THE SCYTHIANS OF THE NORTH PONTIC AREA - EUROPEAN STUDIES BLOG

28.11.17


There has been some considerable debate recently prompted by the British Museum's exhibition "Scythians: warriors of ancient Siberia". This short but excellent European Studies blog by Dr Oleksandr Symonenko, posted on the British Library's website, helps to shed some light on who the Scythians were, the lands that they inhabited and on some of the fascinating archeological discoveries found at their 'kurhan' burial sites...

The Scythians (Σκύθες), currently the subject of an exhibition at the British Museum, were nomadic herdsmen who spoke an Iranian language and inhabited the steppes of modern Ukraine, Moldova and southwestern Russia (the Don River basin). The Scythians appeared in the territory of modern Ukraine in the 7th century BC, having come from the steppes of Inner Asia...

After a while the bands of Scythian warriors crossed the Caucasus Range and attacked the states of the Middle East – Urartu, Assyria, Media, Babylonia. Scythian warriors are even mentioned in the Bible (Colossians 3:11). Almost 30 years the Scythians terrorized the Middle East, and then returned to the North Pontic steppes. Here the Greek city-colonies such as Tyras, Olbia, Chersonesus and Panticapaeum, the capital of the Bosporan kingdom, were their neighbors and trading partners.

At the end of the 6th century BC the Scythians became well known throughout the civilized world, having defeated the Persian king Darius I. A century later the “Father of History”, the Greek scholar Herodotus, wrote about this war. He composed a detailed description of Scythia including its borders, which generally coincide with the borders of modern Ukraine, the names of neighboring tribes, the story of the campaign of Darius, the retreat of the Scythians and the further expulsion of the Persians, the description of Scythian life and the burial of Scythian kings in barrows...

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