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The Cimmerians. The Mare-Milkers

In the early first millennium BC, tools, weapons and other artefacts of iron were distributed in the lands north of the Black Sea. Iron ore could be discovered everywhere, and iron ware are much more manufacturable and efficient than bronze tools. That was the reason why iron rapidly replaced bronze that thenceforth was used to produce only ornaments and some types of weapons like arrowheads or scales of armour. The Early Iron Age came. 

It was the time when the people of the steppe became true horse-riders. The invention of horse tack allowed them to spend much time in the saddle thus covering very long distances. The nomads followed their herds, men on horseback and women, children and the aged in the horse- or ox-drawn carriages with tents erected on them. 

Armed with bows and arrows, spears, swords and daggers, the nomads were a formidable force. The raids gave them spoils to enrich tribal chiefs and noble warriors. In a barrow near Tselinnoye village in Dzhankoy district, there was a burial of nomad accompanied with bronze pendants shaped like rams horns, plated with gold foil. Iron dagger hung from the belt of the deceased, who held grinding stone in his left hand. A vessel filled with mutton stood at the head. A fragment of stone stele was excavated from the barrow mound. It has relief picture of belt with various articles hanging from it: dagger and grindstone, bow in case and a cross-like object. 

A barrow near Zol'noye village in Simferopol district contained a grave with 80-cm-high wooden platform. On the platform there laid arrows with iron, bronze and bone heads, bronze bits-part of the bridle inserted into horse's mouth, cheek-pieces, i. e. rods on the ends of horse bits to fasten rein, as well as bone-carved and encrusted with red colour ornaments for horse tack. On the bottom of the grave laid the body of a warrior accompanied with iron sword, grinding stone, and ceramic vessel. 

Many burial monuments of the type are discovered in the steppe north of the Black Sea, from the Danube to the Volga. It is possible that the people of the ancient Middle East and Greece knew their builders under the name of the Cimmerians. 

The great Greek poet Homer was the first who described the Cimmerians. He created the character of Odysseus, who spent many years in travels over various countries of the world and once found himself far in the north, at the very edge of the Earth, where was "the land and city of the Cimmerians, wrapped in mist and cloud. Never does the bright sun look down on them with his rays either when he mounts the starry heaven or when he turns again to earth from heaven, but baneful night is spread over wretched mortals." 

According to what is known about the Cimmerians, they were nomads and therefore could not have a city. Nevertheless, the dismal picture created by Homer's genius corresponded to the Greek's notion of the edge of the Earth and soon became a popular subject of Greek, Roman and even modern poetry. 

Greek poet Callinus called the Cimmerians the impetuous horde and another poet Callimachus described them as the mare-milkers. Greeks were surprised by the custom of drinking milk of mares that was widespread among the nomads at all times.

The Cimmerians are also mentioned by the Bible, according to which all the humans descended from Noah and his sons. One of the grandsons of Noah and sons of Japheth was Gomer (Genesis 10: 1-2), considered the legendary forefather of the Cimmerians. 

Greek painters used images of Cimmerian warriors to decorate their ornate vases. According to these drawings, the Cimmerians had the costume accustomed to their mobile life on horseback. Cimmerians wore tight trousers and long shirt or full-length garment with loose flaps, with pointed cap on head and soft short boots on foot. 

In 1844, Italian engineer and archaeologist Alessandro Francois excavated an Etruscan tomb close to Siena and discovered there an extraordinary vase from the sixth century BC, decorated by painter Kleitias. The pot depicts various scenes of Greek myths featuring over 200 figures. The uppermost frieze shows legendary Calydonian Boar Hunt with participation of the most glorious heroes of Greece. Among the hunters, the painter depicts a bowman wearing pointed cap with his name indicated behind: Kimerios, that is Cimmerian.

In the fifth century BC, famous historian Herodotus wrote down the legend about the Cimmerians who sometime lived in the north coast of the Black Sea. One day, Cimmerian land was invaded by the Scythians coming from the east. The Cimmerians, "at the advance of the Scythians, deliberated as men threatened by a great force should. Opinions were divided; both were strongly held, but that of the princes was the more honourable; for the people believed that their part was to withdraw and that there was no need to risk their lives for the dust of the earth; but the princes were for fighting to defend their country against the attackers. Neither side could persuade the other, neither the people the princes nor the princes the people..." Cimmerian princes did not want to escape from their homeland, so they separated into two equal groups and fought with each other until they were all killed. Then the people buried their leaders and left the native country. 

They set out for the south and soon invaded the lands in the Middle East: Urartu and Media, Lydia and Assyria. Numerous inscriptions written on clay tablets from that region describe the Cimmerians as blood-thirsty nomads who lived from plunder and war, indomitable in battle, unfaithful allies, which suddenly come and suddenly leave. Finally, they were defeated and disappeared vanishing among the population of Asia Minor somewhere in vicinity of the city of Sinope. All this happened in the late eighth and first half of the seventh century BC. 

The Cimmerians are among the most enigmatic peoples in history. Most modern scholars relied on Herodotus' account and locate the old homeland of the Cimmerians in the northern Black Sea area and in the Crimea. They connect the Cimmerians with the culture of barrow burials similar to those of Tselinnoye and Zol'noye described above. Other researchers believe that the Cimmerians never came to Eastern Europe, that the ancient Greek writers' accounts are nothing but a legend full of mistakes and inaccuracy, and that the Cimmerians' native country was in the territory of modern Iran. Hopefully, the "Cimmerian problem" will be solved in the future. 

The poems of Homer inspired Russian poet and artist Maksimilian Voloshin (1877-1932) to create an image of Cimmeria which he placed in Eastern Crimea. This sombre and anxious land appeared in many poems by Voloshin, and ascetic landscapes in vicinity of Crimean town of Koktebel where he lived for ages are portrayed in numerous watercolours of his "Cimmerian" cycle. Another poet and writer having "Cimmerian" motifs as an important feature of his creative works is American Robert E. Howard (1906-1936). In his short poem "Cimmeria" Howard described this ancient "land of Darness and deep Night." Later on, he made Cimmeria the homeland for, probably, his most popular hero, Conan the Barbarian, appearing in numerous fantasy romances and novels. There are two Hollywood movies with Conan played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, as well as comic strips, animated cartoons and video games dedicated to this barbarian hero. The history of Conan is so popular in Russian-speaking audience that among those who continued it after the death of Howard were Russian writers (however they hid themselves behind Anglo-Saxon pseudonyms).

After Nikita Khrapunov and Dmitriy Prokhorov

 

Category: General History Articles | Added by: SergeyTsarapora (19.01.2015)
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