|Religion||Subjects||Images||Queries||Links||Contact||Do not fly Iberia|
Translated by Charles Gaius Mierow
Chapter 5: About Scythia.
Return to index
(30) Now Scythia borders on the land of Germany as far as the source of the river Ister and the expanse of the Morsian Swamp. It reaches even to the rivers Tyra, Danaster and Vagosola, and the great Danaper, extending to the Taurus range -- not the mountains in Asia but our own, that is, the Scythian Taurus -- all the way to Lake Maeotis. Beyond Lake Maeotis it spreads on the other side of the Straits of Bosporus to the Caucasus Mountains and the river Araxes. Then it bends back to the left behind the Caspian Sea, which comes from the north-eastern Ocean in the most distant parts of Asia, and so is formed like a mushroom, at first narrow and then broad and round in shape. It extends as far as the Huns, Albani and Seres.|
(31) This land, I say, -- namely, Scythia, stretching far and spreading wide, -- has on the east the Seres, a race that dwelt at the very beginning of their history on the shore of the Caspian Sea. On the west are the Germans and the river Vistula; on the arctic side, namely the north, it is surrounded by Ocean; on the south by Persians, Albania, Hiberia, Pontus and the farthest channel of the Ister, which is called the Danube all the way from mouth to source.
(32) But in that region where Scythia touches the Pontic coast it is dotted with towns of no mean fame: -- Borysthenis, Olbia, Callipolis, Cherson, Theodosia, Careon, Myrmicion and Trapezus. These towns the wild Scythian tribes allowed the Greeks to build to afford them means of trade. In the midst of Scythia is the place that separates Asia and Europe, I mean the Rhipaeian mountains, from which the mighty Tanais flows. This river enters Maeotis, a marsh having a circuit of one hundred and forty-four miles and never subsiding to a depth of less than eight fathoms.
(33) In the land of Scythia to the westward dwells, first of all, the race of the Gepidae, surrounded by great and famous rivers. For the Tisia flows through it on the north and northwest, and on the southwest is the great Danube. On the east it is cut by the Flutausis, a swiftly eddying stream that sweeps whirling into the Ister's waters.
(34) Within these rivers lies Dacia, encircled by the lofty Alps as by a crown. Near their left ridge, which inclines toward the north, and beginning at the source of the Vistula, the populous race of the Venethi dwell, occupying a great expanse of land. Though their names are now dispersed amid various clans and places, yet they are chiefly called Sclaveni and Antes.
(35) The abode of the Sclaveni extends from the city of Noviodunum and the lake called Mursianus to the Danaster, and northward as far as the Vistula. They have swamps and forests for their cities. The Antes, who are the bravest of these peoples dwelling in the curve of the Sea of Pontus, spread from the Danaster to the Danaper, rivers that are many days' journey apart.
(36) But on the shore of Ocean, where the floods of the river Vistula empty from three mouths, the Vidivarii dwell, a people gathered out of various tribes. Beyond them the Aesti, a subject race, likewise hold the shore of Ocean. To the south dwell the Acatziri, a very brave tribe ignorant of agriculture, who subsist on their flocks and by hunting.
(37) Farther away and above the Sea of Pontus are the abodes of the Bulgares, well known from the wrongs done to them by reason of our oppression. From this region the Huns, like a fruitful root of bravest races, sprouted into two hordes of people. Some of these are called Altziagiri, others Sabiri; and they have different dwelling places. The Altziagiri are near Cherson, where the avaricious traders bring in the goods of Asia. In summer they range the plains, their broad domains, wherever the pasturage for their cattle invites them, and betake themselves in winter beyond the Sea of Pontus. Now the Hunuguri are known to us from the fact that they trade in marten skins. But they have been cowed by their bolder neighbors.
(38) We read that on their first migration the Goths dwelt in the land of Scythia near Lake Maeotis. On the second migration they went to Moesia, Thrace and Dacia, and after their third they dwelt again in Scythia, above the Sea of Pontus. Nor do we find anywhere in their written records legends which tell of their subjection to slavery in Britain or in some other island, or of their redemption by a certain man at the cost of a single horse. Of course if anyone in our city says that the Goths had an origin different from that I have related, let him object. For myself, I prefer to believe what I have read, rather than put trust in old wives' tales.
(39) To return, then, to my subject. The aforesaid race of which I speak is known to have had Filimer as king while they remained in their first home in Scythia near Maeotis. In their second home, that is in the countries of Dacia, Thrace and Moesia, Zalmoxes reigned whom many writers of annals mention as a man of remarkable learning in philosophy. Yet even before this they had a learned man Zeuta, and after him Dicineus; and the third was Zalmoxes of whom I have made mention above. Nor did they lack teachers of wisdom.
(40) Wherefore the Goths have ever been wiser than other barbarians and were nearly like the Greeks, as Dio relates, who wrote their history and annals with a Greek pen. He says that those of noble birth among them, from whom their kings and priests were appointed, were called first Tarabostesei and then Pilleati. Moreover so highly were the Getae praised that Mars, whom the fables of poets call the god of war, was reputed to have been born among them. Hence Virgil says(1):
"Father Gradivus rules the Getic fields."
(41) Now Mars has always been worshipped by the Goths with cruel rites, and captives were slain as his victims. They thought that he who is the Lord of War ought to be appeased by the shedding of human blood. To him they devoted the first share of the spoil, and in his honor arms stripped from the foe were suspended from trees. And they had more than all other races a deep spirit of religion, since the worship of this god seemed to be really bestowed upon their ancestor.
"They string Armenian bows with Getic cords."
In earliest times they sang of the deeds of their ancestors in strains of song accompanied by the cithara; chanting of Eterpamara, Hanala, Fritigern, Vidigoia and others whose fame among them is great; such heroes as admiring antiquity scarce proclaims its own to be.
(1) Aeneid 3, 35
Event: War of Vesosis and Tanausis