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Sakies, Massagets, Persians…

We find the information about the ancient history in the works of the ancient Greece historians, and in the first turn – in the works of Herodotus, in the texts of «Avesta» - holly book of Zoroastrians, and also in the triumphal and tombstone inscriptions of the Persian kings belonging to the Akhmenides dynasty.

Really, for the first time, Sakies, Sogds, Khoresmians and Bactrians (the nations who lived on the territory of the present Uzbekistan) are mentioned in the Bekhistunian (Bisutunian) inscription which was carved on the rock in the area of Bisutun near the present town of Kermanshakh (Iran) by the order of Darius I to commemorate his victories.

The territory of the interfluve area between two rivers in the Central Asia presents the territory, the civilization of which during many millennia existed due to two great rivers:  Amudarya (which was named as Oks in the ancient time) and Syrdarya (which was named as Yaksart in the ancient time).

People began to settle there already since the ancient time, which is testified with the findings of coeval tools attributed to the lithic age, Mesolithic period and subjects belonged to the Bronze era. In this very place in the beginning-middle of the first millennium B.C.  the first state unions:  the ancient Bactria (including the southern territory of Uzbekistan), the ancient Sogd (which occupied the valley of Zerafshan river) and later – the territory of Kashkadarya and Bukhara provinces and the ancient Khoresm were being formed. The areas of their towns (which were the big settled areas) were more than thousands of hectares and were surrounded with the strong walls. The vast territories of the northern part of Central Asia (with the territory of the present Tashkent) were occupied by very militarized nomadic tribes. The most distinguished tribes were presented by Sakies, Massagets, Daies, Issedones, Astaks, Rumniks, Khorezmians, Girkanes, Derbiks and Egles.  Sakies and Massagets were the most powerful among these tribes, and they left outstanding traces in the history.

Since the very childhood the nomads were trained to live in nature surroundings, being constantly in moving living conditions in order to overcome the hard circumstances in their future life. The horse was the main base of the whole nomadic life. It was used for transportation, its meat was used for eating, and skin was used as material for clothes and living dwellings. Those horses were rather strong, hardy and were able to run over 200 km distance in a day. Often the child even before he started walking was placed on the goat (if not on a horse) and he could take its horns firmly with hands and ride it. The nomads put on the fells of animals and made dresses painted with the bright plant liquids, which were rather stable and did not loss their brightness for a long time. They ate also the meat of sheep, fish and fruits from the trees. They worshiped the sun and sacrificed with the white horses. 

Sakies were perfect shots with bow. The Greece traveler Dionysius Peryaegith wrote about them as follows: «Backside Sogdiana along the current of Yaksart river the Sakies live who fight with arrows and are the best shots in the world. These fighters do not push their arrows just by chance. Their military habit was – to fight as pretending to retreat and at the same time, they shot from the bow riding the horse, turning back and shooting without missing, which gave them a great advantage».

The antique authors in the first – second centuries B.C. preserved legendary information about conquering the ancient Bactrian kingdom by the Assyrian army headed by Nine king and Semiramide queen (the end of the ninth century B.C.) and later – conquering that territory by the Midiаns. The history preserved for us the legend about love between the Sakies queen Zarina and Midian prince Striangius.

From 539 up to 330 B.C. almost the whole territory of the interfluve area between two rivers in the Central Asia was subjected to the power of kings belonging to Akhmenides dynasty who created the great Persian state.

That state  did not include  the territories of Fergana and Chach, which later belonged to Tashkent and Tashkent province. The freedom-loving people of Central Asia maintained the stubborn resistance when being conquered by Persians. This was testified with the story about the feat of the shepherd named Shirak presented by the antique authors in their works. He enticed the Persian soldiers of Darius king to the desert where the half the army died of the heat and hunger, about the Sakian queen Sparetra, who organized the army of the men and women. Under the leadership of Sparetra the army had won the army of Cyrus king, and her husband Amorg was released of captivity. Later, Amorg led twenty thousand Sakian riders fighting in the battle between Derbiks and Cyrus.

But the most famous is the story about Tomiris – the queen of Massagets.

In that very far time the women were rather free and had taken high society position, they were also rather independent, as well. Small girls were trained not only to ride the horse but also to shoot from the bow. That time the women military communities existed. This was testified with «Kyrk kyz» Karakalpakian epic work about the beautiful Gulaim army leader and her forty brave amazons. Those women selected husbands themselves. Together with their husbands the Sakian women were also involved to all military actions. During the battle they pretended as retreating and shot from the bow riding the horse, turning back as their husbands did.

Herodotus wrote that «after the death of husband the Massaget woman led the state. Her name was Tomiris. The Persian king Cyrus sent the ambassadors for negotiations with her pretending that he wanted to marry him.

But Tomiris understood that he wanted not to marry her but to have the kingdom of Massagets and refused the proposal».  Afterwards, multi-thousand army of Cyrus moved towards the banks of Amudarya river. After being informed about this, Tomiris sent him the strict warning: «You, Cyrus greedy for blood, … do leave that country unpunished… and if you do not do this, I swell with the Sun – the governor of Massagets, that you will be gulped with blood though you are insatiable». Cyrus did not pay any attention to those words and gave the order to start very brutal and ruthless battle.

Herodotus wrote: «To my mind, that was the fiercest battle known among all barbarian battles. In the beginning both armies began to shot arrows against each other. When their arrows were finished they began to fight with knives and spears. This continued for a long time and nobody wanted to loose. At last, Massagets won». The major part of the Persian army was killed. And the king Cyrus who ruled almost thirty years, died also. His head was cut. Tomiris put his head to the leather sack full of blood and told: «You were thirsty for blood? You can fill you throat with it».

In that battle the Massagets fought together with Derbiks and Sakies. The king of Derbiks Amorey was killed and his two sons, too in that battle. The tribes who inhabited the territory of Central Asia, united and demonstrated very brave behaviour, exclusive heroism and great wish to  stay.

Only many years later, Xerxes, the descendant of Cyrus could get the remains of the king Cyrus and to burry them in the grave in Pacargadаs (the ancient capital of Persia)


For more than two hundred years the Central Asia was included to the empire of Akhmenides. The country was subdivided to the military-and-administrative districts – satrapies head by the Persian deputies - satraps, and often they were representatives of the local tribes head. The ancient Greece authors noted that the Persian kings did not try to change the local laws, habits, customs and belief.  For the state of Akhmenides the living of population of the mixed origin was typical. The people whose roots were from Central Asia, lived in Egypt, Babylon, Iran. They were military men serviced for Persian garrisons, people sold into slavery, craftsmen who worked in the state shops.

In the time of the last Akhmenides people of Khoresm, Sogd and the Sakian tribes being the subjects of that state became the allies of Persians in their fight against the Greece conquerors. About the middle of the fourth century B.C. Khoresm was released from the power of Persians and became the independent state.

The end of the ruling of the Persian kings settled after invasion of Alexander the Great to the Eastern countries.

After defeat of the army (which includes the Bactrian riders and Sogdian shooters) of the last Persian king Darius III in 331 B.C. in the battle of Gavgamellah,  Alexander the Great had continued his military campaigns. In spring of 329 B.C. after crossing over the Hindukush, invaded the territory of Bactria. In this way, the conquering of Central Asia by Alexander the Great started.