The Scythian Empire: Central Eurasia and the Birth of the Classical Age from Persia to China

Princeton Univ. Jan. 2023. 416p. ISBN 9780691240534. $39.99. HIST
The nomadic Scythians (700–300 BCE), based in Central Asia, are known primarily for their skill as mounted warriors. Beckwith (Central Eurasian studies, Indiana Univ.; Greek Buddha) argues that they left an impactful legacy on religion and philosophy that hasn’t traditionally been recognized. Evidence for these claims comes from two main sources: contemporary Greek, Chinese, and other sources, as well as a philological analysis showing how some important words in multiple languages have Scythian origins. With this evidence, Beckwith asserts that the Achaemenid Persian Empire (550–330 BCE) was a continuation and expansion of an earlier empire founded by the Scythians. The author also claims that the State of Zhao, during China’s Warring States period (475–221 BCE), was founded by Scythians. An intriguing epilogue concludes that Zoroaster (Zoroastrianism), Gautama Buddha (Buddhism), and Laozi (Daoism) were either Scythian or heavily influenced by them.
VERDICT Highly recommended for all students of the Scythians and Classical Persia or China. A similar work that focuses on the archeological evidence left by the Scythians is Barry Cunliffe’s The Scythians.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing