|678 BC–549 BC|
A map of the Median Empire at its greatest extent (6th century BC), according to Herodotus
|Religion||Old Iranian religion (related to Mithraism, early Zoroastrianism)|
• 678–665 BC
|Deioces or Kashtariti|
• 665–633 BC
• 625–585 BC
• 589–549 BC
|Historical era||Iron Age|
• Conquered by Cyrus the Great
|585 BC||2,800,000 km2 (1,100,000 sq mi)|
The Medes (//, Old Persian Māda-, Ancient Greek: Μῆδοι, Hebrew: מָדַי Madai) were an ancient Iranian people who spoke the Median language and who inhabited an area known as Media between western and northern Iran. Under the Neo-Assyrian Empire, late 9th to early 7th centuries BC, the region of Media was bounded by the Zagros Mountains to its west, to its south by the Garrin Mountain in Lorestan Province, to its northwest by the Qaflankuh Mountains in Zanjan Province, and to its east by the Dasht-e Kavir desert. It's neighbors were the kingdoms of Gizilbunda and Mannea in the northwest, and Ellipi and Elam in the south.
In the 7th century BC, Media's tribes came together to form the Median Kingdom which remained a Neo-Assyrian vassal. Between 616 to 609 BC, King Cyaxares (624–585 BC), allied with King Nabopolassar of the Neo-Babylonian Empire against the Neo-Assyrian Empire, after which the Median Empire stretched across the Iranian Plateau as far as Anatolia. Its precise geographical extent remains unknown.
A few archaeological sites (discovered in the "Median triangle" in western Iran) and textual sources (from contemporary Assyrians and also ancient Greeks in later centuries) provide a brief documentation of the history and culture of the Median state. Apart from a few personal names, the language of the Medes is unknown. The Medes had an ancient Iranian religion (a form of pre-Zoroastrian Mazdaism or Mithra worshipping) with a priesthood named as "Magi". Later during the reigns of the last Median kings, the reforms of Zoroaster spread into western Iran.