translated by Shlomo Felberbaum

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all rights reserved

Installment 23

Now, the burial-places of the kings are among the Gerrhi, to which spot the Borysthenes is navigable. There, whenever their king dies, they dig a large quadrangular excavation of earth and, having made that ready, they take up the corpse, the body waxed over and the belly slit open and cleansed and full of beaten galingale, incense, celery’s seed and anise sewn back together, and convey it on a wagon to another nation. Then they whoever receive the corpse near, when it has been conveyed, do precisely what the royal Scythians do: they cut themselves on their ear, shave themselves hairs all round, cut themselves arms all round, scratch themselves utterly forehead and nose, thrust themselves arrows through their left hand. Then thence they convey in a wagon the dead body to another nation of those that they rule and they follow them to whom they came to earlier. So whenever they go round all in their conveying the dead body, they are among the Gerrhi who have settled themselves down the farthest settlements of the nations that they rule and among the burial-places. And thereafter, whenever they put the dead body in the tombs on a pallet, after they have fixed spears close here and there by the corpse, they stretch above pieces of wood and thereafter roof it over with a mat; then in the remaining broad space of the tomb they strangle one of the concubines, the wine-pourer, cook, horsegroom, minister, message-carrier and horses and bury them as well as the rest of all together’s first-fruit and gold drinking-bowls, but they make use of silver not at all and not bronze. Then, when they have done that, they all heap a large heap as they compete and are eager to make it as large as possible. So, when a year goes round, again they act like this: after they have taken hold of the most suitable of the remaining servants (and they are native Scythians; for those are servants whomever the king himself bids and theirs are no servants bought with silver), and of those ministers then, whenever they strangle fifty and fifty horses who are the most beautiful, of them, have removed and cleansed the guts, they fill them in with chaff and perform a sewing together. Then, when a wheel’s half on two pieces of wood they have stood inverted and the other half of the wheel on another two, when they have stuck fast in a manner like that many of those things, thereafter through the horses’ lengths thick pieces of wood they drive completely up to their throats and make them go up on the wheels and of them the front wheels hold the shoulders of the horses underneath and the ones behind alongside the thighs take hold of the bellies underneath. So both kinds of legs are hung in mid air. Then bridles and bits they put into the horses and stretch down to their front and thereafter tie to pegs. Then indeed of the fifty young men who have been strangled each one they cause to go up on his horse and cause to go up this way: whenever alongside each corpse’s backbone a straight piece of wood they drive through up to the throat, then below projects of that piece of wood that which they fix into a socket of the other piece of wood through the horse. Finally, they erect in a circle round the tomb horsemen like that and drive away.

Thus they bury the kings and all the other Scythians, whenever they die, their nearest relatives bring round among their friends as they lie in wagons and each of them entertains and feasts their followers and puts by the corpse from all, from which he does by all the others. Then forty days thus the private people are brought around; thereafter they are buried. And, having performed a burial, the Scythians cleanse themselves in a manner like this: having soaped themselves and washed off for themselves their heads, they do concerning their body this: whenever they stand up three pieces of wood that are leaned on each other, round those wool cloths they stretch and, having closed them tight as much as possible, they throw stones glowing from fire into a dish that lies in the middle of the pieces of wood and the cloths.

And there is for them hemp that is grown in their country except for thickness and size most similar to the flax-plant, but in that respect the hemp far excels. That both of its own and sown is grown and from it Thracians for their part make even clothes most similar to the linen ones. Not even anyone who should not be very conversant with it would distinguish whether they are of the flax-plant or hemp and he who not yet saw hemp will think the clothing is linen.

Concerning that hemp accordingly the Scythians, whenever they take hold of its seed, slip under the cloths and thereafter throw the seed on the glowing stones and it is burnt, when it is thrown on, and furnishes from itself so great a vapor that not even a single Greek vapour-bath could surpass it. Then the Scythians are pleased by the vapour-bath and howl; that for them is in place of a bath; for indeed they wash not for themselves with water entirely their body, but their women with the admixing of water pound down round a rough stone cypress, cedar-wood and a frankincense-tree’s wood and thereafter that which is pounded down, being thick, they plaster for themselves down on all their body and face and partly a good odor gets a hold of them from that and partly, when they take away the second day the plastering down, they prove to be clean and glossy.

Now, of foreign customs those too flee awfully that they should make no use, neither of any others, and of the Greeks quite least, as Anacharsis and next afterwards Scyles showed plainly. For on the one hand Anacharsis, after he, having seen the sights of much land and shown forth throughout it much wisdom, was being conveyed to the customary abodes of the Scythians, sailed through the Hellespont and touched at Cyzicus and, because he had found for the mother of the gods the Cyzicians were celebrating a festival very magnificently, Anacharsis made a prayer to the mother that, if safe and sound and healthy he returned back to his own place, he would sacrifice in accordance with the same things, in accordance with which he saw the Cyzicians were acting, and would establish an all-night festival; then, when he had come to the Scythian land, having slipped down into the so-called Hylaea (it is alongside the Achillean course and in fact the whole is full of all kinds of trees) into that indeed having slipped down, Anacharsis brought to completion the whole festival for the goddess, as he had a drum and fastened to himself images, and one of the Scythians observed that he was doing that and made an indication to the king, Saulius; then he, even himself, having come, when he had see that Anacharsis was doing that, shot arrows and killed him. And now if anyone asks about Anacharsis, the Scythians assert they know him not, on account of that, that he went abroad to Greece and thoroughly made use of foreign habits. Moreover, as I heard from Tymnes, Ariapeithes’ guardian, it’s that he was Idanthyrsus the Scythians’ king’s paternal uncle and the son of Gnourus, the son of Lycus, the son of Spargapeithes. If then of that house was Anacharsis, let him know at his brother’s hands he died. And yet by now I heard some other account given by the Peloponnesians, that by the Scythians’ king Anacharsis, having been sent away, became a pupil of Greece and, having returned back again, asserted to the one who had sent him away that all Greeks were not leisurely toward all wisdom except the Lacedaemonians and of those alone was giving and receiving an account rationally. But that account was made as a joke by the Greeks themselves; anyhow, the man, just as was said previously, was destroyed. Now, that one precisely thus fared on account of foreign customs and intercourses with Greeks. Then, very many years later Scyles, the son of Ariapeithes, suffered things similar to that one. For to Ariapeithes, the Scythians’ king, was born with other sons Scyles and that one was born from a woman of Istria and in no way of the country, whom his mother herself taught the Greek tongue and letters. And afterwards a time later Ariapeithes met with his end by treachery at the hands of Spargapeithes, the Agathyrsians’ king, and Scyles took over the kingdom and the wife of his father, whose name was Opoea. That Opoea then was a townsperson, from whom was Oricus, a son for Ariapeithes. So, being king of the Scythians, Scyles was pleased with the Scythian way of living in no way, but far more to Greek things was turned in consequence of the education, with which he was educated, and was acting like that: whenever he led the host of the Scythians to the Borysthenians’ town (and those Borysthenians say they themselves are Milesians), to those whenever Scyles went, the host he left behind in the suburb and he himself, whenever he went into the wall and the gates he shut, having put off from himself the Scythian dress, he took hold of Greek apparel and with it he frequented the public square, neither lance-bearers following nor any other (and they were guarding the gates lest any of the Scythians should see him with that dress); both in all other respects he made use of the Greek way of living and to gods he made sacred offerings in accordance with the laws of the Greeks. So whenever he spent a month or more than that, he departed after he had put on the Scythian dress. That he did many times and he built for himself a house in Borysthenes and as wife took in marriage into it a native. Then, when it had to turn out badly for him, it turned out from a cause like this: he conceived a desire to be initiated in the rite of Bacchic Dionysus and for him, when he was to bring for himself into his hands the rite, there came about a very great apparition. There was his in the Borysthenians’ city a large and costly home’s circuit, of which I also had a mention somewhat a little before that present matter, round which sphinxes and griffins of white stone stood; into that the god hurled a missile. And although it was burnt down entirely, yet Scyles none the less because of that brought to completion the rite. But the Scythians concerning being a Bacchante reproach the Greeks, because they assert it is not reasonable to find out as a god that one who induces human beings to be mad. So when Scyles had been initiated in the rite of the Bacchic one, one of the Borysthenians hurried through to the Scythians and said: “Since you laugh at us, o Scythians, because we are Bacchantes and the god takes hold of us, now that divinity has taken hold of your king too and he is a Bacchante and at the hands of the god is mad. And if you disbelieve me, follow and I will show you.” There followed of the Scythians those who were chiefs and them the Borysthenian led up secretly on a tower and seated. Then when there went by with a band of revellers Scyles, and the Scythians had seen that he was a Bacchante, they considered it a very great misfortune and, having gone out, they were indicating to all the host what they had seen. So when after that Scyles drove out to his customary abodes, the Scythians stood before themselves his brother, Octamasades, born of Teres’ daughter, and stood up against Scyles. And he, having learned what was being done against him and the cause on account of which it was being performed, fled down to Thrace and, when Octamasades had learned that by inquiry, he advanced with an army against Thrace. Then when he had come to be by the Ister, the Thracians encountered him and, when they were to join, Sitalces sent to Octamasades and made statements like this: “Why must we make trial of each other? You are my sister’s son and have my brother. Give you me back that one and I hand over to you your Scyles. So a host neither endanger you nor let me”. That to him Sitalces sent and had delivered by herald; for there was with Octamasades Sitalces’ brother, since he had fled that one. Then Octamasades consented to that and he gave up his maternal uncle to Sitalces and took hold of his brother Scyles. And Sitalces took over and led away for himself his brother, while concerning Scyles Octamasades there on the very spot cut off his head. Thus the Scythians maintain their customs and to those who try to acquire additionally foreign laws give penalties like that.

Now, the multitude of the Scythians I proved unable to learn by inquiry exactly, but different accounts about the number I heard, namely that in fact they are very many and few, so far as they are Scythians. However they brought forth to light so much in my sight: there is between the Borysthenes river and the Hypanis a place and its name is Exampaeus, of which I also had a mention somewhat a little before that present matter, when I asserted myself that in it a spring of bitter water exists, from which the water flows out and makes the Hypanis undrinkable. In that place lies a bronze vessel, in size in fact six times larger than the bowl at the mouth of the Pontus, which Pausanias, the son of Cleombrotus, dedicated. So for him who saw that not yet, in this way I will make clear: six hundred amphorae easily the bronze vessel among the Scythians holds and in thickness that Scythian bronze vessel is of six fingers, Accordingly that, said the natives, was made of arrowheads. For, when their king, whose name was Ariantas, wanted to know the multitude of the Scythians, he bade all Scythians convey each one arrowhead and anyone who conveyed it not he threatened with death. Indeed a great quantity of arrowheads was conveyed and to him it seemed good from them a memorial to make and leave behind. From those indeed that bronze vessel he made and dedicated in that Exampaeus. That precisely about the multitude of the Scythians I heard.

Moreover, no marvellous things that country has except that it does rivers by far the largest and in number the most and what it furnishes worth marvelling at, apart from both the rivers and the size of the plain, will be said: a footprint of Heracles, they bring to light, is in a rock that resembles a man’s footstep. And it is in its size two cubits long beside the Tyres river. Now, that is like that and I will go back to the account that at the beginning I was going to give.

When Darius was making preparations against the Scythians and sending round messengers to impose on some to furnish a foot army and on some ships and on some to bridge the Thracian Bosporus, Artabanus, the son of Hystaspes, being the brother of Darius, requested that in no way should he make an expedition against the Scythians and described the Scythians’ unapproachability. But, since he could not persuade, although he was giving him good advice, the one was at a stop and the other, after all had been prepared by him, drove his army out of Susa.

Thereupon among the Persians Oeobazus requested from Darius that, because three sons were his and all were advancing with the army, one should be left behind for him. Then he asserted to him that, on the ground that he was a friend and requested moderate things, he would leave behind all his sons. The one indeed, Oeobazus, was very glad, since he supposed that his sons were released from military service, but the other bade those in charge of that kill all Oeobazus’ sons. And those were cut by their throats and there on the very spot left.

Then Darius, when in making his way from Susa he had come in Calcheddonia to the Bosporus, where the bridge had been thrown, there he went into a ship and was sailing to the so-called Cyaneae, which the Greeks assert previously were wandering, and, sitting on the promontory, he beheld the Pontus that was worth beholding; for of all open seas together it is by nature the most marvellous, of which the length is eleven thousand one hundred stades and the breadth, where it itself is its broadest, is three thousand three hundred stades. Of that open sea the mouth is in breadth four stades and the mouth’s length, the neck, precisely which is called Bosporus, precisely across which the bridge had been thrown, is over the extent of a hundred twenty stades. And the Bosporus stretches to the Propontis. Then the Propontis, being in breadth of five hundred stades and in length of a thousand four hundred, issues into the Hellespont, being in narrowness seven stades and in length four hundred. And the Hellespont disembogues into a chasm of open sea precisely which is called Aegean.

Now, those measurements have been made this way: a ship on the whole accomplishes on a long day approximately about seventy thousand fathoms and at night sixty thousand. By now accordingly to the Phasis from the mouth (for that is the Pontus’ largest part) is nine days’ sailing and eight nights’; those come to be a hundred and eleven myriads of fathoms and of those fathoms are eleven thousand one hundred stades. And to Themiscyres on the Thermedon river from the Sindic country (for at that spot is the Pontus’ broadest part) is three days and two nights’ sailing and those come to be thirty three myriads of fathoms and three thousand three hundred stades. Now, that Pontus and the Bosporus and Hellespont have been measured by me thus and in accordance with what has been said are by nature and the Pontus furnishes itself also a lake that disembogues into it not a great deal smaller than itself, which is called Maeetian and mother of the Pontus.

So Darius, when he had beheld the Pontus, sailed back to the bridge, whose architect Mandrocles the Samian came to be, and having beheld the Bosporus, he stood two pillars by it of white stone, after he had had cut in with letters, into the one Assyrian and into the other Greek, all the very nations that he led and he led all that he ruled. Of those myriads were numbered out, apart from the fleet, seventy with horsemen and six hundred ships were gathered together. Now, those pillars, when the Byzantines had conveyed them to their city, later than that they used for the altar of Orthosian Artemis, except for one stone, and that was left behind beside Dionysus’ temple in Byzantium full of Assyrian letters. Moreover, in the Bosporus that place that King Darius had bridged, so far as it seems to me when I reckon, is in the middle between Byzantium and the shrine by the mouth.

Then Darius, having taken pleasure in the bridge of boats, its architect, Mandrocles the Samian, presented with “ten of everything”. From the first-fruits of those it was Mandrocles had painted as pictures the whole bridging of the Bosporus, King Darius’s sitting down on his front seat and his army’s stepping across and, having had that painted, made a dedication in the temple of Hera with this inscription:

Fishy Bosporus on bridging, dedicated
Mandrocles to Hera pontoon’s monument,
Since on himself crown he put, on Samians fame,
By acting wholly with King Darius’ mind.

Now, those proved monuments of him who threw the bridge and Darius, having given Mandrocles a present, crossed over to Europe, after he had announced to the Ionians they should sail into the Pontus up to the Ister river and, whenever they came to the Ister, there they should wait for him while they bridged the river. For indeed the Ionians, the Aeolians and the Hellespontians were leading the fleet. Indeed the naval army, having sailed through and out of the Cyaneae, set sail straight to the Ister and, having sailed up river two days’ sailing from the sea, the river’s neck, from which the mouths of the Ister are split, it bridged. Then Darius, when he had crossed over the Bosporus along the pontoon, made his way through Thrace and, having come to the Tearus river’s springs, encamped three days.

The Tearus then is said by those settled round to be the best of rivers in all else that leads to healing and in particular in healing scurvy for men and horses. Moreover, its springs, flowing from the same rock, are forty but two and some of them are cold and some hot. And the way to them is equal from Heraeum, a city beside Perinthus, and from Apollonia on the Hospitable sea, each of two days. Further, that Tearus disembogues into the Contadesdus river, the Contadesdus into the Agrianes, the Agrianes into the Hebrus and it into the sea by Aenus, a city.

Then having come to that river, Darius, when he had encamped, took pleasure in the river and set up a pillar there too, after he had had written on letters that said this: “The Tearus river’s head-waters furnish themselves the best and most beautiful water of all rivers and to them came in driving an army against the Scythians the best and most beautiful man of all human beings, Darius the son of Hystaspes, the Persians and all the mainland’s king.” That indeed was written.

Darius then, having set off thence, came to another river, whose name is Artescus, which flows through the Odrysians. To that river it was, to which he came and acted like this: having shown forth a spot to the host, he bade every man pass out by and put one stone on that spot shown forth. And when the host had brought that to completion, then having left behind large hills of the stones, he drove away the host.

But before he came to the Ister, first he took the Getians who think themselves immortal. For indeed the Thracians who have Salmydessus and have settlements above Apollonia and Mesambria, a city, and are called Scyrmiadians and Nipsaeans, without a fight gave themselves up to Darius, but the Getians turned to senselessness and immediately were enslaved, who were the Thracians’ bravest and most just.

Now, they think themselves immortal in this manner: they believe both they die not and he who perishes goes to Salmoxis, a divinity (and some of them name that same one Gebeleizis). Then at intervals of five years’ time him of them who obtained it as his portion by lot on each and every occasion they send away as a messenger to Salmoxis and make injunctions of whatever on each occasion they ask. So they send him this way: some of them are appointed and have three javelins and others take thorough hold of the hands and the feet of him who is being sent to Salmoxis and by tossing him up in mid air cast him onto the spears. If indeed he dies by being pierced through, to them then the god seems to be propitious, but if he dies not, they blame the messenger himself and assert for themselves that he is a bad man and, having blamed him, they send away another. And they enjoin the injunctions on one who still lives. Those same Thracians also on the occasion of thunder and lightning shoot arrows up toward the sky and threaten the god, since they believe no other god exists except their own.

Moreover, as I have learned by inquiry from the Greeks who settled the Hellespont and Pontus, it’s that that Salmoxis, being a human being, was a slave in Samos and was a slave to Pythagoras, the son of Mnesarchus, and thence he, having become free, acquired numerous things and, having made an acquisition, went away to his land; then, seeing that the Thracians were living badly and somewhat more senseless, that Salmoxis, knowing the Ionian way of living and habits more profound than among the Thracians, inasmuch as he had associated with Greeks and among the Greeks with not the most strengthless wiseman, Pythagoras, prepared himself a men’s apartment, in which he, receiving as host all the first men of his townpeople and treating them well, taught them thoroughly that neither he himself nor his symposiasts nor the descendants from those on each and every occasion would die, but they would be present in that place, where on each and every occasion surviving, they would have all the good things. And in the time when he was doing what has been described and was saying that, in that time he built an underground house. Then when the house was entirely complete for him, from the Thracians he was made to disappear and, having gone down, down to the underground house, he lived for three years. So they missed him and mourned him on the ground that he was dead and the fourth year he appeared to the Thracians and thus it proved credible to them what Salmoxis was saying. That, they assert, he did.

But I about that one and the underground house neither disbelieve nor accordingly believe anything very much, but think that that Salmoxis lived many years earlier than Pythagoras. Moreover, let whether Salmoxis proved a human being or that one is a native divinity of the Getians go its way. Those indeed used a manner like that and, when they had been worsted by the Persians, followed the rest of the army.

Then Darius, when he had come and the foot army together with him to the Ister, then, all having gone across, Darius bade the Ionians, after they had broken the pontoon, follow him by the mainland, them and the army from the ships. But when the Ionians were to perform the breaking and do what was bade, Coes, the son of Erxandrus, being the general of the Mytilenians, said to Darius this, after he had asked previously whether it was dear to him to receive an opinion from one who wants to show it forth from himself: “O king, because you are to advance with an army against a land, in which manifestly neither will be anything ploughed nor a settled city, now allow you that bridge there to stand in place and leave as its guards those very ones who threw it. And so if we act in accordance with our mind, after we have found the Scythians, there is a way out for us, and even if we are not able to find them, at any rate the way out ‘s safe for us; for not yet did I fear lest we be worsted by the Scythians in battle, but rather lest we be not able to find them and suffer something significant in our wandering. Indeed this, someone may assert, I say for my own sake, that I may remain behind, but I for my part, although the opinion that I found best for you, king, I bring to your midst, yet myself will follow you and would not be left behind”. Darius took very much pleasure in the opinion and replied to him with this: “Lesbian foreigner, when I have been brought back to safety to my house, appear by me by all means, that you in return for good advice with good deeds I may repay”.

Having said that and tied up sixty ties on a thong, he called to speeches the Ionians’ tyrants and said this: “Ionian men, let the opinion that was shown forth previously with regard to the bridge be abandoned by me and with this thong do this: as soon as whenever you see I am making my way against the Scythians, beginning from that time, undo one tie each day and, if in that time I am not present, but the days of the ties go through and out of their way, sail away to your own land; up to that time, however, since thus there has been made a change in thinking, guard the pontoon and furnish from yourselves every kind of eagerness for saving and guarding. And by doing that you will gratify me greatly”. Darius then said that and hurried to the farther place.

And before the Scythian land Thrace, the part into the sea, lies. Then, a gulf of that land being led out, the Scythian land follows after and the Ister disembogues into it, since it’s turned in respect to its mouth toward the East wind. So I am going to indicate what’s from the Ister to the sea in the Scythian country itself with regard to measurement. From the Ister by now that ancient Scythia is and it lies to the South and the South wind up to the city called Carcinitis. From that land on, the land that bears itself over the same sea’s extent, being a mountainous country and jutting forward over what’s in the Pontus, the Tauric nation inhabits up to the what is called the harsh peninsula, and that land extends to the sea that’s toward the East wind. For there is in the Scythian land the two parts of the borders that bear themselves to the sea, the land to the South and the land to the East, just as in the Attic land, and parts similar to that land the Taurians also inhabit in the Scythian land, as if in the Attic land another nation and not the Athenians should inhabit the Sounian high ground, did it jut out more into the open sea, that is from Thoricus up to the deme Anaphlystus. And I give an account to the extent that it is possible to compare those small things there to large. The Tauric land is like that. But for one who has not sailed by those places in Attic land, I then in another way will make them clear; it’s as if in Iepygia another nation and not the Iepygians, beginning from Brentesium, a harbor, should make a cutting off for themselves up to Tarentum and inhabit the promontory. And although I spoke of those two places there, I say many others are similar, which the Taurian land resembles.

Then from the Tauric land on by now the Scythians inhabit what’s inland of the Taurians and the parts toward the eastern sea, the parts toward the Cimmerian Bosporus’ west and the Maeetian lake’s up to the Tanais river, which disembogues into the innermost part of that lake. By now then from the Ister in respect to the inland parts that bear themselves to the interior the Scythian land is shut off by the Agathyrsians first, afterwards the Neurians, thereafter the Maneaters and last the Blackcloaks.

In the Scythian land, on the ground that it is quadrangular, two parts extending to the sea, every way the part to the interior and that by the sea is equal. For from the Ister to the Borysthenes is ten days’ way and from the Borysthenes to the Maeetian lake another ten’s. And what’s from the sea to the interior, to the Blackcloaks that have their settlements inland of the Scythians, is twenty days’ way. Now, a day’s way at two hundred stades has been reckoned by me; thus would be in the Scythian land the cross-wise parts of four thousand stades and the straight parts that bear themselves into the interior of another so many stades. Now, that land is in size so large.

Then the Scythians, having given an account to themselves, that they were not able to thrust aside from themselves Darius’ army in a stand-up fight alone, sent to their neighbors messengers and of those in fact indeed the kings, having gone together, were taking counsel, on the ground that a large army was marching in opposition. And the kings who went together were the Taurians’, the Agathyrsians’, the Neurians’, the Maneaters’, the Blackcloaks’, the Gelonians’, the Boudinians’ and the Sauromatians’.

Of those the Taurians for their part use laws like this: on the one hand they sacrifice to the virgin the shipwrecked and whomever of the Greeks they take hold of, when they are brought out to sea in opposition, in a manner like this: having performed the initiatory rite, with a club they strike the head. Some indeed say that they thrust the body down from the cliff (for on a cliff the shrine is set up) and the head they impale; others, although they give the same account concerning the head, yet give an account that the body is not thrust from the cliff, but is concealed with earth. And that divinity, to which they sacriifice, the Taurians themselves say is Iphigenia, Agamemnon’s daughter. And to the enemy men whomever they worst they do this: each, having cut off a head, carries it away for himself to his house; thereafter on a large piece of wood he impales and stands it projecting far over his home and most over the smoke-vent. They assert then that those are suspended above as guardians of the whole home. And they live from plunder and war.

(to be continued)

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