Media. From Madai, Japheth's son (Ge 10:2). They called themselves Mada in the arrow headed inscriptions, Semitic Madai Greek Medoi. S.W. and S. of the Caspian, N.W. and N. of Persia, W. of Parthia and the salt desert of Iram, E. of Armenia and Assyria. Its length was 550 miles; its width was 300. Coming to Europe in small parties mingled with the Scythians they were the Sarmatians (Sauro-Matae) of the steppe country between the Euxine and Caspian. Berosus (in Eusebius Chron. i. 4) states that about 2450 B.C. eight Median kings reigned over Babylon for 224 years. Aryans (the name applied to Medes by their neighbors in Herodotus' time, vii. 62) existed very early with Cushites and Shemites in the Mesopotamian population. These Aryans probably became masters for a time, then were driven to the mountains from whence they spread E., N., and W. The early Vedic settlers in western Hindostan were Aryans. The Maeotae of the sea of Azov and the Medi of Thrace (see Herodotus, v. 9) attest their progress.
Rawlinson (Herodotus, i. 327; Es. iii. 3) thinks that the Medes of Berosus' statement were really Scyths; but Berosus' statements are generally confirmed by recent deciphering of the Babylonian monuments. A very early Aryan migration probably preceded the one in progress about 880 B.C. Then the Medes appear in the cuneiform inscriptions as Assyria's enemies, inhabiting part of Media. They then consisted of petty chieftains and tribes without central government. Assyria ravaged their lands and exacted tribute. The range of Zagros inhabited by hardy mountaineers intervened between them and Assyria. So, in spite of Sargon's attempt by military colonies to occupy Media permanently, the Medes maintained their nationality and outlived Assyria. Sennacherib and his successor Esarhaddon both profess to conquer Media, which shows it was still unconquered when they came to the throne. In Ahaz' reign, beginning 741 B.C., Kir a Median city was held by Tiglath Pileser (2Ki 16:9).
In Sargon's reign the ten tribes were removed to the cities of the Medes (2Ki 17:6). In the deciphered inscriptions he says he founded in Media cities which he planted with colonists from other parts of his dominions. As Assyria declined Media rose. Cyaxares subdued the Scythians (those of Zagros range and the kindred tribes invited by the former from the N.) who disputed with the Aryans the possession of the mountain region. Finally he captured Nineveh 625 B.C. Nabopolassar with the Babylonians helped him in its overthrow (Abydenus), and was therefore made independent king of Babylon. (See NINEVEH; ASSYRIA.) The Median empire then was separated from Babylonia either by the Tigris or by a line half way between the Tigris and Euphrates; Syria, Phoenicia, and Judaea falling to Babylon. Cyaxares' predecessors named by Herodotus, Deioces the first king (a title assumed by all Median kings, from dahak "biter" or "snake"), and Phraortes, are hardly historical persons.
Cyaxares after taking Nineveh tried to extend his empire even beyond Assyria's boundary, the Halys, to the Aegean Sea. But after a six years' war in which he had Babylon's help he failed to conquer Lydia, and the three great monarchies concluded a peace (ratified by engagements and intermarriages) which lasted throughout Cyaxares' and his son Astyages' reigns. Media probably left the native monarchs over the subject nations and required only tribute. Certainly Cambyses and his son Cyrus so held their throne under Media until Cyrus revolted. The latter introduced the system of satraps. Media only lasted as an empire the two reigns of Cyaxares and Astyages, 75 years, down to 558 B.C. (still that there were earlier kings appears from Jer 25:25, "all the kings of the Medes".) Enervated by adopting Assyrian manners the Medes were defeated by the hardy Persian mountaineers under Cyrus, and their king Astyages taken. Both races being of the same Aryan or Iranic source, the same religion and language, naturally all but coalesced.
Together they conquered Babylon, as foreseen by Isaiah (Isa 13:17): "behold I will stir up the Medes against them, which shall not regard silver, and as for gold they shall not delight in it" (similarly Xenophon, Cyrop. 5:1, section 10, makes Cyrus attribute to the Medes disregard of riches, "and Babylon shall be ... as when God overthrew Sodom"); so Isa 21:2, "go up O Elam (Persia), besiege O Media." Both Medes and Persians were famous in using "bows" and as horsemen. Cyrus made Darius the Mede viceroy of Babylon until he assumed the government (Daniel 5; 6; Ezra 1). (See CYRUS; DARIUS; BABYLON.) The Median capital was a royal residence for part of the year, and Media claimed precedence among the provinces. Achmetha (Ecbatana) "the palace in the province of the Medes" (Ezr 6:2-5) is where Cyrus' decree is found, an undesigned coincidence of Scripture with the fact that the Median capital was the seat of government under Cyrus, but a royal residence only under Darius Hystaspes.
Discontent however led Media to seek to regain its old ascendancy and to elevate a Phraortes to the throne who claimed descent from Cyaxares. Darius Hystaspes crushed the rebellion with difficulty, and crucified and mutilated Phraortes. Again in vain the Medes rebelled under Darius Nothus. Afterward they made no further attempt. Herodotus divides the Medes into six tribes, of which the Arizanti (of Aryan descent) seem the first, then the Paretaceni, Struchates, Busae; lastly the Budii (the Putiya of the Persian inscriptions) and Magi (the priest caste, a Scythic tribe incorporated by the Medes with themselves, foreigners admitted into the nation). The two divisions latterly made were Media Magna (now Kurdistan, Luristan, Ardelan, and Irak Ajemi) and Media Atropatia (now Azerbijan, the tract between the Caspian and the mountains running N. front Zagros, N. and W. of Media Magna) or Atropatene. The phrases "the Medes and Persians" and "Media and Persia," even after the Persians got the supremacy (Es 10:2), show the original supremacy of Media, which still in legal and religious formalities was retained.
In Da 8:3, of the two horns on the ram the higher came up last, namely, Persia. Herodotus (1:131) makes their original religion the worship of the elements, tire, etc. Rawlinson however makes dualism (the worship of both a good and an evil principle eternally existing: Ormuzd the good object of trust, Ahriman the object of fear) to have been their original faith as described in the Zendavesta, and that the worship of the elements was subsequently taken from the Scythians (the fire worshippers of Armenia and Mount Zagros, among whom Magism existed from of old) and was Magian. Their language belongs to the great Indo Germanic family, which Japheth's sons starting from Armenia spread N., E., and W. In Persia the purer Aryan creed, dualism (Ormuzd however being supreme), prevailed; in Media Magism, the worship of water, air, earth, and above all fire, to which altars (but no temples) on mountain tops were dedicated, on which the fire was never allowed to go out.
The usurpation of the Pseudo Smerdis or the Magian Artaxerxes (Ezra 4) was probably a religious revolution, Median Magianism striving against the Persian creed. (See DARIUS HYSTASPES; ARTAXERXES.) The magi performed the sacred rites, and divined the future; from them "magic" takes its name. (See MAGI.) Fear of polluting the elements gave rise to the superstition of neither burying nor burning their dead, but exposing them to beasts and birds of prey (Herododus, i. 140), as do still the Parsees. The Persians copied their dress, the flowing robe seen on the Persepolitan sculptures. Their arms were bows, arrows, shields, short spears, poniards. They delighted in rich colors of dress, as scarlet, and chains and collars of gold.