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Ethnic map of the Caucasus in the 5th and 4th centuries BC.

Caspians (Greek: Κάσπιοι Kaspioi, Aramaic: kspy, Georgian: კასპიელები kaspielebiʿ, Old Armenian: կասպք kaspkʿ, Persian: کاسپیانKāspiān) is the English version of a Greek ethnonym mentioned twice by Herodotus among the satrapies of Darius[1] and applied by Strabo[2] to the ancient people dwelling along the southern and southwestern shores of the Caspian Sea, in the region which was called Caspiane after them.[3] The name is not attested in Old Iranian.[4]

The Caspians have generally been regarded as a pre-Indo-European people. They have been identified by Ernst Herzfeld with the Kassites,[5] who spoke a language without an identified relationship to any other known language and whose origins have long been the subject of debate. However onomastic evidence bearing on this point has been discovered in Aramaic papyri from Egypt published by P. Grelot,[6] in which several of the Caspian names that are mentioned—and identified under the gentilic כספי kaspai—are in part, etymologically Iranic. The Caspians of the Egyptian papyri must therefore be considered either an Iranic people or strongly under Iranic cultural influence.[4]


  1. ^ Herodotus, iii.92 (with the Pausicae) and 93 (with the Sacae).
  2. ^ Strabo (11.2.15) gives a lost work of Eratosthenes as his source.
  3. ^ "A Cyro Caspium mare vocari incipit; accolunt Caspii" (Pliny, Natural History vi.13); for a Greek ethnonym of the Aegean Sea, however, see the mythic Aegeus.
  4. ^ a b Rüdiger Schmitt in Encyclopedia Iranica, s.v. "Caspians". Accessed on April 4, 2010 at: [1]
  5. ^ Herzfeld, The Persian Empire, (Wiesbaden) 1968:195-99, noted by Rüdiger.
  6. ^ Grelot, “Notes d'onomastique sur les textes araméens d'Egypte,” Semitica 21, 1971, esp. pp. 101-17, noted by Rüdiger.