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Translated into English by G. C. MACAULAY, M.A. Credits
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Book I
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Book II
Page 10
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Book III
Book 16
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Book IV
Page 21
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Book V
Page 27
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Book VI
Page 31
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Book VII
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Page 42
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Book IX
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The History of Herodotus: Page 24

Volume One - Book IV

97. These, I say, having such manners as I have said, were subdued by the Persians and accompanied the rest of the army: and when Dareios and with him the land-army arrived at the Ister, then after all had passed over, Dareios commanded the Ionians to break up the floating bridge and to accompany him by land, as well as the rest of the troops which were in the ships: and when the Ionians were just about to break it up and to do that which he commanded, CoŰs the son of Erxander, who was commander of the Mytilenians, said thus to Dareios, having first inquired whether he was disposed to listen to an opinion from one who desired to declare it: "O king, seeing that thou art about to march upon a land where no cultivated ground will be seen nor any inhabited town, do thou therefore let this bridge remain where it is, leaving to guard it those same men who constructed it. Then, if we find the Scythians and fare as we desire, we have a way of return; and also even if we shall not be able to find them, at least our way of return is secured: for that we should be worsted by the Scythians in fight I never feared yet, but rather that we might not be able to find them, and might suffer some disaster in wandering about. Perhaps some one will say that in speaking thus I am speaking for my own advantage, in order that I may remain behind; but in truth I am bringing forward, O king, the opinion which I found best for thee, and I myself will accompany thee and not be left behind." With this opinion Dareios was very greatly pleased and made answer to him in these words: "Friend from Lesbos, when I have returned safe to my house, be sure that thou appear before me, in order that I may requite thee with good deeds for good counsel."

98. Having thus said and having tied sixty knots in a thong, he called the despots of the Ionians to speak with him and said as follows:

"Men of Ionia, know that I have given up the opinion which I formerly declared with regard to the bridge; and do ye keep this thong and do as I shall say:--so soon as ye shall have seen me go forward against the Scythians, from that time begin, and untie a knot on each day: and if within this time I am not here, and ye find that the days marked by the knots have passed by, then sail away to your own lands. Till then, since our resolve has thus been changed, guard the floating bridge, showing all diligence to keep it safe and to guard it. And thus acting, ye will do for me a very acceptable service." Thus said Dareios and hastened on his march forwards.


99. Now in front of Scythia in the direction towards the sea[97] lies Thrace; and where a bay is formed in this land, there begins Scythia, into which the Ister flows out, the mouth of the river being turned towards the South-East Wind. Beginning at the Ister then I am about to describe the coast land of the true Scythia, with regard to measurement. At once from the Ister begins this original land of Scythia, and it lies towards the midday and the South Wind, extending as far as the city called Carkinitis. After this the part which lies on the coast of the same sea still, a country which is mountainous and runs out in the direction of the Pontus, is occupied by the Tauric race, as far as the peninsula which is called the "Rugged Chersonese"; and this extends to the sea which lies towards the East Wind: for two sides of the Scythian boundaries lie along by the sea, one by the sea on the South, and the other by that on the East, just as it is with Attica: and in truth the Tauroi occupy a part of Scythia which has much resemblance to Attica; it is as if in Attica another race and not the Athenians occupied the hill region[98] of Sunion, supposing it to project more at the point into the sea, that region namely which is cut off by a line from Thoricos to Anaphlystos. Such I say, if we may be allowed to compare small things such as this with great, is the form of the Tauric land.[99] For him however who has not sailed along this part of the coast of Attica I will make it clear by another comparison:--it is as if in Iapygia another race and not the Iapygians had cut off for themselves and were holding that extremity of the land which is bounded by a line beginning at the harbour of Brentesion and running to Taras. And in mentioning these two similar cases I am suggesting many other things also to which the Tauric land has resemblance.

100. After the Tauric land immediately come Scythians again, occupying the parts above the Tauroi and the coasts of the Eastern sea, that is to say the parts to the West of the Kimmerian Bosphorus and of the Maiotian lake, as far as the river Tana´s, which runs into the corner of this lake. In the upper parts which tend inland Scythia is bounded (as we know)[100] by the Agathyrsians first, beginning from the Ister, and then by the Neuroi, afterwards by the Androphagoi, and lastly by the Melanchlainoi.

101. Scythia then being looked upon as a four-sided figure with two of its sides bordered by the sea, has its border lines equal to one another in each direction, that which tends inland and that which runs along by the sea: for from Ister to the Borysthenes is ten days' journey, and from the Borysthenes to the Maiotian lake ten days' more; and the distance inland to the Melanchlainoi, who are settled above the Scythians, is a journey of twenty days. Now I have reckoned the day's journey at two hundred furlongs:[101] and by this reckoning the cross lines of Scythia[102] would be four thousand furlongs in length, and the perpendiculars which tend inland would be the same number of furlongs. Such is the size of this land.


102. The Scythians meanwhile having considered with themselves that they were not able to repel the army of Dareios alone by a pitched battle, proceeded to send messengers to those who dwelt near them: and already the kings of these nations had come together and were taking counsel with one another, since so great an army was marching towards them. Now those who had come together were the kings of the Tauroi, Agathyrsians, Neuroi, Androphagoi, Melanchlainoi, Gelonians, Budinoi and Sauromatai.

103. Of these the Tauroi have the following customs:-- they sacrifice to the "Maiden" both ship-wrecked persons and also those Hellenes whom they can capture by putting out to sea against them;[103] and their manner of sacrifice is this:--when they have made the first offering from the victim they strike his head with a club: and some say that they push the body down from the top of the cliff (for it is upon a cliff that the temple is placed) and set the head up on a stake; but others, while agreeing as to the heads, say nevertheless that the body is not pushed down from the top of the cliff, but buried in the earth. This divinity to whom they sacrifice, the Tauroi themselves say is Iphigeneia the daughter of Agamemnon. Whatsoever enemies they have conquered they treat in this fashion:-- each man cuts off a head and bears it away to his house; then he impales it on a long stake and sets it up above his house raised to a great height, generally above the chimney; and they say that these are suspended above as guards to preserve the whole house. This people has its living by plunder and war.

104. The Agathyrsians are the most luxurious of men and wear gold ornaments for the most part: also they have promiscuous intercourse with their women, in order that they may be brethren to one another and being all nearly related may not feel envy or malice one against another. In their other customs they have come to resemble the Thracians.

105. The Neuroi practise the Scythian customs: and one generation before the expedition of Dareios it so befell them that they were forced to quit their land altogether by reason of serpents: for their land produced serpents in vast numbers, and they fell upon them in still larger numbers from the desert country above their borders; until at last being hard pressed they left their own land and settled among the Budinoi. These men it would seem are wizards; for it is said of them by the Scythians and by the Hellenes who are settled in the Scythian land that once in every year each of the Neuroi becomes a wolf for a few days and then returns again to his original form. For my part I do not believe them when they say this, but they say it nevertheless, and swear it moreover.

106. The Androphagoi have the most savage manners of all human beings, and they neither acknowledge any rule of right nor observe any customary law. They are nomads and wear clothing like that of the Scythians, but have a language of their own; and alone of all these nations they are man-eaters.

107. The Melanchlainoi wear all of them black clothing, whence also they have their name; and they practise the customs of the Scythians.

108. The Budinoi are a very great and numerous race, and are all very blue-eyed and fair of skin: and in their land is built a city of wood, the name of which is Gelonos, and each side of the wall is thirty furlongs in length and lofty at the same time, all being of wood; and the houses are of wood also and the temples; for there are in it temples of Hellenic gods furnished after Hellenic fashion with sacred images and altars and cells,[104] all of wood; and they keep festivals every other year[105] to Dionysos and celebrate the rites of Bacchus: for the Gelonians are originally Hellenes, and they removed[106] from the trading stations on the coast and settled among the Budinoi; and they use partly the Scythian language and partly the Hellenic. The Budinoi however do not use the same language as the Gelonians, nor is their manner of living the same: 109, for the Budinoi are natives of the soil and a nomad people, and alone of the nations in these parts feed on fir-cones;[107] but the Gelonians are tillers of the ground and feed on corn and have gardens, and resemble them not at all either in appearance or in complexion of skin. However by the Hellenes the Budinoi also are called Gelonians, not being rightly so called. Their land is all thickly overgrown with forests of all kinds of trees, and in the thickest forest there is a large and deep lake, and round it marshy ground and reeds. In this are caught otters and beavers and certainly other wild animals with square-shaped faces. The fur of these is sewn as a fringe round their coats of skin, and the testicles are made use of by them for curing diseases of the womb.

110. About the Sauromatai the following tale is told:--When the Hellenes had fought with the Amazons,--now the Amazons are called by the Scythians /Oiorpata/,[108] which name means in the Hellenic tongue "slayers of men," for "man" they call /oior/, and /pata/ means "to slay,"--then, as the story goes, the Hellenes, having conquered them in the battle at the Thermodon, were sailing away and conveying with them in three ships as many Amazons as they were able to take prisoners. These in the open sea set upon the men and cast them out of the ships; but they knew nothing about ships, nor how to use rudders or sails or oars, and after they had cast out the men they were driven about by wave and wind and came to that part of the Maiotian lake where Cremnoi stands; now Cremnoi is in the land of the free Scythians.[109] There the Amazons disembarked from their ships and made their way into the country, and having met first with a troop of horses feeding they seized them, and mounted upon these they plundered the property of the Scythians.

111. The Scythians meanwhile were not able to understand the matter, for they did not know either their speech or their dress or the race to which they belonged, but were in wonder as to whence they had come and thought that they were men, of an age corresponding to their appearance: and finally they fought a battle against them, and after the battle the Scythians got possession of the bodies of the dead, and thus they discovered that they were women. They took counsel therefore and resolved by no means to go on trying to kill them, but to send against them the youngest men from among themselves, making conjecture of the number so as to send just as many men as there were women. These were told to encamp near them, and do whatsoever they should do; if however the women should come after them, they were not to fight but to retire before them, and when the women stopped, they were to approach near and encamp. This plan was adopted by the Scythians because they desired to have children born from them.

112. The young men accordingly were sent out and did that which had been commanded them: and when the Amazons perceived that they had not come to do them any harm, they let them alone; and the two camps approached nearer to one another every day: and the young men, like the Amazons, had nothing except their arms and their horses, and got their living, as the Amazons did, by hunting and by taking booty.

113. Now the Amazons at midday used to scatter abroad either one by one or by two together, dispersing to a distance from one another to ease themselves; and the Scythians also having perceived this did the same thing: and one of the Scythians came near to one of those Amazons who were apart by themselves, and she did not repulse him but allowed him to lie with her: and she could not speak to him, for they did not understand one another's speech, but she made signs to him with her hand to come on the following day to the same place and to bring another with him, signifying to him that there should be two of them, and that she would bring another with her. The young man therefore, when he returned, reported this to the others; and on the next day he came himself to the place and also brought another, and he found the Amazon awaiting him with another in her company. Then hearing this the rest of the young men also in their turn tamed for themselves the remainder of the Amazons; 114, and after this they joined their camps and lived together, each man having for his wife her with whom he had had dealings at first; and the men were not able to learn the speech of the women, but the women came to comprehend that of the men. So when they understood one another, the men spoke to the Amazons as follows: "We have parents and we have possessions; now therefore let us no longer lead a life of this kind, but let us go away to the main body of our people and dwell with them; and we will have you for wives and no others." They however spoke thus in reply: "We should not be able to live with your women, for we and they have not the same customs. We shoot with bows and hurl javelins and ride horses, but the works of women we never learnt; whereas your women do none of these things which we said, but stay in the waggons and work at the works of women, neither going out to the chase nor anywhither else. We therefore should not be able to live in agreement with them: but if ye desire to keep us for your wives and to be thought honest men, go to your parents and obtain from them your share of the goods, and then let us go and dwell by ourselves."

115. The young men agreed and did this; and when they had obtained the share of the goods which belonged to them and had returned back to the Amazons, the women spoke to them as follows: "We are possessed by fear and trembling to think that we must dwell in this place, having not only separated you from your fathers, but also done great damage to your land. Since then ye think it right to have us as your wives, do this together with us,--come and let us remove from this land and pass over the river Tana´s and there dwell."

116. The young men agreed to this also, and they crossed over the Tana´s and made their way towards the rising sun for three days' journey from Tana´s, and also towards the North Wind for three days' journey from the Maiotian lake: and having arrived at the place where they are now settled, they took up their abode there: and from thenceforward the women of the Sauromatai practise their ancient way of living, going out regularly on horseback to the chase both in company with the men and apart from them, and going regularly to war, and wearing the same dress as the men.

117. And the Sauromatai make use of the Scythian tongue, speaking it barbarously however from the first, since the Amazons did not learn it thoroughly well. As regards marriages their rule is this, that no maiden is married until she has slain a man of their enemies; and some of them even grow old and die before they are married, because they are not able to fulfil the requirement of the law.

118. To the kings of these nations then, which have been mentioned in order, the messengers of the Scythians came, finding them gathered together, and spoke declaring to them how the Persian king, after having subdued all things to himself in the other continent, had laid a bridge over the neck of the Bosphorus and had crossed over to that continent, and having crossed over and subdued the Thracians, was making a bridge over the river Ister, desiring to bring under his power all these regions also. "Do ye therefore," they said, "by no means stand aloof and allow us to be destroyed, but let us become all of one mind and oppose him who is coming against us. If ye shall not do so, we on our part shall either be forced by necessity to leave our land, or we shall stay in it and make a treaty with the invader; for what else can we do if ye are not willing to help us? and for you after this[110] it will be in no respect easier; for the Persian has come not at all less against you than against us, nor will it content him to subdue us and abstain from you. And of the truth of that which we say we will mention a strong evidence: if the Persian had been making his expedition against us alone, because he desired to take vengeance for the former servitude, he ought to have abstained from all the rest and to have come at once to invade our land, and he would thus have made it clear to all that he was marching to fight against the Scythians and not against the rest. In fact however, ever since he crossed over to this continent, he has compelled all who came in his way to submit to him, and he holds under him now not only the other Thracians but also the Getai, who are our nearest neighbours."

119. When the Scythians proposed this, the kings who had come from the various nations took counsel together, and their opinions were divided. The kings of the Gelonians, of the Budinoi and of the Sauromatai agreed together and accepted the proposal that they should help the Scythians, but those of the Agathyrsians, Neuroi, Androphagoi, Melanchlainoi and Tauroi returned answer to the Scythians as follows: "If ye had not been the first to do wrong to the Persians and to begin war, then we should have surely thought that ye were speaking justly in asking for those things for which ye now ask, and we should have yielded to your request and shared your fortunes. As it is however, ye on the one hand made invasion without us into their land, and bare rule over the Persians for so long a time as God permitted you; and they in their turn, since the same God stirs them up, are repaying you with the like. As for us however, neither at that time did we do any wrong to these men nor now shall we attempt to do any wrong to them unprovoked: if however the Persians shall come against our land also, and do wrong first to us, we also shall refuse to submit[111]: but until we shall see this, we shall remain by ourselves, for we are of opinion that the Persians have come not against us, but against those who were the authors of the wrong."

120. When the Scythians heard this answer reported, they planned not to fight a pitched battle openly, since these did not join them as allies, but to retire before the Persians and to drive away their cattle from before them, choking up with earth the wells and the springs of water by which they passed and destroying the grass from off the ground, having parted themselves for this into two bodies; and they resolved that the Sauromatai should be added to one of their divisions, namely that over which Scopasis was king, and that these should move on, if the Persians turned in that direction, straight towards the river Tana´s, retreating before him by the shore of the Maiotian lake; and when the Persian marched back again, they should come after and pursue him. This was one division of their kingdom, appointed to go by the way which has been said; and the other two of the kingdoms, the large one over which Idanthyrsos was king, and the third of which Taxakis was king, were to join together in one, with the Gelonians and the Budinoi added to them, and they also were to retire before the Persians one day's march in front of them, going on out of their way and doing that which had been planned. First they were to move on straight for the countries which had refused to give their alliance, in order that they might involve these also in the war, and though these had not voluntarily undertaken the war with the Persians, they were to involve them in it nevertheless against their will; and after that they were to return to their own land and attack the enemy, if it should seem good to them in council so to do.

121. Having formed this plan the Scythians went to meet the army of Dareios, sending off the best of their horsemen before them as scouts; but all[112] the waggons in which their children and their women lived they sent on, and with them all their cattle (leaving only so much as was sufficient to supply them with food), and charged them that they should proceed continually towards the North Wind. These, I say, were being carried on before: 122, but when the scouts who went in front of the Scythians discovered the Persians distant about three days' march from Ister, then the Scythians having discovered them continued to pitch their camp one day's march in front, destroying utterly that which grew from the ground: and when the Persians saw that the horsemen of the Scythians had made their appearance, they came after them following in their track, while the Scythians continually moved on. After this, since they had directed their march towards the first of the divisions, the Persians continued to pursue towards the East and the river Tana´s; and when the Scythians crossed over the river Tana´s, the Persians crossed over after them and continued still to pursue, until they had passed quite through the land of the Sauromatai and had come to that of the Budinoi.

123. Now so long as the Persians were passing through Scythia and the land of the Sauromatai, they had nothing to destroy, seeing that the land was bare,[113] but when they invaded the land of the Budinoi, then they fell in with the wooden wall, which had been deserted by the Budinoi and left wholly unoccupied, and this they destroyed by fire. Having done so they continued to follow on further in the tracks of the enemy, until they had passed through the whole of this land and had arrived at the desert. This desert region is occupied by no men, and it lies above the land of the Budinoi, extending for a seven days' journey; and above this desert dwell the Thyssagetai, and four large rivers flow from them through the land of the Maiotians and run into that which is called the Maiotian lake, their names being as follows,--Lycos, Oaros, Tana´s, Syrgis.[114]

124. When therefore Dareios came to the desert region, he ceased from his course and halted his army upon the river Oaros. Having so done he began to build eight large fortifications at equal distances from one another, that is to say about sixty furlongs, of which the ruins still existed down to my time; and while he was occupied in this, the Scythians whom he was pursuing came round by the upper parts and returned back to Scythia. Accordingly, since these had altogether disappeared and were no longer seen by the Persians at all, Dareios left those fortifications half finished, and turning back himself began to go towards the West, supposing that these were the whole body of the Scythians and that they were flying towards the West.

125. And marching his army as quickly as possible, when he came to Scythia he met with the two divisions of the Scythians together, and having fallen in with these he continued to pursue them, while they retired out of his way one day's journey in advance: and as Dareios did not cease to come after them, the Scythians according to the plan which they had made continued to retire before him towards the land of those who had refused to give their alliance, and first towards that of the Melanchlainoi; and when Scythians and Persians both together had invaded and disturbed these, the Scythians led the way to the country of the Androphagoi; and when these had also been disturbed, they proceeded to the land of the Neuroi; and while these too were being disturbed, the Scythians went on retiring before the enemy to the Agathyrsians. The Agathyrsians however, seeing that their next neighbours also were flying from the Scythians and had been disturbed, sent a herald before the Scythians invaded their land and proclaimed to the Scythians not to set foot upon their confines, warning them that if they should attempt to invade the country, they would first have to fight with them. The Agathyrsians then having given this warning came out in arms to their borders, meaning to drive off those who were coming upon them; but the Melanchlainoi and Androphagoi and Neuroi, when the Persians and Scythians together invaded them, did not betake themselves to brave defence but forgot their former threat[115] and fled in confusion ever further towards the North to the desert region. The Scythians however, when the Agathyrsians had warned them off, did not attempt any more to come to these, but led the Persians from the country of the Neuroi back to their own land.

126. Now as this went on for a long time and did not cease, Dareios sent a horseman to Idanthyrsos king of the Scythians and said as follows: "Thou most wondrous man, why dost thou fly for ever, when thou mightest do of these two things one?--if thou thinkest thyself able to make opposition to my power, stand thou still and cease from wandering abroad, and fight; but if thou dost acknowledge thyself too weak, cease then in that case also from thy course, and come to speech with thy master, bringing to him gifts of earth and water."

127. To this the king of the Scythians Idanthyrsos made answer thus: "My case, O Persian, stands thus:--Never yet did I fly because I was afraid, either before this time from any other man, or now from thee; nor have I done anything different now from that which I was wont to do also in time of peace: and as to the cause why I do not fight with thee at once, this also I will declare to thee. We have neither cities nor land sown with crops, about which we should fear lest they should be captured or laid waste, and so join battle more speedily with you; but if it be necessary by all means to come to this speedily, know that we have sepulchres in which our fathers are buried; therefore come now, find out these and attempt to destroy them, and ye shall know then whether we shall fight with you for the sepulchres or whether we shall not fight. Before that however, unless the motion comes upon us, we shall not join battle with thee. About fighting let so much as has been said suffice; but as to masters, I acknowledge none over me but Zeus my ancestor and Hestia the queen of the Scythians. To thee then in place of gifts of earth and water I shall send such things as it is fitting that thou shouldest receive; and in return for thy saying that thou art my master, for that I say, woe betide thee."[116] This is the proverbial "saying of the Scythians."[117]





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