The accounts of Scythia in Herodotus’ The Histories are organized in concurrence with the timeline of the Persian invasion of Scythia, led by King Darius, where as the invasion progresses Herodotus repeatedly digresses about the history of Scythia until the Persians and Scythians meet, at which point the apparent essence of the accounts of Scythia in The Histories, the Persian invasion, is concluded. Although Herodotus’ description of Scythia seems to be a byproduct of the accounts of King Darius, it is nonetheless thorough. Along with detailed descriptions of the origins of Scythia, as well as its diverse populace, Herodotus seems determined to write extensively on the geography of Scythia. Concerning the veracity of Herodotus’ accounts on Scythia, there is no effort to provide one point of view as fact, but instead he provides many possibilities and then gives input on which he believes to be most accurate. Because of this, there is little evidence supporting Herodotus having a Greek anti-”barbarian” bias. In fact, as Herodotus is considered by many to be the “proto-historian”, his work is not easily weighed against the efforts of those that followed. Rather, the stories Herodotus relates weaves a fuller more comprehensive picture of the time than later histories. This unschooled effort should not be construed to suggest a bias, but a rich and new writing style undiluted by the socratic method to follow in later years.
Herodotus describes three possibilities for the origin of the Scythian nation. The first possibility described is the position of Scythian people who state that, “theirs is the youngest of all nations.”¹ As claimed by the Scythians, the first man born on Scythian soil was descendant from the daughter of the Borysthenes River and Zeus. This man, Targitaos, had three sons whose descendants were that of the first three tribes of Scythia. Herodotus clearly states he does not see much merit in this claim, but acknowledges that this is...
Bibliography: Herodotus. “The Histories.” In Landmark Herodotus, edited by Robert B. Strassler, 282-306. New York: Pantheon Books, 2007.
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