THE SCYTHIAN SECTIONS:
- Herodotus on Scythian Burial Customs
Like countless waves of incoming tides, the nomads of the Eurasian Steppe moved across vast woodless plains spreading from southern Siberia to the Danube. Nomadic warriors and herdsmen, Scythians arrived in the Black Sea region in the 7th century BC to rule the steppes for half a millennium. They left behind the remnants of a rich culture that, to this day, puzzles scholars and art lovers.
Noted by the widely traveled Greek historian Herodotus, who devoted his entire Histories, Book IV to the Scythians, they migrated from Asia to the steppe zone north of the Black Sea replacing the nomadic Cimmerians. His writings remain the main source of historical knowledge about Scythian tribes. Praising them for their military skills, Herodotus wrote, “Scythians have shown themselves wiser than any nation upon the face of the earth. Having neither cities nor forts, and carrying their dwellings with them wherever they go; accustomed, moreover, one and all of them, to shoot from horseback; and living on their cattle, their wagons the only houses that they possess, how can they fail of being unconquerable?”
According to Herodotus, Scythians worshipped the sword, the sacred symbol of Ares, sacrificing animals and captive men to the sword positioned on top of a pile of brushwood. Returning booty laden from their raids, Scythians celebrated their victories and buried their dead chieftains in large mounds known as kurgans, together with wives, servants, and horses, all strewn with gold.
Scythians excelled not only in war but in trade as well. Controlling the trade routes through the steppe, they profited from a vibrant grain exchange with the Greek colonies on the Black Sea.
Scythians were eventually supplanted by the Sarmatians during the last centuries BC and dispersed among the many ethnic groups of the region, leaving numerous accounts of their military prowess and grand tombs lavishly stocked for eternity.
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