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The Cimmerians of fable (cf. Hom. Od. xi. 15 seq. οὐδέ ποτ᾽ αὐτοὺς Ἠέλιος φαέθων καταδέρκεται ἀκτίνεσσιν) lived in perpetual darkness; cf. our ‘Cimmerian’, a use as old as Milton's L'Allegro, ‘In dark Cimmerian desert ever dwell.’

For the Cimmerian invasion in H. cf. also cc. 103, 105-6, and (especially) iv. 11-12. It is an event of the greatest importance; the main points as to it may be summarized under four heads.

1. Its course. The Cimmerians seem to have lived originally in South Russia (cf. iv. 12. 1 and ‘Crimea’): they were expelled thence by the Scythians, who were fleeing ‘across the Araxes’ (probably the Volga) from the Massagetae (iv. 11. 1). This ‘common tradition of Greeks and barbarians’ (iv. 12. 3) may well be true; it is in accordance with all analogy. As to the route, however, which the Cimmerians took, opinion is much divided. H. is clearly wrong in his details: (1) he brings the horde along the east coast of the Black Sea, which is impossible, owing to its precipitous nature; (2) he combines the original expulsion of the Cimmerians from Europe (end of eighth century) with the Scythian raids of the last quarter of the seventh century (c. 103 nn.).

As to the accuracy of his general view, there is much uncertainty. It used to be maintained (e. g. Meyer, i1. 452, 463; but he has now altered his opinion so far as to bring the Cimmerians from the East, i. 473) that the Cimmerian and the Scythian raids were quite independent movements, different in direction and different in date, which H. or his informants wrongly combined. Some of the most modern orientalists, however (Maspero, iii. 342 n.; Prá[sbreve]ek, Gesch. der Med. et Pers., 1906, pp. 113-14), accept H.'s chief point, that both Cimmerians and Scythians entered Asia Minor from the northeast. The Cimmerians settle round L. Van, the Scyths round L. Urumiah; then, under Esarhaddon, the Scyths drive the Cimmerians west into Asia Minor (Prášek, p. 120). This view may well be right in the main; it explains the importance of Sinope as a seat of the Cimmerians (cf. iv. 12. 2). But it is extremely probable that another body of Cimmerians was at the same time entering Asia Minor from the north-west (cf. iv. 11. 4 n.); they held Antandrus for a century (Arist. in Steph. Byz. s. v.), and they were accompanied (Strabo, 61, 647) by the Treres, a Thracian tribe (Thuc. ii. 96. 4). This invasion from the north-west may be compared to that of the Gauls in 278 B. C. (See Note I, p. 454.)

2. Its date. In the time of Sargon (722-705) we hear of the Gimirrai and I[sbreve]kuza (‘Cimmerians and Scyths’, Prášek, p. 115) north of the kingdom of Ararat; both Esarhaddon (681-668) and Assurbanipal (668-626) speak of victories over the Cimmerians. It is in connexion with them that the Assyrian monuments mention Gyges, who was on the throne of Lydia when they appeared, and who, warned by the god Assur in a dream, sought Assyrian aid against them (R. P. i1, p. 68). Revolting from Assyria later (cf. ii. 152. 3 n.), he was killed by them. Sardis was taken about 657; Strabo (627), quoting Callisthenes, makes it taken twice, which is doubtful. H. wrongly makes the Cimmerian invasions begin under Ardys; the reason is that his earlier Lydian kings are antedated. The date for the Cimmerians in Eusebius—1078 B. C.—is explained by the confusion of them with the Amazons (cf. Diod. ii. 44; perhaps we have a trace of this confusion in H. iv. 110).

3. Its relation to the Greeks. Magnesia was captured (Archil, fr. 20), but Ephesus, encouraged by Callinus (fr. 3), successfully resisted the hordes (Strabo, 647-8) νῦν δ᾽ ἐπὶ Κιμμερίων στρατὸς ἔρχεται ὀβριμοεργῶν. H. rightly says it was ‘a plundering raid’, not a conquest (i. 6. 3). In fact, it may be said to have benefited the Greeks by breaking for a time the Lydian power; so the Mongols of Timour, by their victory over the Turks at Angora (A. D. 1402), postponed for half a century the fall of Constantinople.

4. General effects. Asia as a whole suffered more than the Greeks. The Bithynians, formerly a European tribe (vii. 75. 2), now settled in Bithynia; the Phrygian kingdom received a blow from which it never recovered; the old kingdom of Urartu disappears, and the Armenians (and perhaps also the Cappadocians, Prá[sbreve]ek) come on the stage of history. It was an early ‘wandering of the nations’.

Perhaps even more important was the blow to the great Assyrian Empire. Although its diplomacy made use of the Scyths (c. 103 n.), yet the raids of these northern barbarians in the seventh century were one of the causes of its overthrow.

Of the effect produced by these early ‘Vandals and Huns’ we have a clear trace in the contemporary Isaiah (v. 26 seq.) and in Ezekiel's picture (c. 39), drawn early in the sixth century, of the army of destruction from the north; by a curious confusion, Gyges, the victim of the Cimmerians, has become ‘Gog’, the ‘prince of Meshech and Tubal’, i. e. of the Moschi and Tibareni, part of the invading hordes. The best short account of the Cimmerian invasion is Busolt, ii. 461-4, who does not accept H.'s combination.

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hide References (4 total)
  • Commentary references from this page (4):
    • Herodotus, Histories, 4.110
    • Homer, Odyssey, 11.15
    • Thucydides, Histories, 2.96.4
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 2.44
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