Achaemenid Satrapies > Saka



The Saka or Saca (Persian: old Sakā, mod. ساکا; Sanskrit: Śaka; Greek: Σάκαι, Sákai; Latin: Sacae; Chinese: 塞, old *Sək, mod. Sāi)[a] was the term used in Persian and Sanskrit sources for the Scythians, a large group of Eastern Iranian nomadic tribes on the Eurasian Steppe.[2][3][4] Modern scholars usually use the term Saka to refer to Iranians of the Eastern Steppe and the Tarim Basin.[5] René Grousset wrote that they formed a particular branch of the "Scytho-Sarmatian family" originating from nomadic Iranian peoples of the northwestern steppe in Eurasia.[6] In the Tarim Basin and Taklamakan desert region of Northwest China, they founded the settlements of Khotan and Kashgar, as well as the Kingdom of Khotan that was at various times a vassal to greater powers, such as the Han and Tang dynasties of Imperial China. Modern debate about the identity of the "Saka" is partly from ambiguous usage of the word by ancient, non-Saka authorities. According to Herodotus, the Persians gave the name "Saka" to all Scythians.[7] However, Pliny the Elder (Gaius Plinius Secundus, AD 23–79) claims that the Persians gave the name Sakai only to the Scythian tribes "nearest to them".[8] The Scythians to the far north of Assyria were also called the Saka suni (Saka or Scythian sons) by the Persians.[citation needed] The Assyrians, of the time of Esarhaddon, record campaigning against a people they called in the Akkadian the Ashkuza or Ishhuza.[9] However, modern scholarly consensus is that the Saka language, ancestor to the Pamir languages in northern India and Khotanese in Xinjiang, China belongs to the Scythian languages.[10] Another people, the Gimirrai,[9] who were known to the ancient Greeks as the Cimmerians, were closely associated with the Sakas. In ancient Hebrew texts, the Ashkuz (Ashkenaz) are considered to be a direct offshoot from the Gimirri (Gomer).[11] A cataphract-style parade armour of a Saka royal, also known as "The Golden Warrior", from the Issyk kurgan, an historic burial near ex-capital city of Almaty, Kazakhstan The Saka were regarded by the Babylonians as synonymous with the Gimirrai; both names are used on the trilingual Behistun inscription, carved in 515 BC on the order of Darius the Great.[12] (These people were reported to be mainly interested in settling in the kingdom of Urartu, later part of Armenia, and Shacusen in Uti Province derives its name from them.[13]) The Behistun inscription initially only gave one entry for saka, they were however further differentiated later into three groups:[14][15][16] the Sakā tigraxaudā – "Saka with pointy hats/caps", the Sakā haumavargā – interpreted as "haoma-drinking saka" but there are other suggestions,[14][17][18] the Sakā paradraya – "Saka beyond the sea", a name added later, after Darius' campaign into Western Scythia north of the Danube.[14] the Sakā para Sugdam – "Saka beyond Sugda (Sogdiana)", an additional term found in two inscriptions elsewhere.[19] The term was used by Darius for the people who formed the limits of his empire at the opposite end to Kush (the Ethiopians), therefore should be located at the eastern edge of his empire.[14][20] The Sakā paradraya were the western Scythians (European Scythians) or Sarmatians. Both the Sakā tigraxaudā and Sakā haumavargā are thought to be located in Central Asia east of the Caspian Sea.[14] Sakā haumavargā is considered to be the same as Amyrgians, the Saka tribe in closest proximity to Bactria and Sogdiana. It has been suggested that the Sakā haumavargā may be the Sakā para Sugdam, therefore Sakā haumavargā is argued by some to be located further east than the Sakā tigraxaudā, perhaps at the Pamirs or Xinjiang, although Jaxartes is considered to be their more likely location given that the name says "beyond Sogdiana" rather than Bactria.[14] In the modern era, the archaeologist Hugo Winckler (1863–1913) was the first to associate the Sakas with the Scyths. J. M. Cook, in The Cambridge History of Iran, states: "The Persians gave the single name Sakā both to the nomads whom they encountered between the Hunger steppe and the Caspian, and equally to those north of the Danube and Black Sea against whom Darius later campaigned; and the Greeks and Assyrians called all those who were known to them by the name Skuthai (Iškuzai). Sakā and Skuthai evidently constituted a generic name for the nomads on the northern frontiers."[14] Conversely, the political historian B. N. Mukerjee has claimed that ancient Greek and Roman scholars believed that while "all Sakai were Scythians", "not all Scythians were Sakai".[why?] [21] Persian sources often treat them as a single tribe called the Saka (Sakai or Sakas), but Greek and Latin texts suggest that the Scythians were composed of many sub-groups.[22][23] Modern scholars usually use the term Saka to refer to Iranian-speaking tribes who inhabited the Eastern Steppe and the Tarim Basin.[5][24] History[edit] Artifacts found the tombs 2 and 4 of Tillia Tepe and reconstitution of their use on the man and woman found in these tombs The Saka people were an Iranian people who spoke a language belonging to the Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. They are known to the ancient Greeks as Scythians and are attested in historical and archaeological records dating to around the 8th century BC.[25] In the Achaemenid-era Old Persian inscriptions found at Persepolis, dated to the reign of Darius I (r. 522-486 BC), the Saka are said to have lived just beyond the borders of Sogdiana.[26] Likewise an inscription dated to the reign of Xerxes I (r. 486-465 BC) has them coupled with the Dahae people of Central Asia.[26] The contemporary Greek historian Herodotus noted that the Achaemenid Persians called all of the Iranian Scythian peoples as the Saka.[26] Captured Saka king Skunkha, from Mount Behistun, Iran, Achaemenid stone relief from the reign of Darius I (r. 522-486 BC) Greek historians wrote of the wars between the Saka and the Medes, as well as their wars against Cyrus the Great of the Persian Achaemenid Empire where Saka women were said to fight alongside their men.[27] According to Herodotus, Cyrus the Great confronted the Massagetae, a people related to the Saka,[28] while campaigning to the east of the Caspian Sea and was killed in the battle in 530 BC.[29] Darius the Great also waged wars against the eastern Sakas, who fought him with three armies led by three kings according to Polyaenus.[30] In 520–519 BC, Darius I defeated the Sakā tigraxaudā tribe and captured their king Skunkha (depicted as wearing a pointed hat in Behistun).[5] The territories of Saka were absorbed into the Achaemenid Empire as part of Chorasmia that included much of Amu Darya (Oxus) and Syr Darya (Jaxartes),[31] and the Saka then supplied the Persian army with large number of mounted bowmen in the Achaemenid wars.[16] They were also mentioned as among those who resisted Alexander the Great's incursions into Central Asia.[27] The Saka were known as the Sai (塞, sāi, sək in Old Sinitic) in ancient Chinese records.[32][33] These records indicate that they originally inhabited the Ili and Chu River valleys of modern Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. In the Chinese Book of Han, the area was called the "land of the Sai", i.e. the Saka.[34] The exact date of the Saka's arrival in the valleys of the rivers Ili and Chu in Central Asia is unclear, perhaps it was just before the reign of Darius I.[34] Around 30 Saka tombs in the form of kurgans (burial mounds) have also been found in the Tian Shan area dated to between 550–250 BC. Indications of Saka presence have also been found in the Tarim Basin region, possibly as early as the 7th century BC.[25]

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