Yau̯nā and Sakā: Identity Constructions at the Margins of the Achaemenid Empire
Keywords:Persian Empire, imperial edges, identity construction, Yauna, Saka
The Achaemenid Empire can be reasonably considered an “empire of peoples” from both an ideological and structural perspective. It included all the lands of the peoples of the world and all people helped to maintain imperial order and prosperity. In reality, the empire had boundaries and there were peoples who lived near and beyond them. Under King Darius I, groups of people were annexed at the northeastern and northwestern margins of the imperial territory, thus entering the imperial space and consequently also the Achaemenid documents. The border peoples of the Yau̯nā and Sakā were the only peoples of the empire to be differentiated through epithets, which were added to their collective names in the texts. This shows a unique process of group identity constructions by the authorities on the edges of the imperial space. The analysis of the system of epithets used to indicate the Yau̯nā and Sakā conducted in this paper allows us to draw some conclusions on the mechanisms and reasons behind these specific forms of identity constructions at the margins. Moreover, it shows how this process reflected the main directions of imperial expansion under the first Achaemenids.
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