Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A reprieve for painted leathers?

So, I'm now reading that Native Americans have been painting soft brain-tanned leathers since before the introduction of modern acrylic paints, by either rubbing dry pigment directly into the surface or by using a thin hide glue solution as the medium

Powder Paint:  Preparation & Application

The fact that I've often remarked on that brain-tanning is a subtype of fat-curing and that Old World curing techniques might (at least on paper) had produced similar results, reopens the possibility that similar decoration methods could be used on gorytoi and other leather accoutrements in the Achaemenid period.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Revised recommendations on leather goods

Based on my last post regarding the unlikelihood of vegetable-tanned leather in Achaemenid times, here is what I've come up with for leather goods:

Personally I would accept brain-tan or the nearest affordable equivalent as a substitute for other fat-cured leathers.  The nearest affordable equivalent may include chrome-tanned "buckskin" or glove-tanned if it's of similar physical properties, but, as always, check your group's authenticity standards before buying.  I advise against suede or roughout (which are harder to clean; additionally, I believe machine splits are a 19th-century development) and, obviously, anything with an overtly unnatural finish.

I consider rawhide a given for any period.  Also, if you already have pieces of kit in veg-tan that you've sunk a lot of money and work into, my feeling is keep them.  Again, ask your group's leaders.

Archaeological finds have indicated that they were made of soft leather supported with a wood spine or frame.  So use fat-cured or equivalent.  I imagine the type seen at Persepolis and frequently on Greek pottery, with a straight bottom and curved upper edge - the standard for Persian soldiers in our period - had a curved wooden spine sewn into the upper edge.  This also means that the floppy-looking fringe seen hanging from gorytoi in Greek battle art may in fact be the same fitted cover seen at Persepolis; it is attached to the gorytos at the top edge, or just draped over it during battle.

Using soft leather also makes it unlikely that they were painted, unless the ancients had some method of painting dye directly onto the leather which I have been unable to discover (painting dye is a real technique but I'm told it's a modern one).  The crenellated borders shown in Greek art would probably have to be appliqued in a contrasting leather or fabric, which is done most easily before the main seam is closed.

Wood, or some other hard, solid block of material carved to shape (as in the ivory one from Takht-i Sangin).  The akinakes scabbard is attested as having been covered in embossed sheet metal.  Otherwise, plain wood will make a good surface for carving.  I could also imagine that a facing of glued fabric or parchment (thin rawhide) was used to add strength.  All these materials will accept paint better than cured/tanned leather, too.  Possibly, lighter sheaths (as for belt knives) were rawhide, maybe with a soft leather or fabric cover.

Shields of stick-and-hide construction, like the crescent ("taka") and pavise ("spara"), should almost certainly be rawhide, which resists puncture and cutting better than leather and which was used in the Dura-Europos shields that share the same construction method.  I have heard it suggested to paint a thin layer of wax on top of the finished shield to prevent water absorption.

The Persepolis reliefs and Alexander Sarcophagus seem to disagree about the presence of separate soles on the ankle-strapped shoes.  It may be that both interpretations are correct:  Again, I am reminded of these shoes' resemblance to Plains moccasins, which were produced both with integral (soft) and separate soles.  Separate soles may have been soft leather or hard rawhide.  The lack of additional soles on the shoes at Persepolis may explain why it was desirable to have a band running under the middle of the shoe, for arch support.  In this use I'd be willing to accept veg-tanned leather for rawhide for expediency.

Ankle straps were fairly wide, and were likely soft leather thongs.  I believe the greater width compared to modern leather laces was necessary because the latter are made of a firmer material (albeit not "rawhide" as they are often labeled; real rawhide is too stiff for shoelaces).

Herodotus mentions Persians as having leather clothing (I.72) and this is plausible if it is a very soft buckskin-like material, though I believe that the assertion that leather made up all or even the majority of their clothing in Cyrus' day is an exaggeration; they had, after all, been settled in old Elam for several centuries and raised plenty of sheep.  So I still recommend fabric first.  Bags and pockets may also be either fabric or soft leather.

In the absence of moldable leather, drink containers should either be soft (like wineskins) or ceramic.  Most of the clay canteens from Persepolis were flattened spheres with short necks, essentially like modern ones, even sometimes having cord ears (see OIP 69); those without ears could be carried in bags.  I'm open to the possibility of gourd or wooden canteens, but won't actually recommend them until seeing some evidence.

There is only one item which I haven't found a solution for yet:  the weapon belt.  Because it has to support the weight of a fully-loaded bowcase, it must be a firm material with little stretch, so fat-cured leather would seem a bad choice, but it also has to flex to be worn like a belt, so rawhide doesn't look like a great idea either.  In lieu of good evidence about what they were actually made of, I must continue to recommend veg-tan for this use alone.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A scabbard from Takht-i Sangin

Takht-i Sangin is the archaeological site of a Graeco-Bactrian town in southern Tajikistan, excavated in 1976.  At the center of the settlement was a temple which was apparently used for both Greek and native Mazdaist sacraments, and contained a hoard of temple offerings.  It is believed by some to be the origin of the Oxus Treasure.

Among the temple hoard was a scabbard, believed to date from the Achaemenid period.  It is of the typical Medo-Persian akinakes type, with a distinct chape (which I think is still a contiguous piece with the scabbard, as on the wooden one from Egypt) and "bellied" belt tab.  What makes it different from other finds is that it's made of solid ivory, deeply carved across its entire surface with a relief of a lion clutching a deer.  It also has a patterned border and the chape features the classic curled goat motif.

This may be going out on a limb here, but I think this find could perhaps justify including relief carvings on wooden scabbards for our period.  Even if the ivory scabbard is entirely ceremonial, I know of no reason that such techniques could not be applied to functional items; generally speaking, ancient people liked their military gear to be as gaudy as they could afford.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Ancient leather: a retraction, and a revision

Many times on this blog I've talked about the excellence of vegetable-tanned leather for applications ranging from shoe soles and water bottles to scabbards and bowcases.

Unfortunately, my more recent investigations have led to more recent scholarship that calls into question the existence of vegetable-tanned leather during our period.  According to Carol van Driel-Murray ("Leatherwork and Skin Products"), the supposed references to "oak galls" in Mesopotamian literature probably instead refer to madder, meaning the processes described are not tanning but dyeing.  The earliest unambiguous references to vegetable-tanning are found in late Classical Greek literature, whereas "the usual method of dealing with skins in Antiquity" was fat-curing.

Fat-curing is a process whereby emulsified fats are added to a wet hide, which is then kneaded until dry.  Sound familiar?    Brain-tanning is a subtype, and although Classical fat-curing more often used oil or lard, the result was apparently similar; Todd Feinman has described it to me as "very soft like Chamois leather."  The process is attested in sources from Pharaonic Egyptian art to the Iliad.

Where does this leave us?  Well, without clear evidence of vegetable-tanning in the Achaemenid empire, the hide products available to us are very soft fat-cured, brain-tanned or imitation buckskin leathers, or rawhide.  Obviously this will require a revision of how we go about making a lot of kit.  In the next few weeks I'll go over some specific items and how they should probably be made.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Oedipus the King

It's yet again a bit tangential, but I would be remiss if I didn't share with you one of the most poignant moments in all of Greek tragedy.  In my opinion, this alone is enough to justify keeping Classical theater alive in the 21st century.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The akinakes scabbard re-examined

Update 12/10/13:  This post contains information that is probably incorrect.  Please see here.

¡Hola!  Since it seems my earlier article How to make a scabbard is (as of this writing) the most-read post on this site, I thought now would be the time to go over the evidence once again, and try to direct readers away from what I now believe to be outdated information.

In that post, I assumed akinakes scabbards would be constructed in a similar manner to the popular style from later European history:  a wood core wrapped in thin leather and fitted with a separate chape and thin metal throat.   In fact I have never seen a separate throat from an original akinakes scabbard, and I must admit I've always had trouble imagining how such a thing could be made to work:  A separate throat has to have considerable contact area with the scabbard core for mere pressure or glue to hold it on, whereas we know from art that the akinakes throat usually expanded to cover the sword's guard, which would reduce its surface contact with the core to much less than that of it which was left "free-floating."  The only other methods would be to staple or otherwise physically attach the throat, though even that wouldn't be very secure, or to have the core extend into the throat, which would conceivably work, but again, there is no evidence for it.

The well-publicized archaeological finds of scabbard fittings seem to fall into one of two categories:  chapes, and sheet-metal coverings for the entire scabbard.  I know of only a single one which has the typical Achaemenid features of an enveloping throat and bellied belt tab.  It is commonly associated with the famous Oxus Treasure, though John Boardman has argued, on the basis of the artistic styles on its embossed decoration, that it actually older (Median), Mesopotamian-influenced work from about 600 BC.  The others are of different shape and most or all lack the enveloping throat (as well as the "bellied" profile of the belt tab).

As for chapes, most follow the general rounded triangle or trefoil shapes of those seen at Persepolis and are acceptable as models for Achaemenid impressions.

I know of one and only one preserved scabbard core, the wooden scabbard from Thebes.  In this example, the core comprises front and back halves which include the throat and chape.

Taking the Oxus scabbard cover and the Thebes core together we can say that the akinakes scabbard should comprise an organic core with a (possibly optional?) cover, and that on each half of the core and of the cover, the throat is a contiguous piece with the rest of the half.  This would make for a much stronger, simpler construction than trying to make a separate throat that is still an enveloping one.

I do not have enough practical knowledge to rule out the use of leather in either the core or cover.  A very heavy vegetable-tanned leather, if carefully molded and hardened, could conceivably be used alone, without additional covering or internal stiffening.  The ability of vegetable-tanned leather to be deeply and intricately tooled also makes it an attractive scabbard material, as an alternative to embossed metal.

I'm still looking into the plausibility of painted leather scabbards.  In light of the fact that most if not all ancient types of paint require a rigid substrate to be able to adhere without flaking, my new scabbard may have been a mistake, albeit still much better than the old one.  For what it's worth, veg-tan leather can be made as hard as wood with the right hot water treatment, but doing so without deforming it is tricky.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Peoples of the empire: The Thracians

This is the final entry in the "Peoples of the empire" series.

Geographical definition
Thrace (Gk. Thrāikē, probably O.P. Skudra) was located in the eastern Balkans, covering most of southern Bulgaria from the Black Sea coast inward, the northeastern corner of modern Greece and European Turkey (that part of the country north of the Sea of Marmara and its strait).  Thracians were also to be found in Macedonia and other parts of the Balkans, Anatolia and as far east as western Scythia.

According to Leo Klejn, the Thracians originated with the multi-cordoned ware culture at the turn of the second millennium BC, which was pushed west from its native Ukraine by the expanding timber grave culture (widely believed to be proto-Scythian).

Settling west of the Black Sea, the Thracians remained divided into several tribes in Herodotus' day.  Like the Celts in western Europe, they lived mostly in small fortified villages.  Towns such as Byzantium were mainly the domain of Greek colonists in the Archaic period.  The Thracians did, however, become very widespread; Herodotus thought them the largest nation in the world second to the Indians, but weak because of their disunity.

In or about 513, Darius the Great sent his general Megabazus to conquer Thrace.  What happened on the expedition is not described in detail, but Herodotus says that Megabazus passed from place to place and conquered each tribe in turn.

The Persian hold over the area appears to have been weak.  In 492, during his punitive expedition against the Greeks following the Ionian Revolt, Mardonius was attacked by Bryges (a tribe of Thrace thought to be related to the Phrygians) while camped in Macedon.

Thracians called Bithynians, who dwelt just on the Anatolian side of the Bosporus, marched as infantry in Xerxes' invasion of Greece under Bassaces son of Artabanus.  These were part of the satrapy of Phrygia.  Some of them were retained by Mardonius for his reduced force, and may have fought at Plataea.

Herodotus reports that Thracians north of Greece carried off the sacred chariot Xerxes had left in the city of Siris when he was marching forth.  The king of the Bisaltae tribe refused to ally himself with the great king, and when his six sons followed the Persians regardless and then came home, their father had them blinded.  Some of Mardonius' men who survived Plataea were also killed by European Thracians as Artabazus led them toward Byzantium.

Herodotus described the Thracians as having similar customs, "save the Getae, the Trausi, and those who dwell above the Crestonaeans."  The Getae (he says) believed that they did not die, but were called as messengers to their god Salmoxis or Gebeleïzis.  Every five years, a man would be chosen by lot to be killed as a messenger; he would be given whatever prayers the Getae wished to convey, then thrown into the air over three lances.  If he did not die, they judged him an unfit messenger and chose again.

The Trausi believed that to live was to suffer, and lamented births like other peoples lamented deaths (which honestly makes me think of a kind of evil eye superstition), but when a person died, the funeral celebrated their release from suffering.  "Those who dwell above the Crestonaeans" were polygynists whose widows competed for the honor of being the one to be slain and buried with her husband.

Other Thracian tribes, the historian reports, would make lamentation and sacrifice at funerals, then cremate the dead or bury them in mounds, holding funeral games afterward.  They sold their children; husbands bought wives for a bride price and strictly coveted them, but unmarried women's chastity was not considered important.  Tattooing was an honor restricted to nobles, and warriors were held in the highest regard, farmers in the lowest.

Teres I (r. 460-445) and his son Sitalces (r. 431-424), of the Odrysae, united the tribes of the European Thracians in the mid-fifth century.  Although this union was unstable and the Odrysian rulers' political power far from absolute, they were regarded by foreigners as the kings of Thrace.  In 429, Sitalces allied with Athens and invaded Macedon, though had to retreat late in the year because of logistical problems.  This was the beginning of a complex political and military interplay between Thrace, Athens and Macedon lasting into the reign of Philip II.

The Odrysian kings adopted much Greek culture, including clothing and weapons, and used the Greek language for administration.  The kingdom reached its zenith in the first few decades; at the turn of the fourth century it broke into eastern, central and western dominions.  During the revolt of Ariobarzanes in or around 366, Cotys I took the opportunity to invade the Thracian Chersonese (modern Gallipoli), which was then held by Athens.  Cotys conquered the peninsula by 359, and concluded an alliance with Philip II of Macedon, but was murdered the following year by two students of Plato.  In 357 the Athenians retook the Chersonese.

Cotys' kingdom was divided between his son Cersobleptes in the east and two other princes, Berisades in the west and Amadocus II in central Thrace; these may have also been sons of Cotys.  Cersobleptes' Greek mercenary Charidemus was able to negotiate some kind of concession from Athens (the nature of which is uncertain but seems to have related to the Chersonese) which resulted in the breaking of Thrace's alliance with Macedon.

In 352, Berisades died and was succeeded by his son Cetriporis.  Cersobleptes tried to disinherit him, but the Thracians also had to deal with Macedonian incursions that year, when Philip took a son of Cersobleptes hostage.  In 347 Philip forced all the Thracian kings to acknowledge Macedonian suzerainty.  The next year, Philip seems to have returned to fight Cersobleptes, who nonetheless resumed attacks on Greek cities on the Hellespont afterward.  Philip invaded Thrace yet again in 343 to bring Cersobleptes to terms.  In the late 340s, Philip finally managed to reduce European Thrace to a tributary of Macedon.

Upon Philip's assassination in 336, the Triballi tribe allied with the Illyrians and rebelled against the Macedonians, at the same time as many other subjects.  Alexander fought and defeated the Triballi in the Balkan Mountains the next year, then crossed the Danube and skirmished with the Getae.  Thereafter the other Thracian tribes submitted to Alexander.

The Bithynians, meanwhile, seem to have set themselves up as an independent state under King Bas (r. 376-326) late in the Achaemenid period.  After the Granicus and Alexander's appointment of his general Calas as satrap of Hellespontine Phrygia, Calas tried to conquer Bithynia but failed.

Thracians presumably of Europe took part in Alexander's expedition into Asia, fighting as cavalry at Gaugamela in 331.  That year, Seuthes III became king of Thrace.  Following the death of Zopyrion, Seuthes declared independence in 325.  His rebellion was put down by Antipater, but he rebelled again in 323 after Thrace was given to Lysimachus in the Partition of Babylon.  In 320, he founded the new capital Seuthopolis (modern Kazanluk in central Bulgaria).  When Lysimachus came into conflict with Antigonus during the Wars of the Diadochi, Seuthes allied himself with Antigonus, but was again defeated in 313.  The Odrysian kingship continued thereafter under the suzerainty various Hellenistic kingdoms and then under the Romans until the death of Rhoemetalces III in AD 46.  As Rhoemetalces apparently had no heirs, Thrace was thereafter made a Roman province.  As such, the region became culturally Romanized; the Thracian language is believed to have become extinct by the fifth century AD.

Bithynia remained independent during the Hellenistic period, and Bas' grandson Nicomedes founded its new capital at Nicomedia, where it would last until the Pontians drove Nicomedes IV out in 90 BC.  He was restored to his throne by the Romans six years later and Bithynia became effectively a Roman client state, which Nicomedes officially bequeathed to Rome on his death in 74.  All the royals of Bithynia toward the end have Greek names and it seems likely that Bithynia became linguistically Hellenized during this time.

Too little of Thracian from the Classical period and earlier has been preserved to hope to speak it with any fluency.  The surviving corpus consists of some names, a handful of words from Greek texts, and only four, very short inscriptions.  It was clearly Indo-European but its classification is not certain.  It's usually placed along with Dacian (which some linguists regard as a branch of Thracian) in the Daco-Thracian branch.  Daco-Thracian may be part of a larger Thraco-Illyrian branch, or Thracian and Illyrian may form a Sprachbund.

Thracians were polytheists.  Among their chief gods was Sabazios, apparently the same deity worshipped by the Phrygians.  The artistic representation of Sabazios and similar-looking gods is called the "Thracian horseman," and seems to have been adopted in later centuries to represent Saint George.  The war goddess Cotys was widely celebrated at the Cotyttia festival, which involved going into the hills at night and getting drunk.  A cult of Cotys existed in Athens, where she was identified with Persephone.  Other recorded Thracian deities included Zibelthiurdos, whom the Greeks also identified with Zeus due to his association with lightning, and Bendis, a huntress identified with Artemis.  The Greek deities Semele and Dionysus may also have had Thracian roots.

The Getae worshipped a god called Salmoxis or Zalmoxis, whom Herodotus says was a deified human who had taught that humans do not die, but pass to a land of eternal happiness.  He also claims that the Getae believed in no god other than Salmoxis.  These statements have been the subject of much interest among researchers who have interpreted it to mean that Getae were monotheists and "proto-Christians" whose native beliefs facilitated a transition to Christianity.

Thracians wore belted, sleeveless or short-sleeved tunics, cloaks, laced boots and pointed tiaras.  The bold embroidery of Thracian cloaks (which in some illustrations appear kidney-shaped rather than square) is well-illustrated in Greek pottery.  According to Herodotus, their boots were deerskin and their hats were fox skin, though I would consider felt acceptable for the latter.

The boots were of a surprisingly modern laced design and could come up to the mid-calf, with downturned, dagged tops.  I've seen some reenactors use Minnetonka knee-high boots.  In times past these had the same crepe sole as the little ankle-high's I bought in 2011, but their website now seems to show them with a different design that hopefully will prove more durable.  They're also stitched up on the sides and seem less likely to admit sand, though this comes at the expense of a moc-style toe which is not correct for Thracian impressions.  Also they're made of the same suede as the ankle boots, which will pick up dust quickly if you use them on the beach.  Nonetheless, these are probably the best non-custom option out there.

The "Skudra" at Naqš-e Rostam wears a Scythian coat.  I can think of a number of explanations for this, but I think artwork has been consistent enough elsewhere that it's best to stick to simple tunics.

The best-known Thracian weapon is the javelin, which seems to have used a spearhead of size and shape comparable to a thrusting spear, but on a shorter, thinner shaft.  Some also had longer spears, so reenacting as a Thracian doesn't limit you to a missile troop role.

Thracians used a distinctive short sword or large knife similar to a smaller version of a falcata.  In Hellenistic times it came to be known as a sica, and later Roman "Thraex" gladiators were armed with a weapon based on it which resembled a crooked gladius.  According to Xenophon, Thynians (apparently cousins of the Bithynians) carried clubs, which he claimed were intended to knock the heads off spears. 

The famous Thracian shield was the pelta, which was made in both round and crescent shapes, the latter of which was apparently very similar to the crescent shields of West and Central Asia.  Conventional wisdom nowadays is that they were made of sticks woven vertically through a sheet of leather or rawhide, like the Persian rectangular shields and smaller Scythian ones, but militating against this is the fact that in Greek art they are frequently shown with designs on the front which would work best if the front were a smooth, solid surface.  I have seen a few people put forth that wood plank construction would have been common in heavily forested areas like Thrace, while the stick-and-hide construction would more likely prevail in the grassy steppes (ex.:  the Pazyryk finds and Solokha comb) even if the shape were the same.

Several grip systems for the pelta are shown in Greek art:  Most commonly, a handgrip near the rim was combined with some kind of central arm grip, either similar in shape to a porpax or simply a pair of crossed bands.  There are other instances where two non-crossed central bands are used as the grips, pinched together in one hand, like the grips of a sipar or dhal.  In a few cases it appears that a single central grip was used, but this system gives less stability than the double grips.

The famous Thracian infantry called peltasts carried the pelta shield and a spear or several javelins.  Peltasts were versatile; their javelineers were missile troops, but due to their shields, both spear- and javelin-armed peltasts had an advantage in melee over missile troops who had no shields, while still being more mobile than hoplites in phalanx.

Osprey writer Christopher Webber claims that Thracians in the fourth century started wearing helmets.  They were apparently of the Phrygian type, with attached cheek guards giving them a fleeting resemblance to a Chalcidian helmet, but also having a tall curled peak similar to Thracian and Phrygian tiaras.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Peoples of the empire: The Sogdians

Geographical definition
Sogdia or Sogdiana (O.P. Suguda, Av. Sughdha) was midway along the Zeravshan River, bordered on the northeast by the Massagetae, some ways to the west of Chorasmia and separated from Bactria in the south by the Oxus River.  In terms of modern geography, it roughly occupied the confluences of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

The Sogdians appear to have arrived in their historical homeland in the early Iron Age; Macaranda - better known as Samarkand, and the most important city in the area - is believed to have been founded between 650 and 550 (the site had been occupied earlier).  Unlike their immediate northerly neighbors, the Amyrgian Scythians and Massagetae, the Sogdians were settled farmers; they traded crops to the nomads in exchange for livestock.

Étienne de La Vaissière says that Cyrus conquered Sogdia around 540 and established Cyropolis, "the farthest extent of the Persian empire of the northeast."  In the Behistun inscription Darius mentions Sogdia among the lands he ruled, but no mention is made of it rebelling.

Herodotus lists the Sogdians with the Parthians, Chorasmians and Arians as the 16th tax district, assessed at 300 talents yearly.  At Persepolis, they are with and indistinguishable from the Chorasmians; the group brings an akinakes, hammers (I think), loop-shaped things and a horse.  In Darius' Susa palace inscription, he states that the lapis lazuli and carnelian used therein came from Sogdia.  The country did not, apparently, have its own satrap, but was governed from Bactria.

In 494 during the late stages of the Ionian Revolt, the Persians sacked the Apollonic oracle at Didyma in Ionia.  There are claims that the Branchidae (the line of priests who tended the oracle) had medized.  They are supposed to have either been deported to Sogdia at this time, or relocated there when Ionia was retaken by the Greeks (which would indicate their complicity in the temple's destruction) following the failure of Xerxes' invasion of mainland Greece.

In Herodotus VII the Sogdians serve in Xerxes' army as infantry under "Azanes son of Artaeus."  He does not mention which if any battles they participated in.

Events in Sogdia are poorly-known for the rest of the fifth century.  In Arrian's Anabasis III.8 Sogdians fight at Gaugamela under Bessus, who commanded the eastern cavalry.  The satrap of Bactria, the man whom Alexander held responsible for Darius III's death, fled to Sogdia in the face of Alexander's campaign of revenge in 329.  There, his courtiers Spitamenes and Datames surrendered him to Alexander's general Ptolemy after the Greek army managed to cross the Oxus.

In Sogdia, according to Quintus Curtius, Alexander encountered the town of the Branchidae, and had the entire population killed and their town destroyed for their ancestors' perfidy.  There seems to be doubt about the veracity of this event.  Alexander made Samarkand his regional base, and it was there in 328 that he killed Cleitus the Black.

The next significant incident that our ancient sources care to describe is the siege of the Sogdian Rock, a nearby fortress to which Bessus' companion Oxyartes of Bactria had sent his family in the spring of 327.  The Macedonians scaled the fortress' walls with tent pegs at night, and the amazed garrison surrendered peacefully.  It was here that Alexander met his first wife, Oxyartes' daughter Roxana.

The same year, Alexander appointed as the new satrap his general Philip.  According to Diodorus, he retained this position at the 323 Partition of Babylon.  The Historiarum Philippicarum libri XLIV, an imperial Roman document by the otherwise-unknown Marcus Junianius Justinus, lists a Scytheaus as the Sogdian satrap.  At the Partition of Triparadisus two years later, Sogdia and Bactria were both given to Stasanor of Soli, which is corroborated by both Diodorus and Arrian.

In 305, the region fell to Seleucus Nicator, and remained part of his empire until the Greco-Bactrians declared their independence in the mid-third century.  Traces of Hellenistic-period Greek architecture have been found at Samarkand.  Invasions of nomads caused the collapse of Greek rule in Bactria and Sogdia in the mid-second century.

Sogdia's fortunes fluctuated until the latter half of the first millennium AD, when land reclamation and growing populations made it a dominant civilization in Central Asia.  For a time, Sogdian was lingua franca on much of the Silk Road.

The country seems to have dwindled under the expansion of Turkic cultures from the east and Persian from the west.  Today, Sogdia survives as the province of Sughd in Tajikistan.  A descendant of its language is spoken there by the Yaghnobi, who may be considered modern-day Sogdians.

Sogdian was an Eastern Iranian language, but its written corpus dates to the 1st millennium AD and as such its attested stage must have evolved considerably from the Achaemenid period.

According to de La Vaissière, the historical religion of Sogdia was "an unreformed version of Zoroastrianism, in which Ahuramazda would never achieve primacy... .  The chief god appears to have been Nana, inherited from Babylon" (I cannot tell whether this references the Sumero-Akkadian love goddess Nanaya, also called Nanâ, or the Akkadian moon god Sin aka Nanna).

However, these references seem to date to some time after the Achaemenid dynasty.  I would venture rather that in our period, religion in the Eastern Iranian cultural spheres was a mix of proto-Iranian polytheism and early Mazdaism.

Sogdians are grouped with Chorasmians in Persian royal art and dress the same, in riding coats with bordered edges, loose trousers, low shoes and low-peaked tiaras.  The delegation at the apadana may be viewed here at the bottom left.  Interestingly, the hems of their trousers appear to be gathered, perhaps with drawstrings or blousing bands, and their shoes show no laces, unlike those of the Mede leading them.

Herodotus holds that the Sogdians were equipped like the Bactrians, who had "reed bows" and short spears.  Given the region they occupied, I think it likely that they used the gorytos.  The Sogdian at Naqs-e Rostam wears an akinakes.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Peoples of the empire: The Scythians

Geographical definition and nomenclature
The term Scythian (O.P. Sakâ, also Gk. Sakai, Lat. Sacae) broadly glosses a number of ancient peoples who shared the culture of the Great Steppe such as it was in Classical antiquity and may have spoken closely-related languages.  They were spread over a very wide area:

• The Amyrgian Scythians or Sakâ haumavargâ ("haoma-drinking Scythians") lived in or about modern Uzbekistan. • The Orthocorybantians or Sakâ tigrakhaudâ ("pointed-hat Scythians") were north of Parthia in present Turkmenistan
• The Pausikoi or Apâ Sakâ ("water Scythians") appear to have been somewhat northeast of the Sakâ tigrakhaudâ.
• The Sakâ paradrayâ ("Scythians across the sea") lived north of the Black Sea in the modern Ukraine and part of Romania.  They were not part of the Persian empire.  These are the folk whom the Greeks referred to simply as Scythians (Skythoi), without qualification.

The Dahae (Dahâ) and Massagetae (*Mâh Sakâ?), who lived in what is now south-central Kazakhstan, are sometimes glossed as Scythian peoples, but for brevity's sake, I won't cover them here.  This history will attempt to treat the first four peoples.

Linguist Oswald Szemerényi regarded Skythoi and Sakâ as coming from different roots.  The former, he said, derived from an Indo-European root meaning "shoot" and reconstructed in the original Scythian as *Skuda, "archer" (to which he also related the name of Sogdia).  In the language of the Sakâ paradrayâ, this became *Skula, accounting for Herodotus' statement that the Royal Scythians (the chief tribe of the Sakâ paradrayâ) called themselves Skolotoi.  Szemerényi believed Sakâ came from an Iranian root meaning "roam," and was therefore an exonym given to them by the Persians.

There are two popular theories regarding Scythian origins:  One states that they branched off from the second-millennium BC Andronovo culture in the area of Central Asia northeast of modern Iran; the other has them develop from the Srubna culture, which occupied the land to the north of and between the Black and Caspian seas during the same period.

A competing - not so much theory as way of assessing the situation - states that the literate Greeks and Persians applied "Skythoi" and "Sakâ" so broadly to distinct Steppe peoples as to make trying to pin down a singular origin for them futile by nature.  It is true that Europeans would continue to apply the term "Scythian" to people who came out of the same regions as the Classical Scythians many centuries later, and such indiscriminate use may have already occurred in our period.

Archaeologically speaking, the Scythians we discuss belong to what is called the Scytho-Siberian culture, a very widespread set of material cultural practices (almost certainly shared by completely unrelated peoples) that include such things as a highly equestrian way of life, kurgan tombs, the B-shaped composite bow, the akinakes sword, styles of artwork and so on.

The Scythians along the Black Sea had as their immediate northerly neighbors farming people whom Herodotus lumps with the Scythians; these may be the Chernoles culture, a possibly proto-Slavic archaeological group who appear to have come under Scythian domination.  Herodotus devotes much of book IV to the customs of the Black Sea Scythians.  He says that they blinded those whom they took as slaves and forced them to churn butter.

The Royal Scythians seem to have enjoyed a period of power in West Asia.  Herodotus reports that their king Madyes son of Protothyes defeated Cyaxares in battle (probably in the mid-seventh century) and subjected the Medes for 28 years, plundering many other lands besides, until Cyaxares hosted some of their nobles, got them drunk and, well, things didn't turn out so well for them.  They also took part in the coalition that destroyed the Assyrian empire at the end of the century.

According to Herodotus, Darius the Great attempted to conquer the Black Sea Scythians, an event dated to around 512.  He crossed the Bosphorus with a pontoon bridge, turned east and found nothing.  The Scythians waged a scorched earth campaign, fleeing before his army, destroying pastures and attacking his supply lines.  Darius wrote to their king Idanthyrsus a challenge to either fight or submit; Idanthyrsus replied that, as his people were nomads, he had no reason to do either, and only if Darius could find and try to destroy their fathers' kurgans could he expect a pitched battle.  With his men exhausted from the endless pursuit, Darius stopped at the Volga River, built some frontier fortresses and then left unsatisfied.

He had long since pacified the Sakâ tigrakhaudâ, who were apparently already subjects at the time of his ascension.  In his Behistun inscription, he states that they revolted along with the other provinces, probably around 520-519.  They had two chiefs, one of whom was killed and the other, named Skunkha, captured; Darius then appointed a new chief.  The pointed-hat Scythians are illustrated at Persepolis bearing clothing and a horse.  They are among the few people other than the Persians, Elamites and Medes who are armed, and some writers believe this fact indicates a degree of privilege in the imperial system.  Herodotus states that they made up the 10th tax district, together with the Medes and Paricanians, paying 450 talents yearly.

The Pausikoi or Apâ Sakâ enter into Classical history very rarely, but are mentioned as part of the 11th tax district, together with the Caspians, Pantimathi and Daritae, paying 200 talents.  They are probably the same people who appear in Hellenistic history as the Apasiakai (Lat. Apasiacae).

Ctesias attributed the conquest of the Amyrgian Scythians to Cyrus.  He believed that the Amyrgians were named for their king Amorges.  Personally I think the Persian etymology of "haoma-drinking" is more likely, but I'm only an amateur.  Ctesias said that Cyrus captured Amorges, whose wife Sparethra waged war and captured several high-ranking Persians.  The prisoners were exchanged and the Amyrgians allied with the Persians, fighting alongside them in Lydia.  Iranologist Alireza Shahbazi regarded Ctesias' overall narrative as containing so many errors "that it borders on fiction."  The name Amorges is not an invention, but it was a Persian name, that of a son of Pissuthnes the satrap of Lydia.

Scythians fought in both the 490 and 480 Persian invasions of Greece.  At Marathon, they were posted in the center of the battle line next to the Persians, and were able to withstand the hoplite charge (which was weakest at the center on this occasion).  In Xerxes' invasion, the Amyrgians served under the king's half-brother Hystaspes.  They fought both on land and as marines, thus were presumably present at Artemision and Salamis, and some were retained by Mardonius to fight at Plataia.  Herodotus calls the Scythians the best cavalry in the Persian army at the last battle.

The Black Sea Scythians grew wealthier during the fifth century in large part due to the slave trade from Central Asia to Europe.  Around the turn of the fourth century, King Ateas ascended to the throne of the Royal Scythians.  During the first half of the century, he centralized royal authority all along the north coast of the Black Sea.  In the 340s, he had a snippy diplomatic relationship with Philip of Macedon, which resulted in a battle and Ateas' death at modern Dobruja in 339.

Eastern Scythians fought at the Battle of Gaugamela in 331 as part of Bessus' cavalry.  In the same year, Alexander's governor of Thrace or Pontus (sources differ on this), Zopyrion, invaded the kingdom of Scythia for want of something better to do, laid a failed siege to Olbia and was killed while retreating.  In 329, an army from Scythia invaded Alexander's empire from the north, but was defeated at the Battle of Jaxartes near modern Tashkent.

The post-Classical history of the Scythian peoples is too complex to cover here.  In east and west, Scythian peoples continued on their various ways, but mostly disappeared over the centuries.  In the third century BC Scythia collapsed under pressure from Thracians, Celts and Sarmatians.  Eastern Scythians settled in Drangiana, creating Sakastan (modern Sīstān) during the early Arsacid period, while others settled in India to create the Indo-Scythian kingdom - all for naught; both have long since disappeared into the native populations.

One last note:  The Scythians are often said to have been the inspiration for the Amazons in Greek mythology.  This is an oversimplification of things.  There is evidence that Amazons were established in Greek myth well before contact with the Scythians.  It is true both that many Scythian women have been found buried with weapons and the Greeks have spoken of Scythian female warriors, and that late Archaic and Classical art often shows Amazons in Asiatic clothing.  On the other hand, other Greek art shows the Amazons in Greek men's tunics.  Herodotus regarded the Amazons and Scythians as separate peoples and believed the Sauromatians were a tribe of mixed Scythian and Amazon ancestry.  Most likely, the Greeks during the Archaic concluded that the Amazons were a Steppe people, or used the Scythians as models for later portrayals of their Amazons, because few other peoples in the world had such numbers of female warriors.

The Scythian language or languages are scarcely-attested from a handful of proper names of people and tribes and possibly a seventh-century inscription from Saqqez, Iran, recording what may be a reference to King Protothyes (as "Partitava"), a Scythian who married an Assyrian princess.  Most Western scholars regard Scythian as being Eastern Iranian, and part of a Scytho-Sarmatian group which gave rise to the language of the Alans and, in turn, modern Ossetian.  The better-attested Eastern Iranian languages of the later kingdoms of Khotan and Tumshuq in what is now western China are thought to be derived from Scythian as well, and are termed "Sakan."

Scythians were polytheists whom Herodotus says worshipped a seven-member pantheon:  Tabiti (whom he regards as the same as the Greek Hestia), Papaios (Zeus), Apia (Gaia), Goitosyros (Apollo), Argimpasa (Uranian Aphrodite), someone whom he calls Heracles, Agin (Ares) and, among the Royal Scythians, Thagimasadas (Poseidon).  The vagaries of interpretatio graeca must be kept in mind:  It's unlikely that these gods derive from the same sources as those whom Herodotus considers their Greek equivalents.

Tabiti, he says, was most important, but only Agin had temples (of a sort) dedicated to him:  In each district, bundles of sticks would be formed into a vast platform three eighths of a mile long and wide, with an akinakes in the middle representing the god himself; new wood was stacked on top as the older wood settled or broke down.

Animal sacrifices, mainly horses, were offered to various gods.  Animals were ritually strangled, the meat carved and boiled and part of it then cast on the ground (which reminds me somewhat of the Magian rite).  At the temples of Agin, a yearly sacrifice of sheep, goats, horses and enemy prisoners was performed.

The historian also states that a priestly caste of transvestites existed called the Enarei, blessed by Argimpasa to divine the future with strips of linden bark.  The name of the Sakâ haumavargâ suggests that they borrowed or retained the ancient Indo-Iranian practice of drinking haoma/soma at religious ceremonies.

Most Scythians wore a variant of the cavalry costume, featuring loose-fitting trousers rather than Medo-Persian tights, and a coat held closed by a belt.  Most art (with the exception of the Naqš-e Rostam reliefs) shows the coat as overlapping somewhat in the front.  At Pazyryk in Siberia, a Scytho-Siberian jacket was found made out of felt rather than woven cloth, and other sites have yielded felt stockings.  An abundance of sheep and goat wool, and the relative simplicity of making and working with felt, may have increased its appeal to the Steppe nomads.  These nomads, Asiatic Scythians included, also obtained and traded silk on the Silk Road of which they were a part.

The Sakâ tigrakhaudâ wore tiaras with very tall tapering peaks, probably treated felt or leather, or having an internal reinforcement.  At Persepolis and Behistun, they otherwise wear Medo-Persian costume, but at Naqš-e Rostam the one present is shown in normal Scythian garb, albeit with a tall hat.  Other Scythians wore less spectacular styles of tiara, though they were still usually more pointed than those worn by other peoples.

In most art, Scythians wear low shoes (which I would guess to be similar to Medo-Persian ones), but some pieces from the Black Sea area show pull-on boots that come up to above the ankle.

Use of the classic Central Asian recurved composite bow and the attendant gorytos is well-documented.  Arrowheads in the same trilobate style as the Persians and Greeks were used, as were leaf-shaped ones with extended sockets; these latter sometimes had a single recurved barb sticking off the socket.  Greek and Roman writers said that when going to war, Scythians dipped their arrows in a noxious substance composed of rotting viper corpses, blood and animal dung, the result of which was that even minor wounds would result in simultaneous poisoning and infection.

The Black Sea Scythians' iron swords could be larger than Achaemenid ones, some examples reaching up to two feet overall (almost as big as a Roman gladius) and often featuring loosely-curled antennae or horns on the pommel, though I confess I don't know the time period during which this sub-style evolved.  Otherwise, the small akinakes with the T-shaped pommel was common.  Swords and knives were still sometimes made of bronze.

Another distinctive Scythian weapon was the sagaris, a small-headed, tomahawk-like battleaxe.  The sagaris could be bronze or iron, and had a flared cutting edge, usually a long back spike and a thin straight handle.  Scythians also used spears and javelins which were much like those found elsewhere in the ancient world, with socketed, leaf-shaped iron points.

Scythian shields seem to have been commonly made of thin hide (I unfortunately have yet to find analyses of whether rawhide or tanned leather was used) densely woven through with sticks while wet; essentially like smaller versions of Achaemenid shields.  Various shapes were known from Pazyryk, and the famous Solokha comb shows one crescent and one which is a sideways rectangle.  The crescent seems to have been a very common shape from the Balkans through the Iranian plateau.

Body armor was usually made of scale.  Corslets were either of a simple tunic shape or modeled after the Greek tube-and-yoke thorax, and the Scytho-Siberians seem to have pioneered the use of scale neck guards.  Shields were also sometimes covered in scale.  In the fifth century, pointed leather caps covered with scale began to replace the earlier Kuban-type helmet, which was of solid bronze and fitted close to the head with a low browline (but no nasal guard).  Imported Greek helmets (in the Corinthian and derivative styles) also became popular at this time.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Peoples of the empire: The Sagartians

Geographical definition
The Sagartians (O.P. Aš-ša-kar-ti-ia) were nomadic herders whose range is uncertain but who are generally thought to have occupied northern Iran.  Stephanus of Byzantium (fl. sixth century AD) identifies a peninsula in the Caspian Sea as Sagartia.

Herodotus gives the Sagartians as a Persian tribe in I.125 but elsewhere treats them as a separate people.  If they lived to the north of Persia proper, then possibly they had either left Persia a long time earlier or had remained in the north when the Persians migrated to the southern Zagros.  Some scholars have connected the Sagartians with the Zi-kir-ta-a-a mentioned as residing in the northern Zagros in a late-eighth century BC inscription by Assyrian king Sargon II, but that doesn't necessarily clear things up since we don't know when the Persians arrived in the south.

In Herodotus I.125 they join Cyrus' rebellion against the Medes; thus they were a part of the Persian empire practically before it began.  A few decades later, they appear in the Behistun inscription as one of the rebellious provinces under a Tritantaechmes (Ciçantakhma), who claimed to be a descendant of Cyaxares.  In the summer of 521, Darius' Median general Takhmaspâda crushed the revolt.  Tritantaechmes was taken to the then Assyrian city of Erbil, ritually mutilated and crucified.

Although Darius calls Tritantaechmes' claim to the kingship of Sagartia a lie, he does not mention cutting out his tongue, which leads Lendering to speculate "that the Sagartian leader had indeed been a member of the Median royal house."  Due to the apparent placement of the Sagartians in northern Iran, some historians have speculated that they had political ties to the Medes as well as the Persians.

According to Lendering's analysis, the Sagartians were initially distinguished as their own satrapy.  At the time of Herodotus, they were in the 14th tax district, with the Drangians, Mycians, Thamanaeans, Utians and people banished to the islands of the Persian Gulf, who together paid six hundred silver talents yearly.  At the Persepolis apadana, the Sagartian delegation brings clothes and a bridled horse as tribute.

The Sagartians participated in Xerxes' invasion of Greece as cavalry with the Persians.  As Herodotus specifies that all cavalry were grouped with the infantry of their respective nations (with the exception of the Arabian camel-riders, who rode in the rear so as not to disturb the horses - Herodotus believed that horses were frightened of camels) it may be presumed that the Sagartians were also commanded by Otanes, Xerxes' father-in-law.  They therefore probably took part in the Battle of Plataea.

After Herodotus, no one writes of the Sagartians, though there is Stephanus' above-mentioned reference to a land called Sagartia a thousand years later.  Probably, other Greek writers did not distinguish the Sagartians from other Persian-speakers, and as our Old Persian corpus peters out in the later Achaemenid period, the evolution of distinctions made by Iranians among themselves ceases to be documented.  Most likely the Sagartians were reabsorbed by the Persians and other neighboring nations after the empire's fall.

Herodotus states that the Sagartians spoke Persian.  I know of no evidence contradicting this.

While I can't find anything specifically about Sagartian religion, their close association with both the Medes and the Persians makes it seem likely that their religious practices were similar to those practiced by these other Western Iranians.

At the Persepolis apadana (left, third from the top), the Sagartians appear dressed like Medes, except wearing tiaras with low peaks and with the earflaps either tied under the chin or above the head.  For what it's worth, Herodotus calls their clothing "somewhat between the Persian and the Pactyan" (the Pactyans probably being Pakhtuns/Pashtuns).

Herodotus asserts that the Sagartians fought only with braided leather lassoes and daggers.  Judging by ethnography and location, their daggers were almost certainly of an akinakes type.  They fought from horseback by snaring enemy men or horses and dragging them close, presumably dispatching them with the dagger.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Peoples of the empire: The Phrygians

Geographical definition
The Phrygians were widespread through Anatolia, living in regions from the Hellespont to Cappadocia.  Phrygia proper lay in central Anatolia and centered around the Sakarya River, just west of Cappadocia, directly east of Lydia and considerably to the north of Lycia.  Their name for themselves is not known, nor is the name by which the Persians called them.

Herodotus believed (and some modern scholars agree) that the Phrygians were relatively recent immigrants to Anatolia descended from an offshoot of the Bryges, who lived in the Balkans.  He also further states that they were in turn ancestral to the Armenians, which is uncertain.  Greek mythology has the Phrygians fighting on the side of the Trojans during the Trojan War, and Gordium was the home of the legendary kings named Midas (of whom there were three).

The Phrygian kingdom in central Anatolia reached its peak in the eighth century BC.  Around 675 Gordium was sacked, an act the Greeks attributed to Cimmerian invaders.  The Cimmerians were driven out around 620 by the Lydians, who made Phrygia one of their provinces.  Gordium was built up with Lydian financing.  The accidental slayer of Croesus' son in Herodotus I.34-45 was Adrastus, a prince of Gordium.

As a Lydian province, Phrygia passed to Persia when the latter conquered Lydia some time after 547.  By the time of Herodotus, it was placed with the Hellespont, Paphlagonia, Syria, the Mariandynians and the Thracians of Asia in the third imperial tax district, whose yearly tribute totaled 360 talents.

The satrapy of Hellespontine Phrygia was split off around the turn of the fifth century.  Its capital was Dascylium.  Lendering notes that "[t]he architectural remains from this age are not very monumental" though a terrace wall in Dascylium shows similarity to walls at Pasargadae and Persepolis.

In the 480 invasion of Greece, Phrygians served together with the Armenians under Artochmes, one of Darius' sons-in-law.  We are not told what role they played in the fighting, but Herodotus says that some Phrygians were picked by Mardonius to remain in Greece after Xerxes left and it seems reasonable that they participated at Plataea if nowhere else.

Our history of Greater (interior) Phrygia is poor, due to its isolation from the Greek world and dearth of surviving domestic or Persian documents.  However it was still in the empire's hands by the time Alexander arrived in Gordium in 334.  In 333, he appointed the satrapy to his general Antigonus, founder of the Antigonid dynasty.

As a reward for his leadership of the surviving Persian army out of Greece, Artabazus (*Artavazdâ), Xerxes' first cousin and formerly commander of the Chorasmian and Parthian cavalry contingents, was given the satrapy of Hellespontine Phrygia in 477.  His descendants held this office until the invasion of Alexander the Great.

Artabazus' son Pharnabazus may or may not have been satrap.  His grandson Pharnaces was satrap by 430, when he tried to open talks with Sparta to involve himself in the political side of the Peloponnesian War, but this initiative went nowhere.  Pharnaces remained in office at least until 422 and possibly later.  His son Pharnabazus II succeeded him before the winter of 413-12, when he and his rival, Tissaphernes of Lydia, tried separately to ally themselves with Sparta against Athens.  Again, little was accomplished due to Athens' naval supremacy until Cyrus the Younger became involved, but this subject falls outside the scope of this article.

Pharnabazus was ruler when the survivors of the Ten Thousand passed through there in 400 on their way back to Greece, when Tissaphernes of Lydia redirected a campaign by Spartan king Thibron in 399 and by Agesilaus II in 396-95; Pharnabazus then campaigned in the Aegean with the Athenian admiral Conon during the Corinthian War.  As a result of his and the empire's gains in this conflict, he was assigned to reconquer Egypt, but failed to do so though he tried repeatedly.

In the meantime, his son Ariobarzanes (*Ariyabrdna) succeeded him as satrap.  He joined the Revolt of the Satraps in 366, receiving aid from Sparta when Caria and Lydia attacked him, and in recognition of his opposition to the great king, Athens made him an honorary citizen, but his son Mithradates betrayed him to the king in 363 or 362, leading to his crucifixion.

His brother Artabazus II succeeded him and likewise decided to rebel after the death of Artaxerxes II in 358, hiring Athenian mercenaries who defeated an imperial army sent against Artabazus in 355.  But Artaxerxes III was able to intimidate Athens into recalling its forces by threatening to send the Persian navy to support Athens' own rebellious territories in the Social War.  Artabazus was forced to flee to Macedon in 353.

Hellespontine Phrygia was given to Arsites, who led the satraps at the Battle of the Granicus in 334 and committed suicide after their defeat.  Alexander appointed his general Calas as the first Macedonian satrap.  Upon the partition of Babylon it was given to Alexander's bodyguard Leonnatus, while Greater Phrygia remained with Antigonus.

Although now part of the Hellenistic world, at least some Phrygians spoke their own language until the fifth century AD.  In the third century BC, Hellespontine Phrygia was invaded by a Celtic people whom the Greeks called Galatai, and with the spread of their language the region became known as Galatia.  Greater Phrygia also suffered from these invasions, which destroyed Gordium.  In 188 it came under rule of the Greek Attalid dynasty of western Anatolia, which Attalus III left in his will to the Roman republic.  As such, the name of Phrygia was retained for administrative purposes from 133 BC until the final end of Byzantium in AD 1453.

The Phrygian language is scarcely attested from two bodies of inscriptions, one dating from the turn of the ninth century BC and after, the other from the turn of the first century AD.  It was an Indo-European language bearing some similarities to Greek and the two may form a subfamily.

The earlier group of inscriptions were written in a particular script derived from Phoenician which may or may not have come through Greek.  The latter were written in the Greek alphabet.

The Phrygians worshiped a wide variety of their own gods and Anatolian ones.  Their (apparent) supreme gods were Sabazios, the sky god and horseman whom the Greeks equated variously with Zeus or Dionysus, and the native Anatolian mother goddess Cybele (Phrygian Matar Kubileya), identified strongly with the Anatolian wilderness.  Like the Lycians, the Phrygians tended to carve shrines and idols directly into living rock.

Phrygian clothing was similar to Medo-Persian, with snug-fitting (probably footed) trousers and long-sleeved tunics covered in bold patterns.  The Phrygian cap was similar to a tiara but lacked earflaps and had a tall, stiff peak curling forward (Phrygians also sometimes wore tiaras with earflaps).

Herodotus' Phrygians are armed "like the Paphlagonians," with woven helmets, small shields, short spears, javelins and daggers (VII.72).  I suppose it is not impossible that the woven helmets were in fact tiaras or Phrygian caps, though it would be an unusual choice of words on Herodotus' part.  The small shields were, I suspect, most likely crescents, given that these were used both in West Asia and to the north in Thracia.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Peoples of the empire: The Phoenicians

I'm a bit on the fence about the Phoenicians.  On the one hand, they were extremely important historically; on the other, for reenactment purposes it may be difficult to portray them because I can find no sources on Phoenician costume in the Achaemenid period.

Geographical definition and names
Phoenicia (Gk. Phoinikia) was the Greek name for the Levantine coast from about Gaza through the southern part of coastal Syria.  The Phoenicians were a subset of Canaanites and it is uncertain whether they regarded themselves as a unified civilization, which together with the lack of centralized government, means that the history of Phoenicia is the history of many different cities.  Essentially they comprised those Canaanites who had taken to seafaring and trading; as such, they were among the most important subjects of the Persian empire.

Phoinikia is Greek for "red land," in reference to the famous purple dye the Phoenicians exported.  However, this name is probably adapted from an Egyptian word, Fnw, referring to Asians.

The Phoenicians probably didn't distinguish their land from the rest of Canaan, which was called Kn'n (probably to be read as "Kana'an"), either a native term meaning "lowlands" or from Hurrian Kinahhu, "purple land."  Hecataeus of Miletus in the sixth century wrote that Phoenicia was formerly called Khna.

Phoenicia seems to have developed gradually from the early Bronze Age, and although destruction was widespread during the Bronze Age collapse, the main centers of Phoenician culture - Byblos, Sidon, Tyre and Gaza among them - show no sign of a major cultural break.  In the early Iron Age these cities gained power through maritime trade and charted routes all around the Mediterranean, establishing colonies as far away as Gadir (modern Cadiz) in southwest Spain and Tingis (modern Tangier) on the Moroccan side of Gibraltar, as well as, most famously, Carthage in Tunisia.

Phoenicia's trade was built on third-party shipping, and on the export of goods like lumber (the prized cedars of Lebanon were used in the construction of Darius the Great's Susa palace and the Second Temple of Jerusalem) and the so-called Tyrian purple fabric.

This latter was dyed with excretions of murex sea snails collected on the coast, and because it was slow and labor-intensive to produce and the resulting color was both rich and resistant to fading, it was an incredibly valuable product (and remains so today).  When the Achaemenids conquered the area, they assumed control of the flow of Tyrian purple cloth and hoarded it.  Wearing Tyrian purple was a sign of royal favor.

It was in the early Iron Age, from about 1200 to 800 BC, that the Phoenician alphabet was adapted by various Mediterranean cultures, including the Greeks, Latins and Arameans, and thus became ancestral to most modern alphabetic scripts.

The power of Asiatic Phoenicia's city-states began to decline after 800 under repeated attacks from Assyria.  After Assyria fell at the turn of the sixth century, the Levant was subjected to Babylonian rule.  As such, it continued on as part of the Persian empire when Cyrus took Babylon in 539.

Achaemenid Phoenicia was divided into four administrative regions with capitals at Arwad, Byblos, Sidon and Tyre, Sidon being the most important.  As under the Assyrians and Babylonians, native kings remained in Phoenicia as vassals to the Persian king.  Unfortunately, the historical record becomes spotty because during Achaemenid times the Phoenicians began to rely on perishable papyrus documents rather than cuneiform.

By Herodotus' time, Phoenicia was grouped with Cyprus and Palaestina in the fifth tax district, paying a total of 350 silver talents yearly.  This region appears to be the same as those known in old Akkadian records as Eber-Nāri, "Across the River"; the name continued to be used in Akkadian documents from the Achaemenid period.

The Persians relied heavily on Phoenician ships in war and trade.  Herodotus says that the Phoenicians took part in Cambyses' expedition against Egypt and were "the most eager to fight" in the fleet sent to stop the Ionian Revolt (VI.6), throughout which their naval power proved important both at Lade in 494 and in the subsequent reconquest of Greek coastal cities.

According to Herodotus, the Phoenicians sent three hundred ships (a quarter of the armada) under the command of Tetramnestus of Sidon and Matten of Tyre.  The Phoenicians would have played major roles at the battles of Artemisium and Salamis as well as the king's return to Asia.

Phoenicians acting at the empire's behest briefly relieved Samos of an Athenian blockade in 440 and supplied ships to Sparta in the Peloponnesian War.  However, the Persian reliance on Phoenicia was also a liability:  Attacks from the outside on Phoenician ports would cripple the empire's ability to project power.  Thus Evagoras of Cyprus targeted and briefly captured Tyre during his personal war with Persia, and Nectanebo II sought to protect Egypt from imperial attack by instigating a rebellion in Sidon.

The great king at the time, Artaxerxes III, had been gathering an army at Sidon when the pharaoh sent a message to King Tennes of Sidon that he would assist the Sidonians if they revolted; he made good on this by dispatching 4,000 Greek mercenaries under Mentor of Rhodes (brother of the famous Memnon of Rhodes) in 350.  The Phoenicians and Greeks defeated the Persian satraps sent to suppress them, and the rebellion spread to other towns.  Artaxerxes led a massive counterattack by 346, and Tennes and Mentor surrendered.  The great king retained Mentor as a mercenary but executed Tennes, and the Sidonians torched their own city.

Sidon was repopulated, and King Straton (Ph. Abdastart) initially supported Darius III during Alexander's invasion, sending ships to fight under Memnon in the Aegean.  However, after the Battle of Issus, the empire's power was withdrawn from Phoenicia.  Sidon and the other cities surrendered without a fight, but Hephaestus nonetheless deposed Straton and replaced him with Abdalonymus, who may have been a son of Tennes.

The lone holdout was Tyre.  While the Tyrians would have surrendered like everyone else, Alexander had further demanded to be allowed to perform sacrifices in the temple of Melqart, a right belonging only to Tyre's native king.  When he repeated his demands, the Tyrians executed his representatives.  Alexander laid siege to the city in January of 332.  The Tyrian women and children were evacuated to Carthage.  Built on an island just off the coast and defended by its ships, Tyre proved difficult to take until Alexander secured control of the other Phoenician ships belonging to the former Persian navy.  He then breached the city's walls and quickly overcame the defenders.  Most of the surviving population were sold into slavery.

Macedonian control over Phoenicia was now complete.  It was placed under the satrapy of Syria at the Partition of Babylon in 323, ruled by Laomedon of Mytilene.  But three years later Ptolemy invaded from Egypt at the start of the Wars of the Diadochi.  The land changed hands many times until again falling to the Ptolemaic empire in 286, where it remained for 89 years.  During this time, the high priests of Ashtart in Sidon acted as the Ptolemies' client rulers.

In 197, Phoenicia, still as part of Syria, was taken by the Seleucids.  However, rule began to crumble in the late second century, with Tyre and Sidon becoming independent.  From 82-69 BC, Tigranes the Great of Armenia invaded and held the country, but was driven out by the Romans under Pompey the Great, who officially named Syria a Roman province five years later.

It is difficult to know when Phoenicia ceased to be recognized.  The Canaanite languages in general were replaced by Aramaic from the Achaemenid period onward, though the process was gradual.  To some extent, the modern Lebanese regard themselves as having Phoenician roots.  In the western Mediterranean, variants of the Phoenician language (called Punic to distinguish them from mainland Phoenician) were spoken until perhaps around AD 600.

Phoenician belonged to the Canaanite subgroup of Northwest Semitic and is similar to Biblical Hebrew.

The Phoenician alphabet was an abjad, similar to a syllabary but representing vowel sounds only implicitly.  It may have been derived from proto-Sinaitic, a script attested from a handful of findings on the Sinai Peninsula dating to the early second millennium BC.  It has been further theorized that proto-Sinaitic derives from Egyptian hieroglyphs.  In any case, although Phoenician is the ancestor of most phonetic writing systems used today, it bears little physical resemblance to them.

Phoenicians followed the polytheistic traditions of other Canaanites.  Their most important gods included El, the traditional supreme god of Semitic religions; his wife Ashtart, who was the Northwestern Semitic cognate of Akkadian Ishtar; and El's son Melqart, known as Ba'al ūr or "Lord of Tyre."  The Greeks called Melqart "Tyrian Heracles"; he may also be the Ba'al worshipped by Ahab in the Bible.  Many other gods were worshipped in Phoenicia and the wider Canaanite region, including several imported from Egypt, like Isis.

As mentioned, there seems to be little information about Phoenician clothing.  However, it seems likely that they dressed in a manner similar to the "Syrians" at Persepolis, a topic covered in the Assyrian article.

Herodotus describes Phoenician weapons as "helmets very close to the Greek in style," linen corslets, "shields without rims" and javelins.  I can provide no further information or useful speculation.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Peoples of the empire: The Parthians

After the Lydians come a long string of peoples whose histories and cultures in Achaemenid times are too poorly-documented to put together a good article.  Skipping through more than a dozen such names finally brings us to the Parthians.

Geographical definition
Parthia (O.P. Parthava) lay on the southwest corner of the Caspian, west of Hyrcania, south of the Kopet Dag mountains that separate modern Iran and Turmenistan, and north of the deserts of central Iran.

Parthia may have been subject to the Medes and acknowledged Persian suzerainty after Cyrus conquered Media.  The country first appears in the Behistun inscription, where its satrap is Darius the Great's father, Hystaspes.  After Darius seized the throne, the Parthians joined Phraortes' revolt and besieged Hystaspes in the Parthian city of Vishpauzâtish, but he defeated them on March 8, 521 and again at Patigrabana on July 11.

With the Arians, Chorasmians and Sogdians, the Parthians made up the 16th tax district, paying 300 talents yearly.  At times Parthia formed a joint satrapy with Hyrcania.  At the Apadana, they are illustrated bringing bowls and a Bactrian camel.  Parthians took part in the 480 invasion of Greece as infantry, marching with the Chorasmians under Artabazus son of Pharnaces.  They are not mentioned at the major battles.

Parthia drops off the radar for a century and a half following Xerxes' invasion.  We next hear of them at Gaugamela in 331, where together with the Hyrcanians, they fought as cavalry under the joint satrap Phrataphernes in the Persian left wing (commanded overall by Mazaeus).  Phrataphernes remained with Darius on his final flight toward Parthia, but after the Persian king was murdered, Phrataphernes submitted peacefully to Alexander and thus retained his office.

Diodorus has Phratapernes still holding this office at the Partition of Babylon, but at Triparadiscus it was reassigned to Philip, formerly of Sogdiana.  Philip was deposed and killed in 318 by Peithon, who made his brother Eudamus governor, but the following year the other eastern satraps expelled them and in 316 Seleucus gave Parthia to a satrap of his choosing, Stasander.

The Seleucids maintained nominal control over Parthia until 247, when a political crisis in Antioch motivated the satrap Andragoras to declare Parthia an independent state.  Just nine years later, however, a tribe of Eastern Iranian nomads known as the Parni invaded from the north and conquered Parthia.  This was the beginning of the Arsacid dynasty, which in the second century BC came to rule most of Greater Iran.

The Arsacids were deposed early in the third century AD by a resurgent Persia under the Sassanids.  The Sassanids dissolved Parthia as an administrative unit and made it part of a larger province, Khorasan.  While the Parthian language continued to be used (judging from bilingual inscriptions) early in the Sassanid period, the region seems to have become Persianized at least by the time of Ferdowsi in the 10th century.  Today the area is divided among several Iranian provinces and is home mostly to native Persian-speakers with Kurds and Turkmens in the north.

By the Arsacid period, the name Parthava had been worn down into Pahlav or Pahlaw, which (as the adjective Pahlavi) survived as a designation of things originating in northeastern Iran.

Parthian was a Western Iranian language and thus more closely related to Persian than Avestan or other Eastern languages, but belonged to the Northwestern sub-branch, whereas Persian belongs to the Southwestern.  Parthian is attested in Pahlavi (a script derived from Aramaic) from the Arsacid and early Sassanid dynasties, and was probably different in the Achaemenid period, perhaps resembling Old Persian a little more.

I can find nothing on Parthian religion under the Achaemenids, but a reasonable guess would be something similar to the Persians, in a transitional state between ancient Iranian polytheism and early Mazdaism.

Parthians in royal art wear pullover tunics, loose-fitting trousers and mid-calf pull-on boots.  The Apadana delegation wear what look like tiaras that are very full and made of soft woven fabric, though they could instead be a complex kind of turban wrap.  The one at Naqs-e Rostam wears a more standard cut of tiara.

Herodotus has the Parthians armed like Bactrians, who carry "reed bows" and spears.  I think you would be safe using trilobate bronze arrowheads, which were common in both western Iran and Scythia.  In Arsacid times the Parthians were known for their cavalry, but they probably took heavy influence from the Arsacids' nomadic ancestors.  The Parthian at Naqs-e Rostam wears a Medo-Persian akinakes.  It is probable that the Parthian akinakes was more like the Scythian in style.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Another spearhead from the British Museum

Spearhead from Karabakh, Azerbaijan

This one is very interesting; larger than the one from Deve Huyuk, it's also considerably lighter, and has only a partial mid-rib.  I'm not sure how representative of Achaemenid spearheads it can be.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Peoples of the empire: The Lydians

Geographical definition
Lydia (Lydian Śfard, O.P. Sparda) lay in the middle of western Anatolia, north of Caria, south of Mysia on the northern coast, and east of Ionia and Aeolia on the western coast.  Its capital Sardis is today the village of Sart.  The name Lydia derives from the Assyrian name for the region, Luddu.

Politically, Lydia postdates the Bronze Age collapse, but it occupied the area of a Luwian-speaking kindom called Mirâ and Lendering suggests that "there is considerable continuity between Mirâ and Lydia".  While agriculturally productive, Lydia contained few large cities and most people lived in smaller towns.

Much of Lydia's wealth and power was founded on gold mined from the river Pactolus (the modern Sart Çayı), which flows through Sardis and where King Midas was said in Greek mythology to have washed away his power of turning things into gold.  According to Herodotus, the Lydians invented gold and silver coins.

The late Lydian kings belonged to the Mermnad or Gygian dynasty, founded by the usurper Gyges, whom Herodotus says was obliged by the queen to murder her husband, King Candaules, after some funny business.  Others say otherwise, as others are wont to do.

In any event, the Mermnad dynasty expanded Lydian power considerably, so that by the end it was a sizable empire that ruled most of western Anatolia, including the Greek cities of Ionia.  Lydia was accidentally ended by King Croesus, who decided to attack Cyrus after the Persian prince overthrew Astyages, possibly wishing to reinstate Astyages (with whom Lydia had a treaty), or seize land for himself.  He did this, the historian says, after the Oracle of Delphi promised him that if he did, a great empire would fall.  Now, you and I could guess how that ends, but Croesus was, as Jamie Rieger put it, a "first time customer."

Together with the Egyptians, Babylonians and Spartans, the Lydians launched an invasion of formerly Median territory across the Halys River (modern Kızılırmak) in central Anatolia.  Traditionally, this event is said to have happened in 547 BC, but that's based on a misreading of a damaged part of the Nabonidus Chronicle which is actually more likely referring to Urartu, not Luddu.

In any case, the two kings fought inconclusively at the Battle of Pteria in Cappadocia, and with winter drawing on, Croesus dismissed his allies and returned to his capital, only to notice too late that Cyrus was standing right behind him.  According to the Greek poet Bacchylides, Croesus tried to immolate himself as his capital fell, but Apollo spirited him away.  Herodotus rewrites the story a bit and has Cyrus decide to burn Croesus alive because hey, you only king of the world once.  Then he thought better of it, but at that point the pyre was already raging and Croesus nearly died before Apollo sent a storm to extinguish it.

Per Herodotus, Cyrus appointed two officials to rule Lydia, a native named Pactyes as civil administrator and a Persian named Tabalus as satrap.  Upon Cyrus' departure, Pactyes rebelled.  Cyrus prepared to level Sardis, but Croesus entreated him to punish only those who had rebelled and to pacify Lydia by reordering the economy so that the Lydians became hedonistic girlymen (really).  Lydia, and particularly Sardis, was and remained a center of craftsmanship, famous for ceramics and goldwork.  Darius would later employ Lydian ivory carvers at Susa.  Lydians at the Persepolis apadana bear ornate beakers, bowls and small horses or donkeys in fancy harness drawing a chariot.

As for Pactyes, he fled to Aeolia and bounced around for a while before being captured on Chios just off the Aeolian coast.  Nothing is said of his death, but I think it's safe to assume that it was swift and squicky.

Lydia became a satrapy with its capital remaining at Sardis.  Around 530, Oroetus became its satrap, and in 522 murdered the Greek conqueror Polycrates of Samos.  Oroetus himself met a bad end because of Darius' distrust of him.  Bagaeus may have succeeded him; afterward came Otanes, one of Darius' six companions, who conquered Samos outright, and finally the great king's brother, Artaphernes.  Under his rule, Lydia was the site of intense fighting during the Ionian Revolt.  Much of Sardis was burned by the rebels, but Artaphernes held the citadel and led the Persian counterattack.

Artaphernes was apparently relieved of his post in 492 by his son, also called Artaphernes, who co-led the first invasion of Greece along with Datis in 492-490, and commanded the Lydians as infantry in Xerxes' 480 invasion.

During the fifth century, Lydia was settled by many foreigners, Persian and Ionian estate owners and foreign garrisons like the Hyrcanians on the rivers Caicus and Hermus (modern Bakırçay and Gediz).  Religion began to show Iranian influences; deities like Anahita were adopted, and the god Pldans was associated (according to Lendering) with Ahura Mazda.

The Greeks who are our main sources lose interest in Lydia after 480.  The next known news is the 440 attempt of the satrap Pissuthnes to take Samos after it revolted against the Athenian empire.  During the first decade of the Peloponnesian War, Pissuthnes backed Athens' rebellious holdings.

In 420, he himself rebelled against Darius II, but was arrested and executed by Tissaphernes, who was then given the satrapy around 415.  Tissaphernes had to continue fighting Pissuthnes' son Amorges, who lived in Iasus in Caria and had Athenian support.  Tissaphernes countered him by backing the Spartans, so the two Persians had become players in the Peloponnesian War.  As part of the treaty, the Spartans sailed to Iasus and arrested Amorges in the winter of 412-411.  The continued Persian support of Sparta probably hastened the defeat of Athens.

Having run out of common enemies, Persia and Sparta once again had to fight.  In 399, the Spartan Thibron or Thimbron invaded Asia Minor and captured some cities, but his siege of Larissa failed in its aim of gaining concessions from Tissaphernes.  Agesilaus II had considerably more success and raided as far as Sardis itself.  Tissaphernes was then (394) killed by a Persian courtier, Tithraustes, who may have acted on behalf of Parysatis for Tissaphernes' role in the defeat and death of her son Cyrus the Younger.

Tithraustes briefly replaced Tissaphernes and persuaded Agesilaus to attack Phrygia.  In 393, Tithraustes was replaced by Tiribazus, who began to funnel money to Sparta to counter Athens' growing power in the Corinthian War.  Artaxerxes II disagreed with this course and replaced Tiribazus in 392 with Struthas, who attacked the Spartans.  The Spartans in return began raiding Lydia once again.  In or before 387, Tiribazus returned to Lydia and renewed his cooperation with Sparta, bringing the Corinthian War to an end.

The next known satrap of Lydia was Autophradates, who fought for years in the Revolt of the Satraps, mainly on the king's side but at one point (362) defecting to the rebels.  Autophradates may have been the same commander who, together with Pharnabazus, commanded Persian operations in the Aegean after the death of Memnon of Rhodes.  He appears to have left his post before 334, by which time we hear of the Lydian satrap Spithridates fighting and dying against Alexander the Great at the Granicus.

With the satraps' failure to stop Alexander there, western Anatolia fell.  Sardis surrendered in the summer of 334.  It was given to Alexander's general Menander at the Partition of Babylon (323), then to Cleitus the White at the Partition of Triparadisus (321)   The satrapy was initially under the control of the empire of Antigonus, then Lysimachus, one of Alexander's bodyguards, from 301-281, and finally, when he was killed, Lydia passed to the Seleucids for 91 years until falling into the Roman sphere of influence.

Throughout the Hellenistic period, Lydia was settled by Greeks and became Hellenized.  In the first century BC, Strabo wrote that the Lydian language had become extinct in Lydia itself though still spoken in Kibyra to the south.  From this time, the country could perhaps be regarded as only a traditional placename.

Lydian was an Anatolian language, but differed in certain ways from its closest known relatives so that its exact line of descent is unknown.  While attested from the seventh to third centuries, the majority of the Lydian corpus dates to the Achaemenid period.  The Lydian alphabet was derived from or related to Greek.

Lydians were polytheists, but beyond the names of their gods, not much is known about their religious practices.  It appears that native Lydian altars were (or included) open-air structures.  Greek-style temples are known from Sardis, and the patronage described by Herodotus of Gyges, Alyattes and Croesus to the Oracle of Delphi may imply religious links with the Greeks.

The Lydian gods included Levs, a weather god who may or may not have been head of the pantheon (FWIW the Greeks interpreted him as Zeus), Baki (Dionysus) for whom they put on song and dance numbers, and Kuvava (Cybele) who had a temple at Sardis, but the most important goddess in Sardis was Artemis.  Many of their deities, including Kuvava, the vegetation goddess Kore (Greek for "young woman," perhaps implying an identification with Persephone), Santas (regarded by the Greeks as Heracles), and the moon god Pldans or Qldans, are or may be derived from much older Anatolian deities, particularly Hittite.

Candaules, whose name is thought to mean "dog throttler," may be connected with the discovery of dog bones in cooking pots at Sardis, which were perhaps cooked and buried as sacrifices to him.  The Greeks also documented temple prostitution in Lydia, as in other parts of the Mediterranean, though no fertility goddess of the sort usually connected with this practice is known here.

Lydians at the Persepolis apadana wear long, seemingly un-belted tunics with fine verical pleats and short, horizontally-pleated sleeves.  The texture reminds me of a linen tunic that a reenactor at Marathon wore; he said that it was produced by twisting the tunic up tightly while it was wet and allowing it to dry so the pleats were set, but I may be completely off-base in thinking that the effects are one and the same.  The Persepolis Lydians also wear pull-on boots that rise to just above the ankle, rounded conical hats with several broad horizontal pleats or seams, long cords with bead-like finials hanging from the head just behind the ears (these look like part of the hat but are also seen on those with no hats), and a flowing cloak pinned over the left shoulder and passing under the right arm.

Herodotus says simply that "Lydian armor was most similar to the Greek" (tr. Godley).  I have never seen depictions of Lydian weapons other than the figure at Naqs-e Rostam who wears a longsword on a sling, an image I am beginning to suspect is too consistent across the many nations on this table to be realistic.  Assuming Herodotus to be correct, an Argive shield and spear with a sauroter would probably be safe choices.  The famous Spangenhelm-like helmet found at Sardis may be either Lydian or Persian.

Note:  Much of the above information, particularly on religion, is culled from the long and detailed report by Annick Peyne to be found here.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Peoples of the empire: The Lycians

By rights, this week's update should be about the Libyans.  However, I've run into the usual issue of the area being at the edge of the literate world in ancient times meaning that there is not sufficient information for anything like a comprehensive summary.  Onward to better-documented lands.

Geographical definition
Lycia (Luwian Lukka via Greek Lykia) was centered around the Teke Peninsula, a rounded landmass on the southwestern coast of modern Turkey.  It lay southeast of Caria.  It was a poor hill country with little urbanization; the people were known mainly as herders and (in the Bronze Age) pirates.

Lycia first appears in Hittite records as a member of the Assuwa League in the late Bronze Age.  With the Bronze Age collapse, the "Lukka lands" disappear for a time, but evidently survived as a traditional name and reappear with the Greek histories.  While the natives continued to live mostly as shepherds, Rhodian Greeks colonized the coast, founding Phaselis in the east.

According to Herodotus, Cyrus sent Harpagus to reduce western Anatolia after conquering the Lydian empire.  This happened after 547 BC.  The failed defense of Xanthus in southern Lycia is famous; the men there were driven back, put all their families and property in the citadel, burned it down and then returned to the field where they fought to the death.  Other conquests within Lycia are not mentioned and were probably less tenacious or even peaceful.

The new rulers (khñtawati) of Xanthus became the most important in Lycia; Lendering suggests that "the great king had appointed the Xanthian prince as representative of all Lycians, responsible for the payment of tribute."  A stele discovered there in 1838 was apparently a monument to a son of Arppakhu and this led to the theory, widespread for a while but no longer accepted, that Harpagus was awarded the satrapy of Lycia and founded a "Harpagid dynasty."

In truth Lycia did not have its own satrap.  It was grouped in the empire's first tax district, with Ionia, Magnesia, Aeolia, Caria, Milya and Pamphylia, paying 400 talents total.  During this time, Persian influence began to appear in Lycian architecture, particularly elite tombs.

It is possible that fighting continued after the conquest.  A Persepolis Fortification tablet from 509 mentions prisoners of war called Turmirla, which may be a rendering of the Lycian endonym Trm̃mili.

Nonetheless, Herodotus says that Lycia sent 50 ships to Xerxes' invasion in 480.  He gives their endonym as Termilai (Lat. Termilae) and incorrectly believes them to be of Cretan descent.  Among the officers to whom he attaches importance was a Cyberniscus, son of Sicas, who has often been interpreted as the commander of the Lycian contingent.  We are not told what role they played in the war, but as sailors they would have been important and probably took part in both Artemisium and Salamis.

A further note on Cyberniscus:  The phrase in Greek is Kuberniskos Sika, which Anthony Keen has proposed is a misreading of Kubernis Kossika, possibly a Greek rendering of the Lycian names Kuprili and Kheziga.  The Lycian monarchy has been rather sketchily reconstructed for most of the Persian period.

At some point after the Peloponnesian phase of the wars, control of Lycia switched to the Delian League.  The circumstances under which the empire lost Lycia are unknown.  During the latter half of the fifth century, Greek cultural influence in Lycia became stronger:  Cities grew, Lycians began to build Greek-style rock tombs and create bilingual inscriptions.

Lycia defected from the League during the Peloponnesian War.  In 429, Athens sent General Melasander to reconquer Lycia, but Gergis (Lyc. Kheriga) of Xanthus defeated him.  Soon, Lycia reverted to Persian influence, and Xanthus was able to conquer Telmessus, Lycia's westernmost major city.

During the Revolt of the Satraps, Pericles, a king of the southeastern Limyra, declared himself king of Lycia and drove out the Xanthian ruler Arttum̃para.  Pericles is regarded as the last king of Lycia.  After the revolt failed, the land once again reverted to the empire.

Alexander the Great marched through Lycia in the winter of 334-333 in his campaign to capture coastal cities, which were of strategic importance during the Persian-Macedonian war.  He appointed his general Nearchus as rule of Lycia and Pamphylia.  Telmessus, Lycia's westernmost city, revolted in 333 but Nearchus quelled it easily enough.

In 329, Nearchus was temporarily relieved of his post to join Alexander's eastern campaign.  What followed at the Partition of Babylon after Alexander's death is somewhat unclear:  Diodorus and Arrian say that Lycia and Pamphylia were given to Antigonus, but Justin says that they were given to Nearchus.  From the Partition of Triparadiscus onward they were definitely with Antigonus.

Lycia changed hands several times during the Wars of the Diadochi.  It spent its longest period under the Ptolemies, from 275-197, when it was briefly taken by the Seleucids, and finally came under the Roman sphere of influence as a result of the Syrian War, 192-188.

I can find no clear indication of what became of native Lycian culture, but it is reasonable to suppose that it faded under Greek influence over the Hellenistic period.  Thereafter the nation would only be a traditional and administrative name.

Lycian belonged to the Luwian subgroup of Anatolian, a major Indo-European branch.  It was distinct from the Luwian language and first appears in inscriptions during the Achaemenid period.  Two dialects are known, standard Lycian or Lycian A, and Milyan.  It was written in the Lycian alphabet, derived from Greek but with additional letters for its unique sounds.  The last inscription in Lycian dates to about 300 BC.

Naturally, Greek was also spoken in the coastal cities and gradually replaced Lycian throughout the country.

According to Annick Payne, Lycian religion is known mainly from epitaphs referring to various deities.  The most well-known is the "mother of the gods" (˜eni mahanahi), whom the Greeks identified with Leto (called L˜at˜ai in Lycian).  The major sanctuary near Xanthus known as the Letoon, dating from the sixth century, may have originally belonged to the Lycian deity before she was conflated with Leto.

Likewise, most written sources identify native deities with Greek ones:  Trqqas with Zeus and Maliya with Athena.  The names of Padrita (Aphrodite) and Ertemi (Artemis, of whom the theophoric name Erttimeli was borne by a governor of Xanthus) appear to indicate adoption of the Greek goddesses by the Lycians rather than conflation.  In the fourth century, Lycians began to worship Apollo as part and parcel with Leto and Artemis; he may have absorbed a minor god named Natri.

Due to the nature of the texts, not much is known about Lycian religious practice, but they appear to have favored altars cut into living rock rather than constructed ones.

Unfortunately, native clothing appears is not well-attested in Lycian art; most anthropomorphic art comes from Greek-dominated areas and thus reflects Greek clothing styles.  The chiton and himation appear frequently in royal tombs.  Certain Persian elements are seen here and there, like the kidaris.  The so-called Harpy Tomb from Xanthus, dating approximately to Xerxes' invasion, shows women's dress as being very finely draped with voluminous sleeves or caped uppers and plain, stiff-looking circlets.

Herodotus says that the Lycians "wore cuirasses and greaves, and carried cornel-wood bows and unfeathered arrows and javelins; goat-skins hung from their shoulders, and they wore on their heads caps crowned with feathers; they also had daggers and scimitars (drepana)" (VII.92).  I know this isn't good historical practice, but offhand I find it extremely difficult to believe that anyone used arrows that were not fletched.

Graeco-Lycian art shows military equipment that is pretty much Greek in appearance.