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See Cimmeria or Cimmeria for the fiction of Robert E. Howard.
The Cimmerians or Kimmerians ( , Kimmerioi) were ancient equestrian nomads of Indo-European origin.

According to Herodotus, they originally inhabited the region north of the Caucasus and the Black Seamarker, in what is now Ukrainemarker and Russiamarker, in the 8th and 7th centuries BC. Although Herodotus's view was widely accepted in the 19th century, Dr. Renate Rolle, and others have shown that no one has succeeded in demonstrating archaeologically, the presence of Cimmerians in the southern parts of Russiamarker or elsewhere. However, discoveries made by Sir Henry Layard in the royal archives at Ninevehmarker and Calahmarker have given rise to entirely new source material several centuries earlier than Herodotus.
 The Assyrian archeological record shows that the Cimmerians, and the land of Gamir, was located not far from Urartu, south of the Caucasus. Military intelligence reports to Sargon record the political and military state of affairs including a description of the location of the Cimmerians.


They are believed to have been Indo-European. Their language is regarded as related to Iranian or Thracian, or they seem at least to have had an Iranian ruling class.

According to Encyclopædia Britannica, which reflects Herodotus, "They probably did live in the area north of the Black Sea, but attempts to define their original homeland more precisely by archaeological means, or even to fix the date of their expulsion from their country by the Scythians, have not so far been completely successful.". However source documents centuries earlier than Herodotus, such as intelligence reports to Sargon, have the Cimmerians south rather than north of the Black Sea. This combined with a lack of archeological evidence lends weight to the more recent assertion, the Cimmerians were south rather than north of the Caucasus, and therefore much closer to Urartu based upon earlier source material. Britannica does not yet reflect this more recent scholarship. Their origins have been established by Assyriological archeology to have been near Urartu south of the Caucasus; presumably they were a people conquered by the Assyrians.

They are associated with the Srubna culture, which displaced the earlier catacomb culture (2000-1200 BC).

A few stone stelae found in Ukrainemarker and the northern Caucasus have been connected with the Cimmerians. They are in a style clearly different from both the later Scythian and the earlier Yamna/Kemi-Oba stelae.

Historical accounts

Cimmerian invasions of Colchis, Urartu and Assyria during the reign of King Rusas I
The first historical record of the Cimmerians appears in Assyrian annals in the year 714 BC. These describe how a people termed the Gimirri helped the forces of Sargon II to defeat the kingdom of Urartu. Their original homeland, called Gamir or Uishdish, seems to have been located within the buffer state of Mannae. The later geographer Ptolemy placed the Cimmerian city of Gomara in this region. After their conquests of Colchis and Iberia in the First Millennium BC, the Cimmerians also came to be known as Gimirri in Georgian. According to Georgian historians, the Cimmerians played an influential role in the development of both the Colchian and Iberian cultures. The modern-day Georgian word for hero which is , gmiri, is derived from the word Gimirri, a direct reference to the Cimmerians which settled in the area after the initial conquests.

Some modern authors assert that the Cimmerians included mercenaries, whom the Assyrians knew as Khumri, who had been resettled there by Sargon. However, later Greek accounts describe the Cimmerians as having previously lived on the steppes, between the Tyras (Dniestermarker) and Tanais (Don) rivers. Several kings of the Cimmerians are mentioned in Greek and Mesopotamian sources, including Tugdamme (Lygdamis in Greek; mid-7th century BC), and Sandakhshatra (late-7th century).

A "mythical" people also named Cimmerians are described in Book 11, 14 of Homer's Odyssey as living beyond the Oceanus, in a land of fog and darkness, at the edge of the world and the entrance of Hades; most likely they are unrelated to the Cimmerians of the Black Sea.

According to the Histories of Herodotus (c. 440 BC), the Cimmerians had been expelled from the steppes at some point in the past by the Scythians. To ensure burial in their ancestral homeland, the men of the Cimmerian royal family divided into groups and fought each other to the death. The Cimmerian commoners buried the bodies along the river Tyras and fled from the Scythian advance, across the Caucasus and into Anatoliamarker and the Near East. Their range seems to have extended from Mannae eastward through the Mede settlements of the Zagros Mountainsmarker, and south of there as far as Elammarker.

The migrations of the Cimmerians were recorded by the Assyrians, whose king, Sargon II, died in battle against them in 705 BC. They are subsequently recorded as having conquered Phrygia in 696-695 BC, prompting the Phrygian king Midas to take poison rather than face capture. In 679 BC, during the reign of Esarhaddon of Assyria, they attacked Cilicia and Tabal under their new ruler Teushpa. Esarhaddon defeated them near Hubushna.

In 654 BC or 652 BC – the exact date is unclear – the Cimmerians attacked the kingdom of Lydia, killing the Lydian king Gyges and causing great destruction to the Lydian capital, Sardismarker. They returned ten years later during the reign of Gyges' son Ardys II and this time captured the city, with the exception of the citadel. The fall of Sardis was a major shock to the powers of the region; the Greek poets Callinus and Archilochus recorded the fear that it inspired in the Greek colonies of Ionia, some of which were attacked by Cimmerian and Treres raiders.

The Cimmerian occupation of Lydia was brief, however—possibly due to an outbreak of plague. Between 637 and 626 BC, they were beaten back by Alyattes II of Lydia. This defeat marked the effective end of Cimmerian power. The term "Gimirri" was used about a century later in the Behistun inscriptionmarker (ca. 515 BC) as a Babylonian equivalent of Persian Saka (Scythians), but otherwise Cimmerians are not heard of again in Asia, and their ultimate fate is uncertain. It has been speculated that they settled in Cappadocia, known in Armenian as , Gamir-kʿ (the same name as the original Cimmerian homeland in Mannae).


  • 721-715 BC – Sargon II mentions a land of Gamirr near to Urartu.
  • 714 – suicide of Rusas I of Urartu, after defeat by both the Assyrians and Cimmerians.
  • 705 – Sargon II of Assyria dies on an expedition against the Kulummu.
  • 679/678 – Gimirri under a ruler called Teushpa invade Assyria from Hubuschna (Cappadociamarker?). Esarhaddon of Assyria defeats them in battle.
  • 676-674 – Cimmerians invade and destroy Phrygia, and reach Paphlagonia.
  • 654 or 652 – Gyges of Lydia dies in battle against the Cimmerians. Sack of Sardis; Cimmerians and Treres plunder Ionian colonies.
  • 644 – Cimmerians occupy Sardis, but withdraw soon afterwards
  • 637-626 – Cimmerians defeated by Alyattes II.
  • ca. 515 – Last historical record of Cimmerians, in the Behistun inscription of Darius.


Of the language of the Cimmerians, only a few personal names have survived in Assyrian inscriptions:
  • Te-ush-pa-a; according to Professor J. Harmatta it goes back to Old Iranian Tavis-paya "swelling with strength". Mentioned in the annals of Esarhaddon, has been compared to the Hurrian war deity Teshub; others interpret it as Iranian, comparing the Achaemenid name Teispes (Herodotus 7.11.2).

  • Dug-dam-mei (Dugdammê) king of the Ummân-Manda (nomads) appears in a prayer of Ashurbanipal to Marduk, on a fragment at the British Museummarker. According to Professor J. Harmatta, it goes back to Old Iranian Duγda-maya "giving happiness". Other spellings include Dugdammi, and Tugdammê. Yamauchi also interprets the name as Iranian, citing Ossetic Tux-domæg "Ruling with Strength." The name appears corrupted to Lygdamis in Strabo 1.3.21.

  • Sandaksatru, son of Dugdamme. This is an Iranian reading of the name, and Mayrhofer (1981) points out that the name may also be read as Sandakurru. Mayrhofer likewise rejects the interpretation of "with pure regency" as a mixing of Iranian and Indo-Aryan. Ivancik suggests an association with the Anatolianmarker deity Sanda. According to Professor J. Harmatta, it goes back to Old Iranian Sanda-Kuru "Splendid Son". Kur/Kuru is still used as "son" in Kurdish languages and in Persian, korr is used for the male offspring of horses.

Some researchers have attempted to trace various place names to Cimmerian origins. It has been suggested that Crimeamarker is named after the Cimmerians as well as the Armenian city of Gyumrimarker. This, however, seems to be a dubious premise. The name "Crimea" is traceable to the Crimean Tatar word qırım "my steppe, hill" and the peninsula was known as Taurica "(Peninsula) of the Tauri" in antiquity (Strabo 7.4.1; Herodotus 4.99.3, Amm. Marc. 22.8.32).

Based on ancient Greek historical sources, a Thracian or (less commonly) a Celtic association is sometimes assumed. According to Ferdinand Friedrich Carl Lehmann-Haupt, the language of the Cimmerians could have been a "missing link" between Thracian and Iranian.

Possible offshoots

Herodotus thought the Cimmerians and the Thracians closely related, writing that both peoples originally inhabited the northern shore of the Black Seamarker, and both were displaced about 700 BC, by invaders from further east. Whereas the Cimmerians would have departed this ancestral homeland by heading east and south across the Caucasus, the Thracians migrated west and south into the Balkans, where they established a successful and long-lived culture. The Tauri, the original inhabitants of Crimea, are sometimes identified as a people related to the Thracians.

Premodern historians asserted Cimmerian descent for the Celts or the Germans, arguing from the similarity of Cimmerii to Cimbri or Cymry. It is unlikely that either Proto-Celtic or Proto-Germanic entered Europe as late as the 7th century BC, their formation being commonly associated with the Bronze Age Urnfield and Nordic Bronze Age cultures, respectively. It is, however, conceivable that a small-scale (in terms of population) 8th century "Thraco-Cimmerian" migration triggered cultural changes that contributed to the transformation of the Urnfield culture into the Hallstatt C culture, ushering in the European Iron Age. Later Cimmerian remnant groups may have spread as far as to the Nordic Countries. For example, the Cimbri tribe, considered to be a Germanic tribe hailing from the Himmerland (Old Danish Himber sysæl) region in northern Denmark .

The etymology of Cymro "Welshman" (plural: Cymry) and Cwmry (for Cumbria), connected to the Cimmerians by 17th century celticists, is now accepted by Celtic linguists to derive from the Brythonic word combrogos and Proto-Brythonic *kom-brogos, meaning "compatriots", (i.e. fellow-Brythons as opposed to the Anglo-Saxons), and is thus related to its sister language Breton's keñvroad, keñvroiz "compatriot" .

It is also possible that the Cimmerians played some role in the ethnogenesis of the Armenians: the Armenian language seems impossible to classify as either Iranian or Anatolian (yet it is affirmedly Indo-European), and the Armenian language was first attested in the 5th century CE, but appears to have had extensive influence from Urartian, making many scholars speculate that Urartian survived for a long period so that it could have extensive influence on Armenian before succumbing. Considering that the Cimmerian language probably first arrived wit the invasion, this would give the Armenian language nearly a millenium to form from Cimmerian, more than ample time for this speculated influence from Urartian.

Appearance in myths of other peoples

In sources beginning with the Royal Frankish Annals, the Merovingian kings of the Franks traditionally traced their lineage through a pre-Frankish tribe called the Sicambri (or Sugambri), mythologized as a group of "Cimmerians" from the mouth of the Danube river, but who instead came from Gelderland in modern Netherlandsmarker and are named for the Siegmarker river.


See also


  1. Renate Rolle, Urartu und die Reiternomaden, in: Saeculum 28, 1977, S. 291-339
  2. K. Deller, "Ausgewählte neuassyrische Briefe betreffend Urarṭu zur Zeit Sargons II.," in P.E. Pecorella and M. Salvini (eds), Tra lo Zagros e l'Urmia. Ricerche storiche ed archeologiche nell'Azerbaigian Iraniano. Incunabula Graeca 78 (Rome 1984) 97-122.
  3. J.Harmatta: "Scythians" in UNESCO Collection of History of Humanity - Volume III: From the Seventh Century BC to the Seventh Century AD. Routledge/UNESCO. 1996. pg 182
  4. Cimmerian. (2006). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved August 30, 2006, from Encyclopædia Britannica Premium [1]. Actual quote: "The origin of the Cimmerians is obscure. Linguistically they are usually regarded as Thracian or as Iranian, or at least to have had an Iranian ruling class."
  5. Cimmerian. (2006). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved August 30, 2006, from Encyclopædia Britannica Premium [2].
  6. Berdzenishvili, N., Dondua V., Dumbadze, M., Melikishvili G., Meskhia, Sh., Ratiani, P., History of Georgia (Vol. 1), Tbilisi, 1958, pp. 34-36
  7. Entry: Κιμμέριοι at Henry Liddell & Robert Scott.
  8. Strabo ascribes the Treres to the Thracians at one place (13.1.8) and to the Cimmerians at another (14.1.40)
  9. Posidonius in Strabo 7.2.2.
  10. Jones, Gwyn. A History of the Vikings. London: Oxford University Press, 2001.
  11. Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru, vol. I, p. 770.
  12. Jones, J. Morris. Welsh Grammar: Historical and Comparative. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995.
  13. Russell, Paul. Introduction to the Celtic Languages. London: Longman, 1995.
  14. Delamarre, Xavier. Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise. Paris: Errance, 2001.
  15. Geary, Patrick J. Before France and Germany: The Creation and Transformation of the Merovingian World. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.


  • Ivanchik A.I. "Cimmerians and Scythians", 2001
  • Terenozhkin A.I., Cimmerians, Kiev, 1983
  • Cimmerian. (2006). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved August 30, 2006, from Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service:
  • Collection of Slavonic and Foreign Language Manuscripts - St.St Cyril and Methodius - Bulgarian National Library:

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