasargadae, the other tribes would have chiefs also. Yet we only hear of “six princes” besides the Achaemenids, though we have seen that the number of the Persian tribes was considerably more than seven.

Following the indications thus given, we may sketch the course of events as follows. When Achaemenes had acquired the headship of the tribe of the Pasargadae, he must have combined the two neighbouring tribes, the Maraphians and Maspians, whom Herodotus with the Pasargadae as the most important among the Persians, into closer union, perhaps by some understanding with the chiefs. Supported by these three tribes, who possessed the favoured regions of Kazerun, Shiras, and Merdasht, Achaemenes must then have subjugated the remainder to his power.

Herodotus told us above that the remaining tribes depended on the three mentioned. They must, therefore, have been combined into larger groups, and in fact into four communities. To the chiefs who became the heads of these new combinations, a position must have been accorded similar to that enjoyed by the Maraphians and Maspians beside Achaemenes–above all, the right to bequeath the chieftainship to their descendants. When the chiefs of the Persians, now seven in number, mutually guaranteed to each other their position, the foundation was laid of a community of interests, and thus of a community of the Persian nation. That the princes of the four new combinations of tribes belonged to those tribes, and not to the three first, is proved by the inscription of Darius at Naksh-i-Rustem, where one of the princes of the date of Darius is called a Pateisch.o.r.ean. In some such way as this Achaemenes may have brought about the union of the Persian tribes, and at the same time have obtained the leadership of them. His position thus rested essentially on the relation of the prince of the Pasargadae to the other six tribal princes, a relation of which we find no trace in the Medes. That the number seven was normal for the combinations of the tribes we may ascribe to the influence of the recently-introduced doctrine of Zarathrustra, of which we found echoes in the legend of Achaemenes.

Achaemenes and his race after him must have had their dwelling in the canton of the tribe to which they belonged, at the place of a.s.sembly of the Pasargadae, the chief town, which bore the name of the tribe.

Supported by this tribe, Achaemenes succeeded in uniting the people; on it and the neighbouring Marapheans and Maspians depended the importance of the Achaemenids. Strabo calls Pasargadae the ancient seat, and with Persepolis the patriarchal abode of the Persian kings,[527] and here, on ascending the throne, they were consecrated. Here Cyrus deposited his treasures; here he found his last resting-place. We must look for this place in “Hollow Persia,” as the Greeks call it, in the plain of Merdasht, to the east of the later Istakhr, the city of the Sa.s.sanids, below the confluence of the Medus and Cyrus (_i.e._ the Pulwar and k.u.m-i-Firuz) in the land of the Bendemir.[528]

When Achaemenes had united the tribes of the Persians by means of the new hereditary chieftainships, and got into his hands the supreme power with the co-operation of the six princes in council and jurisdiction, he joined the king of the Medes, who had also united the tribes of his people, soon after the year 645 B.C., as we were compelled to a.s.sume, for common defence against a.s.syria. Being weaker than the Median king, he ranged himself under his leadership and power, agreed to follow him in war, and accepted the position of his general and va.s.sal. The relation must have been similar to that which Firdusi represents as existing between his kings and the princes of Sejestan (p. 252). In this combination the Persians shared the dangers of the war against king a.s.surbanipal, and the defeat of Phraortes, no less than the defeat of Cyaxares by the Scythians; on the other hand, they were the comrades of Cyaxares in his struggles against the Lydians, and in his victory over a.s.syria, while they took an active part in the annihilation of Nineveh.

At the same time we may a.s.sume that this dependent position became more strongly marked as the power of Media increased, and we may believe Herodotus that their soldiers joined in subjugating the other tribes of the table-land of Iran, and marched with the armies of the Medes to the wars which Cyaxares carried on in the East. The episode of Parsondes exhibits a Persian at the court, in the council, and in the army of the Median king; and the position of the Persians under the successors of Achaemenes, Teispes, and Cambyses, must have closely resembled the position of the other nations subject to the Median power. Cyaxares and his successor Astyages would have regarded Teispes and Cambyses merely as their viceroys over Persia, though they did not disturb the succession in the tribe of Achaemenes. If Darius still calls all his ancestors kings, and extends this t.i.tle to his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, who were not viceroys, that is merely the custom and view of the East; even under the great king, the King of kings, a va.s.sal is still a king. The hereditary viceroys of Persia under the Arsacids, one and all, put the t.i.tle “king” on their coins. When Papek, and Ardeshir after him, had taken their place, they call themselves kings; Ardeshir, the founder of the dominion of the Sa.s.sanids, designates himself as “king,” “king of the divine stock,” even before he has overthrown his own king, Artaba.n.u.s, the Arsacid. As the youth of Achaemenes is enn.o.bled in the older tradition, so later legends surrounded the life of the progenitor of the Sa.s.sanids with premonitory indications.


[505] Burnouf, “Commentaire sur le Yacna,” p. 251.

[506] Arrian, “Ind.” 38-40; Strabo, p. 727, 728, 738; Plin. “H. N.” 6, 26; cf. Ptol. 6, 4, 1.

[507] “Bacch.” 14-16.

[508] Arrian, “Ind.” 40.

[509] Spiegel, “Eran,” 2, 260.

[510] Herod. 9, 122, 1, 171; Nicol. Damasc. fragm. 66, ed. Muller; Xenophon, “Cyri inst.i.t.” 6, 2, 22; 8, 8, 5-12; Plato, “Legg.” p. 695; Strabo, p. 734.

[511] Herod. 1, 125.

[512] Strabo, p. 727.

[513] Above, p. 270. Strabo, p. 728, 730; Ptol. 6, 4.

[514] Arrian, “Ind.” 40; Strabo, p. 727.

[515] Aeschylus speaks of a Maraphis among the kings of the Persians, “Pers.” 778.

[516] Above, p. 282.

[517] The place has the same name as the tribe; Pasargadae cannot in any case mean “Persian camp,” as Anaximenes maintains in Stepha.n.u.s. Oppert believes that he has discovered in the Pisiyauvada of the inscription of Behistun the original form of the name Pasargadae, which is the Greek form of the Persian word. Pisiyauvada (_paisi gauvuda_) means “valley of springs;” “Peuple des Medes,” p. 110.

[518] So Rawlinson and Spiegel. E. Schrader translates III. of the Babylonian version: “From old from the fathers we were kings.” _Abutav_ appears as a fact to leave no doubt about this sense. Oppert now translates _duvitataranam_ (IV. of the Persian text) by twice, _i.e._ in two epochs we were kings: “Rec. of the Past,” 7, 88; but his previous translation, “in two tribes” (_i.e._ in the older and younger line), we were kings, exactly corresponds to the facts.

[519] The list of the Achaemenids, which we obtain from a comparison of Herodotus (6, 11), and the inscription of Behistun 1, 3-8, is as follows:

Achaemenes (Hakhamanis).


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