Herodotus IV.75-81: Intolerance of Intermarriage
The Scythians have an extreme hatred of all foreign customs, particularly
of those in use among the Greeks, as the instances of Anacharsis,
and, more lately, of Scylas, have fully shown. The former, after he
had travelled over a great portion of the world, and displayed wherever
he went many proofs of wisdom, as he sailed through the Hellespont
on his return to Scythia touched at Cyzicus. There he found the inhabitants
celebrating with much pomp and magnificence a festival to the Mother of the Gods,
and was himself induced to make a vow to the goddess,
whereby he engaged, if he got back safe and sound to his home, that
he would give her a festival and a night-procession in all respects
like those which he had seen in Cyzicus. When, therefore, he arrived
in Scythia, he betook himself to the district called the Woodland,
which lies opposite the course of Achilles, and is covered with trees
of all manner of different kinds, and there went through all the sacred
rites with the tabour in his hand, and the images tied to him. While
thus employed, he was noticed by one of the Scythians, who went and
told king Saulius what he had seen. Then king Saulius came in person,
and when he perceived what Anacharsis was about, he shot at him with
an arrow and killed him. To this day, if you ask the Scyths about
Anacharsis, they pretend ignorance of him, because of his Grecian
travels and adoption of the customs of foreigners. I learnt, however,
from Timnes, the steward of Ariapithes, that Anacharsis was paternal
uncle to the Scythian king Idanthyrsus, being the son of Gnurus, who
was the son of Lycus and the grandson of Spargapithes. If Anacharsis
were really of this house, it must have been by his own brother that
he was slain, for Idanthyrsus was a son of the Saulius who put Anacharsis
to death.
I have heard, however, another tale, very different from this, which
is told by the Peloponnesians: they say, that Anacharsis was sent
by the king of the Scyths to make acquaintance with Greece- that he
went, and on his return home reported that the Greeks were all occupied
in the pursuit of every kind of knowledge, except the Lacedaemonians;
who, however, alone knew how to converse sensibly. A silly tale this,
which the Greeks have invented for their amusement! There is no doubt
that Anacharsis suffered death in the mode already related, on account
of his attachment to foreign customs, and the intercourse which he
held with the Greeks.
Scylas, likewise, the son of Ariapithes, many years later, met with
almost the very same fate. Ariapithes, the Scythian king, had several
sons, among them this Scylas, who was the child, not of a native Scyth,
but of a woman of Istria. Bred up by her, Scylas gained an acquaintance
with the Greek language and letters. Some time afterwards, Ariapithes
was treacherously slain by Spargapithes, king of the Agathyrsi; whereupon
Scylas succeeded to the throne, and married one of his father's wives,
a woman named Opoea. This Opoea was a Scythian by birth, and had brought
Ariapithes a son called Oricus. Now when Scylas found himself king
of Scythia, as he disliked the Scythic mode of life, and was attached,
by his bringing up, to the manners of the Greeks, he made it his usual
practice, whenever he came with his army to the town of the Borysthenites,
who, according to their own account, are colonists of the Milesians-
he made it his practice, I say, to leave the army before the city,
and, having entered within the walls by himself, and carefully closed
the gates, to exchange his Scythian dress for Grecian garments, and
in this attire to walk about the forum, without guards or retinue.
The Borysthenites kept watch at the gates, that no Scythian might
see the king thus apparelled. Scylas, meanwhile, lived exactly as
the Greeks, and even offered sacrifices to the gods according to the
Grecian rites. In this way he would pass a month, or more, with the
Borysthenites, after which he would clothe himself again in his Scythian
dress, and so take his departure. This he did repeatedly, and even
built himself a house in Borysthenes, and married a wife there who
was a native of the place.
But when the time came that was ordained to bring him woe, the occasion
of his ruin was the following. He wanted to be initiated in the Bacchic mysteries,
and was on the point of obtaining admission to the rites,
when a most strange prodigy occurred to him. The house which he possessed,
as I mentioned a short time back, in the city of the Borysthenites,
a building of great extent and erected at a vast cost, round which
there stood a number of sphinxes and griffins carved in white marble,
was struck by lightning from on high, and burnt to the ground. Scylas,
nevertheless, went on and received the initiation. Now the Scythians
are wont to reproach the Greeks with their Bacchanal rage, and to
say that it is not reasonable to imagine there is a god who impels
men to madness. No sooner, therefore, was Scylas initiated in the
Bacchic mysteries than one of the Borysthenites went and carried the
news to the Scythians "You Scyths laugh at us" he said, "because we
rave when the god seizes us. But now our god has seized upon your
king, who raves like us, and is maddened by the influence. If you
think I do not tell you true, come with me, and I will show him to
you." The chiefs of the Scythians went with the man accordingly, and
the Borysthenite, conducting them into the city, placed them secretly
on one of the towers. Presently Scylas passed by with the band of
revellers, raving like the rest, and was seen by the watchers. Regarding
the matter as a very great misfortune they instantly departed, and
came and told the army what they had witnessed.
When, therefore, Scylas, after leaving Borysthenes, was about returning
home, the Scythians broke out into revolt. They put at their head
Octamasadas, grandson (on the mother's side) of Teres. Then Scylas,
when he learned the danger with which he was threatened, and the reason
of the disturbance, made his escape to Thrace. Octamasadas, discovering
whither he had fled, marched after him, and had reached the Ister,
when he was met by the forces of the Thracians. The two armies were
about to engage, but before they joined battle, Sitalces sent a message
to Octamasadas to this effect- "Why should there be trial of arms
betwixt thee and me? Thou art my own sister's son, and thou hast in
thy keeping my brother. Surrender him into my hands, and I will give
thy Scylas back to thee. So neither thou nor I will risk our armies."
Sitalces sent this message to Octamasadas, by a herald, and Octamasadas,
with whom a brother of Sitalces had formerly taken refuge, accepted
the terms. He surrendered his own uncle to Sitalces, and obtained
in exchange his brother Scylas. Sitalces took his brother with him
and withdrew; but Octamasadas beheaded Scylas upon the spot. Thus
rigidly do the Scythians maintain their own customs, and thus severely
do they punish such as adopt foreign usages.