Scythian Warriors

Tattooed Scythian Warriors, Descendants of the Amazons? Part One

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Herodotus describes the Scythians living in the area north of the Black Sea about three thousand years ago. According to him they traced their ancestry directly from Zeus and the river nymph Borysthenis, daughter of the river god Borysthenes, the union of which produced a son named Tagitaos and he in turn had three sons with a human woman, demigods, who were the progenitors of the three Scythian tribes. It is said that in the time of the sons of Tagitaos there came down from heaven four items made of gold. These items were a plow, a yoke, a cup and a battle axe. Each brother attempted to use the items but they were met with a blazing fire or great heat but when the youngest approached the items the fire was gone and they worked only for him and from him the tribe of the Royal Scythians was formed. If one looks at such a tale with modern eyes we could imagine that the items were technology coded to only function for one individual and possibly dangerous as it was also said that anyone who slept while guarding these items in the open would die within a year

Now while Herodotus, the historian and teller of this tale doubted that the Scythians were indeed the descendants of Zeus, he nonetheless recorded their accounts. He also tells a different account where they are the descendants of another of Zeus’ sons, Heracles and the half serpent half goddess Echidna, but that story seems like a more fanciful telling of the first story and involves many of the same events. He goes on to say that he favours a third version of their origin which tells of wandering Asiatic tribes that migrated into the lands of the Cimmerians.

The longer you look, the origin of the Scythians becomes more and more cloudy and some scholars contend that the Scythians referred to by Herodotus are really only the remnants of a much earlier people who were once widespread and very advanced with great cities, ships, farming and herding. If we remember the story of the golden plow, yoke, cup and battle axe we would infer that farming must have been important to the early Scythians if their gods saw fit to gift them with a magical plow and yoke, not a very practical gift for nomadic horsemen. This possibility seems very likely since the Scythians of Herodotus’ time were known to be nomadic and the earlier Scythians are credited with developing the smelting of iron and bronze, the invention of the battle axe (actually credited to the Amazons among the Scythians), the pottery wheel, the bellows, the anchor and the science of horse breeding. One has to wonder why nomads would invent the anchor.

Fred Hamori wrote that Justinius II referred to the Scythians as one of the oldest civilizations in the world; even older than the Egyptians and that they were most likely a northern Mesopotamian culture, not the later immigrant tribes who adapted many of their customs. The Scythians described by the Greeks were apparently an amalgamation of many peoples overlaying a very ancient culture that existed in the area around the Black Sea.

Whatever their origins, the Scythians were a remarkable people with a very ancient origin that remains a mystery.  However, two more tales of the Scythians are even stranger. One is the story of the bald people who were once part of the royal Scythians but separated themselves and went to live isolated at the foot of a mountain. Herodotus described them thus; Passing over a great extent of this rough country, you come to a people dwelling at the foot of lofty mountains, who are said to be all- both men and women- bald from their birth, to have flat noses, and very long chins. These people speak a language of their own; the dress which they wear is the same as the Scythian. They live on the fruit of a certain tree, the name of which is Ponticum; in size it is about equal to our fig-tree, and it bears a fruit like a bean, with a stone inside. … No one harms these people, for they are looked upon as sacred- they do not even possess any warlike weapons. When their neighbours fall out, they make up the quarrel; and when one flies to them for refuge, he is safe from all hurt. They are called the Argippaeans.

Now we have a race of people who believe they were descended from the three sons of a god, they are so early that even in the time of Herodotus their origins were ancient history, they believed they had received technology directly from their gods and a small number of them, described as not normal humans lived apart and served as judges and protectors and the strange story gets even stranger…now we bring in the Amazons.

It seems that in all the histories of the Scythians one point is either marginalized or simply mentioned as if it is not important, but I contend that it is of upmost importance if we are to truly understand the psyche of the Scythians, the existence of the Amazons and in fact the history of all humanity.

In part two I discuss how the Amazons joined with the Scythians.

By Margaret Moose

References

J. A. Salmonson, The Encyclopedia of Amazons (1991), ISBN 0385423667

F. G. Bergmann, Les Amazones dans l'histoire et dans la fable (1853)

http://www.mlahanas.de/Greeks/Mythology/Amazons.

 J.Harmatta: "Scythians" in UNESCO Collection of History of Humanity – Volume III: From the Seventh Century BC to the Seventh Century AD. Routledge/UNESCO. 1996.

 .wikipedia.org/wiki/Scythians

The Real Scythians of Messopotamia, Fred Hamori, based on a work by Gyula Mszros

The History of Herodotus, George Rawlinson, ed. and tr., vol. 3, Book 4, Chapters 2-36, 46-82. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1885]

Comments

Your description of the Argippaeans sounds like pictures we've seen of Tutankamen. I wonder if these features could come a result of inbreeding? The Egyptians were known to marry brothers & sisters to keep the bloodline pure. This could result in genetic abnormalities in the offspring. Hmmmm. Interesting.

margaretmoose's picture

Yes and what is even stranger is that the only food they were said to eat is described as Ponticum which, if it is what is known a Ponticum today is poisonous, at least to humans and most animals. It can even poison honey if the bees frequent the bushes.

Margaret Moose

Well, the piece itself is rather interesting, but I believe you are missing certain key elements. Expound upon the subjects you present. When you say "scholars," please do tell us the names of these scholars. Where did that picture come from? Hmmm. And please, Please edit before you post.

ancient-origins's picture

Hello Jackal, the image is a photograph of a Scythian mummy kept in the State Hermitage's Department of Archaeology of Eastern Europe and Siberia. This particular mummy comes from the Pazyryk barrows in Siberia, dating from the 5th-3rd century BC. 

Our articles are produced by volunteers who write purely out of a love and passion for their subject. These are not academic articles submitted to a scientific journal, so relax and enjoy.  

 

If you don't want your readers to take the article seriously then I'll relax and enjoy. If you do then stating "some scholars" with no further information is not adequate, regardless of who the writer is or where the article is published.

This is a very selective and uncritical reading of H. His description of Scythia is second-hand, most likely comprised of stories that have travelled down from the Black Sea via travelling Greeks. He describes Scythia as starting from an urban area, to settled rural farming areas, then to descriptions of people which are at best legendary and in some cases are clearly mythical. The origin story the author chooses to highlight is obviously a Hellenised myth. It's a aetiological tale designed to explain the circumstances of Scythian society and the farming elements are in no way incompatible with the Scythian lifestyle as H presents it. If we are to be as uncritical as the writer would like us to be, then it should be noted that fundamental to H's presentation of the Scythians is that they are the youngest race on earth. Not exactly the remnants of a great civilisation.

ancient-origins's picture

We are quite satisfied with the use of 'some scholars' in our summarised accounts.  Names and titles of key players are mentioned when they are clearly important to the subject or theme.

 

Your belief that the descriptions of people are legendary and mythical is simply that, a belief.  There are many examples of real people and events that have taken place that have been believed to be myth, but were later proven true. While many accounts appear 'fanciful' to our modern-day understanding, most were simply written in a way that was consistent with what the people of the time thought and believed.  

 

Our site is particularly interested in exploring 'outside the box', and looking at historical accounts from different perspectives.

I believe that tomorrow morning the sun will rise. This belief is based upon sound evidence. I believe the hyperboreans, the gold-guarding griffons, and the one-eyed Arimaspians, are not accurate accounts of the ancient world. A careful reading of H and his understanding of how the world works shows that he sees the Greeks at the centre of the world and that they are the baseline of "normal". The Scythians and Egyptians form the extremes of what can be known and define the boundaries of the known world. Beyond are impossible beings who define the lack of norm that exists beyond the edges of the known world. Please do read over Book 4 and note the accounts that cannot possibly be true, no matter how out of the box we try and think.

I note that you pick up on the items in my comment that you feel can be contested, but ignore the points which undermine the author's theory. Most notably that the Scythians are not the nomadic people that the author would have us believe, but do have a significant settled rural community perfectly in accordance with the depiction of them as farmers. I have no issue with attempts to think outside of the box. Important advances in the field can and have been made by those who are not from it, notably by the likes of Schliemann, Luttwak, Said, and Bernal (see how easy it was to actually cite "some scholars"), but even the wildest claims made by Bernal were underlined by a genuine attempt to research and understand the material.

ancient-origins's picture

As an editor with Ancient Origins, I post thousands of articles relating to hundreds of cultures around the world, I don't pretend to be an expert on all of them. That is why we have writers and guest authors from various fields who contribute their perspectives and research. I am, therefore, not in position to debate with you about whether Scythians were nomadic or not.  Regarding, 'impossible' beings, my personal belief is that there are plenty of phenomena that exist 'beyond the known world', which are not yet understood or explainable by science, and stories that we may fob off as mere fantasy may very well have at least some basis in reality.  This year alone, there have been at least twenty so-called myths proven true through research and investigation.  This leaves me in a position where I am open to the possibility of many other myths and legends having a true basis.  Time will tell.

not being academics, we dont need to attend to the multi-cultural sensibilities of the campus. I picked up on this watching Mallory & Mair, in the Tamir basin, deftly trying say how they had to be careful or there would be Uygher hell to pay, and there were things the Han didnt wanna hear about either. This is just all over the place; nobody can talk about the 5600 BC Aryan Diaspora cause Christian fundies dont wanna hear about the real Great Flood.

It'd be interesting to see if the above 'Scythian' mtDNA was one of those which Sykes says is only found in Europe. Course the Turks there now, wouldnt want to hear that; but we dont need to tell them either. What we say here is just for our own edificiation.

I'd like a clearer image of the tattoos to compare with Cucuteni work.

Pray to Gaia; women listen better.
http://daybrown.org/artifax/artifax.htm

Several years ago,I was researching the Caucasian linage and I read an article about a " Ice Princess" that was found in a cave. Supposed to be 4,800 years old. She was encased in ice as a result of water dripping into the cave. She was clothed in silk clothing and she had bow and arrows laid across her body. Her left breast was removed ,supposedly to better use the bow. She had two horses buried outside the entrance to the cave. She was considered to be an Amazon Warrior. A forensic recreation of her face indicated she was of Caucasian linage. The area she was found was a border area to a Mongolian tribe. This caused controversy. My inquiry is to find out if there is any relevance to this story line? Thank You in advance for any information. kEugene

I believe there is a big peace of history missing in this. My dad said that the Scythian's legend of space travel and that they were the one to make it possible to this day. So where is that I would like to ask?

margaretmoose's picture

Hi Joshua, Interestingly many ancient cultures believe their ancestors came from the stars. Some great places to research would be, the Hopi, Pueblo, Anastasi of North America, the Sons of Reflected light in China, the many legends of the Hindu Gods and Goddess', these are just a few cultures among many who believe their origin is in space. Hope you find them all interesting.

Margaret Moose

Seems like this article has caused quite the debate which is a good thing most of the time. It seems some of them though have gotten off point. It is a good article and provides info that should be considered and processed by everyone. Noone knows the true origin of people or our history, and probably never will. Also it is interesting to see how long tattoos have been around and that the are still relatively similir to today. Technology changes, the uses and intenet or purpose of them does not.

Some of the article says The Scythian claiming they have slanted eyes and they are fearless. Could they be blood relation with the Huns or Mongols?

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