By  Periklis  Deligiannis

 Scythians

King and Queen of a Scythian tribe in  a representation based on the archaeological finds from Central Asia. Since around 300 BC, the Scythians systematically attacked the Bosporan kingdom but a part of them settled in its territory becoming subject to the Bosporan king.  In the  last  centuries of  the  Bosporan  history,  the  Iranians (Scythians and Sarmatians) became the main population of the kingdom.

CONTINUED  FROM  PART  I
In this way, the city-state of Panticapaeum turned into an extensive hegemony, which later evolved into a Hellenistic kingdom. Generally speaking, Panticapaeum had the same evolution as Syracuse, the birthplace and capital of the Hellenistic kingdom which was founded in Sicily. The Greeks and the Hellenized Thracians were originally the ruling class of the Cimmerian Bosporus, but the status of the indigenous population and the Scythian/Iranian minority, was also important. The two peoples (Greeks and non-Greeks) supported each other: the natives were Hellenized and the Greeks gradually adopted the spirit and the habits of the natives. This duality is obvious in every aspect of the social life of Cimmerian Bosporus. Thus a special Bosporan Greek identity was formed in the Northern Black Sea coast, based on the Ionians.

King Paerisades I died in 310 BC. His eldest son, Satyros, was proclaimed king but soon faced the rebellion of his younger brother Eumelos who claimed the throne. Eumelos had secured the support of Aripharnes, king of the Thataeans as mentioned by Diodorus Siculus, the people who lived on the region of the river Thatis. This river was probably one of the tributaries of Hypanis (Kuban River). It is almost certain that the “Thataeans” (a name which is not national but geographical) are identified with the Siracae, a major Sarmatian tribe who had settled in the Kuban region during the reign of Paerisades I who made them his tributaries. The Sarmatians were a group of nomadic peoples of Central Asia, belonging to the Northern Iranian (Saka, Sakic) stock together with the Scythians. Since the 4th century BC, most of them began migrating towards the steppes north of the Black Sea, while some of their tribes began to move towards China. The various Sarmatian tribes (Sauromatae, Siracae, Aorsi/Alans, Aspourgi, Roxolani, ‘Royal’ Sarmatians, and later the Iazyges, the Alans, the modern Ossetians etc.) were independent and often fought each other. The Sarmatians fought primarily as horsemen and cavalrymen with a long cavalry spear called ‘kontos’. Other arms used by them were their typical medium and long swords, the daggers and a kind of compound bow, less powerful than the Scythian.

Eumelos and Aripharnes of the Siracae confronted Satyros and his Scythian allies in the great battle of the river Thatis , one of the  greatest cavalry battles in Antiquity, in which 10,000 Scythian and 20,000 Sarmatian horsemen and cavalrymen participated. It is certain that the Siracae were supported by many other Sarmatian horsemen, because the Sarmatians in  general were trying to oust the Scythians from the Black Sea steppe.

 Στατηρ Παντικαπαιου

Stater of Panticapaeum. Panticapaeum was the largest and strongest Greek city of the north Black Sea coast and the capital of the Cimmerian Bosporus Kingdom.


Although the Siracae were defeated, the winner Satyros died shortly afterwards at the siege of Aripharnes’ capital. After new struggles, Eumelos managed to capture the throne of the Cimmerian Bosporus.
Pairisades I and Satyros were capable and effective leaders. Eumelos proved worthy them in the five years of his reign. The indigenous peoples of the northern and eastern coast of the Black Sea, especially the Tauri, the Heniochi and the Achaeans (not to be confused with the Greek Achaeans) were praying by piracy the Greek maritime merchants, seriously damaging the Bosporan economy. Eumelos used the Bosporan war fleet which he reinforced, against them and managed to annihilate the pirates. Thereby he strengthened the state and its trade, and so he gained over consistently the strong middle class of the merchants. He also strengthened the military forces by recruiting more Greek hoplites from the urban centers, which had not provided by then enough men in the royal army (being officially free citizens).

Eumelos’ primary land military operation was the recapturing of Tanais, an old Greek colony at the mouth of the great river Tanais (modern Don) which was abandoned because of the barbarian assaults. It was a very strategic site near the modern Russian city Rostov, ​​in which the Bosporans refounded the city of Tanais. The colony was the most distant civil, military, commercial and cultural outpost of Hellenism in Eastern Europe. As estimated, Eumelos had laid grand plans for the expansion of his territory. He intended to gradually annex the whole region of the northern Black Sea coast to the Bosporan kingdom, thus creating a powerful Hellenistic state which could confront the kingdom of Lysimachus (Lysimachos), the Thessalian general of Alexander the Great. At that time, Lysimachus controlled Thrace and the western coast of the Black Sea, possibly having aspirations of expansion to the northern coast. However Eumelos was killed in 304 BC in a strange accident that it was possibly ‘fixed’ (organized) by supporters of the dead king Satyros.

Scythian jewelr
Modern restoration of Scythian women’s jewelry and clothing by the jeweler Lidia Stadnichenko, based on archaeological finds from the Scythian tombs in the region of ​​Tanais (Don) (presentation in St. Petersburg). Many of these jewels were made by Greek jewelers of the Black Sea, Asia Minor and mainland Greece.

Eumelos’ son, Spartocos III was proclaimed the new king of Bosporus (304-284 BC). During his reign, Athens officially recognized the full independence of the Cimmerian Bosporus, which certainly occurred in fact more than a century. After the destruction of her fleet by the Macedonians in the Aegean Sea (battle of Amorgos and other sea battles in 322 BC), Athens could not undertake any more serious overseas campaigns to restore her old zone of influence . Spartocos III like all his predecessors was a king for his native subjects, but he was just a ‘ruler’ for the Greeks of Bosporus. He soon followed the example of Alexander’s generals who proclaimed at that time themselves kings, and he did the same retaining only the title of the king of all the Bosporans, Greek or native.

In the 3rd century BC, the kingdom of Bosporus went into decline, facing intense military pressure by the Scythians who flocked en masse in the Crimea because of the Sarmatians, who defeated and expelled them from the Ukrainian steppe. The kingdom had experienced a revival during the Roman period, when it was put under the protection of the Romans, who increased its territory by annexing neighboring states to it (including the city-state Chersonesus for some time). Rome generally protected the Greeks of the northern coast with garrisons and naval forces based at Chersonesus, Olbia and other ports. However, the Roman civil wars of the mid-3rd century AD forced her to abandon these distant military mountings.

The Greek character of the Bosporan kingdom had already declined in favor of the Iranian identity. The Iranian Scythians and Sarmatians rapidly increased in population within the kingdom, at the expense of the Greeks, supplanting them in the Late Roman Period. In the 3rd century AD, the withdrawal of Rome enabled the Goths and the Sarmatians who lived altogether in the Ukrainian steppe, to inflict serious blows on the once strong Bosporan kingdom, which finally collapsed because of the Hunnish invasion in the region (4th c.). The Huns killed much of the population. Panticapaeum survived but she lost her Greekness, becoming an Iranian city, later Tatar and nowadays Slavic (modern Kerch). The once wealthy and populous Olbia was reduced to a small fishing village that was trying to survive. Only Chersonesus and a few towns continued to be protected by the Romans and then the Byzantines.

Scythians

A night  attack  of  Scythian  raiders  in  a  fortified  village  of  natives  of  Eastern  Europe. The Scythian-type heavy cavalry consisted a part of the Bosporan army.

APPENDIX:  THE  ARMY  OF  THE  KINGDOM  OF  BOSPORUS

The  two  main  military  units  of  the  Bosporan  army,  were  the  cavalry  of  the  aristocrats  (equipped  much  like  their  Scythian  neighbors)  and  the  Greek  infantry  of  the  cities  (apparently  hoplites  and  ‘psiloi’  [lightly  armed]  at  the  time  of  the  Battle  of  Thatis).  The  military  equipment  of  the  local  Greeks  in  later  tombstones  (especially  in  the  tombstones  of  the  neighboring  independent  city-state  Chersonesus  in  Crimea)  comprises  scutum-type  shields  (θυρεός,  ‘thyreos’  in  Greek),  a  fact  that  indicates  the  adoption  of  the  new  Greek  military  equipment  of  the  ‘thyreophoros’    which  gradually  prevailed  in  all  the  Greek  cities  during  the  3rd  century  BC.  Their  numbers  were  not  great  because  of  their  unwillingness  to  serve  the  Spartocid  tyrants,  and  so  the  infantry  phalanx  was  complemented  with  mercenaries  from  mainland  Greece  and  Greek  Asia  Minor.

But  Eumelos  and  his  successors  mobilized  gradually  more  and  more  Bosporan  Greeks  because  of  the  financial  problems  of  the  kingdom,  and  mainly  because  of  the  external  threats  which  were  growing  rapidly.  During  the  AD  centuries,  the  Bosporans  were  equipped  in  “the  Roman  way”  as  stated  by  the  chroniclers,  apparently  like  the  auxiliaries  of  the  Roman  Empire,  which  had  made  the  Bosporan  kingdom  a  client  state.
The  Bosporan  aristocratic  cavalry  had  mixed  origins:  Thracian,  Cimmerian,  Greek,  Scythian,  Maeotian,  Sarmatian  etc.  The  infantry  forces  of  Bosporus  were  complemented  by  lightly  armed  warriors  who  belonged  mainly  to  the  pre-Greek  population  of  the  Bosporan  hinterland  and  the  adjacent  areas:  Taurians,  Maeotians,  Sindians,  Northern  Thracians,  Post-Shrubnaya  culture  peoples  etc.  The  Thracian  mercenary  peltasts  seemed  to  be  numerous,  coming  from  Thrace  south  of  the  Danube.  Finally,  the  Bosporan  forces  included  a  significant  fleet,  which  was  gradually  strengthened  after  the  fall  of  the  Athenian  influence  in  the  area  and  the  establishment  of  the  Spartocid  regime.  Many  Greek  city-states  of  the  Black  Sea  maintained  the  maritime  tradition  of  its  Ionic  and  Megarian  founders.  At  least  Panticapaeum,  Sinope,  Heraclea  and  other  large  cities  had  fleets  of  triremes.  The  Spartocids  of  Panticapaeum  had  concluded  a  special  agreement  with  Athens  to  recruit  crews  from  Attica  for  their  merchant  ships  and  warships  (346  BC).  The  famous  Russo-Ukrainian  archaeologist  M.  Rostovtzeff  who  thoroughly  researched  the  ancient  history  of  the  region,  estimated  that  the  Cimmerian  Bosporan  kingdom  had  a  strong  army  and  navy.

Periklis    Deligiannis

FURTHER  READING

(1)  Diodorus  Siculus:  HISTORICAL  LIBRARY,  Loeb  Classical  Library.
(2)  Herodotus:  HISTORIES,  Loeb  Classical  Library.
(3)  Strabo:  GEOGRAPHY,  Loeb Classical  Library.
(4)  Koromela  Marianna:  THE  GREEKS  IN  THE  BLACK  SEA  REGION  FROM  THE  BRONZE  AGE  TO  THE  EARLY  20th  CENTURY  (in  Greek),  Athens,  1991.