Northern Tribes of Israel – Sythians

Author Stephen Collins explains: “In approximately 624 B.C., the Scythians [near the Black Sea] launched a massive invasion to the south, and occupied Asia Minor, Syria, Media, Palestine and much of Assyria. They conquered as far south as Egypt, but spared that nation when the Egyptians offered them tribute money. In the words of Werner Keller [author of The Bible as History], the Scythians ‘inundated the Assyrian Empire.’… [They] held Western Asia and the Mideast under their dominion for only a short time, twenty-eight years according to [5th-century-B.C. Greek historian] Herodotus, and just ten years according to [the assessment of] Werner Keller” (The “Lost” Tribes of Israel—Found!, 1992, pp. 186-187). Indeed, the Scythians proved instrumental in bringing down the Assyrian Empire in the years soon to follow.

The Scythians were, in the main, the northern tribes of Israel, who had been taken captive by the Assyrians a century earlier (see our free booklet The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy for more explanation). Collins suggests: “The motive for the Scythian invasion was likely two-fold. The primary motive was the desire for revenge against the Assyrians who had forced them off their land and destroyed the old kingdom of Israel…. Indeed, the desire to liberate those Israelites who were still captives of the Assyrians may have served as a further strong motive for the Scythian invasion. A second reason for Scythia’s invasion was apparently the reoccupation of the old Israelite homeland of Palestine. The fact that some Scythians charged straight south through Asia Minor and Syria into Palestine gives weight to this conclusion…. While the Scythians waged a total war against the Assyrians in Mesopotamia, Herodotus records that on their march through Palestine and Syria: ‘…the majority of the Scythians marched by, doing no harm to anyone.’

“It is significant that while marching through Palestine, the Scythians took no action to attack or harm the Jewish capital of Jerusalem. If the Scythian motive was simple conquest, why did they spare the Jewish capital? Since the entire Assyrian army could not stand before the Scythian onslaught, Jerusalem had no might to resist them. The obvious conclusion is that the Scythians chose to spare Jerusalem. This makes sense only if the Scythians were the descendants of the ten tribes of Israel, who knew the Jews were one of their related tribes. This indicates that while the Scythians were intent on destroying Assyria, their purpose was to ‘liberate’ Palestine. One city in Palestine (Beth-Shan) was renamed ‘Scythopolis’ in honor of the Scythians, and the local population retained that name even after the Scythians left the area….

“This Scythian occupation, which included Palestine, occurred during the reign of King Josiah (circa 639-608 B.C.). The Bible does not mention ‘Scythians’ in Palestine at that time because ‘Scythian’ was a Greek term. However, the Bible refers to them as Israelites….” (pp. 187-190). Indeed, we will later see not just the Jews but people “of Manasseh and Ephraim, and all the remnant of Israel” giving to the restoration of the temple and attending Josiah’s famous Passover (2 Chronicles 34:9; 35:18). What were Israelites doing in the land, considering that they had been carried away by the Assyrians a century earlier? The answer is that these were the Scythians—Israelites who had returned, some now desirous to honor God. Of course, this represented only a small percentage of the Israelites who had been taken into captivity, certainly not fulfilling the many prophecies of God gathering Israel back to the Promised Land. Indeed, they did not ultimately stay—perhaps because Israel was no longer the land of milk and honey it had once been and they preferred their far northern territories.

In any case, it was the presence of returned Israelites that enabled Josiah to carry out his reform even in the territories of the former northern kingdom. Indeed, the Scythian presence explains other things too, as we will see.

The ten tribes of Israel essentially vanished from their former Kingdom of Israel by circa 721 BC. They had been a powerful kingdom in the Eastern Mediterranean region for centuries prior to that time. They had been allied to the city-states of Tyre, Sidon, etc. in what historians now call the Phoenician Empire. Their alliance dominated the ancient worlds maritime trade routes and, from the time of King David onward, became a powerful military power on land as well. They were exceedingly blessed by God during the time of Kings David and Solomon, but a long succession of sinful kings led to a steady decline in the strength and influence of the kingdom of Israel. During an approximately 20 year span between 740-720 B.C., the ten tribes of Israel went into foreign exile in several waves. At the beginning of this period, the Assyrians took captive the tribe of Naphtali and the Gileadite tribes of Gad, Reuben and half the tribe of Manasseh (II Kings 15:29). By circa 721 B.C., all of the ten tribes of Israel who had formed the northern kingdom of Israel had been removed from their lands (II Kings 17:18). While the house of Judah remained in the Promised Land for a time, many have puzzled over the fate and future of the ten tribes of Israel. Where did they go? While the Bible foretold that the tribes of Israel would scatter, literally, to all four directions (Genesis 28:14), the remainder of this article is devoted to connecting many of  the exiled tribes of Israel to one largely-ignored confederation of tribes which emerged afterward in the region of South Russia: the Scythians.

Clues for Tracing the Exiled Ten Tribes:
The ten tribes of Israel can be traced after their exile via both secular and scriptural evidence. This article will give several of the major pieces of evidence for doing so, but first some pervasive misconceptions about the ten tribes must first be addressed. It is commonly assumed by many that the ten tribes were abandoned by God, or that they died out. Neither assumption is correct.

The ten tribes of Israel were led by the two tribes which descended from Joseph: Ephraim and Manasseh. These tribes were given the Divine birthright blessings by Jacob (later called Israel) when he died (Genesis 48:8-22). The birthright blessings remained with these tribes from that time forward. These blessings included large populations, material wealth, national power, etc., and God gave them to Abraham and his descendants unconditionally and permanently. National sins and rebelliousness could and did cause God to withdraw these blessings at times, but they could not be permanently lost. This is an important point which God himself made in a prophecy concerning the about-to-be exiled Israelites in Hosea 1. The prophecy in Hosea 1 was written decades before the ten tribes went into exile for their growing sinfulness. Hosea 1:1-9 prophesied that God was about to exile the ten tribes of Israel from their land, but the tribe of Judah would be allowed to remain.  Most people think that this prophecy is a grim judgment on the ten tribes that God was forsaking them. However, Hosea 1:10-11 pronounces a Divine blessing that would be poured out on the ten tribes after their exile. Verse 10 prophesies that God would vastly increase the population of the ten tribes after he removed them from the Promised Land. The promise of a large population was part of the birthright blessings given to Abraham (Genesis 22:15-18). Hosea 1:10 repeats the very language of Genesis 22:17 that Abrahams descendants would be as numerous as the sand of the sea. This prophecy confirms that God had not forgotten his covenant with Abrahams birthright descendants. He affirmed that he would continue to pour out the blessings of the Divine birthright blessings upon the ten tribes after their exile. This promise gives us a major clue about locating the transplanted ten tribes: They must be a numerous people with large populations!

Let us examine another clue. Genesis 21:12 prophesied that Abrahams descendants would be known by the name of Abrahams son, Isaac. Since the birthright blessing was given to Ephraim and Manasseh, the name of Isaac would primarily be placed on these two tribes. Genesis 48:16 records that Jacob (called Israel) blessed Ephraim and Manasseh with these words: Let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac. This blessing affirms that these two tribes will bear the name of Isaac upon them throughout history. This had occurred already before the ten tribes were sent into exile. A prophecy in Amos 7:16 refers to the ten tribes of Israel (i.e. the house of Israel in verse 10) as the house of Isaac. In ancient times, vowels were not written, so the consonants of Isaacs name would be S-C or S-K (dependent on the language in which the word appeared). Applying the prophetic clue in Genesis 21:12, we need to look for the exiled ten tribes of Israel by locating tribes which have Isaacs name attached to them.

What Direction Did the Ten Tribes Go?
While it is this authors belief that groups of migrating Israelites went to a number of diverse locations, the Bible does give us evidence that most of the exiled Israelites migrated generally to the north and east of the old Promised Land. II Kings 15:29 states that the Gileadite tribes and the tribe of Naphtali were carried captive to Assyria. The Assyrian Empire was located to the east of the kingdom of Israel, so these tribes were carried eastward into Asia. When the inhabitants of Samaria were carried captive, II Kings 17:6 states they were transplanted to the regions of Halah, Habor and the cities of the Medes. Media was long identified with the region south of the Caspian Sea, which was in a somewhat northeastern direction from Samaria, but it was still mostly eastward. The apocryphal book of II Esdras (13:39-46) records that many members of the ten tribes escaped from the Assyrians and migrated independently to a land called Arzareth. Secular evidence indicates that this was in the region of the Black Sea and the Caucasus Mountains.

A Medieval Jewish historian named Eldad is cited as the source of a report that at the time of the fall of Samaria, the ten tribes of Israel evaded the calamity, going off with their flocks, and turning nomads, and that the chief whom they appointed could muster 120, 000 horse and 100,000 foot [1]. To be escorted by 220,000 soldiers, the main body of escaping Israelites must have numbered well over a million people. The Black Sea region to which they are reputed to have escaped is almost straight north of the old kingdom of Israel. The Bible has an account which indicates that Eldads report is factual. In Jeremiah 3, God sent a message of reconciliation to the ten tribes of Israel even as he proclaimed that the end of the kingdom of Judah was near. These messages to Israel and Judah were given approximately a century after the ten tribes went into exile. It is most noteworthy that God told Jeremiah that the message to the ten tribes (i.e. Israel), should be sent to the north. God knew where the ten tribes were a century after their exile and he told Jeremiah that they lived to the north of Jeremiahs location in Jerusalem. Draw a line northward from Jerusalem and you will come to the Black Sea region, exactly where ancient sources place a large body of migrating Israelites. The people living in that region were known as Scythian or Sacae tribes. Were these the Israelite tribes?

Origins of the Scythians:
Most of the Israelite tribes scattered into Asia circa 721 B.C.  Secular historical records should be consulted to identify related tribes which did not arrive in Asia until roughly that period of time. The Encyclopedia Americana records the Scythians arrived in the region of South Russia about 700 B.C. [2] An historian of the Scythians, Tamara Talbot Rice, wrote the following: “The Scythians did not become a recognizable national entity before the eighth century B.Cby the seventh century B.C. they had established themselves firmly in southern Russia. Assyrian documents place their appearance on the shores of Lake Urmia [just south of Armenia] in the time of King Sargon (722-705 B.C.) a date which closely corresponds with that of the first establishment of the first group of Scythians in southern Russia”. [3].

These accounts (and others) record that the Scythians appeared in South Russia at the very time that the ten tribes of Israel were fleeing from the final Assyrian invasion. Tamara Talbot Rices account dates the Scythian arrival in Armenia and south Russia to the very time that the Bible states the Israelites were removed from their homeland (as noted above, some of the tribes were already captive to the Assyrians and they had no choice re: where they were relocated). Rices account also notes that the Scythians were firmly established in south Russia by the 7th century B.C. The message of God to the ten tribes (Israel) found in Jeremiah 3 was given near the end of the 7th century B.C., and it indicates they were located north of Jerusalem. The Scythians lived straight north of Jerusalem in the Black Sea region

The Scythians were also known as the Sacae or the Saka. The Encyclopaedia Britannica states the terms Saka [Sacae] and Scyths were regarded as synonymous[4]. The famous Greek historian, Herodotus, wrote that the Persians call all the Scythians Sacae [5]. In these accounts, it is apparent that the Scythian tribes are known by a form of the Hebrew patriarch, Isaac. The Scythian tribes known as the Sacae or Saka bore the name of Isaac upon them, fulfilling the prophecies in Genesis 21:12 and 48:16 that the Israelite tribes would bear that name. If this is all the evidence there was, the similarity could be a coincidence. However, this is much more evidence that the Scythian Sacae were the displaced Israelite tribes.

Scythia’s Israelite Customs and Names:
One could argue that the emergence of the Scythians in the Black Sea region at the same point in history that the ten tribes of Israel fled the kingdom of Israel was just a coincidence.  However, the presence of uniquely Israelite cultural traits and names among the Scythians confirms that the Scythians were, indeed, displaced and relocated Israelites from the ten-tribes of Israel.

It has been noted above that the Scythians were known as Saka or Sacae, and that this name of Isaac would be imprinted on the ten tribes of Israel throughout history.  The Scythians homelands were not limited to just the Black Sea region. They began to expand eastward across the steppes quickly as their population burgeoned, and they also established themselves in Asia Minor and the Caucasus Mountains.  An early Scythian capital was named Sakiz[6], again proclaiming to the world the significance of the name of the Israelite patriarch, Isaac, to their history.

The Greek story of Xenophon mentions the Sacians of Asia who suffered very severely at the hands of the Assyrians[7], and a Roman writer, Pliny, stated the Scythians were descended from slaves[8]. These accounts reveal strong linkages between the Scythians i.e. (the Sacians) and the Israelites. The Israelites were, indeed, descended from Israelite slaves in Egypt who were freed by Divine action via the Exodus in the time of Moses. They also had suffered severely at the hands of the Assyrians because Assyria repeatedly waged war against the kingdom of Israel in biblical times until its tribes were either taken captive by Assyria or were driven into forced exile. Herodotus noted the presence of Sacae in both the army and navy of the Persian monarch, Xerxes, which marched against the Greeks circa 480 B.C.[9]. One can find references to the Sacae of Herodotus as the Sacans. One writer who uses the term Sacans as synonymous with the Sacae is Paul Cartledge, who uses that term in his book, Thermopylae [10].
Herodotus also recorded that the Scythians recoiled from using or keeping swine. He wrote: “They [the Scythians] make no offerings of pigs, nor will they keep them in their country” [11]. Since the Scythians not only refused to allow pigs to be used in sacrificial purposes, but banned them entirely from their territory, it is evident that the Scythians did not eat the flesh of swine either. This avoidance of swines flesh is a characteristic Torah-based, Israelite dietary trait. Also, Herodotus recorded that the Scythians did not tolerate their own people indulging in idolatrous Greek religious ceremonies. Herodotus cited two cases to make his point. The first involved a Scythian named Anacharsis, who secretly celebrated rites honoring the mother of the gods and wore images (i.e. idols) as part of the rites[12]. Another Scythian saw this and reported him to the Scythian King, Saulius, who personally executed Anacharsis for indulging in an idolatrous Greek custom. Notice that the king who executed Anacharsis bore a characteristic Israelite name: Saul-ius. Saul, of course, was the name of the first Israelite King, who was the predecessor of King David. Herodotus also cites the account of the Scythian King, Scyles, who was executed by his own brother after Scyles participated in a hedonistic Greek festival honoring Bacchus[13].

It must be noted that Herodotus also records bizarre practices and rituals being practiced by various peoples in the Scythian region which were not based on any vestigial Torah-tradition among the Israelites. It is also important to note that there were many different ethnic groups and tribes called Scythians by historians. Herodotus himself notes there was a difference between the Scythians and other tribes who lived in the region dominated by the Scythians. Although Herodotus wrote that the stupidest nations in the world lived in the Black Sea region, he exempted the Scythians from this negative classification[14]. The term Scythian came to describe a lifestyle as much as a national ancestry, and all the peoples and tribes in the steppe region came to be known as Scythians. The term Saka or Sacae identifies the Israelite tribes in the region as that name preserves an ancestry from the Israelite patriarch, Isaac.

Secular reports that the Black Sea Scythians avoided the use of swine for any purpose and forbid idolatrous customs substantiates Jeremiah 3:11s record wherein God stated: “backsliding Israel hath justified herself more than treacherous Judah”. This is dated to approximately 620 B.C., the time when the Scythians had settled into the Black Sea regions. Since Jeremiah 3 records that Israel was then located toward the north of Jerusalem, and the Scythians lived to the north of Jerusalem in the Black Sea region, it is apparent that the Scythians were the ten tribes of Israel addressed by God in Jeremiah 3.

The rivers emptying into the Black Sea formerly had names such as the Ister, Tyras, Borysthenes and Tanais. After the Scythians entered that region, these rivers were given new Israelite names based on the name of the Israelite tribe of Dan. The new names of these rivers were the Danube, the Dniester, the Dnieper and the Don. The Israelite tribe of Dan had a tendency to re-name geographical locations after its own tribal name (Joshua 19:47). Colliers Encyclopedia confirms there is no doubt the Scythians gave these rivers their modern names. It states: The names of the rivers Danube, Dnestr, Dnepr and Don are Scythian [15]. These rivers are known by these Scythian names to this day on modern maps, and all these Scythian names are based on the Israelite tribe of Dan.

The Iberians of the Caucasus:
As noted above, the Scythians lived in the region of the Black Sea and Caucasus Mountains. By the time of the first century B.C., a Caucasus Mountain kingdom was named Iberia and its kings routinely bore the dynastic name of Pharesmenes. The Iberians were known to be Scythians or Scythian allies [16]. The term Iberia is based on the name of Eber, the namesake of the Hebrews. This same name, Iberia, had previously been placed upon the modern region of Spain and Portugal, which were formerly part of the Phoenician Empire of Israel, Tyre and Sidon. The name Pharesmenes includes the exact name of Phares, the ancestor of King David, to whom the promise of royal descendants was given.

The Massagetae and Queen Tomyris:
When Cyrus the Great reigned over the Persian Empire, he invaded Scythian tribes living near the Caspian Sea circa 528 B.C. The primary Scythian tribe was named the Massagetae, and they had a Queen named Tomyris. Consider these names. The leading Scythian tribe known as the Massa-getae bore a striking similarity to the name of the leading Israelite tribe of Manasseh. Also, King David was promised in I Kings 8:25 that his progeny would perpetually include rulers over the people of Israel (i.e. the ten tribes of Israel). In Genesis 48:14-16, the term Israel was primarily placed on the leading tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. Tamar was a common and famous name among females in King Davids lineage. The mother of Pharez (Davids ancestor) was named Tamar (Genesis 38:6-29), Davids own daughter was named Tamar (II Samuel 13), and a granddaughter of David was also named Tamar (II Samuel 14:27).

If the Massagetae were the Israelite tribe of Manasseh, a leading tribe of the ten tribes of Israel, biblical prophecy regarding King Davids descendants being rulers over Israel would argue that this tribe would have royalty descended from King David. At the time of King Cyrus invasion of the Massagetae and other Scythian tribes, the Massagetaes Queen was named Tomyris. The first two syllables of her name are: Tomyr- followed by a final syllable. The similarity of the Israelite name Tamar and the Scythian/Massagetae Queen named Tomyris is obvious and striking. When the vowels of the names are removed, the consonants are identical: T-M-R.

The above examples show that names of King Davids lineage were found among the rulers of the Scythians, whether they were in the Scythians western regions (the Caucasus Mountains by the Black Sea) or their eastern regions where the Massagetae lived east of the Caspian Sea. The presence of names from King Davids lineage among the Scythian tribes confirms that the Scythians were descended from the ten tribes of Israel, as Gods promise indicated Davids progeny would specifically rule over the ten tribes of Israel throughout history.

Scythian Artwork Reveals Them to be Semites:
It is assumed by some that the Scythians migrated into the Black Sea region from Central Asia. Historical evidence easily shows that assumption to be incorrect. The Scythians were famous in the ancient world for their magnificent gold artwork. If the Scythians originated in Central Asia, their self-portrayals should show Scythians with Mongol or Oriental faces. This is not the case. On this gold artwork, the Scythians uniformly depict themselves as Semites who are often bearded[17]. Illustrations of Scythians in the McClintock and Strongs Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature uniformly depict Scythian men, women and youth as Caucasian (or Semitic) individuals [18].

The Scythians were hardly wild barbarians from Central Asia. Like the Israelites of old, they were skilled agriculturalists who not only tended herds and flocks of livestock, but also grew crops. Indeed, they were grain exporters to other peoples in the ancient world. The Scythians exported 600,000 bushels of grain to Athens on an annual basis just decades after the time of Herodotus [19]. Wild barbarians from the interior of Asia would hardly cultivate and harvest row crops, negotiate and fulfill international trade contracts, etc. The Scythians were quite civilized people.

Georges Charriere, author of the book, Scythian Art: Crafts of the Eurasian Nomads writes this observation about the skilled artwork of the Scythians: “There is no ground for concluding that this style of art had its birth in the Altai or in any other region of Siberia. Along with the other elements of Scythian culture, it originated in the peripheral regions of Assyria, among the Iranian-language tribes settled in the north of Iran” (Emphasis added) [20].This is an important observation! It has long been known that many of the Israelites went into captivity into Assyrian regions or the Medo-Persian region of Iran (II Kings 15:29, 18:11). Charriere notes that the Scythian artwork (and other elements of Scythian culture) had its origin in the very regions into which the captive Israelites were first placed. Therefore, the Scythian artwork, their physical appearances and other aspects of their culture show that the Scythians migrated to their Black Sea/ Russian steppe regions from the south, not from the more northern recesses of Central Asia or Siberia.

The Christian New Testament also includes a comment by the Apostle Paul that confirms the Scythians were not barbarians. In Colossians 3:11, Paul lists a series of dichotomies in which he lists Scythian and barbarian as opposites! His account indicating the Scythians were civilized peoples dates to the first century A.D.

Brief History of the Scythians:
Many students of history have heard or read much about the history of the Assyrian and Persian Empires. However, few have been taught that the Scythians fought three major wars against Assyria and Persia and won them all.

In approximately 624 B.C., the Scythians launched a massive invasion of Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, Syria, Media, etc. They marched through the Holy Land and reached Egypt, but spared the Egyptians who paid tribute money to the Scythians [21].The Assyrian Empire, however, was inundated and conquered by Scythian armies [22]. As the descendants of the ten tribes of the kingdom of Israel who were driven from their homeland by Assyrian armies, the Scythians (i.e. the Sacae who bore the name of Isaac upon them) had every reason to want revenge upon Assyria. The Scythians were allied to the Babylonians in this war, although the main burden of the war apparently was borne by the Scythians, whose massive armies invaded and occupied the entire Middle East. The Encyclopaedia Britannica states simply; Nineveh was captured and destroyed by the Scythian army [23].

The Scythians did not stay very long in their conquered regions. Historical sources record they stayed 10-25 years and then returned to their homelands to live. It is noteworthy that although they destroyed Assyria with great violence, Herodotus wrote that the Scythians marched through the Holy Land on their way to and from Egypt doing no harm to anyone [24]. Indeed, the city of Beth-Shan in the Holy Land was renamed Scythopolis apparently in their honor, but certainly in their memory. It is at this juncture when they had entered the Holy Land in large numbers and marched as far as Egypt that the Scythians resurfaced in the Bibles accounts. However, the Bible refers to them by their historic, Israelite tribal names instead of the Greek name of Sacae or Scythians.

There is a portion of the Bible that critics have attacked as proving that the Bible has internal contradictions. In fact, this very section offers profound evidence that the Bible is historically accurate. The supposed contradiction comes from the fact that while II Kings 17:18 states that all the tribe of Israel were removed from the Promised Land except for the tribe of Judah circa 721 B.C., the Bible also states that people from the expelled tribes were again present in the land approximately a century later in the reign of King Josiah of the kingdom of Judah. King Josiah led a revival in the kingdom of Judah, restoring the observance of Gods laws. II Chronicles 34:6-9 records that in Josiahs reign, there were again present in the Promised Land people from the tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, Simeon, Naphtali and Benjamin. II Chronicles 35:17-18 clearly states that children of Judah and Israel (i.e. the ten tribes of Israel) were both present at a Passover which was sponsored by King Josiah. How does one reconcile these seemingly irreconcilable passages? Easy!

Herodotus and secular history record unequivocally that the Scythians (the Sacae) invaded Mesopotamia and the Mideast from their homelands in the Black Sea region circa 620 B.C. They also record the Scythians entered the Holy Land at that time and stayed for 10-25 years. This Scythian presence in the Holy Land occurred during the reign of King Josiah of the kingdom of Judah, whose Passover celebration was attended by members of the tribes of Manasseh, Ephraim, Naphtali, Simeon, etc. who were again present in the territory of the former kingdom of Israel. The connection is obvious. The very people called the Scythians or Sacae by Herodotus were the same people called by their Israelite tribal names in the Bible! Far from demonstrating a biblical contradiction, the combined accounts of Herodotus and II Chronicles clearly demonstrate that the Scythian Sacae were the descendants of the ten tribes of Israel because the Bible calls these Scythians by their Hebrew tribal names! The Scythian/Israelites did not remain long in their historic tribal lands in the Holy Land, and they migrated back to the Black Sea region perhaps two decades later.

The history of the Scythians is as remarkable as it is overlooked in history texts. They were a major world power in ancient times, yet they are scarcely mentioned in historical accounts. Besides crushing the Assyrian Empire, the Scythians also twice defeated massive invasions of their homelands by the Persian Empire. The first Persian invasion occurred circa 528 BC when the famous Persian monarch, Cyrus the Great, invaded the eastern Scythian tribes who lived east of the Caspian Sea. The dominant Scythian tribe to be invaded was the Massagetae, whose ruler was the aforementioned Queen Tomyris (whose name was a form of the Israelite name Tamar). The Persian army was crushed and Cyrus the Great lost both his army and his head.

The second Persian invasion of Scythian territory occurred in 512 B.C when King Darius marched an army of 700,000 soldiers into Balkan Europe and attacked the Black Sea Scythians by marching into their territory via Eastern Europe. King Darius was repulsed by the Scythians, but at least Darius and most of his army survived their retreat back to Persia.

The forgotten but fascinating history of the Scythians is revealed in much greater detail in this authors book, Israels Lost Empires, which can be ordered on-line at

This article has offered convincing evidence that the Sacae Scythians were the descendants of the ten tribes of Israel which were relocated to Asia. The history of the Scythians, who inhabited and ruled a territory much larger than many other empires, is an important, but oddly missing, element of world history. The important role of the Scythians in world history has been all but omitted from history text books. Could it be that the Scythians are largely ignored in modern history texts because if their history and culture was examined in any meaningful detail, their Israelite origins would become evident?

Modern secular mankind is much more comfortable with a worldview which allows it to think that there is no Creator God who not only made them but also will hold them accountable for their actions in this life. The theory of evolution is so pervasive in modern academic and educational systems that most people assume their anti-biblical world view has been proven to be true. Nothing could be further from the truth.  Atheistic and evolutionary writers adopt a biblically minimalist view of world history which assumes that the Bible is unscientific and that the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judah were small, insignificant kingdoms on the eastern Mediterranean coast.

The truth is that the kingdoms of Israel and Judah both emerged from the break-up of the global Phoenician Empire which had previously also included the city-states of Tyre and Sidon. The two greatest kings of this global Phoenician Empire were the biblical Kings, David and Solomon. When the Israelite kingdom fell, many of its people were either taken into captivity or migrated to other parts of the far-flung Phoenician Empire to preserve their independence. This fact is attested to by the prophet Daniel who, while confessing the sins and scattering of the people of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, refers to the people of Israel (the ten tribes) as being both near and far off from the Persian location in which he lived (Daniel 9:7). Many of the overseas colonies of the Phoenician Empire were, indeed, far off from Persia. This article has shown; however, that the greatest portion of the exiled people of the ten tribes of Israel migrated to the Black Sea region and became known as Scythians or Sacae.

In order to successful trace and locate the ten tribes of Israel in history, one must apply a maximalist approach to the Bible and world history. Such an approach takes the Bible literally as the inspired Word of a Creator God. A dispassionate examination of world history confirms the maximalist approach to the Bible is the correct one because biblical narratives do coincide with secular accounts. The Bible declares in Hosea 1:10 that the descendants of the ten tribes of Israel would not die out, but would rather grow in population to the point they could scarcely be numbered. Genesis 21:12 also prophesied that they would perpetually be known by the name of their progenitor, Isaac. Classical historians confirm that the Sacae Scythians were both incredibly numerous and bore the name of Isaac. An examination of their history and culture also confirms the presence of many Hebrew names and customs amongst the Scythian tribes. It is also noteworthy that the Scythians were divided into strong tribal units; they did not have a central Emperor ruling over all their many tribes. This is a typical trait of Israelite history, which often featured the individual tribes acting independent of each other.

The reality that the Scythians were the descendants of the ten tribes of Israel radically alters the standard paradigm via which world history is understood in the modern world. The modern view of world history ignores or downgrades the history and proper role of the many kingdoms and empires which have descended from the combined twelve tribes of Israel. Scythia is not the only Israelite world empire or major power whose role in world history has been ignored or understated. For a full history of the nations, empires and kingdoms which have descended from the tribes of Israel from the time of the patriarchs to the modern era, readers are referred to this authors 4-book series which unveils the true role of the tribes of Israel throughout world history. Israels Lost Empires, which examines the origins and history of the Scythians, is the second book in the 4-part series. The remaining books in this series document the true history of the ten tribes of Israel, and identify their descendants in the modern world.

WITHIN half a century of the House of Israel going into exile, the Scythians were mentioned for the first time in any historical document. These documents, which date from the reign of Esarhaddon, King of Assyria (681-669 B.C.), were recovered from the archives of Nineveh and are now in the British Museum. They reveal that the Scythians were then located among the Medes where the Bible tells us that some of the Israelites had been placed in captivity (2 Kings 18: 11). The same documents also prove that another new people called Gimiri were also located in the same area at that time. Unless we are to suppose that three distinctly different peoples arrived in that area within the space of fifty years, we may conclude that all three were actually the same people under different names.

Now the name for Scythian in the Assyrian language was Iskuza, but there has been no explanation for the initial ‘I’ unless it be that the name was derived from ‘Isaaca’. The Israelites may well have called themselves Isaaca, or house of Isaac, Amos did so a few years earlier (Amos 7:16). It should be realized that in Hebrew the accent falls on the last syllable, so that Isaac would not be pronounced as it is in English. Consequently, the ‘I’ could easily get lost altogether to form the Greek name Skuthae.

Herodotus (VI 1, 64) informs us that the Persians called all Scythians Sacae, and in every trilingual Persian inscription that mentions the Sacae (Saka), namely, that on the Behistun Rock, another on a gold plate, and a third in the tomb of Darius, the name is always translated Gimri in the Babylonian version. Since it is well known that the Assyrians used to call Israel Khumri, this could well be the origin of the later form Gimiri. It is, therefore, not unreasonable to believe that the Iskuzi and the Gimiri were both, in fact, Israelite exiles.

Prayers to the Sun-God

The documents that first mention the Scythians belong to a series of cuneiform tablets classified as politico-religious texts. They include enquiries made by Esarhaddon of Shamash, the sungod, through his priests, concerning the movement of troops, in particular those sent into Media to collect tribute. From these enquiries we learn that the people with whom they had to contend were not only the indigenous Medes but also the Gimiri and the Iskuzi or Scythians.

In one of these enquiries King Esarhaddon asks, ‘Regarding Partatua, King of the Iskuza who has just sent his ambassador to Esarhaddon, King of Assyria, about a princess I ask you Shamash, great lord, if Esarhaddon gives a princess to Partatua King of the Iskuza for a wife, whether Partatua will observe and keep his oath to Esarhaddon, King of Assyria?’ (translated from Politische-religiose Texte, p.30, by E.G. Klaube). As we shall see, there are grounds for believing not only that the marriage took place, but also that a military alliance between the Scythians and Assyrians was made, for Herodotus relates that on one occasion a Scythian army under the command of ‘Madyes son of Protothyes’ (Partatua) came to the relief of Nineveh. ‘A battle was fought’ he says, ‘in which the Medes were defeated, and lost their power in Asia, which was taken over in its entirety by the Scythians’ (1, 103, 104).

Now the Medes, and their northern neighbours, the Mannai, who dwelt around the shores of Lake Urmia, were renowned for their knowledge of riding horses. The Scythians evidently learned the art from them, and in consequence of their alliance with the Assyrians, were free to ride far and wide. In fact, Herodotus says that for twenty-eight years ‘they behaved like robbers, riding up and down the country and seizing people’s property. At last Cyaxares and the Medes invited the greater number of them to a banquet at which they made them drunk and murdered them, and in this way recovered their former power and dominion’ (1, 106).

The Ziwiye Treasure

As a result of the hostility between Scythians and Medes, the two peoples would tend to separate and occupy different territory. This has been confirmed by the discovery in northern Iran of what was evidently the main Scythian stronghold on the summit of a hill in Mannai territory near the village of Ziwiye, twenty-five miles east of Sakkiz. Attention was first drawn to the site when the local peasants unearthed a magnificent treasure, consisting of many pieces of gold and silver artwork which, unfortunately, they cut into small pieces to share it among themselves.

The treasure was found part way up the hill whose summit was surrounded by massive stone ramparts, while lower down on the south-eastern slope the remains of living quarters were discovered. It is significant, as R. Ghirshman pointed out, that, ‘The collection falls into four very distinct groups: the first is undoubtedly Assyrian in inspiration and execution, the second is typically Scythian, the third is Assyro-Scythian in inspiration, but was probably executed by Assyrian artists, and finally the fourth group consists of the products of local workshops’ (Iran, pp. 106,107). This combination of Assyrian and Scythian art may well reflect the family union between the Assyrian princess and the Scythian king Partatua. Since this valuable collection is said to have been contained in a bronze sarcophagus of the kind used at the end of the seventh century B.C., it may well have been the personal treasure of this king and his successor.

The Scythian Dispersion

Strabo, referring to the tirne of Scythian supremacy in Asia, recorded that the Sacae’occupied Bactriana, and acquired possession of the best land in Armenia which they left named after themselves Sacasene’ (XI, vili, 4). The fate of those who went to Bactriana and other places cast of the Caspian Sea it has been concluded that, so far as is known, no significant part of them ever came to Britain. We come now to consider the settlement in Sacasene, the best land in Armenia, formerly Urartu. This lies just north of the river Araxes which flows into the Caspian Sea south of the Caucasus.

The date of this expansion can now be fixed within very narrow limits, for Russian archaeologists, excavating the ruins of the ancient fortress of Karmir Blur in this region, have established that it was attacked and destroyed by the Scythians about 625 B.C. Three edged arrow heads, typical of the Scythians, embedded in the walls, as well as horse gear and other objects, mark the Scythians as the aggressors, while a collection of bronze bowls reveal the date. There were ninety-seven of these, all stamped with the name of the Urartian king in whose reign they had been issued to the garrison. Eighty-three of them were marked with the name of Sardur III whose reign ended about 620 B.C., the others being inscribed with the names of earlier kings.

Migration into Europe

Following the fall of Nineveh in 612 B.C., and the subsequent collapse of the Assyrian power in 609, the Scythians were deprived of their most powerful ally and consequently came under increasing pressure from the Medes. As we have seen, Herodotus records that in the reign of Cyaxares the Medes regained supremacy over them. As a result, all Scythians west of the Caspian Sea would have been forced to retreat northwards into south Russia through the Dariel Pass in the Caucasus. Clearly this migration must have begun about 600 B.C., and this agrees with the fact that the earliest Scythian tombs in Russia have been dated to about 580 B.C. It should be noted that archaeologists have arrived at this date solely on the basis of the Greek objects found in the tombs, and vathout any reference to the political situation described above.

Karmir Blur was captured by the Scythians about 624 B.C.

The earliest Scythian tomb north of the Caucasus at Kelermes, has been dated at about 580 B. C.

Evidence of the Tombs

From the distribution of these tombs it would appear  that the Scythians did not rnigrate round the eastern  end of the Sea of Azov, but moved directly westward  along the foothills of the Caucasus into the Taman  Peninsula, whence they crossed the Kerch Straits into  the Crimea. It was here that they displaced a Cimmerian  colony from their homes north of the Black Sea, for the  Kerch Straits and the Crimea were  evidently the former ‘Cimmerian   Bosphorus and tract of land called  Cimmeria’ rnentioned by Herodotus   (IV, 12, 13). A Cimmerian tomb in  the Crimea at Temir Gora, dated to  N 650-600 B.C., confirms this.

A long sequence of burials, as well as the testimony of Greek historians, show that the Scythians settled down in these parts for many centuries. Other more venturesome groups, however, pressed on at an early date into the interior of Russia, as witnessed by the royal treasure named after General Melgunov which he found in 1763 buried in the Litoy barrow. This tomb dates from the first half of the sixth century, and is almost contemporary with the earliest tombs north of the Caucasus. Not long before the end of the century other groups of Scythians had got as far west as the Carpathians, for Darius, king of Persia, in an attempt to conquer their land in 512 B.C., came into contact with them soon after crossing the Danube from Thrace.

Cultural Relationships

The earliest tombs in Russia, such as that at Kelermes on the northern slopes of the Caucasus, and the Litoy barrow, contained weapons and other articles decorated with gold that show a close connection, not only with the earliest Scythian designs at Ziwiye, but also with Assyrian, median and Urartian art.

For example, in both these tombs there was a short sword in a goldcovered scabbard embossed with animal designs. The form of the scabbard embodied a heart-shaped section below the hilt with a bracket by means of which it could be slung from the belt. This construction reproduces exactly that worn by the Medes, as seen on the sculptures found at Persepolis in Persia (R. Ghirshman, Iran, p. 197), while the fantastic animal designs on these scabbards closely resemble some Assyrian creatures. Again, the handle of the Kelermes sword shows a design that embodies a sacred tree of life of a kind that is now recognized as of Urartian origin. On the other hand, the series of animals embossed on the handle of a ceremonial axe from this site is typically Scythian.

Coloured illustrations of these and many other beautiful objects have been published in Treasures from Scythian Tombs by M.I. Artamov, former Director of the Hermitage Museum, Leningrad, who wrote: ‘In the animal style so typical of Scythian art, the figures of animals in the oldest examples are of Near Eastern derivation. The compositions with the tree of life, seen in the gold settings of the swords from both Kelermes and the Melgunov treasure, not only reproduce an ancient Mesopotamian subject, but in no way differ stylistically from similar Assyrian and Urartian designs’ (p.27). All this goes to show that the Scythians of south Russia must have come from south of the Caucasus, and not across the Volga from central Asia, as historians used to think.

Customs and Beliefs

Some customs of the Scythians may well be survivals from their Israelite ancestors. We know, for example that according to the Mosaic Law the pig was unclean, and Herodotus tells us that the Scythians ‘never use pigs for sacrifice, and will not even breed them anywhere in the country’ (IV, 63). Hosea condemned the Israelites for using sticks for the purpose of divination (4:12), and Herodotus says:’There are many soothsayers in Scythia, and their method is to work with willow rods. They bring great bundles of them which they put down on the ground; then they untie them, lay out each rod separately, and pronounce their prophecy’ (IV, 67). In the Oxtis treasure there are a number of gold plaques depicting soothsayers, with their bundles of rods, and it is thought that the Scythians used to sew these on their garments as lucky charms.

Although Herodotus says that the Scythians attached great importance to their national traditions, he nevertheless tells a story that reveals the old Israelite weakness for pagan religions. He relates that a certain Scythian named Anacharsis, while travelling in Greece, saw some people celebrating a festival in honour of the mother of the gods and, when he got home, he offered sacrifices to this goddess, for which he was duly punished by death. He also mentions another, named Scylas, who used to put on Greek clothes, and take part in Greek religious ceremonies (IV, 76-78 ).

Even at that time, intermarriage with Greek and other foreigners had already begun, for Herodotus reveals that the Scythian King Ariapithes had married, in addition to his native wife Opoea, a Greek as well as a Thracian woman (IV, 76-80). Since there were numerous Greek colonies along the Black Sea coast which were engaged in trading with the Scythians, there can be little doubt that in the course of time a considerable mixing of the races took place in this region.

The Scythians Divided

At first the Scythians dominated the whole of the steppe country between the Carpathians and the Sea of Azov, and their territory according to Herodotus, extended to a similar distance inland (IV, 101). This agrees with the fact that some of their tombs have been found on both sides of the Dnieper nearly as far north as Kiev. During the fourth century, however, the Sarmatians began to move westwards from the Don as far as the bend in the Dnieper which, according to Herodotus, was the traditional burial ground of the Scythian Kings. It is interesting to note that no tombs in this central area have been dated after the middle of the fourth century, the greatest concentration of later burials lying to the south between the lower Dnieper and the Crimea.

Location of Scythian tombs later than 350 B. C., showing northern and southern groups caused by the Sarmation advance from the Dneiper to the Carpathian Mountains

It is often overlooked, however, that a considerable number of royal Scythian graves dating from the fourth century and later have been found south of Kiev and the Pripet marshes in an area extending from the Dnieper as far west as the upper reaches of the Dniester. One of the first to appreciate the significance of this fact was M.I. Rostovtsev who wrote: ‘We cannot but recognize that in the fourth and third centuries the Scythians endeavoured to install themselves as a ruling class in the northern regions of their empire, to transform their suzerainty into a real domination, and to extend that domination as far as possible to the north. It will not be denied that this Scythian expansion, hitherto unnoticed, is an historical fact of the first importance’ Iranians and Greeks in South Russia, (1922, p.98).

When, therefore, the Sarmatians subsequently advanced from the Dnieper to the Carpathians during the last two centuries before the Christian era, and finally into Hungary, the Scythians became divided into a northern and a southern group. The former, being largely cut off from the cultured world of Greece and Rome, received relatively little notice from the classical historians, while attention was focused on the latter. It is well known that the southern Scythians were ultimately driven into two pockets, one in the islands of the Danube delta, the other in the Crimea (Rostovtsev, op cit., p. 117; Cambridge Ancient History, Vol. IX p. 228). When these were finally liquidated by the Goths in the third century A.D., it was thought that the Scythians as a people had been altogether wiped out, but this was true only of the southern Scythians who had racially become a very mixed lot.

The Northern Scythians

The testimony of both history and archaeology is that the northern Scythians continued long to retain their national identity. Thus Strabo, describing the various parts of Asia and Europe shortly before the beginning of the Christian era, wrote: ‘Of the portions thus divided, the first is inhabited in the region toward the north and the ocean by the Scythian nomads and wagon dwellers, and south of these by the Sarmatians’ (XI, 11, 1). Thus it is clearly stated that at that tirne the Scythian nomads dwelt to the north of the Sarmatians as far as the ‘ocean’. This may mean either the Baltic or the North Sea.

Again, Pliny the Elder, in his Natural History (IV, xiii) written early in the Christian era, mentions various islands in the ‘Northern Ocean’ off the coast of Scythia. One was named Baunonia, possibly Bornholm, which was said to lie ‘off Scythia at a distance of a day’s voyage from the coast, on the beach of which in springtime amber is cast up by the waves’. He also mentions a report that ‘three days’ sail from the Scythian coast there is an island of enormous size called Balcia’, which may well be a description of Scandinavia. Such statements plainly reveal that the northern Scythians had migrated as far as the Baltic coast.

A Change of Name

In his description of central Europe, from the Danube to the Baltic, Pliny states that,’The name of the Scythians is everywhere changed to that of Sarmatae and Germans. This old designation has not been continued for any except the most outlying sections of this nation who live almost unknown to the rest of mankind’ (Natural History, IV, xii). By outlying sections of the nation, he doubtless meant those on the north coast of Europe just mentioned. Unfortunately, the true meaning of this important statement has been completely obscured in the Loeb edition of Pliny by a mistranslation that reads: ‘The name of Scythian has spread in every direction as far as the Sarmatae and Germans.’

The reason why the name Scythian was changed was because the country immediately north of the Black Sea had long been called Scythia, but by the last century B.C., it had become occupied largely by Sarmatians.

Location of ‘Chieftains Tombs’and other graves of the ancestors of Anglo-Saxons showing connections with the south-east.

In order to distinguish between the Sarmatian inhabitants and the true Scythians, the Romans dropped the name Scythian and substituted Sarmatae and German!. However, Pliny thought it unnecessary to give the reason as it was then well known. Strabo, on the other hand, as a Greek writer, felt an explanation was called for, but he confused the Scythians with the Celts. He said: ‘It was for this reason that the Romans assigned to them the name Germani, as though they wished to indicate thereby that they were the “genuine” Galatae, for in the language of the Romans, “germani” means “genuine”‘ (VII, 1, 2). He should have said the Germani were the ‘genuine’ Scythians, not Galatians.

Archaeological Evidence

Prior to 100 B.C., the land bordering on the southern Baltic Sea – now Poland and the former East Germany – had been rather sparsely populated, but from that date onwards cemeteries increased in number with the introduction of new burial rites.

Previously, the bodies of the dead were invariably cremated, the ashes usually being buried in an urn, but grave offerings rarely accompanied the interment. Later inhumation, that is, burial without cremation, was introduced, and an increasing number of graves contained the dead person’s most valued belongings. In addition, there were an increasing number of chieftains’, or princes’ graves, containing a wooden chamber in which the body was buried along with silver and gold ornaments.

Timber Tombs

Since the Scythians usually buried their dead without cremation, often in timber tombs, and were noted for the quantity and value of the weapons and ornaments that were placed in them, the new burial rites may well be accounted for by their arrival in these lands.

However, owing to the terrain in northern Europe being less suitable for breeding horses than the Russian steppes, horsegear and horse skeletons are no longer found in the graves. On account of this and other minor cultural changes, the chieftains’ tombs of northern Europe have not been recognized by archaeologists as Scythian, even though Strabo and Pliny reported that Scythians actually inhabited these regions.

A significant fact, noted by Polish, Scandinavian and even German scholars, is that the chieftains’ graves in south Poland are at least a century older than the earliest ones on the Baltic coast, implying a migration from south to north. A further important fact is that these graves all lie on or to the west of the Vistula, the area east of that river being cut off from an immigration from south Russia by the Pripet marshes. Finally, in the early centuries of the Christian era, these burial rites spread north into the Danish islands and Jutland peninsula.

Now Tacitus and Ptolemy name the region of the River Elbe and the base of the Jutland Peninsula as the places inhabited by the Angles and Saxons before they came to Britain. According to Roman terminology, this was ‘Germany’ but it is interesting to note that the British historian, Nennius, in his account of the arrival of Hengist and Horsa in Thanet, says that ‘messengers were sent to Scythia’ for reinforcements. The context shows that these came in fact, from north Germany, so evidently the ancient name of the ‘genuine’ Scythians persisted long in northern Europe.

It is thus possible to trace our Anglo-Saxon ancestors back, not only to northern Europe, but to south Russia and finally to Media where the Israelites were placed in captivity.

Human settlement in the territory of Ukraine dates back to at least 4500 BC, when the Neolithic Cucuteni culture flourished in a wide area that covered parts of modern Ukraine including Trypillia and the entire Dnieper-Dniester region. During the Iron Age, the land was inhabited by Cimmerians, Scythians, and Sarmatians. Between 700 BC and 200 BC it was part of the Scythian Kingdom, or Scythia. The Scythians of Asia have always been distinct from the Persians, and were their constant and implacable enemies. The latter distinguished the Scythians by the name of Sacce, or Sak, which signifies dogs. The Scythians appear, according to some not very good authorities, to have founded, in fabulous times, an empire which embraced Persia and the whole of western Asia; such an empire, if it ever had existence, has left no traces behind it.

History only admits one known Scythian invasion, which took place 624 years before the Christian era. Very probably the wandering tribes of ancient Persia, such as the Cosscei, the Uxii, the Mardes, and other pastoral communities, were the remains of the Scythian hordes, who, after they were forced back into the mountains, continued to infest the cultivated plains with their predatory incursions. A great mistake is made in calling every one a Scythian who has lived in Scythia. The ancient writers knew well the difference and never made the mistake of calling the Medes Scythians ; nor were the Huns, Scythians, though they lived upon the very ground from which they had expulsed the Scythian Dons and Gals. The Scythians are merely the ancient inhabitants of the cities of Asia, or their descendants. It is also a great error to suppose that the Scythians of Europe had no cities.

The cutting down of Scythian forests, the destruction of Scythian cities, the razzias of Scythian women and children, the wholesale removals of Scythian nations, the precautions taken by Medish captors to secure their Scythian captives by putting iron rings through their noses, lips, ears, and iron collars and manacles round their limbs and bodies, no doubt to prevent the sad victims from escaping ; the rakes, live flaying, and other tortures applied to those who were supposed to have hidden their treasure, or who had incurred the displeasure of the Sars; the collection of Scythian heads for rewards, etc., etc. A mere glance at Scythian history will also show that Scythian cities did not make war upon one another, and that neither did Scythians nor Gals acknowledge slavery nor have slaves.

When the Greeks began to settle the north coast of the Black Sea, about the middle of the 7th century B.C., they found the south Russian steppe in the hands of a nomadic race, whom they called Scythians. An exactor form of the name was Scoloti. The inhabitants of the steppe must always have been nomads; but the life of all nomads is so much alike that we cannot tell whether the Scythians are the race alluded to in II., xiii. 5 sq.

The name is first found in Hesiod (Strabo, vii. p. 300) about 800 B.C., and about 689 (Herod., iv. 15) Aristeas of Proconnesus knew a good deal about them in connection with the ancient trade route leading from their country to Central Asia. From the passage of the Tanais (Don) for fifteen marches northeast through the steppe the country belonged to the nomad Sarmatians, whose speech and way of life resembled those of the Scythians. Then came the wooded region of the Budini, who spread far inland and were probably a Finnish race of hunters with filthy habits. In this region lay Gelonus, the Greek emporium of the fur trade, round which lived the Grecian Geloni, probably on the Volga and hardly farther south than Simbirsk. Seven more marches in the same line ran through desert, and then in the country of the Thyssageta the road turned southeast, and led first through the country of the Iyrwe, whose way of hunting (Herod., iv. 22) indicates that they dwelt between the steppe and the forest, but belonged more to the former; the road perhaps crossed the river Ural near Orenburg, and ascending its tributary the Bek crossed the Mugojar Mountain.

Beyond this in the steppe as far as the Sir-Darya and Aniu-Parya the traveller was again among Scythians, who were regarded as a branch of the European Scythians. Next came a tract of rocky soil, till the bald-headed Argippaei were reached, a race esteemed holy and seemingly Mongolian, who dwelt on the slopes of impassable mountains, probably the Belur-tagh, and served as intermediaries in trade with the remoter peoples of Central Asia. The description of the fruit on which they subsisted (Herod., iv. 23) suits the Elaagmts hortenm, indigenous on the upper Zerafshan. Many notices of ancient writers about Scythia (e.g., as to the eight months winter and the rainy summer) suit only the lands on the first part of this trade road; moreover, the Greeks soon began to extend the name of Scythians to all the nations beyond in a northerly or northeasterly direction. But such inaccuracy is not common till the fall of the Scythian race, when the name became a favorite designation of more remote and less known nations.

The best and chief informants, Herodotus and Hippocrates, clearly distinguish the Scolots or true Scythians from all their neighbors. The boundaries of Scythia are, broadly speaking, those of the steppe, which had as wide a range in antiquity as at the present day, cultivable land having always been confined to the immediate neighborhood of the rivers. But to the west the Scythians went beyond the steppe, and held Great Wallachia between the Aluta ana the Panube (Atlas and Ister). Here their northern neighbors were the Agathyrsians of Transylvania, who were perhaps Aryans, though in manners they resembled the Thracians. The Dniester was Scythian as far up the stream as the Greeks knew it. On the Bug were found first the mixed Graeco-Scythian Callipidje and Alazones as far as Exampseus (an eastern feeder of the Bug), then agricultural Scythians, who grew corn for export, and therefore were not confined to the steppe. This points to southeast Podolia as their dwelling-place. Beyond them on the upper Bug and above the Dniester were the Neuri, who passed for were-wolves, a superstition still current in Volhynia and about Kieff. On the left bank of the Dnieper the “forest-land” (T*eia) reached as far as the modern BereslafF; then came the Scythians of the Pnieper (the Borystheniaus), who tilled the soil (of course only close to the river), and extended inland to the Panticapes (Injruletz?) and up the stream to the district of Gerrhi (near Alexandrovsk). Herodotus does not know the falls of the Dnieper; beyond Gerrhi he places a desert which seems to occupy the rest of the steppe. Still farther north were the wandering Androphagi (Cannibals), presumably hunters and of Mordvinian race. The nomadic Scythians proper succeeded their agricultural brethren to the east as far as the Gerrhus (Kouskaya), and their land was watered by the Hypacyris (Molotchnaya).

The royal horde was east of the Gcrrhus and extended into the Crimea as far as the fosse which cut off Chersonesus Trachea from the rest of the peninsula, and remains of which can still be traced east of Theodosia. The southern neighbors of the royal Scythians were the savage Taurian mountaineers. Aloni the coast of the Sea of Azoff the royal horde stretched eastward as far as Cremni (Taganrog) ; farther inland their eastern border was the Don. They extended inland for twenty marches, as far probably as the steppe itself, and here their neighbors were the Melanchlaeni (Black-cloaks).

The true Scythians led the usual life of nomads, moving through the steppe from exhausted to fresh pasture grounds, their women in wagons roofed with felt and drawn by oxen, the men on horseback, the droves of sheep, cattle, and horses following. They lived on boiled flesh, mare’s milk, and cheese ; they never washed, but enjoyed a narcotic intoxication in combination with a vapor bath by shutting themselves up within curtains of felt and strewing hemp seed on heated stones. The women, in place of washing, daubed themselves with a paste containing dust of fragrant woods and removed it on the second day. Like many other barbarians, the Scythians, at least in Hippocrates’a time, were not a specially hardy race; they had stout, fleshy, flabby bodies, the joints concealed by fat, their countenances somewhat ruddy. The observation of Hippocrates that they all looked alike is one that has often been made by travellers among lower races. They were liable to dysentery and rheumatism, which they treated by the actual cautery; impotence and sterility were common, and, though the accounts vary, it is probable that the race was not very numerous (Herod., iv. 81).

Hippocrates’s description has led many writers to view the Scythians as Mongolian; but the life of the steppe impresses a certain common stamp on all its nomad inhabitants, and the features described are not sufficiently characteristic to justify the assumption of so distant a Mongol migration. What remains of the Scythian language, on the other hand, furnished Zeuss with clear proofs that they were Aryans and nearly akin to the settled Iranians. The most decisive evidence is found in Herodotus (iv. 117), viz., that Scythians and Sarmatians were of cognate speech: for the latter were certainly Aryans, as even the ancients observed, supposing them to be a Median colony (Diod., ii. 43; Pliny, vi. 19). The whole steppe lands from the Oxus and the Jaxartes to the Hungarian pusztas seem to have been held at an early date by a chaiti of Arayan nomad races.

The Scythian deities have also an Aryan complection. The highest deity was Tahiti, goddess of the hearth ; next came the heaven-god Papaeus, with his wife the earth-goddess Apia : a son-god, CEtosyrus; a goddess of fecundity, Arippasa, who is compared with the Queen of Heaven at Ascalon ; and two gods to whom erodotus (iv. 59) gives the Greek names of Heracles and Ares. These deities were common to all Scythians. The royal horde had also a sea-god, Thamimasadas. In true Iranian fashion the gods were adored without images, altars, or temples, save only that Ares had as his symbol a sabre (Herod., iv. 62), which was set up on a huge altar piled up of fagots of brushwood. He received yearly sacrifices of sheep and oxen, as well as every hundredth captive. Ordinarily victims were strangled.

Diviners were common, and one species of them, who came only from certain families, the Enarians or Anarians, were held in high honor. These supposed their race to have offended the goddess of heaven, who in revenge smote them with impotence : they assumed the dress and avocations of women and spoke with a woman’s voice. Divination was practiced with willow withes as among the Old Germans ; the Enarians, however, used lime-tree bark. False prophets were tied on a wagon with burning brushwood, and the frightened team was driven forth. Oaths were sealed by drinking of a mixture of wine with the blood of the parties into which they had dipped their weapons. When the king was sick it was thought that some one had sworn falsely by the deities of his hearth, and the man was beheaded whom the diviner, or a majority of them, pronounced to be the culprit. When the king commanded the death of a man all his male offspring perished with him (for fear of blood-revenge).

He who gained a suit before the king had the right to make a drinking-cup of his adversary’s skull. Actions at law thus stood on the same footing with war, for this is what one did after slaying a foe. The Scythians fought always on horseback with bow and arrow, and the warrior drank the blood of the first man he slew in battle, probably deeming that his adversary’s prowess thus passed into him. No one shared in booty who had not brought the king a foeman’s head ; the scalp was then tanned and hung on the bridle. Captive slaves were blinded on the absurd pretext that this kept them from stealing the mare’s-milk butter they were employed to churn.

The government was strictly despotic, as appears most plainly in the hideous customs at the burial of kings. The corpse of an ordinary Scythian was carried about among all the neighbors for forty days, and a funeral feast was given by every friend so visited. But the royal corpse was embalmed and passed in like manner from tribe to tribe, and the people of each tribe joined the procession with their whole bodies disfigured by bloody wounds, till at length the royal tombs at Gerrhi were reached. Then the king was buried along with one of his concubines, his cupbearer, cook, groom, chamberlain, and messenger, all of whom were slain. Horses, too, and golden utensils were buried under the vast barrow that was raised over the grave. Many such tumuli (called in Tatar kurgan) have been found between the Dnieper and the sources of the Tokmak, a tributary of the Molotchnaya. Then, on the first anniversary, yet fifty horses and fifty freeborn Scythian servants of the king were slain, and the latter were pinned upright on the stuffed horses as watchmen over the dead.

The Scythians deemed themselves autochthonous; their patriarch was Targitaus, a son of the god of heaven by a daughter of the river Dnieper. This legend, with the site of the royal graves, points to the lower Dnieper as the cradle of their kingdom. The further legend (Herod., iv. 5) of the golden plough, yoke, battle-axe, and cup (tokens of sovereignty over husbandmen and warriors) that fell from heaven, and burned when the two eldest sons of Targitaus approached them, but allowed the youngest son to take them and become king, has been well compared by Duncker with the Iranian conception of hvareno, the halo of majesty, which refused to be grasped by the Turanian Franrace, but attached itself to pious kings like Thraetaona. The eldest brother, ipoxais, was ancestor of the Auchatae ; the second, Arpoxais, of the Catiari and Traspians; the youngest, Colaxais (whose name seems to be mutilated), was father of the royal tribe of Paralatre, and from him, too, the whole nation had the name of Scolots.

Pliny (If.If., iv. 88) places the Auchatrcon the upper Bug. so this seems to be the proper name of the agricultural Scythians; if so, the Catiari and Traspians will be the Borysthenian and nomad Scythians who dwelt between the husbandmen and the royal horde. Colaxais divided his kingdom among his three sons, the chief kingdom being that in which the golden relics were kept; and these three sons correspond to the three kings of the Scythians in the time of Darius’s invasion, viz., Scopasis, whose realm bordered the Sarmatians; Idanthyrsus, sovereign of the chief kingdom; and Taxacis, the last two being neighbors of the Budini and the Geloni. According to the Scythians, Targitaus lived just a thousand years before the year 513 BC, a legend which, taken with the tradition of autochthonism, indicates a much earlier date for the immigration of the Scythians than deduced from other narratives.

Aristeas of Proconnesus (Herod., iv. 13) had heard of a migration of the Scythians into their later settlement. The one-eyed Arimaspians, who, as neighbors of the gold-guarding griffins, may be sought near the fold-fields of the Tibetan plateau, had attacked the ssedones (whom later authors are probably right in placing in the region of Kashgar and Khotan), and the latter in turn fell on the Scythians and drove them from their seats, whereupon these occupied the lands held till then by the Cimmerians. It is a probable conjecture that the branch of the royal Scythians spoken of as dwelling north of the Oxus and Jaxartes was really a part of the nation that remained in their ancient home. Aristeas’s story has much internal probability; but it is impossible to hold that the Scythian migration immediately preceded the first appearance of the expelled Cimmerians in Asia Minor, in Aristeas’s own days (695 B.C.). The Scythians must have seized the steppe as far as the Dnieper centuries before, but the older inhabitants, who were probably of one race with the Thracians, remained their neighbors in the Crimea and the extreme west till the beginning of the 7th century.

Concerning the complete expulsion of the Cimmerians and the Scythian invasion of Asia that followed, Herodotus (iv. 11 sq., i. 103-106, iv. 1, 3.) gives an account, taken from several sources, which is intelligible only by puttin aside the historian’s attempts to combine these. A barbarian (i.e., Median) account was that the Scythian nomads of Asia, pressed by the Massagette, crossed the Araxes (by which Herodotus here and in other places means the AmuDarya) and fell on Media. Taking these Scythians for Scolots and assumingj therefore, that the reference was to their first migration, Herodotus had to place the expulsion of the Cimmerians between the crossing of the Araxes and the invasion of Media, and he had heard from Greeks (of Pontus) that on the Dniester was the grave of the Cimmerian kings, who had slnin each other in single combat rather than share the migration of their people.

This local tradition implies that the Cimmerians reached Asia Minor through Thrace, which, indeed, is the only possible route, except by sea. Herodotus, however, is led by his false presuppositions to conduct them eastwards from the Dniester by the Crimea (where many local names preserved their memory), and so along the Black Sea coast, and then westwards from the Caucasus to Asia Minor. The Scythians, he thinks, followed them, but, losing the trail, went east from the Caucasus, and so reached Media. This he gives only as his own inference from two things: (1) that the Cimmerians settled on the peninsula of” Sinope, from which their forays into Asia Minor seem to have been conducted, and (2) that the Scythians invaded Media.

The Median source spoke further of a great victory of the Scythians, after which they overran all Asia, and held it for twenty-eight vears (634-606), levying tribute and plundering at will, till at length the Medes, under Cyaxares, destroyed most of them after making them drunk at a banquet. Here a third, Egyptian, account comes in, viz., that King Psamruetiohus (d. 611) bought off certain northern invaders who had advanced as far as Philistaea; there is no reason to doubt that these are the Scythians of the Median account. Still more important is the evidence of certain prophecies of Jeremiah (comp. iii. 6) in the reign of Josiah (628-609), describing the approach from the north of an all-destroying nation of riders and bowmen (Jer. iv. 6 so., v. 15 sq., yi. 1 sq., 22sq.). Herodotus’s twenty-eight years are simply the period between the accession of Cyaxares and the taking of Nineveh, which followed close on the overthrow of the Scythians ; Justin, on the other hand, {rives the Scythians eight years of sovereignty, which fats well with the interval between the first and the second siege of Nineveh (619-609).

A fourth account in Herodotus, which connects the Enarians with the plundering of the temple of Astarte at Ascalon, is entirely apocryphal, and must come from the Greek identification of this Astarte with the Scythian Arippasa. Yet it seems to have been chiefly this story tliat led Herodotus to take the Scythians of his Median source for Scolots. He is refuted by another account of Iranian origin: Ctesias (in Diod., ii. 34) tells of a long war between the Medes and the Sacae, occasioned by the defection of Parthian subjects of Media to the latter nation in the time of Astibaras (Cyaxares); so that the Scythian conquerors actually came from the cast, not from the north. Herodotus’s Median source closed with Cyaxares recovering his power; the story which follows about the resistance of the slaves of the Scythians to their returning lords, who cowed them by using whips instead of arms, must have come from the Pontic Greeks, and is certainly a local legend.’ which has nothing to do with the wars in Asia, and indeed is connected by Callistratus (Steph. Byz., «.r. Tappai) with a war between Scythians and Thracians.

Prom the expedition of Darius upwards Herodotus names five generations of Scythian kings, Idanthyrsus, Saulius, Gnurus, Lycus, Spargapeithes; the last may be contemporary with the foundation of Olbia (646 B.C.). Under Idanthyrsus fell the invasion of Darius (513 B.C.). The motive for this invasion cannot possibly have been revenge for the Scythian invasion of Media. It is possible that a popular war against the chief nation of the nomads, who are so hated by the Iranian peasants, seemed to Darius a good way of stimulating common feeling among his scattered subjects, and^t is certain that he had quite false ideasof the wealth of Scythia, due perhaps to export of grain from the Grecian cities of the Scythian coast. Herodotus’s account of the campaign is made up in a puzzling way of several distinct narratives, retouched to smooth away contradictions. Here it must suffice to refer to the article Persia (vol. xviii. pp. 5S1-2), and to add that the geographical confusion in Herodotus and his exaggerated idea of the distance to which the Persians advanced seem to be due partly to a false combination between a Scythian account of the campaign and certain notices about, the burning of Gelonus by enemies and about fortresses on the river Oarus which had come to him from the inland trade route, and had nothing to do with Darius, partly to a confusion between tlie desert reached by the Persians and that which lay between the Budini and Thyssagetje.

While the Persian rule in the newly conquered districts of Europe was shaken by the Ionic revolt, the Scythians made plundering expeditions in Thrace, and in 495 penetrated into the Chersonesus, whose tyrant Miltiades fled, but was restored after their retreat by the Dolonci (Herod., vi. 40). Darius had Abydus and the other cities of the Propontis burned lest they should furnish a base for a projected Scythian expedition against Asia (Strabo, xiii. p. 591); this agrees with the fact known from Herodotus (v. 117), that Abydus had been retaken by Daurises a little before. In this connection the Scythian embassy to King Cleomenes at Sparta (Herod., vi. 84) to arrange a combined attack on Asia becomes credible; for, barbarians though they were, the Scythians had a political organization and many connections with thclonians of the Pontic colonies, so that their envoys may well have reached Sparta at the same time with Aristagoras (499) and served as decoys for his fantastic schemes.

Accounts of the Scythians begin to fail after the time of King Scyles, who affected Grecian habits and was deposed and finally slain for sharing in Bacchic orgies (Herod., iv. 78-80); his death fell a little before Herodotus’s visit to Olbia (c. 156). We read in an unclear context (Diod., ii. 43) of a division of the Scythians into two great tribes, the Pali and the Napse, the former of whom crossed the Don from the east and destroyed the latter and also the Tanaites. These events seem to point to a change of dynasty in the royal horde.

The Periplus ascribed to Scylax (346 B.C.) knows the Scythians as still occupying almost exactly the same limits as in Herodotus’s time ; only in the east there is a small but significant change : the Sarmatians have already crossed the Don. King Ateas still ruled Scythia in its old extent (Strabo, vii. 307), but all that is known of the events of his reign took place south of the Danube, wars with theTriballi in Servia, with Byzantium, with the king of the Greek city of Istrus, and finally with his old ally Philip of Macedon. Philip defeated and slew Ateas near the Danube in 339 BC. He was then over ninety years old.

The Scythians appear once more in the region of the Dobrudja in 313, when they helped the citizens of Calktis against Lysimachus and were defeated by him (Diod., xix. 73). All this points to a considerable advance of their frontier southwards, and in fact PseudoScymnus (Ephorus) gives Dionysopolis (a little to the west of the modern Baltchik) as the place where the Crobyzian and the Scythian territories met in his time (334 BC). This apparent advance of the realm contrasts singularly with the distress to which Ateas was reduced by the king of the insignificant town of Istrus, an evidence that the Scythian power was really much decayed. Ateas indeed is sometimes painted as a rude barbarian lord of a poor but valiant and hardy race, and Ephorus, who mainly follows Herodotus about Scythia, yet speaks of the Scythians in contrast with the fierce Sarmatians as corresponding to Homer’s description of a just and poor people feeding on milk (Strata, vii. 302). But Aristotle, on the contrary (Eth. Nic, vii. 8), speaks of the effeminacy of the Pythian monarchs as notorious ; and indeed there can be little doubt that the Scythians crossed the Danube and settled in the Dobrudja under pressure of the Sarmatians behind them, and that the idyllic picture drawn by Ephorus presupposes the fall of their political system. Diodorus (ii. 43) tells us that the Sarmatians exterminated the inhabitants of most part of Scythia, and this must have taken place in the later years of Ateas, between 346 and 339.

At a later but uncertain date the great inferiority of the Scythians to the Sarmatians is illustrated by the story of Amage, the warlike consort of a debauched Sarmatian king, who with only 120 chosen horsemen delivered Chersonesus in Tauris from the neighboring Scythian king, slew him with all his followers, and gave the kingdom to his son (Polyaen., viii. 56). It is, however, not quite certain whether these were a remnant of the old Scythians; and it is still more doubtful whether the powerful Scythian kingdom of Scilurus, who brought the Greek cities of the Crimea to the verge of ruin, but was destroyed by Mithradates Eupator (105), was really a kingdom of Scolots. The last certain trace of true Scythians occurs about 100 BC in the Olbian psephisma in honor of Protogenes.


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