Introducing the Scythians
We’re assuming you probably don't know very much about the Scythians. But that's OK! Ahead of our major exhibition opening in September 2017 we’ve compiled a handy beginner’s guide to these nomadic warriors, who galloped into the pages of history
The Scythians (pronounced ‘SIH-thee-uns’) were a group of ancient tribes of nomadic warriors who originally lived in what is now southern Siberia. Their culture flourished from around 900 BC to around 200 BC, by which time they had extended their influence all over Central Asia – from China to the northern Black Sea.
From September 2017 you can discover these fearsome warriors and their culture in a special exhibition at the British Museum. But before that, swot up on some key facts and impress your friends down the pub with your new-found Scythian knowledge.
Until the 1700s, a lot of what we knew about the Scythians was cobbled together from a range of ancient sources – none of them written by the Scythians themselves as they didn’t ‘do’ writing. So what we had was a collection of accounts written by Greeks, Assyrians and Persians – and they were usually terrified (although often also impressed).
The Greek historian Herodotus, in his Histories (Book 4, 5th century BC), wrote: ‘None who attacks them can escape, and none can catch them if they desire not to be found.’ Assyrian inscriptions from the 7th century BC also refer to fighting Scythians, with one mentioning a peace treaty secured by marrying off an Assyrian princess to a Scythian king.
When the Scythians weren’t being hide and seek champions, or being fobbed off with foreign princesses, they even developed a powerful new type of bow which was made from different layers of wood and sinew. It was much more powerful than a regular wooden bow, as the different layers increased the forces and energy when the string was released.
In battles, the Scythians would use large numbers of highly mobile archers who could shower hundreds of deadly arrows within a few minutes. As late as the 6th century AD a Byzantine writer described the deadly effect of mounted archers like these: ‘they do not let up at all until they have achieved the complete destruction of their enemies.’ If this were not terrifying enough, several classical writers state that the Scythians dipped their arrows in poison!
When the Scythians fought on foot, their weapon of choice was a battle-axe with a long narrow pointed blade (like a narrow pick-axe). This type of fighting was personal and face to face – the weapons’ tell-tale puncture marks have been found on the heads of excavated human remains.
So all in all, pretty fearsome.
The brilliantly named ‘pseudo-Hippocrates’ wrote that: ‘The Scyths… have no houses but live in wagons. These are very small with four wheels. Others with six wheels are covered with felt; such wagons are employed like houses, in twos or threes and provide shelter from rain and wind … The women and children live in these wagons, but the men always remain on horseback.’
Nomadic peoples tended not to leave a lot behind in terms of cities or literature – what used to be called ‘civilisation’. What we know of the Scythians is largely through excavations of burial mounds (kurgans), and examples of rock art. It is from these remains that we have the archaeological evidence to see if the ancient writers like Herodotus were right – or if they were making it up as they went along.
In fact, our old friend Herodotus thought that the fact they were nomads meant they were extra scary:
‘For when men have no stablished cities or fortresses, but all are house-bearers and mounted archers, living not by tilling the soil but by cattle-rearing and carrying their dwellings on wagons, how should these not be invincible and unapproachable?’ (Histories, Book 4)
Being nomadic, of course, meant having portable possessions that were robust. The objects the Scythians buried with their dead are generally small or lightweight – such as small drinking flasks and wooden bowls. There is no furniture to speak of – the few surviving tables are low and come apart. Thick floor coverings were essential though – sheepskins, felt rugs and even an imported pile carpet have all been found in tombs.
Siberia is vast. It stretches over eight time zones and borders Europe, China, the Pacific Ocean and Arctic Circle. It is made up of three major ecological zones – icy tundra at the north, dense forest in the central part, and mixed woodland and grassy steppe in the south. This last section forms a wide grassy corridor of rich grazing from Mongolia and China to the Black Sea. It is here that the Scythians began to develop more efficient ways of riding horses which meant they could move bigger herds to new grazing grounds over larger distances.
The Scythians developed horse breeding and riding to a new level. They were accomplished riders and did not use spiked bits or muzzles. Scythian horse gear (saddles, bridles, bits etc) was also highly developed and functional, durable and light. We know this because the large burial mounds contain large numbers of sacrificed horses. These were accompanied by halters, bridles and saddles, and occasionally whips, pouches and shields.
The saddle horses were buried with very elaborate costumes including headgear with griffins or antlers, saddle covers decorated with combat scenes, and long dangling pendants.
Scythian horses were well looked after – many were aged between 15 and 20 years when they were put to the grave. Almost all the buried horses were killed in the same manner – a hard blow of a pointed battle-axe to the mid-forehead. Although this is regarded today as a ‘humane’ method, within a society which prized horses, the killing of horses must have made a deep impression.
Like many cultures, the Scythians drank to excess and got high. Feasting was an important part of Scythian funeral ceremonies – it was also important for social bonding between individuals and tribes. Originally known as ‘milk drinkers’, the Scythians adopted wine consumption from Greeks and Persians. They soon acquired a reputation for excessive drinking of undiluted wine (the Greeks used to mix their wine with water). Greek authors then commented on how the Scythians, like the Persians, liked to drink to excess. You can lead a horse(man) to water (but he’d prefer wine, apparently).
Herodotus also describes how the Scythians had a ritual which involved getting high on hemp in a kind of mobile ‘weed sauna’:
‘They anoint and wash their heads; as for their bodies, they set up three poles leaning together to a point and cover these over with woollen mats; then, in the place so enclosed to the best of their power, they make a pit in the centre beneath the poles and the mats and throw red-hot stones into it… The Scythians then take the seed of this hemp and, creeping under the mats, they throw it on the red-hot stones; and, being so thrown, it smoulders and sends forth so much steam that no Greek vapour-bath could surpass it. The Scythians howl in their joy at the vapour-bath. This serves them instead of bathing, for they never wash their bodies with water.’ (Histories, Book 4)
The Scythians realised the pain relieving effects of marijuana, which no doubt came in useful if they had been in a riding accident or a fierce battle.
All the frozen Scythian bodies examined so far from different sites are heavily tattooed. The designs covered the arms, legs and upper torsos. They include fantastic animals locked in combat, rows of birds and simple dots resembling modern acupuncture.
Other than tattoos, what did the Scythians look like? Some of the women have fair hair and blue eyes but the men are strongly built and have red or dark hair.
Scythian craftsmen were good at casting metal. They worked gold, bronze and iron, using a combination of techniques like casting, forging and inlaying with other materials. None of these required large amounts of equipment and Siberia is rich in metal ores, but it did require skill. There will be many exquisite examples of Scythian metalwork in the exhibition.
In the high Altai mountain region near the borders of Russia, Kazakhstan, China and Mongolia, the frozen subsoil has meant that the organic remains of Scythians buried in tombs have been exceptionally well preserved in permafrost.
The Scythians took great effort to preserve the appearance of the dead using a form of mummification. They removed the brain matter through holes cut in the head, sliced the bodies and removed as much soft tissue as possible before replacing both with dry grass and sewing up the skin.
As already noted, nomads do not leave many traces, but when the Scythians buried their dead they took care to equip the corpse with the essentials they thought they needed for the perpetual rides of the afterlife. They usually dug a deep hole and built a wooden structure at the bottom. For important people these resembled log cabins that were lined and floored with dark felt – the roofs were covered with layers of larch, birch bark and moss. Within the tomb chamber, the body was placed in a log trunk coffin, accompanied by some of their prized possessions and other objects. Outside the tomb chamber but still inside the grave shaft, they placed slaughtered horses, facing east.
With the advances of DNA, we have now begun to tackle questions, such as the origin of the “Scythian peoples”. This was first seen with Unterlander et al (2017), and more were included into Damgaard et al (2018). With the help of Allentoft et al (2015), Mathieson et al. (2018), Narasimhan et al. (2018), along the two previously mentioned papers, I will check the question of origin for the early Iranian nomads.
Bagley (n.d.), attempted to summarize the work on the early Zhou period and their interaction with Siberian Bronze Age center. This was based on work by Loeuwe & Shaugnessy (1999). This highlights interesting aspects of the trade between these two groups, with artifacts related to the Karasuk culture spreading to not only China, but also towards Europe (Bagley, n.d.). While their early dating of a movement (Chernyk, 2008), does not really match the genetic view to this point, there are later samples which hint in this direction.
Since the time of Herodotus, many have had their own ideas on the origins of the Scythians. Mallory (1989) noted that some thought that the origin lie in the west, in the region north of the Black Sea. Others, saw the Scythians, and Iranians in general, as originating in Central Asia, and even Siberia. Some have even thought that a multi-regional origin was more likely, with changes being cultural, rather than demographic.
Davis-Kimball (2005), was one that saw the Scythians as a group that was multi-ethnic, rather than group with a single origin, or denoting a single group of people. Sometimes, anything west of Inner Mongolia and China was referred to as Scythian, but Scythian would also sometimes be restricted to those in the Western and Central Steppes (Di Cosimo, 1999).
The first way to go at this, I feel, is to look at Karasuk. A culture that Mallory (1997), described as very mobile, compared to Andronovo, that is known more by their kurgan burials than their settlements. Karasuk is also seen as being highly influential and starting the animal art so common among the “Scythian” people (Keyser et al, 2009). Mallory (1997) even mentions the potential of the Karasuk to have a specific “proto-Iranian” identity. The influence of the Yenesei, and Slab Grave people cannot be underplayed (Mallory, 1997). Okunevo is thought to be a mix of Afanasievo and local Yeneseian groups (Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 1979), in an area later within the Andronovo sphere, and this mixing may likely be the formation of the Karasuk culture within the Minusinsk Basin. Okunevo is thought to be the group that introduced realistic animal art to these later steppe pastoralists as well.
First of all, I wanted to take a look at the Karasuk cluster that is closer to the Andronovo samples in PCA. To understand the make-up of Karasuk, I first used qpAdm to find a valid model of their origin. With qpAdm, the set of right populations, or outgroups chosen included Mbuti_DG, Ust_Ishim, Kostenki14, EHG, Villabruna, Ganj_Dareh_N, Anatolia_N, Steppe_EMBA, Karitiana, and the Ami.
The most successful model of the Karasuk culture needed excess Han-related ancestry, in addition to the ENA found in the Okunevo samples. Best exemplified with the Shamanka_BA run.
Chi-squareTail-probAndronovoOkunevoHan17.8660.02225430.7210.279NAstd error0.020.02NAChi-squareTail-probAndronovoOkunevoHan9.6130.2115840.7660.1780.056std error0.0260.040.019Chi-squareTail-probAndronovoShamanka_BA5.10.7468450.8140.186std error0.0160.016
Looking at the Deeper Ancestry of the Karasuk Culture, I tried to make them a mix of Sintashta, Afanasievo, and an ENA group from the Baikal area, Shamanka_EN. This made sense as to making a mixture of a Siberian hunter, Bronze Age steppe pastoralists, and also Middle to Late Bronze Age groups in Central Asia. While the standard errors are a little high, it is clear that the dominant ancestry in Karasuk is Sintashta-related.
After adding Steppe_MLBA, Germany_MN, and West_Siberia_N to the pright outgroups:
Interstingly, the Karasuk is also seen to have expanded, if not influenced all the way towards the Black Sea, and at least the Aral Sea (((((((((Trying to relocate citation!!!!!!))))))))
Other samples, dating to about the same time, North of the Aral sea are seen in Mezhovskaya. Even more interesting, is that samples are near genetic dittos to the Karasuk samples. Could Mezhovskaya be part of the western Karasuk group that creates the great cultural uniformity among earlier Iranian nomads through the Scythian period? Potentially, yes.
Chi-squareTail-probAndronovoOkunevoHan12.2480.1404920.7410.259NAstd error0.0280.028NAChi-squareTail-probAndronovoOkunevoHan6.0360.5355550.7840.1510.064std error0.0320.0510.025Chi-squareTail-probAndronovoShamanka_BA5.3180.7230870.8460.154std error..0220.022
With Chechushkov et al (2018), we see that horse-riding in battle may have begun in Central Asia between 1500-1200 BCE. Which is, of course, during the highly mobile Karasuk period and within the range of these groups.
Mezhovskaya can essentially be modeled as 100% Karasuk with qpAdm, as any additional ancestry is within the standard error of that component.
The next question then is, is Karasuk, and possibly by extension Mezhovskaya, the homeland and ancestors of the Scythians? Are they also ancestral to the western Scythians, as far as Hungary?
The first Scythian group I looked at was the Tagar Culture, which followed the Karasuk in the Minusinsk Basin. The Karasuk is indeed very important here for the Tagar. Even the Karasuk+Karasuk outlier combo works here. What’s even more interesting about the Tagar culture, is the great similarity between their art and that of the European Scythians (Keyser et al, 2009; Encyclopaedia Britannica, n.d.).
Chi-squareTail-probKarsukOkunevo5.2910.7261040.9330.067std error0.0370.037Chi-squareTail-probKarasukShamanka_BA7.2010.5151330.9670.033std error0.0210.021
The Pazyryk Culture is another well-known group of Scythians, that include the famous tattooed mummy. Their culture is seen as having been very warlike (Citation)))))))))))))
They also require a lot of Karasuk ancestry and also groups that are from nearby, or closely related groups to these samples.
Chi-squareTail-probKarsukOkunevoHan16.0370.02478220.3130.340.347std error0.0360.050.023Chi-squareTail-probKarasukShamankaBAHan1.7610.9718760.430.430.14std error0.0280.080.061
Chi-squareTail-probKarasukOkunevo116.8991.45E-210.410.59std error0.0890.089Chi-squareTail-probKarasukBMACHan6.0750.5310470.5680.0990.333std error0.0450.0420.019
Chi-squareTail-probKarasukOkunevoBMACHan10.6280.100590.5740.1340.210.082std error0.060.0470.0230.018Chi-squareTail-probKarasukShamankaBABMAC10.7030.1521080.6180.1730.209std error0.040.0170.033
The Tian-Shan Saka graph here did get a little over-complicated for my taste, but with such a complex mixture it might be bound to happen.
Chi-squareTail-probKarasukOkunevoHanBMAC6.786.3410950.4290.2840.1800.107std error0.060.0510.020.034Chi-squareTail-probKarasukShamanka_BABMAC2.488.9279770.5260.3720.102std error0.0440.0190.036
Chi-squareTail-probKarasukArmenia_EBA20.1940.009626380.9230.077std error0.0480.048Chi-squareTail-probKarasukBMAC15.1040.05714880.8630.137std error0.0420.042Chi-squareTail-probKarasukBMACWest_Siberia9.9360.1922230.7690.1660.065std error0.0670.0450.037Chi-squareTail-probKarasukBMACBotai8.2610.3101250.6740.2360.089std error0.1080.0680.056Chi-squareTail-probMezhovskayaBMAC12.7650.1201820.9130.087std error0.050.05Chi-squareTail-probTagarBMAC17.4930.02536360.8410.159std error0.0420.042
Chi-squareTail-probKarasukHungary_BA13.6240.09210810.3550.645std error0.0350.035Chi-squareTail-probKarasukBalkan_BA13.990.08203680.2470.753std error0.0370.037Chi-squareTail-probScythian_SamaraHungary_BA18.5140.01768360.3140.686std error0.0290.029Chi-squareTail-probMezhovskayaHungary_BA16.2580.03883190.3390.661std error0.0430.043
Allentoft et al., Population genomics of Bronze Age Eurasia, Nature 522, 167–172 (11 June 2015) doi:10.1038/nature14507
Bagley, R. Shang Archaeology; The Northern Zone. (1999) http://s155239215.onlinehome.us/turkic/btn_Archeology/Zhou/CambridgeZhouChouArcheologyNorthEn.htm
“Central Asian arts: Neolithic and Metal Age cultures”. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica
Chechushkov et al., Early horse bridle with cheekpieces as a marker of social change: An experimental and statistical study, Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 97, September 2018, Pages 125-136, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2018.07.012
Chernykh, The Formation of the Eurasian “Steppe Belt” of Stockbreeding Cultures. http://www.academia.edu/22557016/FORMATION_OF_THE_EURASIAN_STEPPE_BELT_OF_STOCKBREEDING_CULTURES.BY_E.N._Chernykh
Di Cosimo, Nicola, “The Northern Frontier in Pre-Imperial China (1,500 – 221 BC)”, in: M. Loeuwe, E.L. Shaughnessy, eds, The Cambridge History of Ancient China: From the Origins of Civilization to 221BC, 1999, Cambridge University Press 1999, ISBN 9780521470308
Keyser, Christine; Bouakaze, Caroline; Crubézy, Eric; Nikolaev, Valery G.; Montagnon, Daniel; Reis, Tatiana; Ludes, Bertrand (May 16, 2009). “Ancient DNA provides new insights into the history of south Siberian Kurgan people”. Human Genetics. Springer-Verlag.
Mallory, J. P. (1997). Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 1884964982.
Mathieson et al., (2018) The genomic history of southeastern Europe. Nature 555, 197-203. (Paper / doi:10.1038/nature25778)
Narasimhan et al, The Genomic Formation of South and Central Asia, Posted March 31, 2018, doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/292581
“Okunev Culture”. The Great Soviet Encyclopedia. 1979
Unterländer et al., Ancestry and demography and descendants of Iron Age nomads of the Eurasian Steppe, Nature Communications 8, Article number: 14615 (2017), doi:10.1038/ncomms14615
The Karasuk Culture: Potentially the Ancestors of Iranian and later Scytho-Sarmatian nomads – Population Genomics
Early Iranian Religion developed in the region known as Greater Iran (the Caucasus, Central Asia, South Asia, and West Asia prior to the 3rd millennium BCE when one branch of a migratory people (known as Aryans meaning “noble” or “free”) settled in “the land of the Aryans”, Iran. Their religion was polytheistic and was kept through oral tradition, passed down generation to generation through stories, rituals, and traditions.
This belief system was reformed by the prophet Zoroaster who reimagined the earlier gods and created a new religion – Zoroastrianism – which was monotheistic. This faith also maintained an oral tradition which was not committed to writing until the time of the Sassanian Empire (224-651 CE) and most of what is known of the Early Iranian Religion comes from Zoroastrian texts such as the Avesta, the Bundahisn, the Denkard, and the Vendidad, which reference the earlier gods and the stories – now known as ancient Persian mythology – of how the world, humans, and the gods came to be as well as the Shahnameh (Book of Kings), a collection of legends and myths, and other works.
Ahriman appears in the Zoroastrian texts without introduction as though an audience should already be familiar with him, no doubt a carry-over from the earlier oral tradition. He, therefore, has no origin story or development and appears for the first time as fully developed as he will ever become. Scholar John R. Hinnels describes Ahriman's nature:
He is the demon of demons, and dwells in an abyss of endless darkness in the north, the traditional home of the demons. Ignorance, harmfulness, and disorder are the characteristics of Ahriman. He can change his outward form and appear as a lizard, a snake, or a youth. His aim is always to destroy the creation of [Ahura Mazda] and to this end he follows behind the creator's work, seeking to spoil it. As Ahura Mazda creates life, Ahriman creates death; for health, he produces disease; for beauty, ugliness. All man's ills are due entirely to Ahriman.
The early religion maintained that the world was created by Ahura Mazda in seven steps:
Sky was an orb into which Ahura Mazda poured water and then separated the waters with earth and spread vegetation across the land. He then created Gavaevodta, the Primordial Bull (also given as “the uniquely created bull” Primordial Bovine, and Primordial Ox) who was so beautiful that Ahriman killed it. Ahriman did not kill Gavaevodta for any particular reason; he did it simply because he wanted to and because he could. This event characterizes all of Ahriman's subsequent actions as does Ahura Mazda's response.
Ahura Mazda carried the corpse of Gavaevodta to the moon where it was purified and from the purified seed all animals were created. Ahura Mazda had thereby turned Ahriman's act of evil toward a positive end. Ahura Mazda then created the first man, Gayomartan (also given as Gayomard, Kiyumars) who is also beautiful and quickly killed by Ahriman. The sun purifies the seed of Gayomartan and, after 40 years, a rhubarb plant grows from it to birth the first couple – Mashya and Mashyanag. They live in harmony with the earth, animals, and their creator until Ahriman appears and whispers lies to them, telling them he is their creator and Ahura Mazda the deceiver and their enemy.
by Touraj Daryaee (CC BY-NC-SA)
The couple believe these lies and so sin enters the world through their doubt, and their harmony with animals and each other is lost. They cannot even conceive a child for many years after their fall and, when Mashyanag finally does give birth, they eat the children because they have lost all recognition of reason. They eventually give birth to twins who go on to populate the earth, but Ahriman's lies have corrupted the earlier paradise and humans will now live in strife, at odds with animals.
After the birth of Gayomartan, Ahura Mazda had made fire as his last aspect of creation but, with Ahriman's interference and the fallen nature of humanity, gods now had to be created to help people through life and, especially, aid them in making the pivotal choice between deciding to follow the path of Ahura Mazda or that of Ahriman as this choice would define each person's life on earth and after death.
Whether this emphasis on choice and the importance of human free will actually was a part of Early Iranian Religion is impossible to know. It is thought that it was because of how certain passages of the later Zoroastrian texts are interpreted but, since Zoroaster completely reformed the older religion, it is possible that the significance of free will is a later development.
A Faravahar symbol in a Fire Temple
A Faravahar symbol in a Fire Temple
by ninara (CC BY-NC-SA)
Zoroaster had been a priest of the old religion who received a revelation that the divine message had been misunderstood and was being interpreted wrongly. Ahura Mazda, he was told, was the only god – not one of many – and the present religious belief had to be reformed. Zoroaster met with strong resistance in preaching his new faith until he managed to convert the king Vishtaspa who then converted his people and Zoroastrianism was established.
Ahriman continued as the adversary of Ahura Mazda while other gods were either reimagined as demons or as emanations of different aspects of Ahura Mazda's divine being. The new faith was founded on five principles:
Ahura Mazda is the supreme and only god
Ahura Mazda is all-good
Ahura Mazda's opponent, Angra Mainyu (Ahriman), is all-evil
Goodness is made manifest through Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds
Each individual has free will to choose between good and evil
The new faith, presumably, covered all the aspects the older belief system had, only from a monotheistic perspective, and retained the same weakness: if the all-good Ahura Mazda had created the world, where had evil come from? There was no creation myth which provided for Ahriman's origin nor for the existence of the daevas, the legions of demons he commanded, and so it would appear that Ahriman came from Ahura Mazda, which could not be since evil could not originate from ultimate good.
The Problem of Evil & Zorvanism
The problem of evil was, in fact, more difficult to resolve now in the monotheistic paradigm because Ahura Mazda was the first and uncreated being in the universe from which all else had come. If this were so, then evil should not exist – and yet human experience contradicted this – so Ahura Mazda could not be the creator of a world which included evil.
This problem was addressed by the so-called “heresy” of Zorvanism, which made Zorvan, a minor deity of time in Early Iranian Religion, the Supreme Being and God of Infinite Time. Zorvan, the uncreated creative principle in the universe, wished to have a child and so prayed to himself for progeny. As he was doing this, he experienced a moment of doubt whether his desire was a good one and, in this moment, Ahriman was engendered and then, once it had passed, Ahura Mazda.
ZORVANISM SOLVED THE PROBLEM OF EVIL BUT CONTRADICTED THE CENTRAL PREMISE OF ZOROASTRIANISM: THE PRE-EMINENCE OF HUMAN FREE WILL.
Ahriman cut his way out of the primordial womb before it was time for his birth, knowing that the first-born would have dominion over the world, but Zorvan placed a limit of time on his reign – 9,000 years – after which Ahura Mazda would defeat him and take his place. Ahura Mazda was still responsible for the creation of the world and everything in it, but evil came from that moment of Zorvan's doubt in his own impulse toward creation.
Zorvanism thus solved the problem of evil and Ahura Mazda could still be the all-powerful and all-good creator, but this solution contradicted the central premise of Zoroastrianism: the pre-eminence of human free will. If Time was the all-powerful first principle then one's choices were irrelevant because Time created all things, moved all things, destroyed all things and there was nothing one could do about that. Whether one made Choice A or Choice B, one was still subject to Time. With Time as the ultimate power in the universe, and Ahura Mazda as a created being, supplications to him could not have the final effect they had in Zoroastrian belief because now there was a power greater than Ahura Mazda.
It was not until the 19th century CE that an explanation for Ahriman's existence was given and the problem of evil resolved. The German Orientalist, Martin Haug (l. 1827-1876 CE) proposed that Ahriman actually did not exist as a deity but as the destructive negative energy discharge of Ahura Mazda's act of creation. This would be comparable to a person releasing a certain amount of energy during exercise if that energy then became sentient. Ahriman was not “born evil” in Haug's view but was just another emanation of Ahura Mazda – like any of the other gods in the Zoroastrian interpretation – except that, unlike them, he chose to do evil. Evil, then, came from Ahriman's exercise of free will, not from Ahura Mazda's act of creation.
Ahriman's Goals & the Tale of Zahak
This suggestion was accepted by the Zoroastrian Parsees of India – devotees who had saved the sacred texts from the Muslim Arab invasion of Iran in 651 CE and taken them out of the country – and supported by stories concerning Ahriman in these texts. Scholar J. Duchesne-Guillemin, referencing the Zoroastrian tradition and Persian tradition, writes:
Ahriman is evil by choice. “It is not,” he says, “that I cannot create anything good, but that I will not.” And to prove this, he created the peacock. (Encyclopedia Iranica, Ahriman,
Ahriman's dedication to subverting any good advanced by Ahura Mazda was not any kind of means to an end but the end itself; destroying the good and disrupting order at every turn was his only interest. At any given time, he could as easily have used his power to elevate people instead of destroying them, but this did not interest him, as illustrated in the tale of the prince – and later king – Zahak (also known as Zahhak).
Zahak was the son of a kind and just king named Merdas in the mythological time when the great king Jamshid ruled the world. Zahak was handsome and charming but had been spoiled by his father and was weak of will, lazy, and prone to being led astray by bad company. One day, he met an equally charming and handsome young man (actually Ahriman in the form of a youth), and the two became good friends. By slow degrees, Ahriman began to suggest how easy it would be for Zahak to kill his father and become king and, eventually, he followed his new friend's advice.
After Zahak became king, his friend vanished just as a new cook (Ahriman again) was hired at the palace. This cook could make any meal in the world and each more wonderful than the last. Zahak wanted to reward him and asked what he would like, but the cook refused any treasure or honor and asked only to be allowed to kiss Zahak on his shoulders. This granted, serpents suddenly burst from the places the cook had kissed and the cook himself vanished.
by Metropolitan Museum of Art (Copyright)
Zahak wanted the snakes removed, but each time they were cut off, they sprung up again. Fortunately – or so Zahak thought – a new physician arrived at the palace who was especially skilled (Ahriman again) and said he had a remedy: the only way to deal with the problem was to feed the snakes human brains every day and, if this was not done, the snakes would eat Zahak's own.
At this time, Jamshid had been ruling the world in peace and harmony for 300 years but Ahriman visited him, whispering softly in his ears, and – as he had done long ago with the very first king, the wise Yima – convinced Jamshid he had no need of the gods and caused him to think more highly of himself than he should. Jamshid's reign became corrupt and his people suffered and so when Zahak moved against him, he had everyone's support. Zahak overthrew Jamshid, had him sawn in half, and took the throne of the world.
The people were overjoyed until they found Zahak an even worse despot than Jamshid had become and, further, were losing friends and relatives daily who were taken to the palace to be killed for their brains to feed Zahak's shoulder-snakes. Zahak's reign of terror continued until the blacksmith Kaveh, who had lost 18 sons to Zahak's snakes, raised a rebellion and enlisted the aid of the hero Fereydun (also known as Thraetaona) to lead the people. Zahak was overthrown and left bound and bleeding in captivity as Fereydun restored order and peace to the land.
In this story, as in any other concerning Ahriman, there is nothing for him to gain by the death of Merdas, the corruption of Zahak and Jamshid, and the thousands of young men fed to the snakes except his own delight in destroying goodness and throwing the ordered world of Ahura Mazda into chaos and confusion. Ahriman personifies the unexpected, unpleasant, and often chaotic challenges of life which seem to come without reason and destroy one's ordered life and plans for the day, the week, the future.
Commenting on this topic, in his work Isis and Osiris, Plutarch (l. 46-120 CE) writes:
For if it is the law of nature that nothing comes into being without a cause, and if the good cannot provide a cause for evil, then it follows that Nature must have in herself the source and origin of evil, just as she contains the source and origin of good. (45.I)
In Plutarch's view, it is Nature – life itself – which contains the duality of what human beings interpret as “good” and as “evil”. Ahura Mazda and Ahriman represent the dual nature of existence as perceived by human beings – the good and ordered and the evil and chaotic – and whether Nature/Life actually contains this duality is irrelevant since its existence, as far as the human condition is concerned, is necessarily dependent upon human interpretation. Considering Ahriman along these lines, his origin is no mystery as he, like Ahura Mazda or any other deity, can be understood as the creation of human beings trying to make sense of a world that disappoints hopeful expectations as often as rewarding them.
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AHRIMAN – Encyclopaedia Iranica - by J. Duchesne-GuilleminAccessed 5 Feb 2020.
Cotterell, A. & Storm, R. The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythology. Hermes House, 2012.
Curtis, V. S. Persian Myths. University of Texas Press, 1993.
Farrokh, K. Shadows in the Desert. Osprey Publishing, 2007.
Hinnells, J. R. Persian Mythology. Chancellor, 1997.
Holland, G. S. Gods in the Desert: Religions of the Ancient Near East. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2010.
Katouzian, H. The Persians: Ancient, Mediaeval, and Modern Iran. Yale University Press, 2010.
Olmstead, A. T. History of the Persian Empire. University of Chicago Press, 2009.
Plutarch. Plutarch Works. Harvard University Press, 1936.
Van De Mieroop, M. A History of the Ancient Near East ca. 3000 - 323 BC, 2nd Edition. Blackwell Publishing, 2006.
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About the Author
Joshua J. Mark
Joshua J. Mark
A freelance writer and former part-time Professor of Philosophy at Marist College, New York, Joshua J. Mark has lived in Greece and Germany and traveled through Egypt. He has taught history, writing, literature, and philosophy at the college level.
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Written by Curtis, Vesta Sarkhosh, published by University of Texas Press (1993)
Cite This Work
Mark, J. J. (2020, February 10). Ahriman. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://www.ancient.eu/Ahriman/
Mark, Joshua J. "Ahriman." Ancient History Encyclopedia. Last modified February 10, 2020. https://www.ancient.eu/Ahriman/.
Mark, Joshua J. "Ahriman." Ancient History Encyclopedia. Ancient History Encyclopedia, 10 Feb 2020. Web. 13 Feb 2021.
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c. 3000 BCE - c. 800 BCE
Possible development of the concept of Ahriman in Early Iranian Religion.
c. 1500 BCE - 1000 BCE
Development of Ahriman in religion of Zoroastrianism.
c. 550 BCE - 330 BCE
Ahriman further developed during the Achaemenid Empire.
c. 550 BCE - c. 330 BCE
Zorvanism develops at some point during the latter part of the Achaemenid Empire; Ahriman now seen as twin brother of Supreme God Ahura Mazda.
224 CE - 651 CE
Zoroastrian texts containing tales of Ahriman written down during the Sassanian Empire, preserving his character and legacy to later religions.
Scythian Death mask
The meaning of the name of the ancestor of the Scythians was also a common characterization of his nation, his descendants. Truth and trustworthiness above advantage, which strongly reminds of the
de Vere family motto. "the prince of truth" "the defender of the side of the sun god" This tradition goes back to the ancient tradition of northern sunworship, where the sungod was the god of truth and protector of mankind and was represented by the light of the sun, which enlightens us. the Scythian name of God was TAR.Fierce Scythians were known as Dragons for their heavy, segmented armour; they were the forefathers of medieval knights.
The Silk Road, itself, can be envisioned as a vast dragon.
Why not make your tribe's totem the biggest, baddest creature who's bones are in your hillsides?
Naturally, myths of dragons, dragon bones and dragon lords arose in tandem.
The crested dragon is the grand-daddy of T-Rex
It seems that both nomadic and sedentary Iranians referred to themselves as Airyas; gradually, however, this word became a self-imposed designation for the settled Iranians only, who began to refer to their nomadic cousins in the East, i.e., Zoroaster's people, as the Saka, and some of those further west as SKUDRA ; the Saka probably did not call themselves exclusively by this name, some may have retained the use of the term Airya.
Many Saka tribes left the northern steppes intermittently to settle permanently in Central Asia, modern Afghanistan, and Persia; these tribes are the direct forebears of the imperial Western Iranians, the Medes, Persians and lastly, the Parthians;
Once converted to Zoroastrianism, however, such became their religious significance, that by the middle of the 1st millennium B.C., the centre of the faith was neither in the homeland of its founder, nor in any of the adjoining Eastern Iranian regions; it was firmly established on the western side of the great salt desert, amongst the people now called Western Iranians; from then onwards, Eastern Iran fades into the background; we now deal almost exclusively with Western Iran, and until very recently, were not even aware of the fact that Eastern Iran had played such a vital part in the genesis of the Iranian empires, and their great national faith; most scientific facts, such as, the recorded history and Near Eastern archaeological data, especially a large volume of deciphered inscriptions, relate to the four great Western Iranian empires of the Medes, Persians, Parthians & Sasanians; there is only a small volume of classical sources, and more recent archaeological data, which also deal with the nomadic Iranians of the northeast, i.e., those Saka warriors who remained in the steppes, and were never completely subdued by the settled Iranians of the imperial period; these warriors remained, nonetheless, a very formidable enemy of their settled cousins; not only did they conquer and rule the Median Empire for 28 years in the 7th century B.C., but they also defeated and killed Cyrus the Great, founder of the Achaemenian Empire, in the following century; a generation later, they were still engaging Darius the Great in many hard-fought battles; two hundred and fifty years later, however, they became the saviours of the Iranian culture and religion, and political integrity; they gradually pushed the Macedonians out of the Iranian homeland, and formed the Parthian Empire, which lasted for another 500 years.
The nomadic Iranians of the north western steppes, however, especially those settled in Europe, are extensively covered by the classical writers; they are also attested in a very large number of archaeological excavations in Eastern Europe; these Iranian peoples are known in the West as Cimmerians, Scythians, Sarmatians, Alans, and finally Ossets; it must be emphasised that all these names refer to the successive migratory waves of the same people, who probably called themselves by a name derived from the word Airya, as the Alans did, and the Ossets still do.
The earliest recorded nomadic western Iranians are the Cimmerians; they make their first appearance in Assyrian annals at the beginning of the 8th century B.C., where they are referred to as Gimmiri; they came down from modern Ukraine, and conquered eastern Thrace, and most of modern Turkey, being pushed westwards by another nomadic Iranian people, the Scythians (see below); they left behind a wealth of archaeological material, including a vast number of mound-burials in western Asia Minor; they later allied themselves with the Medes against the Assyrian Empire; the word GIMMIRI is attested in the Old Testament (Genesis I.x.12), as GOMER, the name given to one of Japhet's sons (see below, Scythian/Ashkenaz).
SCYTHIANS This is by far the most important, and enduring designation given by the classical sources to the nomadic Iranians of the steppes; the name refers to the entire non-sedentary Iranians, both in the West, and in the East (the Saka). Greek records place them in southern Russia in the 8th century B.C., however, recent archaeological evidence testifies that they, Cimmerians, and other Steppe Iranians may have been there far earlier. Greek geographers of the 4th century B.C. also credit the Scythians with inhabiting the largest part of the known world (map Red 16).
Like other Iranians, these nomads probably called themselves by the generic term "Airya"; this is testified inter alia by the native name of their descendants in the present day Europe (see below); it seems, however, that they, or at least some of their powerful clans, also called themselves "SAKA" in the East, and *SKUنA, SKUDA, or SKUDRA  in the West. SKUDA is believed to be related to the German word "SACHS", meaning a type of throwing-dagger which the eponymic Saxons used to carry and shoot with; indeed, it is possible that like the historical Saxons, the Skuda derived their name from their ability to shoot. [cf. Franks].
Their first appearance in recorded history is again in the Assyrian annals, where they chase the Cimmerians, their own kinsmen, first out of Europe, then out of Asia Minor into the Median territory; in the 7th century B.C. they allied themselves with the Assyrians, and attacked the combined forces of the invading rebellious Median vassal king, Khshathrita (Phraortes in Greek, Kashtariti in Akkadian) and his Cimmerians allies; the Assyrians repelled the Medes, killing Phraortes, and routed the Cimmerians; the real victors, however, were the Scythians; for the next 28 years, now allied with their erstwhile enemy, the Cimmerians, they ravaged most of the Ancient Near East, including Media; later they allied themselves with Khshathrita's son, the Median emperor, Hvakhshathara II (Cyaxares in Greek, Uaksatar II in Akkadian), and the Babylonian king, Nabopolassar, taking Nineveh in 612 B.C. and destroying once and for all the mighty Assyrian Empire. (beginning of the Kurdish calendar)
The Scythians were called by the Assyrians Ashkuza or Ishkuza (A/Iڑ-k/gu-za-ai); as with the Gimmiri, this word also appears to have found its way into the Old Testament; one of Gomer's (Gimmiri) three sons, in Genesis I.x.12, is called Ashkenaz, which has given us the modern Hebrew word, Ashkenazi.
The Scythians were known by the Achaemenians, as SAKA and SKUDRA, by the Greeks, SKغTHIA (سê?èéل), by the Romans, SCYTHIAE (pron. SKITYAI), which has given us the English word SCYTHIAN; they lived in a wide area stretching from the south and west of the River Danube to the eastern and northeastern edges of the Taklamakan Desert in China; this vast territory includes now parts of Central Europe, the eastern half of the Balkans, the Ukraine, northern Caucasus, southern Russia, southern Siberia, Central Asia and western China.
We know a great deal about their physical appearance; they were long-headed giants with blond hair and blue eyes; this well-known fact is attested by various classical sources , and by their skeletal and other remains in numerous archaeological excavations, which give a fairly detailed description of these ancient Iranians ; recently, a large number of their mummified corpses were discovered in western China; these mummies, which are extremely well-preserved in the arid conditions of the Taklamakan desert, are now on display at the museums of khotan, Urumchi, and Turfan in Sinkiang; they are dressed in Scythian costume, i.e., leather tunic and trousers, and are usually displayed in the sitting position, exactly as described by Herodotus; what is extra ordinary apart from their northern European features, however, is their gigantic heights, well over two metres as they are now, in spite of the natural shrinkage expected during the past thousands of years.
The Scythians, and other early steppe Iranians are believed to have been the first Indo-Europeans to use domesticated horses for riding (as opposed to eating); this theory has acquired fresh credibility after the recent discovery of horse skeletons at the Sredny Stog archaeological culture, east of the River Dniepr, a well-known pre-historical Scythian site in eastern Ukraine; these bones were identified as belonging to bitted, therefore, ridden horses dating to 4000 B.C., at least 2500 years older than the previously known examples.
More recent excavations east of the Ural Mountains credit them also with the invention of the first two-wheeled chariot ; such mobility, naturally, turned them into a formidable fighting force; they never willingly fought on foot, and used armour both for themselves and their mounts; they also developed the famous steppe tactic of faked retreat, and the "Parthian shot", shooting backwards while on mounted retreat; this tactic, named after their well-known descendants, the Parthians, requires an amazing skill and balance in the saddle, and a dazzling co-ordination of eyes, arms and breath without the support of stirrups.
In this unique pastoralist equestrian warrior society, women fought alongside their men; not only they were held in an equal status with men, but also periodically they actually ruled them;
this so called upside-down society both fascinated and horrified the male dominated Greek culture; later, the Romans expressed the same horror, when they encountered the Celtic and Germanic female warriors. Greek writers called the fighting Iranian women they met in the Ukrainian steppes, the Amazons; later Greek sources placed them further east, in northeastern parts of Iran.
This incredible social equality, at such an early age, is irrefutably attested, not only by a host of classical writers, but also by a wealth of archaeological evidence; in many mound- burials in the former Soviet Union, it is by no means unusual to find remains of women warriors dressed in full armour, lying on a war chariot, surrounded by their weaponry, and significantly, accompanied by a host of male subordinates specially sacrificed in their honour; nonetheless, these young Iranian warriors, as evidenced by the archaeological remains of their costumes and jewellery, do not seem to have lost their femininity; they remained "feminine as well as female" as a great contemporary German scholar puts it .
Archaeological excavations also testify to the amazing skill of these people in making jewellery; some of the finds are so dazzling in quality and advanced in technique that it is hard to imagine that they are produced by an unsettled, nomadic culture; we are indeed very fortunate that these early steppe Iranians practised elaborate funerary rituals and interred their treasures with their dead in huge impregnable burial mounds; hence, the vast majority of the steppe Iranians' artifacts known to the learned world is attributed to the Scythians. http://www.cais-soas.com/CAIS/Religions/iranian/Zarathushtrian/Oric.Basirov/origin_of_the_iranians.htmThe royal scythians who ruled altaic, uralic, iranic elements were the ugurs or yuezhi or tocharians (uyghurs,hungarians, bulgarians, chuvashes, tatars)
They are from 5 scythian folks the sabir, daha,chus and hun, avar.
And these folks are from sumerian, subartuan and elamite expansions to Caspian Areas (Khwarezm-turán)
The Middle Eastern civilizations are from Europe (Vinca, Trypillia, Kurgan cultures)
Ugur realms: Bactria, Parthia, Xiongnu (in Xiongnu lived the mongolic and manchu elements too) Kushan and next White hunnic Empire, Euro hunnia.Dragons have a long history in human mythology. How did the myth start? No one knows the exact answer, but some myths may have been inspired by living reptiles, and some "dragon" bones probably belonged to animals long extinct — in some cases dinosaurs, in others, fossil mammals. Starting in the early 19th century, scientists began to find a new kind of monster, one that had gone extinct tens of millions of years before the first humans evolved. Because the first fragments found looked lizard-like, paleontologists assumed they had found giant lizards, but more bones revealed animals like nothing on earth today. But early man most likely found plenty of fossils and stories arose around them.
Regarding mythical creatures, Herodotus believed that some legends he heard preserved a kernel of genuine fact, and he played a role in spreading the legend of the griffin. Griffins, according to the nomads he interviewed, were four-legged and lion-sized, with wings and sharp beaks. What might the nomads have seen that prompted these myths? Modern paleontological digs in the region have revealed fossil skeletons of Protoceratops and Psittacosaurus dinosaurs. The nomads of his time may have seen similar skeletons eroding out of the sediments along the Silk Road. These weren't the only potential fossils mentioned in Herodotus's works. When in Egypt, he wrote, he was shown piles of "bones and spines." These may have belonged to spinosaurs, large Cretaceous reptiles with dorsal membraned spines, or to pterosaurs. And the giant skeletons of heroes he discussed may well have belonged to fossil mammals from the Miocene, Pliocene and Pleistocene epochs.
Herodotus mentioned at least one unambiguous fossil find. "I have seen shells on the hills," he wrote of Egypt. He reached a conclusion that is common today: The area "was originally an arm of the sea." Herodotus also ventured into the field of geology, guessing (inaccurately) that in the recent geologic past, Egypt had been a gulf of the sea. Although he was wrong about Egypt's geology, he was right in concluding that the world we live in changes over time, thanks to natural processes.
Scythians (skyty, skify). A group of Indo-European tribes that controlled the Southern Ukrainian steppe in the 7th to 3rd centuries BC. They first appeared there in the late 8th century BC after having been forced out of Central Asia. The Scythians were related to the *Sauromatians and spoke an Iranian dialect. After quickly conquering the lands of the *Cimmerians they pursued them into Asia Minor and established themselves as a power in the region. In the 670s BC they launched a successful campaign to expand into Media, Syria, and Palestine. They were forced out of Asia Minor early in the 6th century BC by the Medes, who had by then assumed control of Persia, and retreated to their lands between the lower Danube and the Don, known as *Scythia.
The bellicose Scythians were often in conflict with their neighbors, particularly the Thracians in the west and the *Sarmatians in the east. They faced their greatest military challenge around 513--512 BC, when the Persian king Darius I led an expeditionary force against them. By withdrawing and undertaking scorched-earth tactics rather than engaging in pitched battles, they forced the Persians to retreat in order to preserve their army. The event had a significant impact on subsequent Scythian development, for it confirmed their position as masters of the steppes and spurred on the political unification of the various tribes under the Royal Scythians. By the end of the 5th century BC the *Kamianka fortified settlement, near present-day Nykopil, had been established as the capital of Scythia.
The Scythians reached their apex in the 4th century BC under King Ateas, who eliminated his rivals and united all the tribal factions under his rule. He waged a successful war against the Thracians but died in 339 BC in a battle against the army of Philip 11 of Macedon. In 331 BC the Scythians defeated one of Alexander the Great's armies. Subsequently they began a period of decline brought about by constant Sarmatian attacks. They were forced to abandon the steppe to their rivals and re-established themselves in the 2nd century BC in the Crimea around the city of *Neapolis. There they regained part of their strength and fought several times against the *Bosporan Kingdom, and even managed to conquer Olbia and other Hellenic city-states on the northern Black Sea (Pontic) coast. Continued attacks from the Sarmatians, however, further weakened the Scythians, and an onslaught by the Germanic *Goths in the 3rd century AD finished them off completely. The Scythians subsequently disappeared as an ethnic entity through steady intermarriage with and assimilation into other cultures, particularly the Sarmatian.
The Scythians were divided into several major tribal groups. Agrarian Scythian groups lived in what is now Poltava region and between the Boh and the Dnieper rivers. The lower Boh region near *Olbia was inhabited by Hellenized Scythians, known as Callipidae; the central Dniester region was home to the Alazones; and north of them were the Aroteres. The kingdom was dominated by the Royal Scythians, a small but bellicose minority in the lower Dnieper region and the Crimea that had established a system of dynastic succession. Their realm was divided into four districts ruled by governors who maintained justice, collected taxes, and gathered tribute from the Pontic city-states. A separate coinage, however, was not developed by the Scythians until quite late in their history. Their administrative apparatus was in fact quite loose, and the various Scythian groups handled most of their affairs through a traditional structure of tribal elders. Over time Scythian society became increasingly stratified, with the hereditary kings and their military retainers gaining an increasing amount of wealth and power. Although most Scythians were freemen, slaves were common in the kingdom.
The Scythians inhabiting the steppe were nomadic herders of horse, sheep, and cattle. Those in the forest-steppe were more sedentary cultivators of wheat, millet, barley, and other crops. (Some scholars believe that those agriculturists may have been the predecessors of the Slavs.) Scythian artisans excelled at metalworking in iron, bronze, silver, and gold. The Scythians also engaged in hunting, fishing, and extensive trade with Greece through the Pontic city-states; they provided grains, livestock, fish, furs, and slaves in exchange for luxury goods, fine ceramics, and jewelry.
The Scythians' military prowess was in large measure the result of their abilities as equestrian archers. They raised and trained horses extensively, and virtually every Scythian male had at least one mount. They lavished care and attention on their horses and dressed them in ornate trappings. Saddles and metal stirrups were not used by the Scythians, although felt or leather supports may have been. The foremost weapon of a Scythian warrior was the double-curved bow, which was used to shoot arrows over the left shoulder of a mounted horse. Warriors commonly carried swords, daggers, knives, round shields, and spears and wore bronze helmets and chain-mail jerkins. The Scythians became a potent force not only because of their impressive array of weapons and training but also because they shared a strong underlying military ethos and belonged to a warrior society that bestowed honors and spoils on those who had distinguished themselves in battle. That ethos was reinforced by the common rite of adopting blood brothers and the use of slain foes' scalps or skulls as trophies or drinking cups.
Because of their generally nomadic or seminomadic existence the Scythians usually had relatively few possessions. Those they did have were often of exquisite quality and craftsmanship and established the Scythians' reputation in the ancient world as devotees of finery (see *Scythlan art).
The Scythians never developed a written language or a literary tradition. They had a well-defined religious cosmology, however. Their deities included the fire goddess Tabiti, followed by Papeus (the 'Father'), Apia (goddess of the earth), Oetosyrus (god of the sun), Artimpasa (goddess of the moon), and Thagimasadas (god of water). The Scythians did not build temples, altars, or idols to worship their deities, but they maintained a caste of soothsayers and believed strongly in witchcraft, divination, magic, and the power of amulets. Representations of Scythians and their gold ornaments suggest that they were the first people in history to wear trousers.
Scythian burial customs were elaborate, particularly among the aristocracy. A chieftain remained unburied for 40 days after his death. During that time his internal organs were cleansed, his body cavity was stuffed with herbs, and his skin was waxed. He was then parad'ed through his realm accompanied by a large retinue indulging in ostentatious lamentation. After 40 days he was interred in a large *kurhan (up to 20 m high) together with his newly killed favorite wife or concubine, household servants, and horses, as well as weapons, amphoras of wine, and a large cache of goods. Lesser personages had less elaborate funerals. A common practice was the erection of anthropomorphic statues (*stone babas) as grave markers.
For many years the memory of the Scythians was best preserved by Herodotus, who included a lengthy, basically factual account of them in his Histories. After the last Scythians had died out in the 3rd century AD, the tribes were largely forgotten. Interest in them was revived as a result of some spectacular finds in Scythian barrows, starting with the *Melgunov kurhan in 1763 The ensuing search for richer caches impeded archeological research on the more prosaic aspects of Scythian life until Soviet archeologists undertook work in that realm in the 2oth century. Scythian archeological sites in Ukraine include the *Bilske, *Kamianka, *Karavan, $Nemyriv, *Pastyrske, and *Sharpivka fortified settlements and the *Chortomlyk, *Haimanova Mohyla, *Kul Oba, *Krasnokutskyi, *Melitopil, *Oksiutyntsi, *Oleksandropil, *Solokha, *Starsha Mohyla, and *Zhabotyn kurhans.
The people who lived in Steppes were overwhelmingly horsemen. Many were at least semi-nomadic with herds of livestock. Nomadism explains why there were waves of occupants. These Steppe people, Central Eurasians, traveled to and mated with people in the peripheral civilizations. Herodotus is one of our main literary sources for the Steppe tribes, but he isn't terribly reliable. The people of the ancient Near East recorded dramatic encounters with the people of the Steppe. Archaeologists and anthropologists have supplied more information about the Steppes people, based on tombs and artifacts.
1. CimmeriansThe Cimmerians (Kimmerians) were Bronze Age communities of horsemen north of the Black Sea from the second millennium B.C. The Scythians drove them out in the 8th century. Cimmerians fought their way into Anatolia and the Near East. They controlled the central Zagros in the early to mid 7th century. In 695, they sacked Gordion, in Phrygia. With the Scythians, the Cimmerians attacked Assyria, repeatedly.
"Cimmerians" The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Archaeology. Timothy Darvill. Oxford University Press, 2008.
Marc Van de Mieroop's A History of the Ancient Near East
2. Huns .Contrary to contemporary standards, Hunnish women mingled freely with strangers and widows even acted as leaders of local bands. Hardly a great nation, they battled amongst themselves as often as with outsiders, and were as likely to fight for as against an enemy -- since such employment offered unaccustomed luxury.The Huns are best known for their fear-inspiring leader Attila, the Scourge of God.
3. Kushans"Mediaeval Commerce (Asia)" From The Historical Atlas by William R. Shepherd, 1926.Kushan describes one branch of the Yuezhi, an Indo - European group driven from northwestern China in 176–160 B.C. The Yuezhi reached Bactria (northwest Afghanistan and Tajikistan) around 135 B.C., moved south into Gandhara, and established a capital near Kabul.The Kushan kingdom was formed by Kujula Kadphises in c. 50 BC. He extended his territory to the mouth of the Indus so he could use the sea route for trade and thereby bypass the Parthians. The Kushans spread Buddhism to Parthia, Central Asia, and China. The Kushan Empire reached its peak under its 5th ruler, Buddhist King Kanishka, c. 150 A.D. Source:
Christopher I. Beckwith Empires of the Silk Road. 2009.
4. Parthians© http://www.cngcoins.com CNG CoinsThe Parthian Empire existed from about 247 B.C.-A.D. 224. It is thought that the founder of the Parthian empire was Arsaces I. The Parthian Empire was located in modern Iran, from the Caspian Sea to the Tigris and Euphrates Valley. The Sasanians, under Ardashir I (who ruled from A.D. 224-241), defeated the Parthians, thereby putting an end to the Parthian Empire.To the Romans, the Parthians proved a formidable opponent, especially after the defeat of Crassus at Carrhae. See: How did Crassus die?
5. Scythians(Sakans to the Persians) lived in the Steppes, from the 7th to the 3rd century B.C., displacing the Cimmerians in the area of the Ukraine. Scythians and Medes may have attacked Urartu in the 7th century. Herodotus says the language and culture of the Scythians was like that of nomadic Iranian tribes. He also says Amazons mated with Scythians to produce the Sarmatians. At the end of the fourth century, the Scythians crossed the Tanais or Don River, settling down between it and the Volga. Herodotus called the Goths Scythians.
Amazons in the Scythia: New Finds at the Middle Don, Southern Russia, by Valeri I. Guliaev World Archaeology © 2003 Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
More on the Scythians6. SarmatiansThe Sarmatians (Sauromatians) were a nomadic Iranian tribe related to the Scythians. They lived on the plains between the Black and Caspian Sea, separated from the Scythians by the Don River. Tombs show they moved west into Scythian territory by the mid-third century. They demanded tribute from Greek towns on the Black Sea, but sometimes allied with the Greeks in fighting the Scythians.
7. Xiongnu and Yuezhi of Mongolia The Chinese pushed the nomadic Xiongnu back across the Yellow River and into the Gobi desert in the 3rd century B.C. and then built the Great Wall to keep them out. It is not known where the Xiongnu came from, but they went to the Altai Mountains and Lake Balkash, where the nomadic Indo-Iranian Yuezhi lived. The two groups of nomads fought, with the Xiongnu triumphant. The Yuezhi migrated to the Oxus valley. Meanwhile the Xiongnu went back to harrass the Chinese in about 200 B.C. By 121 B.C. the Chinese had successfully pushed them back into Mongolia and so the Xiongnu went back to raid the Oxus Valley from 73 and 44 B.C., and the cycle began again. Source:
Library of Congress: Mongolia
Herodotus on the CimmeriansHerodotus IV.6 lists the 4 tribes of the Scythians:
From Leipoxais sprang the Scythians of the race called Auchatae; from Arpoxais, the middle brother, those known as the Catiari and Traspians; from Colaxais, the youngest, the Royal Scythians, or Paralatae. All together they are named Scoloti, after one of their kings: the Greeks, however, call them Scythians. Lipoxais became the ancestor of the Auchatae, Arpoxais that of the Catiari and Traspians, and from Colaxais sprang the Royal Scythians or Paralatae.Sumerians, Scythians, and other Grail peoples
This is the article that got me interested in this subject in the first place!
The Hungarian White Stag Legends, and their connection to the Scythians, the land of Sumer,
and Enki, the Anunnaki lord who fathered humanity
The Declaration of Arbroath, in which St. Andrew speaks of the Scythian heritage of the Scottish people.
A great site that discusses the archeological proof of the Scythian peoples' influence on the Celts.
Here is a site that also talks about the Scottish/Scythian connection,
and traces their possible migration path from their ancestral lands.
The expansion of the Scythians across Europe and Asia.
This site discusses possible links between the Scythians and the Hebrews.
As Iljinskaja and Terenozhkin have established, the transition to the Scythian period has taken place here during the evolution of the Zhabotyn culture approximately in the middle of 7-th B.C. Thus, that fact is very important that findings of the Early-Scytian time are excavated in the right-bank forest-steppe up to the upper Dniester land. Due to the regular annual researches of the Lvov archeologists under L.Krushelnitska’s management, numerous settlements and burial grounds of the Late-bronze and the Late-iron time are discovered on the middle and upper Dniester land and in the Vorcarpathian. Among them are such remains which evidently show the gradual transition from the Chornolis to the Scythian culture, for example, the complex in the village of Neporotovo on the river Dniester in Chernovtsy Region: “In the area 6000 sq. m were excavated four settlements (Neporotovo I, II, III, IV), numerous separate remains and the remains of a burial ground. The findings and also the layers of the objects overlaping each other, enabled allocation of three chronological horizons: the upper –the Early-Scythian, the transitive - from the Pre-Scythian to the Scythian, and the lower which is synchronous with the Chornolis culture"(L.1993-1, 7).
The finds of the Early-Scythian time are revealed also in the Lvov Region - near to the village of Krushelnitsa in Skole Area and near the town of Dobromil on the river San (Krushelnitska L.1993-2, 226, 236). Scythian influences reach considerably further:
"The presence of the artifacts of Scythian type in the Central Europe (the authentic and made on Scythian samples) has allowed researchers to draw a conclusion that this territory was under influence of Scythian culture. The biggest concentration of finds of the Scythian type is observed in Transylvania and Hungary "(Popovich And. 1993, 250-251).
The Ukrainian archeologists as a whole recognize that the cultural continuity from the Pre-Scythian to the Scythian time is observed in the Ukrainian Forest-steppe first of all in the area of the spreading of the Chornolis culture and the finds of the Zhabotyn type which are considered as its continuation (Archeology of Ukrainian SSR, V 2, 1986, 50). The opinion about the succession of the Scythian culture in the Forest-steppe of the Dnieper Right-bank from local cultures does not cause objections even at supporters of Asian origin of the Scythian culture as a whole:
“A plenty of remains of the pastoral-agricultural population of the Scythian culture, which roots deeply go in local cultures of the Bronze Age, are concentrated in the Forest-steppe of the Right bank to the West from Dnieper” (Iljinskaja V.A., Terenozhkin A.I., 1983, 11 ).
Thus the following observation is important:
"The Scythian-Siberian barrow burial was spread in the Right-bank Forest-steppe ... Such ceremony, peculiar to early Scythians, has held steady on in the Forest-steppe of Right-bank up to the end of Scythian period " (Iljinskaja V.A., Terenozhkin A.I., 1983, 365).
This and other facts give the grounds to think that the Scythian culture was widespread to the Left bank of the Dnieper from the west, instead of from the east. Iljinskaja and Terenozhkin, supporters of its Asian origins, contradicted themselves when they spoke that in the Left-bank Ukraine the earliest remains of the beginning of the Iron Age are the settlements and the burial places of the second step of the Chornolis culture. Their occurrence has been caused by the consequence of the migration of a part of the population from the Dnieper Right banks at the end of 9-th or in the beginning of 8-th centuries B.C. Later a local version of the Scythian culture has been created on this basis. Other territory of the Left-bank Forest-steppe, on their supervision, has been populated later, at the beginning of the first half of 6-th century AD, and Scythian remains appear here already in a completely generated shape after Scythians have come back from assumed campaigns to For Asia(Iljinskaja V.A., Terenozhkin A.I.,1983, 366).
However, even supporters of the aboriginal theory did not occur that the Scythian culture could develop integrally on the basis of local cultures of the Western Ukraine. The opinion that the Scythian culture was brought here by newcomers whence from steppes dominates among scholars. Penetration of these carriers of the Scythian culture is supposed even till the territory of modern Hungary (Popovich I.1993, 282) and Germany. Scythian golden fish of the sixth century B.C. has been found in province of Brandenburg. This fact gives scholars grounds to say:
“With other objects of treasure, mostly, of gold, it documents the influence, and possibly the invasion, of Scythians, nomadic horsemen from the steppes north of the Black Sea, around 500 B.C.” (Dietrich Sahrhage, Johannes Lundbeck, 1992, 17).
Such opinions look surprising if to pay attention that the eldest remains of the Scythian culture in the village of Lahodiv (near to the city of Lvov) are dated by 5-th B.C., and further the chronological break begins to 1-st century AD when the period of the Lipetsk culture appears (Krushelnytska L.1993-2, 238). By Krushelnytska’s words, one can notice the same situation also "on the countries of the whole the forest-steppe Ukraine "(Ib.). Practically it means that the Late-Scythian culture had no place on these lands, but only the Early-Scythian one. Consequently, it looks illogical that the Scythian penetration in the Fore-Carpathian and further beyond the Carpathian Mountains began before the fullest flower of the Scythian culture in the steppes of the Northern Black Sea Coast.
Herodotus asserted that Scythians, coming from Asia, have superseded Cimmerians from the Black Sea Coast and pursued them even beyond the Caucasus. The area of Cimmerian cultures reaches beyond the Right bank of the Dnieper up to the Danube, therefore it is doubtful that Scythians, having arrived from the east, have superseded Cimmerians in the Transcaucasia. If Cimmerians receded before Scythians, they should escape somewhere beyond the Dnieper and further beyond the Danube, to the Balkans, but not to make the way through Scythians to the Derbent pass and further. In this case, Cimmerians attacks to For Asia should occur through the Balkans. The historical data testify that Cimmerians came in the majority from the Caucasian ridge and only any their part together with Thracians arrived to Asia Minor from Balkan Peninsula. This can take place only when Scythians came from the west, but not from the east.
Solving the question of the ethnic belonging of Scythians, it is necessary to pay attention to the fact of existence in the steppes near the Azov and the Caspian Seas in second half 1-st thousand two big states created by Bulgars and related to them Khazars. Bulgarian tribes have been incorporated in Great Bulgaria by one of the tribe leaders Kubrat into 635 and approximately at the same time Khazarian Khaganat started to develop too. Soon after Kubrats death, intense relations between both states led to disorder of Great Bulgaria. One Bulgarian horde migrated beyond the Danube where its leader khan Asparuh has created a new state - Danube Bulgaria while the second horde was got a part of the Khaganat. To the beginning of 8-th century Khaganat already possessed the large territory including foothills of Dagestan, the steppes about the river Kuban, the Sea of Azov, and a part of the Black Sea Coast, the most part of the Crimea. The young state had to conduct heavy struggle for existence with Arabs and consequently the most part of Bulgars has gradually departed on the north, in the basin of the river Kama where they have formed own state Volga Bulgaria in due course. (Pletneva S.A., 1986, 20-41). As we see, Bulgars should be very numerous people which history is traced on the ways of their migration from the Western Ukraine through the seaboard steppes up to the banks of the Kama. This numerous people which have to stay in the steppes of Ukraine in days of Herodotus therefore could not to be remained without the attention of this Greek historian. Hence, it is necessary to assume that Bulgars, at least, were among those tribes which are mentioned by Herodotus in his "Histories".
We know, that Proto-Bulgars moved to the right bank of the Dnieper from the end of 3-rd mill. B.C. First they have occupied only the steppe, but have promoted also in the forest-steppe strip later. This fact can to be testified by lexical coincidences between German and Chuvash languages (Stetsyuk V.,1998, 85-86). The hypothetical territory of Bulgar’s settlement should be somewhere to the south of the area of ancient Tuetons, that is in the basin of the upper Dniester, the rivers Vereschitsia, Zolota Lypa, Strypa. Bulgars stay in this territory can be proved by numerous toponymics. This theme has been considered in corresponding work more detailed (Stetyuk V., 2002, 13-20). Here it is possible to specify only that one the of congestions of Scythian toponymics is in the territory of the Cherepyn-Lahodiv group of archaeological remains which L. Krushelnytska binds with the Early-Scythian culture. On the whole, the greatest congestion of Bulgarian toponymics has been revealed on territory of the Lvov Region and further to the east up to the river the Hnyla Lypa though it is certified on all territory forest-steppe Rightbank Ukraine where it adjoins to the toponymics of Kurdish type. Thus Bulgarian toponymics lasts as the expressed chain up to Dnieper, passes it in the area of the river Vorskla’s mouth, further goes upwards the Vorskla, and then gradually becomes sparse. Also what is the most surprising, that the general area of Bulgarian and Kurdish toponymics mostly coincides with area the of the Chornolis culture together with the characteristic tongue on the Vorskla (see Fig.3). There is no doubt that exactly on this territory ancient Bulgars and Kurds lived in the close neighbourhood and this can be been displayed confirmed by numerous lexical parallels between Chuvash and Kurdish languages (see the previous chapter). As other ethnic groups were not present at the Rightbank Ukraine at this time, one may believe that creators of the ethnically not identified Chornolis culture could be only Proto-Bulgars and Proto-Kurds. Estimating of the proportional contribution of both ethnoses into this culture is difficult at present, but on all signs it seems to be that the leading role played Proto-Bulgars. Having taken into account the fact and the chronological frameworks of evolution of the Chernolis cultures to the Early-Scythian culture, one may go further to assume that Scythians should be identified with Bulgars and Kurds as creators of Early-Scythian culture in the Ukrainian Forest-steppe down to the Carpathian Mountains and the river San. According to toponimics, the nucleus of the Scythian culture began to arise on the banks of the left tributaries of the Dniester – the rivers Vereschitsia, Hnyla Lypa, Zolota Lypa, Strypa, Seret. Obviously, the well-known Scythian gold was extracted in the basin of these rivers as the numerous toponymics, which can testify former rich deposits of this metal, concentrates here (the Ukrainian root “zoloto” (gold) may be find in the names of the rivers Zolota Lypa, Zolota, the settlements of Zolochev, two villages of Zolochivka, of Zolotniks, of Zoloty Potik, of Ivane-Zolote, of Bilche-Zolote, of Zolota Sloboda).
Scythians and Druids
The Tocharians depicted in the cave shrines of Takla Makan are red haired and wear the same conical hat, sometimes called a Phrygian cap. A variant of this was worn by Mithras, the intermediary god adopted by the Persians and featured in the Indian pantheon of the Asuras.
In monarchical dualism he is depicted as balancing the forces of increase and decrease, represented by the gods Ahura Mazda and Ahriman and some classical authors identified him with Jesus Christ. His headgear is also depicted as the hat worn by gnomes and dwarves.
Accompanying the depictions of the Tocharian Lords in these cave temples are examples of the language attributed to them - Tocharian A script - which looks remarkably like one of the scripts that Tolkien attributes to his Elven peoples. That the Tocharians are Scythian-Aryans themselves means that the devotional language used by their High-Kings and Queens might justifiably be called an Elven language, the tongue of Tolkien’s Sundered Elves of the East.
The second Gaelic word for ’vampire’ is Sumaire, which is pronounced shimarie, with the accent on the middle syllable - shim AR ri. Sumaire is translated as ’vortex’, meaning a whirlpool or spiral, a labyrinth: a sucker, a reptile (serpent or Dragon).
There is a clear link here with Sumeria and Anu’s mother Tiamat, the Dragoness of the deeps, and with Anu’s children Samael and Lilith, the forebears of the fairies. Various pictures of the latter two depict them as entwined around a tree, often the tree is Lilith herself, with Samael as the serpent or dragon resting in her branches as in Hebraic Iconography where Lilith is the Tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden.
The Sumerians appeared first in Mesopotamia in 3500 BC. Prior to their emergence they were preceded by the Ubaid migrants from what is now southern Romania, from Carpathia and Scythia, who had fled south to escape the Black Sea flood of 4000 BC. Dated to about 5000 BC, archaeologists working in Tartaria in the UbaidTransylvania, discovered a ’tepes’ or Rath under which they found a fire-pit.
Buried amongst the ashes were the human remains of a cannibalistic sacrificial victim and two clay tablets. On these were inscribed the name of Enki (Samael), the number of Anu - 60 - and the image of a goat, Enki again, and a Tree - Lilith. In Hinduism Siva is the Goatherd of the Mountains.
The pictographic nature of the inscriptions convinced the archaeologists that the language was the forerunner of Sumerian and so they called it proto-Sumerian. Making it fairly obvious that the Sumerians were originally Ubaid Overlords from Central Eurasia.
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