According to the Greek historian Herodotus, of the 5th century BC, the Cimmerians inhabited the region north of the Caucasus and the Black Sea during the 8th and 7th centuries BC, in what is now Ukraine and Russia. The archeologist Renate Rolle and others have argued that no one has demonstrated with archeological evidence the presence of Cimmerians in the southern parts of Russia or elsewhere.
Scholars in the 19th and 20th centuries had relied upon Herodotus's account. But, Sir Henry Layard's discoveries in the royal archives at Nineveh and Calah have enabled the study of new source material that is several centuries earlier than Herodotus's history. The Assyrian archeological record shows that the Cimmerians, and the land of Gamir, were located not far from Urartu, south of the Caucasus. Military intelligence reports to Sargon in the 8th century BC describe the Cimmerians as occupying territory south of the Black Sea.
Although the 2006 Encyclopædia Britannica reflects Herodotus, stating, "They [the Cimmerians] probably did live in the area north of the Black Sea," but attempts to define their original homeland more precisely by archaeological means, or even to fix the date of their expulsion from their country by the Scythians, have not so far been completely successful." But, academic scholars have made use of documents dating to centuries earlier than Herodotus, such as intelligence reports to Sargon, and note that these identify the Cimmerians as living south rather than north of the Black Sea..
A few stone stelae found in Ukraine and the northern Caucasus have been connected with the Cimmerians. They are in a style clearly different from both the later Scythian and the earlier Yamna/Kemi-Oba stelae.
The first historical record of the Cimmerians appears in Assyrian annals in the year 714 BC. These describe how a people termed the Gimirri helped the forces of Sargon II to defeat the kingdom of Urartu. Their original homeland, called Gamir or Uishdish, seems to have been located within the buffer state of Mannae. The later geographer Ptolemy placed the Cimmerian city of Gomara in this region. After their conquests of Colchis and Iberia in the First Millennium BC, the Cimmerians also came to be known as Gimirri in Georgian. According to Georgian historians, the Cimmerians played an influential role in the development of both the Colchian and Iberian cultures. The modern-day Georgian word for hero, გმირი, gmiri, is derived from the word Gimirri. This refers to the Cimmerians who settled in the area after the initial conquests.
Some modern authors assert that the Cimmerians included mercenaries, whom the Assyrians knew as Khumri, who had been resettled there by Sargon. Later Greek accounts describe the Cimmerians as having previously lived on the steppes, between the Tyras (Dniester) and Tanais (Don) rivers. Greek and Mesopotamian sources note several Cimmerian kings including Tugdamme (Lygdamis in Greek; mid-7th century BC), and Sandakhshatra (late-7th century).
A "mythical" people also named Cimmerians are described in Book 11, 14 of Homer's Odyssey as living beyond the Oceanus, in a land of fog and darkness, at the edge of the world and the entrance of Hades. Most likely they were unrelated to the Cimmerians of the Black Sea.
According to the Histories of Herodotus (c. 440 BC), the Cimmerians had been expelled from the steppes by the Scythians. To ensure burial in their ancestral homeland, the men of the Cimmerian royal family divided into groups and fought each other to the death. The Cimmerian commoners buried the bodies along the river Tyras and fled from the Scythian advance, across the Caucasus and into Anatolia and the Near East. Their range seems to have extended from Mannae eastward through the Mede settlements of the Zagros Mountains, and south as far as Elam.
The Assyrians recorded the migrations of the Cimmerians, as the former people's king Sargon II was killed in battle against them in 705 BC. The Cimmerians were subsequently recorded as having conquered Phrygia in 696-695 BC, prompting the Phrygian king Midas to take poison rather than face capture. In 679 BC, during the reign of Esarhaddon of Assyria, they attacked Cilicia and Tabal under their new ruler Teushpa. Esarhaddon defeated them near Hubushna.
In 654 BC or 652 BC – the exact date is unclear – the Cimmerians attacked the kingdom of Lydia, killing the Lydian king Gyges and causing great destruction to the Lydian capital of Sardis. They returned ten years later during the reign of Gyges' son Ardys II; this time they captured the city, with the exception of the citadel. The fall of Sardis was a major shock to the powers of the region; the Greek poets Callinus and Archilochus recorded the fear that it inspired in the Greek colonies of Ionia, some of which were attacked by Cimmerian and Treres raiders.
The Cimmerian occupation of Lydia was brief, however, possibly due to an outbreak of plague. Between 637 and 626 BC, they were beaten back by Alyattes II of Lydia. This defeat marked the effective end of Cimmerian power. The term Gimirri was used about a century later in the Behistun inscription (ca. 515 BC) as a Babylonian equivalent of Persian Saka (Scythians). Otherwise Cimmerians disappeared from western Asian historical accounts, and their fate was unknown. It has been speculated that they settled in Cappadocia, known in Armenian as Գամիրք, Gamir-kʿ (the same name as the original Cimmerian homeland in Mannae).
Only a few personal names in the Cimmerian language have survived in Assyrian inscriptions:
Some researchers have attempted to trace various place names to Cimmerian origins. It has been suggested that Crimea is named after the Cimmerians as well as the Armenian city of Gyumri. The name "Crimea" is traceable to the Crimean Tatar word qırım (my steppe, hill), and the peninsula was known as Taurica, (Peninsula) of the Tauri, in antiquity (Strabo 7.4.1; Herodotus 4.99.3, Amm. Marc. 22.8.32).
Based on ancient Greek historical sources, a Thracian or a Celtic association is sometimes assumed. According to Ferdinand Friedrich Carl Lehmann-Haupt, the language of the Cimmerians could have been a "missing link" between Thracian and Iranian.
Herodotus thought the Cimmerians and the Thracians closely related, writing that both peoples originally inhabited the northern shore of the Black Sea, and both were displaced about 700 BC, by invaders from the east. Whereas the Cimmerians would have departed this ancestral homeland by heading west and south across the Caucasus, the Thracians migrated southwest into the Balkans, where they established a successful and long-lived culture. The Tauri, the original inhabitants of Crimea, are sometimes identified as a people related to the Cimmerians and later the Taurisci.
Premodern historians asserted Cimmerian descent for the Celts or the Germans, arguing from the similarity of Cimmerii to Cimbri or Cymry. It is unlikely that either Proto-Celtic or Proto-Germanic entered western Europe as late as the 7th century BC; their formation was commonly associated with the Bronze Age Urnfield and Nordic Bronze Age cultures, respectively. It is, however, conceivable that a small-scale (in terms of population) 8th century "Thraco-Cimmerian" migration triggered cultural changes that contributed to the transformation of the Urnfield culture into the Hallstatt C culture, ushering in the European Iron Age. Later Cimmerian remnant groups may have spread as far as to the Nordic Countries and the Rhine River. An example is the Cimbri tribe, considered to be a Germanic tribe hailing from the Himmerland (Old Danish Himber sysæl) region in northern Denmark.
The etymology of Cymro "Welshman" (plural: Cymry) and Cwmry (for Cumbria), connected to the Cimmerians by 17th century celticists, is now accepted by some Celtic linguists to derive from the Brythonic word combrogos and Proto-Brythonic *kom-brogos, meaning "compatriots", (i.e. fellow-Brythons as opposed to the Anglo-Saxons), and is thus related to its sister language Breton's keñvroad, keñvroiz "compatriot" .
In sources beginning with the Royal Frankish Annals, the Merovingian kings of the Franks traditionally traced their lineage through a pre-Frankish tribe called the Sicambri (or Sugambri), mythologized as a group of "Cimmerians" from the mouth of the Danube river, but who instead came from Gelderland in modern Netherlands and are named for the Sieg river or which could derive from that of the Cimbri as their chieftain names have the same suffix -rix.
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8th century BCE.
Tumulus near the village of Vilshana, Cherkasy Region.
8th century BCE.
Vysoka Mohyla tumulus near the village of Balky, Zaporizhia Region.
In the nowadays Ukrainian steppe there are many thousands kurgans – barrows left by the Cimmerians, the Scythians and the Sarmatians. The greatest among them are tombs of nomadic elite where the archaeologists excavate many artifacts. Among them there are gorgeous examples of ancient metal art created by local goldsmiths or imported with commercial operations and military campaigns.
The examples of the most ancient jewelry are the adornments found in the graves from the 9th – 7th centuries BCE. They decorated the Cimmerian warriors, their weapons, clothes, utensils and horse equipment. Cimmerian art has geometric motifs: circle, semicircle, spiral, squares, rhombus, crosses, etc. Metal decorations were created thanks to lost-wax casting, forging, stamping, carving and brazing. Some items were inlaid with glass.
Cimerians, Scythian or Thracians
François Vase: Volute crater, Attic Black Figure, In six registers: the Wedding of Peleus and Thetis; Achilles pursuing Troilos; Return of Hephaestus; the Calydonian Boar hunt; Theseus on Crete; Funeral games of Patroclus; Pygmies and Cranes; etc., Cleitias, Etruria, Archaeological Museum, Florence, Florence 4209
Collection: Florence, Museo Archeologico Nazionale
Summary: In six registers: the Wedding of Peleus and Thetis; Achilles pursuing Troilos; Return of Hephaistos; the Calydonian Boar hunt; Theseus on Crete; Funeral games of Patroklos; Pygmies and Cranes; etc.
Ware: Attic Black Figure
Painter: Signed by Kleitias
Potter: Signed by Ergotimos
Context: Excavated at Chiusi
Date: ca. 570 BC - ca. 560 BC
Dimensions: H. 0.66 m., D. rim 0.57 m.
Primary Citation: ABV, 76, 1
Shape: Volute krater
Beazley Number: 300000
Period: High Archaic
the Calydonian Boar hunt
The two friezes on the neck depict four different mythological subjects. The upper frieze on Side A shows the hunt for the Calydonian Boar. The boar, in the center of the scene, charges to the left while nineteen hunters attack him with spears, arrows and stones. The boar is pierced by four arrows, and a white dog stands on his back, biting his neck. The hunters attack in pairs: to the left of the boar, facing his onslaught, stand Peleus and Meleager, wearing short tunics and animal skins and holding their spears with both hands, thrusting low into the boar's head. Peleus is unbearded, Meleager bearded. Beneath the boar lies a fallen huntsman, Ankaios (written Antaios). To the left of Peleus and Meleager come Melanaion and Atalanta (written Atalate) and the only woman in the scene). Both carry spears upraised in their right hands, and hold their left hands forwards; Atalanta in addition has a quiver on her shoulder, since she drew the first blood of the boar with her arrow. Behind this pair is a crouching archer, Euthymachos, wearing a tall pointed hat and so, despite his Greek name, perhaps to be identified as a Scythian or Cimmerian like the figures to the right of the boar. Behind Euthymachos come two more pairs of huntsmen, Thorax and Antandros, and Harpalea[s] and Aristandros, running with their forward feet raised. All wear short tunics and animal skins; Thorax wears a small hat. Thorax, Antandros and Harpalea[s] wield spears; Aristandros throws a stone. To the right of the boar, Kastor and Polydeukes attack the beast. They are bearded (unusually), and wear short tunics and swords on baldrics. Behind the Dioskouroi are Akastos and his brother-in-law Admetos (written Asmenos) They are in the same stance as Atalanta and Melanion, but they run with their forward legs off the ground, and Admetos carries a spare spear in his forward hand, and both carry swords on baldrics.
Two more spear men advance behind him, Antimachos and Simon, wearing petasoi and carrying swords, and behind them, another archer, Toxamis, whose name is Scythian or Cimmerian in origin. Finally two more spear men bring up the rear at a run, Pausileon and Kynortes. Kynortes wears a petasos. The seven hunting dogs are all named: Labros, Methepon, Egertes, E[u]bolos, Korax, Marpsas, and Ormenos. Three are black and four white; one, Ormenos, has been killed by the boar and his entrails are visible through his split belly. The scene is flanked by sphinxes on either side.