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MASSA´GETAE (Eth. Μασσαγέται), a numerous and powerful tribe who dwelt in Asia on the plains to the E. of the Caspian and to the S. of the Issedones, on the E. bank of the Araxes. Cyrus, according to story, lost his life in a bloody fight against them and their queen Tomyris. (Hdt. 1.205-214; Just. 1.8.) They were so analogous to the Scythians that they were reckoned as members of the same race by many of the contemporaries of Herodotus, who has given a detailed account of their habits and manner of life. From the exactness of the geographical data furnished by that historian, the situation of this people can be made out with considerable precision. The Araxes is the Jaxartes, and the immense plain to the E. of the Caspian is that “steppe” land which now includes Sungaria and Mongolia, touching on the frontier of Eygur, and extending to the chain of the Altai. The gold and bronze in which their country abounded were found in the Altai range. Strabo (xi. pp. 512--514) confirms the statements of the Father of History as to the inhuman practices and repulsive habits of these earliest specimens of the Mongolian race. It may be observed that while Niebuhr (Klein Schrift. p. 362), Böckh (Corp. Inscr. Graec. pl. xi. p. 81) and Schafarik (Slav. Alt. vol. i. p. 279) agree in assigning them to the Mongol stock, Von Humboldt (Asie Centrale, vol. i. p. 400) considers them to have belonged to the Indo-European family.

Alexander came into collision with these wandering hordes, during the campaign of Sogdiana, B.C. 328. (Arrian, Arr. Anab. 4.16, 17.) The Massagetae occur in Pomponius Mela (1.2.5), Pliny (6.19), and Ptolemy (6.10.2, 13.3): afterwards they appear as Alani. [ALANI]


hide References (5 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (5):
    • Herodotus, Histories, 1.205
    • Herodotus, Histories, 1.214
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 6.19
    • Arrian, Anabasis, 4.16
    • Arrian, Anabasis, 4.17
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