Any member of a nomadic people of Iranian stock who migrated from Central Asia to southern Russia in the 8th–7th century BC. Fierce warriors, they were among the first expert horsemen, which enabled them to establish an empire from western Persia through Syria and Judaea to Egypt and to expel the Cimmerians from their territory in the Caucasus and north of the Black Sea. Although driven out of Anatolia by the Medes (see Media), they held territory from the Persian border into southern Russia; they repelled an invasion by the Persian Darius I c. 513 BC. Their civilization produced wealthy aristocrats (Royal Scyths), whose graves held richly worked articles of gold and other precious materials. The army consisted of freemen; on presentation of an enemy's head, a soldier could share in the booty. They fought with double-curved bows, trefoil-shaped arrows, and Persian swords. Burial called for the sacrifice of the dead man's wife and servants. In the 5th century BC the royal family intermarried with Greeks. The community fell to the Sarmatians in the 2nd century BC. See also Scythian art.
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