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Scythian archer - red-figure lid by the Greek vase painter Epiktetos , approx. 520–500 BC Chr.

As Scythians some are nomadic horsemen peoples called that from about the 8./7. Century BC The Eurasian steppes north of the Black Sea in what is now southern Russia and Ukraine from the lower Volga and the Kuban to the Dniester . They were in the 4th / 3rd Century BC Subjugated and assimilated by the culturally related Sarmatians , who had previously formed as a tribal association between the lower Volga and the southern tip of the Urals , some fled to the Crimea , where Scythian tribal associations lived until the 3rd century AD .

They left no known written records, and all that is known about them is based on archaeological finds and ancient sources from other cultures. After the ancient Greek historian Herodotus , the ruling clan was called Skoloten ; the term Scythian comes from Greek sources, but is not Greek. Your language is assigned to the (old) north-east Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages.

Greek and Roman sources sometimes refer to the entire area of ​​the culturally and linguistically closely related equestrian nomads of Eastern Europe and Central Asia in the 1st millennium BC. As Scythia . There lived u. a. also the tribal associations of the Saks (cf. also the Greek name of the Saks who emigrated to India as "Indo-Scythians"), Sarmatians and massagers . In archeology, this Scythian cultural area is referred to in the broader sense as the “Scythian-Sakian cultural area” or the “ Scythian-Sakian horizon ”. The oldest cultures (since the 9th century BC) also include some archaeological cultures in southern Siberia such as the Tagar culture ( Minussinsk Basin), Pasyryk culture ( Altai ), Aldy-Bel culture ( Tuwa ) and the Tes Level (Tuva). These are not known from written sources, the linguistic and ethnic affiliation of their bearers is unknown, but their material culture is similar to that of the Scythians on the Black Sea. Due to the age of these South Siberian cultures, the archaeologically researched spread of this culture from the east to the west and south-west and Herodotus information that the Scythians came from the east, archaeologists assume an origin of the Scythians, Saks etc. a. from this region. A splinter group that migrated to the east formed the Ordos culture .

According to archaeological findings to date, the tribal associations of the Scythian-Saki cultural area were the first in the history of the steppes of Asia and Europe to dispense with seasonal permanent settlements with modest agriculture and switch to the year-round nomadic life as an equestrian people (with a few exceptions) .

Historical usage of the name

From the 3rd century BC The Greeks divided the peoples in the north into two groups: Celts west of the Rhine and Scythians east of the Rhine, especially north of the Black Sea . The term Scythians later served mostly only as a rough generic term for a large number of different barbaric peoples.

The use of the term Germanic for the tribes that settled east of the Rhine was first used by the Greek historian Poseidonios around the year 80 BC. Chr. Handed down. The tribes living west of the Rhine were generally referred to as Celts . This scheme was finally introduced by Gaius Iulius Caesar . When Tacitus wrote his Germania , it was a new but already common name. A tripartite division of the peoples of the north and east into Celts, Teutons and Scythians was now common. According to the current state of knowledge and modern requirements, the above classifications are "wrong" or at least imprecise.

In the 3rd century AD ( e.g. from Dexippos ) and at the time of the Great Migration (late 4th to late 6th century) all the peoples on the northern edge of the Black Sea were called Scythians by the classicist historians , such as the Goths and later the Huns . Examples include Ammianus Marcellinus (20,8,1) or the reports of the historian Jordanes . Like the Huns later , the word had become a general term for steppe nomadic peoples. For Jordanes, Scythia borders on Germania, it extends from the Ister (the lower Danube) to the Tyras ( Dniester ), Danaster (Donets) and Vagosola and to the Caucasus and the Araxes , a tributary of the Kura in the southern Caucasus region. In the east it bordered on the land of the Seren ( Caspian Sea ), in the north on the Vistula on that of the Teutons. In the Scythian Land the Riphean Mountains (Urals), which separate Asia and Europe, and the cities of Borysthenes , Olbia , Kallipodia , Chesona , Theodosia , Kareon , Myrmicon and Trebizond , were found, which the savage Scythian peoples had founded by the Greeks in order to trade with them could drift (Gothic story, 5). Also in many Byzantine historical works, which were in the classical tradition, foreign peoples on the Danube were referred to as Scythians.

Herodotus reports that the Scythians were called Saken by the Persians . As in late antiquity and in medieval Europe , Skythe / Sake was often simply a general term for every barbarian steppe dweller among the Persians (see ethnogenesis , equestrian peoples). Old Persian inscriptions from the 6th century name three groups of the Saka: Paradraya , Tigraxauda and Haumawarga . At least the Haumawarga are also known in India as Hauma or soma- drinking Indo-Aries, so that we are only talking about the Scythians living east of the Tigris, who were strongly present east of the Caspian Sea and in northern India at this time, which by thousands is also very well documented by Kurgane of this epoch. In a narrower sense, this name refers to the Sak tribes whose settlement areas were mainly in the Kazak steppes.

Written certificates

Assyrian sources

The Scythians appear in the Assyrian sources for the first time under Sargon II . At the time of Assurhaddon (680–669 BC) they allied themselves under Išpakai with the Mannaean Empire on Lake Urmia and attacked the Assyrians. Under a certain Bartatua / Partatua , the Scythians appear as allies of the Assyrians, perhaps because of a marriage to a daughter of Assurhaddon.

Cimmerians and Scythians are often summarized in the Assyrian sources as umnan-manda , which, however, is also a rather imprecise term that generally refers to mountain peoples. Similar names have already been used by Akkadians in connection with older mountain peoples of unknown origin.


The kingdom of Ashkenaz , which in Jeremiah 51.27  EU, together with Ararat ( Urartu ), Minni ( Mannaeans ), is called upon to attack Babylon, is mostly identified as Scythian. The corresponding text should be after 594 BC. Have been formulated. The form of Ashkenaz is based on a mix-up that goes back to the similarity of the Hebrew characters Vav (for "u") and Nun . The originally Assyrian form was (A) sch-ku-zaa or (I) sch-ku-zaa , supposed to correspond to the Greek Scythai (due to Scythian tombs) .

In the table of people in Genesis (Gen 10.3), Ashkenaz appears as the child of Gomer , the son of Japhet . Gomer is equated with the Kimmerern, whereby the table of peoples largely dates back to the 1st to 3rd century BC. Chr. Refers. Older ideas probably originate from the Babylonian-Assyrian libraries during the Babylonian exile. Colossians 3,11  EU mentions the Scythians (Σκύθης) around the year 60 AD and distinguishes them from other non-Greek peoples (βάρβαροι).

Greek and Roman sources

The Scythians were described in detail by the Greek historian Herodotus.

Scythian sites (brown symbols) with burial mounds (triangles), villages (house symbols), larger fortified settlements (house symbols with platform) and other hills (flat, round hill symbols) in the area of ​​today's Ukraine 7. – 3. Century BC The finds continue to the east. According to archaeological research, the originally nomadic Scythians settled in northern forest areas and river valleys.

Thereafter there were four main divisions of the Scythians: the Auchetes, descendants of Leipoxais, the eldest son of the founder hero Targitaos ; the Katairs and Traspiers, descendants of the middle son Arpoxais; and the Paralats or royal Scythians, descendants of the youngest son Kolaxais (Herodotus 4: 6). This name also appears in Alkman of Lesbos and Valerius Balba (70–96 BC). All these descendants together would be called Scolotians, the Greeks called them Scythians.

A few pages further, Herodotus describes a further division of the Scythians according to the economic mode. Arable Scythians then lived in the land of Hyläa (from Greek ὕλη, hýlē , 'forest', probably 'mountain forest') between Borysthenes ( Dnepr ) and Hypanis ( Southern Bug ), to the Pantikapes river and eleven day trips north. They called themselves Olbiopolitans (Olbia Polis). The steppe begins to the east of the Olbiopolitans; nomadic Scythians lived here on the Gerrhus (the Molotschna river and the larger Tokmak, the current name of the Molotschna's upper reaches). Again to the east of it (meaning east of the Sea of ​​Azov) lived the royal Scythians, "who consider all other Scythians for their slaves " and were the most numerous. Their settlement area extended to the Crimea and the Tanais ( Don ). To the east of them the Sauromats settled , to the north of them the Melanchlanes , so named after their black coats, neither after Herodotus, no Scythian tribes, although the Melanchlanes had adopted Scythian customs (4,107).

Herodotus gives numerous accounts of the origin of the Scythians. In one of them (4:11), which probably goes back to Hecataeus of Miletus and Aristeas of Prokonnesus, it is said that the Scythians were besieged by the massagers and then invaded the land of the Kimmerer who came before them via the Araxes (Aras) fled to Asia. As evidence, Herodotus cites numerous place names in the Scythian land that refer to the Kimmerians.

Whether the “excellent Hippemolgen , poor, nourished by milk” ( Iliad , 13th song, 5–6) should designate Kimmerer, Scythians or another tribe of the northern Black Sea coast is controversial. Some researchers consider this passage to be the first written mention of the Scythians. Presumably this means skilful equestrian peoples.

Scythian Warriors; Relief on an electron cup from the Kurgan of Kul-Oba ( Crimea ), 400–350 BC BC ( Hermitage , St. Petersburg)

According to Diodorus , Scythes , the eponymous hero of the Scythians and king of Hylaia (on Borysthenes), a son of Zeus and a snake-footed goddess named Echidna , was born on Tanais . His brothers are Agathyrsos (probably the Sarmatian tribe of Agathyrsen) and Gelonos (possibly the Geten).

The work of Hellanikos of Lesbos on the Scythians has only survived in a few fragments. Even Hippocrates , Aeschylus (Prometheus chained), Sophocles , Euripides ( Iphigenia in Tauris , Rhesus), Pindar , Thucydides , Theopompus and Aristophanes deliver some details about the life and the residences of the Scythians and Sauromatae.

In the Greek sources of the classical period, the Scythians are described as typical barbarians who spoke broken Attic and wore strange trousers. Drinking wine undiluted was described as drinking in the Scythian way and was also said of the Germans. The Spartan king Cleomenes took this bad habit from the Scythians and died of delirium. Then the word creation ἐπισκυθίζειν (= drink undiluted or slightly diluted wine) should have emerged. Not only Scythian men, but women too, are said to have drunk undiluted wine and considered the pouring of wine on their clothes to be an excellent custom.

Arrian distinguished between Asian ( Abier ) and European Scythians, the latter he called the most numerous of all European peoples. The Abier or Abioi already appear in the Iliad (13.6), where they were praised as the most just of all earthly inhabitants. It is questionable, however, whether Homer really meant Scythians by this.

Quintus Curtius Rufus (7,7,1) named the Tanais as the border river between the European Scythians and Bactria as well as between Europe and Asia. This is explained by the fact that some ancient geographers believed the Amu Darya to be the upper reaches of the Tanais (Don) and that Asia was relatively short in their imagination. They had no idea of ​​the true extent of Asia. This idea of ​​the world persisted into the late Middle Ages. Rufus therefore saw the Scythians as part of the Sarmatians. Their settlement areas are "not far from Thrace", from the forest area beyond the Ister ( Danube ) to Bactria. The imagination of that time simply knew no other peoples of Asia. Rufus praised the Scythians as not as raw and uneducated as the other barbarians, some of them were "even receptive to the teachings of wisdom, as far as they are comprehensible for a people who are always under arms". (7,8,10).

Strabo did not distinguish between Scythians and Sauromats, but is otherwise an important source. Among the Greek and Roman authors there are also Pliny the Elder. Ä., Orosius , Lukian , Horace and Chrysostom information about the Scythians.

In Athens , Scythian slaves served as armed protection forces ( Toxotai / Speusinoi ) between the middle of the 5th century and the 4th century , as is known from a speech by Andokides on peace with the Lacedaemonians (391 BC). The police-like corps consisted of 300, later 1000 archers and was stationed first on the agora and later on the Areopagus . They were subordinate to the Council of 500 and primarily ensured their safety and the order of the people's assemblies and court hearings. Presumably they were also used to support the eleven civil servants. Its area of ​​responsibility included oversight of the state prison and the execution of confessed or red-handed criminals ( kakourgoi ). The Scythians used in this way also appear in the comedies of Aristophanes ( Acharner ) (425), The Knights (424), Thesmophoriazusen (411) and finally Lysistrata (411) from the same year. The unit was probably established around 390 BC. Chr. Dissolved for cost reasons.

As Frolov (2000) explains, in Athens there were privately owned Scythian slaves in addition to the state slaves of the protection unit.

Medieval sources

In the medieval mappae mundi (world maps) of the 10th to 13th centuries. (For example Hereford map , Ebstorfer world map ) the Scythians were drawn in the area of ​​the Kievan Rus , west of the Tanais (Don) , with the Sarmatians lying between Germania and Scythia. This Scythia lies north of the Black Sea between the lower Danube and extends to the Don. Three names were drawn in here; Scitotauri (Königsskythen) in the Kiev region, Scirhans (Skiren) southwest of it and in Chesona . East of the Don, Gog and Magog were usually drawn in their prison, the Alexanderburg. Behind it lies the land of the griffins, which according to this notion was no larger than Thrace. The cartographers had no precise idea about the peoples beyond the Tanais (Don); It should also be noted that the presentation of these maps was shaped more by theology than by geographical knowledge. Immediately afterwards Bactria , China and India follow. Asia is used to describe the Orient from Anatolia to India. The peoples actually residing in Asia in the Middle Ages ( Khazars , Pechenegs , Cumans and Volga-Bulgarians ) were already well known, at least in Eastern Europe. The structure of the medieval maps is based on maps or descriptions by the ancient geographer, mathematician and philosopher Ptolemy in the 2nd century, with Jerusalem now becoming the center of the world. The maps were further supplemented by the medieval Alexander novels . This contradicts the current view of the Scythians, but corresponds to the choice of words of the Middle Ages, in which Vikings, Teutons, Slavs and Sarmatians were also defined as Scythians. In the first Mappa Mundi, the world of Ptolemy was simply expanded with the knowledge of the Middle Ages.

Archaeological finds

Scythia in the broader, general sense 100 BC Chr.
Example of the Scythian animal style: gold pectorals from the Towsta-Kurgan near Nikopol / Central Ukraine

Finds from the first half of the 7th century and the late 4th century BC Chr. From the northern Black Sea area are referred to as Scythian because of the information Herodotus in archeology . This special material culture with decorations in the Scythian animal style , iron short swords , lamellar armor , bronze cauldrons with a high base (typical of the Saks ), special forms of snaffle gag , catacomb graves under burial mounds ( kurgan ) and large anthropomorphic sculptures is spread over a much wider area.

While most Russian and Ukrainian archaeologists limit the term Scythians to finds between the Bug and the Kuban and on the coast of the Sea of Azov , the area where, according to Herodotus, tribes who called themselves Scythians lived, the term is used in the west mostly transferred to the entire northern Pontic (north of the Black Sea ) and west Siberian horseman-nomadic culture of the early Iron Age and thus certainly also includes tribes who did not call themselves Scythians.

The material culture traditionally attributed to the Cimmerians (finds near Chernogorovka - today part of Siversk - and Novocherkassk ) ended abruptly in the 7th century and was replaced by Scythian finds. This supports Herodotus' information about the Scythian invasion, which some researchers believe to have come from the Altai region. Since the 7th century, clear Scythian influences can also be found in the Koban culture of the northern Caucasus.

Depiction of a rider from Pazyryk,
approx. 300 BC Chr.
Pasyryk carpet preserved in permafrost , the oldest preserved carpet in the world, also with animal-style motifs
Princess of Ukok ” - a mummy tattooed with animal symbols , National Museum of the Altai Republic. It was excavated in 1993 in a kurgan near Kosh- Agach by
Natalja Polosmak .

The archaeological finds come mainly from excavations of burial mounds ( Kurgane ), which among other things contained gold, silk, weapons, horses and burials. An intact kurgan was discovered in July 2001 in the valley of the tsars near Aržan in the southern Siberian Republic of Tuva . The sensational find with thousands of gold objects was made by the German archaeologist Hermann Parzinger on the basis of travel reports about the Kurgane of travelers in the 18th century. The partially very good state of preservation of the remains, as in the Kurganen of Pazyryk , is due to mummification techniques and the Siberian permafrost.

In the summer of 2006 in the permafrost of the Altai Mountains in Tuwa, Hermann Parzinger and employees of the German Archaeological Institute, in cooperation with Russian archaeologists, recovered the ice mummy of a Scythian cavalryman from a burial chamber . Their age was estimated to be 2500 years. Moreover lie Dendro data before the board. The mummy wore a splendid fur coat and an ornate and gilded headdress. A composite arch is also preserved.

Archaeological evidence of a Scythian presence in Anatolia , as reported by both Greek and Assyrian sources, is sparse, apart from three-bladed arrowheads (see below).

A grave from İrminler , Amasya province on the southern edge of the Pontus contained 21 double-bladed bronze arrowheads, an iron long sword with a heart-shaped hilt, a battle ax, as is typical of the Altai region, a gold bracelet and a bridle bar. The burial chamber was bordered with a dry stone wall and was 2.8 m long. The burial was modernly disrupted, but contained bones of people and horses.

Another find from the Black Sea area ( Amasya province ) goes back to robbery excavations and is without a precise location. There were 250 double-winged arrowheads in a grave here. The graves are dated to the 7th and early 6th centuries. Here too, however, it is not possible to say with certainty whether the warriors are Cimmerian, Scythian or Sarmatian; the long sword perhaps speaks more for the latter. The gold treasure from Ziwiye (Iran) from a grave from the second half of the 7th century contains both Scythian and purely Near Eastern objects, which are believed to be spoils of war. The necropolis of Sé Girdan in Uschnu -Tal seems Scythian elements to contain.

Some archaeologists such as Hans Albert Potratz assume a Scythian influence on the Assyrian armament, for example in the case of the crescent-shaped bridle gag and the bow cases.

From the 6th century onwards, Greek imports can be found in the Scythian area, especially Rhodian wine jugs ( Oinochen ).

Black- and especially red-figure vases from Athens show Scythian archers, who can be recognized by their tight-fitting clothing with trousers and pointed Scythian hats . They often used a reflex bow , which was also part of the armament of the Greeks (for example aeginete frieze ). These representations were seen as evidence that the Scythians were familiar to Athenian vase painters from their own experience. It was assumed that they were staying in Athens as the bodyguards of the tyrant Peisistratos and his sons. The written sources, however, only know Thracian mercenaries and so-called “wolf-legged” slaves.

Inscriptions from Olbia and the Bosporan Empire provide details of campaigns against the Scythians.

King Kanita (3rd century) minted coins in Istros , Skiluros (2nd century) in Olbia .

Since the 2nd century it has become increasingly difficult to separate the Scythian and Sarmatian material culture. Presumably, there was gradual assimilation. An exact archaeological demarcation from the traditional for Central Asia, but Iranian- speaking saks due to surviving inscriptions is also difficult from this time.

Relief of dancing Indo-Saks from Swat (today Pakistan ), Gandhara culture

The name of the Iranian-Afghan region Sistan is derived from Sakistan , after the Saks who lived there before 120 BC. BC settled.

A Sakian tribal federation migrated in the 1st century BC. BC from eastern Central Asia to India and founded the short-lived Indo-Scythian dynasty there . A note on an old stele of the Edicts of Ashoka on the occasion of a dam repair in 150 BC. Wrote Rudradamana , an imperial leader of the Saks. It is considered the first written evidence of Sanskrit .

The Indo-Saks, called "Indo-Scythians" by Greek geographers of their time, were integrated into the aristocratic and warrior caste of the Kshatriya in northwest India and gradually assimilated linguistically, but retained their own customs and religious cults for a longer period of time. After the destruction of the Indo-Scythian empire by the Kushana , the Indo-Saks founded the independent empire of the Western Satraps in the West Indies (approx. 35–405 AD; their Persian name Kshatrapa / Satrap originally referred to a provincial governor, developed here but to a title of ruler.)


In the 8th century BC The Scythians invaded the areas north and east of the Black Sea and displaced the Kimmerians . Between 630 and 625 BC The Scythians made an advance to the Middle East and raids as far as Palestine . Herodotus reports how they were persuaded to leave in exchange for ransom by Psammetich I (670–626). On the way back they are said to have plundered and destroyed Ascalon . In 609 Babylonian sources report that the Scythians invaded the Urartu area , in 608 Scythian settlements on the upper reaches of the Tigris are reported. The fall of Urartu in the last third of the 7th century BC BC is therefore also traced back to the Scythians, but probably as an ally of the Median Empire . Information about Herodotus about the destruction of Urartus by Medes and reflections on the chronology of the power relations in the region allows researchers to attribute the destruction of Urartus mainly to the Median Empire. In the fire strata of Bastam , which was destroyed in the middle of the 7th century, and of Tušpa (Van), Toprakkale , Teischebani (Kamir Blur) near Yerevan and Argištiḫinili, three-winged bronze arrowheads and "Scythian" harnesses were found. However, some researchers assume that the arrowheads in Teischebani, which were not found in the walls, but in storage rooms, indicate the presence of Scythian mercenaries. Presumably, Medes and Transcaucasian tribes were also involved in the conquest of Urartu . These campaigns were believed to have originated in the Kuban area and the northern Caucasus. In the area around Krasnodar and Stavropol numerous richly equipped Scythian Kurgan were found (for example Ul'skij Aul with over 400 horse burials). Some Russian researchers, such as V. Murzin, locate the Iškuza empire here , which is documented by Assyrian sources .

612 BC The Medes conquered Nineveh together with the Babylonians and the Scythians . According to the Babylonian Chronicle , the Scythians conquered Egypt in 609. With the beginning of the rule of the Medes (612 and 605 BC) the Scythian influence in the Middle East declined. Herodotus reports that the Scythians ruled all of Asia for 28 years, from the victory of Madyes over the Medier Phraortes to the defeat against the Medians under Kyaxares II (624-585) in 594 BC. BC, who could kill their emissaries at a banquet. Grakow is considering moving this incident to the Astyages reign . At that time Madyes, son of Protothy, was the leader of the Scythians. After that, the Scythians withdrew to the north. Some researchers put the increased settlement of the northern Black Sea region only at this time. 515/514 BC The Persian king Darius I the Great undertook an unsuccessful campaign against the Scythians with an army of several hundred thousand men, whose eastern border was on the Don at that time . At the end of the 6th and 5th centuries the number of rich burials in the Dnepr region increased sharply.

One of the most famous kings of the Scythians was Atheas , who reached the Danube in the west and was born in 339 BC. In ancient times went to the field against Philip II of Macedonia and fell.

In 331 the Macedonians under Zopyrion waged another war against the Scythians. They advanced as far as Olbia , but could not take the city and were defeated on the retreat. As a result, the Scythians settled in Dobruja . Alexander began 330 friendship negotiations with the Scythians, but, according to Arrian (Anabasis, 4.1), he planned a campaign to conquer the northern Black Sea region and found a city on the Tanais . The Scythians offered him a marriage with a Scythian princess, which he refused. In 329 there was a clash with the Massagetes in Bactria , in which the Macedonian troops under Krateros remained victorious. In 323 a Scythian delegation was mentioned in Babylon.

Skiluros (left) and his son and successor Palakos, relief from Neapolis, today's Simferopol (2nd century BC)

From the 4th century BC BC the Scythians were increasingly ousted by the Sarmatians. However, climate changes are also blamed for the decline of the Scythians. In the Crimea , around the new capital Neapolis near Simferopol , founded by King Skiluros , they were able to hold out until the 3rd century AD. Skiluros and his son Palakos were able to incorporate parts of the Chersonese Empire into their empire . In the resulting conflict with Mithridates VI. (122–63 BC) the Scythians allied themselves with the Roxolan king Tasius . However, Diophantes subjugated the Crimea to the Pontic Empire between 110 and 107. There was an uprising under Saumakos , which Diophantes was able to overthrow. Another uprising between 89 and 84 was initially successful. In 80, however , Neoptolemus defeated the Scythian fleet and occupied Olbia and Tyras. Augustus mentions a Scythian embassy in his autobiography. They fought against Chersonese and the Bosporan Empire at that time.

The last, heavily Sarmatized Scythians were finally destroyed by the Goths in the second half of the 3rd century AD.

Social structure

According to Herodotus, the Scythians were ruled by kings and kept slaves who blinded them and used them to process milk. The servants of the kings came from the less respected tribes and were buried with them.

According to Lukian , the social position was determined by the number of animals. So-called "eight-footed" - these are people who only owned two oxen - were at the bottom. Pindar even mentions Scythians who had neither cattle nor wagons and who therefore lacked civil rights. He also knows an aristocracy, the pilophorioi , who wear felt hats .

According to Herodotus, the Scythians knew a form of sweating ritual similar to that of the North American Lakota Indians. Whole hemp plants were smoked on the stones.

Herodotus also reports on the custom of the Scythians to cut their faces at funeral ceremonies. This custom can also be found later among the Mongols and Turks.


The Scythian language is commonly counted as part of the Old Northeast Iranian group of Indo-European . The language has only been passed on in very fragments.

Herodotus passed on some words from the Scythian language in his etymologies of the people names Arimaspoi 'one-eyed' (4.27) and Oiorpata 'male slayers' (4.110). However, the components of these names are difficult to identify. Most researchers interpret ΟΙΟΡ (Oior) as Iranian vīra- 'man, hero', while ΠΑΤΑ (Pata) may be a prescription for ΜΑΤΑ, i.e. H. Iranian mar , 'kill'.

Herodotus also gives a number of names of persons, gods and peoples: for example the mythical ancestors Lipoxais , Arpoxais and Kolaxais , whose names probably contain the Iranian word xšāy- 'rule'; the forelegs, on the other hand, are darker. Askold Ivančik suspects * ripa- '(mythical) mountain', āfra- (north-east Iran. * Ārfa- ) 'water' and xvarya- (north-east Iran. * Xola- ) 'sun'. According to Herodotus, these three men are the ancestors of four Scythian tribes: Auchatai , Katiaroi + Traspies and Paralatai , whose names Ivančik from wahu- 'good, holy', hu-čahr-ya- 'with good willows', drv-asp- ' with steady horses' and para-dāta- 'set in front' and explained in the context of Dumézil 's system of three functions.

That the Scythians actually had a language of the north-eastern branch of the Iranian language group is also indicated by the fact that, according to Herodotus, the Sauromats used a corrupt form (i.e. a dialect) of the Scythian language. The Sauromats, in turn, are equated with the Sarmatians who appear later and are considered to be speakers of an Iranian language. In the late Greek inscriptions of the colonies on the northern Black Sea coast, around 300 Iranian names have survived, which can only be explained by Sarmatic influence. These names show certain geographical differences in the sound development, which presumably points to the existence of an eastern (= Scythian?) And a western (= Sarmatian?) Dialect.

In other words, the Scythian, Sarmatian and Sakian formed a linguistic continuum in antiquity, from which Sogdian †, Alan † and Ossetian later grew.

Influence on Central Europe

Whether and to what extent the Scythians penetrated Central Europe is extremely controversial. These ideas cannot be proven archaeologically . In the Hallstatt period settlements of Smolenice -Molpír ( Slovakia ), in Hungary as well as in the area of ​​the Billendorfer culture in today's Poland ( Wiscina (Witzen) and Kamieniec ), fire horizons containing three-winged arrowheads were detected. These three-winged arrowheads are often used as evidence of the presence of the Scythians. However, such arrowheads were also used by other equestrian nomads, including those who were in Roman service. The gold treasure from Vettersfelde with artefacts in the Scythian style could testify to the presence of a Scythian prince, but it could also represent booty.

See also



  • St. John Simpson, Svetlana Pankova (Ed.): Scythians. Warriors of ancient Siberia. Thames & Hudson, London 2017.

Source collections

Archeology and history

  • D. Chélov: Les Scythes . In: V. Yanine et al .: Fouilles et recherches archéologiques en URSS. Progres, Moscow 1985, pp. 123-152.
  • Christo Danoff : Skythai 1. In: The Little Pauly (KlP). Volume 5, Stuttgart 1975, Col. 241 f.
  • François Cornillot: L'aube scythique du monde slave. In: Slovo. Revue du Center d'Études Russes, Eurasiennes et Sibériennes (CERES), Vol. 14 (1994) pp. 77-259 ISSN  0183-6080
  • François Cornillot: Le feu des Scythes et le prince des Slaves. in: Slovo. Revue du CERES , Vol. 20/21 (1998), pp. 27-127, ISSN  0183-6080
  • Georg Kossack : Tli Grab 85. Remarks on the beginning of the Scythian period of forms in the Caucasus . In: Contributions to general and comparative archeology , Vol. 89 (1983), pp. 90-182, ISSN  0170-9518
  • Vuslat Ünal: Two graves of Eurasian equestrian nomads in northern central Anatolia. In: Contributions to general and comparative archeology , Vol. 3 (1982), pp. 65-81. ISSN  0170-9518
  • ED Frolov: The Scythians in Athens . In: Hyperboreus. Studia classica , Vol. 6 (2000), Issue 1, pp. 3-30. ISSN  0949-2615
  • Charles Burney, David M. Lang: The peoples of the hills. Ancient Ararat and Caucasus . Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London 1971, ISBN 0-297-00495-6 .
    • German: The mountain peoples of the Middle East. Armenia and the Caucasus from prehistoric times to the Mongol invasion (Magnus cultural history). Magnus, Essen 1975, ISBN 3-463-13690-2 (EA Munich 1973).
  • Evegenij V. Cernenko, MV Gorelik: The Scythians 700-300 BC. (Men-at-arms series; vol. 137). Osprey, Oxford 2010, ISBN 978-0-85045-478-9 (EA London 1983).
  • Johann Georg Gmelin : Expedition into the unknown Siberia (foreign cultures in old reports; vol. 7). Jan Thorbecke Verlag, Stuttgart 1999, ISBN 3-7995-0606-3 (Johann Georg Gmelin was a participant in the Great Nordic Expedition 1733–1743 with excavations of Scythian burial mounds.)
  • André Godard: Le trésor de Ziwiyè. Kurdistan . Haarlem 1950.
  • Boris Nikolaevic Grakov: Skify. Izd. Univ., Moscow 1971.
    • German: The Scythians. Deutscher Verlag der Wissenschaften, Berlin 1980 (EA Berlin 1978).
  • Iaroslav Lebedynsky: Les Scythes. La civilization nomade des steppes, VII.-III. siécle av. J.-C. Errance, Paris 2003. ISBN 2-87772-215-5 .
  • Askold I. Ivantchik: Kimmerijcy i skify . Paleograph Press, Moscow 2000, ISBN 5-89526-009-8 (part of the habilitation thesis, University of Friborg / CH 1996)
    • German: Cimmerians and Scythians. Cultural-historical and chronological problems of the archeology of the Eastern European steppes and the Caucasus in pre- and early Kythian times (steppe peoples of Eurasia; vol. 2). Zabern, Mainz 2001, ISBN 5-89526-009-8 .
  • Georg Kossack: From the beginnings of the Scytho-Iranian animal style ( BAW treatises , Phil.-Hist. Class NF 98). Munich 1987.
  • Hermann Parzinger : The Scythians . 3rd edition Beck, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-406-50842-4 (EA Munich 2004; new, excellent overview)
  • Hermann Parzinger, Wilfried Menghin, Manfred Nawroth (eds.): In the sign of the golden griffin. Royal tombs of the Scythians . Prestel Verlag, Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-7913-6125-3 .
  • Renate Rolle: The world of Scythians . University Press, Berkeley, Calif. 1989, ISBN 0-520-06864-5 .
    • German: The world of the Scythians. Mare milkers and horse bowlers, an ancient equestrian people in a new perspective . CJ Bucher, Munich 1991. ISBN 3-7658-0327-8 (EA Munich 1980)
  • Renate Rolle et al. (Ed.): Gold of the Steppe, Archeology of Ukraine. Wachholtz, Schleswig 1991, 1996. ISBN 3-529-01841-4 (plus catalog of the exhibition of the same name, Archäologisches Landesmuseum Schleswig . May 1991).
  • Hermann Sauter: Studies on the Kimmerierproblem (Saarbrücker contributions to antiquity; Vol. 72). Habelt, Bonn 2000, ISBN 3-7749-3005-8 (plus dissertation, Saarbrücken University 1997).
  • Véronique Schiltz: Les scythes et les nomades des steppes. 8e siècle avant J.-C - 1er siècle après J.-C. (L'univers des formes; vol. 39). Gallimard, Paris 1994, ISBN 2-07-011313-2 .
    • German: The Scythians and other steppe peoples. 8th century to 1st century AD ( Universe of Art ; Vol. 39). Beck, Munich 1994. ISBN 3-406-37137-X (Comprehensive, detailed presentation of Scythian art)
  • Alexei P. Smirnov: Skify . NAUKA, Moscow 1966.
    • German: Die Skythen ( Fundus series ; Vol. 63). Verlag der Kunst, Dresden 1979.
  • MF Vos: Scythian archers in archaic Attic vase-painting (Archaeologica trajectina; Vol. 6). Wolters, Groningen 1963 (also dissertation, Utrecht University 1963).
  • Berthild Gossel-Raeck (ed.): Gold of the Scythians. Treasures from the St. Petersburg State Hermitage . Wachholtz, Neumünster 1993, ISBN 3-529-01845-7 (also catalog of the exhibition of the same name, including the Staatliche Antikensammlung and Glyptothek).
  • Konstantin V. Tschugunov, Hermann Parzinger, Anatoli Nagler: Arshan's gold treasure. A princely grave from the Scythian period in the southern Siberian steppe . Schirmer / Mosel, Munich 2006, ISBN 978-3-8296-0260-0 .


  • Askold Ivancik: Une légende sur l'origine des Scythes. In: Revue des études grecques , Vol. 112 (1999), pp. 141-192. ISSN  0035-2039
  • János Harmatta: Studies in the History and Language of the Sarmatians (Acta antiqua et archaeologica; Vol. 13). Szeged 1970.
  • Ladislav Zgusta: The Greek personal names of Greek cities on the northern Black Sea coast. The ethnic relationships, especially the relationship between the Scythians and the Sarmatians in the light of name research . NCVA, Prague 1955.


  • Elçin Kürsat-Ahlers : For early state formation of steppe peoples - About the socio- and psychogenesis of Eurasian nomadic empires the example of the Xiongnu and Göktürks with a digression on the Scythians (Social Sciences writings; Vol. 28). Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1994. ISBN 3-428-07761-X .

Myths and Legends

Web links

Commons : Scythians  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b H. Wagner, Die Skythen ( Memento of the original from April 16, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , Eurasian Magazine , 2004 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  2. ^ Scythian - ancient people , in Encyclopædia Britannica , online edition 2009
  3. See Herrmann Parzinger: Die Skythen , pp. 25–29
  4. ^ Rüdiger Schmitt: The Scythian - an old Iranian rubble language. In: Hermann Parzinger (ed.): In the sign of the golden griffin - royal tombs of the Scythians. Munich 2007, p. 300.
  5. Map based on the information in: "Archeology of the Ukrainian SSR." Volume 2, Kiev 1986. (But no copyright infringement, the work only contains black and white map sketches.)
  6. Herodotus 4:20
  7. Herodotus, Historien 6, 84
  8. Askold I. Ivantchik: The founding of Sinope and the problems of the initial phase of the Greek colonization of the Black Sea area. in: Gocha R. Tsetskhladze (Ed.): The Greek colonization of the Black Sea area. Franz Steiner Verlag, Stuttgart 1998, p. 302.
  9. Plato , Nomoi 1, 637e; s. also Askold I. Ivantchik: The founding of Sinope and the problems of the initial phase of the Greek colonization of the Black Sea area. in: Gocha R. Tsetskhladze (Ed.): The Greek colonization of the Black Sea area. Franz Steiner Verlag, Stuttgart 1998, pp. 302f.
  10. Anabasis, 4.1
  11. The Abier of the Iliad
  12. Jens-Uwe Krause : Criminal history of antiquity. CH Beck, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-406-52240-8 , p. 13.
  13. Heinz Bellen. In: The Little Pauly (KlP). Volume 5, Stuttgart 1975, Col. 242 f – Skythai 2.
  14. Siberian Princess reveals her 2500 year old tattoos.
  15. Complete excavation of the Arzhan 2 Kurgans with an undisturbed princely grave (late 7th century BC) ( Memento from April 10, 2014 in the Internet Archive )
  16. The Gold of Tuva . Interactive thematic complex of the ZDF production Schliemanns Erben , 2006
  17. In the sign of the Golden Griffin. Royal Tombs of the Scythians , exhibition in the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin ( Memento from March 4, 2009 in the Internet Archive )
  18. Ice mummy found during the shooting of the ZDF series "Schliemanns Erben" ( Memento of the original from December 5, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  19. ZDF Expedition: The Secret of the Ice Mummy ( Memento of the original from January 13, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  20. The warrior from the Mongolian ice grave ( Memento of the original from January 11, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  21. Video Mongolia: The Return of the Ice Mummy (ZDF production 'Schliemanns Erben Spezial, 2008, November 16, 2009, 2:40 a.m., 43:42 minutes)  in the ZDFmediathek , accessed on February 9, 2014.
  22. ^ The Week
  23. Herodotus: I, 105.
  24. Article of the Encyclopaedia Iranica on media (see chapter "The Rise and Fall of the Media Empire" first paragraph and previous chapter "The Median Dynasty", third paragraph).
  25. Wolfgang-Ekkehard Scharlipp The Early Turks in Central Asia , p. 5
  26. ^ O. Szemerényi, Four old Iranian ethnic names: Scythian - Skudra - Sogdian - Saka . Meeting reports of the Austrian Academy of Sciences 371, Vienna, 1980, Scripta minora, Vol. 4, pp. 2051–2093.
  27. T. Sulimirski, The Scyths. Cambridge History of Iran , Vol. 2, pp. 149-199 ( LINK ); R. Grousset, The empire of the Steppes , Rutgers University Press, 1989, pp. 19 ff. E. Jacbonson, The Art of Scythians , Brill Academic Publishers, 1995, p. 63, ISBN 90-04-09856-9 ; J. P. Mallory, In Search of the Indo-Europeans: Language Archeology and Myth , Thames and Hudson, 1998, chap. 2, pp. 51-53; C. Renfrew, Archeology and Language: The Puzzle of Indo-European origins , Cambridge University Press , 1988; V. Abaev / HW Bailey, ALANS , Encyclopaedia Iranica , online ed., 2009; D. Sinor, Inner Asia: History - Civilization - Languages , Routledge, 1997, p. 82, ISBN 0-7007-0896-0
  28. Askold Ivančík, Une légende sur l'origine des Scythes. in: Revue des études grecques. Paris 112.1999, 141-192. ( ISSN  0035-2039 )
  29. Cf. Ladislav Zgusta: The Greek personal names of Greek cities on the northern Black Sea coast. Prague 1955
  30. ^ János Harmatta: Studies in the History and Language of the Sarmatians. Szeged 1970
  31. H.-G. Rudolph: Der Schloßberg in Witzen In: Bulletin of the communities Witzen - Guschau - Raudenberg, Berlin51 / 1871, pp. 2-9
  32. ^ Lech Leciejewicz: hunter, gatherer, farmer, craftsman. Early history of Lausitz up to the 11th century. Domowina-Verlag, Bautzen 1982, p. 50
  33. Jacek Kielpinski: Scytów ślady bezcenne (= Precious Skythenschätze) . In: Poza Toruń, April 8, 2016