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Cimmerians

From Academic Kids

The Cimmerians were an ancient people of unknown affinity, possibly of Anatolian, Thracian or Iranian origin, who lived in the south of modern-day Ukraine (Crimea and northern Black sea coast) and Russia (Black Sea coast and Caucasus), at least in the 8th and 7th century BC. In the early twentieth century the home of the Cimmerians in the Caucasus led to their association with the ancient Aryans. This may be partially true. It seems that their leaders may have been of Iranian linguistic origin like those of Scythians.

Contents

Historical accounts

Cimmerians (Gimirri) first appear in Assyrian annals in the year 714 BC, when they helped the forces of Sargon II to defeat Urartu. Their original homeland, called Gamir or Uishdish, seems to have been located within the buffer state of Mannae. This is the exact area where the later geographer Ptolemy placed the city of Gomara.

Some authors assert that they included mercenaries resettled there by Sargon, following the deportation of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, whom the Assyrians knew as Khumri. However, later Greek accounts represent the Cimmerians as having previously lived on the steppes, between the Tyras (Dniester) and Tanais (Don) rivers, before they ventured south of the Caucasus to escape the pursuing Scythians.

At any rate, the Cimmerians had again rebelled from Sargon by 705, the year he fell to them in battle. Their range by then seems to have extended from Mannae eastward through the Mede settlements of the Zagros, and south of there as far as Elam.

In the West, the Cimmerians began to ravage Phrygia in 696 BC, and in 679, during the reign of Esarhaddon of Assyria, they reappeared in Cilicia and Tabal under their new ruler Teushpa. Esarhaddon defeated them near Hubushna.

The Cimmerians are mentioned in the writings of the Greek writer Homer, who says that they live in a land of fog and darkness at the borders of the known world. The historian Herodotus gives more details about their history, describing the savagery of their plunder raids and their attack (c. 652) on Lydia, when they occupied for a brief time the Lydian capital of Sardis and slew Gyges.

Several other kings of the Cimmerians are mentioned in Greek and Mesopotamian sources, including Tugdamme (Lygdamis in Greek; mid 600's BCE), and Sandakhshatra (late 600's).

In the Bible

In Abrahamic religion, Gomer (גמר), Standard Hebrew Gómer, Tiberian Hebrew Gōmer is traditionally identified with the Cimmerians.

Destruction

The Cimmerians as a distinctive people were almost completely wiped out in the 7th century BC by the Scythians, who had followed them south of the Caucasus from the steppes north of the Black Sea. Nomadic Scythian cavalry tactics completely crushed the Cimmerian soldiers, though it is thought that the Scythians had ultimately adopted their horse-riding skills from the Cimmerians. Many scholars think it likely that Scythians and Cimmerians may have been closely related peoples. However, there is little evidence in support of this view, since so little is known about the Cimmerian language.

The Tauri

After their defeat at the hands of the Scythians, a remnant of the Cimmerians took refuge in the mountains of the Crimean peninsula, giving it their name, and became subsequently known as the Tauri, later kingdom of Cimmerian Bosporus (see Tauris). Greek texts refer to the Tauri as practicing human sacrifice.

Celtic and Germanic Folklore

Although the Cimmerians proper only appear on the stage of world history for a brief time -- c. 700-600 BC -- numerous Celtic and Germanic peoples have traditions of being descended from the Cimmerians, and some of their ethnic names superficially seem to bear out this belief (e.g. Cymru, Cwmry or Cumbria, Cimbri). This belief is, however, debated. Some researchers have argued that both Celts and the Germans came from an area south-east of the Black Sea, and migrated westward to the coast of Europe.

The etymology of Cymru (i.e. Wales) and Cwmry (i.e. Cumbria), said in Welsh tradition to derive directly from the "Cimmerians", is instead considered by detractors of this theory as being Celtic kom-broges meaning "fellow countrymen". As for the Cimbri, it is not known for certain whether they were Celtic, Germanic, or even, as a third alternative, from an earlier Western Indo-European layer connected with the Ligurians. In addition, the Merovingian kings of the Franks traditionally traced their lineage, through a pre-Frankish tribe called the Sicambri, to a group of "Cimmerians" who lived near the mouth of the Danube river.

If the Scythians are taken as an offshoot of the Cimmerians, as has often been claimed, many other peoples claiming possible Scythian descent could also be added to this list.

In Fiction

The reputation of the Cimmerians for savagery, combined with their mysteriousness, led the fantasy author Robert E. Howard to identify his character Conan the Barbarian as a Cimmerian. However, the Cimmeria of his Hyborian Age mythos does not correspond to the historical range of the Cimmerians.

In the poem "Cimmeria", Howard described the place as "land of darkness and the night", a gloomy place with dark woods, dusky silent streams and a leaden cloudy sky.

See also

External links

fr:Cimmériens it:Cimmeri pl:Kimmerowie fi:Kimmerialaiset

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