Assagetes

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Achaemenid empire at its greatest extent

Assagetes or Sagartians were an ancient Iranian tribe, dwelling in the Iranian plateau. Assagetes has been mentioned as the chieftain of the land in 326 BC when Alexander arrived at the city of Embolima, which was situated near the rock Aornus. [1] Assagetes name may stand for Assa Jat of the Assa tribe of the Jat nation.[2] The are the present Asiagh Jats.

Variants of name

Location

Their exact location is unknown; they were probably neighbors of the Parthians in northeastern Iran.

Jat clans

History

According to Herodotus (1.125, 7.85) they were related to the Persians (Southwestern Iranian), but they may also have entered a political union with the Medians (Northwestern Iranian) at some point (J. van Wesendonk in ZII 9, 1933, pp. 23f.). Ptolemy (6.2.6) locates them in Media, while Stephanus of Byzantium claims that there was a peninsula in the Caspian Sea called Sagartía. They were nomadic pastoralists, their main weapon being the lasso (Herodotus 7.85).

It is unclear whether they are identical to the Zikirti mentioned by Sargon II as inhabitants of northern Zagros in the late 8th century BC. They may have been granted the district of Arbela by Median king Cyaxares as a reward for their aid in the capture of Niniveh.[3]

According to Herodotus (3.93), the Sagartians belonged to the 14th Satrapy of the Achaemenid Empire. A Sagartian delegation appears among the tribute bearers on the Apadana relief. Herodotus also mentioned in the seventh book of his histories that the Sagartians provided 8,000 horsemen for King Xerxes' massive army during the Persian king's invasion of Greece in 480 BC.


Arrian[4] writes....Alexander in 326 BC Sieged Aornos and defeated Aśvakas. He made Ora and Massaga fortresses to keep the land in subjection, and fortified the city of Bazira. Hephaestion and Perdiccas also fortified for him another city, named Orobatis, and leaving a garrison in it marched towards the river Indus. ....He brought over on terms of capitulation the city of Peucelaotis, which was situated not far from it. In this city he placed a garrison of Macedonians, under the command of Philip, and then reduced to subjection some other small towns situated near the same river, being accompanied by Cophaeus and Assagetes, the chieftains of the land. Arriving at the city of Embolima, which was situated near the rock Aornus

Ch.28: Capture of Oazira by Alexander.— advance to the rock of Aornus.

Arrian[5] writes.... WHEN the men in Bazira heard this news, despairing of their own affairs, they abandoned the city about the middle of the night, and fled to the rock as the other barbarians were doing. For all the inhabitants deserted the cities and began to flee to the rock which is in their land, and is called Aornus1. For stupendous is this rock in this land, about which the current report is, that it was found impregnable even by Heracles, the son of Zeus. I cannot affirm with confidence either way, whether the Theban, Tyrian, or Egyptian Heracles2 penetrated into India or not; but I am rather inclined to think that he did not penetrate so far for men are wont to magnify the difficulty of all difficult enterprises to such a degree as to assert that they would have been impracticable even to Heracles. Therefore, I am inclined to think, that in regard to this rock the name of Heracles was mentioned simply to add to the marvellous-ness of the tale. The circuit of the rock is said to be about 200 stades (i.e., about twenty-three miles), and its height where it is lowest, eleven stades (i.e., about a mile and a quarter). There was only one ascent, which was artificial and difficult; on the summit of the rock there was abundance of pure water, a spring issuing from the ground, from which the water flowed; and there was also timber, and sufficient good arable land for 1,000 men to till3. When Alexander heard this, he was seized with a vehement desire to capture this mountain also, especially on account of the legend which was current about Heracles. He then made Ora and Massaga fortresses to keep the land in subjection, and fortified the city of Bazira. Hephaestion and Perdiccas also fortified for him another city, named Orobatis, and leaving a garrison in it marched towards the river Indus. When they reached that river they at once began to carry out Alexander’s instructions in regard to bridging it. Alexander then appointed Nicanor, one of the Companions, viceroy of the land on this side the river Indus; and in the first place leading his army towards that river, he brought over on terms of capitulation the city of Peucelaotis, which was situated not far from it. In this city he placed a garrison of Macedonians, under the command of Philip, and then reduced to subjection some other small towns situated near the same river, being accompanied by Cophaeus and Assagetes, the chieftains of the land. Arriving at the city of Embolima4, which was situated near the rock Aornus, he left Craterus there with a part of the army, to gather as much corn as possible into the city, as well as all the other things requisite for a long stay, so that making this their base of operations, the Macedonians might be able by a long siege to wear out the men who were holding the rock, supposing it were not captured at the first assault. He then took the bowmen, the Agrianians, and the brigade of Coenus, and selecting the lightest as well as the best-armed men from the rest of the phalanx, with 200 of the Companion cavalry and zoo horse-bowmen, he advanced to the rock. This day he encamped where it appeared to him convenient; but on the morrow he approached a little nearer to the rock, and encamped again.


1. This seems to be the Greek translation of the native name, meaning the place to which no bird can rise on account of its height. Cf. Strabo, xv. 1. This mountain was identified by Major Abbot, in 1854, as Mount Mahabunn, near the right bank of the Indus, about 60 miles above its confluence with the Cabul.

2. Cf. Arrian, ii. 16 supra.

3. Curtius (viii. 39) says that the river Indus washed the base of the rock, and that its shape resembled the meta or goal in a race-course, which was a stone shaped like a sugar-loaf. Arrian's description is more likely to be correct as he took it from Ptolemy, one of Alexander's generals.

4.Near mount Mahabunn are two places called Umb and Balimah, the one in the valley of the river and the other on the mountain above it. See Major Abbot's Gradus ad Aornon.

p.257-260

Assagetes identification as Assa Jats

H. W. Bellew[6] writes....On reaching Ora, (its site may perhaps be marked by the high mound of ruins called Sari Bahlol on the Yusufzai Sama, five or six miles from the frontier fort of Mardan), Alexander took the place without much difficulty, though it was defended by Indians sent into it for that purpose by Abissarus (prince of Abhisara of Sanskrit writers, the modern Chach Hazaqrah on the east bank of the Indus), and on this the inhabitants of Bezira (Bazar) seated on an eminence and surrounded by a stout wall, deserting the city at night, fled to the rock called Aornos (perhaps Shah Dum or Malka on the heights of Mahaban) for safety, and many of the neighbouring Barbarians, forsaking their villages, followed them thither. Alexander determined to take this rock of Aornos (Aranai is a common Hindi name for hill ridges in these parts ; there is an Aranai spur of Mahaban near Charorai in the Chamla valley, and another Aranai ridge of the Marri hills near Kahuta in Rawalpindi district), and having placed garrisons in Ora and Masaga, and sent a new colony into Bezira for the defence of the country ; and Hephaistion and Perdikkas having by his orders re-peopled another city called Orobates (the site of which has been recognised by Sir A. Cunningham in the ruins of Arahai on the south bank of the Kabul river, near Naoshera cantonment), and furnished it with a garrison, and moved forwards to the river Indus to prepare the bridge for its passage as they had been ordered to do ; he then moved that way himself, and the city Penkelaotis (Pushkalavati above noted, the modern Hashtnagar or Charsada) not far from the Indus surrendering, he put a garrison into it, and proceeded to take many other small towns seated upon that river; attended by Kophaius and Assagetes, the two princes of that province (Kophaius perhaps being the chieftain of the Koba Rajput tribe). He arrived at last at Embolima (modern Ambela in the Chamla canton of Boner), a city seated not far from the rock Aornos (modem Malka, near the summit of Mahaban mountain ; the stronghold, in recent years, of the Wahabi fanatics of Hindustan, at the destruction of which, at the close of the Ambela campaign of 1863-4, I was present with the " Queen's Own Corps of Guides," to whom this duty had been assigned), defended by


[Page-69]: Indians, and leaving Kraterus there with part of the army to collect stores of corn and all other necessaries for a long continuance in the place, with the rest marched towards the Rock. After the capture of Aornos, Alexander, descending from the Rock, marched into the territories of the Assakenoi (perhaps the Rajput Aswaka or Assaka, the tribe perhaps of the above- mentioned Assagetes, which name may stand for Assa Jat of the Assa tribe of the Jat nation (present Asiagh Jats:Wiki editor) or race ; the Assakenoi may be now represented by the Yaskun as before stated), in pursuit of the Barbarians who had fled into the mountains there ; and when he arrived at the city of Dyrta (capital perhaps of the Darada), there, he found both that and the country around entirely destitute of inhabitants. (Alexander appears to have crossed the Barandu river into the Puran and Chakesar valleys, now inhabited by the Chagharzi Afghans; there is a castellated village in Chakesar called Daud perhaps the Musalman disguise of a native Dardu, possibly so named from inhabitants of the Dardu tribe.)

Behustun Inscription

Behustun Inscription Line (33) reads: King Darius says: A man named Tritantaechmes [Ciçataxma], a Sagartian, revolted from me, saying to his people: 'I am king in Sagartia (Asagarta), of the family of Cyaxares.' Then I sent forth a Persian and a Median army. A Mede named Takhmaspâda, my servant, I made their leader, and I said unto him: 'Go, smite that host which is in revolt, and does not acknowledge me.' Thereupon Takhmaspâda went forth with the army, and he fought a battle with Tritantaechmes. Ahuramazda brought me help; by the grace of Ahuramazda my army utterly defeated that rebel host, and they seized Tritantaechmes and brought him unto me. Afterwards I cut off both his nose and ears, and put out one eye, he was kept bound at my palace entrance, all the people saw him. Afterwards I crucified him in Arbela.

Jat History

Bhim Singh Dahiya [7] writes ...We find a significant passage in Atharva Veda, which says that Rudra is the king of a people called 'Garta' or Garta-Sada (or Sad). [8]

Here Rudra is called "Gartasadam Jananam Rajanam". S.D. Satavalekar translates this word 'Gartasadam' asadan as "one who lives inside everybody".[9] But this is manifestly incorrect; because the king of the people "who live inside everybody" does not make sense. Satavalekar is conscious of this fact, and he says that "the words" Jananam Rajana Rudram "carry special importance, all people have one king, Rudra". He is again dissatisfied and says that the word "Gartasad" requires consideration, with reference to other words, and he finally takes 'Garta' as equivalent to a cave (Guha). But 'Garta' is the same as 'Asi-garta' of Iran; Sagarta of the Greeks.

Chitra Takhma the opponent of Darius the Great, is called an Asagarta. Asi, the name of the people, means 'horse' and 'Garta' stands for Jat, so Asigarta means horse-owning Jat or Jat horse, like the later Skinners' Horse of the British Indian Army. The old name of Hunas, as per Herodotus, is Arimaspa, which means Arima = first + Asp. =Horse, i.e. the "First Horse".

It is significant that the area around Jullundur/Kangra inhabited by the Jat is named 'Tri-garta' in the Puranas. Obviously it is named after the three clans of the Jats, though in the time of Panini, the three had become six (clans). [10]

Now Aitereya Brahmana mentions a person, Shunahshepa, who is the son of Aji-garta. Here Aji-garta has to be compared with Asigarta/Asagarta. This Sunahsepa, whose name is rather Persian, was adopted as a son by Visvamitra, son of Gathi, (Gathin). Referring to this episode, R.S. Sharma, says this is "an early example of the priestly ingenuity in the invention of genealogies" of the foreigners.[11] Obviously, Ajigarta and his son were not Indian.


Bhim Singh Dahiya [12] writes ....Here the name of the prince given as Assagetes by the Greeks is again significant because it is not the personal name but the clan name of that prince. Its origin is Asagarta of Persian inscriptions and Herodotus, and it was after this clan name that the country was called Sagartia (Asagartiya of Persians) and the people were called Sagartians by the Greeks and Asagarta by the Persians. This clan name has formed from two words, viz., As or Asi + Garta meaning the Asi Jats. Their present nomenclature as Asiagh or Siag. The city of Hansi was founded by them, its original name being Asika. We have seen that Chitratakhma (Skt. Chitratakshama) was the king of the Asgartians when they revolted against Darius, the Great, for the restoration of the Jat empire in Ecbatana. Here the word Garta which was written by the Greeks as Getes is the same as the Sanskrit word Jarta or the present Jats.

References

  1. Arrian Anabasis Book/4b, Ch.28
  2. H. W. Bellew"An Inquiry Into the Ethnography of Afghanistan, p.68-69
  3. J. Markwart, Untersuchungen zur Geschichte von Eran II, Leipzig, 1905, p. 228
  4. Arrian Anabasis Book/4b, Ch.28
  5. Arrian Anabasis Book/4b, Ch.28
  6. H. W. Bellew"An Inquiry Into the Ethnography of Afghanistan, p.68-69
  7. Bhim Singh Dahiya: Jats the Ancient Rulers (A clan study)/The Antiquity of the Jats,p.310
  8. स्तुहि श्रुतं गर्तसदं जनानाम् राजानं भीममुपहत्नुमुग्रम, मुडा जरित्रे रुद्र स्तवानो अन्यमस्मत्ते नि वपन्तु सेन्यम (18.1.40)
  9. Daivata Samhita, Vol. II, pt. 7, p. 6.
  10. See also Sukumar Sen, Old Persian Inscriptions (1941).
  11. Sudras in Ancient India', p. 65.
  12. Bhim Singh Dahiya:Jats the Ancient Rulers (A clan study)/Porus and the Mauryas,p.163

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