Guide The Scythians 700-300BC

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Scythian kings acted as military leaders more than anything else.

Scythians, B.C. by M.V. Govelik, E.V. Cernenko (Paperback, ) # | eBay

Everyone in Scythian society knew how to ride and shoot, and every adult could mobilize for war. Archaeologists have uncovered grave sites where they discovered women wearing pants, with leg bones slightly deformed from a lifetime of riding, buried alongside arms and armor. Even the women took up arms on the steppe. Despite their relatively low population density, the Scythians could muster relatively large armies. Scythian artwork, at least that which has survived in the archaeological record, was mostly made of metal.

Gold and bronze were particularly popular, indicating that the Scythians possessed permanent settlements with metalworking facilities. Stylized animals were probably the most popular subject matter. There is very, very little evidence of Scythian religion, mythology, or belief, but a geat deal of Scythian artwork is believed to be connected to their myths and legends. Scythian warriors were well known as fierce and brave combatants. Despite this fearsome image, they were not wild savages.

Scythians were disciplined in battle, capable of maneuvering and regrouping in combat to exploit openings and respond to unforeseen changes in the tactical situation.

In the case of dedicated foreign invasion, the Scythians could simply retreat into the steppe. Darius I of Persia invaded the Pontic steppe, and the Scythians withdrew, using a scorched earth strategy and continuous raids to wear his army down. They lured Persian detachments off with seemingly vulnerable food sources, and annihilated them with highly mobile cavalry.

This is very similar to the Xiongnu response to Chinese invasion centuries later. On the battlefield, Scythian cavalry made up the principle arm of their forces. They opened battles with a shower of arrows, then used javelins as they closed with the enemy. Once an enemy broke, the light cavalry swarmed in to finish them off.

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A popular and well-known Scythian philosopher in Hellenistic Greece. See listing for Tyrant at Powell's Books or Amazon. More info.


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See review or more info at Amazon. Lion of Scythia by Max Overton The Scythians, B. Cernenko , in the Osprey Men at Arms series. The Scythians at the Lost Civilizations website. While an elite clan is named in some classical sources [ which? The Scythians were a warlike people. When engaged at war, almost the entire adult population, including a large number of women, would participated in battle. Scythians were particularly known for their 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. They "fought to live and lived to fight" and "drank the blood of their enemies and used the scalps as napkins.

Encyclopædia Iranica

Scythian elites had 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 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 and 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.

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 , both to weave their clothing and to cleanse themselves in its smoke Hist.

Herodotus says Sakas had "high caps tapering to a point and stiffly upright. 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 Russian and Kazakhstan men and warrior women wore long sleeve tunics that were always belted, often with richly ornamented belts. 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-hooks , leather thongs and metal often golden or horn belt-plates.

Scythian contacts with craftsmen in Greek colonies along the northern shores of the Black Sea resulted in the famous Scythian gold adornments that feature among the most glamorous artifacts of world museums. Ethnographically extremely useful as well, the gold depicts Scythian men as bearded, long-haired Caucasoids. Other metalwork pieces from across the whole Eurasian steppe use an animal style , showing animals, often in combat and often with their legs folded beneath them. The origins of this style remain debated, but it probably both received and gave influences in the art of the neighbouring settled peoples, and acted as a fast route for transmission of motifs across the width of Eurasia.


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Surviving Scythian objects are mostly small portable pieces of metalwork: elaborate personal jewelry, weapon-ornaments and horse-trappings. But finds from sites with permafrost show rich and brightly coloured textiles, leatherwork and woodwork, not to mention tattooing. The western royal pieces executed Central-Asian animal motifs with Greek realism: winged gryphons attacking horses, battling stags , deer , and eagles , combined with everyday motifs like milking ewes.

In , the touring exhibition 'Scythian Gold' introduced the North American public to the objects made for Scythian nomads by Greek craftsmen north of the Black Sea , and buried with their Scythian owners under burial mounds on the flat plains of present-day Ukraine. The religious beliefs of the Scythians was a type of Pre-Zoroastrian Iranian religion and differed from the post- Zoroastrian Iranian thoughts. The use of cannabis to induce trance and divination by soothsayers was a characteristic of the Scythian belief system. The Scythian group of languages in the early period are essentially unattested, and their internal divergence is difficult to judge.

They belonged most probably [68] to the Eastern Iranian family of 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 in the east. The western Sarmatian group of ancient Scythian survived as the medieval language of the Alans and eventually gave rise to the modern Ossetian language.

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In artworks, the Scythians are portrayed exhibiting Caucasoid traits. In , a genetic study of various Scythian cultures, including the Scythians, was published in Nature Communications. The study suggested that the Scythians arose independently of culturally similar groups further east. Though all groups studies shared a common origin in the Yamnaya culture , the presence of east Eurasian mitochondrial lineages was largely absent among Scythians, but present among other groups further east. Modern populations most closely related to the Scythians were found to be populations living in proximity to the sites studied, suggesting genetic continuity.

Another genetic study, published in Scientific Reports , found that the Scythians shared common mithocondrial lineages with the earlier Srubnaya culture. It also noted that the Scythians differed from materially similar groups further east by the absence of east Eurasian mitochondrial lineages.