Welcome
   Home | Texts by category | | Quick Search:   
Authors
Works by Herodotus
Pages of Melpomene



Previous | Next
                  

Melpomene   


Such, to compare great things with small, is the Tauric territory. For
the sake of those who may not have made the voyage round these parts
of Attica, I will illustrate in another way. It is as if in Iapygia
a line were drawn from Port Brundusium to Tarentum, and a people
different from the Iapygians inhabited the promontory. These two
instances may suggest a number of others where the shape of the land
closely resembles that of Taurica.
Beyond this tract, we find the Scythians again in possession of
the country above the Tauri and the parts bordering on the eastern
sea, as also of the whole district lying west of the Cimmerian
Bosphorus and the Palus Maeotis, as far as the river Tanais, which
empties itself into that lake at its upper end. As for the inland
boundaries of Scythia, if we start from the Ister, we find it enclosed
by the following tribes, first the Agathyrsi, next the Neuri, then the
Androphagi, and last of all, the Melanchaeni.
Scythia then, which is square in shape, and has two of its sides
reaching down to the sea, extends inland to the same distance that
it stretches along the coast, and is equal every way. For it is a
ten days' journey from the Ister to the Borysthenes, and ten more from
the Borysthenes to the Palus Maeotis, while the distance from the
coast inland to the country of the Melanchaeni, who dwell above
Scythia, is a journey of twenty days. I reckon the day's journey at
two hundred furlongs. Thus the two sides which run straight inland are
four thousand furlongs each, and the transverse sides at right
angles to these are also of the same length, which gives the full size
of Scythia.
The Scythians, reflecting on their situation, perceived that
they were not strong enough by themselves to contend with the army
of Darius in open fight. They, therefore, sent envoys to the
neighbouring nations, whose kings had already met, and were in
consultation upon the advance of so vast a host. Now they who had come
together were the kings of the Tauri, the Agathyrsi, the Neuri, the
Androphagi, the Melanchaeni, the Geloni, the Budini, and the
Sauromatae.
The Tauri have the following customs. They offer in sacrifice to
the Virgin all shipwrecked persons, and all Greeks compelled to put
into their ports by stress of weather. The mode of sacrifice is
this. After the preparatory ceremonies, they strike the victim on
the head with a club. Then, according to some accounts, they hurl
the trunk from the precipice whereon the temple stands, and nail the
head to a cross. Others grant that the head is treated in this way,
but deny that the body is thrown down the cliff- on the contrary, they
say, it is buried. The goddess to whom these sacrifices are offered
the Tauri themselves declare to be Iphigenia the daughter of
Agamemnon. When they take prisoners in war they treat them in the
following way. The man who has taken a captive cuts off his head,
and carrying it to his home, fixes it upon a tall pole, which he
elevates above his house, most commonly over the chimney. The reason
that the heads are set up so high, is (it is said) in order that the
whole house may be under their protection. These people live
entirely by war and plundering.
The Agathyrsi are a race of men very luxurious, and very fond of
wearing gold on their persons. They have wives in common, that so they
may be all brothers, and, as members of one family, may neither envy
nor hate one another. In other respects their customs approach
nearly to those of the Thracians.
The Neurian customs are like the Scythian. One generation before
the attack of Darius they were driven from their land by a huge
multitude of serpents which invaded them. Of these some were
produced in their own country, while others, and those by far the
greater number, came in from the deserts on the north. Suffering
grievously beneath this scourge, they quitted their homes, and took
refuge with the Budini. It seems that these people are conjurers:
for both the Scythians and the Greeks who dwell in Scythia say that

Previous | Next
Site Search