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

by Christopher I. Beckwith

Hardcover, 2023



Call number



Princeton University Press (2023), 416 pages


"In the late 8th to early 7th century BC, Scythian steppe warriors conquered Central Eurasia and peripheral regions in Iran and China, revolutionizing the local cultures. A nomadic herding people who lived with their cats in felt-tent homes on wheels, the Scythians spread their complex, mobile, highly innovative culture into the frontiers of Southeast Europe, the Near East, Central Asia, South Asia, and East Asia. They produced the world's first "global" civilization: the great cultural flowering known as the Classical Age. In this book, Christopher Beckwith, one of the leading scholars of Central Eurasia, provides a new account of this fascinating culture, their empires, and their influence. He covers their tightly interwoven religious-social economic-political system, their heavenly royal lineage and language, their strikingly elegant new clothing fashions, and their revolutionary thought: Scythian philosophy. Politically, in the west the Scythians founded the sedentary world's first true empire, based in Media (northwestern Iran), which eventually became the Persian Empire. In the east their realm based in Chao (straddling the frontier with northern Chinese culture) introduced the key concepts that led to formation of Chinese national identity and the Chinese Empire. With the Scythian source of these tremendous changes as its focus, the book solves several mysteries surrounding the Scythians and presents some of the greatest true stories of Antiquity in a new light"-- "A rich, discovery-filled history that tells how a forgotten empire transformed the ancient world. In the late 8th and early 7th centuries BCE, Scythian warriors conquered and unified most of the vast Eurasian continent, creating an innovative empire that would give birth to the age of philosophy and the Classical age across the ancient world-in the West, the Near East, India, and China. Mobile horse herders who lived with their cats in wheeled felt tents, the Scythians made stunning contributions to world civilization-from capital cities and strikingly elegant dress to political organization and the world-changing ideas of Buddha, Zoroaster, and Laotzu-Scythians all. In The Scythian Empire, Christopher I. Beckwith presents a major new history of a fascinating but often forgotten empire that changed the course of history. At its height, the Scythian Empire stretched west from Mongolia and ancient northeast China to northwest Iran and the Danube River, and in Central Asia reached as far south as the Arabian Sea. The Scythians also ruled Media and Chao, crucial frontier states of ancient Iran and China. By ruling over and marrying the local peoples, the Scythians created new cultures that were creole Scythian in their speech, dress, weaponry, and feudal socio-political structure. As they spread their language, ideas, and culture across the ancient world, the Scythians also laid the foundations for the very first Persian, Indian, and Chinese empires.Filled with fresh discoveries, The Scythian Empire presents a remarkable new vision of a little-known but incredibly important empire and its peoples"--… (more)


Original language


Physical description

416 p.; 9.5 inches


0691240531 / 9780691240534

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