1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Astyages

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ASTYAGES, the last king of the Median empire. In the inscriptions of Nabonidus the name is written Ishtuvegu (cylinder from Abu Habba V R 64, col. 1, 32; Annals, published by Pinches, Tr. Soc. Bibl. Arch. vii. col. 2, 2). According to Herodotus, he was the son of Cyaxares and reigned thirty-five years (584–550 B.C.); his wife was Aryenis, the daughter of Alyattes of Lydia (Herod, i. 74). About his reign we know little, as the narrative of Herodotus, which makes Cyrus the grandson of Astyages by his daughter Mandane, is merely a legend; the figure of Harpagus, who as general of the Median army betrays the king to Cyrus, alone seems to contain an historical element, as Harpagus and his family afterwards obtained a high position in the Persian empire. From the inscriptions of Nabonidus we learn that Cyrus, king of Anshan (Susiana), began war against him in 553 B.C.; in 550, when Astyages marched against Cyrus, his troops rebelled, and he was taken prisoner. Then Cyrus occupied and plundered Ecbatana. The captive king was treated fairly by Cyrus (Herod, i. 130), and according to Ctesias (Pers. 5, cf. Justin i. 6) made satrap of Hyrcania, where he was afterwards slain by Oebares against the will of Cyrus, who gave him a splendid funeral. Alexander Polyhistor and Abydenus in their excerpts from Berossus, which Eusebius (Chron. i. pp. 29 and 37) and Syncellus (p. 396) have preserved, give the name Astyages to the Median king who reigned in the time of the fall of Nineveh (606 B.C.), and became father-in-law of Nebuchadrezzar. This is evidently a mistake; the name ought to be Cyaxares (in the fragments of the Jewish history of Alexander Polyhistor, in Euseb. Praep. Ev. ix. 39, the name is converted into Astibaras, who, according to the unhistorical list of Ctesias, was the father of Astyages), and there is no reason to invent an earlier king Astyages I., as some modern authors have done. The Armenian historians render the name Astyages by Ashdahak, i.e. Azhi Dahaka (Zohak), the mythical king of the Iranian epics, who has nothing whatever to do with the historical king of the Medes.  (Ed. M.)