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The Scythians (from grc, Σκύθης , ) or Scyths, also known as Saka and Sakae ( ; egy, 𓋴𓎝𓎡
𓈉 The ancient Egyptian Hill-country or "Foreign land" hieroglyph (𓈉) is a member of the sky, earth, and water hieroglyphs. A form of the hieroglyph in color, has a ''green line''-(banding) at the base of the hieroglyph. The hieroglyph refers to ...
, translit=sk, italic=no, ; grc, Σάκαι ; la, Sacae), and Ishkuzai ( akk, ) or Askuzai ( akk, , , ) were an ancient
nomad A nomad ( frm, nomade "people without fixed habitation") is a member of a community without fixed habitation who regularly moves to and from the same areas. Such groups include hunter-gatherers, Nomadic pastoralism, pastoral nomads (owning lives ...

nomad
ic people living primarily in the region known as
Scythia lands (shown in orange) c. 170 BC Scythia (, ; from Ancient Greek, Greek: , ) was a region of Central Eurasia in classical antiquity Classical antiquity (also the classical era, classical period or classical age) is the period of cultur ...
, which today comprises the Eurasian steppes of Kazakhstan, the Russian steppes of the Siberian, Ural, Volga and Southern regions, and eastern Ukraine.
Classical Classical may refer to: European antiquity *Classical antiquity, a period of history from roughly the 7th or 8th century B.C.E. to the 5th century C.E. centered on the Mediterranean Sea *Classical architecture, architecture derived from Greek and ...
Scythians dominated the
Pontic steppe Pontic, from the Greek language, Greek ''pontos'' (, ), or "sea", may refer to: The Black Sea Places * The Pontic colonies, on its northern shores * Pontus (region), a region on its southern shores * The Pontic–Caspian steppe, steppelands stre ...
from approximately the 7th century BC until the 3rd century BC. * : "In modern scholarship the name 'Sakas' is reserved for the ancient tribes of northern and eastern Central Asia and Eastern Turkestan to distinguish them from the related Massagetae of the Aral region and the Scythians of the Pontic steppes. These tribes spoke Iranian languages, and their chief occupation was nomadic pastoralism." * : "The Scythians lived in the Early Iron Age, and inhabited the northern areas of the Black Sea (Pontic) steppes. Though the 'Scythian period' in the history of Eastern Europe lasted little more than 400 years, from the 7th to the 3rd centuries BC, the impression these horsemen made upon the history of their times was such that a thousand years after they had ceased to exist as a sovereign people, their heartland and the territories which they dominated far beyond it continued to be known as 'greater Scythia'." * : "From the end of the 7th century B.C. to the 4th century B.C. the Central- Eurasian steppes were inhabited by two large groups of kin Iranian-speaking tribes – the Scythians and Sarmatians .." may be confidently stated that from the end of the 7th century to the 3rd century B.C. the Scythians occupied the steppe expanses of the north Black Sea area, from the Don in the east to the Danube in the West." * : "Scythians, a nomadic people of Iranian origin who flourished in the steppe lands north of the Black Sea during the 7th–4th centuries BCE (Figure 1). For related groups in Central Asia and India, see .. * : "During the first half of the first millennium B.C., c. 3,000 to 2,500 years ago, the southern part of Eastern Europe was occupied mainly by peoples of Iranian stock ..The main Iranian-speaking peoples of the region at that period were the Scyths and the Sarmatians .. e population of ancient Scythia was far from being homogeneous, nor were the Scyths themselves a homogeneous people. The country called after them was ruled by their principal tribe, the "Royal Scyths" (Her. iv. 20), who were of Iranian stock and called themselves "Skolotoi" (iv. 6); they were nomads who lived in the steppe east of the Dnieper up to the Don, and in the Crimean steppe ..The eastern neighbours of the "Royal Scyths", the Sauromatians, were also Iranian; their country extended over the steppe east of the Don and the Volga." * : "The name 'Scythian' is met in the classical authors and has been taken to refer to an ethnic group or people, also mentioned in Near Eastern texts, who inhabited the northern Black Sea region." * : "Ordinary Greek (and later Latin) usage could designate as Scythian any northern barbarian from the general area of the Eurasian steppe, the virtually treeless corridor of drought-resistant perennial grassland extending from the Danube to Manchuria. Herodotus seeks greater precision, and this essay is focussed on his Scythians, who belong to the North Pontic steppe ..These true Scyths seems to be those whom he calls Royal Scyths, that is, the group who claimed hegemony ..apparently warrior-pastoralists. It is generally agreed, from what we know of their names, that these were people of Iranian stock .. * : "When we speak of Scythians, we refer to those Scytho-Siberians who inhabited the Kuban Valley, the Taman and Kerch peninsulas, Crimea, the northern and northeastern littoral of the Black Sea, and the steppe and lower forest steppe regions now shared between Ukraine and Russia, from the seventh century down to the first century B.C ..They almost certainly spoke an Iranian language .. * : "The first historical steppe nomads, the Scythians, inhabited the steppe north of the Black Sea from about the eight century B.C." * They can also be referred to as Pontic Scythians. They were part of the wider
Scythian cultures Scythian cultures is a conventional historiographic term for a group of similar archaeological cultures which flourished across the entire Eurasian Steppe during the Iron Age The Iron Age is the final epoch of the three-age system, three-age ...

Scythian cultures
, stretching across the
Eurasian Steppe The Eurasian Steppe, also simply called the Great Steppe or the steppes, is the vast steppe File:Steppe of western Kazakhstan in the early spring.jpg, Steppe in Kazakhstan In physical geography, a steppe () is an ecoregion characteri ...
. In a broader sense, Scythians has also been used to designate all early
Eurasian nomads The Eurasian nomads were a large group of nomad A nomad ( frm, nomade "people without fixed habitation") is a member of a community without fixed habitation who regularly moves to and from the same areas. Such groups include hunter-gatherers, ...
, although the validity of such terminology is controversial. According to Di Cosmo, other terms such as "Early nomadic" would be preferable. Eastern members of the Scythian cultures are often specifically designated as
Sakas The Saka, Śaka, Shaka, Śāka or Sacae ( ''Sakā''; Kharosthi The Kharosthi script, also spelled Kharoshthi or Kharoṣṭhī (Kharosthi: 𐨑𐨪𐨆𐨯𐨠𐨁) was an ancient Indian script used in Gandhara (now Pakistan and north-eas ...
. The Scythians are generally believed to have been of
Iranian Iranian may refer to: * Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran ( fa, جمهوری اسلامی ایران ), is a country in Western Asia. It is bordered to the northwest by Armenia ...
(or Iranic; an
Indo-European The Indo-European languages are a language family native to western and southern Eurasia. It comprises most of the languages of Europe together with those of the northern Indian subcontinent and the Iranian Plateau. Some European languages of t ...
ethno-linguistic group An ethnolinguistic group (or ethno-linguistic group) is a group that is unified by both a common ethnicity and language. Most ethnic groups share a first language. However, the term is often used to emphasise that language is a major basis for the e ...
) origin; * : "Scythians, a nomadic people of Iranian origin .. * : " th Cimmerians and Scythians were Iranian peoples." * : "During the first half of the first millennium B.C., c. 3,000 to 2,500 years ago, the southern part of Eastern Europe was occupied mainly by peoples of Iranian stock .. e population of ancient Scythia was far from being homogeneous, nor were the Scyths themselves a homogeneous people. The country called after them was ruled by their principal tribe, the "Royal Scyths" (Her. iv. 20), who were of Iranian stock and called themselves "Skolotoi" .. * : " ue Scyths seems to be those whom erodotuscalls Royal Scyths, that is, the group who claimed hegemony ..apparently warrior-pastoralists. It is generally agreed, from what we know of their names, that these were people of Iranian stock .. * : "The physical characteristics of the Scythians correspond to their cultural affiliation: their origins place them within the group of Iranian peoples." * : "The Scythian kingdom ..was succeeded in the Russian steppes by an ascendancy of various Sarmatian tribes — Iranians, like the Scythians themselves." * : "The general view is that both agricultural and nomad Scythians were Iranian." they spoke a language of the
Scythian The Scythians (; from Greek ), also known as Scyth, Saka, Sakae, Iskuzai, or Askuzai, were an ancient nomadic people of Eurasia Eurasia () is the largest continental area on Earth, comprising all of Europe and Asia. Primarily in the No ...
branch of the
Iranian languages The Iranian languages or Iranic languages are a branch of the in the that are spoken natively by the . The Iranian languages are grouped in three stages: Old Iranian (until 400 BCE), Middle Iranian (400 BCE–900 CE) and New Iranian (since 9 ...
, * : "In modern scholarship the name 'Sakas' is reserved for the ancient tribes of northern and eastern Central Asia and Eastern Turkestan to distinguish them from the related Massagetae of the Aral region and the Scythians of the Pontic steppes. These tribes spoke Iranian languages, and their chief occupation was nomadic pastoralism." * : "Near the end of the 19th century V.F. Miller (1886, 1887) theorized that the Scythians and their kindred, the Sauromatians, were Iranian-speaking peoples. This has been a popular point of view and continues to be accepted in linguistics and historical science .. * : "From the end of the 7th century B.C. to the 4th century B.C. the Central- Eurasian steppes were inhabited by two large groups of kin Iranian-speaking tribes – the Scythians and Sarmatians .. * : "All contemporary historians, archeologists and linguists are agreed that since the Scythian and Sarmatian tribes were of the Iranian linguistic group .. * : "During the first half of the first millennium B.C., c. 3,000 to 2,500 years ago, the southern part of Eastern Europe was occupied mainly by peoples of Iranian stock ..The main Iranian-speaking peoples of the region at that period were the Scyths and the Sarmatians .. * : "When we speak of Scythians, we refer to those Scytho-Siberians who inhabited the Kuban Valley, the Taman and Kerch peninsulas, Crimea, the northern and northeastern littoral of the Black Sea, and the steppe and lower forest steppe regions now shared between Ukraine and Russia, from the seventh century down to the first century B.C ..They almost certainly spoke an Iranian language .. and practiced a variant of
ancient Iranian religion Ancient Iranian religion or Iranian Paganism, refers to the ancient beliefs and practices of the Iranian peoples The Iranian peoples or the Iranic peoples, are a diverse Indo-European ethno-linguistic group identified by their use of the ...
. Among the earliest peoples to master mounted warfare, the Scythians replaced the
Cimmerians The Cimmerians (also Kimmerians; Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is appro ...
as the dominant power on the Pontic steppe in the 8th century BC. During this time they and related peoples came to dominate the entire Eurasian Steppe from the
Carpathian Mountains The Carpathian Mountains or Carpathians () are a range of mountains forming an arc throughout Central and Eastern Europe Central and Eastern Europe is a term encompassing the countries in Central Europe Central Europe is the central region ...

Carpathian Mountains
in the west to
Ordos Plateau is colored blue. The yellow area is Inner Mongolia and Ningxia. The Ordos Plateau, also known as the Ordos Basin or simply the Ordos, is a highland sedimentary basin in North China, northwest China with an elevation of , and consisting mostly of ...
in the east,: "The Scythians, or Northern Iranians, who were culturally and ethnolinguistically a single group at the beginning of their expansion, had earlier controlled the entire steppe zone.": "The preservation of the earlier form. *Sakla. in the extreme eastern dialects supports the historicity of the conquest of the entire steppe zone by the Northern Iranians—literally, by the 'Scythians'—in the Late Bronze Age or Early Iron Age .. creating what has been called the first Central Asian
nomadic empire Nomadic empires, sometimes also called steppe empires, Central or Inner Asian empires, were the empires erected by the bow and arrow, bow-wielding, horse-riding, Eurasian nomads, nomadic people in the Eurasian Steppe, from classical antiquity (Scyth ...
. Based in what is modern-day
Ukraine Ukraine ( uk, Україна, Ukraïna, ) is a country in . It is the in Europe after , which it borders to the east and north-east. Ukraine also shares borders with to the north; , , and to the west; and to the south; and has a coastli ...

Ukraine
and
southern Russia Southern Russia or the South of Russia (russian: Юг России, ''Yug Rossii'') is a colloquial Colloquialism or colloquial language is the style (sociolinguistics), linguistic style used for casual (informal) communication. It is the most ...
, they called themselves Scoloti ( ) and were led by a nomadic warrior aristocracy known as the Royal Scythians. In the 7th century BC, the Scythians crossed the
Caucasus The Caucasus (), or Caucasia (), is a region spanning Europe Europe is a which is also recognised as part of , located entirely in the and mostly in the . It comprises the westernmost peninsulas of the of Eurasia, it shares the contin ...
and frequently raided the
Middle East The Middle East ( ar, الشرق الأوسط, ISO 233 The international standard An international standard is a technical standard A technical standard is an established norm (social), norm or requirement for a repeatable technical task whi ...

Middle East
along with the Cimmerians, playing an important role in the political developments of the region. Around 650–630 BC, Scythians briefly dominated the
Medes relief, bas-relief shows a Mede soldier behind a Persian soldier, in Persepolis, Iran The Medes ( peo, wiktionary:𐎶𐎠𐎭, 𐎶𐎠𐎭 ; akk, , ; grc, wiktionary:Μῆδοι, Μῆδοι ) were an Iranian peoples, ancient Iranian ...
of the western Iranian Plateau, stretching their power to the borders of
Egypt Egypt ( ar, مِصر, Miṣr), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a spanning the and the of . It is bordered by the to , the () and to , the to the east, to , and to . In the northeast, the , which is the northern arm of the R ...

Egypt
. After losing control over Media, they continued intervening in Middle Eastern affairs, playing a leading role in the destruction of the
Assyrian Empire Assyrian may refer to: * Assyria Assyria () ( akk, 𒀸𒋩, syc, ܐܬܘܪ or ), also at times called the Assyrian Empire, was a Mesopotamian kingdom and empire of the Ancient Near East that existed as a state from perhaps as early as the 25 ...
in the Sack of Nineveh in 612 BC. The Scythians subsequently engaged in frequent conflicts with the
Achaemenid Empire The Achaemenid Empire (; peo, , translit=Xšāça, translation=The Empire), also called the First Persian Empire, was an ancient based in founded by . Ranging at its greatest extent from the and proper in the west to the in the east, it ...

Achaemenid Empire
, and suffered a major defeat against
Macedonia Macedonia most commonly refers to: * North Macedonia North Macedonia, ; sq, Maqedonia e Veriut, (Macedonia until February 2019), officially the Republic of North Macedonia,, is a country in Southeast Europe. It gained independence in ...
in the 4th century BC and were subsequently gradually conquered by the
Sarmatians The Sarmatians (; Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 mi ...
, a related Iranian people living to their east. In the late 2nd century BC, their capital at Scythian Neapolis in the Crimea was captured by
Mithridates VI Mithridates or Mithradates VI Eupator ( grc-gre, Μιθραδάτης; 135–63 BC) was ruler of the Kingdom of Pontus The Kingdom of Pontus ( grc, Βασιλεία τοῦ Πόντου, ''Basileía toû Póntou'') was a Hellenistic-era kingdo ...

Mithridates VI
and their territories incorporated into the
Bosporan Kingdom The Bosporan Kingdom, also known as the Kingdom of the Cimmerian Bosporus (, ''Basileion tou Kimmerikou Bosporou''), was an ancient Greco-Scythian state located in eastern Crimea Crimea; crh, Къырым, translit=Kirim/Qırım; grc, Κ ...
. By this time they had been largely
Hellenized Hellenization (other British spelling Hellenisation) or Hellenism is the historical spread of ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient world from ar ...
. By the 3rd century AD, the Sarmatians and last remnants of the Scythians were dominated by the
Alans The Alans or Alāns (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of th ...

Alans
, and were being overwhelmed by the
Goths The Goths ( got, 𐌲𐌿𐍄𐌸𐌹𐌿𐌳𐌰, translit=''Gutþiuda''; la, Gothi) were a Germanic people Germanic may refer to: * Germanic peoples The historical Germanic peoples (from lat, Germani) are a category of ancient northern ...
. By the early
Middle Ages In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the study, organization and presentation and the interpretation of past events and affairs of the people of Europe since the beginning of w ...
, the Scythians and the Sarmatians had been largely assimilated and absorbed by
early Slavs The early Slavs were a diverse group of tribal societies The term tribe is used in many different contexts to refer to a category of human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most populous and widespread species of primates, characterized ...
.: "Indeed, it is now accepted that the Sarmatians merged in with pre-Slavic populations.": "In their Ukrainian and Polish homeland the Slavs were intermixed and at times overlain by Germanic speakers (the Goths) and by Iranian speakers (Scythians, Sarmatians, Alans) in a shifting array of tribal and national configurations." The Scythians were instrumental in the
ethnogenesis Ethnogenesis (from Greek Language, Greek ''ethnos'' , "group of people, nation" and ''genesis'' , "beginning, coming into being"; plural ethnogeneses) is "the formation and development of an ethnic group". This can originate through a process of ...
of the
Ossetians The Ossetians or Ossetes (, ; os, ир, ирæттæ, , дигорӕ, дигорӕнттӕ, ), are an Iranian Iranian may refer to: * Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran ( fa, ...

Ossetians
, who are believed to be descended from the Alans. The Scythians played an important part in the
Silk Road The Silk Road () was and is a network of trade route A trade route is a logistical network identified as a series of pathways and stoppages used for the commercial transport of cargo. The term can also be used to refer to trade over bodies of ...

Silk Road
, a vast trade network connecting
Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, Elláda, ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in . Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of 2021; is its largest and capital city, followed by . Situated on the southern tip of the , ...
,
Persia Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia, and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in . It is bordered to the northwest by and , to the north by the , to the northeast by , to the east by , to the southeast by , t ...
,
India India, officially the Republic of India (: ), is a country in . It is the by area, the country, and the most populous in the world. Bounded by the on the south, the on the southwest, and the on the southeast, it shares land borders wit ...

India
and
China China (), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC; ), is a country in . It is the world's , with a of more than 1.4 billion. China spans five geographical and 14 different countries, the in the world after . Covering an area of ap ...
, perhaps contributing to the prosperity of those civilisations. Settled metalworkers made portable decorative objects for the Scythians, forming a history of Scythian metalworking. These objects survive mainly in metal, forming a distinctive
Scythian art Scythian art is the art associated with Scythian cultures Scythian cultures, also referred to as Scythic cultures, Scytho-Siberian cultures, Early Nomadic cultures, Scythian civilization, Scythian horizon, Scythian world or Scythian continuum, wer ...
. The name of the Scythians survived in the region of Scythia. Early authors continued to use the term "Scythian", applying it to many groups unrelated to the original Scythians, such as
Huns The Huns were a nomadic people who lived in Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Eastern Europe between the 4th and 6th century AD. According to European tradition, they were first reported living east of the Volga River, in an area that was part ...

Huns
, Goths,
Turkic peoples The Turkic peoples are a collection of ethnic groups of Central Asia, Central, East Asia, East, North Asia, North and West Asia as well as parts of Europe and North Africa, who speak Turkic languages.. "Turkic peoples, any of various peoples w ...
,
Avars Avar(s) or AVAR may refer to: Peoples and states * Avars (Caucasus), a modern Northeast Caucasian-speaking people in the North Caucasus, Dagestan, Russia **Avar language, the modern Northeast Caucasian language spoken by the Avars of the North Ca ...
,
Khazars The Khazars; he, כוזרים, Kuzarim; la, Gazari, or ; zh, 突厥曷薩 ; 突厥可薩部 ''Tūjué Kěsà bù'' () were a semi-nomad A nomad ( frm, nomade "people without fixed habitation") is a member of a community without fixe ...

Khazars
, and other unnamed nomads.: "Greek authors ..frequently applied the name Scythians to later nomadic groups who had no relation whatever to the original Scythians" The scientific study of the Scythians is called Scythology.


Names


Etymology

Linguist Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing ...

Linguist
Oswald Szemerényi studied synonyms of various origins for ''Scythian'' and differentiated the following terms: , , and ''
Saka The Saka, Śaka, Shaka, Śāka or Sacae ( ; Kharosthi The Kharosthi script, also spelled Kharoshthi or Kharoṣṭhī (Kharosthi: 𐨑𐨪𐨆𐨯𐨠𐨁) was an ancient Indian script used in Gandhara (now Pakistan and north-eastern Afg ...

Saka
''. From the
Indo-European root The root (linguistics), roots of the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European language (PIE) are basic parts of words that carry a lexical (semiotics), lexical meaning, so-called morphemes. PIE roots usually have verbal meaning like "to eat" or "to run" ...
', meaning "propel, shoot" (cognate with English
shoot In botany Botany, also called , plant biology or phytology, is the science of plant life and a branch of biology. A botanist, plant scientist or phytologist is a scientist who specialises in this field. The term "botany" comes from the Ancie ...
), of which ' is the zero-grade form, was descended the Scythians' self-name reconstructed by Szemerényi as ' (roughly "archer"). From this were descended the following exonyms: * akk, and , used by the Assyrians * peo, 𐎿𐎤𐎢𐎭𐎼 * grc, Σκύθης (plural ), used by the Ancient Greeks :*The xcl, սկիւթ is based on itacistic Greek A late
Scythian The Scythians (; from Greek ), also known as Scyth, Saka, Sakae, Iskuzai, or Askuzai, were an ancient nomadic people of Eurasia Eurasia () is the largest continental area on Earth, comprising all of Europe and Asia. Primarily in the No ...
sound change from /δ/ to /l/ resulted in the evolution of ' into . From this was derived the Greek word , which, according to Herodotus, was the self-designation of the Royal Scythians. Other sound changes have produced . From an Iranian verbal root ''sak-'', "go, roam" and thus meaning "nomad" was derived the term ''
Saka The Saka, Śaka, Shaka, Śāka or Sacae ( ; Kharosthi The Kharosthi script, also spelled Kharoshthi or Kharoṣṭhī (Kharosthi: 𐨑𐨪𐨆𐨯𐨠𐨁) was an ancient Indian script used in Gandhara (now Pakistan and north-eastern Afg ...

Saka
'', from which came the names: * peo, 𐎿𐎣𐎠 , used by the ancient
Persians The Persians are an Iranian ethnic group An ethnic group or ethnicity is a grouping of people who identify with each other on the basis of shared attributes that distinguish them from other groups such as a common set of traditions, ancestr ...
to designate all nomads of the
Eurasian steppe The Eurasian Steppe, also simply called the Great Steppe or the steppes, is the vast steppe ecoregion of Eurasia in the temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biome. It stretches through Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, Europ ...
, including the Scythians * grc, Σάκαι * la, Sacae * sa, शक Although both were closely related nomadic Iranians peoples, the
Saka The Saka, Śaka, Shaka, Śāka or Sacae ( ; Kharosthi The Kharosthi script, also spelled Kharoshthi or Kharoṣṭhī (Kharosthi: 𐨑𐨪𐨆𐨯𐨠𐨁) was an ancient Indian script used in Gandhara (now Pakistan and north-eastern Afg ...

Saka
are to be distinguished from the European Scythians and inhabited the northern and eastern
Eurasian Steppe The Eurasian Steppe, also simply called the Great Steppe or the steppes, is the vast steppe File:Steppe of western Kazakhstan in the early spring.jpg, Steppe in Kazakhstan In physical geography, a steppe () is an ecoregion characteri ...
and the
Tarim Basin The Tarim Basin is an endorheic basin An endorheic basin (; also spelled endoreic basin or endorreic basin) is a drainage basin that normally retains water and allows no outflow to other external bodies of water, such as rivers or oceans ...
.


Modern terminology

In scholarship, the term ''Scythians'' generally refers to the nomadic
Iranian people The Iranian peoples or Iranic peoples are a diverse Indo-European languages, Indo-European ethnolinguistic group who are identified by their use of the Iranian languages and other cultural similarities. The Proto-Iranian language, Proto-Ira ...
who dominated the
Pontic steppe Pontic, from the Greek language, Greek ''pontos'' (, ), or "sea", may refer to: The Black Sea Places * The Pontic colonies, on its northern shores * Pontus (region), a region on its southern shores * The Pontic–Caspian steppe, steppelands stre ...
from the 7th century BC to the 3rd century BC. The Scythians share several cultural similarities with other populations living to their east, in particular similar weapons, horse gear and
Scythian art Scythian art is the art associated with Scythian cultures Scythian cultures, also referred to as Scythic cultures, Scytho-Siberian cultures, Early Nomadic cultures, Scythian civilization, Scythian horizon, Scythian world or Scythian continuum, wer ...
, which has been referred to as the ''Scythian triad''.: "Even though there were fundamental ways in which nomadic groups over such a vast territory differed, the terms "Scythian" and "Scythic" have been widely adopted to describe a special phase that followed the widespread diffusion of mounted nomadism, characterized by the presence of special weapons, horse gear, and animal art in the form of metal plaques. Archaeologists have used the term "Scythic continuum" in a broad cultural sense to indicate the early nomadic cultures of the Eurasian steppe. The term "Scythic" draws attention to the fact that there are elements – shapes of weapons, vessels, and ornaments, as well as lifestyle – common to both the eastern and western ends of the Eurasian steppe region. However, the extension and variety of sites across Asia makes Scythian and Scythic terms too broad to be viable, and the more neutral "early nomadic" is preferable, since the cultures of the Northern Zone cannot be directly associated with either the historical Scythians or any specific archaeological culture defined as Saka or Scytho-Siberian." Cultures sharing these characteristics have often been referred to as
Scythian cultures Scythian cultures is a conventional historiographic term for a group of similar archaeological cultures which flourished across the entire Eurasian Steppe during the Iron Age The Iron Age is the final epoch of the three-age system, three-age ...

Scythian cultures
, and its peoples called ''Scythians''. Peoples associated with Scythian cultures include not only the Scythians themselves, who were a distinct ethnic group,: "Horse-riding nomadism has been referred to as the culture of 'Early Nomads'. This term encompasses different ethnic groups (such as Scythians, Saka, Massagetae, and Yuezhi) .. but also
Cimmerians The Cimmerians (also Kimmerians; Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is appro ...
,
Massagetae The Massagetae, or Massageteans, (Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its popul ...
,
Saka The Saka, Śaka, Shaka, Śāka or Sacae ( ; Kharosthi The Kharosthi script, also spelled Kharoshthi or Kharoṣṭhī (Kharosthi: 𐨑𐨪𐨆𐨯𐨠𐨁) was an ancient Indian script used in Gandhara (now Pakistan and north-eastern Afg ...

Saka
,
Sarmatians The Sarmatians (; Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 mi ...
and various obscure peoples of the
forest steppe A forest steppe is a temperate-climate ecotone An ecotone is a transition area between two biological communities, where two communities meet and integrate. It may be narrow or wide, and it may be local (the zone between a field and forest) ...
, such as
early Slavs The early Slavs were a diverse group of tribal societies The term tribe is used in many different contexts to refer to a category of human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most populous and widespread species of primates, characterized ...
,
Balts The Balts or Baltic people ( lt, baltai, lv, balti) are a group of Indo-European peoples The Indo-European languages are a language family native to western and southern Eurasia. It comprises most of the languages of Europe together wi ...

Balts
and
Finnic peoples The Finnic or Fennic peoples, sometimes simply called Finns, are the nations who speak languages traditionally classified in the Finno-Permic languages, Finno-Permic language family, and which originated in the region of the Volga River. The larg ...
. Within this broad definition of the term ''Scythian'', the actual Scythians have often been distinguished from other groups through the terms ''Classical Scythians'', ''Western Scythians'', ''European Scythians'' or ''Pontic Scythians''. Scythologist Askold Ivantchik notes with dismay that the term "Scythian" has been used within both a broad and a narrow context, leading to a good deal of confusion. He reserves the term "Scythian" for the Iranian people dominating the Pontic steppe from the 7th century BC to the 3rd century BC. Nicola Di Cosmo writes that the broad concept of "Scythian" is "too broad to be viable", and that the term "early nomadic" is preferable.


History


Origins


Archaeological evidence

Modern interpretation of historical, archaeological and anthropological evidence has proposed two broad hypotheses on Scythian origins. The first hypothesis, formerly more espoused by
Soviet The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a socialist state A socialist state, socialist republic, or socialist country, sometimes referred to as a workers' state or workers' republic, is a sove ...
and then
Russia Russia ( rus, link=no, Россия, Rossiya, ), or the Russian Federation, is a country spanning Eastern Europe Eastern Europe is the eastern region of . There is no consistent definition of the precise area it covers, partly because th ...

Russia
n researchers, roughly followed Herodotus' account of the Scythians as an
Eastern Iranian The Eastern Iranian languages are a subgroup of the Iranian languages The Iranian languages or Iranic languages are a branch of the in the that are spoken natively by the . The Iranian languages are grouped in three stages: Old Iranian (u ...
-speaking group who arrived from
Inner Asia Inner Asia refers to the northern and landlock A landlocked country is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is often referred to as the land of an individual's birth, residence or citizen ...
, i.e. from the area of
Turkestan Turkestan, also spelled Turkistan ( fa, ترکستان, Torkestân, lit=Land of the Turks), is a historical region Historical regions (or historical areas) are geographical Geography (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything o ...

Turkestan
and western Siberia. The second hypothesis, according to
Roman Ghirshman Image:Ghirshman team.jpg, Ghirshman's team in Sialk in 1934: Sitting from R to L: Roman Ghirshman, Tania Ghirshman, and Dr. Contenau. Roman Ghirshman (, ''Roman Mikhailovich Girshman''; October 3, 1895 – 5 September 1979) was a Ukrainian-born ...
and others, proposes that the Scythian cultural complex emerged from local groups of the
Srubna culture The Srubnaya culture (russian: Сру́бная культу́ра, lit=log house culture, translit=Srubnaya kultura), also known as Timber-grave culture, was a Late Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a prehistoric Periodization, period that was ...
at the Black Sea coast, although this is also associated with the Cimmerians. According to Pavel Dolukhanov this proposal is supported by anthropological evidence which has found that Scythian skulls are similar to preceding findings from the Srubna culture, and distinct from those of the Central Asian Saka. Yet, according to
J. P. Mallory James Patrick Mallory (born October 25, 1945) is an American archaeologist and Indo-Europeanist. Mallory is an emeritus professor at Queen's University, Belfast; a member of the Royal Irish Academy The Royal Irish Academy (RIA; ga, Acad ...
, the archaeological evidence is poor, and the
Andronovo culture The Andronovo culture is a collection of similar local Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a prehistoric Periodization, period that was characterized by the use of bronze, in some areas proto-writing, and other early features of urban civilizat ...

Andronovo culture
and "at least the eastern outliers of the Timber-grave culture" may be identified as Indo-Iranian.


Genetic evidence

In 2017, a genetic study of the Scythians suggested that they can best be described as a mixture of European-related ancestry from the
Yamna culture The Yamnaya culture (russian: Ямная культура, Yamnaya kul'tura, ua, Ямна культура, Yamna kul'tura lit. 'culture of pits') also known as the Yamnaya Horizon, Yamna culture, Pit Grave culture or Ochre Grave culture, was ...
and an
East Asian East Asia is the eastern region In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics (physical geography), human impact characteristics (human geography), and the interaction of humanity and the environment ( ...
/ Siberian ancestry, and emerged on the Pontic steppe. The authors concluded that there is evidence for significant geneflow from East-Eurasia to West-Eurasia, from various migrations during the early Iron Age. Based on the analysis of mithocondrial lineages, another later 2017 study suggested that the Scythians were directly descended from the
Srubnaya culture The Srubnaya culture (russian: Сру́бная культу́ра, lit=log house culture, translit=Srubnaya kultura), also known as Timber-grave culture, was a Late Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a prehistoric Periodization, period that was ...

Srubnaya culture
. A later analysis of paternal lineages, published in 2018, found significant genetic differences between the Srubnaya and the Scythians. They further found that the nomadic population of Central Asia, e.g. the Scythians, were genetically heterogeneous and carried genetic affinities with populations from several other regions including the Far East and the southern Urals. Another 2019 study also concluded that migrations must have played a part in the emergence of the Scythians as the dominant power of the Pontic steppe.


Early history

The Scythians arrived in the
Pontic Steppe Pontic, from the Greek language, Greek ''pontos'' (, ), or "sea", may refer to: The Black Sea Places * The Pontic colonies, on its northern shores * Pontus (region), a region on its southern shores * The Pontic–Caspian steppe, steppelands stre ...
in the 8th and 7th centuries BCE as part of a significant movement of the nomadic peoples of the
Eurasian Steppe The Eurasian Steppe, also simply called the Great Steppe or the steppes, is the vast steppe File:Steppe of western Kazakhstan in the early spring.jpg, Steppe in Kazakhstan In physical geography, a steppe () is an ecoregion characteri ...
. According to Herodotus, this movement started when the
Massagetae The Massagetae, or Massageteans, (Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its popul ...
migrated westwards, forcing the Scythians to the west across the Araxes river (likely the
Volga The Volga (; russian: Во́лга, a=Ru-Волга.ogg, p=ˈvoɫɡə) is the longest river in Europe Europe is a continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention ra ...

Volga
), following which the Scythians moved into the Pontic Steppe, displaced the
Cimmerians The Cimmerians (also Kimmerians; Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is appro ...
, who were a nomadic Iranian people closely related to the Scythians, and conquered their territory. Another Scythian-related nomadic people displaced by the Scythian expansion were the
Agathyrsi Agathyrsi (Scythian The Scythians (from grc, Σκύθης , ) or Scyths, also known as Saka and Sakae ( ; egy, 𓋴𓎝𓎡𓈉 The ancient Egyptian Hill-country or "Foreign land" hieroglyph (𓈉) is a member of the sky, earth, and ...
, who were the oldest Iranian population to have dominated the
Pontic Steppe Pontic, from the Greek language, Greek ''pontos'' (, ), or "sea", may refer to: The Black Sea Places * The Pontic colonies, on its northern shores * Pontus (region), a region on its southern shores * The Pontic–Caspian steppe, steppelands stre ...
. The Agathyrsi were pushed westwards by the Scythians, away from the steppes and their original home around
Lake Maeotis The Sea of Azov (russian: Азо́вское мо́ре, ''Azóvskoje móre''; uk, Азо́вське мо́ре, ''Azóvśke móre''; ady, Хы МыутӀэ; crh, Azaq deñizi, ''Азакъ денъизи'', ازاق دﻩﯕىزى) is a sea i ...

Lake Maeotis
, after which the relations between the Agathyrsi and the Scythians remained hostile. The Agathyrsi settled in the territories of present-day
Moldavia Moldavia ( ro, Moldova, or , literally "The Moldavian Country"; in Romanian Cyrillic alphabet, Romanian Cyrillic: or ; chu, Землѧ Молдавскаѧ; el, Ἡγεμονία τῆς Μολδαβίας) is a historical region and forme ...

Moldavia
,
Transylvania Transylvania is a historical region in central Romania. To the east and south its natural border is the Carpathian Mountains, and to the west the Apuseni Mountains. Broader definitions of Transylvania also encompass the western and north-western ...

Transylvania
, and possibly
Oltenia Oltenia (, also called Lesser Wallachia in antiquated versions, with the alternative Latin names ''Wallachia Minor'', ''Wallachia Alutana'', ''Wallachia Caesarea'' between 1718 and 1739) is a historical province and geographical region of Romania ...

Oltenia
, where they mingled with the indigenous population who were largely
Thracians The Thracians (; grc, Θρᾷκες ''Thrāikes''; la, Thraci) were an Indo-European languages, Indo-European speaking people, who inhabited large parts of Eastern Europe, Eastern and Southeast Europe, Southeastern Europe in ancient history.. ...
, became acculturated to the local Thracian
Getic The Getae ( ) or Gets ( ; grc, Γέται, singular ) were several Thracians, Thracian tribes that once inhabited the regions to either side of the Lower Danube, in what is today northern Bulgaria and southern Romania. Both the singular form ' ...
populations (although they retained
Iranian Iranian may refer to: * Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia, and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia Western Asia, West Asia, or Southwest Asia, is the westernmost subregion A subreg ...
names for their kings, such as Agathyrsus and Spargapeithes), and eventually became completely assimilated by the Geto-Thracian populations and disappeared from history.


In Southwest Asia

Under Scythian pressure, the Cimmerians fled to the south along the coast of the Black Sea and reached Anatolia, and the Scythians in turn pursued the Cimmerians, following the coast of the
Caspian Sea The Caspian Sea (also known as Mazandaran Sea, Hyrcanian Ocean, or Khazar Sea), tk, Hazar deňzi, az, Xəzər Dənizi, russian: Каспийское море, script=Latn, fa, دریای مازندران، دریای خزر, script=Latn, tly, ...

Caspian Sea
and arrived in the region of present-day
Azerbaijan Azerbaijan (, ; az, Azərbaycan ), officially the Republic of Azerbaijan ( az, Azərbaycan Respublikası ), is a country in the Transcaucasia, Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, it is boun ...

Azerbaijan
, where they settled around what is today
Mingachevir Mingachevir ( az, Mingəçevir ) is the fourth-largest city in Azerbaijan with a population of about 106,000. It's often called the "city of lights" because of its hydroelectric power station on the Kura (Caspian Sea), Kur River, which splits the ...
,
Ganja Ganja is one of the oldest and most commonly used synonyms for Marijuana (word), marijuana in the English language. Its usage in English dates to before 1689. Etymology Ganja is borrowed from Hindi ''gāñjā'' (IPA: Help:IPA/Hindi and Urdu, ...
and the
Mugan plain Mugan plain ( az, Muğan düzü, مغان دوزو; ) is a plain in Azerbaijan (Iran), northwestern Iran and the southern part of the Azerbaijan, Republic of Azerbaijan. The highest density of irrigation canals is in the section of the Mugan plain ...
, and turned eastern Transcaucasia into their centre of operations until the early 6th century BCE. While the earlier modern view of the Scythian presence in Southwest Asia held that a separate group of Scythians had migrated there, the more recent view is that the Scythians in Southwest Asia never lost contact with the Scythian kingdom of the steppes, and their activities in fact constituted a series of lengthy military expeditions in Southwest Asia rather than an attempt at permanent conquest. The first mention of the Scythians in the records of the
Neo-Assyrian Empire The Neo-Assyrian Empire (Assyrian cuneiform Assyrian may refer to: * Assyria, a major Mesopotamian kingdom and empire * Assyrian people, an ethnic group indigenous to the Middle East * Assyrian Church (disambiguation) * Assyrian language (disam ...

Neo-Assyrian Empire
is from between 680/679 and 678/677 BCE, when their king Išpakaia joined the
Mannaeans The Mannaeans (, country name usually Mannea; AkkadianAkkadian or Accadian may refer to: * The Akkadian language Akkadian ( ''akkadû'', ''ak-ka-du-u2''; logogram: ''URIKI'')John Huehnergard & Christopher Woods, "Akkadian and Eblaite", ''Th ...
and the Cimmerians in an attack on Assyria and was killed in battle by the Assyrian king
Esarhaddon Esarhaddon, also spelled Essarhaddon, Assarhaddon and Ashurhaddon (Neo-Assyrian cuneiform Cuneiform is a logo up Chiswick_Press.html"_;"title="Coat_of_arms_of_the_Chiswick_Press">Coat_of_arms_of_the_Chiswick_Press_ A_logo_(abbreviatio ...

Esarhaddon
. Išpakaia was succeeded by
Bartatua Bartatua ( akk, m Bar-ta-tu-a: " ..the otherwise unattested name without any doubt is of Iranian origin (see below) and must be equated with Assyr. Bartatua (written mBar-ta-tu-a) .. or ''Par-ta-tu-a'',: "Though Madyes himself is not mentioned in A ...
, who might have been his son. Unlike Išpakaia, Bartatua sought a rapprochement with the Assyrians, and in 672 BCE he asked the hand of Esarhaddon's daughter
Serua-eterat Serua-eterat or Serua-etirat (Akkadian language, Akkadian: or ,' meaning "Šerua is the one who saves"),' called Saritrah (Demotic (Egyptian), Demotic arc, , ) in later Aramaic texts, was an ancient Assyria, Assyrian princess of the Sargonid d ...
in marriage, which is attested in Esarhaddon's questions to the oracle of the Sun-god
Shamash Utu, later worshipped by the East Semitic Akkadian language, Akkadian-speaking Babylonians as Shamash, ''šmš'', syc, ܫܡܫܐ ''šemša'', he, שֶׁמֶשׁ ''šemeš'', ar, شمس ''šams'', Ashurian Aramaic: 𐣴𐣬𐣴 ''š'meš(ā)'' ...
. Whether this marriage did happen is not recorded in the Assyrian texts, but the close alliance between the Scythians and Assyria under Bartatua's reign suggested that this matrimonial alliance did happen, and it is possible that Serua-eterat might have been the mother of Bartatua's son Madyes; henceforth, the Scythians remained allies of the Assyrian Empire until it started unravelling after the death of Esarhaddon's son
Ashurbanipal Ashurbanipal, also spelled Assurbanipal, Asshurbanipal and Asurbanipal (Neo-Assyrian cuneiform Cuneiform is a logo up Chiswick_Press.html"_;"title="Coat_of_arms_of_the_Chiswick_Press">Coat_of_arms_of_the_Chiswick_Press_ A_logo_(abbrevi ...
. Bartatua's marriage to the Assyrian princess required that he would pledge allegiance to Assyria as a vassal, and in accordance to Assyrian law, the territories ruled by him would be his fief granted by the Assyrian king, which made the Scythian presence in Southwest Asia a nominal extension of the Neo-Assyrian Empire. Under this arrangement, the power of the Scythians in Southwest Asia heavily depended on their cooperation with the Assyrian Empire. Bartatua was succeeded by his son,
Madyes Madyes ( grc, Μαδύης ; la, Madyes) or Madius ( grc, wikt:Μάδιος, Μάδιος ; la, Madius), was the Scythian king who ruled in the 7th century BCE. Name The name () or () is the Ancient Greek form of a Scythian languages, Scythia ...
, who would bring Scythian power in Southwest Asia to its peak. In 653 BCE, Madyes invaded the
Medes relief, bas-relief shows a Mede soldier behind a Persian soldier, in Persepolis, Iran The Medes ( peo, wiktionary:𐎶𐎠𐎭, 𐎶𐎠𐎭 ; akk, , ; grc, wiktionary:Μῆδοι, Μῆδοι ) were an Iranian peoples, ancient Iranian ...
, an Iranian people native to Southwest Asia who were engaged in a war against Assyria, and the Median king
Phraortes Phraortes ( peo, 𐎳𐎼𐎺𐎼𐎫𐎡𐏁, translit=Fravartiš; grc, Φραόρτης, translit=Phraórtēs; died c. 653 BC), son of Deioces Deioces ( grc, Δηιόκης), from the Old Iranian ''Dahyu-ka-'', meaning "the lands" (above, on ...
was killed in battle, either against the Assyrians or against Madyes. Madyes then imposed Scythian hegemony over Media for twenty-eight years on behalf of the Assyrians, thus starting a period which Herodotus called the "Scythian rule over Asia". Madyes soon expanded the Scythian hegemony to the states of
Mannae The Mannaeans (, country name usually Mannea; AkkadianAkkadian or Accadian may refer to: * The Akkadian language Akkadian ( ''akkadû'', ''ak-ka-du-u2''; logogram: ''URIKI'')John Huehnergard & Christopher Woods, "Akkadian and Eblaite", ''Th ...
and
Urartu Urartu () is a geographical region commonly used as the exonym An endonym (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country loc ...

Urartu
. In 637 BCE, the
Thracian The Thracians (; grc, Θρᾷκες ''Thrāikes''; la, Thraci) were an Indo-European speaking people, who inhabited large parts of Eastern Eastern may refer to: Transportation *China Eastern Airlines, a current Chinese airline based in S ...
Treres tribe who had migrated across the and invaded
Anatolia Anatolia,, tr, Anadolu Yarımadası), and the Anatolian plateau. also known as Asia Minor, is a large peninsula in Western Asia and the westernmost protrusion of the Asian continent. It makes up the majority of modern-day Turkey. The region ...
, under their king Kobos and in alliance with the
Cimmerians The Cimmerians (also Kimmerians; Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is appro ...
and the
Lycians Lycians is the name of various peoples who lived, at different times, in Lycia Lycia (Lycian language, Lycian: 𐊗𐊕𐊐𐊎𐊆𐊖 ''Trm̃mis''; el, Λυκία, ; tr, Likya) was a geopolitical region in Anatolia in what are now the Pro ...
, attacked the kingdom of
Lydia Lydia (Lydian language, Lydian: ‎𐤮𐤱𐤠𐤭𐤣𐤠, ''Śfarda''; Aramaic: ''Lydia''; el, Λυδία, ''Lȳdíā''; tr, Lidya) was an Iron Age Monarchy, kingdom of western Asia Minor located generally east of ancient Ionia in the mod ...

Lydia
during the seventh year of the reign of the Lydian king Ardys. They defeated the
Lydians The Lydians (known as ''Sparda'' to the Achaemenids The Achaemenid Empire (; peo, 𐎧𐏁𐏂, translit=Xšāça, translation=The Empire), also called the First Persian Empire, was an ancient Iranian Iranian may refer to: * Iran ...
and captured the capital city of Lydia,
Sardis Sardis () or Sardes (; Lydian Lydian may refer to: * Lydians, an ancient people of Anatolia * Lydian language, an ancient Anatolian language * Lydian alphabet ** Lydian (Unicode block) * Lydian (typeface), a decorative typeface * Lydian dominan ...

Sardis
, except for its citadel, and Ardys might have been killed in this attack. Ardys's son and successor,
SadyattesSadyattes (reigned c. 603 – c. 591 BC) was the third king of the Mermnad dynasty in Lydia Lydia ( Assyrian: ''Luddu''; el, Λυδία, ''Lȳdíā''; tr, Lidya) was an Iron Age kingdom of western Asia Minor located generally east of ancie ...
, might possibly also have been killed in another Cimmerian attack on Lydia in 635 BCE. Soon after 635 BCE, with Assyrian approval and in alliance with the Lydians, the Scythians under Madyes entered Anatolia, expelled the Treres from Asia Minor, and defeated the Cimmerians so that they no longer constituted a threat again, following which the Scythians extended their domination to Central Anatolia until they were themselves expelled by the Medes from Southwest Asia in the 590s BCE. This final defeat of the Cimmerians was carried out by the joint forces of Madyes, who
Strabo Strabo''Strabo'' (meaning "squinty", as in strabismus Strabismus is a condition in which the eyes do not properly align with each other when looking at an object. The eye that is focused on an object can alternate. The condition may be pre ...

Strabo
credits with expelling the Cimmerians from Asia Minor, and of Gyges's great-grandson, the king
Alyattes of Lydia Alyattes ( grc, Ἀλυάττης ''Aluáttēs'', likely from Lydian '; reigned c. 618–561 BC), sometimes described as Alyattes I, was the fourth king of the Mermnad dynasty in Lydia Lydia (Lydian language, Lydian: ‎𐤮𐤱𐤠𐤭 ...
, whom
Herodotus Herodotus ( ; grc, Ἡρόδοτος, Hēródotos, ; BC) was an Classical Greece, ancient Greek writer, geographer, and historian born in the Greek city of Halicarnassus, part of the Achaemenid Empire, Persian Empire (now Bodrum, Turkey). He ...
and
Polyaenus Polyaenus or Polyenus ( ; see ae (æ) vs. e; grc-gre, Πoλύαινoς, Polyainos, "much-praised") was a 2nd-century CE Greek author, known best for his ''Stratagems in War'' ( grc-gre, Στρατηγήματα, Strategemata), which has been pr ...
claim finally defeated the Cimmerians. By the 620s BCE, the Assyrian Empire began unravelling after the death of Ashurbanipal. In addition to internal instability within Assyria itself, Babylon revolted against the Assyrians in 626 BCE. The next year, in 625 BCE,
Cyaxares Cyaxares ( grc, Κυαξάρης; peo, 𐎢𐎺𐎧𐏁𐎫𐎼 ; Avestan: ''Huxšaθra'' "Good Ruler"; Akkadian language, Akkadian: ''Umakištar''; Phrygian language, Old Phrygian: ''ksuwaksaros''; r. 625–585 BC) was the third and most capable ...
, the son of Phraortes and his successor to the Median kingship, overthrew the Scythian yoke over the Medes by inviting the Scythian rulers to a banquet and then murdering them all after getting them drunk; Madyes was likely killed during this massacre. Shortly after, some time between 623 and 616 BCE, the Scythians took advantage of the power vacuum created by the crumbling of the power of their former Assyrian allies and overran the
Levant The Levant () is an term referring to a large area in the region of . In its narrowest sense, it is equivalent to the , which included present-day , , , , and most of southwest of the middle . In its widest historical sense, the Levant ...

Levant
and reached as far south as
Palestine Palestine ( or ) most often refers to: * State of Palestine, a ''de jure'' sovereign state in the Middle East * Palestine (region), a geographical and historical region in the Middle East Palestine may also refer to: * Palestinian National Aut ...
until the
Egyptian Egyptian describes something of, from, or related to Egypt. Egyptian or Egyptians may refer to: Nations and ethnic groups * Egyptians, a national group in North Africa ** Egyptian culture, a complex and stable culture with thousands of years of r ...

Egyptian
pharaoh
Psamtik I Wahibre Psamtik I (Ancient Egyptian Ancient Egypt was a civilization of Ancient history, ancient North Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile, Nile River, situated in the place that is now the country Egypt. Ancient ...
met them and convinced them to turn back by offering them gifts. The Scythians retreated by passing through Ascalon largely without any incident, although some stragglers looted the temple of
Astarte Astarte (; grc-gre, Ἀστάρτη, ''Astártē'') is the Hellenized form of the Ancient Near Eastern goddess Astoreth (Northwest Semitic Northwest Semitic, known as Syro-Palestinian in dialect geography, is a division of the Semitic lang ...
in the city, which was considered to be the most ancient of all temples to that goddess. According to Herodotus, the goddess punished the perpetrators of the sack of her temple and their descendants with a "female disease", due to which they became a class of transvestite diviners called the Enarees (in
Scythian The Scythians (; from Greek ), also known as Scyth, Saka, Sakae, Iskuzai, or Askuzai, were an ancient nomadic people of Eurasia Eurasia () is the largest continental area on Earth, comprising all of Europe and Asia. Primarily in the No ...
, , meaning "unmanly"). According to records, starting around 615 BCE, the Scythians were operating as allies of Cyaxares and the Medes in their war against Assyria, and were finally expelled from Southwest Asia by the Medes in the 590s BCE, after which they retreated to the
Pontic Steppe Pontic, from the Greek language, Greek ''pontos'' (, ), or "sea", may refer to: The Black Sea Places * The Pontic colonies, on its northern shores * Pontus (region), a region on its southern shores * The Pontic–Caspian steppe, steppelands stre ...
. Some splinter Scythian groups nevertheless remained in Southwest Asia. One such splinter group likely joined the Medes and participated in the Median conquest of Urartu, while some other Transcaucasian Scythian splinter groups might have retreated northwards to join the Scythians who had already moved into the
Kuban Steppe The Kuban steppe is one of the major steppe File:Steppe of western Kazakhstan in the early spring.jpg, Steppe in Kazakhstan In physical geography, a steppe is an ecoregion characterized by grassland plains without trees apart from thos ...
previously. One group formed a kingdom in what is now
Azerbaijan Azerbaijan (, ; az, Azərbaycan ), officially the Republic of Azerbaijan ( az, Azərbaycan Respublikası ), is a country in the Transcaucasia, Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, it is boun ...

Azerbaijan
under Median overlordship, but eventually hostilities broke out between them and Cyaxares, due to which they left Transcaucasia and fled to the kingdom of
Lydia Lydia (Lydian language, Lydian: ‎𐤮𐤱𐤠𐤭𐤣𐤠, ''Śfarda''; Aramaic: ''Lydia''; el, Λυδία, ''Lȳdíā''; tr, Lidya) was an Iron Age Monarchy, kingdom of western Asia Minor located generally east of ancient Ionia in the mod ...

Lydia
as refugees, although a section of these Scythians still remained in the southeast Caucasus, and were later mentioned by
Livy Titus Livius (; 59 BC – AD 17), known in English as Livy ( ), was a Ancient Rome, Roman historian. He wrote a monumental history of Rome and the Roman people, titled , covering the period from the earliest legends of Rome before the traditiona ...
under the name of , while the country was called the Land of the Skythenoi by
Xenophon Xenophon of Athens (; grc, Ξενοφῶν Xenophon of Athens (; grc-gre, Ξενοφῶν, , ''Xenophōn''; – 354 BC) was an Athenian , image_skyline = File:Athens Montage L.png, center, 275px, alt=Athens mont ...

Xenophon
and by
Ptolemy Claudius Ptolemy (; grc-koi, Κλαύδιος Πτολεμαῖος, , ; la, Claudius Ptolemaeus; AD) was a mathematician A mathematician is someone who uses an extensive knowledge of mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes ...
. By the middle of the 6th century BCE, the Scythians who had remained in Southwest Asia had completely assimilated culturally and politically into Median society and no longer existed as a distinct group. In the 6th century BC, the
Greeks The Greeks or Hellenes (; el, Έλληνες, ''Éllines'' ) are an ethnic group An ethnic group or ethnicity is a grouping of people A people is any plurality of person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has cer ...

Greeks
had begun establishing settlements along the coasts and rivers of the Pontic steppe, coming in contact with the Scythians. Relations between the Greeks and the Scythians appear to have been peaceful, with the Scythians being substantially influenced by the Greeks, although the city of the
Panticapaeum Panticapaeum ( grc, Παντικάπαιον, Pantikápaion) was an ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient world from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It i ...

Panticapaeum
might have been destroyed by the Scythians in the mid-century BC. During this time, the Scythian philosopher
Anacharsis . Anacharsis (; grc, Ἀνάχαρσις) was a Scythians, Scythian philosopher; he travelled from his homeland on the northern shores of the Black Sea, to Athens , image_skyline = File:Athens Montage L.png, center, 275p ...

Anacharsis
traveled to
Athens , image_skyline = File:Athens Montage L.png, center, 275px, alt=Athens montage. Clicking on an image in the picture causes the browser to load the appropriate article. rect 15 15 985 460 Acropolis of Athens rect 15 475 48 ...

Athens
, where he made a great impression on the local people with his "barbarian wisdom".


War with Persia

By the late 6th century BC, the king
Darius the Great Darius I ( peo, 𐎭𐎠𐎼𐎹𐎺𐎢𐏁 ; New Persian New Persian ( fa, فارسی نو), also known as Modern Persian () and Dari (), is the final stage of the Persian language Persian (), also known by its endonym An endonym ( ...

Darius the Great
had built Persia into becoming the most powerful empire in the world, stretching from Egypt to
India India, officially the Republic of India (: ), is a country in . It is the by area, the country, and the most populous in the world. Bounded by the on the south, the on the southwest, and the on the southeast, it shares land borders wit ...

India
. Planning an invasion of Greece, Darius first sought to secure his northern flank against Scythian introads. Thus, Darius declared war on the Scythians. At first, Darius sent his
Cappadocia Cappadocia (; also ''Capadocia''; grc, label=Ancient Ancient history is the aggregate of past events
n satrap
Ariamnes Ariamnes I ( grc, Ἀριάμνης ''Ariámnēs''; fl. 4th century BC; ruled 362–350 BC) was satrap of Cappadocia under Achaemenid Empire, Persian suzerainty. Son of Datames and father of Ariarathes I of Cappadocia, Ariarathes I and his brother ...
with a vast fleet (estimated at 600 ships by Herodotus) into Scythian territory, where several Scythian nobles were captured. He then built a bridge across the
Bosporus The Bosporus () or Bosphorus (;The spelling ''Bosporus'' is listed first or exclusively in all major British and American dictionaries (e.gOxford Online Dictionaries
and easily defeated the
Thracians The Thracians (; grc, Θρᾷκες ''Thrāikes''; la, Thraci) were an Indo-European languages, Indo-European speaking people, who inhabited large parts of Eastern Europe, Eastern and Southeast Europe, Southeastern Europe in ancient history.. ...
, crossing the
Danube The Danube ( ; ) is the List of rivers of Europe#Longest rivers, second-longest river in Europe, after the Volga in Russia. It flows through much of Central Europe, Central and Southeastern Europe, from the Black Forest into the Black Sea. It ...

Danube
into Scythian territory with a large army (700,000 men if one is to believe Herodotus) in 512 BC. At this time Scythians were separated into three major kingdoms, with the leader of the largest tribe, King Idanthyrsus, being the supreme ruler, and his subordinate kings being Scopasis and Taxacis. Unable to receive support from neighboring nomadic peoples against the Persians, the Scythians evacuated their civilians and livestock to the north and adopted a
scorched earth A scorched-earth policy is a military strategy Military strategy is a set of ideas implemented by military organization Military organization or military organisation is the structuring of the s of a so as to offer such as a may req ...

scorched earth
strategy, while simultaneously harassing the extensive Persian supply lines. Suffering heavy losses, the Persians reached as far as the
Sea of Azov The Sea of Azov ( la, Palus Maeotis ; gr, Μαιῶτις λίμνη or Propontis or now la, mare Asoviense; russian: Азовское море, Azovskoye more; uk, Азовське море, Озівське море, Azovske more, Ozivske ...

Sea of Azov
, until Darius was compelled to enter into negotiations with Idanthyrsus, which, however, broke down. Darius and his army eventually reatreated across the Danube back into Persia, and the Scythians thereafter earned a reputation of invincibility among neighboring peoples.


Golden Age

In the aftermath of their defeat of the Persian invasion, Scythian power grew considerably, and they launched campaigns against their Thracian neighbors in the west. In 496 BC, the Scythians launched an great expedition into Thrace, reaching as far as Chersonesos. During this time they negotiated an alliance with the Achaemenid Empire against the
Sparta Sparta (Doric Greek Doric or Dorian ( grc, Δωρισμός, Dōrismós) was an . Its variants were spoken in the southern and eastern as well as in , , , , , some islands in the southern and some cities on the south east coast of ...

Sparta
n king
Cleomenes I Cleomenes I (; Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximat ...
. A prominent king of the Scythians in the 5th century BC was
Scyles Scyles, Skyles, or Scylas (Scythian The Scythians (from grc, Σκύθης , ) or Scyths, also known as Saka and Sakae ( ; egy, 𓋴𓎝𓎡𓈉 The ancient Egyptian Hill-country or "Foreign land" hieroglyph (𓈉) is a member of the s ...

Scyles
. The Scythian offensive against the Thracians was checked by the
Odrysian kingdom The Odrysian Kingdom (; Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Glóssa''), generally referred to by speakers simply as Gr ...

Odrysian kingdom
. The border between the Scythians and the Odrysian kingdom was thereafter set at the Danube, and relations between the two dynasties were good, with dynastic marriages frequently occurring. The Scythians also expanded towards the north-west, where they destroyed numerous fortified settlements and probably subjucated numerous settled populations. A similar fate was suffered by the Greek cities of the northwestern Black Sea coast and parts of the Crimea, over which the Scythians established political control. Greek settlements along the
Don River The Don ( rus, Дон, p=don) is the List of rivers of Europe#Rivers of Europe by length, fifth-longest river in Europe. Flowing from Central Russia to the Sea of Azov in Southern Russia, it is one of List of rivers of Russia, Russia's largest riv ...

Don River
also came under the control of the Scythians. A division of responsibility developed, with the Scythians holding the political and military power, the urban population carrying out trade, and the local sedentary population carrying out manual labor. Their territories grew grain, and shipped wheat, flocks, and cheese to Greece. The Scythians apparently obtained much of their wealth from their control over the
slave trade Slavery and enslavement are both the state and the condition of being a slave, who is someone forbidden to quit their service for an enslaver, and who is treated by the enslaver as their property Property is a system of rights that give ...

slave trade
from the north to Greece through the Greek
Black Sea , with the skyline of Batumi Batumi (; ka, ბათუმი ) is the second largest city of Georgia Georgia usually refers to: * Georgia (country) Georgia ( ka, საქართველო; ''Sakartvelo''; ) is a country locat ...

Black Sea
colonial ports of
Olbia Olbia (, ; sc, Terranoa; sdn, Tarranoa) is a city and commune An intentional community is a voluntary residential community designed from the start to have a high degree of group cohesiveness, social cohesion and teamwork. The members ...
, Chersonesos,
Cimmerian Bosporus The Kerch Strait,, uk, Керченська протока, crh, Keriç boğazı, ady, Хы ТӀуалэ is a strait in Eastern Europe. It connects the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, separating the Kerch Peninsula of Crimea in the west fro ...
, and
Gorgippia Anapa (russian: Анапа, ) is a types of inhabited localities in Russia, town in Krasnodar Krai, Russia, located on the northern coast of the Black Sea near the Sea of Azov. Population: 88,879 (2020 census), History The area around Anapa was ...

Gorgippia
. When Herodotus wrote his ''Histories'' in the 5th century BC, Greeks distinguished
Scythia Minor Scythia Minor or Lesser Scythia (: , ) was in ancient times the region surrounded by the at the north and west and the at the east, roughly corresponding to today's , with in , and in . By the 7th century BC, several Greek colonies were bui ...
, in present-day
Romania Romania ( ; ro, România ) is a country at the crossroads of Central Central is an adjective usually referring to being in the center (disambiguation), center of some place or (mathematical) object. Central may also refer to: Directions ...

Romania
and
Bulgaria Bulgaria (; bg, България, Bǎlgariya), officially the Republic of Bulgaria ( bg, Република България, links=no, Republika Bǎlgariya, ), is a country in Southeast Europe. It is bordered by Romania to the north, Serbia ...

Bulgaria
, from a Greater Scythia that extended eastwards for a 20-day ride from the Danube River, across the
steppe In physical geography, a steppe () is an ecoregion characterized by grassland plains without trees apart from those near rivers and lakes. Steppe biomes may include: * the montane grasslands and shrublands biome * the temperate grassland ...

steppe
s of today's East Ukraine to the lower
Don Don, don or DON and variants may refer to: Places *Don, BeninDon is a town in Benin, Africa. It has a population of 696,969. Nearest large airports are Cadjehoun Airport, Cotonou Cadjehoun in Cotonou and Lomé-Tokoin Airport, Lomé-Tokoin in Lom ...
basin. Scythian offensives against the Greek colonies of the northeastern Black Sea coast were largely unsuccessful, as the Greeks united under the leadership of the city of Panticapaeum and put up a vigorous defence. These Greek cities developed into the
Bosporan Kingdom The Bosporan Kingdom, also known as the Kingdom of the Cimmerian Bosporus (, ''Basileion tou Kimmerikou Bosporou''), was an ancient Greco-Scythian state located in eastern Crimea Crimea; crh, Къырым, translit=Kirim/Qırım; grc, Κ ...
. Meanwhile, several Greek colonies formerly under Scythian control began to reassert their independence. It is possible that the Scythians were suffering from internal troubles during this time. By the mid-4th century BC, the Sarmatians, a related Iranian people living to the east of the Scythians, began expanding into Scythian territory. The 4th century BC was a flowering of Scythian culture. The Scythian king Ateas managed to unite under his power the Scythian tribes living between the
Maeotian marshes The Maeotian Swamp or Maeotian Marshes ( grc, ἡ Μαιῶτις λίμνη, ''hē Maiōtis límnē'', literally ''Maeotian Lake''; la, Palus Maeotis) was a name applied in antiquity Antiquity or Antiquities may refer to Historical objects or p ...
and the Danube, while simultaneously enroaching upon the Thracians. He conquered territories along the Danube as far the
Sava The Sava (; , ; sr-cyr, Сава, Hungarian: Száva) is a river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In some cases, a river flows into the ground and become ...

Sava
river and established a trade route from the Black Sea to the
Adriatic The Adriatic Sea () is a body of water separating the Italian Peninsula from the Balkans. The Adriatic is the northernmost arm of the Mediterranean Sea, extending from the Strait of Otranto (where it connects to the Ionian Sea) to the northwest a ...

Adriatic
, which enabled a flourishing of trade in the Scythian kingdom. The westward expansion of Ateas brought him into conflict with
Philip II of Macedon Philip II of Macedon ( grc-gre, Φίλιππος ; 382 – 21 October 336 BC) was the king (basileus ''Basileus'' ( el, βασιλεύς) is a Greek term and title A title is one or more words used before or after a person's name, in cer ...
(reigned 359 to 336 BC), with whom he had previously been allied, who took military action against the Scythians in 339 BC. Ateas died in battle, and his empire disintegrated. Philip's son,
Alexander the Great Alexander III of Macedon ( grc-gre, Αλέξανδρος}, ; 20/21 July 356 BC – 10/11 June 323 BC), commonly known as Alexander the Great, was a king (''basileus ''Basileus'' ( el, βασιλεύς) is a Greek term and title A title ...

Alexander the Great
, continued the conflict with the Scythians. In 331 BC, his general Zopyrion invaded Scythian territory with a force of 30,000 men, but was routed and killed by the Scythians near Olbia.


Decline

In the aftermath of conflict between Macedon and the Scythians, the
Celts The Celts (, see pronunciation of ''Celt'' for different usages) are. "CELTS location: Greater Europe time period: Second millennium B.C.E. to present ancestry: Celtic a collection of Indo-European peoples The Indo-European languages ar ...

Celts
seem to have displaced the Scythians from the
Balkans The Balkans ( ), also known as the Balkan Peninsula, are a geographic area in southeastern Europe Europe is a continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rathe ...

Balkans
; while in south Russia, a kindred tribe, the Sarmatians, gradually overwhelmed them. In 310–309 BC, as noted by
Diodorus Siculus Diodorus Siculus, or Diodorus of Sicily ( grc-gre, Διόδωρος Σικελιώτης ;  1st century BC), was an ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern ...
, the Scythians, in alliance with the Bosporan Kingdom, defeated the
Siraces The Siraces ( gr, Sirakoi, lat, Siraci, also ''Siraceni'' and ''Seraci''http://perseus.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philologic/getobject.pl?c.371:20.GreekTexts) were a hellenized Hellenization (other British spelling Hellenisation) or Hellenism is the ...
in a great battle at the river Thatis. By the early 3rd century BC, the Scythian culture of the Pontic steppe suddenly disappears. The reasons for this are controversial, but the expansion of the Sarmatians certainly played a role. The Scythians in turn shifted their focus towards the Greek cities of the Crimea. By around 200 BC, the Scythians had largely withdrawn into the
Crimea Crimea; crh, Къырым, translit=Kirim/Qırım; grc, Κιμμερία/Ταυρική, translit=Kimmería/Taurikḗ is a peninsula A peninsula ( la, paeninsula from 'almost' and 'island') is a landform A landform is a natural ...

Crimea
. By the time of Strabo's account (the first decades AD), the Crimean Scythians had created a new kingdom extending from the lower Dnieper to the Crimea, centered at Scythian Neapolis near modern
Simferopol Simferopol () is the second-largest city on the Crimean Peninsula Crimea; crh, Къырым, translit=Kirim/Qırım; grc, Κιμμερία/Ταυρική, translit=Kimmería/Taurikḗ is a peninsula along the northern coast of the Bla ...
. They had become more settled and were intermingling with the local populations, in particular the
Tauri The Tauri (; in Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Glóssa''), generally referred to by speakers simply as Greek (, ) ...
, and were also subjected to
Hellenization Hellenization (other British spelling Hellenisation) or Hellenism is the adoption of Greek culture Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior and Norm (social), norms found in human Society, societies, as well as t ...
. They maintained close relations with the Bosporan Kingdom, with whose dynasty they were linked by marriage. A separate Scythian territory, known as Scythia Minor, existed in modern-day
Dobruja Dobruja or Dobrudja (; bg, Добруджа, Dobrudzha or ''Dobrudža''; ro, Dobrogea, or ; tr, Dobruca) is a historical region in the Balkans that has been divided since the 19th century between the territories of Bulgaria and Romania. I ...

Dobruja
, but was of little significance. In the 2nd century BC, the Scythian kings Skilurus and Palakus sought to extend their control over the Greek cities north of the Black Sea. The Greek cities of Chersonesus and Olbia in turn requested the aid of
Mithridates the Great Mithridates or Mithradates VI Eupator ( grc-gre, Μιθραδάτης; 135–63 BC) was ruler of the Kingdom of Pontus The Kingdom of Pontus ( grc, Βασιλεία τοῦ Πόντου, ''Basileía toû Póntou'') was a Hellenistic-era kingdo ...
, king of Pontus, whose general
Diophantus Diophantus of Alexandria ( grc, Διόφαντος ὁ Ἀλεξανδρεύς; born probably sometime between AD 200 and 214; died around the age of 84, probably sometime between AD 284 and 298) was an Alexandria Alexandria ( or ; ar, ال ...
defeated their armies in battle, took their capital and annexed their territory to the Bosporan Kingdom. After this time, the Scythians practically disappeared from history. Scythia Minor was also defeated by Mithridates. In the years after the death of Mithridates, the Scythians had transitioned to a settled way of life and were assimilating into neighboring populations. They made a resurgence in the 1st century AD and laid siege to Chersonesos, who were obliged to seek help from the
Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Republican Republican can refer to: Political ideology * An advocate of a republic, a type of governme ...

Roman Empire
. The Scythians were in turn defeated by Roman commander
Tiberius Plautius Silvanus Aelianus Tiberius Plautius Silvanus Aelianus was a Roman Empire, Roman Patrician (ancient Rome), patrician who twice served as Roman consul, consul, in 45 and 74 AD. He was the adopted nephew of Plautia Urgulanilla, first wife of the emperor Claudius. It ...
. By the 2nd century AD, archaeological evidence show that the Scythians had been largely assimilated by the Sarmatians and
Alans The Alans or Alāns (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of th ...

Alans
. The capital city of the Scythians, Scythian Neapolis, was destroyed by migrating
Goths The Goths ( got, 𐌲𐌿𐍄𐌸𐌹𐌿𐌳𐌰, translit=''Gutþiuda''; la, Gothi) were a Germanic people Germanic may refer to: * Germanic peoples The historical Germanic peoples (from lat, Germani) are a category of ancient northern ...
in the mid-3rd century AD. In subsequent centuries, remaining Scythians and Sarmatians were largely assimilated by
early Slavs The early Slavs were a diverse group of tribal societies The term tribe is used in many different contexts to refer to a category of human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most populous and widespread species of primates, characterized ...
. The Scythians and Sarmatians played an instrumental role in the
ethnogenesis Ethnogenesis (from Greek Language, Greek ''ethnos'' , "group of people, nation" and ''genesis'' , "beginning, coming into being"; plural ethnogeneses) is "the formation and development of an ethnic group". This can originate through a process of ...
of the
Ossetians The Ossetians or Ossetes (, ; os, ир, ирæттæ, , дигорӕ, дигорӕнттӕ, ), are an Iranian Iranian may refer to: * Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran ( fa, ...

Ossetians
, who are considered direct descendants of the Alans.: "Iranian-speaking nomadic tribes, specifically the Scythians and Sarmatians, are special among the North Caucasian peoples. The Scytho-Sarmatians were instrumental in the ethnogenesis of some of the modern peoples living today in the Caucasus. Of importance in this group are the Ossetians, an Iranian-speaking group of people who are believed to have descended from the North Caucasian Alans."


Archaeology

Archaeological remains of the Scythians include
kurgan A kurgan (russian: link=no, курга́н, uk, link=no, курга́н, висока могила) is a type of tumulus A tumulus (plural tumuli) is a mound A mound is a heaped pile of earth Earth is the third planet fr ...
tombs (ranging from simple exemplars to elaborate "Royal kurgans" containing the "Scythian triad" of weapons, horse-harness, and Scythian-style wild-animal art),
gold Gold is a chemical element In chemistry, an element is a pure Chemical substance, substance consisting only of atoms that all have the same numbers of protons in their atomic nucleus, nuclei. Unlike chemical compounds, chemical elemen ...

gold
,
silk Silk is a natural Nature, in the broadest sense, is the natural, physical, material world or universe The universe ( la, universus) is all of space and time and their contents, including planets, stars, galaxies, and all o ...

silk
, and animal sacrifices, in places also with suspected
human sacrifice #REDIRECT Human sacrifice Human sacrifice is the act of killing one or more humans as part of a ritual A ritual is a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, actions, or objects, performed in a sequestered place and according to a set ...
s.
Mummification A mummy is a dead human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most abundant and widespread species In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, B ...
techniques and
permafrost Permafrost is ground that continuously remains below 0 °C (32 °F) for two or more years, located on land or under the ocean The ocean (also the or the world ocean) is the body of that covers approximately 70.8% of the surfa ...

permafrost
have aided in the relative preservation of some remains. Scythian archaeology also examines the remains of cities and fortifications. Scythian archaeology can be divided into three stages: * Early Scythian – from the mid-8th or the late 7th century BC to about 500 BC * Classical Scythian or Mid-Scythian – from about 500 BC to about 300 BC * Late Scythian – from about 200 BC to the mid-3rd century CE, in the
Crimea Crimea; crh, Къырым, translit=Kirim/Qırım; grc, Κιμμερία/Ταυρική, translit=Kimmería/Taurikḗ is a peninsula A peninsula ( la, paeninsula from 'almost' and 'island') is a landform A landform is a natural ...

Crimea
and the Lower
Dnieper } The Dnieper or Dnipro () is one of the major list of rivers of Europe, rivers of Europe, rising in the Valdai Hills near Smolensk, Russia, before flowing through Belarus and Ukraine to the Black Sea. It is the longest river of Ukraine and ...

Dnieper
, by which time the population was settled.


Early Scythian

In the south of
Eastern Europe Eastern Europe is the eastern region of Europe Europe is a continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven geographical reg ...

Eastern Europe
, Early Scythian culture replaced sites of the so-called Novocherkassk culture. The date of this transition is disputed among archaeologists. Dates ranging from the mid-8th century to the late 7th century BC have been proposed. A transition in the late 8th century BC has gained the most scholarly support. The origins of the Early Scythian culture is controversial. Many of its elements are of Central Asian origin, but the culture appears to have reached its ultimate form on the Pontic steppe, partially through the influence of North Caucasian elements and to a smaller extent the influence of
Near East The Near East ( ar, الشرق الأدنى, al-Sharq al-'Adnā, he, המזרח הקרוב, arc, ܕܢܚܐ ܩܪܒ, fa, خاور نزدیک, Xāvar-e nazdik, tr, Yakın Doğu) is a geographical term which roughly encompasses a transcontinental ...
ern elements. The period in the 8th and 7th centuries BC when the Cimmerians and Scythians raided the Near East are ascribed to the later stages of the Early Scythian culture. Examples of Early Scythian burials in the Near East include those of Norşuntepe and İmirler. Objects of Early Scythian type have been found in
Urartian The Urartian or Vannic language was spoken by the inhabitants of the ancient kingdom of Urartu, located in the region of Lake Van, with its capital near the site of the modern town of Van, Turkey, Van, in the modern-day Armenian Highlands area of T ...

Urartian
fortresses such as
Teishebaini Teishebaini (also Teshebani, modern Karmir Blur ( hy, Կարմիր Բլուր) referring more to the hill that the fortress is located upon) was the capital of the Transcaucasian provinces of the ancient kingdom of Urartu. It is located near the ...
,
Bastam Bastam ( fa, بسطام, also romanization, romanized as Basṭām; also known as Busṭām and Bisṭām) is a city in and capital of the Bastam District of Shahrud County, Semnan Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 7,382, in 1 ...
and Ayanis-kale. Near Eastern influences are probably explained through objects made by Near Eastern craftsmen on behalf of Scythian chieftains. Early Scythian culture is known primarily from its funerary sites, because the Scythians at this time were nomads without permanent settlements. The most important sites are located in the northwestern parts of Scythian territories in the forest steppes of the Dnieper, and the southeastern parts of Scythian territories in the North Caucasus. At this time it was common for the Scythians to be buried in the edges of their territories. Early Scythian sites are characterized by similar artifacts with minor local variations.
Kurgan A kurgan (russian: link=no, курга́н, uk, link=no, курга́н, висока могила) is a type of tumulus A tumulus (plural tumuli) is a mound A mound is a heaped pile of earth Earth is the third planet fr ...

Kurgan
s from the Early Scythian culture have been discovered in the North Caucasus. Some if these are characterized by great wealth, and probably belonged royals of aristocrats. They contain not only the deceased, but also horses and even chariots. The burial rituals carried out in these
kurgan A kurgan (russian: link=no, курга́н, uk, link=no, курга́н, висока могила) is a type of tumulus A tumulus (plural tumuli) is a mound A mound is a heaped pile of earth Earth is the third planet fr ...

kurgan
s correspond closely with those described by Herodotus. The greatest kurgans from the Early Scythian culture in the North Caucasus are found at , Novozavedennoe II () and Kostromskaya. One kurgan at Ulsky was found measured at 15 metres in height and contained more than 400 horses. Kurgans from the 7th century BC, when the Scythians were raiding the Near East, typically contain objects of Near Eastern origin. Kurgans from the late 7th century BC, however, contain few Middle Eastern objects, but, rather, objects of Greek origin, pointing to increased contacts between the Scythians and Greek colonists. Important Early Scythian sites have also been found in the forest steppes of the Dnieper. The most important of these finds is the . This kurgan contains several objects of Near Eastern origin so similar to those found at the kurgan in Kelermesskaya that they were probably made in the same workshop. Most of the Early Scythian sites in this area are situated along the banks of the Dnieper and its tributaries. The funerary rites of these sites are similar but not identical to those of the kurgans in the North Caucasus. Important Early Scythian sites have also been discovered in the areas separating the North Caucasus and the forest steppes. These include the Krivorozhskiĭ kurgan on the eastern banks of the
Donets The Seversky Donets (), Siverskyi Donets (), usually simply called the Donets, is a river on the south of the East European Plain. It originates in the Central Russian Upland, north of Belgorod, flows south-east through Ukraine (Kharkiv Oblast, ...
, and the Temir-gora kurgan in the Crimea. Both date to the 7th century BC and contain Greek imports. The Krivorozhskiĭ also display Near Eastern influences. Apart from funerary sites, numerous settlements from the Early Scythian period have been discovered. Most of these settlements are located in the forest steppe zone and are non-fortified. The most important of these sites in the Dnieper area are , and Pastyrskoe. East of these, at the banks of the
Vorskla River The Vorskla (; , pl, Worskla), located in Russia Russia (russian: link=no, Россия, , ), or the Russian Federation, is a country spanning Eastern Europe and Northern Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by area, largest ...
, a tributary of the Dnieper, lies the Bilsk settlement. Occupying an area of 4,400 hectares with an outer rampart at over 30 km, Bilsk is the largest settlement in the forest steppe zone. It has been tentatively identified by a team of archaeologists led by Boris Shramko as the site of Gelonus, the purported capital of Scythia. Another important large settlement can be found at
Myriv Myriv was an ancient (Iron Age) Scythian settlement in Ukraine. It was one of the largest Scythian cities in Ukraine between the rivers of Dniester and Dnieper. It was founded 800-750 BC. In 900-1250 AD it was a Ruthenians, Ruthenian settlement of K ...
. Dating from the 7th and 6th centuries BC, Myriv contains a significant amount of imported Greek objects, testifying to lively contacts with
Borysthenes Borysthenes ( grc, Βορυσθένης) is a geographical name from classical antiquity. The term usually refers to the Dnieper River } The Dnieper is one of the major rivers of Europe, rising in the Valdai Hills near Smolensk, Russia ...
, the first Greek colony established on the Pontic steppe (ca. 625 BC). Within the ramparts in these settlements there were areas without buildings, which were probably occupied by nomadic Scythians seasonally visiting the sites. The Early Scythian culture came to an end in the latter part of the 6th century BC.


Classical Scythian

By the end of the 6th century BC, a new period begins in the material culture of the Scythians. Certain scholars consider this a new stage in the Scythian culture, while others consider it an entirely new archaeological culture. It is possible that this new culture arose through the settlement of a new wave of nomads from the east, who intermingled with the local Scythians. The Classical Scythian period saw major changes in Scythian material culture, both with regards to weapons and art style. This was largely through Greek influence. Other elements had probably been brought from the east. Like in Early Scythian culture, the Classical Scythian culture is primarily represented through funerary sites. The area of distribution of these sites has, however, changed. Most of them, including the richest, are located on the Pontic steppe, in particular the area around the
Dnieper Rapids The Dnieper Rapids ( uk, Дніпрові пороги, ) are the historical rapids on the Dnieper river composed of outcrop An outcrop or rocky outcrop is a visible exposure of bedrock Bedrock in geology Geology (from the Ancient Gr ...
. At the end of the 6th century BC, new funerary rites appeared, characterized by more complex kurgans. This new style was rapidly adopted throughout Scythian territory. Like before, elite burials usually contained horses. A buried king was usually accompanied with multiple people from his entourage. Burials containing both males and females are quite common both in elite burials and in the burials of the common people. The most important Scythian kurgans of the Classical Scythian culture in the 6th and 5th centuries BC are Ostraya Tomakovskaya Mogila, Zavadskaya Mogila 1, Novogrigor'evka 5, Baby and Raskopana Mogila in the Dnieper Rapids, and the Zolotoi and Kulakovskiĭ kurgans in the Crimea. The greatest, so-called "royal" kurgans of the Classical Scythian culture are dated to the 4th century BC. These include Solokha, , , , and . The second greatest, so-called "aristocratic" kurgans, include , Tovsta Mohyla, Chmyreva Mogila, Five Brothers 8, , and . Excavation at kurgan Sengileevskoe-2 found gold bowls with coatings indicating a strong opium beverage was used while cannabis was burning nearby. The gold bowls depicted scenes showing clothing and weapons. By the time of Classical Scythian culture, the North Caucasus appears to no longer be under Scythian control. Rich kurgans in the North Caucasus have been found at the , and Ulyap, but although they contain elements of Scythian culture, these probably belonged to an unrelated local population. Rich kurgans of the forest steppe zone from the 5th and 4th centuries BC have been discovered at places such as , but these are not as grand as the kurgans of the steppe further south. Funerary sites with Scythian characteristics have also been discovered in several Greek cities. These include several unusually rich burials such as
Kul-Oba Kul-Oba (; , crh, Kül Oba; meaning "hill of ash" in Crimean Tatar) is an ancient archaeological site, a Scythian The Scythians (from grc, Σκύθης , ) or Scyths, also known as Saka and Sakae ( ; egy, 𓋴𓎝𓎡𓈉 The a ...
(near
Panticapaeum Panticapaeum ( grc, Παντικάπαιον, Pantikápaion) was an ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient world from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It i ...

Panticapaeum
in the Crimea) and the necropolis of Nymphaion. The sites probably represent Scythian aristocrats who had close ties, if not family ties, with the elite of Nymphaion and aristocrats, perhaps even royals, of the Bosporan Kingdom. In total, more than 3,000 Scythian funerary sites from the 4th century BC have been discovered on the Pontic steppe. This number far exceeds the number of all funerary sites from previous centuries. Apart from funerary sites, remains of Scythian cities from this period have been discovered. These include both continuations from the Early Scythian period and newly founded settlements. The most important of these is the settlement of on the Dniepr, which existed from the 5th century to the beginning of the 3rd century BC. It was a fortified settlement occupying an area of 12 square km. The chief occupation of its inhabitants appears to have been metalworking, and the city was probably an important supplier of metalwork for the nomadic Scythians. Part of the population was probably composed of agriculturalists. It is likely that Kamenskoe also served as a political center in Scythia. A significant part of Kamenskoe was not built up, perhaps to set it aside for the Scythian king and his entourage during their seasonal visits to the city.
János Harmatta János Harmatta (2 October 1917 – 24 July 2004) was a HungarianHungarian may refer to: * Hungary, a country in Central Europe * Kingdom of Hungary, state of Hungary, existing between 1000 and 1946 * Hungarians, ethnic groups in Hungary * Hung ...

János Harmatta
suggests that Kamenskoe served as a residence for the Scythian king Ateas. By the 4th century BC, it appears that some of the Scythians were adopting an agricultural way of life similar to the peoples of the forest steppes. As a result, a number of fortified and non-fortified settlements spring up in the areas of the lower Dnieper. Part of the settled inhabitants of Olbia were also of Scythian origin. Classical Scythian culture lasts until the late 4th century or early 3rd century BC.


Late Scythian

The last period in the Scythian archaeological culture is the Late Scythian culture, which existed in the Crimea and the Lower Dnieper from the 3rd century BC. This area was at the time mostly settled by Scythians. Archaeologically the Late Scythian culture has little in common with its predecessors. It represents a fusion of Scythian traditions with those of the Greek colonists and the
Tauri The Tauri (; in Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Glóssa''), generally referred to by speakers simply as Greek (, ) ...
, who inhabited the mountains of the Crimea. The population of the Late Scythian culture was mainly settled, and were engaged in stockbreeding and agriculture. They were also important traders, serving as intermediaries between the classical world and the barbarian world. Recent excavations at implies that this site was the political center of the Scythians in the 3rd century BC and the early part of the 2nd century BC. It was a well-protected fortress constructed in accordance with Greek principles. The most important site of the Late Crimean culture is Scythian Neaoplis, which was located in Crimea and served as the capital of the Late Scythian kingdom from the early 2nd century BC to the beginning of the 3rd century AD. Scythian Neapolis was largely constructed in accordance with Greek principles. Its royal palace was destroyed by
Diophantus Diophantus of Alexandria ( grc, Διόφαντος ὁ Ἀλεξανδρεύς; born probably sometime between AD 200 and 214; died around the age of 84, probably sometime between AD 284 and 298) was an Alexandria Alexandria ( or ; ar, ال ...
, a general of the Kingdom of Pontus, Pontic king Mithridates VI of Pontus, Mithridates VI, at the end of the 2nd century BC, and was not rebuilt. The city nevertheless continued to exist as a major urban center. It underwent significant change from the 1st century to the 2nd century AD, eventually being left with virtually no buildings except from its fortifications. New funerary rites and material features also appear. It is probable that these changes represent the assimilation of the Scythians by the Sarmatians. A certain continuity is, however, observable. From the end of the 2nd century to the middle of the 3rd century AD, Scythian Neapolis transforms into a non-fortified settlement containing only a few buildings. Apart from Scythian Neapolis and Ak-Kaya/Vishennoe, more than 100 fortified and non-fortified settlements from the Late Scythian culture have been discovered. They are often accompanied by a necropolis. Late Scythian sites are mostly found in areas around the foothills of the Crimean mountains and along the western coast of the Crimea. Some of these settlements had earlier been Greek settlements, such as Kalos Limen and Kerkinitis. Many of these coastal settlements served as trading ports. The largest Scythian settlements after Neapolis and Ak-Kaya-Vishennoe were , and . Like Neapolis and Ak-Kaya, these are characterized by a combination of Greek architectural principles and local ones. A unique group of Late Scythian settlements were city-states located on the banks of the Lower Dnieper. The material culture of these settlements was even more Hellenized than those on the Crimea, and they were probably closely connected to Olbia, if not dependent it. Burials of the Late Scythian culture can be divided into two kurgans and necropolises, with necropolises becoming more and more common as time progresses. The largest such necropolis has been found at Ust-Alma. Because of close similarities between the material culture of the Late Scythians and that of neighbouring Greek cities, many scholars have suggested that Late Scythian cites, particularly those of the Lower Dnieper, were populated at last partly by Greeks. Influences of Sarmatian elements and the La Tène culture have been pointed out. The Late Scythian culture ends in the 3rd century AD.


Culture and society

Since the Scythians did not have a written language, their non-material culture can only be pieced together through writings by non-Scythian authors, parallels found among other Iranian peoples, and archaeological evidence. In a fragment from the comic writer Euphron quoted in ''Deipnosophistae'' poppy seeds are mentioned as a "food which the Scythians love".


Tribal divisions

Scythians lived in Confederation, confederated tribes, a political form of voluntary association which regulated pastures and organised a common defence against encroaching neighbours for the pastoral tribes of mostly Domestication of the horse, equestrian herdsmen. While the productivity of domesticated animal-breeding greatly exceeded that of the settled agricultural societies, the pastoral economy also needed supplemental agricultural produce, and stable nomadic confederations developed either symbiotic or forced alliances with sedentary peoples—in exchange for animal produce and military protection. Herodotus relates that three main tribes of the Scythians descended from three sons of Targitaus: Lipoxais, Arpoxais, and Colaxais. They called themselves Scoloti, after one of their kings. Herodotus writes that the Auchatae tribe descended from Lipoxais, the Catiari and Traspians from Arpoxais, and the Paralatae (Royal Scythians) from Colaxais, who was the youngest brother., :Wikisource:The History of Herodotus (Rawlinson)/Book 4, 4.5–4.7 According to Herodotus the Royal Scythians were the largest and most powerful Scythian tribe, and looked "upon all the other tribes in the light of slaves.", :Wikisource:The History of Herodotus (Rawlinson)/Book 4, 4.20 Although scholars have traditionally treated the three tribes as geographically distinct, Georges Dumézil interpreted the divine gifts as the symbols of social occupations, illustrating his trifunctional hypothesis, trifunctional vision of early Proto-Indo-European society, Indo-European societies: the plough and yoke symbolised the farmers, the axe—the warriors, the bowl—the priests. The first scholar to compare the three strata of Scythian society to the Indian castes was Arthur Christensen. According to Dumézil, "the fruitless attempts of Arpoxais and Lipoxais, in contrast to the success of Colaxais, may explain why the highest strata was not that of farmers or magicians, but, rather, that of warriors."


Warfare

The Scythians were a warlike people. When engaged at war, almost the entire adult population, including a large number of women, participated in battle. The Athenian historian Thucydides noted that no people in either Europe or Asia could resist the Scythians without outside aid. Scythians were particularly known for their equestrianism, equestrian skills, and their early use of composite bows shot from horseback. With great mobility, the Scythians could absorb the attacks of more cumbersome footsoldiers and cavalry, just retreating into the steppes. Such tactics wore down their enemies, making them easier to defeat. The Scythians were notoriously aggressive warriors. Ruled by small numbers of closely allied elites, Scythians had a reputation for their Archery, archers, and many gained employment as mercenary, mercenaries. Scythian elites had
kurgan A kurgan (russian: link=no, курга́н, uk, link=no, курга́н, висока могила) is a type of tumulus A tumulus (plural tumuli) is a mound A mound is a heaped pile of earth Earth is the third planet fr ...

kurgan
tombs: high barrows heaped over chamber-tombs of larch wood, a deciduous conifer that may have had special significance as a tree of life-renewal, for it stands bare in winter. The Greek historian
Herodotus Herodotus ( ; grc, Ἡρόδοτος, Hēródotos, ; BC) was an Classical Greece, ancient Greek writer, geographer, and historian born in the Greek city of Halicarnassus, part of the Achaemenid Empire, Persian Empire (now Bodrum, Turkey). He ...
said that the Scythians Scalping, scalped their enemies. Herodotus related that Scythian warriors would Headhunting, behead the enemies they defeated in battle and present the heads to their king to claim their share of the plunder. Then, the warrior would skin the head “by making a circular cut round the ears and shaking out the skull; he then scrapes the flesh off the skin with the rib of an ox, and when it is clean works it with his fingers until it is supple, and fit to be used as a sort of handkerchief. He hangs these handkerchiefs on the bridle of his horse, and is very proud of them. The best man is the man who has the greatest number.” A skull from an Iron Age cemetery in South Siberia shows evidence of scalping. It lends physical evidence to the practice of scalp taking by the Scythians living there. The Ziwiye hoard, a treasure of gold and silver metalwork and ivory found near the town of Sakiz south of Lake Urmia and dated to between 680 and 625 BC, includes objects with Scythian "animal style" features. One silver dish from this find bears some inscriptions, as yet undeciphered and so possibly representing a form of Scythian writing. Scythians also had a reputation for the use of barbed and poisoned arrows of several types, for a nomadic life centred on horses—"fed from horse-blood" according to Herodotus—and for skill in guerrilla warfare. Some Scythian-Sarmatian cultures may have given rise to Greek stories of Amazons. Graves of armed females have been found in southern Ukraine and Russia. David W. Anthony, David Anthony notes, "About 20% of Scythian-Sarmatian 'warrior graves' on the lower Don and lower Volga contained females dressed for battle as if they were men, a style that may have inspired the Greek tales about the Amazons."


Metallurgy

Though a predominantly nomadic people for much of their history, the Scythians were skilled metalworkers. Knowledge of bronze working was present when the Scythian people formed, by the 8th century BC Scythian mercenaries fighting in the Near East had begun to spread knowledge of iron working to their homeland. Archeological sites attributed to the Scythians have been found to contain the remnants of workshops, slag piles, and discarded tools, all of which imply some Scythian settlements were the site of organized industry.


Clothing

According to Herodotus, Scythian costume consisted of padded and quilted leather trousers tucked into boots, and open tunics. They rode without stirrups or saddles, using only saddle-cloths. Herodotus reports that Scythians used Cannabis (drug), cannabis, both to weave their clothing and to cleanse themselves in its smoke (Hist. 4.73–75); archaeology has confirmed the use of cannabis in funerary rituals. Men seemed to have worn a variety of soft headgear—either conical like the one described by Herodotus, or rounder, more like a Phrygian cap. Costume has been regarded as one of the main identifying criteria for Scythians. Women wore a variety of different headdresses, some conical in shape others more like flattened cylinders, also adorned with metal (golden) plaques. Scythian women wore long, loose robes, ornamented with metal plaques (gold). Women wore shawls, often richly decorated with metal (golden) plaques. Based on numerous archeological findings in Ukraine, southern Russia, and Kazakhstan, men and warrior women wore long sleeve tunics that were always belted, often with richly ornamented belts. Men and women wore long trousers, often adorned with metal plaques and often embroidered or adorned with felt appliqués; trousers could have been wider or tight fitting depending on the area. Materials used depended on the wealth, climate and necessity. Men and women warriors wore variations of long and shorter boots, wool-leather-felt gaiter-boots and moccasin-like shoes. They were either of a laced or simple slip on type. Women wore also soft shoes with metal (gold) plaques. Men and women wore belts. Warrior belts were made of leather, often with gold or other metal adornments and had many attached leather thongs for fastening of the owner's gorytos, sword, whet stone, whip etc. Belts were fastened with metal or horn belt hook, belt-hooks, leather thongs and metal (often golden) or horn belt-plates.


Religion

Scythian religion was a type of Ancient Iranian religion, Pre-Zoroastrian Iranian religion and differed from the post-Zoroastrianism, Zoroastrian Iranian thoughts. The Scythian belief was a more archaic stage than the Zoroastrian and Hinduism, Hindu systems. The use of cannabis (drug), cannabis to induce trance and divination by soothsayers was a characteristic of the Scythian belief system. Our most important literary source on Scythian religion is Herodotus. According to him the leading deity in the Scythian pantheon was Tabiti, whom he compared to the Greek god Hestia. Tabiti was eventually replaced by Atar, the fire-pantheon of Iranian tribes, and Agni, the fire deity of Indo-Aryans. Other deities mentioned by Herodotus include Papaios, Api, Goitosyros/Oitosyros, Argimpasa and Thagimasadas, whom he identified with Zeus, Gaia, Apollo, Aphrodite and Poseidon, respectively. The Scythians are also said by Herodotus to have worshipped equivalents of Heracles and Ares, but he does not mention their Scythian names. An additional Scythian deity, the goddess Dithagoia, is mentioned in the a dedication by Senamotis, daughter of King Skiluros, at Panticapaeum. Most of the names of Scythian deities can be traced back to Iranian roots. Herodotus states that Thagimasadas was worshipped by the Royal Scythians only, while the remaining deities were worshipped by all. He also states that "Ares", the god of war, was the only god to whom the Scythians dedicated statues, altars or temples. Tumuli were erected to him in every Scythian district, and both animal sacrifices and human sacrifices were performed in honor of him. At least one shrine to "Ares" has been discovered by archaeologists. The Scythians had professional priests, but it is not known if they constituted a hereditary class. Among the priests there was a separate group, the Enarei, who worshipped the goddess Argimpasa and assumed feminine identities. Scythian mythology gave much importance to myth of the "First Man", who was considered the ancestor of them and their kings. Similar myths are common among other Iranian peoples. Considerable importance was given to the division of Scythian society into three hereditary classes, which consisted of warriors, priests and producers. Kings were considered part of the warrior class. Royal power was considered holy and of solar and heavenly origin. The Iranian principle of royal charisma, known as khvarenah in the Avesta, played a prominent role in Scythian society. It is probable that the Scythians had a number of epic legends, which were possibly the source for Herodotus' writings on them. Traces of these epics can be found in the epics of the Ossetians of the present day. In Scythian cosmology the world was divided into three parts, with the warriors, considered part of the upper world, the priests of the middle level, and the producers of the lower one.


Art

The art of the Scythians and related peoples of the Scythian cultures is known as
Scythian art Scythian art is the art associated with Scythian cultures Scythian cultures, also referred to as Scythic cultures, Scytho-Siberian cultures, Early Nomadic cultures, Scythian civilization, Scythian horizon, Scythian world or Scythian continuum, wer ...
. It is particularly characterized by its use of the animal style. Scythian animal style appears in an already established form Eastern Europe in the 8th century BC along with the Early Scythian archaeological culture itself. It bears little resemblance to the art of pre-Scythian cultures of the area. Some scholars suggest the art style developed under Near Eastern influence during the military campaigns of the 7th century BC, but the more common theory is that it developed on the eastern part of the Eurasian Steppe under Chinese influence. Others have sought to reconcile the two theories, suggesting that the animal style of the west and eastern parts of the steppe developed independently of each other, under Near Eastern and Chinese influences, respectively. Regardless, the animal style art of the Scythians differs considerable from that of peoples living further east. Scythian animal style works are typically divided into birds, ungulates and beasts of prey. This probably reflects the tripatriate division of the Scythian cosmos, with birds belonging to the upper level, ungulates to the middle level and beasts of prey in the lower level. Images of mythological creatures such a griffins are not uncommon in Scythian animal style, but these are probably the result of Near Eastern influences. By the late 6th century BC, as Scythian activity in the Near East was reduced, depictions of mythological creatures largely disappears from Scythian art. It, however, reappears again in the 4th century BC as a result of Greek influence. Anthropomorphic depictions in Early Scythian art is known only from kurgan stelae. These depict warriors with almond-shaped eyes and mustaches, often including weapons and other military equipment. Since the 5th century BC, Scythian art changed considerably. This was probably a result of Greek and Persian influence, and possibly also internal developments caused by an arrival of a new nomadic people from the east. The changes are notable in the more realistic depictions of animals, who are now often depicted fighting each other rather than being depicted individually. Kurgan stelae of the time also display traces of Greek influences, with warriors being depicted with rounder eyes and full beards. The 4th century BC show additional Greek influence. While animal style was still in use, it appears that much Scythian art by this point was being made by Greek craftsmen on behalf of Scythians. Such objects are frequently found in royal Scythian burials of the period. Depictions of human beings become more prevalent. Many objects of Scythian art made by Greeks are probably illustrations of Scythian legends. Several objects are believed to have been of religious significance. By the late 3rd century BC, original Scythian art disappears through ongoing Hellenization. The creation of anthropomorphic gravestones continued, however. Works of Scythian art are held at many museums and has been featured at many exhibitions. The largest collections of Scythian art are found at the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg and the Museum of Historical Treasures of the Ukraine in Kyiv, while smaller collections are found at the Staatliche Antikensammlungen in Berlin, the Ashmolean Museum of Oxford, and the Louvre of Paris.


Language

The Scythians spoke a language belonging to the Scythian languages, most probably a branch of the Eastern Iranian languages. Whether all the peoples included in the "Scytho-Siberian" archaeological culture spoke languages from this family is uncertain. The Scythian languages may have formed a dialect continuum: "Scytho-Sarmatian" in the west and "Scytho-Khotanese" or Saka language, Saka in the east. The Scythian languages were mostly marginalised and assimilated as a consequence of the late antiquity and early Middle Ages Slavs, Slavic and Turkic expansion. The western (Sarmatian) group of ancient Scythian survived as the medieval language of the
Alans The Alans or Alāns (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of th ...

Alans
and eventually gave rise to the modern Ossetian language.


Anthropology

Physical and genetic analyses of ancient remains have concluded that Scythians as a whole possessed predominantly features of Europoids. Mongoloid phenotypes were also present in some Scythians but more frequently in eastern Scythians, suggesting that some Scythians were also descended partly from East Eurasian populations.


Physical appearance

In artworks, the Scythians are portrayed exhibiting Caucasoid traits. In ''Histories (Herodotus), Histories'', the 5th-century BC Greek historian Herodotus describes the Budini of Scythia as red hair, red-haired and grey-eyed. In the 5th century BC, Greek physician Hippocrates argued that the Scythians were light skinned
20
"The Scythians are a ruddy race because of the cold, not through any fierceness in the sun's heat. It is the cold that burns their white skin and turns it ruddy."
as well as having a particularly high rate of hypermobility (joints), hypermobility, to a point of affecting warfare. In the 3rd century BC, the Greek poet Callimachus described the Arismapes (Arimaspi) of Scythia as fair-haired.
Hymn IV. To Delos. 291
"The first to bring thee these offerings fro the fair-haired Arimaspi ..
The 2nd-century BC Han China, Han Chinese envoy Zhang Qian described the Sai (Saka), an eastern people closely related to the Scythians, as having yellow (probably meaning hazel or green) and blue eyes. In ''Natural History (Pliny), Natural History'', the 1st-century AD Roman author Pliny the Elder characterises the Seres, sometimes identified as Saka or Tocharians, as red-haired, blue-eyed and unusually tall.
Book VI, Chap. 24
". These people, they said, exceeded the ordinary human height, had flaxen hair, and blue eyes ..
In the late 2nd century AD, the Christian theology, Christian theologian Clement of Alexandria says that the Scythians and the
Celts The Celts (, see pronunciation of ''Celt'' for different usages) are. "CELTS location: Greater Europe time period: Second millennium B.C.E. to present ancestry: Celtic a collection of Indo-European peoples The Indo-European languages ar ...

Celts
have long auburn hair., :Wikisource:Ante-Nicene Christian Library/The Instructor: Book 3, Book 3. Chapter III "Of the nations, the Celts and Scythians wear their hair long, but do not deck themselves. The bushy hair of the barbarian has something fearful in it; and its auburn (ξανθόν) colour threatens war .. The 2nd-century Greek philosopher Polemon of Laodicea, Polemon includes the Scythians among the northern peoples characterised by red hair and blue-grey eyes. In the late 2nd or early 3rd century AD, the Greek physician Galen writes that Scythians, Sarmatians, Illyrians, Germanic peoples and other northern peoples have reddish hair., De Temperamentis. Book 2 "Ergo Aegyptii, Arabes, & Indi, omnes denique qui calidam & siccam regionem incolunt, nigros, exiguique incrementi, siccos, crispos, & fragiles pilos habent. Contra qui humidam, frigidamque regionem habitant, Illyrii, Germani, Sarmatae, & omnis Scytica plaga, modice auctiles, & graciles, & rectos, & rufos optinent. Qui uero inter hos temperatum colunt tractum, hi pilos plurimi incrementi, & robustissimos, & modice nigros, & mediocriter crassos, tum nec prorsus crispos, nec omnino rectos edunt." The fourth-century Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus wrote that the Alans, a people closely related to the Scythians, were tall, blond and light-eyed., :Wikisource:Roman History/Book XXXI#II, Book XXI, II, 21 "Nearly all the Alani are men of great stature and beauty; their hair is somewhat yellow, their eyes are terribly fierce" The fourth-century bishop Gregory of Nyssa wrote that the Scythians were fair skinned and blond haired. The 5th-century physician Adamantius (physician), Adamantius, who often followed Polemon, describes the Scythians as fair-haired.


Genetics

In 2017, a genetic study of various Scythian cultures, including the Scythians, was published in ''Nature Communications''. The study suggested that the Scythians arose as admixture between European-related groups from the Yamnaya culture and
East Asian East Asia is the eastern region In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics (physical geography), human impact characteristics (human geography), and the interaction of humanity and the environment ( ...
/Paleosiberian peoples, Siberian groups. Further they found evidence for massive geneflow from East-Eurasia to West-Eurasia during the early Iron Age. While the origin of the Scythian material culture is disputed, their evidence suggest an origin in the East. Modern populations relative closely related to the ancient Scythians were found to be populations living in proximity to the sites studied, suggesting genetic continuity. Another 2017 genetic study, published in ''Scientific Reports'', found that the Scythians shared common mithocondrial lineages with the earlier
Srubnaya culture The Srubnaya culture (russian: Сру́бная культу́ра, lit=log house culture, translit=Srubnaya kultura), also known as Timber-grave culture, was a Late Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a prehistoric Periodization, period that was ...

Srubnaya culture
. It also noted that the Scythians differed from materially similar groups further east by the absence of east Eurasian mitochondrial lineages. The authors of the study suggested that the Srubnaya culture was the source of the Scythian cultures of at least the Pontic steppe. Krzewińska et al. (2018) found that the historical Central Asian Steppe population was genetically heterogeneous and carried genetic affinities with populations from several other regions including the Far East and the southern Urals. In 2019, a genetic study of remains from the Aldy-Bel culture of southern Siberia and proper Scythians from the Pontic–Caspian steppe, which are materially similar to each other, was published in Human Genetics (journal), ''Human Genetics''. They identified Scythians as mix of West-Eurasian and East-Eurasian lineages. East Asian admixture was estimated at 26,3%. The samples of Aldy-Bel in contrast revealed increased East-Eurasian ancestry. The results indicated that the Scythians and the Aldy-Bel people were of different origins, with almost no gene flow between them. Järve et al. (2019) found that the nomadic Scythians were of different genetic origins. They suggested that migrations must have played a role in the emergence of the Scythians as the dominant power on the Pontic steppe.. "The Early Iron Age nomadic Scythians have been described as a confederation of tribes of different origins, based on ancient DNA evidence [1, 2, 3]. All samples of this study also possessed at least one additional eastern component, one of which was nearly at 100% in modern Nganasans (orange) and the other in modern Han Chinese (yellow; Figure S2). The eastern components were present in variable proportions in the samples of this study." A 2021 study by Gnecchi-Ruscone et al., concluded that the Scythians were of multiple origin and that they originated from an admixture event in the Bronze Age. They further concluded that their evidence does not support an origin of the Scythian material culture from the Pontic-Caspian Steppe. The Scythians genetically formed from mixture between steppe_MLBA sources (which could be associated with different cultures such as Sintashta, Srubnaya, and Andronovo) and a specific East-Eurasian source that was already present during the LBA in the neighboring northern Mongolia region.


Legacy


Late Antiquity

In Late Antiquity and the
Middle Ages In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the study, organization and presentation and the interpretation of past events and affairs of the people of Europe since the beginning of w ...
, the name "Scythians" was used in Greco-Roman literature for various groups of nomadic "barbarians" living on the Pontic-Caspian steppe. This includes
Huns The Huns were a nomadic people who lived in Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Eastern Europe between the 4th and 6th century AD. According to European tradition, they were first reported living east of the Volga River, in an area that was part ...

Huns
, Goths, Ostrogoths,
Turkic peoples The Turkic peoples are a collection of ethnic groups of Central Asia, Central, East Asia, East, North Asia, North and West Asia as well as parts of Europe and North Africa, who speak Turkic languages.. "Turkic peoples, any of various peoples w ...
, Pannonian Avars and
Khazars The Khazars; he, כוזרים, Kuzarim; la, Gazari, or ; zh, 突厥曷薩 ; 突厥可薩部 ''Tūjué Kěsà bù'' () were a semi-nomad A nomad ( frm, nomade "people without fixed habitation") is a member of a community without fixe ...

Khazars
. None of these peoples had any relation whatsoever with the actual Scythians. Byzantine sources also refer to the Rus' people, Rus' raiders who Siege of Constantinople (860), attacked Constantinople circa 860 in contemporary accounts as "Tauroscythians", because of their geographical origin, and despite their lack of any ethnic relation to Scythians. Photios I of Constantinople, Patriarch Photius may have first applied the term to them during the Siege of Constantinople (860), siege of Constantinople.


Early Modern usage

Owing to their reputation as established by Greek historians, the Scythians long served as the epitome of savagery and barbarism. The New Testament includes a single reference to Scythians in Colossians 3:11: in a letter ascribed to Paul the Apostle, Paul, "Scythian" is used as an example of people whom some label pejoratively, but who are, in Christ, acceptable to God: Shakespeare, for instance, alluded to the legend that Scythians ate their children in his play ''King Lear'': Characteristically, early modern English language, English discourse on Ireland, such as that of William Camden and Edmund Spenser, frequently resorted to comparisons with Scythians in order to confirm that the indigenous population of Ireland descended from these ancient "bogeymen", and showed themselves as barbaric as their alleged ancestors.


Descent claims

Some legends of the Poles, the Picts, the Gaels, the Hungarians, among others, also include mention of Scythian origins. Some writers claim that Scythians figured in the formation of the empire of the
Medes relief, bas-relief shows a Mede soldier behind a Persian soldier, in Persepolis, Iran The Medes ( peo, wiktionary:𐎶𐎠𐎭, 𐎶𐎠𐎭 ; akk, , ; grc, wiktionary:Μῆδοι, Μῆδοι ) were an Iranian peoples, ancient Iranian ...
and likewise of Caucasian Albania. The Scythians also feature in some national origin-legends of the Celts. In the second paragraph of the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath, the élite of Scotland claim Scythia as a former homeland of the Scottish people, Scots. According to the 11th-century Lebor Gabála Érenn (''The Book of the Taking of Ireland''), the 14th-century Auraicept na n-Éces and other Irish folklore, the Irish people, Irish originated in Scythia and were descendants of Fénius Farsaid, a Scythian prince who created the Ogham alphabet. The Carolingian kings of the Franks traced Merovingian ancestry to the Germanic tribe of the Sicambri. Gregory of Tours documents in his ''History of the Franks'' that when Clovis I, Clovis was baptised, he was referred to as a Sicamber with the words "Mitis depone colla, Sicamber, adora quod incendisti, incendi quod adorasti." The Chronicle of Fredegar in turn reveals that the Franks believed the Sicambri to be a tribe of Scythian or Cimmerian descent, who had changed their name to Franks in honour of their chieftain Franco in 11 BC. In the 17th and 18th centuries, foreigners regarded the Russians as descendants of Scythians. It became conventional to refer to Russians as Scythians in 18th-century poetry, and Alexander Blok drew on this tradition sarcastically in his last major poem, ''The Scythians'' (1920). In the 19th century, romantic revisionists in the West transformed the "barbarian" Scyths of literature into the wild and free, hardy and democratic ancestors of all blond Proto-Indo-Europeans, Indo-Europeans. Based on such accounts of Scythian founders of certain Germanic as well as Celtic tribes, British historiography in the British Empire period such as Sharon Turner in his ''History of the Anglo-Saxons'', made them the ancestors of the Anglo-Saxons. The idea was taken up in the British Israelism of John Wilson (historian), John Wilson, who adopted and promoted the idea that the "European Race, in particular the Anglo-Saxons, were descended from certain Scythian tribes, and these Scythian tribes (as many had previously stated from the Middle Ages onward) were in turn descended from the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel." Tudor Parfitt, author of The Lost Tribes of Israel and Professor of Modern Jewish Studies, points out that the proof cited by adherents of British Israelism is "of a feeble composition even by the low standards of the genre." Legends about the origin of the population from the Scythian ancestor Targitai – son of Borisfen's daughter (that was the name of the Dnipro river in antiquity) – are popular in
Ukraine Ukraine ( uk, Україна, Ukraïna, ) is a country in . It is the in Europe after , which it borders to the east and north-east. Ukraine also shares borders with to the north; , , and to the west; and to the south; and has a coastli ...

Ukraine
. In Ukraine, which territory Herodotus described in his work on the Scythians, there are discussions about how serious the influence of the Scythians was on the ethnogenesis of Ukrainians. Currently, there are studies that indicate the relationship of Slavic tribes living in Ukraine with the Scythian plowmen (plough man) and farmers who belonged to the Proto-Slavic Chernoles culture, Chernoles or Black Forest culture. The description of
Scythia lands (shown in orange) c. 170 BC Scythia (, ; from Ancient Greek, Greek: , ) was a region of Central Eurasia in classical antiquity Classical antiquity (also the classical era, classical period or classical age) is the period of cultur ...
by Herodotus is also called the oldest description of Ukraine. Despite the absolute dissimilarity of modern Ukrainian and hypothetical Scythian languages, researchers claim it still left some marks, such as the fricative pronunciation of the letter "г", the specific alternation, etc.


Related ancient peoples

Herodotus and other classical historians listed quite a number of tribes who lived near the Scythians, and presumably shared the same general milieu and nomadic steppe culture, often called "Scythian culture", even though scholars may have difficulties in determining their exact relationship to the "linguistic Scythians". A partial list of these tribes includes the
Agathyrsi Agathyrsi (Scythian The Scythians (from grc, Σκύθης , ) or Scyths, also known as Saka and Sakae ( ; egy, 𓋴𓎝𓎡𓈉 The ancient Egyptian Hill-country or "Foreign land" hieroglyph (𓈉) is a member of the sky, earth, and ...
, Geloni, Budini, and Neuri. * Abii *
Agathyrsi Agathyrsi (Scythian The Scythians (from grc, Σκύθης , ) or Scyths, also known as Saka and Sakae ( ; egy, 𓋴𓎝𓎡𓈉 The ancient Egyptian Hill-country or "Foreign land" hieroglyph (𓈉) is a member of the sky, earth, and ...
* Amardi * Amyrgians * Androphagi * Budini *
Cimmerians The Cimmerians (also Kimmerians; Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is appro ...
* Dahae ** Parni * Gelae (Scythian tribe), Gelae * Gelonians * Hamaxobii *
Huns The Huns were a nomadic people who lived in Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Eastern Europe between the 4th and 6th century AD. According to European tradition, they were first reported living east of the Volga River, in an area that was part ...

Huns
* Indo-Scythians ** Apracharajas ** Kambojas *
Massagetae The Massagetae, or Massageteans, (Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its popul ...
** Apasiacae * Melanchlaeni * Orthocorybantians *
Saka The Saka, Śaka, Shaka, Śāka or Sacae ( ; Kharosthi The Kharosthi script, also spelled Kharoshthi or Kharoṣṭhī (Kharosthi: 𐨑𐨪𐨆𐨯𐨠𐨁) was an ancient Indian script used in Gandhara (now Pakistan and north-eastern Afg ...

Saka
*
Sarmatians The Sarmatians (; Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 mi ...
* Sindi people, Sindi * Spali * Tapur tribe, Tapur *
Tauri The Tauri (; in Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Glóssa''), generally referred to by speakers simply as Greek (, ) ...
* Thyssagetae


See also

*
Scythia lands (shown in orange) c. 170 BC Scythia (, ; from Ancient Greek, Greek: , ) was a region of Central Eurasia in classical antiquity Classical antiquity (also the classical era, classical period or classical age) is the period of cultur ...
*
Scythian art Scythian art is the art associated with Scythian cultures Scythian cultures, also referred to as Scythic cultures, Scytho-Siberian cultures, Early Nomadic cultures, Scythian civilization, Scythian horizon, Scythian world or Scythian continuum, wer ...
* Scythian languages *
Eurasian nomads The Eurasian nomads were a large group of nomad A nomad ( frm, nomade "people without fixed habitation") is a member of a community without fixed habitation who regularly moves to and from the same areas. Such groups include hunter-gatherers, ...
* Nomadic empire * List of rulers of the pre-Achaemenid kingdoms of Iran#Scythian kingdom, c. 700–c. 530 BC, Pre-Achaemenid Scythian kings of Iran


Notes


References


Early sources

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Modern sources

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Further reading

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External links

* * {{Authority control Scythians Historical Iranian peoples Iranian nomads Ancient history of Ukraine Ancient Russia Tribes described primarily by Herodotus