Scythia (UK: /ˈsɪðiə/, US: /ˈsɪθiə/;[2] from Greek Σκυθική, Skythikē) was a region of Central Eurasia in classical antiquity, occupied by the Eastern Iranian Scythians,[1][3][4] encompassing Central Asia and parts of Eastern Europe east of the Vistula River, with the eastern edges of the region vaguely defined by the Greeks. The Ancient Greeks gave the name Scythia (or Great Scythia) to all the lands north-east of Europe and the northern coast of the Black Sea.[5]

The Scythians – the Greeks' name for this initially nomadic people – inhabited Scythia from at least the 11th century BC to the 2nd century AD.[6] In the seventh century BC, the Scythians controlled large swaths of territory throughout Eurasia, from the Black Sea across Siberia to the borders of China.[7][8] Its location and extent varied over time, but it usually extended farther to the west and significantly farther to the east than is indicated on the map.[9] Some sources document that the Scythians were energetic but peaceful people.[10] Not much is known about them.

Scythia was a loose nomadic empire that originated as early as 8th century BC. The core of Scythians preferred a free-riding way of life.[11] No writing system that dates to the period has ever been attested, so majority of written information available today about the region and its inhabitants at the time stems from protohistorical writings of ancient civilizations which had connections to the region, primarily those of Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome and Ancient Persia. The most detailed western description is by Herodotus. He may not have travelled in Scythia and there is scholarly debate as to the accuracy of his knowledge, but modern archaeological finds have confirmed some of his ancient claims and he remains one of the most useful writers on ancient Scythia. He says the Scythians' own name for themselves was "Scoloti".[12] Probably a part of Scythians became increasingly settled and wealthy on their western frontier with Greco-Roman civilization.

Scythia-Parthia 100 BC
Approximate extent of Scythia within the area of distribution of Eastern Iranian languages (shown in orange) in the 1st century BC[1]


The region known to classical authors as Scythia included:

First Scythian kingdom

In the 7th century BC Scythians penetrated from the territories north of the Black Sea across the Caucasus. The early Scythian kingdoms were dominated by inter-ethnic forms of dependency based on subjugation of agricultural populations in eastern South Caucasia, plunder and taxes (occasionally, as far as Syria), regular tribute (Media), tribute disguised as gifts (Egypt), and possibly also payments for military support (Assyria).

It is possible that the same dynasty ruled in Scythia during most of its history. The name of Koloksai, a legendary founder of a royal dynasty, is mentioned by Alcman in the 7th century BC. Prototi and Madius, Scythian kings in the Near Eastern period of their history, and their successors in the north Pontic steppes belonged to the same dynasty. Herodotus lists five generations of a royal clan that probably reigned at the end of the 7th to 6th centuries BC: prince Anacharsis, Saulius, Idanthyrsus, Gnurus, Lycus, and Spargapeithes.[16]

After being defeated and driven from the Near East, in the first half of the 6th century BC, Scythians had to re-conquer lands north of the Black Sea. In the second half of that century, Scythians succeeded in dominating the agricultural tribes of the forest-steppe and placed them under tribute. As a result, their state was reconstructed with the appearance of the Second Scythian Kingdom which reached its zenith in the 4th century BC. (see further: History of Xinjiang)

Second Scythian kingdom

Thesouro de Nobreza. Scithea
Coat of arms of Schythia (Thesouro de Nobreza, 1675)

Scythia's social development at the end of the 5th century BC and in the 4th century BC was linked to its privileged status of trade with Greeks, its efforts to control this trade, and the consequences partly stemming from these two. Aggressive external policy intensified exploitation of dependent populations and progressed the stratification among the nomadic rulers. Trading with Greeks also stimulated sedentarization processes.

The proximity of the Greek city-states on the Black Sea coast (Pontic Olbia, Cimmerian Bosporus, Chersonesos, Sindica, Tanais) was a powerful incentive for slavery in the Scythian society, but only in one direction: the sale of slaves to Greeks, instead of use in their economy. Accordingly, the trade became a stimulus for capture of slaves as war spoils in numerous wars.

Scythia from the late 5th to 3rd centuries BC

The Scythian state reached its greatest extent in the 4th century BC during the reign of Ateas. Isocrates[17] believed that Scythians, and also Thracians and Persians, were "the most able to power, and are the peoples with the greatest might". In the 4th century BC, under king Ateas, the tripartite structure of the state was eliminated, and the ruling power became more centralized. The later sources do not mention three basileuses any more. Strabo tells[18] that Ateas ruled over the majority of the North Pontic barbarians.

Written sources recount that before the 4th century BC the Scythian state expanded mainly to the west. In this respect Ateas continued the policy of his predecessors in the 5th century BC. During western expansion, Ateas fought the Triballi.[19] An area of Thrace was subjugated and levied with severe duties. During the 90-year life of Ateas (c. 429 BC – 339 BC) the Scythians settled firmly in Thrace and became an important factor in the politics of the Balkans. At the same time, both the nomadic and agricultural Scythian populations increased along the Dniester river. A war with the Bosporian Kingdom increased Scythian pressure on the Greek cities along the North Pontic littoral.

Materials from the site near Kamianka-Dniprovska, purportedly the capital of Ateas' state, show that metallurgists were free members of the society, even if burdened with imposed obligations. Metallurgy was the most advanced and the only distinct craft speciality among the Scythians. From the story of Polyaenus and Frontin, it follows that in the 4th century BC Scythia had a layer of dependent population, which consisted of impoverished Scythian nomads and local indigenous agricultural tribes, socially deprived, dependent and exploited, who did not participate in the wars, but were engaged in servile agriculture and cattle husbandry.

The year 339 BC proved a culminating year for the Second Scythian Kingdom, and the beginning of its decline. The war with Philip II of Macedon ended in a victory for Philip (the father of Alexander the Great). The Scythian king Ateas fell in battle well into his nineties.[20] Many royal kurgans (Chertomlyk, Kul-Oba, Aleksandropol, Krasnokut) date from after Ateas's time and previous traditions were continued; and life in the settlements of Western Scythia show that the state survived until the 250s BC. When in 331 BC Zopyrion, Alexander's viceroy in Thrace, "not wishing to sit idle", invaded Scythia and besieged Pontic Olbia, he suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the Scythians and lost his life.[21]

The fall of the Second Scythian Kingdom came about in the second half of the 3rd century BC under the onslaught of Celts and Thracians from the west and of Sarmatians from the east. With their increased forces, the Sarmatians devastated significant parts of Scythia and, "annihilating the defeated, transformed a larger part of the country into a desert".[22]

The dependent forest-steppe tribes, subjected to exaction burdens, freed themselves at the first opportunity. The Dnieper and Southern Bug populace ruled by the Scythians did not become Scythians. They continued to live their original life, which was alien to Scythian ways. From the 3rd century BC for many centuries the histories of the steppe and forest-steppe zones of the North Pontic area diverged. The material cultures of the populations quickly lost their common features. And in the steppe, reflecting the end of nomad hegemony in Scythian society, the royal kurgans were no longer built. Archeologically, late Scythia appears first of all as a conglomerate of fortified and non-fortified settlements with abutting agricultural zones.

The development of Scythian society featured the following trends:

  • The process of settlement intensified, as evidenced by the appearance of numerous kurgan burials in the steppe zone of the North Pontic-Caspian steppe. Some of them date to the end of the 5th century BC, but the majority belong to the 4th or 3rd centuries BC, reflecting the establishment of permanent pastoral coaching routes and a tendency to semi-nomadic pasturing. The Lower Dnieper area contained mostly unfortified settlements, while in Crimea and Western Scythia the agricultural population grew. The Dnieper settlements developed in what were previously nomadic winter villages, and in uninhabited lands.
  • Social inequality increased, with the ascent of the nobility and further stratification among free Scythian nomads. The majority of royal kurgans date from the 4th century BC.
  • The subjugation of the forest-steppe population increased, as traced in the archeological record. In the 4th century BC in the Dnieper forest-steppe zone, steppe-type burials appear. In addition to the nomadic advance in the north in search of the new pastures, they show an increase of pressure on the farmers of the forest-steppe belt. The Boryspil kurgans belong almost entirely to soldiers and sometimes even to women warriors. The heyday of steppe Scythia coincides with decline of the forest-steppe. From the second half of the 5th century BC, importing of antique goods to the Middle Dnieper decreased because of the pauperization of the dependent farmers. In the forest-steppe, kurgans of the 4th century BC are poorer than during previous times. At the same time, the cultural influence of the steppe nomads grew. The Senkov kurgans in the Kiev area, left by the local agricultural population, are low and contain poor female and empty male burials, in a striking contrast with the nearby Boryspil kurgans of the same era left by the Scythian conquerors.
  • City life took root in Scythia.
  • Trade with Northern Black Sea Greek cities grew, and increased the Hellenization of the Scythian aristocracy. After the defeat of Athens in the Peloponnesian war of 431 to 404 BC, Attican agriculture was ruined. Demosthenes wrote that Athens imported about 400,000  medimns (63,000 tons) of grain annually from the Bosporus. The Scythian nomadic aristocracy not only played a middleman role, but also actively participated in the trade in grain (produced by dependent farmers as well as slaves), skins and other goods.

Scythia's later history is mainly dominated by sedentary agrarian and city elements. As a result of the defeats suffered by Scythians, two separate states formed, the "Lesser Scythias": one in Thrace (Dobrudja), and the other in the Crimea and the Lower Dnieper area.[23]

Later Scythian kingdoms

Scythia serica
Scythia et Serica, 18th century map.

Having settled this Scythia Minor in Thrace, the former Scythian nomads (or rather their nobility) abandoned their nomadic way of life, retaining their power over the agrarian population. This little polity should be distinguished from the Third Scythian Kingdom in Crimea and Lower Dnieper area, whose inhabitants likewise underwent a massive sedentarization. The interethnic dependence was replaced by developing forms of dependence within the society.

The enmity of the Third Scythian Kingdom, centred on Scythian Neapolis, towards the Greek settlements of the northern Black Sea steadily increased. The Scythian king apparently regarded the Greek colonies as unnecessary intermediaries in the wheat trade with mainland Greece. Besides, the settling cattlemen were attracted by the Greek agricultural belt in Southern Crimea. The later Scythia was both culturally and socio-economically far less advanced than its Greek neighbors such as Olvia or Chersonesos.

The continuity of the royal line is less clear in the Lesser Scythias of Crimea and Thrace than it had been previously. In the 2nd century BC, Olvia became a Scythian dependency. That event was marked in the city by minting of coins bearing the name of the Scythian king Skilurus. He was a son of a king and a father of a king, but the relation of his dynasty with the former dynasty is not known. Either Skilurus or his son and successor Palakus were buried in the mausoleum of Scythian Neapol that was used from c. 100 BC to c. 100 AD. However, the last burials are so poor that they do not seem to be royal, indicating a change in the dynasty or royal burials in another place.

Later, at the end of the 2nd century BC, Olvia was freed from Scythian domination, but became a subject to Mithridates I of Parthia. By the end of the 1st century BC, Olbia, rebuilt after its sack by the Getae, became a dependency of the Dacian barbarian kings, who minted their own coins in the city. Later from the 2nd century AD Olbia belonged to the Roman Empire. Scythia was the first state north of the Black Sea to collapse with the invasion of the Goths in the 2nd century AD (see Oium). At the end of the 2nd century AD, King Sauromates II critically defeated the Scythians and included the Crimea into his Kingdom of the Cimmerian Bosporus, a Roman client state.

Scythian kings

Scythian king Skilurus, relief from Scythian Neapolis, Crimea, 2nd century BC

Scythian tribes

Many different groupings of Scythian tribes include the following:

Scythia in derivative works

Video games
  • The video game Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones portrays the Scythians as powerful warriors who take control of the Persian capital city, Babylon
  • The video game Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP is set within a fantastical version of Scythia. The nameless protagonist is informally referred to as "The Scythian."
  • In the turn-based strategy game Rome: Total War, Scythia is featured as an unplayable barbarian faction. They are playable in the sequel, Total War: Rome II.
  • In the grand strategy game Civilization VI, Scythia is a playable civilization.

See also


  1. ^ a b Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica (2014-11-14). "Scythian – ancient people". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Archived from the original on 2017-03-27. Retrieved 8 May 2018.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
    Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica (2014-04-16). "Scythian". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Archived from the original on 2014-05-21. Retrieved 16 May 2015.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
    "Scythia (historical empire)". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved 11 September 2018. THIS IS A DIRECTORY PAGE. Britannica does not currently have an article on this topic.
  2. ^ "Definition of 'Scythia' | Collins English Dictionary". Archived from the original on 2017-12-01. Retrieved 2017-12-01.
  3. ^ "Scythia". Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia. Columbia University Press. Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  4. ^ "The Scythians". Archived from the original on 2015-03-28.
  5. ^ William Smith (ed.). "Scy´thia". Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854). Archived from the original on 2015-07-17.
  6. ^ Thomas A. Lessman (2004). "World History Maps". Talessman's Atlas. Thomas Lessman. Archived from the original on 8 December 2013. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  7. ^ Bell-Fialkoff, Andrew Villen, ed. (2000). The role of migration in the history of the Eurasian steppe : sedentary civilization vs. "barbarian" and nomad (1st ed.). New York: St. Martin's Press. p. 190. ISBN 0312212070. OCLC 909840823.
  8. ^ Kennedy, Maev (2017-05-30). "British Museum to go more than skin deep with Scythian exhibition". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-10-12.
  9. ^ Giovanni Boccaccio’s Famous Women translated by Virginia Brown 2001, p. 25; Cambridge and London, Harvard University Press; ISBN 0-674-01130-9 ".....extending from the Black Sea in a northerly direction towards Ocean." In Boccaccio's time the Baltic Sea was known also as Oceanus Sarmaticus.
  10. ^ "SCYTHIANS – Encyclopaedia Iranica". Retrieved 2018-10-23.
  11. ^ "Great Empires of Central Asia, Part 3: Pirates on a Sea of Grass – The Strange Continent". The Strange Continent. 2017-10-28. Retrieved 2018-10-03.
  12. ^ Σκώλοτοι (Scōloti, Herodotus 4.6)
  13. ^ Sinor, Denis (1990). The Cambridge History of Early Inner Asia, Volume 1. Cambridge University. ISBN 0521243041. Retrieved 21 August 2014.
  14. ^ Unterländer, 2017
  15. ^ Harry Thurston Peck (1898). Harpers Dictionary of Classical Literature and Antiquities.
  16. ^ a b Herodotus IV, 76
  17. ^ Isocrates 436–338 BC, Panegyricus 67
  18. ^ Strabo VII, 3, 18
  19. ^ Polyaenus, Stratagems VII, 44, 1
  20. ^ Trogus, Prologue, IX
  21. ^ Justin, XII, 1, 4
  22. ^ Diodorus, 11, 43, 7
  23. ^ Strabo VII, 4, 5.

Further reading

  • Ovid's poems Tristia and Epistulae ex Ponto about his exile in Tomis contain some details of Scythia.
  • Alekseev, A Yu.; Bokovenko, N.A.; Boltrik, Yu; Chugunov, K.A.; Cook, G.; Dergachev, V.A.; Kovalyukh, N.; Possnert, G.; van der Plicht, J.; Scott, E.M.; Semeetsov, A.; Skripkin, V.; Vasiliev, S.; Zaitseva, G. (2001), "Chronology of Eurasian Scythian Antiquities Born by New Archaeological and C14 Data", Radiocarbon, 43 (2B): 1085–1107
  • Bunker, Emma C. (2002). Nomadic art of the eastern Eurasian steppes: the Eugene V. Thaw and other New York collections. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. ISBN 9780300096880.
  • Khazanov, A.M. (1975), Золото скифов [Social history of Scythians] (in Russian)
  • Karyshkovskij, Pyotr O. (1988), Монеты Ольвии, ISBN 5-12-000104-1

External links


Cernavodă (Romanian pronunciation: [t͡ʃernaˈvodə], historical names: Thracian: Axiopa, Greek: Ἀξιούπολις, Bulgarian: Черна вода, Cherna voda, Turkish: Boğazköy) is a town in Constanța County, Northern Dobruja, Romania with a population of 20,514.

The town's name is derived from the Bulgarian černa voda (черна вода in Cyrillic), meaning "black water". This name is regarded by some scholars as a calque of the earlier Thracian name Axíopa, from IE *n.ksei "dark" and upā "water" (cf. Avestan axšaēna "dark" and Lithuanian ùpė "river, creek").


Dapyx was a 1st-century BC chieftain of a Getae tribe or a tribe union in Scythia Minor (nowadays in Dobruja). Cassius Dio talks about him in the campaigns of Marcus Licinius Crassus on the Lower Danube region, being said to be a king on the region of central Scythia Minor who went to war with Rholes, a Roman ally. Crassus came in Roles' help and utterly defeated Dapyx's army, with their leader taking refuge in a fort, being betrayed and killed.

Diocese of Thrace

The Diocese of Thrace (Latin: Dioecesis Thraciae, Greek: Διοίκησις Θράκης) was a diocese of the later Roman Empire, incorporating the provinces of the eastern Balkan Peninsula (comprising territories in modern south-eastern Romania, central and eastern Bulgaria, and Greek and Turkish Thrace). Philippopolis (modern Plovdiv, in Bulgaria) was the capital.

The diocese was established as part of the reforms of Diocletian and Constantine the Great, and was headed by a vicarius subordinate to the praetorian prefecture of the East. As outlined in the Notitia Dignitatum of ca. 400, the diocese included the provinces of Europa, Thracia, Haemimontus, Rhodope, Moesia II and Scythia Minor.

In May 535, with Novel 26, Justinian I abolished the Diocese of Thrace. Its vicarius retained his rank of vir spectabilis and received the new title of praetor Justinianus, uniting in his hand both civil and military authority over the provinces of the former diocese, in a crucial departure from the strict separation of authority from the Diocletianian system. A year later, in May 536, the two Danubian provinces, Moesia Inferior and Scythia, where detached to form, along with other provinces, the quaestura exercitus.

Fénius Farsaid

Fénius Farsaid (also Phoeniusa, Phenius, Féinius; Farsa, Farsaidh, many variant spellings) is a legendary king of Scythia who shows up in different versions of Irish mythology. He was the son of Boath, a son of Magog. Other sources describe his lineage from the line of Gomer. According to some traditions, he invented the Ogham alphabet and the Gaelic language.

According to recensions M and A of the Lebor Gabála Érenn, Fénius and his son Nél journeyed to the Tower of Babel (in recension B, it is Rifath Scot son of Gomer instead). Nél, who was trained in many languages, married Scota, daughter of Pharaoh Cingris of Egypt, producing their son Goidel Glas.

In the Lebor Gabála Érenn (11th century), he is said to be one of the 72 chieftains who built Nimrod's Tower of Babel, but travelled to Scythia after the tower collapsed.

According to the Auraicept na n-Éces, Fenius journeyed from Scythia together with Goídel mac Ethéoir, Íar mac Nema and a retinue of 72 scholars. They came to the plain of Shinar to study the confused languages at Nimrod's tower. Finding that the speakers had already dispersed, Fenius sent his scholars to study them, staying at the tower, coordinating the effort. After ten years, the investigations were complete, and Fenius created in Bérla tóbaide "the selected language", taking the best of each of the confused tongues, which he called Goídelc, Goidelic, after Goídel mac Ethéoir. He also created extensions , called Bérla Féne, after himself, Íarmberla, after Íar mac Nema, and others, and the Beithe-luis-nuin (the Ogham) as a perfected writing system for his languages, Béarla na bhFileadh - 'language of the poets'. The Secret Language of the Poets, Gnaith-bhearla, a common language and dialect of the illiterate majority, it later became Old and Middle Irish, and eventually Modern Irish.The Auraicept claims that Fenius Farsaidh discovered four alphabets, the Hebrew, Greek and Latin ones, and finally the Ogham, and portrays the Ogham as the most perfected because it was discovered last.


The Helisii were one of the tribal states of the Lugii, a Germanic tribe. They were attested by the Roman historian Tacitus (Germania 43:3); this brief reference is the only mention of them as such in history.

Ancient sources consider the border between Greater Germany and Scythia to be the River Vistula. It, however, bends to the east to place all of central and southern Poland on the ancient Germania bank.

That Germanic expansion reached western Poland at least is unquestioned. Silesia was German in later historical times. It probably was the home of the Lugii, who are supposed in the sources to be in the eastern half of Suebia, which name descends to modern Schwaben. The Suebi were divided by the Black Forest. Today's Black Forest, which is a scarcely forested remnant, does not fit the description, but in ancient times it must have extended across most of southern Schwaben. The Lugii, then, as eastern Suebi, were most likely in Poland and Czechoslovakia.

Considering the location, it is possible that Tacitus' name of Helisii is a Germanic form of the ancient municipality of Kalisz in central Poland, often identified with Ptolemy's Calisia, which was in Greater Germany. Helisii would in that case be from *Kalisii. Its location in Ptolemy may not be its modern location, as settlement names over time tend to duplicate or migrate along with their populations.

Hypanis Valles

Hypanis Valles is a 270 km valley in Xanthe Terra on Mars at 11° N, 314° E, in the Lunae Palus quadrangle. It appears to have been carved by long-lived flowing water, and a significant deposit (interpreted by some to be a river delta) exists at its outlet into the lowlands.

It was named for a river in Scythia; present Kuban River in Russia.

Research described at a Planetary Conference in Texas in the spring of 2018 suggested that the Hypanis Valles fan complex is a delta with multiple channels and lobes, which formed at the margin of a large, standing body of water. That body of water was a northern ocean. This delta is at the dichotomy boundary between the northern lowlands and southern highlands near Chryse Planitia. It is the largest proposed delta system on Mars.


Lámfhind (Old Irish "White Hand"), son of Agnoman, (not the same Agnoman who was the father of Nemed) was, according to medieval Irish historical traditions, a mythical ancestor of the Milesians, who are said to have settled Ireland from the Iberian Peninsula and from whom the lineages of most of the traditional High Kings were traced.

According to the Lebor Gabála Érenn, the descendants of Goídel Glas, the eponymous ancestor of the Gaels, migrated from Egypt around the time of the Biblical Exodus, and settled in Scythia. Several generations later they were expelled from Scythia after Agnoman killed Refloir, the Scythian king, and spent the next seven years wandering by sea in three ships lashed together. After Agnoman died on the Caspian Sea, Lámfind took leadership of the exiles, along with his brother Allot and their cousin Caicher the druid. Caicher protected his people from the song of the Sirens by melting wax into their ears, (like Odysseus had done) and prophesied that in 300 years their descendants would settle in Ireland. Lámfhind led them to settle in the Macotic Marshes (Gothia, according to Geoffrey Keating), where he had a son, Eber Glúnfhind. Eight generations later his descendant Brath would lead his people from there to Spain, where Brath's son Breogán would spy Ireland from the top of a tower.


Mangalia (Romanian pronunciation: [maŋˈɡali.a], Turkish: Mankalya, ancient Callatis (Greek: Κάλλατις/Καλλατίς; other historical names: Pangalia, Panglicara, Tomisovara) is a municipality and a port on the coast of the Black Sea in the south-east of Constanța County, Romania.

The municipality of Mangalia also administers several summer time seaside resorts: Cap Aurora, Jupiter, Neptun, Olimp, Saturn, Venus.


Murideva (Murideba, Ancient Greek: Μουριδεβά) was a Dacian town in Scythia Minor, not far from Zaldapa.

Nomadic empire

Nomadic empires, sometimes also called steppe empires, Central or Inner Asian empires, were the empires erected by the bow-wielding, horse-riding, nomadic peoples in the Eurasian steppe, from classical antiquity (Scythia) to the early modern era ( Dzungars). They are the most prominent example of non-sedentary polities.

Some nomadic empires consolidated by establishing a capital city inside a conquered sedentary state and then exploiting the existing bureaucrats and commercial resources of that non-nomadic society. In such a scenario, the originally nomadic dynasty may become culturally assimilated to the culture of the occupied nation before it is ultimately overthrown.Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406) described a similar cycle on a smaller scale in 1377 in his Asabiyyah theory.

Historians of the early medieval period may refer to these polities as "khanates" (after khan, the title of their rulers). After the Mongol conquests of the 13th century the term orda ("horde") also came into use - as in "Golden Horde".

Pontic–Caspian steppe

The Pontic–Caspian steppe, or Pontic steppe is the vast steppeland stretching from the northern shores of the Black Sea (called Euxeinos Pontos [Εὔξεινος Πόντος] in antiquity) as far east as the Caspian Sea, from Moldova and eastern Ukraine across Russian Northern Caucasus, Southern and lower Volga regions to western Kazakhstan, forming part of the larger Eurasian steppe, adjacent to the Kazakh steppe to the east. It is a part of the Palearctic temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands ecoregion of the temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biome.

The area corresponds to Cimmeria, Scythia, and Sarmatia of classical antiquity. Across several millennia the steppe was used by numerous tribes of nomadic horsemen, many of which went on to conquer lands in the settled regions of Europe and in western and southern Asia.

The term Ponto-Caspian region is used in biogeography for plants and animals of these steppes, and animals from the Black, Caspian, and Azov seas. Genetic research has identified this region as the most probable place where horses were first domesticated.According to a theory, called Kurgan hypothesis in Indo-European studies, the Pontic–Caspian steppe was the homeland of the speakers of the Proto-Indo-European language, and these same speakers were the original domesticators of the horse.

Quaestura exercitus

The quaestura exercitus was an administrative district of the Eastern Roman Empire with a seat in Odessus (present-day Varna) established by Emperor Justinian I (r. 527–565) on May 18, 536.Territorially, the quaestura exercitus contained the Roman provinces of Moesia Inferior and Scythia Minor, located in the lower Danube region, as well as the provinces of Cyprus, Caria, and the Aegean Islands (i.e. the Cyclades). All of these provinces were detached from the Praetorian prefecture of the East and placed under the authority of a new army official known as the quaestor exercitus ("Quaestor of the army"). The authority of the quaestor was the equivalent to that of a magister militum. Since the strategically vital Danubian provinces were economically impoverished, the purpose of the quaestura exercitus was to help support the troops that were stationed there. By connecting the lower Danubian provinces with wealthier provinces, Justinian was able to transport supplies via the Black Sea. This territorial restructuring relieved both the destitute populations and devastated countryside of the Danubian provinces from sustaining any stationed troops. There is a lack of subsequent evidence on the history of the quaestura exercitus. However, since the position of quaestor was still existent during the mid-570s, this indicates that the overall territorial unit achieved a modicum of success.Ultimately, the Danubian provinces associated with the quaestura exercitus did not survive the Slav and Avar invasions of the Balkans in the 7th century. However, isolated fortresses on the Danube delta and along the coast of the Black Sea were maintained via supplies by sea, and there is evidence that the great naval corps of the Karabisianoi was first formed by the remainders of the quaestura. Lead seals from Moesia Inferior and Scythia Minor provide evidence supporting the existence of the quaestura exercitus. Specifically, thirteen imperial seals (nine of which are from Justinian) demonstrate that communications between officials from Scythia Minor and Constantinople occurred on a somewhat regular basis.

RMS Scythia

RMS Scythia was a Cunard liner. She sailed on her maiden voyage in 1921, and became a troop and supply ship during the Second World War. Scythia was the longest serving Cunard liner until 4 September 2005, when her record was surpassed by MS Queen Elizabeth 2.


Rholes or Roles (Ancient Greek Ῥώλης) was a Getae chieftain in Scythia Minor (modern Dobruja) mentioned by Cassius Dio in his Roman History. According to Dio, he helped Roman general Marcus Licinius Crassus defeat the Bastarnae, and when he visited Octavian, he was treated as "a friend and ally" for his support for the Romans. Later he sent for Crassus to help in his conflict with Getae chieftain Dapyx. These events have been dated to 31-27 BC.

Scythia Minor

Scythia Minor or Lesser Scythia (Greek: Μικρά Σκυθία, Mikrá Skythia) was in ancient times the region surrounded by the Danube at the north and west and the Black Sea at the east, roughly corresponding to today's Dobrogea, with a part in Romania, and a part in Bulgaria.

By the 7th century BC, several Greek colonies were built on its Black Sea shore, and the earliest written Greek reports state that the lands were inhabited by Thracians, reidentified in time as Getae and then Dacians. During later times, the area also witnessed Celtic and Scythian invasions. It was part of the kingdom of Dacia for a period, after which the region was conquered by the Roman Empire, becoming part of the province of Moesia Inferior. With Diocletian's reforms, it was split from Moesia as a separate province of "Scythia", being part of the Diocese of Thrace. After the partition of the Empire in 395, the province was retained by the Byzantine Empire until it was annexed by the Bulgars following the Battle of Ongal.

One of the most famous descriptions of the region is found in Herodotus in the 5th century BC, who identified as Scythia the region starting north of the Danube delta.

In a 2nd-century BC inscription recording a decree of Histria honouring Agathocles, the region already was named Scythia. While the earliest usage of the name "Lesser Scythia" (Mikrá Skythia) in literature is found in Strabo's at the end of the 1st-century BC Geography.

Scythian languages

The Scythian languages are a group of Eastern Iranian languages of the classical and late antique period (the Middle Iranian period), spoken in a vast region of Eurasia named Scythia. Except for modern Ossetian, which descends from the Alanian variety, these languages are all considered to be extinct. Modern Eastern Iranian languages such as Wakhi, however, are related to the eastern Scytho-Khotanese dialects attested from the kingdoms of Khotan and Tumshuq in the ancient Tarim Basin, in present-day southern Xinjiang, China.

The location and extent of Scythia varied by time, but generally it encompassed the part of Eastern Europe east of the Vistula river and much of Central Asia up to the Tarim Basin. The dominant ethnic groups among the Scythians were nomadic pastoralists of Central Asia and the Pontic-Caspian steppe. Fragments of their speech known from inscriptions and words quoted in ancient authors as well as analysis of their names indicate that it was an Indo-European language, more specifically from the Iranian group of Indo-Iranian languages. Alexander Lubotsky summarizes the known linguistic landscape as follows:

Unfortunately, we know next to nothing about the Scythian of that period [Old Iranian] – we have only a couple of personal and tribal names in Greek and Persian sources at our disposal – and cannot even determine with any degree of certainty whether it was a single language.

Sucidava, Moesia

Sucidava (Ancient Greek: Σουκίδαυα) was an ancient settlement on the Danube, between Durostorum and Axiopolis, most probably located near the modern village of Izvoarele, in Romania. Not to be confused with the Sucidava near Oescus.

Vonones of Indo-Scythia

Vonones was an Indo-Scythian king who ruled in Sakastan and Arachosia from ca. 75 BC to 65 BC. He is also sometimes described as a Parthian Suren. He succeeded Maues and took the title "Great King of Kings".His brother, Spalahores, was mentioned on his coins, as well as Spalahores' son Spalagadames. Spalahores succeeded him.


Zyraxes was a Getae king who ruled the northern part of what is today Dobrogea in the 1st century BC. He was mentioned in relation with the campaigns of Licinius Crassus. His capital, Genucla was besieged by the Romans in 28 BC, but he managed to escape and flee to his Scythian allies.

Antonius Hybrida, the governour of Moesia, was defeated beneath the walls of Histria in 61 BC. The Getae under Zyraxes and the bastarnae of Scythia were allied with the Histrians, but it seems that the main victors of this conflict were the Getae, as they were the keepers of the trophies and brought them back to Genucla, Zyraxes' capital.

The trophies were recovered by Marcus Licinius Crassus when he attacked the Genucla fortress, situated somewhere on the bank of the Danube, in 28 BC. Zyraxes knew well enough that he cannot hold on his own, and retreated across the Danube, to the Bastarnae (scythians) with whom he was allied, while also taking the treasure with him. The fortress fell in his absence, after a brief but hard siege.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.