Scythians - The Horsemen of Eurasia
Through the ages, horses have been a faithful companion and instrumental in the rise of many civilisations. In this blog post, you will learn more about the Scythians, the ancient Eastern Iranian nomads who migrated from Central Asia to the Pontic Steppe.
From the beginning...?
The Scythians were a nomadic people who inhabited the Eurasian steppes somewhere from the 9th to the 1st century BCE. Although oftentimes referred to as one tribe, the Scythians were a diverse yet culturally related group composed of many tribal units – such as the Royal Scythians, the Alazones, or Callipidae. Each group lived within a particular area and had slight differences in their way of life. Not all tribes were fully nomad, and instead only adopted a semi-nomadic lifestyle. While committing to such lifestyles, the Scythians had a complex social and political organisation, with a well-defined hierarchy, laws, and customs. Within each tribe was a leader, followed by nobility, and at the lower level of their society were the commoners.
The life of the Scythian tribes very much revolved around their herds of cattle. They moved around in order to find suitable pastures, water, and shelter.
Aside from being remarkable horsemen and archers, the Scythians were also known for their metalworking skills and their intricate gold, jewellery and ornaments. They traded extensively with neighbouring tribes and were a significant cultural and economic force in the region.
The Scythian lifestyle was adapted to the harsh environment of the steppe, which enabled them to thrive and maintain their cultural identity for centuries.
The Scythians were skilled riders who had a deep understanding of horse behaviour and psychology. They were able to communicate with their horses in a way that allowed them to control them with incredible precision. This connection helped them develop certain abilities, such as shooting arrows and throwing spears (often riding bareback!). The tribes relied on their horses for a variety of purposes, including transportation, hunting, and warfare. Riding on horseback allowed them to move quickly and effectively across the steppes. This mobility turned out to be a key advantage in battle, as Scythians were able to outmanoeuvre their enemies and strike from unexpected directions.
It is said that the Scythian horses were on the smaller side and could reach great speeds. Though the majority of the animals that made up the herds were Mongolian ponies and Przewalski horses, evidence leads experts to believe that the Ferghana horse could have also been around at that time.
In order to better meet their needs, the Scythians also took on the art of horse breeding. They selectively bred horses for specific traits, such as endurance, and strength. Overtime, these horses became a source of interest among neighbouring tribes and so Scythians began trading them which helped to establish their reputation as outstanding horsemen.
The Scythian’s equestrian traditions and horse culture were an essential part to their way of life, and they majorly influenced the development of modern horsemanship and cavalry tactics. While over time the role horses play in our daily lives may have changed, the bond between Man and horse remains strong.
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