page contents

The Legendary Queen Tomyris

Queen Tomyris was a woman comparable to Xena the Warrior Princess; in fact, she was referred to as the Warrior Queen on several occasions.  She ruled over a group of nomadic peoples known as the Massagetae, who were skilled in the art of war and known widely for their prowess.  However, despite their talent in battle, they were known more as those who stood strong when attacked, rather than those who waged war and conquered.  Though Tomyris's accomplishments were worthy of legend, of all the famous women of ancient history, her story was one of the least known.

Before delving into her greatest accomplishment, there must first be a peek into the background history of the events leading up to the significant moment.  It begins with a man who was not too shabby with regards to his own accomplishments, Cyrus II; or more commonly known as Cyrus "the Great".  Known primarily as being the founder of the Achaemenid Empire, which, up to this day, set the record for being the largest empire in history.  It seems that Cyrus's title was well earned, considering that many rulers of the time were measured by their military conquests.

To Cyrus II, it seemed that all that mattered at the time was to expand his already expansive empire.  Though compared to other conquerors, he showed quite a bit of decency.  Rather than being a commanding tyrant, "he showed great forbearance and respect towards to religious beliefs and cultural traditions of other races"; for this reason, he himself was well-respected by his subjects.  While Cyrus the Great achieved a streak of success after success, he made a grave mistake by messing with vicious Queen Tomyris and getting on her bad side.

In an attempt to gain control over the lands of the renown Massagetae, Cyrus II asked for Queen Tomyris's hand in marriage.  However, cunning as she was, Tomyris saw through his ploy and as such, rejected.  She had no intention of giving up her lands to a foreign ruler.  As usual, after the failure of a peaceful method, Cyrus II "set about taking [the lands] by force".  Due to a dream he had and the council of one of his advisers who was fearful of what the Massagetae were capable of, Cyrus II decided to use deception to gain victory.  Through an underhanded method - getting a jump on Spargapises's (Tomyris's son) forces after they had partied to celebrate a false victory - Cyrus II captured Queen Tomyris's son.  After discovering this, Tomyris sent a threat, stating that Cyrus II would be "satisfied with blood" if he did not release Spargapises.  However, rather than attempting to escape his confinement, Spargapises slew himself when he realized the predicament he was in.

The death of her son incurred the wrath of Queen Tomyris, and after a bloody battle, Cyrus the Great was defeated and decapitated by order of the Queen.  She then had his head placed into a container filled with blood and gore, stating: "I make good my threat, and give you your fill of blood".

It was a legendary end for Cyrus the Great, by the hands of Queen Tomyris of Massagetae, who became legendary herself.