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Copyright © 2003 by Sergei V. Rjabchikov. All Rights Reserved.


by Sergei V. Rjabchikov

Let us consider a Greek hydria with some motifs, in particular, with representations of Heracles, Kerberos and Eurystheus; this vessel has been dated to ca. 530 B.C. and is housed in the Luvre museum, Paris, France (Kolpinsky 1988: photo 143). Here I distinguish a Scythian symbol, see figure 1.

Figure 1.
It looks like four Scythian/Sarmatian signs 80 ma (cf. Scythian/Sarmatian ma 'the sun; solar; solstice; fire; funeral pyre', Ma 'the name of the sun goddess') that form a cross. A similar construction has been examined by the author earlier (Rjabchikov 2002a; 2002b). The Scythian/Sarmatian sign "cross" reads ay, cf. Scythian/Sarmatian ay 'egg; the World Tree; the sun; life, vitality; vigour; long life'. All the four signs 80 ma are decorated with the sign "petal" (a solar symbol). Besides, eight "petals" form the second cross. So this is the symbolism of the sun and the World Tree.

Why was the Scythian symbol painted on the Greek vessel? It is known that Scythian warriors are depicted on some Greek vessels; a master by the name Scythian painted several Greek vessels between ca. 520 and 505 B.C., hence one can say about certain influence of the Scythian culture on the Greek culture (Frolov 1998: 136-7, 141). I conclude that Scythian/Sarmatian signs can be depicted on some Greek vessels.

I propose that the eleventh labour of Heracles reflects Scythian myths. The History (Book IV: 9) of Herodotus tells of a Scythian goddess with features of a serpent instead of the legs. Each of two ends of a Bosporan bracelet from the ancient town Tanais (the Rostov region, Russia) is decorated with a serpent's head (Arsenieva 1977: 109, table XXXIII [8], 141). The Scythian/Sarmatian sign "cross" ay is incised on both serpents' heads, cf. Scythian/Sarmatian ay 'egg; the World Tree; the sun; life, vitality; vigour; long life' (1). According to a Russian fairy-tale (Afanasiev 1996: 31), a fiery twelve-headed serpent guarded the entrance to the land of the King-Girl. This King-Girl is the sun goddess who looks like an Amazon, otherwise a Scythian or Sarmatian (Sindian, Meotian) female warrior. On the other hand, the Russian fairy-tale "Bulat-molodets" ("The Sword-Fellow") compiled at the Kuban land contains some elements of the Greek myth about Kerberos who guarded the entrance to the Hades (Rjabchikov 1998: 12). This mythological beast had three heads of dogs, the heads of serpents on his back, and the tail of a dragon. In my opinion, the myth concerning Kerberos united two Scythian myths about the fiery serpents (cf. the Indo-Aryan and Old Iranian myths about serpents) and dogs of solar deities. I read the name Kerber- as Scythian/Sarmatian *Ker- Ber-/Per- 'The Ray of the (god) Ber-/Per-', cf. Old Indian kara 'ray of the sun', kalya 'dawn; morning', Greek khlon 'ray of the sun; lightning', Russian Perun (< *Per-un) 'the name of the god of the thunderstorm'.

Now one can examine another plot depicted on the hydria (Kolpinsky 1988: photo 144). Two flying kites are depicted above a hare. According to Herodotus (The History: Book IV, 134), once during the Persian-Scythian war of 513-512 B.C. before a battle the Scythians were seeing a hare, and they were pursuing it. As a result, the Persian king Darius I decided to end the war and to leave Scythia. It is possible that two kites denote the Scythians as a whole. Russian korshun 'kite' derives from Scythian/Sarmatian *kor-/kar s-un 'the sun - the shine', cf. Scythian/Sarmatian kor-, kar-, kol-, kal- 'the sun', so 'the sun; shine; heat; light; eye; bright'. The Scythians are called Skoloti, i.e. S koloti '(The people) near the sun' (2). Alternatively, Scythian/Sarmatian skil-/skol- means 'falcon', cf. Russian sokol 'falcon' as well (Rjabchikov 2001). The latter word may contain the root kol- (kolo 'the sun') (Demin 1997: 121). In this case Scythian/Sarmatian skil-/skol- 'falcon', Skolo-t- 'Scythians' comes from Scythian/Sarmatian s- kil-/kol- 'the shine - the sun'. It is safe to say that this plot describes the episode of the Persian-Scythian war. I believe that this vessel was painted by a Scythian master (by the name Scythian?) after this war, otherwise since 512 B.C.


1. See also (Rjabchikov 2002c).

2. See also (Rybakov 1994: 434).


Afanasiev, A.N., 1996. Proiskhozhdenie mifa. Stat'i po fol'kloru, etnografii i mifologii. Moscow.

Arsenieva, T.M., 1977. Nekropol' Tanaisa. Moscow.

Demin, V.N., 1997. Tayny russkogo naroda. V poiskakh istokov Rusi. Moscow.

Frolov, E.D., 1998. Skify v Afinakh. Vestnik drevney istorii, 1: 135-52.

Kolpinsky, Y.D., 1988. Velikoe nasledie antichnoy Ellady i ego znachenie dlya sovremennosti. Moscow.

Rjabchikov, S.V., 1998. Tainstvennaya Tmutarakan'. Krasnodar.

Rjabchikov, S.V., 2001. The Scythian Records on Coins of the Scythian King Skilur. "THE SLAVONIC ANTIQUITY" Home Page:

Rjabchikov, S.V., 2002a. Arkheologiya skifov, sarmatov, drevnikh rusov i slavyansky fol'klor. In: S.D. Kryzhytsky (ed.) Suchasni problemy arkheologii. Kiev, pp. 214-5.

Rjabchikov, S.V., 2002b. Skifo-sarmatskie istoki slavyanskoy kul'tury: Materialy Yuzhnorossiyskoy fol'klorno-etnograficheskoy expeditsii. Krasnodar.

Rjabchikov, S.V., 2002c. Semantika brasletov so zmeinymi golovkami iz Khersonesa. The web site Archaeology.RU - Scythica-Celticum:

Rybakov, B.A., 1994. Yazychestvo drevnikh slavyan. Moscow.

Copyright © 2003 by Sergei V. Rjabchikov. All Rights Reserved.

Published 17 June 2003.

Sergei V. Rjabchikov, Krasnodar, RUSSIA.

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