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Idanthyrsus (Greek: Ιδάνθυρσος) is the name of two Scythian kings:

1.The first one led Scythians, under whom, according to Strabo, they overran Asia, and advanced as far as Egypt. This was perhaps the incursion mentioned by Herodotus, who tells us that they held Asia for 28 years, and were ultimately driven out by Cyaxares, 607 BC. According to Herodotus, however, the king, who led the expedition of which he gives an account, was Madyas; and Madyas is mentioned by Strabo (i. p. 61) as king of the Cimmerians. An incursion of the Scythians to the borders of Egypt in very early times is recorded by Justin, but in an obscure and unsatisfactory way.

2. Another king of the Scythians, probably a descendant of the above. He was a son of Saulius, the brother and slayer of Anacharsis. When Darius I of Persia invaded Scythia, about 513 BC, and the Scythians retreated before him, he sent a message to Idanthyrsus, calling upon him either to fight or submit. The Scythian king answered that, in fleeing before the Persians, he was not urged by fear, but was merely living the wandering/nomadic life to which he was accustomed, that there was no reason why he should fight the Persians, as he had neither cities for them to take nor lands.

He, however did reply, "But if all you want is to come to fight, we have the graves of our fathers. Come on, find these and try to destroy them: you shall know then whether we will fight you."

In his Histories, Herodotus writes the following about the dialogue between the Persian king and Idanthyrsus (2015 publication, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group);[1]

"Thou strange man, why dost thou keep on flying before me, when there are two things thou mightest do easily? If thou deemest thyself able to resist my arms, cease thy wanderings and come, let us engage in battle. Or if thou art conscious that my strength is greater than thine - even so thou shouldest cease to run away - thou hast but to bring thy lord Earth and water, and to come at once to a conference."

To which the Scythian king replied;

"This is my way, Persian. I never fear men or fly from them. I have not done so in times past, nor do I now fly from thee. There is nothing new or strange in what I do; I only follow my common mode of life in peaceful years. Now I will tell thee why I do not at once join battle with thee. We Scythians have neither towns nor cultivated lands, which might induce us, through fear of their being taken or ravaged, to be in a hurry to fight with you. If, however, you must needs to come to blows with us speedily, look, you now there are our fathers' tombs'[note 1] - seek them out, and attempt to meddle with them. Till ye do this, be sure we shall not join battle, unless it pleases us. This is my answer to the challenge to fight. As for lords, I acknowledge only Jove, my ancestor,[note 2] and Hestia, the Scythian queen. "Earth and water", the tribute thou askedst, I do not send, but thou shalt receive soon receive more suitable gifts. Last of all, in return for thy calling thyself my lord, I say to thee, "Go weep".

Explanatory notes[edit]

  1. ^ As noted, the tombs of the kings seems to be meant.
  2. ^ Supra, ch. 5.


 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainSmith, William, ed. (1870). "article name needed". Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. 

  1. ^ Herodotus 2015, pp. 353-354.