A Plow, Battle ax, Cup and Yoke – The Story of the Scythians

The Scythians


The Scythians of Russia can be accounted for from a time beginning around the 7th century B.C. Scythia was considered the region to the northwest of the Black Sea. Mount Caucasus, is where Prometheus, of Greek legend, was bound. The Scythians themselves are made up of three primary tribes. They called themselves the “Skoloti”, who are believed to be of Iranian decent. Because of this the Greeks considered them barbarians.

prometheusPrometheus unbound

The Legendary Amazonians

Herodotus also wrote about a second Mesopotamian group, the Samaritans, also known as the Colchis. Evidence supports that they showed on the scene as early as the 6th century in the Black Sea region. He believed that they were the offspring of the Scythians and the legendary Amazonian women. This legend suggests that the Amazons came ashore at the Sea of Azov, after escaping from their Greek captors. It’s believe that they may have originated from Egypt but there is no supportive evidence. However, there is evidence that African communities did exist in this region.

Scythian Creation Story

The creation story is found in every civilization, it seems to come from human nature. We all want to know where we came from, the Scythians were no different. The Scythians oral traditions claim that they came from the three sons of Targitaus, he was considered a supernatural being from the Black Sea area. Legend holds that the three sons ruled over the region in harmony until the day a plow, battle ax, cup and yoke fell from the sky in a ball of fire. Colaxais, the youngest son was the only able to touch the implements without being burned. It was because of this he alone became the single ruler of the Scythians.


Zeus and a snake-legged goddess

Diodorus Siculus, an ancient Greek historian during the first century A.D., wrote that Scythians lived in very small numbers along the Araks River….that they gained for themselves a country in the mountains up to the Caucasus, in the lowland on the coast of the Ocean (Caspian Sea) and the Meot Lake (Azov Sea) and other territories up to the Tanais River (Don River). Born in that land from the conjugal union of Zeus and a snake-legged goddess was a son Scyth who gave the name Scythian to the people. The Scyth descendants went on to get lands behind the Tanais River up to the Egyptian Nile River.

Scrubna cultureThe Scythian history is a bit problematic because they did not present any known distinguishing characteristics until ca. the 700s BC. Some historians have speculated that they were, in fact, descendants of the Srubna culture who appeared in the Volga Ural steppes and the region to the north of the Black Sea as far back as 1800 BC. The name comes from Russian cруб (srub), “timber framework”, from the way graves were constructed. Animal parts were buried with the body.

King Darius’s Invasion of the Russian Steppes

The first recorded evidence of Scythian existence came in the 800s BC. Scythians allied with the Assyrians and their king, Partatua, too an Assyrian princess as his wife in ca. 675 BC.

Horsemen from the Steppes

Behold our Father’s tombs

The Greek historian, Herodotus, tells of an event which occurred in ca. 512 BC. Darius I, king of Persia, led some 700,000 troops on to the Russian steppes to conquer the area. Outnumbered, the Scythians refused to meet their intruder head on and kept retreating, leading the Persians further into the region. Finally, Darius demanded a confrontation. According to Herodotus, the Scythians replied, There is nothing new or strange in what we do. We follow our mode of life in peaceful times. We have neither towns nor cultivated lands in these parts which might induce us, through fear of their being ravaged, to be in any hurry to fight you. But if you must needs come to blows with us speedily, look about you, and behold our fathers’ tombs. Attempt to meddle with them and you shall see whether or not we will fight with you.

You can’t do battle with people who won’t fight.

Darius was definitely bewildered. You can’t do battle with people who won’t fight. Besides, there was nothing for him to conquer; just the seemingly unending steppe. Darius did the only thing he could do and that was turn around and head for home. The Scythians heckled Darius and his troops the whole way to the Danube. Persia never again attempted to take the southern Russian steppe and the Scythians flourished for the next 100 years.

Thoughts from a blogger

It seems that history has a way of repeating itself. In today’s world things are a bit different, but truth seems to follow history. From the creation story to fighting Darius’s Army we can learn some lessons. It’s for each of us to decide the sides we take and the positions we hold.



4 thoughts on “A Plow, Battle ax, Cup and Yoke – The Story of the Scythians

  1. Son of a gun! I have been wondering why on earth some Iranian (Persian) fanatics have been destroying Baha’i cemeteries. The light dawns: they are trying to get the folks to fight! Unfortunately, fighting is not an option. I’ll not be forgetting the Scythians any time soon. Thanks.

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