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Medes

MEDES

medz (madhi; Assyrian Amada, Mada; Achaem. Persian Mada; Medoi (Genesis 10:2; 2 Kings 17:6; 18:11; 1 Chronicles 1:5; Ezra 6:2; Esther 1:3,14,18,19; 10:2; Isaiah 13:17; 21:2; Jeremiah 25:25; 51:11,28; Daniel 5:28; 6:1,9,13,16; 8:20; 9:1; 11:1)):

Mentioned as Japhethites in Genesis 10:2, i.e. Aryans, and accordingly they first called themselves Arioi (Herod. vii.62), in Avestic Airya = Skt. Arya, "noble." They were closely allied in descent, language and religion with the Persians, and in secular history preceded their appearance by some centuries. Like most Aryan nations they were at first divided into small village communities each governed by its own chiefs (called in Assyrian chazanati by Assur-bani-pal: compare Herod. i.96). Shalmaneser II mentions them (Nimrod Obelisk, i.121) about 840 BC. They then inhabited the modern A'zarbaijan (Media Atropatene). Rammanu-nirari III of Assyria (Rawlinson, Western Asiatic Inscriptions, I, 35) declares that he (810-781 BC) had conquered "the land of the Medes and the land of Parsua" (Persis), as well as other countries. This probably meant only a plundering expedition, as far as Media was concerned. So also Assur-nirari II (Western Asiastic Inscriptions, II, 52) in 749-748 BC overran Namri in Southwest Media. Tiglath-pileser IV (in Babylonian called Pulu, the "Pul" of 2 Kings 15:19) and Sargon also overran parts of Media. Sargon in 716 BC conquered Kisheshin, Kharkhar and other parts of the country. Some of the Israelites were by him transplanted to "the cities of the Medes" (2 Kings 17:6; 18:11; the Septuagint reading Ore, cannot be rendered "mountains" of the Medes here) after the fall of Samaria in 722 BC. It was perhaps owing to the need of being able to resist Assyria that about 720 BC the Medes (in part at least) united into a kingdom under Deiokes, according to Herodotus (i.98). Sargon mentions him by the name Dayaukku, and says that he himself captured this prince (715 BC) and conquered his territory two years later. After his release, probably, Deiokes fortified Ecbatana (formerly Ellippi) and made it his capital. It has been held by some that Herodotus confounds the Medes here with the Manda (or Umman-Manda, "hosts of the Manda") of the inscriptions; but these were probably Aryan tribes, possibly of Scythian origin, and the names Mada and Manda may be, after all, identical. Esar-haddon in his 2nd year (679-678 BC) and Assurbani-pal warred with certain Median tribes, whose power was now growing formidable. They (or the Manda) had conquered Persis and formed a great confederacy. Under Kyaxares (Uvakh-shatara--Deiokes' grandson, according to Herodotus), they besieged Nineveh, but Assur-bani-pal, with the assistance of the Ashguza (? the Ashkenaz of Genesis 10:3), another Aryan tribe, repelled them. The end of the Assyrian empire came, however, in 606 BC, when the Manda under their king Iriba-tukte, Mamiti-arsu "lord of the city of the Medes," Kastarit of the Armenian district of Kar-kassi, the Kimmerians (Gimirra = Gomer) under Teushpa (Teispes, Chaishpish), the Minni (Manna; compare Jeremiah 51:27), and the Babylonians under Nabu-pal-ucsur, stormed and destroyed Nineveh, as Nabu-nahid informs us. The last king of Assyria, Sin-sar-iskun (Sarakos), perished with his people.

Herodotus says that Deiokes was succeeded by Phraortes (Fravartish) his son, Phraortes by his son Kyaxares; and the latter in turn left his kingdom to his son Astyages whose daughter Mandane married Cambyses, father of the great Cyrus. Yet there was no Median empire (such as he describes) then, or at least it did not embrace all the Aryan tribes of Western Asia, as we see from the inscriptions that in 606 BC, and even later, many of them were under kings and princes of their own (compare Jeremiah 25:25; 51:11). Herodotus tells us they were divided into six tribes, of whom the Magi were one (Herod. i.101). Kyaxares warred for 5 years (590-585 BC) with the Lydians, the struggle being ended in May, 585, by the total eclipse of the sun foretold by Thales (Herodotus i.74).

The alliance between the Medes and the Babylonians ended with Nebuchadnezzar's reign. His successor Nabu-nahid (555 BC) says that in that year the Medes under Astyages (Ishtuwegu) entered Mesopotamia and besieged Haran. Soon after, however, that dynasty was overthrown; for Cyrus the Persian, whom Nabu-nahid the first time he mentions him styles Astyages' "youthful slave" (ardusu cachru), but who was even then king of Anshan (Anzan), attacked and in 549 BC captured Astyages, plundered Ecbatana, and became king of the Medes. Though of Persian descent, Cyrus did not, apparently, begin to reign in Persia till 546 BC. Henceforth there was no Median empire distinguished from the Persian (nor is any such mentioned in Daniel, in spite of modern fancies). As the Medes were further advanced in civilization and preceded the Persians in sovereignty, the Greek historians generally called the whole nation "the Medes" long after Cyrus' time. Only much later are the Persians spoken of as the predominant partners. Hence, it is a sign of early date that Daniel (8:20) speaks of "Media and Persia," whereas later the Book of Esther reverses the order ("Persia and Media," Esther 1:3,14,18,19; 10:2), as in the inscriptions of Darius at Behistun. Under Darius I, Phraortes (Fravartish) rebelled, claiming the throne of Media as a descendant of Kyaxares. His cause was so powerfully supported among the Medes that the rebellion was not suppressed till after a fierce struggle. He was finally taken prisoner at Raga (Rai, near Tehran), brutally mutilated, and finally impaled st Ecbatana. After that Median history merges into that of Persia. The history of the Jews in Media is referred to in Daniel and Esther. 1 Maccabees tells something of Media under the Syrian (6:56) and Parthian dominion (14:1-3; compare Josephus, Ant, XX, iii). Medes are last mentioned in Acts 2:9. They are remarkable as the first leaders of the Aryan race in its struggle with the Semites for freedom and supremacy.

W. St. Clair Tisdall


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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'MEDES'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". 1915.