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Scythia Map

Scythia of Classical Antiquity refers to the region covering parts of modern-day Crimea, Kazakhstan, Russia, Poland, the Ukraine valley, Belarus, Romania, and northern India. The Scythians were nomadic Indo-European tribes who settled in the area in the eighth and seventh century BC, and became an agrarian society.

The reach of the Scythian civilization varied over time, but Scythia expanded to cover Sarmatia, Bactria, Sogdiana, and Margu. By about the first century AD, the Scythians had migrated to the Indus Valley to the northwest of India, and were known as the Sakas. They migrated into the Punjab, Rajasthan, and Kashmir provinces of India.

Early Scythian Empire
The earliest records of the Scythian Empire including a royal lineage of Scythians rulers are found in the records of Herodotus and Alcman, the Greek historians. In around the seventh century BC, the Scythians expanded from their homeland near the Black Sea and crossed the Caucasus Mountains. King Koloksai is believed to have founded the royal dynasty of the Scythians. Other kings whose records have been found are Madius and Partitava. Herodotus records speak of a line of royal kings who ruled Scythia in the seventh and sixth centuries BC.

Second Scythian Empire
The Scythians were on an expansion quest when they came into conflict with the civilizations of the Near East. There they faced defeat in the sixth century, and made a bid to capture their homeland to the north of the Black Sea. The second empire of the Scythians was invincible by the fourth century BC. The proximity of the Greeks opened up a large slave market. The Scythians waged wars in distant lands, captured slaves, and brought them back to be exported to Greece. The Scythians were adept warriors who served in the armies of many Greek city-states. King Ateas expanded the Scythian Empire to its greatest extent, and is known in history as the mightiest Scythian king. Ateas expanded his empire to the west and also captured and annexed Thrace. By 339 BC, he came into conflict with Philip II, the king of Macedon, and was killed in the war.

With the death of Ateas, the kingdom became weak. By 250 BC, the Scythians collapsed under the weight of the onslaughts of the Thracians, Sarmatians, and Celts.

Later Scythian Empires
The fragmentation of the Scythian Empire into the two kingdoms of Thracian Scythia and Crimean Scythia dissuaded any possible combined resistance from the Scythians. While Thracian Scythia remained firmly grounded and based on agriculture, Crimean Scythia went up against Greece. The royal lineage is unclear due to inadequate records. By the second century AD, the kingdom dwindled until it was taken over by the Goths.

Trade and Culture in Scythia
The Scythians were an agricultural society, but with the expansion of territory they earned much of their riches by levying taxes on their colonies. The metal works of Scythia were exceptional in their beauty and intricacy, and were in demand in other nations. Booming slave trade also contributed to the riches of the land. King Ateas developed strong trade ties with Greek city-states. The export of wheat and tobacco formed the backbone of Scythian economy in the later years.