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

Previous | Next


limpid, while all the other rivers near it are muddy; the richest
harvests spring up along its course, and where the ground is not sown,
the heaviest crops of grass; while salt forms in great plenty about
its mouth without human aid, and large fish are taken in it of the
sort called Antacaei, without any prickly bones, and good for
pickling. Nor are these the whole of its marvels. As far inland as the
place named Gerrhus, which is distant forty days' voyage from the sea,
its course is known, and its direction is from north to south; but
above this no one has traced it, so as to say through what countries
it flows. It enters the territory of the Scythian Husbandmen after
running for some time across a desert region, and continues for ten
days' navigation to pass through the land which they inhabit. It is
the only river besides the Nile the sources of which are unknown to
me, as they are also (I believe) to all the other Greeks. Not long
before it reaches the sea, the Borysthenes is joined by the Hypanis,
which pours its waters into the same lake. The land that lies
between them, a narrow point like the beak of a ship, is called Cape
Hippolaus. Here is a temple dedicated to Ceres, and opposite the
temple upon the Hypanis is the dwelling-place of the Borysthenites.
But enough has been said of these streams.
Next in succession comes the fifth river, called the Panticapes,
which has, like the Borysthenes, a course from north to south, and
rises from a lake. The space between this river and the Borysthenes is
occupied by the Scythians who are engaged in husbandry. After watering
their country, the Panticapes flows through Hylaea, and empties itself
into the Borysthenes.
The sixth stream is the Hypacyris, a river rising from a lake, and
running directly through the middle of the Nomadic Scythians. It falls
into the sea near the city of Carcinitis, leaving Hylaea and the
course of Achilles to the right.
The seventh river is the Gerrhus, which is a branch thrown out
by the Borysthenes at the point where the course of that stream
first begins to be known, to wit, the region called by the same name
as the stream itself, viz. Gerrhus. This river on its passage
towards the sea divides the country of the Nomadic from that of the
Royal Scyths. It runs into the Hypacyris.
The eighth river is the Tanais, a stream which has its source, far
up the country, in a lake of vast size, and which empties itself
into another still larger lake, the Palus Maeotis, whereby the country
of the Royal Scythians is divided from that of the Sauromatae. The
Tanais receives the waters of a tributary stream, called the Hyrgis.
Such then are the rivers of chief note in Scythia. The grass which
the land produces is more apt to generate gall in the beasts that feed
on it than any other grass which is known to us, as plainly appears on
the opening of their carcases.
Thus abundantly are the Scythians provided with the most important
necessaries. Their manners and customs come now to be described.
They worship only the following gods, namely, Vesta, whom they
reverence beyond all the rest, Jupiter, and Tellus, whom they consider
to be the wife of Jupiter; and after these Apollo, Celestial Venus,
Hercules, and Mars. These gods are worshipped by the whole nation: the
Royal Scythians offer sacrifice likewise to Neptune. In the Scythic
tongue Vesta is called Tabiti, Jupiter (very properly, in my judgment)
Papaeus, Tellus Apia, Apollo Oetosyrus, Celestial Venus Artimpasa, and
Neptune Thamimasadas. They use no images, altars, or temples, except
in the worship of Mars; but in his worship they do use them.
The manner of their sacrifices is everywhere and in every case the
same; the victim stands with its two fore-feet bound together by a
cord, and the person who is about to offer, taking his station
behind the victim, gives the rope a pull, and thereby throws the
animal down; as it falls he invokes the god to whom he is offering;
after which he puts a noose round the animal's neck, and, inserting
a small stick, twists it round, and so strangles him. No fire is
lighted, there is no consecration, and no pouring out of

Previous | Next
Site Search