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2516: Scythian slave sharpening his knife before flaying Marsyas. Roman copy after a bronze of the First Pergamene School, late 3C BC. Antikmuseet, Lund.

Scythia is called the region to the north and northeast of the Black Sea. Mount Caucasus, where Prometheus 1 was nailed and kept bound for many years, is a Scythian mountain. Scythia is the abode of one of the WINDS, the North Wind Boreas 1. The inhabitants of this region called themselves Skoloti, but the Greeks called them Scythians. There were three main clans among the Scythians, deriving from the three sons of their ancestor Targitaus (see below).

Scythia and Cimmeria

Io, in her wanderings came to Scythia and Cimmeria, which are in the same region. The Cimmerians were driven from their territory by the Scythians, who were a nomad people, and when the Scythians had driven the Cimmerians out of Europe, pursuing them in their flight, they came to Media in Asia and destroyed the kingdom of the Medes. In fact they pillaged vast areas in the Middle East, reaching as far as Egypt. During their rule, which lasted almost three decades, they not only collected the regular tribute, but also, riding the country, carried off the common people's possessions, thus ruining the whole territory with their violence. The Scythians did not expand to the north because, as they said, in the north both earth and sky are full of feathers, and the showers of feathers hindered the sight.

The First Scythian

The first of the Scythians is said to be Targitaus, son of Zeus and a daughter of the river god Borysthenes. This Borysthenes is also said to be the father of Thoas 3, who was first king of Lemnos and later king of the Taurians, before whom Orestes 2, son of Agamemnon, was brought. Thoas 3 was hidden by his daughter Hypsipyle when the Lemnian women killed their husbands, and later he fled to Tauris. Orestes 2 came to Tauris, which is a part of Scythia, and was there in danger because the Scythians used to murder strangers and throw them into the sacred fire.

Colaxais becomes king by a marvel

The sons of Targitaus, Lipoxais, Arpoxais, and Colaxais ruled the country that their father had found desolate. During their reign, a plough, a yoke, a sword, and a flask, all made of gold, fell down from the sky into Scythia. When either Lipoxais or Arpoxais tried to approach the objects, the gold began to burn, but when Colaxais came near them the burning stopped. For this reason the two brothers agreed to give all the royal power to Colaxais, who was the youngest among them.

Another First Scythian

The Greeks dwelling in the Black Sea say, however, that Heracles 1, driving the cattle of Geryon, came to Scythia which was then an empty territory. As he fell asleep in the frosty weather, he lost track of his cattle. Looking for it, he discovered that it had been stolen by a creature half damsel and half serpent. When Heracles 1 asked for the cattle, she said that she would not restore it unless he had intercourse with her. Heracles 1 complied with the demand, and later three children were born: Agathyrsus, Gelonus, and Scythes 2. The Scythian monster, following the instructions Heracles 1 gave her before he left, banished Agathyrsus and Gelonus, and made Scythes 2 the first king of the Scythians.

Opinion of the AMAZONS

The AMAZONS who lived near the Scythians used to maim their male children by removing a hand or a leg, and when the Scythians, who desired to come to terms in their war against the female nation, told them that they would find in them no mutilated bedfellows, the Amazon Antianira 2 replied that lame men make lusty husbands.

Other Scythian kings

A Scythian king, Indus 1, is said to have been the first to discover silver. Another king, Lyncus 1, was visited by Triptolemus, who came with Demeter's grain; Lyncus 1 attacked him with a sword, but before he could kill Triptolemus, Demeter turned him into a lynx.

Story of a Scythian princess

Idaea 2, daughter of King Dardanus 3 of Scythia, was the second wife of Phineus 2, the blind king and seer from Salmydessus in Thrace who received the ARGONAUTS. Idaea 2 falsely accused the sons of Phineus 2 by his former wife Cleopatra 5 of corrupting her virtue. For this charge—trying to rape their mother-in-law—the children of Phineus 2 (Plexippus 2 and Pandion 3) were shut within a burial vault where they were continually whipped. At the time, Heracles 1, who was sailing with the Boreades (Calais and Zetes), arrived to Thrace. Since the Boreades were the brothers of Cleopatra 5 they demanded that both their sister and the falsely accused youths were released. An armed conflict broke out, during which Phineus 2 was killed by Heracles 1. The released youths wished then to put Idaea 2 to death under torture, but Heracles 1 persuaded them to send her to Scythia for punishment, and there the Scythians condemned her to death.

General opinion

The Scythians were believed to lead a bestial way of life; therefore, as they became the proverbial barbarians, other people could express themselves thus:

"It is not Scythians who committed such deeds, but the people who claim to excel in love of mankind have by their decrees utterly destroyed these cities." (Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 13.30.7).

Others add that the Scythians had a law that sentenced all men of sixty years of age to death.


History registered the Scythians' exellence in horsemanship, their conquest of the region known today as Kurdistan, how they defeated a general of Alexander the Great and stopped the invasion of Persian Darius by scorched-earth strategy, but the Scythians disappeared from its pages in c. AD 200.

Related sections  

Some mentions of Scythia: Apd.1.7.1, 2.1.3; Apd.Ep.6.26; Arg.4.288, 4.320; Cal.Ar.174, 256; Hyg.Fab.145, 274; Nonn.13.246, 25.311, 40.291; Ov.Met.1.64, 2.224, 5.649, 8.788, 10.588; Phil.VA.6.20.