1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Massagetae

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16136051911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 17 — MassagetaeEllis Hovell Minns

MASSAGETAE, an ancient warlike people described by Herodotus (i. 203–216; iv. 22, 172) as dwelling beyond the Araxes (i.e. the Oxus) in what is now Balkh and Bokhara. It was against their queen Tomyris that Cyrus undertook the expedition in which according to one story he met his end. In their usages some tribes were nomads like the people of Scythia (q.v.), others with their community of wives and habit of killing and eating their parents recalled the Issedones (q.v.); while the dwellers in the islands of the river were fish-eating savages. Probably the name denoted no ethnic unity, but included all the barbarous north-eastern neighbours of the Persians. Herodotus says they only used gold and copper (or bronze), not silver or iron. Their lavish use of gold has caused certain massive ornaments from southern Siberia, now in the Hermitage at St Petersburg, to be referred to the Massagetae.  (E. H. M.)