Scythian


Scythian
/sith"ee euhn/, adj.
1. pertaining to Scythia, its people, or their language.
n.
2. a native or inhabitant of Scythia.
3. the Iranian language spoken by the ancient Scythians.
[1535-45; SCYTHI(A) + -AN]

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Any member of a nomadic people of Iranian stock who migrated from Central Asia to southern Russia in the 8th–7th century BC.

Fierce warriors, they were among the first expert horsemen, which enabled them to establish an empire from western Persia through Syria and Judaea to Egypt and to expel the Cimmerians from their territory in the Caucasus and north of the Black Sea. Although driven out of Anatolia by the Medes (see Media), they held territory from the Persian border into southern Russia; they repelled an invasion by the Persian Darius I с 513 BC. Their civilization produced wealthy aristocrats ("Royal Scyths"), whose graves held richly worked articles of gold and other precious materials. The army consisted of freemen; on presentation of an enemy's head, a soldier could share in the booty. They fought with double-curved bows, trefoil-shaped arrows, and Persian swords. Burial called for the sacrifice of the dead man's wife and servants. In the 5th century BC the royal family intermarried with Greeks. The community fell to the Sarmatians in the 2nd century BC. See also Scythian art.

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▪ ancient people
      member of a nomadic people originally of Iranian stock who migrated from Central Asia to southern Russia in the 8th and 7th centuries BC. The Scythians founded a rich, powerful empire centred on what is now the Crimea. The empire survived for several centuries before succumbing to the Sarmatians during the 4th century BC to the 2nd century AD.

      Much of what is known of the history of the Scythians comes from the account of them by the ancient Greek historian Herodotus, who visited their territory. In modern times this record has been expanded chiefly by the work of Russian anthropologists.

      The Scythians were feared and admired for their prowess in war and, in particular, for their horsemanship. They were among the earliest people to master the art of riding, and their mobility astonished their neighbours. The migration of the Scythians from Asia eventually brought them into the territory of the Cimmerians (Cimmerian), who had traditionally controlled the Caucasus and the plains north of the Black Sea. In a war that lasted 30 years, the Scythians destroyed the Cimmerians and set themselves up as rulers of an empire stretching from west Persia through Syria and Judaea to the borders of Egypt. The Medes (Mede), who ruled Persia, attacked them and drove them out of Anatolia, leaving them finally in control of lands which stretched from the Persian border north through the Kuban and into southern Russia.

      The Scythians were remarkable not only for their fighting ability but also for the complex culture they produced. They developed a class of wealthy aristocrats who left elaborate graves filled with richly worked articles of gold and other precious materials. This class of chieftains, the Royal Scyths, finally established themselves as rulers of the southern Russian and Crimean territories. It is there that the richest and most numerous relics of Scythian civilization have been found. Their power was sufficient to repel an invasion by the Persian king Darius I in about 513 BC.

      The Royal Scyths were headed by a sovereign whose authority was transmitted to his son. Eventually, around the time of Herodotus, the royal family intermarried with Greeks. In 339 the ruler Ateas was killed at the age of 90 while fighting Philip II of Macedonia. The community was eventually destroyed in the 2nd century BC, Palakus being the last sovereign whose name is preserved in history.

      The Scythian army was made up of freemen who received no wage other than food and clothing, but who could share in booty on presentation of the head of a slain enemy. Many warriors wore Greek-style bronze helmets and chain-mail jerkins. Their principal weapon was a double-curved bow and trefoil-shaped arrows; their swords were of the Persian type. Every Scythian had at least one personal mount, but the wealthy owned large herds of horses, chiefly Mongolian ponies. Burial customs were elaborate and called for the sacrifice of members of the dead man's household, including wife, servants, and a number of horses.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Scythian — Scyth i*an, a. Of or pertaining to Scythia (a name given to the northern part of Asia, and Europe adjoining to Asia), or its language or inhabitants. [1913 Webster] {Scythian lamb}. (Bot.) See {Barometz}. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Scythian — 1540s, from L. Scythia, from Gk. Skythia ancient region along the north coast of the Black Sea, from Skythes a Scythian …   Etymology dictionary

  • Scythian — Scyth i*an, n. 1. A native or inhabitant of Scythia; specifically (Ethnol.), one of a Slavonic race which in early times occupied Eastern Europe. [1913 Webster] 2. The language of the Scythians. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Scythian — [sith′ēən] adj. of ancient Scythia or its people, language, or culture n. 1. a member of a warlike and nomadic Indo Iranian people that lived in ancient Scythia 2. the extinct Iranian language of this people …   English World dictionary

  • Scythian — Turanian Tu*ra ni*an, a. [From Tur, the name, in Persian legendary history, of one of the three brothers from whom sprang the races of mankind.] Of, pertaining to, or designating, an extensive family of languages of simple structure and low grade …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Scythian — noun Etymology: Latin Scytha, from Greek Skythēs Date: 15th century 1. a member of an ancient nomadic people inhabiting Scythia 2. the Iranian language of the Scythians • Scythian adjective …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Scythian — 1. noun /ˈsɪðiən,ˈsɪθiən/ An inhabitant of Scythia, an ill defined region centered in southern Russia. 2. adjective /ˈsɪðiən,ˈsɪθiən/ a) Relating to Scythia. b) Relating to Scythians …   Wiktionary

  • Scythian —    The Scythians consisted of all the pastoral tribes who dwelt to the north of the Black Sea and the Caspian, and were scattered far away toward the east. Of this vast country but little was anciently known. Its modern representative is Russia,… …   Easton's Bible Dictionary

  • Scythian — A people of notorious cruelty (2 Macc. 4:47) who threatened in turn both the Assyrian and Persian empires, identified with the Ashkenaz (Jer. 51:27) …   Dictionary of the Bible

  • Scythian — ISO 639 3 Code : xsc ISO 639 2/B Code : ISO 639 2/T Code : ISO 639 1 Code : Scope : Individual Language Type : Ancient …   Names of Languages ISO 639-3


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