The Scythians as Seen by their Contemporaries
Generally described in the least adulatory way on the Internet, the Scythians suffer from the curse of “damned by faint praise”. They are referred to as a nomadic tribe of barbarians, ruthless in battle, though credited with great skill as warriors. Sometimes they are accused of cannibalism, and at other websites merely of partaking of cannabis. However, their contemporaries in the ancient and classical ages were far more respectful, even flattering in their descriptions of these ancient peoples.
Homer called “most just” and “proud” those who by no means spend their lives on contracts and money getting but actually possess all things in common, except sword and drinking cup.
The previous quote was from Strabo, a Greek philosopher who lived in the 1st and second centuries B.C. Homer lived in the 8th century BC.
The Scythians were what is now referred to as an Indo-European or Iranic people living in Central Asia and appearing in the 7th century BC. Both the term Indo-European and Iranic are slightly tortured as neither Europeans nor Iranians had made their appearance in history at that time although their ancestors certainly had done so, and we are talking about their ancestors.
Aeschylus (6th -5th Century BC.), too, is clearly pleading the cause of the poet when he says about the Scythians: “But the Scythians, law-abiding and eaters of cheese made of mare’s milk.”
Ephorus says that some of the Scythians, who feed only on mare milk, excel all other men in justice.
Most people who are lactose tolerant can trace their ancestry to Europe.
The nation of the Scythians was always regarded as very ancient: though there was long a dispute between them and the Egyptians concerning the antiquity of their respective races. . . . . . . The Egyptians being confounded by these arguments; the Scythians were always accounted the more ancient.”
This quote from Marcus Justianus Justinus indicates that the commonly given dates for the Scythians must be way off as the Old Dynasty of Egypt is set at least 3000 BC. So it follows that the Scythians root even further back in history.
Ephorus (Greek historian5th-4d Centuries BC) says the two fluted anchor, the blower and the potter’s wheel are inventions of Anacharsis, the Scythian (6th Century BC).
Even in so ancient a time, these people were noted for their knack for technological innovation.
Justice is observed among them more from the temper of the people than from the influence of laws. No crime in their opinion is more heinous than theft.
Gold and silver they despise, as much as other men covet them. They live on milk and honey. . .
And so they were quite unlike so many today who pin their hopes on gold and silver.
In addition to this quote being yet another in praise of their virtue and simplicity, it also describes the Scythians as living on milk and honey. Milk and honey you associate with the “land of milk and honey”, that is ancient Israel. Several times the Scythians have been described as eaters of mare milk, but this phrase associates them with the Israelites with whom they have been equated by some researchers.
And yet their military prowess and strength as a nation is also noted.
They thrice aspired to the supreme command in Asia; while they themselves remain unmolested or unconquered by any foreign power.
Darius, king of Persia, they forced to quit Scythia in disgraceful flight. They slew Cyrus with his whole army. They cut off in like manner, Zopyrion, a general of Alexander’s, with all his forces.
So now we come back to the ancient image of the Scythians as a profoundly powerful military people.
Of the arms of the Romans, they have heard but never felt them. They founded the Parthian and Bactrian kingdoms.
What we learn from their contemporaries is that these were a very real people in history who played a major role in military and political history.
The sheep tending Sakae, they used to live in wheat producing Asia, but they are colonists from the nomads, law abiding people, said Choerlius (6th Century BC).
And this assumption even now persists among the Greeks for we regard the Scythian as the most straight-forward of men and the least prone to mischief, as also far more frugal and independent than we are. That quote was from Strabo the Greek and it is another indication from historical sources that these people did not originate in Europe but from the great Central Asian plain.
The nation of Abian Scythians lives in Asia and is independent, chiefly from its poverty and love of justice. This observation is from Arrian, the second century Roman, ethnic Greek, philosopher, military commander and public servant.
And it appears extremely wonderful, that nature would grant that to them that which the Greeks cannot attain by long instruction from their wise men, or from the precepts of their philosophers.
Horace, writing in the 1st century BC, lauds the Scythian’s simple life, whose unalloted acres bring forth fruits and corn for all in common.
And Clearchus, a Spartan general born in the 5th century BC, tells us that:
The nation of the Scythians was the first to use common laws.
As in East, so in West, you might say. Here we have the first reference to the talent for reaping the fruits of the earth that is so much a part of the Caucasian race as well as the development of the very concept of common law.
Scythia became the mother of a very strong nation in the West, and very peaceful and equitable Gentes (people or tribe) in the East. Therefore, some very courageous and robust Gentes originated from Scythia, among first which we find the Thracians, the Germans, the Parthians.
This quote clearly indicates the line of descent from the so very ancient Scythians to the more modern tribes of the Middle East and later to Europe.
And here is a fascinating and odd statement from the ancient times.
The propagation of humankind: It was thus through the Chaldeans, the Scythians and the Egyptians, that the human race was propagated throughout the whole world.
As there is no author of the quote or date provided, one can only speculate. It seems that people in earlier epochs of history but after the very ancient times, understood the relationship of these ancient peoples better than we do, especially as most of us have more than likely never even heard of the Scythians, at least not until recently. And, in a similar way to the Bible, which credits Noah as the Father of all present mankind, this writer sees the related ancient races as progenitors of the human race. Of course, in the Middle Ages and earlier, they were referring to themselves, Europeans or Caucasian Christians and not to all the other races on the planet. That kind of universalism is a modern concoction.
And from a more modern writer, Pikerton, it says:
Epiphanius of Salamis says that the Scythians were the ones who built the Tower of Bable, and his Scythism, extends from this flood to this later events.
And in a more extensive statement,
Scythian monarchy began soon after the Flood,… he says farther that the laws, customs and manners of the Scythians were received by other nations, as the standards of policy, civility and polite learning, and that they were the first after the Flood, who attempted to reform mankind into the notions of courtesy, into the art of government and the art of good manners. Geoffrey Keating
Geoffrey Keating ‘s knowledge of the Scythians indicate that Noah and his progeny were those very people who survived the flood and who founded the kingdom referred to in the paragraph above. What is equally intriguing is that the quote by Epiphanius, a Christian cleric of the 4th Century BC in Judea, indicates that the Sumerians were also descended from the Scythians, and that is was their descendants, or a branch of them, which was responsible for the great building of their first Empires in the Middle East, including the famous Tower of Babel in Babylon.
Keating, a 17th century priest in Ireland, refers to them as a “brave and generous people.” Classical writers credit them with the invention of metallurgy. Hesiod, a Greek philosopher of the 7th century B.C., credited them with the invention of bronze and Plinius, A 1st century AD Roman natural philosopher, with producing the best iron.
These great horse soldiers defeated the Egyptians as early as the 19th century BC and the Assyrians in the 7th century BC. Under Queen Tomyris, they defeated the Persians led by Cyrus. They continued to win great battles against Alexander the Great, the Romans in the 3rd and 1st centuries BC and remained a force in history until their last great victory against the Germano-Romans in the 12th century AD. And to think so few have ever heard of them!
One Internet source tell us that the Scythians “were among the earliest people to master the art of riding, and their mobility astonished their neighbors.” In Alexander’s time they were famous for their talent as mounted archers. The Scythians and their Eastern branch, known as the Sakae, referred to themselves originally by the term skudat, or archer. One of the more often seen statuettes in gold worked by the Scythians is the double sided archers with their Scythian bows. It is the same composite bow that is doubled-back on itself to create more tension, and hence more power to deliver the arrow, that shows up later among the Mongol hordes in later history, particularly the armies of Genghis Khan.
I will not fail to mention the silk, a great incitement of luxury to women and men. A Scythian people, the Seres, first invented this and gave it its name, as Pliny says in Book 6. The first humans known there are the Seres, famous for the fleecy stuff that comes from trees.
Icythus Histories, translated by St. Jerome (4th-5th Centuries AD), affirms Griphon the Scythian was the inventor of longboats or gallies, in the Northern Sea.
And let me take a moment to point out that the famous mythological beast of ancient classical civilization known as the Gryphon, a creature with the head and wings of an eagle and the body of a lion, is said to have originated with the Scythians.
Berossus (3rd Century BC) talks about Scythian letters.
And yet everywhere on the Internet you will find the Scythians referred to as an illiterate people. It is increasingly clear that these were neither a primitive people, or a savage tribe, or knuckle-draggers of any kind but a developed, successful people with a rich civilization.
And it was these same people who migrated in the 7th century BC “into the territory of the Cimmerians, the people who had traditionally controlled the Caucasus and the plains north of the Black Sea. In a war that lasted 30 years, the Scythians destroyed the Cimmerians and set themselves up as rulers of an empire stretching from west Persia through Syria and Judaea to the borders of Egypt. The Medes, who ruled Persia, attacked them and drove them out of Anatolia, leaving them finally in control of lands which stretched from the Persian border north through the Kuban and into southern Russia.”
This kingdom was controlled by a branch of the family known as the Royal Scythians. It was the high point of Scythian civilization, and its location yields the most archeological artifacts, especially of the great kurgan burial sites. Interestingly enough it was in the Caucasus Region at that same timer saw the migration of the Ten Tribes of Israel pass through that region on its way west. And even later in history it became the location of the Khazarian Jewish Empire.
One particular group of Sakas are described as follows: "Sakas wearing the pointed cap" who are portrayed in a sculpture at Behistun and described by Herodotus (7.64) as "clad in trousers" and having "on their heads tall stiff caps rising to a point"; these Sakas lived between the Caspian Sea and the Jaxartes River (Syr Daria). I mention this because the reader will notice this mode of dress in the various rendering of these people in the gold artwork for which they are famous. This same artwork depicts warriors carrying round shields, clad in chain mail armor, and riding horses.
Animals were the particular focus of Scythian artwork. The ability to capture the natural movement of animals, particularly the horse, is one of the most captivating aspects of Scythian art. Other favorite subjects include nursing cows and calves, birds in flight, goats, lions, panthers, boars and another favorite, the reindeer. Indeed, the elaborate, intricate depiction of the antlers of the reindeer is reminiscent of the same treatment of the same subject by the Pazyrk culture in Siberia that may have been a sub-set of the Scythians or a related people to them in Central Asia.
The Hungarian myth of the people they consider their ancestors, the Sumerians, opens another perspective on these people. The story tells of the sons of Nimrod, the great builder of the world after the Flood, who were called Hunor and Magor. The two sons followed a beautiful white stag up into the land that would eventually become Scythia, and later in history, Hungary and so they are considered the founders of the nation of Hungary.
And then we come to the Declaration of Arbroath, this document from 13th century Scotland says plainly that the Scots traced their roots back to the great Scythian nation. The following is an excerpt from that document.
Most Holy Father and Lord, we know and from the chronicles and books of the ancients we find that among other famous nations our own, the Scots, has been graced with widespread renown. They journeyed from Greater Scythia by way of the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Pillars of Hercules, and dwelt for a long course of time in Spain among the most savage tribes, but nowhere could they be subdued by any race, however barbarous. Thence they came, twelve hundred years after the people of Israel crossed the Red Sea, to their home in the west where they still live today. The Britons they first drove out, the Picts they utterly destroyed, and, even though very often assailed by the Norwegians, the Danes and the English, they took possession of that home with many victories and untold efforts; and, as the historians of old time bear witness, they have held it free of all bondage ever since. In their kingdom there have reigned one hundred and thirteen kings of their own royal stock, the line unbroken a single foreigner. The high qualities and deserts of these people, were they not otherwise manifest, gain glory enough from this: that the King of kings and Lord of lords, our Lord Jesus Christ, after His Passion and Resurrection, called them, even though settled in the uttermost parts of the earth, almost the first to His most holy faith. Nor would He have them confirmed in that faith by merely anyone but by the first of His Apostles — by calling, though second or third in rank — the most gentle Saint Andrew, the Blessed Peter's brother, and desired him to keep them under his protection as their patron forever.
The document itself was a plea to the Pope to recognize their right to live independently from the English and govern themselves.
It is evident to me that there is much still left unsaid about these ancient peoples in the modern world than was known about them in yesteryear. With academe’s preoccupation with primitivism, it seems that they cannot escape their own mental cage. It would seem impossible for a primitive people to so quickly morph into sophisticated civilizations in a few centuries after spending countless millennia grunting their way through pre-history. And that is why I find history as it is taught today very difficult to believe.
The Scythians were gifted artists; inventors of numerous forms of technology; farmers as well as brave warriors, extraordinary horsemen, philosophical thinkers and builders of kingdoms. And yet, they are considered a brutal bunch of nomads puffing pot and cannibalizing their neighbors in most of the “academic” websites. It may be the professors who need to stop smoking pot.
Certainly their contemporaries in the classical civilizations were great admirers of the Scythians. And in today’s world, the Russians and the Ukrainians as well as the Hungarians in the East and the Scots and the Irish take great pride in their Scythian roots.
In addition, you can find the roots of many Western cultural traditions, concepts, and ways of perceiving rooted in these ancient people.
And to celebrate your heritage, you might want to tune into the world famous Irish band, The Scythians. You’ll find them on the Internet.