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Apadana Hall, fifth-century BC carving of Persian archers and Median soldiers in traditional costume (Medians are wearing rounded hats and boots)

Kings of the Umman Manda (Media): Their Hidden Origins and History – Part I

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The term Medes, as a single ethnic group that encompasses all Media, is generic. It seems that the region of Media encompassed many smaller and independent principalities ruled by chieftains instead of kings, and was a makeup of various peoples of different ethnic backgrounds.

As for the Median region, the extent of its boundaries towards the east is unknown. The Median territory did border the Zagros Mountains to the west and the Caucasus to the north, while its southern neighbor was Ellipi.

The Assyrians and Babylonians called them Madayu, the Persians called them Mada, and the Greeks called them Medes. In addition, the Assyrians and Babylonians also equate the Medes with the Umman-manda in the Fall of Nineveh Chronicle. The meaning of Umman-manda could be “Manda-host” or “host of the Manda.” It has also been suggested that Umman-manda could mean “Who Knows,” “Barbarous people,” or “Nomads;” one could say a mixed multitude of uncivilized people from the north.

The term Umman-manda has been subject to change with the regional people that mentioned them. Take for instance the name Tidal or Tudkhul. Tidal/Tudkhul is said to be the king of the Hittites but is also called king of the Umman-manda or “Nations of the North.” Consider also, a much older event in which Naram-Sin, king of the Akkadian empire, defeated the Umman-manda and he states, “ the powers of the Umman-manda are struck down.

Medes and Persians at the eastern stairs of the Apadana in Persepolis, Iran.

Medes and Persians at the eastern stairs of the Apadana in Persepolis, Iran. (CC BY-SA 3.0)

From the time the Umman-manda was mentioned by Naram-Sin up to the time of Nabopolassar, over 1500 years had elapsed between events. This suggests that the term Umman-manda is generic and does not identify one particular people but rather a horde of many tribes with various names. These tribes resembled more of a fractured federation rather than an invading army looking to expand their empire. In addition, consider the term Umman-manda was just a Mesopotamian stereotype when referring to people not native to the civilized powers in the region. The Umman-manda of Narma-Sin and the Umman-manda of Nabopolassar were two different hordes that most likely had no relationship to each other.

King Cyaxares and his Possible Ancestral Origins

 In old Iranian/Persian, Cyaxares’ name is “Hvakhshathra” or “Uaksatar,” as well as “Uksatar,” which is interesting, for if Cyaxares was a Mede, then why is his name in Old Iranian/Persian Hvakhshathra? Hvakh is most likely a rendering of the Old Iranian name Hakha, which is a variation of the Sanskrit word Sakha; both Sakha and Hakha mean Saka, and Saka is another name for a nomadic tribe. Now shathra, or hathra, seems to be derived from the word satra in Sanskrit, which means “together, collectively united, and dominion.” In addition, Hathra in Parthian means “city or country.” Also, consider that shathra/hathra could also be a rendering of the Persian word “shah,” which means king. Now if we look at the other renderings of Cyaxares’ name – like Uksatar and Uaksatar – notice that his name carries the word “satar,” which also seems to be a rendering of the word “satra.” Therefore, it is plausible that Cyaxares was of Saka/Scythian stock due to his name but it remains uncertain.

What is about to be presented fixes the issue but adds another piece to the puzzle to consider.


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Top Image: Apadana Hall, fifth-century BC carving of Persian archers and Median soldiers in traditional costume (Medians are wearing rounded hats and boots) (CC BY-SA 3.0)

By Cam Rea




My understanding is Hvakha in near Sanskrit represents Saka tribes and Shathra in Sanskrit pronunciation resembles area i.e Kurushetra in india means Kuru = kuru tribe and shetra = area, place of

Area of Kuru tribe , similarly the area or region of the Saka tribe.

Cam Rea's picture

Cam Rea

Cam Rea is a Military Historian and currently the Associate Editor/Writer at Strategy & Tactics Press. Mr. Rea has published several books and written numerous articles for Strategy & Tactics Press and Classical Wisdom Weekly. His most current publication is... Read More

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