translated by Shlomo Felberbaum

Text and photographs Copyright © 1999—2003 Lost Trails
all rights reserved

Installment 20

Then after Babylon’s taking there was made against the Scythians Darius himself’s driving. For, when Asia was flourishing with men and much money was coming in, Darius conceived a desire to punish the Scythians, in that those, by earlier having made an invasion against the Median land and prevailed in battle against those opposed, had begun injustice. For the Scythians ruled Upper Asia, as has been said by me before too, thirty years but two, since in their pursuing after the Cimmerians they made an invasion against Asia and were deposing the Medes from their rule, because they before the Scythians had come were rulers of Asia. But when the Scythians had been abroad twenty eight years and after an interval of so long a time were going back, there received them no lesser toil than the Median; for they found opposed to them no small host, since the Scythians’ wives, when their husbands were away a long time, went frequently to their slaves.

Now, all their slaves the Scythians blind because of the milk, of which they drink, since they act this way: whenever they take hold of blowpipes of bone, most similar to flutes, men put those into the female horses’ genitals and blow with their mouths and another group, the one blowing, milks. And they assert that for this reason they do that, that the ducts of the horse are filled, when they are blown, and the udder is let down. Then whenever they milk the milk, after they have poured it into hollow wooden vessels and put round by the vessels the blind, they stir the milk and, after they have skimmed it off, what stands on top of it they consider more honorable and what stands on the bottom inferior to the other. For that reason quite all whomever the Scythians take hold of they blind; for they are not ploughers, but nomads.

From those slaves of theirs indeed it is and their wives, from which grew up youth, who, when they had learned of their birth, opposed them as they were going back from the Medes. And first they cut off for themselves the country by digging themselves a broad ditch that stretched down from the Tauric mountains to the Maeetian lake, right where it is largest and afterwards with the Scythians, when they were trying to make an invasion, they sat down opposite and fought. Then, battle coming about often and the Scythians being unable to have any advantage in the battle, one of them said this: “What kind of things we are doing, Scythian men! By fighting with our slaves, we ourselves, by being killed, become fewer and, by killing those, will rule the remaining time fewer. Now therefore it seems good to me spears and bows to let go and for each to take hold of his horse’s whip and go near them. For, while they were seeing we had arms, then they considered they were similar and born of our similars, but whenever they see for themselves we have whips instead of arms, having learned that they are our slaves and admitted that, they will not abide”.

Having heard that, the Scythians caused it to be brought to completion and their opponents, astonished at what was happening, forgot the battle and fled. Thus the Scythians got the rule of Asia and were driven out again by the Medes and went back in a manner like that above to their own land. And because of that Darius, wanting to punish, gathered together against them an armed force.

Now, as the Scythians say, it’s that theirs is the youngest of all nations and it came into being this way: a man originated first in that land that was desolate, whose name was Targitaus, and of that Targitaus they give the account the parents were—although they give an account not credible to me, they give the account anyhow—Zeus and Borysthenes the river’s daughter. Of a birth like that indeed was born Targitaus and of that one was born three sons, Lipoxais, Arpoxais and the youngest Colaxais. In the time when those were ruling from the sky were borne golden works, a plough, a yoke, a battleaxe and a libation bowl, and they fell into the Scythian land, and first the oldest saw them and went near them, since he wanted to take hold, but the gold, when he went toward it, burned. So, that man having departed, the second went forward and it again did the same. Them indeed the gold by burning thrust away, but for the third, the youngest, when he went toward it, it completely extinguished and he conveyed it to his house. And the older brothers thereupon yielded and gave over the whole kingdom to the youngest.

Indeed from Lipoxais was descended those of the Scythians who are called Auxatians in race, from the middle one, Arpoxais, who are called Catiarians and Traspians and from the youngest of them the kings who are called Paralatians. And the name of all together is Scolotians, a name derived from their king, but the Greeks name them Scythians. Now, the Scythians say they originated this way and their years since they have originated all together are they say, from the first king, Targitaus, to Darius’ crossing over against them, no fewer than a thousand but so many. And that sacred gold the kings guard in the highest degree and with great sacrifices propitiate and go after it every year and whoever with the sacred gold during the festival in the open air falls asleep, he is said by the Scythians not to live through the year and there is offered to him on account of that all whichever with a horse in one day he himself rides round. Now, since the country was large, three kingdoms for his sons Colaxais established and made one of those the largest, in which the gold was guarded, and the parts inland toward the north wind of those who are settled inland of the country it is not possible still farther to either see or go out through because of heaped feathers; for of feathers both the land and the lower air is full and those are the things that shut off the vision.

The Scythians this way about themselves and the country farther inland give an account, but those of the Greeks who settled round the Pontus this way: while Heracles was driving Geryones’ cows, he came to a land that was desolate, which the Scythians now inhabit. And Geryones settled outside of the Pontus and had a settlement on the island that the Greeks speak of as Erytheia, which is off Gadeira outside of the pillars of Heracles by the Ocean. Now, the Ocean in speech they say begins from the sun’s risings and flows round all the Earth, but in deed they show it forth not. When thence Heracles had come to the country that is now called Scythia, since a storm and frost had overtaken him, he drew on himself his lion’s skin and descended into sleep and his mares from under his chariot, while they were grazing, in that time were made to disappear by divine fortune. Then, when Heracles had awaked, he searched and, having gone out through all parts of the country, he finally came to the land called Hylaea and there he by himself found in a cave mixed with a maiden a viper of a double nature, whose parts above from the buttocks were a woman’s and parts below a viper’s. And after he had seen and marvelled, he asked her whether somewhere she saw mares wandering. So she asserted that she herself had and would not give him them back before he had intercourse with her and Heracles had intercourse for that fee. She indeed delayed the giving back of the mares, since she wanted as much time as possible to be with Heracles and he, after he had conveyed them, wished to depart. Finally indeed she herself offered them back and said, “When indeed those horses there had come hither, I brought them to safety for you and the reward of saving you provided: for I have three sons from you. Those, whenever they become grown, expound you what I must do, whether I am to settle them here, as over this country here I have the mastery myself, or send them off to you”. She indeed asked that and he, they say, thereupon said, “Whenever you see for yourself that my sons have become men, by doing this you would not miss the mark: whoever of them you see is stringing this bow here this way and girding himself with this girdle after this fashion, that one make a settler of this country, but whoever is left behind in those deeds which I have enjoined, send away from the country. And by doing that you yourself will be gladdened and doing what has been enjoined”.

When he indeed had drawn one of the bows—for two indeed Heracles carried to that time—and showed openly the girdle, he handed over the bow and the girdle with a golden libation bowl on the tip of its clasp and, when he had given it, he departed and she, after the sons born to her had become men, on the one hand gave names to them, to one, Agathyrsus, to him who followed, Gelonus, and Scythes to the youngest and on the other remembered the injunction and by herself did what had been enjoined. And indeed two of her sons, Agathyrsus and Gelonus, proved not able to be enough in pursuit of the proposed prize and were gone out of the country expelled by their begetter, but the youngest of them, Scythes, having brought it to completion, stayed behind in the country and verily from Scythes, the son of Heracles, were descended those who become on each and every occasion kings of the Scythians, while because of the libation bowl still even to this present time the Scythians wear libation bowls on their girdles. And it’s that alone which his mother contrived for Scythes. So that account those of the Greeks who settled round the Pontus give.

Moreover, there is another account also that is so (to which most, when it is given, I myself am attached): the nomadic Scythians settled in Asia and, because they had been oppressed in war by the Massagetians, crossed the Araxes river and were gone against the Cimmerian land—for that which the Scythians now inhabit is said anciently to be the Cimmerians’—and the Cimmerians at the Scythians’ coming against it took counsel among themselves, on the ground that a large army was coming against it, and indeed their opinions were separate, both intense, but the kings’ better; for indeed the opinion of the people imported that it was advantageous to depart and not run the risk against many, but that of the kings was to fight to the end for the country with those who were coming against it. However, they were not willing to be persuaded, neither by the kings the people nor by the people the kings. The one group indeed took counsel to depart the country without a fight and give it over to those who were coming against it, while to the kings it seemed good to be put in their own land dead and not flee with the people, when they counted all the goods that they had experienced and all the evils that were likely to befall, if they fled from their fatherland. And as that seemed good to them, after they had stood apart and become equal in number, they fought against one another and, when they had all died at their own hands, the people of the Cimmerians buried them by the Tyres river (and their burial-place is still visible) and, having buried them thus, they went out of the country. The Scythians then came against and took hold of the country in its desolation.

Even now there is in the Scythian land Cimmerian walls and there is ferries Cimmerian and there is even a country in name Cimmerian and there is a Bosporus Cimmerian so-called, but manifestly the Cimmerians were fleeing from the Scythians into Asia and colonized the peninsula, on which now is settled Sinope, a Greek city. And the Scythians too are manifest in their having pursued and expelled them into the Median land, although they erred in the way. For the Cimmerians on each and every occasion fled along the sea and the Scythians with the Caucasus on the right pursued until they expelled them into the Median land, when they turned themselves to the inland country on their way. And that is spoken as another account that’s given common to Greeks and barbarians.

Moreover, Aristeas, the son of Caustrobius, a Proconnessian man, asserted in his composing epic verses that he had come to the Issedonians, when he had come to be taken hold of by Phoebus, and as to the Issedonians settled beyond were one-eyed Arimaspian men, beyond those the gold-guarding griffins and from those the Hyperboreans extended to the sea; all those accordingly, except the Hyperboreans, the Arimaspians having made a beginning, on each and every occasion applied themselves to their neighbors and by the Arimaspians the Issedonians were thrust out of the country, by the Issedonians the Scythians and the Cimmerians who settled near the south sea were oppressed by the Scythians and abandoned the country. Thus that man too does not concur about that country with the Scythians.

In fact whence was Aristeas who composed that I have said, but the account that I heard about him in Proconnesus and Cyzicus I will say. For Aristeas, they say, being inferior to none of his townsmen in birth, went to a fuller’s shop in Proconnesus and died and the fuller shut down his workplace and was gone to make an announcement to those related to the corpse. Then, when the account was scattered throughout the city that Aristeas was dead, into disputes with the speakers came a Cyzician man who had come from the city of Artace and he asserted that he had meet with him as he went toward Cyzicus and come into speeches with him and that man disputed vehemently, while those related to the corpse at the fuller’s shop were present with what was needful with the intention that they would take it up. But when the building had been opened, Aristeas appeared neither dead nor living. Then the seventh year afterward he appeared in Proconnesus and composed those epic verses that now are called Arimaspea by the Greeks and, when he had made the composition, was made to disappear the second time.

Those accounts those cities give, but the following things I know occurred to the Metapontinians in Italy two hundred and forty years after the disappearance of Aristeas, as I concluded and found in Proconnesus and Metapontium. For the Metapontinians assert that Aristeas himself appeared to them in their country and bade set up an altar for Apollo and stand a statue by it with the appellation of Aristeas the Proconnesian, as he asserted that to them quite alone of Italians Apollo had come to their country and he himself, the one who was now Aristeas, was his follower, but then, when he was the god’s follower, he was a crow. He in fact said that and was made to disappear and the Metapontinians say that they sent to Delphi and asked the god what the apparition of the human being was and Pythia bade them obey the apparition and, if they obeyed, it would come out better for them. And they accepted that and caused it to be brought to completion. So now there stands a statue with the appellation of Aristeas by the image itself of Apollo and round it laurel trees stand and the image is set up in the public square. Now, about Aristeas let so much be said.

But of the land, about which this account is minded an account be given, no one knows exactly what what’s farther inland is; for indeed from no eyewitness who asserts he knows am I able to learn by inquiry, since in fact not even the very Aristeas, of whom a little before that preceding passage I made mention, not even that man himself farther than the Issedonians, when he wrote poetry in his epic verses, asserted he had come, but the parts farther inland he spoke of on hearsay and asserted that those who spoke of that were Issedonians. But in so far as in fact we prove able to come at the matter exactly with the greatest striving through hearsay, all will be said.

From the Borysthenians’ mart—for that place of those by the sea is the mid-most of all Scythia—from that the Callippidians are the first to be inhabitants, who are Scythian Greeks, and inland of those is another nation that are called Alizonians, and those and the Callippidians make a practice of all else after the same fashion as the Scythians, but both sow and eat grain as well as onions, garlic, lentils and millet-seeds. And inland of the Alizonians settle Scythian ploughers, who sow grain not with a view to food, but to sale. And inward from those settle Neurians and what’s toward the north wind from the Neurians is a desert without human beings as far as we know. Those are the nations alongside the Hypanis river toward the west of the Borysthenes.

But for one who crosses the Borysthenes from the sea first there’s Hylaea and from that land for one who goes inland the Scythian farmers are settlers, whom the Greeks who settled by the Hypanis river call Borysthenians and themselves Olbiopolitians. Accordingly those Scythian farmers inhabit what’s toward the east over three days of way, who extend down to a river, to which Panticapes is given as a name,and what’s toward the north wind a sailing up the Borysthenes of eleven days, but the land inland of those is desert over a large extent. Then after the desert the Androphagians are settlers, which is a peculiar nation and in no way Scythian. And what’s inland of those is desert by then truly and no nation of human beings so far as we know.

(to be continued)

Text and photographs Copyright © 1999—2003 Lost Trails
all rights reserved