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Missing Links in Assyrian Tablets #7

Israel in Asia Minor




     In the Apocryphal Second Book of Esdras there is a passage
that reads: "And hereas thou sawest that he gathered another
peaceable multitude unto him; Those are the ten tribes, which
were carried away prisoners out of their own land in the time of
Osea the king, whom Salmanasar the king of Assyria led away
captive, and he carried them over the waters, and so came they
into another land. But they took this counsel among themselves,
that they would leave the multitude of the heathen, and go forth
into a further country, where never mankind dwelt, that they
might there keep their statutes, which they never kept in their
own land. And they entered into the Euphrates by the narrow
passages of the river. For the most High then shewed signs for
them, and held still the flood, till they were passed over. For
through that country there was a great way to go, namely, of a
year and a half: and the same region is called Arsareth. " (2
Esdras 13: 39-45)

     The above passage indicates a body of Israelites, evidently
placed in captivity near and to the west of the Khabur River,
escaped through the gorge of the Euphrates River. Since they
crossed the river we should find evidence of their presence west
of the river, in the large region called by the Assyrians,
"Tabal," which extended from Urartu to Phrygia. Phrygia is named
as a country overran by Cimmerians.

     Strabo, the Greek geographer wrote: "Those Cimmerians whom
they also call Trerans, or some tribe of the Cimmerians, often
overran the countries on the right of the Pontu (area south of
the Black Sea) and those adjacent to them, at one time have
invaded Paphlagnia, and at another time Phrygia even, at which
time Midas drank bull's blood, they say, and thus went down to
his doom." (Strabo 1,111,21) 

     The drinking of bull's blood was regarded as a kind of trial
by ordeal. If one died as a result of drinking the blood, it was
considered a sign of condemnation by the gods. Evidently, when
the Cimmerians invaded his kingdom, Midas king of Phrygia drank
bull's blood in order to invoke the decision of the gods as to
who should have the victory. Midas' death was probably accepted
as the will of the gods because the Phrygians seemingly accepted
the Cimmerians as divinely appointed overlords.
     The date of the death of Midas is uncertain but
archaeological excavations at Gorion, the Phrygian capital,
indicates that the city was destroyed by fire about 700 B.C.
Strabo goes on to say that "Lygdamis (Tugdamme in Assyrian
records) king of the Cimmerians, at the head of his own soldiers,
marched as far as Lydia and Ionia, and captured Sardis (capital
of Lydia) but lost his life in Cilicia."

     The account of the conquest and capture of Lydia, a kingdom
situated immediately to the west of Phrygia, is found in the
annals (records) of Ashurbanipal: "When Lydia came under attack
by the Cimmerians, Gyges, king of Lydia had a dream in which he
was told to appeal to Assyria for help. Assur, the god who
created me, he wrote, revealed the honored name of my majesty to
him in a dream, saying, Lay hold of the feet of his highness
Ashurbanipal, king of Assyria, favorite of Assur, king of the
gods, lord of all, and revere his kingship, implore the favor of
his lordship. As one doing homage and paying tribute, let thy
prayers come to him. On the same day that he saw this dream, he
sent couriers to me to greet me, and the Cimmerians who had been
disturbing his land, his hands took alive in battle. Together
with his heavy tribute he sent them to Nineveh, my royal city,
and kissed my feet."
     Ashurbanipal later records that with the tribute sent him by
Gyges, were two captive Cimmerian chieftains, bound in fetters of
iron. It is probable that the Assyrians provided at least a token
of assistance by some attack on the Cimmerians from the rear to
justify the tribute. Another reference to the Cimmerians in Lydia
is found in Ashurbanipal's account of a revolt by Gyges. When
Assyria was engaged in putting down rebellions on her other
borders, Gyges allied himself with Egypt and ceased to pay
tribute to Assyria.

     Ashurbanipal's account of the Lydian rebellion is recorded
on a large clay cylinder exhibited in the British Museum which

"His messenger whom he kept sending to me to bring me greetings,
he suddenly discontinued ... he sent his forces to the aid of
TushaMilki (Psammetichus) king of Egypt, who had thrown off the
yoke of my sovereignty. I heard of it, and prayed to Assur and
Ishtar, saying, 'May his body be cast before his enemy, may his
foes carry off his limbs.' The Cimmerians, whom he had trodden
underfoot by calling upon my name, invaded and overpowered the
whole of his land."

     Evidently, Gyges lost his life in the battle with the
Cimmerians, (cir. 652 B.C.) for Ashurbanipal continues, "His son
seated himself upon his throne after him. He sent me by the hand
of his messenger an account of the evil which the gods my helpers
visited upon him in answer to my prayers; and he laid hold of my
royal feet, saying, 'Thou are the king whom the gods has favored.
Thou didst curse my father, and evil was visited upon him, I am
thy slave who fears thee; be gracious unto me, and I will bear
thy yoke.'" (Historia VII p.47, 1958)

     The invasion of Lydia and the sacking of its capital,
Sardis, is also found in the writings of the Greek historian
Herodotus that states the Cimmerians captured Sardis, during the
reign of Ardys, son of Gyges, but failed to take the central
stronghold of the city. (Babylonian Historical Texts - Smith,
     Following the capture of Sardis, the Cimmerians, led by
Lygdamis, made further raids on Lydian settlements and the Greek
cities of Smyrna and Ephesus on the Aegean coast of Asia Minor.
The poet, Callimachus, writing about 250 B.C., wrote that:
"Lygdamis, in his insolent madness, threatened to destroy it
(Ephesus) and brought against it an army of mare-milking
Cimmerians like the sands of the sea in number." (Callimachus,
Hymn to Artemis) One record states that the Cimmerians did
actually destroy the temple of the Ephesian goddess.
     Another city to fall to the Cimmerians was the flourishing
Greek city of Magnesia, in the valley of the Maeander River.
Strabo wrote: "In ancient times it came to pass that the
Magnetians were utterly destroyed by the Treres, a Cimmerian
tribe ... but the Milesians (descendants of Hebrews that migrated
out of Egypt before the Exodus) took possession of the place the
following year." (Strabo XIV,i,40) We note that Strabo twice
referred to the Treres as a Cimmerian tribe and says elsewhere
that the Treres colonized this particular part of Asia Minor.
(Strabo XIH,i,8)

     The death of Lygdamis is recorded on a fragmentary text
published by A.R. Millard: "... the weapons of Ashur, my lord,
overwhelmed him and he (went mad), and in his delirium chewed his
knuckles ... changed, and imposed on him his severe punishment.
(One side of his body suffered a stroke, piercing pain attacked
his heart." (Millard 1968: 109-10)

     Aristotle wrote that the Cimmerians occupied the city of
Antandrus, in the same region. He adds that the city was at one
time called "Kimmeris," because the Cimmerians settled there for
a hundred years. Although historical records are somewhat sketchy
it is clear that the Cimmerians overthrew the kingdom of Phrygia
shortly after 700 B.C. Since much of the Phrygian territory
included most of the Black Sea coast west of the Halys River, as
far as the Sea of Marmor, the Cimmerians would have been spread
over a large area of Asia Minor west of the Euphrates River,
including the Trojan region.
     Eventually, the Cimmerians were driven out of Western Asia
Minor by Gyges' son, Ardys, and his grandson, Alyattes; helped in
part, by pressure from marauding bands of Scythians. While some
of the Cimmerians settled in the Crimea area, the greater part
are recorded as occupying Arsareth, (2 Esdras 13: 40-45)
northwest of the Black Sea. (cir. 525 B.C.) The Greeks called the
Cimmerians, "Kimmeriori" and it is so written in their records of
the Cimmerians.

     During the period of Cimmerian dominance of Western Asia
Minor, the Scythian Israelites consolidated into a separate
kingdom. Their power grew as the Cimmerians migrated out of Asia
Minor and the Assyrians were being weakened by the rise of
Babylon. However, in the later half of the 7th century B.C., the
Scythians became divided into two main groups; an eastern or
Central Asian group and a western group, south of the Caucasus.
Herodotus tells us that during this period of Scythian supremacy,
the Scythians behaved like robbers, "riding up and down the
country and seizing people's property" and established colonies
in various parts of the country. Strabo, in his "Geography"
wrote: "The Sacas (from Sakka) made raids like those of the
Cimmerians and Treres, some into regions close to their own
country, others into regions farther away. For instance, they
occupied Bactriana (Bactria) and acquired possession of the best
land in Armenia, which they named after themselves Sacasene."

     Bactria is 500 miles east of the Caspian Sea and south of
the Oxus River. This would place it in modern northern
Afghanistan. These Scythians became known as "Sakkas" whereas
those remaining in the west continued to be called "Scythians"
and "Sacae." ( as long as they remained south of the Caucasus )
Sacasene is located between the Araxes and Kura Rivers, between
the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. This area was once a part of
the kingdom of Urartu. (Strabo XI, 4)

     In excavations at Karmir Blur, near Erivan on the Zanga
River in Soviet Armenia, Russian archaeologists discovered an old
Urartian fortress. An inscription on a bronze bolt indicated the
ruins to be the site of Teshebani, the center of government for
Urartian Transcaucasia, where a viceroy or governor held court.
There appeared to be three distinguishable periods of occupation,
an earlier, marked by objects bearing the name of Menuas who
reigned about 815-790 B.C., a second in which Rusa II (678-654
B.C.) was most active, and a third when Sardur reigned, about
640-620 B.C. (Iraq XIV,1952)

     The fortress is believed to have been originally built by
Menuas, but reconstructed and enlarged by King Rusa 11. The
finding of large numbers of the three-edged Scythian arrow-heads
and Scythian horse-trappings indicated the fortress had been
captured and destroyed by the Scythians around 625-620 B.C. This
date agrees with the dates given by Herodotus as when the
Scythians rose to great power in Western Asia Minor. By this time
the once mighty Kingdom of Urartu must have been reduced to a
small area around Lake Van.
     Strabo (writing about A.D. 20 but drawing his information
from earlier sources) remarks on the variety of reports that he
found about the Scythians, although he uses the name
"Massagetae." (The name "Massagetae" means "the great Sakka
horde," or "the main body of Sakkas") The name "Massagetae" may
have been the name that the Persians gave to the main body of
Scythians in northern Media before they were driven out, to
distinguish them from those in the outlying colonies, such as the
Sakkas in Sacasene and Bactriana.
     In later periods, the Scythians west of the Caspian Sea
retained their name while those east of the Caspian Sea became
known as "Massagetae" or "Sakka." A few Greek writers did
continue to refer to the Scythians west of the Caspian Sea as
"Massagetae," but this only indicates that they drew on Persian
sources for their information. Strabo wrote, concerning the
Massagetae, "some of them inhabit mountains, some plains, others
marshes. But the country is inundated most of all, they say, by
the Araxes River, which splits into numerous branches, and
empties by its other mouths into the sea." 
     This would place them near the Araxes River and west of the
Caspian Sea. Then a little further on he writes, the "Massagetae
are situated alongside the Bactraiani...along the Oxus River."
Apparently, the earliest Sakka settlers in Bactria (east of the
Caspian Sea) were followed by a second wave of Scythians called

     The relationship between the Sacae and the Massagetae with
the Scythians has been noted by several historians. Zaborowski
states: "I have proved it and can say that the Sacae and the
Scythians were identical." (The Aryan People of Asia and Europe -
1, pg.94) Zaborowski also wrote: "The first information of
history concerning the peoples of Turkestan refers to the
Massagetae, whose life was exactly the same as that of the
Scythians. (Here he was quoting Herodotus 1, 205-216) They
enjoyed a developed industrial civilization while they remained
nomads." (i, pg.285)

     Minns, in his "Scythians and Greeks" (pg.11) says: "The
picture drawn of the nomad Massagetae seems very like that of the
Scythians in a rather ruder stage of development. Herodotus, V.
215, describes them as follows: 'In their dress and mode of
living the Massagetae resemble the Scythians. They fight both on
horseback and on foot, neither method is strange to them.'"

     Madison Grant, in his "The Passing of the Great Race" (pg.
252) says that: "The Sacae or Saka were the blond peoples who
carried the Aryan language to India. Strabo (511) allies them
with the Scythians as one of their tribes... One tribe gained the
most fertile tract in Armenia, which was called Sacasene, after

     Herodotus also makes reference to the Massagetae and says
that after Cyrus (king of Persia) had conquered Babylon (538
B.C.), his next desire was "to subdue the Massagetae whose
country lies to the eastward beyond the Araxes...some suppose
them to be of Scythian nationality " (Herodotus VII, 64) The
dates and details of the campaigns against the Scythians are
lacking but Herodotus gives us a clue as to the date of their
withdrawal from the district round Lake Urmia and the territories
south of the Araxes River. Herodotus wrote that from 590-585 B.C.
there was a five years war in Asia Minor between the Medes (led
by Cyaxares) and the Lydians. A total eclipse of the sun took
place during the war and everyone stopped fighting to look at the
eclipse. The date of this eclipse has been calculated to have
taken place on May 28, 585 B.C. Since the Medes would have had to
go through the territory of the Scythians to reach Lydia, it can
reasonably be assumed that they must have previously conquered or
driven out most of the Scythians from their territory south of
the Araxes River.

     The Massagetae, at this time, were governed by a queen named
"Tomyris." She was a widow, past middle age. She had a son named
"Spargapizes," who was heir to the throne and commander in-chief
of the armies of the queen. The first plan Cyrus formed for the
annexation of the lands of the Massagetae to his own dominions
was by a matrimonial alliance. Tomyris, realizing that it was her
realm, and not herself, that constituted the great attraction for
Cyrus, refused the offer and warned the king to leave her and her
country in peace.
     Cyrus, all the more determined to conquer the Massagetae,
crossed the Araxes River, that formed the boundary between Persia
and the Massagetae, with his army. Cyrus's strategy was to send a
small part of his army, with a great abundance of supplies,
including large stocks of rich wine ahead to establish an advance
camp. Then when the enemy attacked, to fall back in apparent
disorder, leaving the troops of Tomyris to assume they had
defeated the main Persian army. Hopefully, the Massagetae would
celebrate their 'victory' by feasting and drinking the wine,
becoming vulnerable to a counter-attack by the Persians.

     Cyrus' plan was successful. Not only were the army of the
Massagetae effectually overwhelmed and a large number slain, the
supplies recovered, but Prince Spargapizes, intoxicated with
wine, was captured. The result of this strategem, triumphantly
successful as it was, should have settled the contest and made
Cyrus master of the whole realm. However, Tomyris had planned a
similiar ruse. Only part of her army had engaged the Persians.
Two thirds of her army remained intact and in reserve. Probably
she intended, if the Persians defeated her advance detachment,
they would have thought they had destroyed her main forces and
could be caught unprepared for a surprise counter-attack by the
Massagetae. Only the unexpected capture of her son kept the queen
from ordering her troops to attack the victorious Persians.
When Spargapizes awoke from his stupor, and learned the full
extent of his misfortune, he was overwhelmed by disappointment
and shame. The ignominy of his defeat under the circumstances,
and the distress of being captive, caused him to seize a weapon,
when he was not observed by his guards, and kill himself. When
Tomyris heard of the fate of her son, she was frantic with grief
and rage. She immediately summoned all the additional troops that
could be obtained from every part of her kingdom. Cyrus, when
informed that he still had the main force of Tomyris' army to
contend with, prepared for a great final struggle.
     Within a few days the two armies approached each other and
the battle began. The Persians fought desperately, for they
fought for their lives. They were in the heart of an enemy's
country, a broad river behind them cut off their retreat and they
were contending with a foe determined to avenge their injured
queen. For an entire day the battle raged. Neither side seemed
able to gain the advantage. Bands of Persians and Massagetae
(Scythians) would neither retreat nor surrender, preferring to
fight till all were slain. By nightfall it was evident that the
Massagetae had defeated and almost wholly destroyed the Persian
army. Among the dead was Cyrus. Tomyris cut and mutilated the
lifeless form and is reported to have said, "You have murdered my
son, but I promised you your fill of blood, and you shall have
it." After saying that, she filled a container with Persian
blood, obtained probably by the execution of her captives.
Cutting off the head of Cyrus, she poured the blood into the
severed neck and exclaimed, "Drink there, insatiable monster,
till your murderous thirst is satisfied." (Clio cciv-ccxiv)

     Cyrus was succeeded by his son, Cambyses, who had been
appointed regent during the kings absence. His reign was
uneventful and it was not until the reign of Darius, who ascended
the Persian throne (521 B.C.) that Persian armies again attempted
to subjugate the huge bands of Scythians whose territories
extended from the Araxes to the extreme parts of the east.
Considering the harassing and absorbing policy which the Persians
pursued against them, it is not surprising that historians
(writing a few centuries later) should mention the existence of
the Massagetae and Aakka (Sacae) peoples at great distances from
the localities where Herodotus places them.

     During the first six years of Darius' reign, his army was
employed in suppressing rebellions in various parts of the
empire. Among the peoples subjugated were portions of the
Scythians, then spread over a huge territory extending from the
Araxes River to the extreme parts of the east. Darius recorded
taking some "Sakkas" prisoners. The record, inscribed on a stone
face, known as the "Behistun Rock," forms an important Israelite-
Scythian archaeological "link."


To be continued

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