CIMMERIANS, SCYTHIANS, AND SLAVS
The Cimmerians (also Kimmerians, Greek Κιμμέριοι Kimmerioi) are an ancient people, first mentioned in the late 8th century BC in Assyrian records.
Likely originating in the Pontic steppe and invading by means of the Caucasus, they probably assaulted Urartu, a state in north eastern Anatolia subject to the Neo-Assyrian Empire, in c. 714 BC. They were defeated by Assyrian forces under Sargon II in 705 and turned towards Anatolia, conquering Phrygia in 696/5.
They reached the height of their power in 652 after taking Sardis, the capital of Lydia; however an invasion of Assyrian controlled Anshan (Persia) was thwarted by the Assyrians. Soon after 619, Alyattes of Lydia defeated them. There are no further mentions of them in historical sources, but it is likely that they settled in Cappadocia.
They may have been related to either Iranian or Thracian speaking groups which migrated under pressure of the Scythian expansion of the 9th to 8th century BC.
According to Herodotus, the Cimmerians inhabited the region north of the Caucasus and the Black Sea during the 8th and 7th centuries BC (i.e. what is now Ukraine and Southern Russia), although it isn’t possible to identify the Cimmerians as the bearers of any specific archaeological culture in the region.
The Scythians were among the earliest peoples to master mounted warfare.
In the 8th century BC they possibly raided Zhou China. Soon after they expanded westwards and dislodged the Cimmerians from power on the Pontic Steppe. At their peak, Scythians came to dominate the entire steppe zone, stretching from the Carpathian Mountains in the west to central China (Ordos culture) and the south Siberia (Tagar culture) in the east, creating what has been referred to as the first Central Asian nomadic empire.
They kept herds of horses, cattle, and sheep, lived in tent-covered wagons, and fought with bows and arrows on horseback. They developed a rich culture characterized by opulent tombs, fine metalwork, and a brilliant art style.
Based in what is modern-day Ukraine, Southern European Russia, and Crimea, the western Scythians were ruled by a wealthy class known as the Royal Scyths.
The Scythians established and controlled a vast trade network connecting Greece, Persia, India and China, perhaps contributing to the contemporary flourishing of those civilizations. Settled metalworkers made portable decorative objects for the Scythians. These objects survive mainly in metal, forming a distinctive Scythian art.
In the 7th century BC the Scythians crossed the Caucasus and frequently raided the Middle East along with the Cimmerians, playing an important role in the political developments of the region. Around 650–630 BC, Scythians briefly dominated the Medes of the western Iranian Plateau, stretching their power all the way to the borders of Egypt.
After losing control over Media the Scythians continued intervening in Middle Eastern affairs, playing a leading role in the destruction of the Assyrian Empire in the Sack of Nineveh in 612 BC. The Scythians subsequently engaged in frequent conflicts with the Achaemenid Empire. The western Scythians suffered a major defeat against Macedonia in the 4th century BC, and were subsequently gradually conquered by the Sarmatians, a related Iranian people from Central Asia.
The Eastern Scythians of the Asian Steppe (Saka) were attacked by the Yuezhi, Wusun and Xiongnu in the 2nd century BC, prompting many of them to migrate into South Asia, where they became known as Indo-Scythians.
At some point, perhaps as late as the 3rd century AD after the demise of the Han dynasty and the Xiongnu, Eastern Scythians crossed the Pamir Mountains and settled in the western Tarim Basin, where the Scythian Khotanese and Tumshuqese languages are attested in Brahmi scripture from the 10th and 11th centuries AD.
In Eastern Europe, by the early Medieval Ages, the Scythians and their closely related Sarmatians were eventually assimilated and absorbed (e.g. Slavicisation) by the Proto-Slavic population of the region.