previous next


Eth. ARIMASPI (Ἀριμασποί), a Scythian people. The first extant notice of the Arimaspi is in Herodotus; but, earlier than this there was the poem of Aristeas of Proconessus, called Arimaspea (Ἀριμάσπεα, Hdt. 4.14); and it is upon the evidence of this poem, rather than upon the independent testimony of Herodotus, that the stranger statements concerning the people in question rest. Such are those, as to their being one-eyed, and as to their stealing the gold from the Grypes; on the other hand, however, themoreprosaic parts of the Herodotean account may be considered as the result of investigations on the part of the historian himself, especially the derivation of their name. (Hdt. 4.27.) Respecting this his evidence is, 1st, that it belonged to the Scythian language; 2ndly, that it was a compound of arima=one, and spou=eye; each of these words being Scythic glosses; or, to speak more precisely, glosses from the language of the Skoloti (Σκόλοτοι). Hence, the name was not native; i.e. Arim-aspi was not an Arimaspian word.

If we deal with this compound as a gloss, and attempt to discover the existing tongue in which it is still to be found, our results are wholly negative. In none of the numerous languages of Caucasus, in none of the Slavonic dialects, and in none of the Turk and Ugrian tongues of the Lower Volga and Don do we find either one word or the other. Yet we have specimens of every existing form of speech for these parts, and there is no reason to believe that the tongue of the ancient Skoloti is extinct. On the contrary, one of the Herodotean glosses (oior=man) is Turk. Much, then, as it may wear the appearance of cutting rather than untying the Gordian knot, the translation of Arimaspi by Μουνόφθαλμος must be looked upon as an inaccuracy.

If the loss of the final -p, and the change of the compound sibilant (a sound strange to Greek ears) at the beginning of the word Arimas--p, be admitted as legitimate, we may find a population that, at the present time, agrees, name for name, and place for place, with this mysterious nation. Their native name is Mari=men, and, as Arimaspi was not a native name, they may have been so called in the time of Herodotus. The name, however, by which they are known to their neighbours is Tsheremis. Their locality is the left bank of the Middle Volga, in the governments of Kasan, Simbirsk, and Saratov; a locality which is sufficiently near the gold districts of the Uralian Range, to fulfil the conditions of the Herodotean account, which places them north of the Issedones (themselves north of the Scythae, or Skoloti), and south of the Grypes. The Tsheremiss belong to the Ugrian family; they have no appearance of being a recent people; neither is there any reason to assume the extinction of the Herodotean Arimaspi. Lastly, the name by which they were known to the Greeks of Olbiopolis, is likely to be the name (allowing for change of form) by which they are known to the occupants of the same parts at present.


hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: