Tomyris plunges the head of the dead Cyrus into a vessel of blood, Alexander Zick.

Massagetae were an Iranian people of antiquity. According to Herodotus, Cyrus the Great of Persia met his death in a battle with the Massagetae living beyond Araxes river, a people from the southern deserts of Kwarezm in today Uzbekistan, Bukhara. The queen of the Massagetae, Tomyris, prevailed after Cyrus previously defeated Tomyris's son Spargapises.

Ammianus Marcellinus considered the Alans to be the former Massagetae : "iuxtaque Massagetae Halani et Sargetae", "per Albanos et Massagetas, quos Alanos nunc appellamus", "Halanos pervenit, veteres Massagetas".

The following informations about the Massagetae is based on Herodotus' Histories.


The Massagetae lived on their herds and fishing, milk being their chief drink. They employed gold and brass in decorating their war equipment, having neither iron or silver in their country.


They were similar to the Scythians in their dress and mode of living. Each man had but one woman, yet their wives were held in common, this custom differentiating the Massagetae from the Scythians. Queen Tomyris succeeded her dead husband, the former king of the Massagetae.


The Massagetae worshipped only one god, the sun, and sacrificed a horse in its honour.


They fought both on horseback and on foot, neither method being strange to them: they used bows and lances, but their favourite weapon was the battle-axe. Their spears were made of brass.

Herodotus Histories

Ammianus Marcellinus

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