Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>450BC Scythian nomarchos

Subjectnomarchos 'prince' as light cavalry archer
Culture: Scythian
Setting: Central Asia 5-4thc BC

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Gorelik 1995 p7
"The fame and notoriety of the Scythians, who drank the blood of their enemies, used their scalps for towels and the skin of their hands for quivers, spread like wildfire.  They were especially renowned and feared as matchless mounted archers, overwhelming the enemy's fighting spirit with a rain of short arrows with bronze heads, loosed from small composite resilient bows."

* Warry 1991 p67
"The Scythians had their own independent kingdom north of the Black Sea and proved dangerous opponents for both the Persians and the Macedonians.  They also provided some of the best mercenary light cavalry in the ancient world, fighting at times for both Darius and Alexander."

* Giles 2013 p18
"Greatly prized for their skill with the bow, many Scythian took [SIC] employment in mercenary units, serving as marine archers, trading horse for trireme.  Athens even paid a contingent as a police force."


* Gorelik 1995 p7
"Many helmets were purchased from the Greeks; these were often remodelled after Scythian fashion."

* Cernenko/McBride/Gorelik 1983 p7
"It was ... in the 5th century that, among Scythian noblemen, the Greek helmet began to be worn; more than 60 bronze helmets made in Greece have been found in the richer Scythian barrows.  These light, strong, beautiful pieces are generally of CorinthianChalcidian or Attic type."


* Hildinger 1997 p35
"The Scythians not only appear in Greek literature but also on Greek pottery and goods made by Greek artisans for sale on the Black Sea steppe.  They are shown in these illustrations wearing the Parthian cap, a felt hat that came to something of a point which usually fell forward.  It covered the back of the neck and ears, the sides often extending down on either side to the shoulders to provide protection against cold and wind.  This cap is commonly shown not only on Scythians, but on vase paintings of Amazons in mythical scenes because it was considered exotic.  The Scythians wore flowing tunics, loose trousers and sometimes capes."

* Macht des Geistes 1988 p12 caption
"Der skytische Reiter ... trägt eine locker sitzende Jacke, eine hose sowie eine spitz zulaufende Kopfbedeckung aus Stoff.  In der Hand hält er einen zusammengesetzten Bogen aus Holz, Horn und Sehnen.  An esinem Gürtel ist ein Köcher befestigt, der die mit einer Bronzespitze versehenen Pfeile und einen Ersatzbogen enthält. Gelegentlich wr der skythische Krieger auch mit eniem Wurfspieß und einem Schild aus Flechtwerk oder Leder ausgerüstet, der mit Metallplatten besetzt war."

* Fashion 2012 p15
"Scythians wore pants and close-cut jackets for riding, and felt headwear with distinctive shapes."

* Yarwood 1978 p53
"Men's dress had something in common with the Teutonic styles of the time.  Tunics were worn, often one or more on top of each other, open in front and belted at the waist; some tunics had short sleeves, some long.  Underneath the tunic was a shirt.  The trousers were loose, worn either wide and open at the bottom or tucked into the short boots and tied at the ankle.  The men had long hair, beards and moustaches and wore round caps, often with a point in front like the Phrygians of Asia Minor.  Their clothes were of wool, tanned leather or fur, simply cut and sewn, but rich in colour and decoration of embroidery and braid."

​* Yarwood 1975 p31
"From their vases and plaques we have a clear picture of their dress, which generally illustrate only men though it is thought that both sexes wore similar garments. Actual clothes found in the royal tombs in the Dnieper burials bear out the relief sculpture pictures.
    "The men's clothes have something in common with the Teutonic dress of the time. They are depicted in tunics (often one or more worn on top of each other), belted at the waist and open in front. Some tunics had short sleeves, some long. Underneath, there was a shirt. They wore trousers with short boots on top, tied at the ankle. Other illustrations show long, loose trousers to the foot, reminiscent of the 'Oxford bags' of the 1920s. They had long hair, beards and moustaches and caps of round design, often with a point in front like the Phrygians of Asia Minor. Their clothes were of wool, tanned leather or fur, simply cut and sewn but rich in colour and to a great degree decorated with embroidery and braid."


* Williams/Ogden 1994 p33
"In the North Pontic region, amongst the Scythians and their Hellenised neighbours, the display of wealth through gold jewellery and other objects was particularly important.  A number of early burials reveal males with necklaces, torques, earrings, bracelets and rings."

* Milner-Gulland/Dejevsky 1989 p30
"Scythian gold was the stuff of Greek legend.  The story of Jason and the Argonauts told how Greek adventurers sailed the ship Argo from Iolchos in Thessaly to the land of Colchis at the far eastern end of the Black Sea in order to obtain a fabulous golden fleece. [...]
​    "Scythian art evolved in a distinctive style suited to the circumstances of these warlike nomads.  Favored motifs were animals -- both real and fantastic -- that symbolized strength, speed and ferocity.  Perhaps the most popular were griffins, fabulous creatures of Asiatic folklore, whose mythical role was as guardians of gold mines and treasure.  The animals' outlines were often grotesquely contorted and parts of one animal merged with another to create weird imaginary beasts, as in the case of the griffin which combined the head and wings of an eagle with the body of a lion.  This so-called Scythian Animal Style showed both Near Eastern and, later, Greek influences." 


* Reeder 1999 p30
"[A] key part of Scythian life was the bow and arrow, indispensable both for hunting and for warfare.  It was the most effective weapon that could be used while on horseback.  The gorytos that held the bow and arrows was worn slung around the rider's back."

* Simpson 2017 p18
"The Scythians developed a powerful new type of bow made from layers of wood and sinew, which became known as 'the Scythian bow'.  These were much more powerful than other types because the addition of different layers increased the tensile forces -- and thus energy -- when the string was released.  They can also be stored braced for relatively long periods in a distinctively shaped combined case for bow and arrows, known as a gorytos."

* Hildinger 1997 p35
"The Scythians were known as great archers, and vase paintings and contemporary bronze sculptures show them shooting their bows, often directly backwards over the horse's tail in the famous 'Parthian shot.'  They are seldom if ever depicted using any other weapons although in practice of course they did not rely on the bow alone."

* Cernenko/McBride/Gorelik 1983 p12
"The Scythian bow was capable of accuracy at considerable range.  An old Greek grave found at Olbia, in the ancient trading city on the Dniepr-Bug estuary, bears an inscription to the effect that Anaxagoras son of Dimagoras short an arrow from his bow to a range of 282 orgyiai (521.6 metres).  Since Olbians, like the inhabitants of other ancient cities on the Black Sea coast, favoured the Scythian bow, it is fair to assume that the archer achieved his feat with a weapon obtained from the steppe horsemen; a feat which is breathtaking even today.  
​    "Apparently, Scythians could match the rate of shooting recorded for skilled archers of the Middle Ages --between ten and twelve arrows a minute.  The Scythian carried anything between 30 and 150 arrows into battle, and could expend them in three to 15 minutes' shooting.  Given the hundreds of mounted archers who took part in most engagements, one can only imagine the hail of deadly arrows which fell among their enemies.  The penetrative force of the arrows was also considerable.  Many pictures on ancient cups and vessels show warriors with corselets pierced by arrows, or hoplite shields similarly penetrated.  Many authors of antiquity wrote that Scythian arrowheads were poisoned."

* Karasulas/McBride 2004 p27-28
"The Scythian bow, with its smaller construction, made turning about on the horse to shoot to the left or behind considerably easier.  This bow dominated steppe archery until the time of the Huns."

* Vuksic/Grbasic 1993 p44
"Their deadliest weapon was the composite bow, about 80cm/30in long, with a horsehair or animal tendon.  This bow was characterized by double action; when an arrow was shot from it, it was driven by both the force of the released tendon and that of the straightening sides of the stave.  Taut compression was more important than length of stave, and we know that an arrow shot from such a bow could travel 400 paces.  An archer could shoot up to ten arrows a minute, so the force of the fusillade descending on the opponent boggles the mind.  The Scythians were skilled riders, and equally good at shooting arrows forwards or backwards."

* Karasulas/McBride 2004 p27
"The Scythian quiver ... was unusual and was actually a bow quiver and arrow quiver all in one.  The Greeks called this item a gorytos.  The bow could be placed in the bow quiver already strung, with about half the bow extending out of the quiver. The gorytos hung from a belt hook at the waist, and when mounted the bow would have been easily reached.  The arrows were kept in a special pocket on the front of the gorytos.  This all-in-one arrangement was peculiar to the Scythians and related peoples, including the early Parthians." 

* Bennett 1998 p130
"gorytos  combined bow-case and quiver used by Scythian archers from about the 7th century BC.  It was supported by a waistbelt and worn over the left hip.  It held both the short, heavily recurved Scythian composite bow and up to 75 arrows.
    "The gorytos was widely copied by neighbouring peoples, and a larger version was carried by the Medes and Persians.  In the early centuries AD it was replaced by separate bowcases and quivers."


* Cernenko/McBride/Gorelik 1983 p19
"Nearly a hundred iron battleaxes of various types have been found in the burial mounds excavated in former Scythian territories.  One magnificent specimen was recovered from the famous Kelermes barrow, covered entirely with gold plate except for the narrow 'tomahawk' blade.  The ornamentation combines a number of styles.  The blade has engraved forms of mountain goats and deer; more goats adorn the head, and the gold-covered shaft presents a stunning pattern of mingled figures of real and mythical beasts, birds and insects."

* Reeder 1999 p126 (describing a 5thc. bronze hatchet)
"The sides of the blade curve into one or two arcs.  The end opposite the blade takes the shape of an eagle-griffin, with ears pricked and beak open.  The arched neck is accentuated by a scalloped crest along the nape and by bands of cast and engraved ornament down the neck.  The eyes are electrum.
​    "...  When the hatchet was in use, the animals would have seemed to be in motion.  Similar axe heads with engraved animal images were found in the necropolis of Koban."

* Bennett 1998 279
"sagaris  picklike battle-axe used by Achaemenid Persian troops in the 6th to 4th centuries BC, and by the Saka tribes of Central Asia and the early Sarmatians. Apparently optimized for piercing helmets, it had an iron or bronze head comprised of a long, flattened spike in front and a hammer head or smaller spike in back." 

* Simpson 2017 p19
"Although they also used daggers, swords, and spears, the weapon of choice was a battle-axe with a long pointed blade resembling a narrow pick-axe.  These first appear in the eastern Scythian territories in the 7th century BC, and continued to be used for centuries: tell-tale puncture marks left on the heads of excavated human bodies prove that this fighting was personal and face to face."


* Karasulas/McBride 2004 p27
"Among the Scythians/Sakas a short sword of Persian akinakes type was common.  Evident already by the 7th century BC, the weapon had a blade anywhere from 14 to 28in (35 to 70cm) in length.  The extant artwork suggests that the short akinakes sword was in common use among Scythian mounted archers.  Being a short sword, this weapon was clearly meant for use as an in-close fighting weapon, rather than as a weapon for mounted swordsmanship.  Essentially, the weapon's dimensions suggest a sword intended for personal defence, perhaps also used for such battlefield tactics as dispatching a fallen foe, and as a general-purpose blade.  As the Scythian's first-line weapon was always the bow, a short sword was sufficient for these purposes.  Although by the 6th century BC longer swords were becoming more common, the short was not to be fully superseded for centuries."

* Bennett 1998 p7
"akinakes  straight, two-edged sword with a 20-25 cm/8-10 in blade, used from the 7th century BC by Scythians, Persians, and others. It was worn in a scabbard suspended from a waistbelt and held in place by a thong tied around the right thigh.
      "Both hilt and scabbard, particularly the large trefoil scabbard-chape typical of Persian examples, could be decorated with figured plates of bone, ivory, or gold."

* Williams/Ogden 1994 p176
"[E]laborately decorated scabbards (akinakai) seem to have formed part of a ceremonial set of Scythian weapons: Scythians even swore oaths by their swords."


* Karasulas/McBride 2004 p28
1/2"The Scythians were known to have used javelins, with 6 and 10ft lengths (2 to 3m) lengths typically available, depending on the spearhead, used either as thrusting or as throwing weapons.  They are reputed to have been very accurate with the use of these weapons in hunting, and in war too."

* Giles 2013 p19 (reconstructing a Scythian guerrilla)
"The Scythian is ... equipped with a javelin, a weapon favoured by skirmishers.  It could be used as a missile weapon or as a substitute spear if required."


* Reeder 1999 p117
"Whips were important tools in a culture so dependent on the horse.  They are often found in burials, including those of wealthy Scythian women, and are also depicted on stone steles."