About the origin of the name Massagetae, scholars have emphasized that:
"The classical and modern authorities say that the word "Massagetae" means "great" getae (Jats?). The ninth-century work De Universo of Rabanus Maurus states, "The Massagetae are in origin from the tribe of the Scythians, and are called massagetae, as if heavy, that is, strong Getae."[unreliable source?]
Herodotus described the Massagetae as living on a sizeable portion of the great plain east of the Caspian Sea. He several times refers to them as living "beyond the River Araxes", which he describes as running into the Caspian. Scholars have offered various identifications for this river. Herodotus had only a limited understanding of the geography of Europe and Asia, and may have confused several rivers in his statements about the Araxes.
According to Herodotus:
|“||[1.215] 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: they use bows and lances, but their favourite weapon is the battle-axe. Their arms are all either of gold or brass. For their spear-points, and arrow-heads, and for their battle-axes, they make use of brass; for head-gear, belts, and girdles, of gold. So too with the caparison of their horses, they give them breastplates of brass, but employ gold about the reins, the bit, and the cheek-plates. They use neither iron nor silver, having none in their country; but they have brass and gold in abundance.||”|
|“||[1.216] The following are some of their customs; - Each man has but one wife, yet all the wives are held in common; for this is a custom of the Massagetae and not of the Scythians, as the Greeks wrongly say. Human life does not come to its natural close with this people; but when a man grows very old, all his kinsfolk collect together and offer him up in sacrifice; offering at the same time some cattle also. After the sacrifice they boil the flesh and feast on it; and those who thus end their days are reckoned the happiest. If a man dies of disease they do not eat him, but bury him in the ground, bewailing his ill-fortune that he did not come to be sacrificed. They sow no grain, but live on their herds, and on fish, of which there is great plenty in the Araxes River. Milk is what they chiefly drink. The only god they worship is the sun, and to him they offer the horse in sacrifice; under the notion of giving to the swiftest of the gods the swiftest of all mortal creatures.||”|
|“||[1.201] When Cyrus had achieved the conquest of the Babylonians, he conceived the desire of bringing the Massagetae under his dominion. Now the Massagetae are said to be a great and warlike nation, dwelling eastward, toward the rising of the sun, beyond the river Araxes, and opposite the Issedones. By many they are regarded as a Scythian race.||”|
|“||[1.211] Cyrus advanced a day's journey into Massagetan territory from the Araxes... Many of the Massagetae were killed, but even more taken prisoner, including Queen Tomyris's son, who was commander of the army and whose name was Spargapises.||”|
|“||[1.214] Tomyris mustered all her forces and engaged Cyrus in battle. I consider this to have been the fiercest battle between non-Greeks that there has ever been.... They fought at close quarters for a long time, and neither side would give way, until eventually the Massagetae gained the upper hand. Most of the Persian army was wiped out there, and Cyrus himself died too.||”|
Ammianus Marcellinus considered the Alans to be the former Massagetae. At the close of the 4th century CE, Claudian (the court poet of Emperor Honorius and Stilicho) wrote of Alans and Massagetae in the same breath: "the Massagetes who cruelly wound their horses that they may drink their blood, the Alans who break the ice and drink the waters of Maeotis' lake" (In Rufinem).
Procopius writes in History of the Wars Book III: The Vandalic War: "the Massagetae whom they now call Huns" (XI. 37.), "there was a certain man among the Massagetae, well gifted with courage and strength of body, the leader of a few men; this man had the privilege handed down from his fathers and ancestors to be the first in all the Hunnic armies to attack the enemy" (XVIII. 54.).
Tadeusz Sulimirski notes that the Sacae also invaded parts of Northern India. Weer Rajendra Rishi, an Indian linguist has identified linguistic affinities between Indian and Central Asian languages, which further lends credence to the possibility of historical Sacae influence in Northern India.
- Engels, Donald W. (1978). Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army. California: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-04272-7.
- Karasulas, Antony. Mounted Archers Of The Steppe 600 BC-AD 1300 (Elite). Osprey Publishing, 2004, ISBN 184176809X, p. 7.
- Wilcox, Peter. Rome's Enemies: Parthians and Sassanids. Osprey Publishing, 1986, ISBN 0-85045-688-6, p. 9.
- Gershevitch, Ilya. The Cambridge History of Iran (Volume II). Cambridge University Press, 1985, ISBN 0-521-20091-1, p. 48.
- Grousset, René. The Empire of the Steppes. Rutgers University Press, 1989, ISBN 0-8135-1304-9, p. 547.
- The Cambridge History of Iran: The Median and Achaemenian periods By Ilya Gershevitch
- Leake, Jane Acomb (1967). The Geats of Beowulf: a study in the geographical mythology of the Middle Ages (illustrated ed.). University of Wisconsin Press. p. 68.
- Maurus, Rabanus (1864). Migne, Jacques Paul, ed. De universo. Paris. "The Massagetae are in origin from the tribe of the Scythians, and are called Massagetae, as if heavy, that is, strong Getae."
- Dhillon, Balbir Singh (1994). History and study of the Jats: with reference to Sikhs, Scythians, Alans, Sarmatians, Goths, and Jutes (illustrated ed.). Canada: Beta Publishers. p. 8. ISBN 1-895603-02-1.
- Rishi, Weer Rajendra (1982). India & Russia: linguistic & cultural affinity. Roma. p. 95.
- Herodotus, The Histories, 1.204.
- Herodotus, The Histories, 1.202.
- Herodotus, The Histories, translation by Robin Waterfield, with notes by Carolyn Deward (1998), p. 613, notes on 1.201-16.
- Ammianus Marcellinus: "iuxtaque Massagetae Halani et Sargetae"; "per Albanos et Massagetas, quos Alanos nunc appellamus"; "Halanos pervenit, veteres Massagetas".
- Procopius: History of the Wars. http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/History_of_the_Wars/Book_III
- Ecclesiastical History. Book 3. http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/evagrius_3_book3.htm
- Sulimirski, Tadeusz (1970). The Sarmatians. Volume 73 of Ancient peoples and places. New York: Praeger. pp. 113–114. "The evidence of both the ancient authors and the archaeological remains point to a massive migration of Sacian (Sakas)/Massagetan tribes from the Syr Daria Delta (Central Asia) by the middle of the second century B.C. Some of the Syr Darian tribes; they also invaded North India."
- Indian Institute of Romani Studies