), a people who belong partly to legend and partly to history.
The story of the Odyssey (11.14
)) describes them as dwelling beyond the ocean-stream, plunged in darkness and unblest by the rays of Helios.
According to Herodotus, they were originally in occupation of the territory between the Borysthenes and the Tanais, and being expelled from their country by the Scythians, skirted the shores of the Euxine, and having passed through Colchis and over the river Halys, invaded Asia to the W. of that river.
In this inroad they [p. 1.624]
took Sardis, all but the citadel, during the reign of Ardys. His grandson Alyattes was powerful enough finally to deliver Asia from their presence. (Hdt. 1.6
It is said that they, along with the Treres and other Thracian tribes, who are so described as to make it doubtful whether they were distinct nations, or branches of the same race, had desolated Asia Minor before the time of Ardys, and even earlier than that of Homer. (Strab. i. pp. 6, 59, 61.)
The fragments preserved of the most ancient elegiac poetry vividly express the feelings with which the Ionians, and Ephesus in particular, saw these barbarous tribes who had taken Sardis, encamped with their waggons on the banks of the Cayster, when the Ephesian poet Callinus earnestly implored Zeus to save his native land from this ferocious horde. (Callin. Fragm.
2, 3, ed. Bergk; Strab. xiii. p.627
, xiv. pp. 633--647; comp. Mure, Hist. of the Language and Literature of Greece,
vol. iii. p. 132; Müller, Hist. of the Literature of Greece,
c. 10.4; Grote, Greece,
vol. iii. pp. 313, 331, foll. Niebuhr (Klein Schrift.
vol. i. p. 361) conjectured that the Cimmerians passed through Thrace, as they make their first appearance in Ionia and Lydia.
The road by the Euxine, which the narrative in Herodotus presupposes, is almost entirely impassable for a Nomadic people, as the Caucasus extends to the very shores of the Euxine.
The pursuit of the Cimmerians by the Scythians is an imaginary addition. All that can be stated with any certainty of this race is that they seem to have been the chief occupants of the Tauric Chersonesus (Crimea
). On this peninsula there was formerly a Cimmerian city, adjoining to which were fortifications, enclosing the isthmus by an earthen wall. (Strab. l.c.
As vestiges of the Cimmerians still remaining in his time, Herodotus (4.12
) mentions the tombs of the Cimmerian kings near the Tyras (Dniester
) and several places in the Scythian country. The Cimmerian walls the Cimmerian ferry (πορθμήια̈
), and the territory itself was called Cimmerian.
The names of the kings of the Bosporus correspond with Thracian names; and this fact, in connection with the circumstance that there was a Thracian tribe termed Treres, connected with the Cimmerians, has been adduced to prove that the Cimmerians were Thracians, who are supposed to have been related to the Pelasgi and Greeks. (Adelung, Mithrid.
vol. ii. p. 353.) If the Tauri could be identified with the Cimmerians, this argument would have great weight, but they may have been later inhabitants. On the other hand, if the Caucasus was within the district of the Cimmerians, it may be inferred that the aborigines of that mountain chain, whose descendants yet retain their language and barbarous habits, are the representatives of the ancient Cimmerians, who may then be set down as a people distinct from the Thracians, and from the German or other Indo-European inhabitants of the north.
Posidonius appears first to have conjectured that the Cimbri were the same people as the Cimmerii. His opinion, which was thought to be probable by Strabo (vii. p.293
), was adopted by the Romans (Plut. Mar. 11
); and this fanciful identity has been laid down in several modern works.
There can be little doubt but that this notion rested on no other foundation than the resemblance, perhaps accidental, of two general names, and the geographical error of the ancients, who believed the coast of the Cimbri to be continuous with that which the Cimmerians were supposed to inhabit. (Prichard, Physical Hist. of Mankind,
vol. iii. p. 100.)
Like their successors, the Scythians, the Cimmerii were a nomade race, “milkers of mares” (Callim. Hymn. ad Dian.
252), who moved about with their tents and herds over the grassy steppes of their territory. (Comp. Ukert, Skythien,
p. 360; Niebuhr, Lect. on Anc. Hist.
vol. i. p. 154; Bayer, de Cimmeriis, Acad. Petropol.
vol. ii. p. 419.)