Spargapises[pronunciation?] (Saka: *Spargapis;[1][2][3][4][5] Ancient Greek: Σπαργαπίσης Spargapísēs; Latin: Spargapises; d. 530 BCE) was the son of queen Tomyris of the Massagetae.[6]

Died530 BCE
ReligionScythian religion
OccupationArmy general
“Cyrus Defeats Spargapises,” from The Story of Cyrus, Adapted from designs by Michiel Coxie (1499–1592), Woven at the workshop of Albert Auwercx (1629–1709)
Queen Tomyris learns that her son Spargapises has been taken alive by Cyrus, by Jan Moy (1535-1550).


Spargapises's name originates from the Saka name *Spargapis, and is composed of the terms *sparga-, meaning “scion” and “descendant,” and *pis-, meaning “decoration” and “adornment.”[4][6][2][5]

The name of Spargapises and those of the Agathyrsian and Scythian kings both named Spargapeithes (Scythian: *Spargapaisah) are variants of the same name,[1][4][6] and both forms, *Spargapis and *Spargapaisah, are cognates of the Avestan name Sparəγa-paēsa (𐬯𐬞𐬀𐬭𐬆𐬖𐬀⸱𐬞𐬀𐬉𐬯𐬀).[1][4][5]



Spargapises was the son of the king of the Massagetae and of his queen, Tomyris. After the death of the king, the widowed Tomyris succeeded him as the ruler of the tribe, and, once he had become old enough, Spargapises became the leader of the Massagetaean army.[7]

War against PersiaEdit

When the founder of the Persian Achaemenid Empire, Cyrus, asked for the hand of Tomyris with the intent of acquiring her kingdom through the marriage, she understood Cyrus's aims and rejected his proposal. On the advice of the Lydian Croesus, Cyrus responded to Tomyris's rejection by deciding to invade the Massagetae.[6][8][7]


Cyrus's initial assault against the Massagetae was routed by them, after which he set up a fancy banquet with large amounts of wine in the tents of his camp as an ambush and withdrew. The Massagetae, led by Spargapises, who primarily used fermented mare's milk and cannabis as intoxicants like all Iron Age steppe nomads, and therefore were not used to drinking wine, became drunk and were easily defeated and slaughtered by Cyrus, thus destroying a third of the Massagetaean army. Spargapises had been captured by Cyrus, and, once he had become sober and understood his situation, he asked Cyrus to free him, and after Cyrus acquiesced to his pleas, he killed himself.[9][10][7]


After Tomyris found out about the death of Spargapises, she sent Cyrus an angry message in which she called the wine, which had caused the destruction of her army and her son, a drug which made those who consumed it so mad that they spoke evil words, and demanded him to leave his land or else she would, swearing upon the Sun, "give him more blood than he could drink."[9][7]

Tomyris herself led the Massagetaean army into war, and, during the next battle opposing the Massagetae to the forces of Cyrus, Tomyris defeated the Persians and destroyed most of their army. Cyrus himself was killed in the battle, and Tomyris found his corpse, severed his head and shoved it in a bag filled with blood while telling Cyrus, "Drink your fill of blood!"[6][9][8][11]


  1. ^ a b c Hinz 1975, p. 226.
  2. ^ a b Schmitt, Rüdiger (2018). "SCYTHIAN LANGUAGE". Encyclopædia Iranica.
  3. ^ Kullanda, Sergey Vsevolodovich (2014). "External Relations of Scythian". Journal of Language Relationship. 11 (1): 1. doi:10.31826/jlr-2014-110110.
  4. ^ a b c d Schmitt 2003.
  5. ^ a b c Schmitt 2011.
  6. ^ a b c d e Schmitt, Rüdiger (2018). "MASSAGETAE". Encyclopædia Iranica.
  7. ^ a b c d Gera 2018.
  8. ^ a b Rollinger 2003.
  9. ^ a b c Mayor 2017.
  10. ^ Mayor 2014.
  11. ^ Faulkner, Robert (2000). "CYRUS iiia. Cyrus II as Portrayed by Xenophon and Herodotus". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 20 July 2011.