The Scythians: Nomad Warriors of the Steppe

The Scythians: Nomad Warriors of the Steppe

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The Scythians were nomadic horsemen who ranged wide across the grasslands of the Asian steppe from the Altai mountains in the east to the Great Hungarian Plain in the first millennium BC. Their steppe homeland bordered on a number of sedentary states to the south and there were, inevitably, numerous interactions between the nomads and their neighbours. The Scythians fought the Persians on a number of occasions, in one battle killing their king and on another occasion driving the invading army of Darius the Great from the steppe.

Relations with the Greeks around the shores of the Black Sea were rather different – both communities benefiting from trading with each other. It is from the writings of Greeks like the historian Herodotus that we learn of Scythian life: their beliefs, their burial practices, their love of fighting, and their ambivalent attitudes to gender. It is a world that is also brilliantly illuminated by the rich material culture recovered from Scythian burials, where all the organic material is amazingly well preserved.

Barry Cunliffe here marshals this vast array of evidence – both archaeological and textual – in a masterful reconstruction of the lost world of the Scythians, allowing them to emerge in all their considerable vigor and splendor for the first time in over two millennia.

©2019 Barry Cunliffe (P)2020 Tantor