Massagetae (Sanskrit: महाजट, Greek: Μασσαγέται, Massagetai; Latin: Massagetae) were an Ancient Iranian peoples  of antiquity known primarily from the writings of Herodotus. Their name was akin to Getae (=Jat) and Thyssagetae. (=Small Jat)
Origin of name
From time to time, reputed history scholars scholars have advocated that the word "Massagetae" means "Great Getae". In Pehlevi, a language that was spoken in Persia (or Central Asia), the meaning of the word "massa" is "great". Hence, the Pehlevi language word "massa", and the English language word "great" are synonyms.
Professor Balbir Singh Dhillon wrote:
"The classical and modern authorities say that the word "Massagetae" means "great" getae (Jats). The ninth-century work De Universo of Rabanus Maurus states, "The Massagetae are in origin from the tribe of the Scythians, and are called Massagetae, as if heavy, that is, strong Getae."
A number of different versions have been transmitted concerning the death of Cyrus the Great. One version reported Herodotus, [1.201] When Cyrus had achieved the conquest of the Babylonians, he conceived the desire of bringing the Massagetae under his dominion. Now, the Massagetae are said to be a great and warlike nation, dwelling eastward, toward the rising of the sun, beyond the river Araxes, and opposite the Issedonians. By many, they are regarded as a Scythian race.
Guida Myrl Jackson-Laufer describes the Massagetaeans as follows:
- "The Massagetae was a large, warlike, half-nomadic Sakan tribe whose land lay eastward beyond the Araxes River in Eastern Persia. Tomyris was the widow of a Sakan chief and was both queen and leader of the army. She had at least one son, Spargapises."
According to Herodotus, Cyrus the Great of Persia met his death in a battle with the Massagetae living beyond Araxes river. They were a people from the southern deserts of Khwarezm in today's Bukhara, Uzbekistan. The queen of the Massagetae, Tomyris, prevailed, although Cyrus had defeated Tomyris's son Spargapises. Herodotus mentions: Of all the combats in which the barbarians [a term meaning non-Greeks which was not a derogatory term in Herodotus's time] have engaged among themselves, I reckon this to have been the fiercest.
Mentioned in Mahabharata
Historian Satya Shrava has dicussed about the mention of the Massagetaeans in Mahabharata; He writes:
- "The Sakas are mentioned in our literature dating back to almost 5000 years to the period of the Mahabharata battle."
- "The Mahabharata says that the Mrgas, a part of the Sakadvipa, or the people of the Margiana, were brahmanas and the Masakas or the Massagetae were kshatriyas or warriors."
- "The Jats are none other than the Massagetae (Great Getae) mentioned in Diodorus as an off-spring of the ancient Saka tribe.... a fact now well-known."
Bhim Singh Dahiya writes:
- "It is important to note that the Chinese word 'Yue-che" is pronounced as "Gut-tia" according to Karl-Gren, meaning the "Moon People". Later on, the Chinese chronicles show, that under pressure of another tribe of the same stock, called by the Chinese as Hiung-nu or Hoa, the Yue-che moved southward and westward. The branch that was numerically weaker went to the South towards Tibet and were called 'Siao-Yue-Che", meaning the "little Yue-che". The main body moved westward and occupied Dahia (or Tahia, Bactria, Balkh). They were called "Ta-Yue-che" meaning the "Great Guttia" or great Jats. As shown above the word 'Yue-che' is pronounced as Guttia and therefore Ta-Yue-che is exactly the same as the word "Massa Getae" of the Greeks and the Persians. All the Chinese sources agree that the Kusanas were from the Yue-che race. The Chinese author of Thung-Kiang-Nu, writes in the year 555 A.D. that the Aptal or Hephthalites were of the race of Ta-Yue-che. Further the encyclopaedia of Ma-Tuan-g-Lin says that the Yeta are of the race of Ta-Yue-che, and further that the I-Tan belonged to the same race as Yue-che."
Bhim Singh Dahiya goes on to state that:
- "The Chinese were right in stating that the Hiung-nu were a part of the Yue-Che (reads as Guti) people, and these Guti people had two divisions, the Ta-Yue-Che and the Siao-Yue-Che, exactly corresponding to the Massagetae and Thyssagetae of Herodotus (a classical Greek writer of fifth century BC), meaning the "Great-Jats" and the "Little-Jats" respectively. Almost every tribe of Ancient Middle East (West Asia) and Central Asia, is represented among the present day Jats in India."
According to Herodotus:
"Herodotus [1.215], In their dress and mode of living the Massagetae resemble the Scythians. They fight both on horseback and on foot, neither method is strange to them: they use bows and lances, but their favourite weapon is the battle-axe. Their arms are all either of gold or brass. For their spear-points, and arrow-heads, and for their battle-axes, they make use of brass; for head-gear, belts, and girdles, of gold. So too with the caparison of their horses, they give them breastplates of brass, but employ gold about the reins, the bit, and the cheek-plates. They use neither iron nor silver, having none in their country; but they have brass and gold in abundance."
"Herodotus [1.216], The following are some of their customs; - Each man has but one wife, yet all the wives are held in common; for this is a custom of the Massagetae and not of the Scythians, as the Greeks wrongly say. Human life does not come to its natural close with this people; but when a man grows very old, all his kinsfolk collect together and offer him up in sacrifice; offering at the same time some cattle also. After the sacrifice they boil the flesh and feast on it; and those who thus end their days are reckoned the happiest. If a man dies of disease they do not eat him, but bury him in the ground, bewailing his ill-fortune that he did not come to be sacrificed. They sow no grain, but live on their herds, and on fish, of which there is great plenty in the Araxes. Milk is what they chiefly drink. The only god they worship is the sun, and to him they offer the horse in sacrifice; under the notion of giving to the swiftest of the gods the swiftest of all mortal creatures."
They were similar to the Scythians in their dress and mode of living. Each man had one woman, yet their wives were held in common, this custom differentiating the Massagetae from the Scythians. Queen Tomyris succeeded her dead husband, the former king of the Massagetae. The Massagetae worshipped only one god, the sun, and sacrificed a horse in its honour.
Ammianus Marcellinus considered the Alans to be the former Massagetae.. At the close of the fourth century CE, Claudian (the court poet of Emperor Honorius and Stilicho) wrote of Alans and Massagetae in the same breath: "the Massagetes who cruelly wound their horses that they may drink their blood, the Alans who break the ice and drink the waters of Maeotis' lake." (In Rufinem)
Important Scholars who identified Massagetaeans as "Great Jits or Jats" of Asia
- Steven M. Collins advocates the identification of Massagetaeans as "Great Jits or Jats" of Asia.
- Tadeusz Sulimirski wrote: "The evidence of both the ancient authors and the archaeological remains point to a massive migration of Sacian (Sakas)/Massagetan ("great" Jat) tribes from the Syr Daria Delta (Central Asia) by the middle of the second century B.C. Some of the Syr Darian tribes; they also invaded North India."
- Weer Rajendra Rishi advocates that the Jats are none other than the Massagetaeans (Maha/Great Getae).
- Arnold Joseph Toynbee wrote: "It may not be fantastic to conjecture that the Tuetonic-speaking Goths and Gauts of Scandinavia may have been descended from a fragment of the same Indo-European-speaking tribe as the homonymous Getae and Thyssagetae and Massagetae of the Eurasian Steppe who are represented today by the Jats of the Panjab."
- Arnold Joseph Toynbee, also wrote: "It had been carried from the Oxus-Jaxartes Basin into the Indus Basin by the Massagetae themselves, together with their tribal name (the Jats), in their Volkerwander- ung in the second century BC."
- George Rawlinson has identified the Massagetaeans as "Great Jits or Jats" of Asia.
- Sir John Marshall, (Former Director-General of the Archaeological Survey of India) wrote: "These Scythian invaders came principally from the three great tribes of Massagetae (great Jats), Sacaraucae, and Dahae (still exists as a Jat clan of Punjab), whose home at the beginning of the second century B.C. was in the country between the Caspian sea (sea) and the Jaxartes river (Central Asia)."
- James Francis Katherinus Hewitt wrote: "Further evidence both of the early history and origin of the race of Jats, or Getae, is given by the customs and geographical position of another tribe of the same stock, called the Massagetae, or great (massa) Getae."
- Syed Muhammad Latif wrote: "A considerable portion of the routed army of the Scythians settled in the Punjab, and a race of them, called Nomardy, inhabited the country on the west bank of the Indus (river). They are described as a nomadic tribe, living in wooden houses, after the old Scythian fashion, and settling where they found sufficient pasturage. A portion of these settlers, the descendants of Massagetae, were called Getes, from whom sprung the modern Jats."
- Sir Richard Francis Burton wrote: "The Massagetae (greater Jats or Goths) are opposed to the Thyssa (or lesser) Getae, and both used the sagaris."
- Satya Shrava wrote: "The Jats are none other than the Massagetae (Great Getae) mentioned in Diodorus as an off-spring of the ancient Saka tribe.... a fact now well-known."