, Eth. Ἀγαθύρσιοι
), a people of Sarmatia Europaea, very frequently mentioned by the ancient writers, but in different positions. Their name was known to the Greeks very early, if the Peisander, from whom Suidas (s. v.) and Stephanus Byzantinus (s. v.) quote an absurd mythical etymology of the name (ἀπὸ τᾶν θύρσων τοῦ Διόννσου
) be the poet Peisander of Rhodes, B.C. 645; but he is much more probably the younger Peisander of Larauda, A.D. 222. Another myth is repeated by Herodotus, who heard it from the Greeks on the Euxine; that Hercules, on his return from his adventure against Geryon, passed through the region of Hylaea, and there met the Echidna, who bore him three sons, Agathyrsus, Gelonus, and Scythes; of whom the last alone was able to bend a bow and to wear a belt, which Hercules had left behind, in the same manner as Hercules himself had used them; and, accordingly, in obedience to their father's command, the Echidna drove the two elder out of the land, and gave it to Scythes (Hdt. 4.7
: comp. Tzetz. Chil. 8.222, 759). Herodotus himself, also, regards the Agathyrsi as not a Scythian people, but as closely related to the Scythians.
He places them about the upper course of the river Marts (Marosch
), that is, in the SE. part of Dacia, or the modern Transylvania
(4.4: the Marts, however, does not fall directly, as he states, into the Ister, Danube,
but into that great tributary of the Danube, the Theiss
). They were the first of the peoples bordering on Scythia, to one going inland from the Ister; and next to them the Neuri (4.100). Being thus separated by the E. Carpathian
mountains from Scythia, they were able to refuse the Scythians, flying before Dareius, an entrance into their country (Hdt. 4.125
). How far N. they extended cannot be determined from Herodotus, for he assigns an erroneous course to the Ister, N. of which he considers the land to be quite desert. [SCYTHIA
] The later writers, for the most part, place the Agathyrsi further to the N., as is the case with nearly all the Scythian tribes; some place them on the Palus Maeotis and some inland; and they are generally spoken of in close connection with the Sarmatians and the Geloni, and are regarded as a Scythian tribe (Ephor. ap. Scymn. Fr.
5.123, or 823, ed. Meineke; Mela 2.1; Plin. Nat. 4.26
; Ptol. 3.5
; Dion. Perieg. 310; Avien. Descr. Orb.
447; Steph. B. sub voce
Suid. s. v. &c.).
In their country was found gold and also precious stones, among which was the diamond, ἀδάμας παμφαίνων
; Amm. Marc. 22.8
; Dion. Perieg. 317).
According to Herodotus, they were a luxurious race (ἁβροτάτοι,
Ritter explains this as referring to fine clothing), and wore much gold: they had a community of wives, in order that all the people might regard each other as brethren; and in their other customs they resembled the Thracians (4.104). They lived under kingly government; and Herodotus mentions their king Spargapeithes as the murderer of the Scythian king, Ariapeithes (4.78). Frequent allusions are made by later writers to their custom of painting (or rather tattooing) their bodies, in a way to indicate their rank, and staining their hair a dark blue (Verg. A. 4.146
; Serv. ad loc.; Plin. Nat. 4.26
; Solin. 20
; Avien. l.c.;
Mela 2.1: Agathyrsi orsa artusque pingunt: ut quique majoribus praestant, ita magis, vel minus: ceterum iisdem omnes notis, et sic ut ablui nequeant).
Aristotle mentions their practice of solemnly reciting their laws lest they should forget them, as observed in his time (Prob.
19.28). Finally, they are mentioned by Virgil (l.c.
) among the worshippers of the Delian Apollo, where their name is, doubtless, used as a specific poetical synonym for the Hyperboreans in general: “mixtique altaria circum Cretesque Dryopesque fremunt pictique Agathyrsi.”
Niebuhr (Kleine Schriften,
vol. i. p. 377) regards the Agathyrsi of Herodotus, or at least the people who occupied the position assigned to them by Herodotus, as the same people as the Getae or Dacians (Ukert, vol.iii.pt. 2, pp. 418--421; Georgii,vol. ii.pp. 302, 303; Ritter, Vorhalle,
pp. 287, foll.)