Amytis Shahbanu – The aunt and first Queen to Cyrus the Great of the Persian Empire




Amytis Shahbanu

[Not to be confused with her aunt, Queen Amytis of Babylon]

Amytis Shahbanu was the first Persian Queen of the Achaemenid dynasty. She was the daughter of the last Median king, Astyages. King Astyages was defeated by his grandson, King Cyrus the Great. In order to legitimately procure Media, King Cyrus the Great had to marry his aunt, Queen Amytis.[1] Queen Amytis would play a vital role in queenship in the Achaemenid Persian Empire.[2]

Queen Amytis was born in Ecbatana.[3] She is also called Amytis Shahbanu because Shahbanu was the Persian royal title for Queen.[4] Her birth date remains unrecorded. Her aunt was Queen Amytis of Babylon, who married King Nebuchadnezzar II. Her father was Astyages, the last King of Media.[5] Her mother is unknown. Princess Amytis’s older sister was Queen Mandana of Anshan, who would also be her future mother-in-law.[6] Princess Amytis eventually married Spitamas, a Median nobleman who was also the heir of King Astyages.[7] Princess Amytis bore Spitamas two sons named Spitaces and Megabernes.[8] Therefore, Princess Amytis was meant to be the next Queen of the Median Empire and to continue the royal line.[9]

In 549 B.C.E., Cyrus the Great (the son of Queen Mandana of Anshan and the grandson of King Astyages of Media) defeated his grandfather in battle.[10] In order to merge the Median Empire with his own, King Cyrus the Great killed his uncle, Spitamas, and married his aunt, Princess Amytis.[11] Thus, Amytis became Queen of the Medes.[12] In 559 B.C.E., King Cyrus the Great became King of Persia.[13] Thus, Queen Amytis became Queen of Persia.[14]

There is very little information about Amytis’s life after she became queen consort of Persia.[15] It is unknown if she had any children.[16] The scant historical sources mention that Queen Amytis wielded considerable power during King Cyrus the Great’s reign.[17] Like her sister and mother-in-law, Queen Mandana, she pivoted queens of the Achaemenid dynasty to exercise their real power and authority.[18] She heavily influenced and advised her husband.[19] Thus, Queen Amytis was often seen as a “leader in her own right.”[20] It is assumed that Queen Amytis passed away sometime during King Cyrus the Great’s reign.[21] Princess Cassandane, one of the other wives of King Cyrus the Great, succeeded her as the next Queen of Persia.[22] Queen Cassandane modelled Queen Amytis’s position of power and also exercised her own authority.[23]

While very little is known about Queen Amytis, it is clear that she was a very significant figure in the Achaemenid dynasty.[24] She was meant to inherit the Median Empire with her husband, Spitamas and pass her kingdom to her sons.[25] Instead, she was forced to marry her nephew to legitimise his rule.[26] Queen Amytis must have been politically astute and was greatly respected by her husband.[27] She expanded the role of queenship that her successors would later emulate.[28] It is no wonder that Queen Amytis was considered to be a model queen of the Achaemenid Persian Empire.[29]

Sources:

“Cyrus the Great”. (2011). In L. Rodger, & J. Bakewell, Chambers Biographical Dictionary (9th ed.). Chambers Harrap.

Minsoo, S. (2017). Success strategies in emerging Iranian American women leaders. [Doctoral dissertation, Pepperdine University]. Pepperdine Digital Commons. https://digitalcommons.pepperdine.edu/etd/856/.

Pope, C. N. (2020). The Princes of Persia. (Self-published): DomainOfMan.com.

Schmitt, R. (1989). “AMYTIS”. Encyclopædia Iranica. I/9, p.999 Retrieved 14 July 2023 from http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/amytis-median-and-persian-female-name.

Venning, T. (2023). A Compendium of World Sovereigns: Volume I Ancient. United Kingdom: Taylor & Francis

Zarghamee, R. (2015). Discovering Cyrus: The Persian Conqueror Astride the Ancient World. United States: Mage Publishers Incorporated.


[1] Venning, 2023

[2] Minsoo, 2017

[3] Venning, 2023

[4] Venning, 2023

[5] Venning, 2023

[6] Schmitt, 1989

[7] Schmitt, 1989

[8] Pope, 2020

[9] Zarghamee, 2020

[10] “Cyrus the Great”, 2011

[11] Schmitt, 1989

[12] Minsoo, 2017

[13] “Cyrus the Great”, 2011

[14] Minso, 2017

[15] Zarghamee, 2020

[16] Zarghamee, 2020

[17] Zarghamee, 2020

[18] Minsoo, 2017

[19] Zarghamee, 2020

[20] Minsoo, 2017, p. 56

[21] Minsoo, 2017

[22] Minsoo, 2017

[23] Minsoo, 2017

[24] Zarghamee, 2020

[25] Zarghamee, 2020

[26] Venning, 2023

[27] Zarghamee, 2022

[28] Minsoo, 2017

[29] Minsoo, 2017






About Lauralee Jacks 174 Articles
I am a former elementary teacher in Tennessee. I have a bachelor’s degree in Liberal and Civic Studies from St. Mary’s College of California, a master’s in Elementary Education from the University of Phoenix, and a doctorate in Educational Leadership from the College of Saint Mary. Because my family are from East Asia, I have a passion for historical Chinese and Korean television shows. I always wanted to separate fact from fiction in dramas. Writing articles from History of Royal Women gives me a chance to dig deeper and explore these royal women as they might have been in real life. Also, it gives me a chance to look at the history and culture of where my family originated. I love researching East Asian royalty because they rarely get enough attention in the West often being overshadowed by European royalty. I find these royal women to be just as fascinating and their stories deserve to be told. Thus, I am excited to write for History of Royal Women!

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