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Medes

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The Oxford Companion to the Bible What is This? Provides authoritative interpretive entries on Biblical people, places, beliefs, events, and secular influences.

    Medes

    The Medes (Map 7:J3), like the Persians, were a people of Aryan (Iranian) speech who probably entered the ancient Near East from the north. They were first encountered by the Assyrians about 835 BCE; they occupied the north Zagros Mountain region and far eastward. The “strong Medes” bred excellent horses and suffered frequent Assyrian incursions. Sargon II in 713 BCE received the submission of some fifty of their chieftains, but in the 670s a leader named Kashtariti (Khshathrita) of Kar‐Kashshi in Media was building a formidable power. With Ecbatana (Achmetha) as capital, the Medes soon rose to be rulers of an empire that reached from the central Zagros to Turkestan and included Persis and, by 600 BCE, Armenia and eastern Anatolia as well. Under the warrior king Cyaxares, after a period of Scythian dominance, they had captured Nineveh in 612 BCE and shared the Assyrian kingdom with the Babylonians, thus attracting the attention of Jeremiah (51.11, 28; see also Isa. 13.17; 21.2). But in 550 BCE their elderly king Astyages was conquered by Cyrus the Persian, whose mother was said to have been a Mede.

    Under Cyrus the Medes were to some extent corulers of the empire; in fact, for several centuries the outside world continued to apply the name “Mede” to the imperial power (see, e.g., Esther 1.3). But after Darius usurped the throne the Medes rose unsuccessfully in revolt (522–521 BCE) and lost such privileged status as they had enjoyed. There does, however, seem to have been a considerable Median legacy in the institutions and titulature of the Persian court, and the Magi who formed the Iranian clergy were in origin a Median clan. The Medes are also mentioned as a nationality in Acts 2.9.

    J. M. Cook

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    Oxford University Press

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