ARIZANTOI, people comprising one of the six tribes (génos) of the Median nation (éthnos) as listed by Herodotus (1.101). Cf. the ten tribes of the Persian nation (1.125). Etymologically the term is *arya-zantu-, “having Aryan lineage.” Cf. Young Av. huzantu- and Gathic huzə̄ntu-, “having good lineage,” in Yt. 13.134 and Y. 43.3, 46.5, and 49.5. S. Insler compares OInd. sujātá “well descended, noble” (The Gathas of Zarathustra, Tehran and Liège, 1975, p. 233; see also W. Krause, “Iranica,” Zeitschrift für vergleichende Sprachforschung 56, 1928-29, pp. 302-03). The word zantu- also has a more technical application, in the Old Iranian fourfold definition of progressively inclusive lineage groups which is exemplified in Old Persian (e.g., inscription DSe, lines 11-14) and Avestan (e.g., Yt. 10.18; see discussion in I. Gershevitch, The Avestan Hymn to Mithra, Cambridge, 1967, pp. 296-99; other examples in AirWb., cols. 1660-61). These groups are: nmāna- “family,” vīs- “clan” (Herodotus 1.125: phrḗtrē), zantu “nation,” dahyu- “people.” Herodotus’ “tribes” do not occur in this system but are presumably comprised within the “nation.” Apparently zantu- might designate either a broad unit (tribe) of patrilineal kinship (Old Pers. ciça-) or a collectivity of these (nation). The ethnic reality of Herodotus’ tribes has been debated (see, e.g., E. Benveniste, Les mages dans l’ancien Iran, Paris, 1938, p. 18).
See also Weissbach in Pauly-Wissowa, II/1, col. 1117.
I. M. D’yakonov, Istoriya Midii, Moscow and Leningrad, 1956, pp. 146ff.
(C. J. Brunner)
Originally Published: December 15, 1986
Last Updated: August 12, 2011
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Vol. II, Fasc. 4, pp. 411-412