Page images
PDF
EPUB

BOOK IV

MELPOMENE

AFTEhe Scytand la ing hinded the A in 15 of rewaving, inat opportni

AFTER the capture of Babylon, Darius's expedition against

the Scythians took place; for as Asia was flourishing in men, and large revenues came in, Darius was desir

ous of revenging himself upon the Scythians, because they formerly, having invaded the Median territory, and defeated in battle those that opposed them, were the first beginners of violence. For the Scythians, as I have before mentioned, ruled over Upper Asia for eight-and-twenty years. For while in pursuit of the Cimmerians, they entered Asia and overthrew the empire of the Medes; for these last, before the arrival of the Scythians, ruled over Asia. Those Scythians, however, after they had been abroad eight-andtwenty years, and returned to their own country after such an interval, a task no less than the invasion of Media awaited : for they found an army of no inconsiderable force ready to oppose them; for the wives of the Scythians, seeing their husbands were a long time absent, had sought the company of their slaves. The Scythians deprive all their slaves of sight for the sake of the milk which they drink, doing as follows: When they have taken bone tubes very like futes, they thrust them into the genital parts of the mares, and blow with their mouths; while some blow, others milk. They say they do this for the following reason: because the veins of the mare, being inflated, become filled, and the udder is depressed. When they have finished milking, they pour it into hollow wooden vessels, and having placed the blind men round about the vessels, they agitate the milk: and having skimmed off that which swims on the surface, they consider it the most valuable, but that which subsides is of less value than the other. On this account the Scythians put out the eyes of every prisoner they take; for they are not agriculturists, but feeders of cattle. From these slaves, then, and the women a race of youths had grown up, who, when they knew their own extraction, opposed those who were returning from

Media. And first they cut off the country by digging a wide ditch, stretching from Mount Taurus to the Lake Mæotis, which is of great extent, and afterward encamping opposite, they came to an engagement with the Scythians, who were endeavouring to enter. When several battles had been fought, and the Scythians were unable to obtain any advantage, one of them said: “Men of Scythia, what are we doing? by fighting with our slaves, both we ourselves by being slain become fewer in number, and by killing them we shall hereafter have fewer to rule over. Now therefore it seems to me that we should lay aside our spears and bows, and that every one, taking a horsewhip, should go directly to them; for so long as they saw us with arms, they considered themselves equal to us, and born of equal birth; but when they shall see us with our whips instead of arms, they will soon learn that they are our slaves, and being conscious of that, will no longer resist.” The Scythians, having heard this, adopted the advice; and the slaves, struck with astonishment at what was done, forgot to fight, and fled. Thus the Scythians both ruled over Asia, and being afterward expelled by the Medes, returned in this manner to their own country: and for the above-mentioned reasons Darius, desiring to take revenge, assembled an army to invade them,

As the Scythians say, theirs is the most recent of all nations; and it arose in the following manner: The first man that appeared in this country, which was a wilderness, was named Targitaus: they say that the parents of this Targitaus, in my opinion relating what is incredible--they say, however, that they were Jupiter and a daughter of the river Borysthenes; that such was the origin of Targitaus: and that he had three sons, who went by the names of Lipoxais, Apoxais, and the youngest, Colaxais; that during their reign a plough, a yoke, an axe, and a bowl of golden workmanship, dropping down from heaven, fell on the Scythian territory; that the eldest, seeing them first, approached, intending to take them up, but as he came near the gold began to burn; when he had retired the second went up, and it did the same again; accordingly, the burning gold repulsed these; but when the youngest went up the third, it became extinguished, and he carried the things home with him; and that the elder brothers in consequence of this giving way surrendered the whole authority to the youngest. From Lipoxais, they say, are descended those Scythians who are called Auchatæ; from the second, Apoxais, those who are called Catiari and Traspies; and from the youngest of them, the royal race, who are called Paralatæ. But all have the name of Scoloti, from the surname of their king; but the Grecians call them Scythians. The Scythians say that such was their origin; and they reckon the whole number of years from their first beginning, from King Targitaus to the time that Darius crossed over against them, to be not more than a thousand years, but just that number, This sacred gold the kings watch with the greatest care, and annually approach it with magnificent sacrifices to render it propitious. If he who has the sacred gold happens to fall asleep in the open air on the festival, the Scythians say he can not survive the year, and on this account they give him as much land as he can ride round on horseback in one day. The country being very extensive, Colaxais established three of the kingdoms for his sons, and made that one the largest in which the gold is kept. The parts beyond the north of the inhabited districts the Scythians say can neither be seen nor passed through, by reason of the feathers shed there; for that the earth and air are full of feathers, and that it is these which intercept the view.

Such is the account the Scythians give of themselves, and of the country above them: but the Greeks who inhabit Pontus give the following account: they say that Hercules, as he was driving away the herds of Geryon, arrived in this country, that was then a desert, and which the Scythians now inhabit: that Geryon, fixing his abode outside the Pontus, inhabited the island which the Greeks call Erythia, situated near Gades, beyond the columns of Hercules in the ocean. The ocean, they say, beginning from the sunrise, flows round the whole earth, but they do not prove it in fact; that Hercules thence came to the country now called Scythia, and as a storm and frost overtook him, he drew his lion's skin over him, and went to sleep; and in the meanwhile his mares, which were feeding apart from his chariot, vanished by some divine chance. They add that when Hercules awoke, he sought for them; and that having gone over the whole country, he at length came to the land called Hylæa; he found a monster, having two natures, half virgin, half viper, of which the upper parts from the buttocks resembled a woman, and the lower parts a serpent: when he saw her he was astonished, but asked her if she had anywhere seen his strayed mares. She said that she herself had them, and would not restore them to him before she had lain with him: Hercules accordingly lay with her on these terms. She, however, delayed giving back the mares, out of a desire to enjoy the company of Hercules as long as she could; he was desirous of recovering them and departing; at last as she restored the mares, she said: “ These mares that strayed hither I preserved for you, and you have paid me salvage, for I have three sons by you; tell me, therefore, what must I do with them when they are grown up; whether shall I establish them here, for I possess the rule over this country, or shall I send them to you?” She asked this question, and he replied, they say: “ When you see the children arrived at the age of men, you can not err if you do this: whichever of them you see able thus to bend this bow, and thus girding himself with this girdle, make him an inhabitant of this country; and whichever fails in these tasks which I enjoin, send out of the country. If you do this, you will please yourself and perform my injunctions." Then having drawn out one of his bows, for Hercules carried two at that time, and having shown her the belt, he gave her both the bow and the belt, which had a golden cup at the extremity of the clasp, and having given them, he departed. But she, when the sons who were born to her attained to the age of men, in the first place gave them names; to the first, Agathyrsis, to the second, Gelonus, and to the youngest, Scythes; and, in the next place, remembering the orders, she did what had been enjoined; and two of her sons, Agathyrsis and Gelonus, being unable to come up to the proposed task, left the country, being expelled by their mother; but the youngest of them, Scythes, having accomplished it, remained there. From this Scythes, son of Hercules, are descended those who have been successively kings of the Scythians; and from the cup, the Scythians even to this day wear cups from their belts. This thing only the mother did for Scythes. Such is the account given by the Greeks who inhabit Pontus.

There is another account, to the following effect, to which I myself rather incline: It is said that the Scythian nomads who dwelt in Asia, being harassed in war by the Massagetæ, crossed the river Araxes and entered the Cimmerian territory: for the country which the Scythians now inhabit is said to have formerly belonged to the Cimmerians. The Cimmerians, when the Scythians invaded them, deliberated, seeing a large army was coming against them; however, their opinions were divided, which both vehemently upheld, though that of the kings was the best; for the opinion of the people was that it was necessary to retire, and that there was no need to hazard a battle against superior numbers: but the opinion of the kings was that they should fight to the last for their country against the invaders. When, therefore, neither the people would submit to the kings, nor the kings to the people; and one party resolved to depart without fighting, and abandon the country to the invaders, while the kings determined to die and be buried in their own country, and not fly with the people, considering what great advantages they had enjoyed, and how many misfortunes would probably befall them if they fled from their country: when they had come to this resolution, having divided, and being equal in numbers, they fought with one another; and the one party, the royal race, having all perished, the people of the Cimmerians buried them near the river Tyras; and their sepulchre is still to be seen. After they had buried them, they then abandoned the country; and the Scythians coming up, took possession of the deserted country. And there are now in Scythia Cimmerian fortifications and Cimmerian Porthmia; 1 there is also a district named Cimmeria, and a bosphorus called Cimmerian. The Cimmerians evidently appear to have fled from the Scythians into Asia, and settled in the peninsula in which the Grecian city Sinope now stands: and it is evident that the Scythians, pursuing them, and entering the Median territory, missed their way; for the Cimmerians fled constantly by the sea-coast; whereas the Scythians pursued, keeping Caucasus on the right, until they entered the Median territory, toward the midland. This last account is given in common both by Greeks and barbarians.

But Aristeas, son of Caystrobius, a native of Proconnesus, says in his epic verses that, inspired by Apollo, he came to the Issedones; that beyond the Issedones dwell the Arimaspians, a people that have only one eye; and beyond them the goldguarding griffins; and beyond these the Hyperboreans, who reach to the sea : that all these, except the Hyperboreans, beginning from the Arimaspians, continually encroached upon their neighbours; that the Issedones were expelled from their country by the Arimaspians, the Scythians by the Issedones, and that the Cimmerians, who inhabited on the south sea, being pressed by the Scythians, abandoned their country. Thus he does not agree with the Scythians respecting this country. Of what country Aristeas, who made these verses, was, has already been mentioned, and I shall now relate the account I heard of him in Proconnesus and Cyzicus. They say that Aristeas, who was inferior to none of the citizens by birth, entering into a fuller's shop in Proconnesus, died suddenly; and that the fuller, having closed his workshop, went to acquaint the relatives of the deceased. When the

• Passages or ferries.

« PreviousContinue »