Penny Cyclopedia/Massagetæ

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Penny Cyclopedia

The penny cyclopædia of the Society for the diffusion of useful knowledge. 1833.

An ancient people of central Asia, in an expedition against whom Cyrus is said to have lost his life. (Herod., i. 201-216; Justin., i. 8.) It is difficult to determine their position; but it appears probable' that they dwelt north of the Jaxartes (Sihon), in the country which is at present inhabited by the middle horde of the Kirghis. Herodotus says that they lived north of the Araxes, by which he probably means the Jaxartes (i. 201), and to the east of the Caspian Sea. According to Strabo, the Hyperborei, Sauromatæ, and Arimaspi dwelt above the Euxine, the Ister, and the Adriatic; and the Sacæ and Massagetæ above the Caspian (p. 507, Casaubon) ; and a little further he remarks that the Massagetæ were to the east of the Daæ, who bordered on the Caspian Sea (p. 511).

Herodotus was in doubt whether the Massagetæ ought to be reckoned among the Scythians (i. 201); but they were usually regarded as part of the Scythian nation by succeeding writers. (Arrian, iv. 17; Pliny, H.N., vi. 19.) Herodotus appears to have used the name of Massagetæ to designate all the nomadic tribes of central Asia east of the Caspian; while he confined that of Scythia to the country north of the Euxine and the Danube. The similarity of their name {Massa-getæ; compare Tyri-getæ, Thyssa-getæ) would lead us to suppose that they were connected with the Getæ of Europe.

The Massagetæ are described by Herodotus as a numerous and powerful nomadic people, who resembled the Scythians in their dress and mode of life. Gold and silver were plentiful among them; but no iron nor silver was found in their country, They were however in a very low state of civilization even for a nomadic people. They had a community of wives; and their aged people were killed and eaten by their relations. (Compare Rennell's Geography of Herodotus, sect x.; and as to the custom of eating their parents, the article Battas, and Moore's Notices on the Indian Archipelago, Singapore, 1837.)