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Scythians

SCYTHIANS

sith'-i-anz (hoi Skuthai):

The word does not occur in the Hebrew of the Old Testament, but Septuagint of Judges 1:27 inserts (Skuthon polis (Scythopolis), in explanation, as being the same as Beth-shean. The same occurs in Apocrypha (Judith 3:10; 1 Macc 12:29), and the Scythians as a people in 2 Macc 4:47, and the adjective in 3 Macc 7:5. The people are also mentioned in the New Testament (Colossians 3:11), where, as in Maccabees, the fact that they were barbarians is implied. This is clearly set forth in classical writers, and the description of them given by Herodotus in book iv of his history represents a race of savages, inhabiting a region of rather indefinite boundaries, north of the Black and Caspian seas and the Caucasus Mountains. They were nomads who neither plowed nor sowed (iv.19), moving about in wagons and carrying their dwellings with them (ibid. 46); they had the most filthy habits and never washed in water (ibid. 75); they drank the blood of the first enemy killed in battle, and made napkins of the scalps and drinking bowls of the skulls of the slain (ibid. 64-65). Their deities were many of them identified with those of the Greeks, but the most characteristic rite was the worship of the naked sword (ibid. 62), and they sacrificed every hundredth man taken in war to this deity. War was their chief business, and they were a terrible scourge to the nations of Western Asia. They broke through the barrier of the Caucasus in 632 BC and swept down like a swarm of locusts upon Media and Assyria, turning the fruitful fields into a desert; pushing across Mesopotamia, they ravaged Syria and were about to invade Egypt when Psammitichus I, who was besieging Ashdod, bought them off by rich gifts, but they remained in Western Asia for 28 years, according to Herodotus. It is supposed that a company of them settled in Beth-shean, and from this circumstance it received the name Scythopolis. Various branches of the race appeared at different times, among the most noted of which were the PARTHIANS (which see).

H. Porter


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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'SCYTHIANS'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". 1915.