Scythian

SCYTHIAN (sĭth'ē-ăn, Gr. hoi Skythai). The name is used by classical writers as a general term for the barbarians of the steppes. In common parlance it was a term for the savage and uncivilized (Col.3.11). Scythia was the name given by the Greeks to an ill-defined area between the Carpathians and the Don, the western portion of which included the black earth wheatlands of the modern Ukraine. The steppe land was wide open to nomadic invasion, and the Indo-European tribes who occupied it in the seventh century b.c. are those to whom most properly the term “Scythian” is applied. There must have been a considerable “folk-wandering” about this time, because Scythians appeared in upper Mesopotamia and Syria between 650 and 620 b.c. and another force reached the middle Danube. South Russia, to speak in modern geographical terms, was firmly occupied. The nomads were formidable soldiers, swift archer cavalry versed in the tactics of desert warfare and mobile strategy. By a “scorched-earth” policy and by their elusive defense they frustrated an attack of Darius in 512 and similarly beat off Alexander’s general Zopyrion in 325. They exploited the labor of the earlier inhabitants and were exporters of large quantities of wheat to the Greek Black Sea colonies. Greek pottery and metal work were taken in exchange, and the tombs of the chiefs have produced a rich profusion of such articles. The Celts and Samaritans seem to have displaced the Scythians in the last three centuries before Christ.——EMB