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Deriv; 5th century BC Achaemenid-era carving of Persian and Median soldiers in traditional costume and eclipse

Kings of the Umman Manda (Media): Warnings and Omens – Part II

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Once Cyaxares had finalized the conquest of Urartu, he handed it over to a certain tribe of Scythians who had inhabited the region of Armenia beforehand and thus extended their domain.

It is said that the Scythians who inhabited the region of Armenia helped him in his campaign against Assyria, that a certain chieftain by the name of Paroyr, son of Skayordi, assisted Cyaxares in his invasion and the sacking of Nineveh in 612 BCE. Afterwards, Cyaxares’ viceroy Varbakes crowned Paroyr king of Armenia. However, what becomes even more interesting is the name of Paroyr, son of Skayordi.

Kingdom of Urartu 715–713 BC

Kingdom of Urartu 715–713 BC (Sémhur/ CC BY-SA 3.0 )

The name Paroyr has been suggested to be the Assyrian equivalent of Partatua (or Bartatua), who was a famous Scythian chieftain who made an alliance with Esarhaddon, king of Assyria. Thus it becomes quite possible that Paroyr was named after the great Scythian warrior due to legendary reason or it was just a common name among Scythian groups.

Gold Scythian belt title, Mingachevir (ancient Scythian kingdom), Azerbaijan, 7th century BC.

Gold Scythian belt title, Mingachevir (ancient Scythian kingdom), Azerbaijan, 7th century BC. ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

The name next mentioned is Skayordi, which is said to mean “son of a Scythian,” “a good Saka,” or “son of the Saka”. Thus, Paroyr was a Scythian whom Cyaxares must have regarded highly and in turn gave Paroyr’s Scythian tribe domain over Urartu. Whether Paroyr was alive during the conquest of Urartu by Cyaxares is debatable. It is certain that sometime after the conquest, around 570 BCE, a Scythian by the name of Yervand Sakavakyats came to the throne, thus establishing the Yervandunis Dynasty, also known as the Orontid Dynasty in Greek. Now whether Yervand was the first of this dynasty is not known and is debatable, for one would think it was Paroyr who had initially founded the dynasty, but that is another subject for another time. Once the Kingdom of Armenia was established, it became more or less a vassal to Cyaxares’ Umman-manda Empire.

An Armenian tribute bearer carrying a metal vessel with griffin handles. 5th century BC.

An Armenian tribute bearer carrying a metal vessel with griffin handles. 5th century BC. ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

In addition, it becomes quite possible that Cyaxares created it to not only to pay tribute to the Umman-manda, but also provide protection as a buffer state between the Umman-manda and possible threats of invasions from nomadic Scythians to the north in the Caucasus Mountains. Cyaxares had already experienced this once before, when Madyes and his Scythian forces invaded and subdued him for a time. Also, keep in mind that Babylonians to the south were just as much of a threat to Cyaxares as the Scythians were to the north. The only difference – and one speculates – is that the Babylonians were a visible enemy that could be dealt with in a time of crisis, while the Scythian/Saka tribes to the north of the Umman-manda Empire were in Terra incognita. In other words, they knew who the people were but did not know the strength of their forces nor the land in which they dwelt for sure. This is not to say that Cyaxares knew nothing about them; it was just better to avoid them due to unknown circumstances.

The Babylonians in turn seemed to feel the same about the Umman-manda; for it was during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar that a great wall was built known as the “Median Wall,” otherwise known as the “Wall of Babylon.”

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Top Image: Deriv; 5th century BC Achaemenid-era carving of Persian and Median soldiers in traditional costume ( CC BY-SA 3.0 ) and eclilpse (CC BY 2.0).

By Cam Rea

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