33 Facts About Scythians


Skilled in mounted warfare, the Scythians replaced the Cimmerians as the dominant power on the Pontic Steppe in the 8th century BC.

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Scythians played an important part in the Silk Road, a vast trade network connecting Greece, Persia, India and China, perhaps contributing to the prosperity of those civilisations.

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Scythians were part of the wider Scytho-Siberian world, stretching across the Eurasian Steppes of Kazakhstan, the Russian steppes of the Siberian, Ural, Volga and Southern regions, and eastern Ukraine.

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Scythians originated in Central Asia possibly around the 9th century BC, and they arrived in the Caucasian Steppe in the 8th and 7th centuries BC as part of a significant movement of the nomadic peoples of the Eurasian Steppe.

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The migration of the Scythians displaced other populations, including some North Caucasian groups who retreated to the west and settled in Transylvania and the Hungarian Plain where they introduced Novocherkassk culture type swords, daggers, horse harnesses, and other objects: among these displaced populations from the Caucasus were the Sigynnae, who were displaced westward into the eastern part of the Pannonian Basin.

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Westward migration of the Scythians was accompanied by the introduction into the north Pontic region of articles originating in the Siberian Karasuk culture and which were characteristic of Early Scythian archaeological culture, consisting of cast bronze cauldrons, daggers, swords, and horse harnesses.

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Bartatua's marriage to Serua-eterat required that he would pledge allegiance to Assyria as a vassal, with the territories ruled by him would be his fief granted by the Assyrian king, thus making the Scythian presence in West Asia an extension of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, and henceforth, the Scythians remained allies of the Assyrian Empire, with Bartatua helping the Assyrians by defeating the state of Mannai and imposing Scythian hegemony over it.

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Scythian power in West Asia thus reached its peak under Madyes, with the territories ruled by the Scythians extending from the Halys river in Anatolia in the west to the Caspian Sea and the eastern borders of Media in the east, and from Transcaucasia in the north to the northern borders of the Neo-Assyrian Empire in the south.

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Scythians were finally expelled from West Asia by the Medes in the 600s BC, after which they retreated to the Pontic Steppe.

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In many parts of their north Pontic kingdom, the Scythians established themselves as a ruling class over already present sedentary populations, including Thracians in the western regions, Maeotians on the eastern shore of Lake Maeotis, and later the Greeks on the north coast of the Black Sea.

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In 513 BC, the king Darius I of the Persian Achaemenid Empire, which had succeeded the Median, Lydian, Egyptian, and Neo-Babylonian empires which the Scythians had once interacted with, carried out a campaign against the Pontic Scythians, with the reasons for this campaign being unclear.

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Darius's invasion was resisted by the Scythian king Idanthyrsus, and the results of this campaign were unclear, with the Persian inscriptions themselves referring to the Pontic Scythians as having been conquered by Darius, while Greek authors instead claimed that Darius's campaign failed and from then onwards developed a tradition of idealising the Scythians as being invincible thanks to their nomadic lifestyle.

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Scythians fled to the in Crimea, where they were able to securely establish themselves against the Sarmatian invasion despite tensions with the Greeks, and to the in Dobrugea, as well as in nearby regions, where they became limited in enclaves.

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In Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, the name "Scythians" was used in Greco-Roman and Byzantine literature for various groups of nomadic "barbarians" living on the Pontic-Caspian Steppe who were not related to the actual Scythians, such as the Huns, Goths, Ostrogoths, Turkic peoples, Pannonian Avars, Slavs, and Khazars.

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Since the Scythians did not have a written language, their non-material culture can only be pieced together through writings by non-Scythian authors, parallels found among other Iranian peoples, and archaeological evidence.

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Scythians did not use saddles or stirrups, which were a later Sarmatian invention, and they rode their horses sitting only on a piece of cloth.

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Unlike the other Scythic peoples such as the Sarmatians, where women were allowed to go hunting, ride horses, learn archery and fight with spears just like the men, the society of the Scythians proper was patriarchal and Scythian women possessed little freedom.

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Scythian men and women both wore golden and brazen jewellery: both wore bracelets made of silver or bronze wire and neckrings and torcs made of gold and whose terminals were shaped like animal figures or animal heads; necklaces worn by the Scythians were made of gold and semi-precious stone beads; men wore only one earring.

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Scythians spoke a language belonging to the Scythian languages, most probably a branch of the Eastern Iranian languages.

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Religion of the Scythians was a variant of the Pre-Zoroastrian Iranian religion which differed from Zoroastrian and the post-Zoroastrian Iranian religions, and instead belonged to a more archaic stage of Indo-Iranian religious development than the Zoroastrian and Hindu systems.

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The Scythians are said by Halicarnassus to have worshipped equivalents of Heracles and Ares, but he does not mention their Scythian names.

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Scythians had professional priests, but it is not known if they constituted a hereditary class.

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Scythians were composed of a number of tribal units, including:.

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Scythians were monarchical and were ruled by tribal kings who held absolute power over their respective tribes, and in turn owed allegiance to the king of the Royal Scythians.

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Royal power among the Scythians was considered as having been divinely ordained; this conception of royal power, which is well documented in the ritual symbols depicted on Late Scythian toreutics, was initially foreign to Scythian culture and originated in West Asia during the period of Scythian presence there in the 7th century BC.

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Scythians used leather or hide armour, although the aristocracy commonly used scale armour made of scales of iron, bronze, or bone sewn onto leather, which the Scythians had adopted from the West Asian peoples during the 7th century BC and made into a prevalent aspect of the Scythian culture of the northern Pontic region.

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Sometimes, instead of armour, the Scythians used battle-belts, which were made of scales sewn onto wide strips of either iron sheet, hide, or leather.

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The Scythians small hide or wicker shields reinforced with iron strips, with the shields of Scythian aristocrats often being decorated with decorative central plaques.

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The Scythians sometimes protected their horses, most especially their chests, with scale armour.

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Scythians were particularly known for their equestrian skills, and their early use of composite bows shot from horseback.

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Art of the Scythians and related peoples of the Scythian cultures is known as Scythian art.

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Art of the Scythians proper originated between 650 and 600 BC for the needs of the aristocracy of the Royal Scythians at the time when they ruled over large swathes of West Asia, with the objects of the Ziwiye hoard being the first example of this art.

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Archaeological remains of the Scythians include kurgan tombs, gold, silk, and animal sacrifices, in places with suspected human sacrifices.

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