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This webpage reproduces a section of
published in Vol. II
of the Loeb Classical Library edition,

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
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(Vol. II) Herodotus

 p247  Book IV: chapters 46‑82

The flags in the text are links to the Greek as printed on facing pages in the Loeb edition.
In the left margin, links to Rawlinson's translation (Vol. II, with valuable notes),
and to the running commentary by How and Wells.
Cartouches are links to in‑depth articles at Livius.Org or LacusCurtius.

[link to original Greek text] 46 Rawlinson p42 H & W Nowhere are men seen so dull-witted (I say not this of the Scythian nation) as in the lands by Euxine Pontus, against which Darius led his army. For we cannot show that any nation on the hither side of the Pontus has aught of cleverness, nor do we know (not reckoning the Scythian nation and Anacharsis) of any notable man born there. But the Scythian race has in that matter which of all human affairs is of greatest import made the cleverest discovery that we know; I praise not the Scythians in all respects, but in this greatest matter they have so devised that none who attacks them can escape, and none can catch them if they desire not to be found. For when men have no stablished cities or fortresses, but all are house-bearers and mounted archers, living not by tilling the soil but by cattle-rearing and carrying their dwellings on waggons, how should these not be invincible and unapproachable?

[link to original Greek text] 47 This invention they have made in a land which suits their purpose and has rivers which are their allies; for their country is level and grassy and well watered and rivers run through it not greatly fewer than the canals of Egypt. As many of them as are famous and can be entered from the sea, these I will name. . . . There is the Ister, that has five mouths, and next, the Tyras, and Hypanis, and Borysthenes, and Panticapes, and Hypacuris, and Gerrhus, and Tanais. Their courses are as I will show.

[link to original Greek text] 48 The Ister, the greatest of all rivers known to  p249 us, flows with ever the same volume in summer and winter; it is the farthest westward of all the Scythian rivers, and the reason of its greatness is as follows: Many other rivers are its tributaries, but these are those that make it great, five flowing through the Scythian country: the river called by Scythians Porata and by Greeks Pyretus,​1 and besides this the Tiarantus, the Ararus, the Naparis, and the Ordessus. The first-named of these rivers is a great stream flowing eastwards and uniting its waters with the Ister, the second, the Tiarantus, is more to the west and smaller; the Ararus, Naparis, and Ordessus flow between these two and pour their waters into the Ister.

[image ALT: missingALT. They are Scythian arrowheads.]

The Ister (now called the Danube) near Ruse in Bulgaria. Darius must have crossed the river in this area.

Photo © Livius.Org | Jona Lendering, by kind permission.

[link to original Greek text] 49 These are the native-born Scythian rivers that help to swell it; but the river Maris, which commingles with the Ister, flows from the Agathyrsi; the Atlas, Auras, and Tibisis, three other great rivers that pour into it, flow northward from the heights of Haemus.​2 The Athrys, the Noes, and the Artanes issue into the Ister from the country of the Crobyzi in Thrace; the river Cius, which cuts through the midst of Haemus, from the Paeonians and the mountain range of Rhodope. The river Angrus flows northward from Illyria into the Triballic plain and the river Brongus, and the Brongus into the Ister, which so receives these two great rivers into itself. The Carpis and another river called Alpis also flow northward, from the country north of the Ombrici,  p251 to issue into it; for the Ister traverses the whole of Europe, rising among the Celts who, save only the Cynetes, are the most westerly dwellers in Europe, and flowing thus clean across Europe it issues forth along the borders of Scythia.

[link to original Greek text] 50 Rawlinson p45 Seeing, then, that these aforesaid rivers, and many others too, are its tributaries, the Ister becomes the greatest of all rivers; stream for stream, indeed, the Nile has a greater volume, for no river or spring joins it to swell its volume of water. But the Ister is ever of the same height in summer and winter, whereof I think this to be the reason. In winter it is of its customary size, or only a little greater than is natural to it, for in that country in winter there is very little rain, but snow everywhere. But in the summer the abundant snow which has fallen in winter melts and pours from all sides into the Ister; so this snow pours into the river and helps to swell it with much violent rain besides, the summer being the season of rain. And in the same degree as the sun draws to itself more water in summer than in winter, the water that commingles with the Ister is many times more abundant in summer than it is in winter; these opposites keep the balance true, so that the volume of the river appears ever the same.

[link to original Greek text] 51 Rawlinson p46 One of the rivers of the Scythians, then, is the Ister. The next is the Tyras;​3 this comes from the north, flowing at first out of a great lake, which is the boundary between the Scythian and the Neurian countries; at the mouth of the river there is a settlement of Greeks, who are called Tyritae.

 p253  [link to original Greek text] 52 The third river is the Hypanis; this comes from Scythia, flowing out of a great lake, round which wild white horses graze. This lake is truly called the mother of the Hypanis. Here, then, the Hypanis rises; for five days' journey its waters are shallow and still sweet; after that for four days' journey seaward it is wondrous bitter, for a spring issues into it which is so bitter that although its volume is small its admixture taints the Hypanis, one of the few great rivers of the world. This spring is on the borderland between the farming Scythians​4 and the Alazones; the name of it and of the country whence it flows is in Scythian Exampaeus, in the Greek tongue Sacred Ways. The Tyras and the Hypanis draw their courses near together in the Alazones' country; after that they flow divergent, widening the space between.

[link to original Greek text] 53 H & W The fourth is the river Borysthenes. This is the next greatest of them after the Ister, and the most serviceable, according to our judgment, not only of the Scythian rivers but of all, except the Egyptian Nile, with which no other river can be compared. But of the rest the Borysthenes is the most serviceable; it provides for beasts the fairest pasture lands and easiest of access, and the fish in it are beyond all in their excellence and their abundance. Its water is most sweet to drink, flowing with a clear current, whereas the other rivers are turbid. There is excellent tilth on its banks, and very rich grass where the land is not sown; and self-formed crusts of salt abound at its mouth; it provides great spineless fish, called sturgeons, for the  p255 salting, and many other wondrous things besides. Its course is from the north, and there is knowledge of it as far as the Gerrhan land, that is, for forty days' voyage; beyond that, no man can say through what nations it flows; but it is plain that it flows through desert country to the land of the farming Scythians, who dwell beside it for a ten days' voyage. This is the only river, besides the Nile, whereof I cannot say what is the source; nor, I think, can any Greek. When the stream of the Borysthenes comes near the sea, the Hypanis mingles with it, issuing into the same marsh; the land between these rivers, being a jutting beak of the country, is called Hippolaus' promontory; a temple of Demeter stands there. The settlement of the Borystheneitae is beyond the temple, on the Hypanis.

[image ALT: missingALT. They are Scythian arrowheads.]

Scythian art: a fish of gold, decorated with various other animals.

Altes Museum, Berlin.
Photo © Livius.Org | Jona Lendering, by kind permission.

[link to original Greek text] 54 Rawlinson p49 This is the knowledge that comes to us from these rivers. After these there is a fifth river called Panticapas; this also flows from the north out of a lake, and the land between it and the Borysthenes is inhabited by the farming Scythians; it ius into the Woodland country; which having passed it mingles with the Borysthenes.

[link to original Greek text] 55 Rawlinson p50 The sixth is the river Hypacuris,​5 which rises from a lake, and flowing through the midst of the nomad Scythians issues out near the city of Carcines, bordering on its right the Woodland and the region called the Racecourse of Achilles.

[link to original Greek text] 56 The seventh river, the Gerrhus, parts from  p257 the Borysthenes at about the place which is the end of our knowledge of that river; at this place it parts, and has the same name as the place itself, Gerrhus; then in its course to the sea it divides the country of the Nomads and the country of the Royal Scythians, and issues into the Hypacuris.

[link to original Greek text] 57 H & W The eighth is the river Tanaïs;​6 this in its upper course begins by flowing out of a great lake, and enters a yet greater lake called the Maeetian, which divides the Royal Scythians from the Sauromatae; another river, called Hyrgis,​7 is a tributary of this Tanaïs.

[link to original Greek text] 58 These are the rivers of name with which the Scythians are provided. For the rearing of cattle the grass growing in Scythia is the most bile-making of all pastures known to us; it can be judged by the opening of the bodies of the cattle that this is so.

[link to original Greek text] 59 The Scythians then have what most concerns them ready to hand. It remains now to show the customs which are established among them. The only gods whom they propitiate by worship are these: Hestia in especial, and secondly Zeus and Earth, whom they deem to be the wife of Zeus; after these, Apollo, and the Heavenly Aphrodite, and Heracles, and Ares. All the Scythians worship these as gods; the Scythians called Royal sacrifice also to Poseidon. In the Scythian tongue Hestia is called Tabiti: Zeus (in my judgment most rightly so called) Papaeus;​8 Earth is Apia, Apollo Goetosyrus, the Heavenly Aphrodite Artimpasa, and Poseidon  p259 Thagimasadas. It is their practice to make images and altars and shrines for Ares, but for no other god.

[image ALT: missingALT. It is a protohistoric Eurasian fire altar.]

A fire altar of the Eurasian nomads.

Archaeological Museum of Afrosiab, Samarkand.
Photo © Livius.Org | Marco Prins, by kind permission.

[link to original Greek text] 60 Rawlinson p52 In all their sacred services alike they follow the same method of sacrifice; this is how it is offered. The victim itself stands with its forefeet shackled together; the sacrificer stands behind the beast, and throws it down by plucking the end of its rope; as the victim falls, he invokes whatever god it is to whom he sacrifices. Then, throwing a noose round the beast's neck, he thrusts in a stick and twists it and so strangles the victim, lighting no fire nor offering the firstfruits, nor pouring any libation; and having strangled and flayed the beast, he sets about cooking it.

[link to original Greek text] 61 Now the Scythian land is wondrous bare of wood: so this is their device for cooking the flesh. When they have flayed the victims, they strip the flesh from the bones and throw them into the cauldrons of the country, if they have such: these are most like to Lesbian bowls, save that they are much bigger; into these then they throw the victim's bones, and cook them by lighting a fire beneath. But if they have no cauldron, then they cast all the flesh into the victim's stomachs, adding water thereto, and make a fire beneath of the bones, which burn finely; the stomachs easily hold the flesh when it is stripped from the bones; thus an ox serves to cook itself, and every other victim does likewise. When the flesh is cooked, the sacrificer takes the firstfruits of the flesh and the entrails and casts it before him. They use all beasts of the flock for sacrifice, but chiefly horses.

[image ALT: missingALT. It is a Scythian cauldron.]

A sixth-century Scythian cauldron from Scorțaru, Romania.

National Museum of Romanian History, Bucharest.
Photo © Livius.Org | Jona Lendering, by kind permission.

[link to original Greek text] 62 Such is their way of sacrificing to all other  p261 gods and such are the beasts offered; but their sacrifices to Ares are on this wise. Every district in each of the governments has in it a building sacred to Ares, to wit, a pile of fagots of sticks three furlongs broad and long, but of a less height, on the top of which there is a flattened four-sided surface; three of its sides are sheer, but the fourth can be ascended. In every year an hundred and fifty waggon-loads of sticks are heaped upon this; for the storms of winter ever make it sink down. On this pile there is set for each people an ancient scimitar of iron, which is their image of Ares; to this scimitar they bring yearly sacrifice of sheep and goats and horses, offering to these symbols even more than they do to the other gods. Of all their enemies that they take alive, they sacrifice one man in every hundred, not according to their fashion of sacrificing sheep and goats, but differently. They pour wine on the men's heads and cut their throats over a vessel; then they carry the blood up on to the pile of sticks and pour it on the scimitar. So they carry the blood aloft, but below by the sacred building they cut off the slain men's right arms and hands and throw these into the air, and presently depart when they have sacrificed the rest of the victims; the arm lies where it has fallen, and the body apart from it.

[link to original Greek text] 63 Rawlinson p54 These then are their established fashions of sacrifice; but of swine these Scythians make no offerings; nor are they willing for the most part to rear them in their country.

[link to original Greek text] 64 H & W As to war, these are their customs. A Scythian drinks of the blood of the first man whom he has  p263 overthrown. He carries to his king the heads of all whom he has slain in the battle; for he receives a share of the booty if he bring a head, but not otherwise. He scalps the head by making a cut round it by the ears, then grasping the scalp and shaking the head out. Then he scrapes out the flesh with the rib of an ox, and kneads the skin with his hands, and having made it supple he keeps it for a napkin, fastening it to the bridle of the horse which he himself rides, and taking pride in it; for he is judged the best man who has most scalps for napkins. Many Scythians even make garments for wear out of these scalps, sewing them together like coats of skin. Many too take off the skin, nails and all, from their dead enemies' hands, and make thereof coverings for their quivers; it would seem that the human skin is thick and shining, of all skins, one may say, the brightest and whitest. There are many too that flay the skin from the whole body and carry it about on horseback stretched on a wooden frame.

[link to original Greek text] 65 The heads themselves, not of all but of their bitterest foes, they treat in this wise. Each saws off all the part beneath the eyebrows, and cleanses the rest. If he be a poor man, then he does but cover the outside with a piece of raw hide, and so makes use of it; but if he be rich, he covers the head with the raw hide, and gilds the inside of it and so uses it for a drinking‑cup. Such cups a man makes also of the head of his own kinsman with whom he has been at feud, and whom he has worsted in a suit before the king; and if guests whom he honours visit  p265 him he will serve them with these heads, and show how the dead were his kinsfolk who made war upon him and were worsted by him; this they call manly valour.

[link to original Greek text] 66 Rawlinson p56 Moreover once in every year each governor of a province brews a bowl of wine in his own province, whereof those Scythians drink who have slain enemies; those who have not achieved this taste not this wine but sit apart dishonoured; and this they count a very great disgrace; but as much as have slain not one but many enemies, they have each two cups and so drink of them both.

[link to original Greek text] 67 There are among the Scythians many diviners, who divine by means of many willow wands as I will show.​a They bring great bundles of wands, which they lay on the ground and unfasten, and utter their divinations laying one rod on another; and while they yet speak they gather up the rods once more and lay them one by one; this manner of divination is hereditary among them. The Enareis, who are epicene,​b say that Aphrodite gave them the art of divination, which they practise by means of lime-tree bark. They cut this bark into three portions, and prophesy while they plait and unplait these in their fingers.

[link to original Greek text] 68 But whenever the king of the Scythians falls sick, he sends for the three diviners most in repute, who prophesy in the aforesaid manner; and they for the most part tell him that such and such a man (naming whoever it is of the people of the country) has forsworn himself by the king's hearth; for when the Scythians will swear their mightiest oath, it is  p267 by the king's hearth that their custom is to swear most solemnly. Forthwith the man whom they allege to be forsworn is seized and brought in, and when he comes the diviners accuse him, saying that their divination shows him to have forsworn himself by the king's hearth, and that this is the cause of the king's sickness; and the man vehemently denies that he is forsworn. So when he denies it the king sends for twice as many diviners: and if they too, looking into their art, prove him guilty of perjury, then straightway he is beheaded and his goods are divided among the first diviners; but if the later diviners acquit him, then other diviners come, and yet again others. If then the greater number of them acquit the man, it is decreed that the first diviners shall themselves be put to death.

[link to original Greek text] 69 Rawlinson p58 And this is the manner of their death. Men yoke oxen to a waggon laden with sticks and make the diviners fast amid these, fettering their legs and binding their hands behind them and gagging them; then they set fire to the sticks and drive the oxen away, affrighting them. Often the oxen are burnt to death with the diviners, and often the pole of their waggon is burnt through and the oxen escape with a scorching. They burn their diviners for other reasons, too, in the manner aforesaid, calling them false prophets. When the king puts a man to death, neither does he leave the sons alive, but kills all the males of the family; to the females he does no hurt.

[link to original Greek text] 70 As for the giving of sworn pledges to such as are to receive them, this is the Scythian fashion: they take blood from the parties to the agreement  p269 by making a little hole or cut in the body with an awl or a knife, and pour it mixed with wine into a great earthenware cup, wherein they then dip a scimitar and arrows and an axe and a javelin; and when this is done the makers of the sworn agreement themselves, and the most honourable of their followers, drink of the blood after solemn imprecations.

[link to original Greek text] 71 H & W The burial-places of the kings are in the land of the Gerrhi, which is the end of the navigation of the Borysthenes. There, whenever their king has died, the Scythians dig a great four-cornered pit in the ground; when this is ready they take up the dead man — his body enclosed in wax, his belly cut open and cleansed and filled with cut marsh-plants and frankincense and parsley and anise-seed, and sewn up again — and carry him on a waggon to another tribe. Then those that receive the dead man at his coming do the same as do the Royal Scythians; that is, they cut off a part of their ears, shave their heads, make cuts round their arms, tear their foreheads and noses, and pierce their left hands with arrows. Thence the bearers carry the king's body on the waggon to another of the tribes which they rule, and those to whom they have already come follow them; and having carried the dead man to all in turn, they are in the country of the Gerrhi, the farthest distant of all tribes under their rule, and at the place of burial. Then, having laid the dead in the tomb on a couch, they plant spears all round the body and lay across them wooden planks, which they then roof over with hides; in the  p271 open space which is left in the tomb they bury, after strangling, one of the king's concubines, his cupbearer, his cook, his groom, his squire, and his messenger, besides horses, and first-fruits of all else, and golden cups; for the Scythians make no use of silver or bronze. Having done this they all build a great barrow of earth, vying zealously with one another to make this as great as may be.

[link to original Greek text] 72 Rawlinson p63 With the completion of a year they begin a fresh practice. Taking the trustiest of the rest of the king's servants (and these are native-born Scythians, for only those serve the king whom he bids so to do, and none of the Scythians have servants bought by money) they strangle fifty of these squires and fifty of their best horses and empty and cleanse the bellies of all and fill them with chaff. Then they make fast the half of a wheel to two posts, so that it hangs down, and the other half to another pair of posts, till many posts thus furnished are planted in the ground, and, presently, driving thick stakes lengthways through the horses' bodies to their necks, they lay the horses aloft on the wheels so that the wheel in front supports the horse's shoulders and the wheel behind takes the weight of the belly by the hindquarters, and the forelegs and hindlegs hang free; and putting bridles and bits in the horses' mouths they stretch the bridles to the front and make them fast with pegs. Then they take each one of the fifty strangled young men and mount him on the horse; their way of doing it is to drive an upright stake through each  p273 body passing up by the spine to the neck, and enough of the stake projects below to be fixed in a hole made in the other stake, that which passes through the horse. So having set horsemen of this fashion round about the tomb they ride away.

[link to original Greek text] 73 Rawlinson p64 Such is their way of burying their kings. All other Scythians, when they die, are laid in waggons and carried about among their friends by their nearest of kin; each receives them and entertains the retinue hospitably, setting before the dead man about as much of the fare as he serves to the rest. All but the kings are thus borne about for forty days and then buried. After the burial the Scythians cleanse themselves as I will show; they anoint and wash their heads; as for their bodies, they set up three poles leaning together to a point and cover these over with woollen rugs; then, in the place so enclosed to the best of their power, they make a pit in the centre beneath the poles and the rugs and throw red‑hot stones into it.

[link to original Greek text] 74 They have hemp growing in their country, very like flax, save that the hemp is by much the thicker and taller. This grows both of itself and also by their sowing, and of it the Thracians even make garments which are very like linen; nor could any, save he were a past master in hemp, know whether they be hempen or linen; whoever has never yet seen hemp will think the garment to be linen.

[link to original Greek text] 75 The Scythians then take the seed of this hemp and, creeping under the rugs, they throw it  p275 on the red‑hot stones; and, being so thrown, it smoulders and sends forth so much steam that no Greek vapour-bath could surpass it. The Scythians howl in joy for the vapour-bath. This serves them instead of bathing, for scarce ever do they wash their bodies with water. But their women grind with a rough stone cypress and cedar and frankincense wood, pouring water also thereon, and with the thick stuff so ground they anoint all their bodies and faces, whereby not only does a fragrant scent abide upon them, but when on the second day they take off the ointment their skin becomes clean and shining.

[link to original Greek text] 76 Rawlinson p66 But as regards foreign usages, the Scythians (as others) are wondrous loth to practise those of any other country, and of Hellas in especial, as was proved in the case of Anacharsis and again also of Scyles. For when Anacharsis, having seen much of the world in his travels and given many proofs of his wisdom therein, was coming back to the Scythian country, he sailed through the Hellespont and put in at Cyzicus; where, finding the Cyzicenes celebrating the feast of the Mother of the Godsα with great pomp, he vowed to this same Mother that, if he returned to his own country safe and sound, he would sacrifice to her as he saw the Cyzicenes do, and establish a nightly rite of worship. So when he came to Scythia, he hid himself in the country called Woodland (which is besides the Race of Achilles, and is all overgrown with every kind of wood); hiding himself there Anacharsis celebrated the goddess's ritual with exactness, carrying a cymbal and hanging about himself images. Then some  p277 Scythian marked him doing this and told it to the king, Saulius; who, coming himself to the place and seeing Anacharsis performing these rites, shot an arrow at him and slew him. And now the Scythians, if they are asked about Anacharsis, say they have no knowledge of him; this is because he left his country for Hellas and followed the customs of strangers. But according to what I heard from Tymnes, the deputy for Ariapithes, Anacharsis was uncle to Idanthyrsus king of Scythia, and he was the son of Gnurus, son of Lycus, son of Spargapithes. Now if Anacharsis was truly of this family, then I would have him know that he was slain by his own brother; for Idanthyrsus was the son of Saulius, and it was Saulius who slew Anacharsis.

[link to original Greek text] 77 Rawlinson p68 It is true that I have heard another story told by Peloponnesians; namely, that Anacharsis had been sent by the king of Scythia and had been a learner of the ways of Hellas, and after his return told the king who sent him that all Greeks were zealous for every kind of learning, save only the Lacedaemonians; but that these were the only Greeks who spoke and listened with discretion. But this is a tale vainly invented by the Greeks themselves; and be this as it may, the man was put to death as I have said.

[link to original Greek text] 78 H & W Such-like, then, was the fortune that befell Anacharsis, all for his foreign usages and his companion­ship with Greeks; and a great many years afterwards, Scyles, son of Ariapithes, suffered a like fate. Scyles was one of the sons born to Ariapithes, king of Scythia; but his mother was of Istria,​9 and not native-born; and she taught him to speak and read Greek.  p279 As time passed, Ariapithes was treacherously slain by Spargapithes, king of the Agathyrsi, and Scyles inherited the kingship and his father's wife, whose name was Opoea, a Scythian woman, and she bore to Scyles a son, Oricus. So Scyles was king of Scythia; but he was in no wise content with the Scythian manner of life, and was much more inclined to Greek ways, from the bringing up which he had received; so this is what he did: having led the Scythian army to the city of the Borysthenites (who say that they are Milesians) — having, I say, come thither, he would ever leave his army in the suburb of the city, but he himself, entering within the walls and shutting the gates would doff his Scythian apparel and don a Greek dress; and in it he went among the townsmen unattended by spearmen or any others (the people guarding the gates, lest any Scythian should see him wearing this apparel), and in every way followed the Greek manner of life, and worshipped the gods according to Greek usage. Then having so spent a month or more, he put on Scythian dress and left the city. This he did often; and he built him a house in Borysthenes, and married and brought thither a wife of the people of the country.

[link to original Greek text] 79 Rawlinson p70 But when the time came that evil should befall him, this was the cause of it: he conceived a desire to be initiated into the rites of the Bacchic Dionysus; and when he was about to begin the sacred mysteries, he saw a wondrous vision. He had in the city of the Borysthenites a spacious house, great and costly (that same house whereof I have just made mention), all surrounded by sphinxes and griffins wrought in white stone; this house was  p281 smitten by a thunderbolt and wholly destroyed by fire. But none the less for this did Scyles perform the rite to the end. Now the Scythians make this Bacchic revelling a reproach against the Greeks, saying that it is not reasonable to set up a god who leads men on to madness. So when Scyles had been initiated into the Bacchic rite, some one of the Borysthenites scoffed at the Scythians: "Why," said he, "you Scythians mock us for revelling and being possessed by the god; but now this deity has taken possession of your own king, so that he is revelling and is maddened by the god. If you will not believe me, follow me now and I will show him to you." The chief men among the Scythians followed him, and the Borysthenite brought them up secretly and set them on a tower; whence presently, when Scyles passed by with his company of worshippers, they saw him among the revellers; whereat being greatly moved, they left the city and told the whole army what they had seen.

[link to original Greek text] 80 After this Scyles rode away to his own place; but the Scythians rebelled against him, setting up for their king his brother Octamasades, son of the daughter of Teres. Scyles, learning how they dealt with him and the reason of their so doing, fled into Thrace; and when Octamasades heard this he led his army thither. But when he was beside the Ister, the Thracians barred his way; and when the armies were like to join battle Sitalces sent this message to Octamasades: "Wherefore should we essay each other's strength? You are my sister's son, and you have with you my brother; do you give him back to me, and I give up your Scyles to you; and let  p283 neither of us endanger our armies." Such was the offer sent to him by Sitalces; for Sitalces' brother had fled from him and was with Octamasades. The Scythian agreed to this, and received his brother Scyles, giving up his own uncle to Sitalces. Sitalces then took his brother and carried him away, but Octamasades beheaded Scyles on the spot. So closely do the Scythians guard their usages, and such penalties do they lay on those who add foreign customs to their own.

[link to original Greek text] 81 Rawlinson p72 How many the Scythians are I was not able to learn with exactness, but the accounts which I heard concerning the number did not tally, some saying that they are very many, and some that they are but few, counted as Scythians. But thus much they made me to see for myself: — There is a region between the rivers Borysthenes and Hypanis, the name of which is Exampaeus; this is the land whereof I lately made mention when I said that there is a spring of salt water in it, the water from which makes the Hypanis unfit to drink. In this region stands a bronze vessel, as much as six times greater than the cauldron dedicated by Pausanias son of Cleombrotus at the entrance of the Pontus.​10 To any who has not yet seen this latter I will thus make my meaning plain: the Scythian bronze vessel easily contains five thousand and four hundred gallons, and it is of six fingers' thickness. This vessel (so said the people of the country) was made out of arrow-heads. For their king, whose name was Ariantas, desiring to know the numbers of the Scythians, commanded every Scythian to bring him the point  p285 from an arrow, threatening all who should not so do with death. So a vast number of arrow-heads was brought, and he resolved to make and leave a memorial out of them; and he made of these this bronze vessel, and set it up in this country Exampaeus. Thus much I heard concerning the number of the Scythians.

[image ALT: missingALT. They are Scythian arrowheads.]

Scythian arrowheads of unknown provenance, probably from Ukraine.

Neues Museum, Berlin.
Photo © Livius.Org | Jona Lendering, by kind permission.

[link to original Greek text] 82 Rawlinson p74 As for marvels, there are none in the land, save that it has rivers by far the greatest and the most numerous in the world; and over and above the rivers and the great extent of the plains there is one most wondrous thing for me to tell of: they show a footprint of Heracles by the river Tyras stamped on rock, like the mark of a man's foot, but two cubits in length. Having so described this I will now return to the story which I began to relate.11

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Probably the Pruth; the modern names of the other four rivers mentioned here are matters of conjecture.

2 The Balkan range. None of the rivers in this chapter can be certainly identified; the names Κάρπις and Ἄλπις must indicate tributaries descending from the Alps and Carpathians.

3 The Dniester.

4 See ch. 17.

5 Perhaps in the Molotschna region, considerably east of the Dnieper. The "city of Carcine" lay at the eastern end of the Scythian sea‑coast, close to the Tauric Chersonese (Crimea). The Racecourse of Achilles was a strip of land, now broken into islands, about 80 miles long, between the Crimea and the mouth of the Dnieper.

6 The Don.

7 Perhaps the "Syrgis" of ch. 123; it may be the modern Donetz.

8 As the "All‑Father"; cp. such words as πάπας, παπίας, etc.

9 In what is now the Dobrudja.

10 Pausanias, the victor of Plataea, set up this cauldron in 477 B.C. to commemorate the taking of Byzantium.

11 In ch. 1.

Thayer's Notes:

a I am very tempted to see in this (no doubt garbled) account something akin to the ancient method of divination used in the I Ching, in which stalks of yarrow are manipulated according to a specific set of rules that can be found in many places online, as on this page at Taoism Initiation.

b As has now been amply documented for over a century, shamans among many peoples of the world, from the First Peoples of the Americas to the indigenous tribes of central Asia here, are often transgender or intersex folk, or ritually mimic their characteristics.

Lendering's Note:

α Cybele. A naïve but long and circumstantial account of how she came to be a goddess has come down to us in Diodorus Siculus, III.57‑59 (where she is first referred to under her given name Basileia).

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