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The Gelonians or Geloni were an ancient Scythian people whose existence was recorded by ancient Graeco-Roman authors.


The location of the Budini near Scythia.

The Gelonians lived alongside the Budini in the valley of the Vorskla river.[1]



The Geloni likely originated as a group as the Scythians proper who lived in the Pontic steppe, due to which their name appears in the Scythian genealogical myth along with the Agathyrsi.[2]

Like the Agathyrsi, the Gelonians lived outside of Scythia and were independent of the Scythian kingdom.[3]


During the 6th century BC, the city of Gelonus was built in the country of the Budini, where the Gelonians set up an important industrial, commercial, and political centre.[4] The Gelonians and Budini both lived in Gelonus, although each population lived in separate sections of the city: the Gelonians lived in the eastern earthwork, were was located the city's industrial, commercial, and political centre; the poorer native Budini lived in the western earthwork.[5][6]

The Persian invasion[edit]

When the Persian Achaemenid king Darius I attacked the Scythians in 513 BC, the Scythian king Idanthyrsus summoned the kings of the peoples surrounding his kingdom to a meeting to decide how to deal with the Persian invasion. The kings of the Budini, Gelonians and Sarmatians accepted to help the Scythians against the Persian attack, while the kings of the Agathyrsi, Androphagi, Melanchlaeni, Neuri, and Tauri refused to support the Scythians.[7]

During the campaign, Darius captured the city of Gelonus and set it on fire.[4]

Society and culture[edit]


According to Herodotus of Halicarnassus, the Geloni were different in appearance from the Budini who lived alongside them.[1]


The sedentary Gelonians were wealthier than the nomadic Budini, and they were engaged in agriculture.[8]

The Gelonians lived in the city of Gelonus, which was built entirely of wood,[9] This city was protected by a defensive system of three earthworks surrounded by ramparts.[4] The present-day site of Bilsk [uk] has been identified with Gelonus.[4][6]


The Gelonians were described by Herodotus of Halicarnassus as speaking a different language from the Budini.[8]


Herodotus of Halicarnassus mentioned that, every three years, the Gelonians performed a Bacchic-type festival which he interpreted as a festival to the Greek god Dionysos.[10][11]

Herodotus also claimed that the Gelonians built sanctuaries to their gods (whom he claimed were Greek gods), although this has not been archaeologically verified yet.[11] This was in contrast to the Scythians proper, who did not built shrines to their gods.[12]


The Gelonians and Budini brought ores from outside to the industrial section of the city of Gelonus, where iron and copper were smelted from them.[6]


The Gelonians and the Budini participated in the ancient trade route which started from the ancient Greek colony of Pontic Olbia on the northern shore of the Black Sea and continued to the north-east into the steppe and forest-steppe regions.[6]


The Gelonians corresponded to a group of the archaeological Scythian culture which was located outside of Scythia.[3]


  1. ^ a b Sulimirski 1985, p. 185.
  2. ^ Sulimirski 1985, p. 189.
  3. ^ a b Sulimirski 1985, p. 168.
  4. ^ a b c d Sulimirski 1985, p. 187.
  5. ^ Sulimirski 1985, p. 187-188.
  6. ^ a b c d Sulimirski & Taylor 1991, p. 588.
  7. ^ Herodotus & Godolphin 1973.
  8. ^ a b Sulimirski 1985, p. 188.
  9. ^ Parzinger 2004, p. 79.
  10. ^ Braund 2021, p. 189.
  11. ^ a b Parzinger 2004, p. 72.
  12. ^ Cunliffe 2019, p. 269.