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Melpomene   


ride. Such are the Scythian customs with respect to scalps and skins.
The skulls of their enemies, not indeed of all, but of those
whom they most detest, they treat as follows. Having sawn off the
portion below the eyebrows, and cleaned out the inside, they cover the
outside with leather. When a man is poor, this is all that he does;
but if he is rich, he also lines the inside with gold: in either
case the skull is used as a drinking-cup. They do the same with the
skulls of their own kith and kin if they have been at feud with
them, and have vanquished them in the presence of the king. When
strangers whom they deem of any account come to visit them, these
skulls are handed round, and the host tells how that these were his
relations who made war upon him, and how that he got the better of
them; all this being looked upon as proof of bravery.
Once a year the governor of each district, at a set place in his
own province, mingles a bowl of wine, of which all Scythians have a
right to drink by whom foes have been slain; while they who have slain
no enemy are not allowed to taste of the bowl, but sit aloof in
disgrace. No greater shame than this can happen to them. Such as
have slain a very large number of foes, have two cups instead of
one, and drink from both.
Scythia has an abundance of soothsayers, who foretell the future
by means of a number of willow wands. A large bundle of these wands is
brought and laid on the ground. The soothsayer unties the bundle,
and places each wand by itself, at the same time uttering his
prophecy: then, while he is still speaking, he gathers the rods
together again, and makes them up once more into a bundle. This mode
of divination is of home growth in Scythia. The Enarees, or woman-like
men, have another method, which they say Venus taught them. It is done
with the inner bark of the linden-tree. They take a piece of this
bark, and, splitting it into three strips, keep twining the strips
about their fingers, and untwining them, while they prophesy.
Whenever the Scythian king falls sick, he sends for the three
soothsayers of most renown at the time, who come and make trial of
their art in the mode above described. Generally they say that the
king is ill because such or such a person, mentioning his name, has
sworn falsely by the royal hearth. This is the usual oath among the
Scythians, when they wish to swear with very great solemnity. Then the
man accused of having foresworn himself is arrested and brought before
the king. The soothsayers tell him that by their art it is clear he
has sworn a false oath by the royal hearth, and so caused the
illness of the king- he denies the charge, protests that he has
sworn no false oath, and loudly complains of the wrong done to him.
Upon this the king sends for six new soothsayers, who try the matter
by soothsaying. If they too find the man guilty of the offence,
straightway he is beheaded by those who first accused him, and his
goods are parted among them: if, on the contrary, they acquit him,
other soothsayers, and again others, are sent for, to try the case.
Should the greater number decide in favour of the man's innocence,
then they who first accused him forfeit their lives.
The mode of their execution is the following: a waggon is loaded
with brushwood, and oxen are harnessed to it; the soothsayers, with
their feet tied together, their hands bound behind their backs, and
their mouths gagged, are thrust into the midst of the brushwood;
finally the wood is set alight, and the oxen, being startled, are made
to rush off with the waggon. It often happens that the oxen and the
soothsayers are both consumed together, but sometimes the pole of
the waggon is burnt through, and the oxen escape with a scorching.
Diviners- lying diviners, they call them- are burnt in the way
described, for other causes besides the one here spoken of. When the
king puts one of them to death, he takes care not to let any of his
sons survive: all the male offspring are slain with the father, only
the females being allowed to live.
Oaths among the Scyths are accompanied with the following
ceremonies: a large earthern bowl is filled with wine, and the parties

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