The Scythians were a large confederation of Iranian-speaking (or headed by an Iranian-speaking military-political elite) tribal unions, known in classical sources since around the eighth century b.c.e. or about the time they migrated to the North Pontic steppe zone where they supplanted and apparently absorbed some of the Cimmerians who occupied the region. As with their predecessors, it is not clear from where the Scythians migrated, but their most likely homeland was Central Asia from where they moved under pressure of other nomadic peoples. Organized in supra-tribal confederations, the Scythians made raids and full-blown invasions from the northern Caucasus into Media and Assyria in northern Mesopotamia, reaching as far as Palestine and Egypt throughout the period of 670–610 b.c.e. After suffering major defeats towards the end of the seventh century, they transferred their locus of power to the North Pontic region. By the third century b.c.e., the Scythians came under pressure of the nomadic Sarmatians who destroyed and absorbed most of them into their loosely-organized tribal structure.
Nomadic in origins, the Scythian peoples and the "Scythian" culture also included agriculturalists and hunter-gatherers who paid tribute to their nomadic lords with grain and other goods that the nomads could not produce themselves. In turn, these items were traded with the Greek colonial cities of the northern Black Sea region for wine, precious metals, and other goods.
While Scythia proper, as it was known in Greco-Roman sources, was located to the north of the Black Sea region (from the Danube to the lower Don and Volga), "Scythic" culture occupied a much greater territory of Eurasia, stretching as far east as southwestern Siberia and eastern Kazakhstan. Elements of this culture can be summarized as follows: the use of (1) iron; (2) short swords; (3) conservative artistic motifs (especially the animal style, e.g., the stag and the animal combat); (4) nomadic lifestyle organized around a patriarchal, little centralized social structure; (5) improved compound bows; (6) bronze cauldrons; (7) making of deerstones; and, (8) complex horse harness. All of these components were shared across a huge area not only by Iranian-speakers, but also by Turkic and Mongolian nomads of steppelands of Inner Eurasia.
See also: central asia; cimmerians; sarmatians
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"Scythians." Encyclopedia of Russian History. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 18, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/scythians
"Scythians." Encyclopedia of Russian History. . Retrieved April 18, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/scythians
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"Scythians." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 18, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/scythians
"Scythians." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved April 18, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/scythians