Eth. NISAEI CAMPI
, plains of considerable extent in the mountain district of Media, which were famous for the production of a celebrated breed of horses.
According to Strabo, they were on the road of those who travelled from Persis and Babylon in the direction of the Caspian Gates (xi. p. 529), and fed 50,000 brood mares for the royal stables.
In another place, the same geographer states that the Nisaean horse were reared in the plains of Armenia (xi. p. 530), from which we infer that the plains themselves extended from Armenia southward through Media. Again, in the Epitome of Strabo (iii. p.536
, ed. Kramer), the Nisaean plain is stated to be near the Caspian Gates, which lead into Parthia.
The fact is, the district was not accurately defined. Herodotus states that the place, from which the best white horses (which were reserved for the use of the king) came, was a great plain in Media (7.40). And the same view is taken by Eustachius in his Commentary on Dionysius (5.1017
), and confirmed by the notice in Arrian's account of Alexander's march (7.13). Ammianus, on the other hand, states that the Nisaean horses were reared in the plains S. of M. Coronus (now Demawend
It appears to have been the custom on the most solemn occasions to sacrifice these horses to the sun (Philostr. Vit. Apoll.
1.20); and it may be inferred from Herodotus that they were also used to draw the chariot of the Sun (7.40.) (Cf. also Steph. B. sub voce
40; Themist. Orat.
v. p. 72; Heliodor. Aethiop.
ix. p. 437 ; Suid. s. v. Νίσαοιν
.) Colonel Rawlinson has examined the whole of this geographical question, which is much perplexed by the ignorance of the ancient writers, with his usual ability; and has concluded that the statements of Strabo are, on the whole, the most trustworthy, while they are, in a great degree, borne out by the existing character of the country.
He states that in the rich and extensive plains of Alíshtar
he recognises the Nisaean plains, which were visited by Alexander on his way from Baghistane to Susa and Ecbatana ; and he thinks that the Nisaean horse came originally from the Nisaea of Khorásan
, which is still famous for its Turkoman horses. Colonel Rawlinson further believes that Herodotus, who was imperfectly acquainted with Median geography, transferred the name Nisaea from Khorásan
to Media, and hence was the cause of much of the confusion which has arisen. Strabo, on the other hand, describes correctly the great horse pastures as extending along the whole line of Media, from the road which led from Babylon to the Caspian Gates to that conducting from Babylon into Persia.
The whole of this long district, under the names of Kháwah
, and Feridún
, is still famous for its excellent grazing and abundance of horses. Colonel Rawlinson, indeed, thinks that Strabo's epithet, ἱππόβοτος
, is a translation of Silákhúr, which means "a full manger."
It was from this plain that Python brought his supply of beasts of burthen to the camp of Antigonus (Diod. 19.2
) after the perilous march of the Greeks across the mountains of the Cossaeans. (Rawlinson, Royal Geogr. Journ.
vol. ix. pt. i. p. 100.)