The Scythians

A curious group of people around the first century is the Scythians.  Amazingly most of Europe is directly related to them, yet all historical accounts of them is short and vague at best. Theres 1 verse in the bible about them,  a short chapter from Herodotus, and handful of written rumors about them from ambiguous Roman sources…  thats about it, what a tragic loss of our origins.

Here is what we know as far as their migration and relevance to Europe. It starts with the Hittite empire in western turkey. At some point shortly after the empire fell people from Lydia and Troy left and headed north of the Black and Caspian sea. They called themselves Scythia  and were pretty sophisticated for just barbarians.  The nation didn’t last long about 500 +/- years when they headed north through Ukraine to Sweden and Norway. There they became known as The Vikings. But as these things go it’s not just as simple as that. At some point around 600 ad there was a rebel movement in Norway. They did not like the many Jarls (kings) in Norway and decided they wanted to unite under a single ruler. The rebels headed south to Ukraine in what would now be called The Kingdom of Rus. Kievan_Rus_enThe founding city was Kiev. So there was now 2 viking kingdoms. Norway and Sweden spread throughout northern Europe (Iceland, Scotland, Ireland, Greenland, Denmark).  where as Rus would spread south-west. (Ukraine, Poland, Slavic states, western Germany, eventually Russia). Rus became the wealthiest of the viking nations and established trade routes everywhere,  believed to be as far as Japan and Ethiopia. As time went on Rus people would Raid and Rape all over Europe west into Germany France Sicily Whales Spain, and just about everywhere. It wasnt until Christianity did The Vikings stop raiding and settled down into whats now called Ukraine.. Now there is the Scythian migration from 3000 bc up to about the 1100’s.

Virtually everyone of European decent that does an ancestry DNA test are often left scratching their heads when they learn they have ancestors from Ukraine and Russia… Yes I know you know your great great grandmother came on the boat from Sicily or wherever- Mine did too!  The Vikings of Rus are the reason why just about all of us are Scythian. Sadly it’s not a nice reason, but there it is. I will say this much though, It looks like many ancient woman were gracious enough to keep their child from a forign raider who raped them. God bless their souls it must have been so hard for them.

I know some are thinking these are simply the indo-european.. Not technically, because the term ‘indo-european’ is a general umbrella term. Loosely with it anthropologist and historians are referring to many random groups with very specific origins a thousand years earlier from Mesopotamia. These groups migrated through this area but settled in as Franc and Germanic Tribes much further west. Were discussing here a more specific group that came into Europe significantly later. The language of the Scythian wasn’t even Latin, that much we also know.  So you see its a fairly different group and culture to be so general about them.

Herodotus account
The father of History, truthfully I’d call him the first anthropologist that historians learned to take notes from. He traveled all over the ancient world and took a written account of just about everywhere. What this gave us was a snapshot of the world in one man’s lifetime in the first century. Amazing I know, I could go on and on about this man, but what he has to say about the Scythians is my interest with him. He is just about the most detailed account history records about them, though even he has some problems I’ll take what I can get.

According to Herodotus the Scythian’s were a very brutal and superstitious group. Mainly Herodotus was interested in hearing what the Scythians knew about the foreign lands around them, from their prospective (the Greeks didn’t know about anything about the world except the Mediterranean area- and tid bits of China) – Judging by the way he talks to them its clear he didn’t really want to be there. What he tells us is They blinded their slaves, they raid trade convoys in foreign lands, and threaten foreigners. Something that always pops up with Scythians is they tell foreigners things like:

“we live to fight and fight to live, and drank the blood of our enemies and used the scalps as napkins”

Now the question with this is, it might not be true. To me, I’m somewhat reminded of that kid that says things to be obnoxious. Something that is very Scythian they tell people random things like this, in a kind of anti-social humor. If you ever read the Herodotus account you can kinda see the whole time he talks to them, hes sticking his nose up- over the course of his stay, the Scythian he’s with become a little annoyed with him looking down on them. I’ll include a link of the account. It’s pretty lengthy, but most of it is him asking them about far off places he is not familiar with. AKA all junk but very interesting stories, but truthfully Europe and Asia was just woods and ice at the time, nothing was really beyond the Scythian border.. (Keep in mind The Vikings later would love stories, and this is their ancestors)

Herodotus Scythian Account 500ad

The Bible Account (sort of)

Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all. – Colossians 3:11
Here is the one and only verse in the bible that mentions the Scythians. Seemingly this tells us nothing, but actually its whats behind this verse that tells us a lot. Jesus’s first disciple Andrew is now an Apostle. As many Christians know the Apostles spread out everywhere, Andrew went back and forth between Byzantine and Scythia. The Russian Orthodox Church tells us Andrews story, as it was passed down to them. Including Andrews prophecy about Kiev.

So how that verse made its way into the bible most likely either before or after Andrew set out to go there. Probably before because when he came back to Byzantium he didn’t have time to talk to the other apostles about it. noticeably, during the early church period of Byzantium there are reports of barbarians coming in from the north looking for books on Christianity to take back with them. So it would seem gradually small pockets of christian communities grew up there.

After there is an established Christian community in this area the Scythians begin writing about themselves. It took a LONG time-about 500 years. By this time Scythia consolidated into Rus. So there really isn’t much we can say for the Scythians themselves. It was Vladimir The Great, king of Rus who (by becoming christian) made Christianity a mainstream religion in the early Ukraine. Archeology has shown small houses possibly used as churches being built before Vladimir in places like Germany, Poland, and sporadically around the Black sea- the known areas for Scythian migration. By the time Vladimir got to Christianity it would seem it already started taking small roots in his kingdom. I for one really like the story of Vladimir the Great so I’ll post a link here. Vladimir The Great

Revelation talks a bit about “The land of Magog” so you may have heard this refers to Russia. This assumption wasn’t pulled out of a hat considering Russian origin, though it could be interpreted as the whole of northern Europe. As far as “Gog” though it’s tough to say who the bible is referring to. Even the Western Hittites considered their earliest ancestor to be a man named Magog. There is a bit more detail found in both the Bibles “Table of Nations” and “The Origins and Deeds of the Goths“.

Archeology

You would think this would give us better insights. Digging up the past, seeing things from the Scythians, what kind of houses they lived in, statues of what ever god, Big Cities, etc… The problem here, I believe, is the climate erodes wood and animals skins fairly quick.That combined with rural mountains and lack of funds or interest. Theres traces of the Scythians here and there but nothing that tells us anything in the way of ‘profound’. Yet what was found does point to a people that lived a very simple lifestyle. I’ll go into some interesting things briefly.

The Country of Georgia (Formerly Scythia) is very mountainous, even today its very rural and hard to get there. (No trains or Plans go into the country) But from the pictures it's absolutely Gorgeous.
The Country of Georgia (Formerly Scythia) is very mountainous, even today its very rural and hard to get there. (No trains or plans go into the country) But from the pictures it’s absolutely Gorgeous.

They wore gold for armor. That says a lot yet hmmm. This tells me they were not just savages running naked in the woods, they were capable of working with metals. Which tells me they were probably capable of a lot of other things. Though we don’t find glorious monuments and big cities, we do see little metal knick knacks. They probably didn’t care much for status symbols. Seemingly it’s conceivable the Scythians were not really hard working people either. They actually seem like they enjoyed a simple life.

Xena-Warrior-Princess-2x14-A-Necessary-Evil_avi_Still001

Amazon Warriors. If you ever watched Xena you have heard of these girls, they really did exist!! Atleast according to “Origins and Deeds of the Goths” Nothing was ever really found about them- yet at the same time to be fair, there wouldn’t be anything found about them. There were other written ancient sources on them which was lost but Jordanes describes them his book- I believe he talks about them in his second chapter- its worth a read. Though Xena is not a good source of information for history, the show did actually use a good many references from ancient Greek sources. You may remember Altai, the evil Amazonian shaman- her name comes from the mountain the Siberian Ice Maiden was found. Some might think these were just Greek myths, Personally I say poo, I don’t think the Greeks just made up random things, at least they usually came from somewhere.

They Clam baked. Scythians were major pot heads, they invented the clam bake idea. Was marijuana used for medicine though? Again we can’t say- all we see is remnants of small tents with a marijuana incense burner. I for one kinda doubt this tentwas medical its just too prevalent and people don’t get sick all the time. And let’s be candid, look at some of the later viking myths and tell me someone wasnt smoking a lot of weed to come up with some of them. Then again imagine a whole society of people smoking so much weed they actually turned some of these myths into some kind of religion. Yet there is the crafty Herodotus account of how they milk cows that makes me go huh. This does sound like something I’ve seen pot heads come up with before.

“Now the Scythians blind all their slaves, to use them in preparing their milk. The plan they follow

Cow Blowing
Cow Blowing

is to thrust tubes made of bone, not unlike our musical pipes, up the vulva of the mare , and then to blow into the tubes with their mouths, some milking while the others blow. They say that they do this because when the veins of the animal are full of air, the udder is forced down. The milk thus obtained is poured into deep wooden casks”

Tattos were a major thing for them. Among the dead found their skin was covered head to toe with beautiful but primitive tattoos. What the tattoos were for no one really knows. some say it was religious, others say it was for no particular reason- It could be both.img00011-gif-tm6fe17ef2054fa38e8536270df631ec25scynthian tiger style tatto

War Reports
There’s other archeological finds, some more significant then others, but I think you kinda see where they generally go. As far as these being warlike I’m actually a little taken back on it. There isn’t alot of military finds from them. Just rumors from foreign countries… Rumors that noticeably come from emperor’s that could likely be a form of propaganda to keep people out of there. And that propaganda could have come from an antisocial humor the Scythian culture maintained with outsiders. I don’t see any first hand accounts of people getting raided at that time. I don’t see military reports of places defending themselves against the Scythians. But what I do see is “barbarians from the north” in a lot of byzantine sources.

Oddly enough there isn’t a lot of instances where they stepped out of their little corner of the world. Which tells me this might have been just a handful of opportunist that went to raid a village or city. They weren’t particularly well organized and often failed. Though like most Slavs even today they talked a big game, but their bark was louder then their bite.

Mongolian influence

Something noticeable is their dress is remarkably like the Mongolians so the question becomes were they the same thing? This is very shallow because its known Mongolians came from eastern turkey, Scythian from western turkey. They had similarities mostly from both coming from the Hittites. Though I’m sure the 2 traded a great deal from each other it was only until the 6th century the Mongolians were distinctly very different from Rus. Its likely they entertained Mongolian culture before hand fairly interchangeably, since the Scythians were not a very formal society.

So who were the Scythians?
They remind me a lot of west Virginians. Not so much natives but very much hillbillies. They didn’t like new comers and they didn’t want to leave their side of the mountain. They had a very elusive culture restricted to their own little section in the middle of nowhere surrounded by civilization… West Virginia in just about every way imaginable. I could even see people fighting each other brutally just for fun. Yet I can’t say that’s a bad thing, I kinda like the way they think :-p

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