The Cimmerians, Scythians, and Israel
Based on excerpts from Lost Israelite Identity by Yair Davidiy, 1996<
This essay is written in response to questions on the subject.
Our research indicates that a good portion of the exiled Lost Israelite Tribes joined with or became identified with the Cimmerians, Scythians, and related people. The impression is that Israelites federated with an already existing group, remained more or less separate while amongst them, and later separated themselves. Previous researchers on this subject (e.g. Gawler, Fasken) appear to have been under the impression that the Israelites became these peoples and that in effect all of them are to be identified as Hebrews. We on the other hand, say that only part of them were Israelite. The sources support both approaches. The bottom line as far as we are concerned is that Israelites at the very least were with these peoples and moved westward with them. This essay concentrates more on a straight academic appreciation of some the sources.
THE TEN TRIBES OF ISRAEL HAD BEEN CONQUERED AND EXILED MAINLY (IT APPEARS), BY THE ASSYRIAN MONARCHS, PUL(?) AND TIGLATHPILESER. THE LATER ASSYRIAN RULERS SHALMANESER, SARGON, AND SENNACHERIB, WERE RESPONSIBLE FOR EXILING THE REMAINDER.
Israelites were taken to the centre of Assyria as well as to the fringes of the Empire.
Israelite and Syrian warrior corps were absorbed into the Assyrian armies and quickly began to gain power and influence. The Assyrians took their cavalry horses to Mannae ) on the border of Assyria and Urartu) for training. Mannae was one of the major places to which Israelites had been exiled. Mannae was also one of the first regions from which the Cimmerians were reported, “The Cimmerians went forth from the midst of Mannae..” says an Assyrian inscription.
Mannae was also destined to become a Scythian centre. The Scythians were one and the same people as the Cimmerians or at any rate Scythians and Cimmerians were: “…two groups of people who seem inclined to operate in the same geographical zones, and whose names seem to be interchangeable already in the Assyrian sources..” (KRISTENSEN, Anne Katrine Gade “Who were the Cimmerians, and where did they come from?” Copenhagen, 1988, p.102)
There were three main groups of people in the Cimmerian and Scythian forces: Cimmerians, Scyths, and Guti or Goths. Both the Cimmerians and the Scyths of history contained representatives of all three groups though in varying proportions.
GOMER AND ISRAEL
THE IDEA THAT THE EXILED ISRAELITES JOINED OR AMALGAMATED WITH A GROUP OF PEOPLES IDENTIFIED AS GOMER RECEIVES SUPPORT FROM THE BIBLE:
The name “Gomer” is applied to a parent figure of the exiled Ten Tribes in the first chapter of Hosea in the Bible. Gomer was an ethnic entity identified in historical writings as the Cimmerians and company. The coupling therefore may be said to represent Israel joining GOMER bringing forth from between them three additional entities (“children of whoredoms”) whose identity was uncertain.
Another ethnic entity named Gomer is earlier mentioned in the
Bible as Gomer son of Japhet son of Noah. Gomer had three sons:
“And the sons of Gomer; Ashkenaz, and Riphat, and Togarma”
These sons of Gomer son of Japhet became founders of nations that were to settle in Europe. Gomer is usually identified with the Cimmerians and Ashkenaz with the Scythians and in Later Hebrew writings with Germany.
In view of the above, the following possibilities should be considered:
“Gimiri” in Babylonian can connote tribes and a related term “gamira” can mean mobile exiles (see IVANTCHIK, Askold I. “Les Cimmeriens au Proche-Orient”, Switzerland, 1993 for a discussion of the possible meanings of these names). The Assyrian name for Israel was “Khumri” (meaning “Omri”) which linguistically (based on known parallels) could also have become Gumri, Gimiriand/or Gamira. They (or part of them) were in the same regions as another group that was also known by the same names! Nevertheless those who wish to claim that the name for Israel “Khumri” was pronounced as Gumri or something similar can at the most present a plausible linguistic explanation. There are no known examples where such a change is proven to have occurred as far as the name Khumri is concerned though such a change is admitted to be feasible in light of the linguistic patterns prevalent in the area.
The Cimmerians had first been reported of by the Assyrians in
714 (Kristensen) or (according to an alternate more generally accepted
reckoning) in ca.707.
CIMMERIAN COLONISTS OF ASSYRIA
Askold I. Ivantchik (“Les Cimmeriens au Proche-Orient”, Switzerland, 1993 p.16) notes a work by G.B. Lanfranchi (“I Cimmera. Emergenza delle elites militari iraniche nel Vicino Oriente”, Padova, Italy, 1990) who analysed all of the Akkadian (i.e. Assyrian) texts concerning the Cimmerians and came to the conclusion that the active Cimmerian detachments in Mannae and Media were part of the Assyrian army.
Ivantchik is reserved concerning this conclusion.
A.K.G. Kristensen (“Who were the Cimmerians, and where did they come from?”, Copenhagen, 1988) does however bring apparently irrefutable proof that the Cimmerians upon their first appearance were indeed serving in the Assyrian forces. A.K.G. Kristensen also proves that the Cimmerians were first settled in areas that could be considered “Cities of the Medes” and she states her belief (along with evidence) that the Cimmerians were in effect re-settled Israelites!
The findings of Ms.Kristensen are based primarily on an analysis of Assyrian inscriptions and also on a careful study of academic analysis on the subject heretofore.
1. Assyrian reports: A series of Assyrian tablets have been found from the time of Sargon-ii (721-705) referring to the Cimmerians and their country Gamir. They are military intelligence reports to King Sargon concerning campaigns in Urartu. These show that the Cimmerians were settled to the south and not to the north of Urartu. This means that the Cimmerians were first found in a buffer zone between Urartu and Assyria. Mannae and Musasir were the neighbourhoods in which Cimmerians were first reported.
2. Where did the Cimmerians really come from? Kristensen advocates the rejection of previously held academic theories concerning Cimmerian origins: Impartial examination of the content of the Assyrian tablets leads to a rejection of the commonly held thesis adopted by many researchers. The previously held ideas supposed that the Cimmerians came from north of the Caucasus and were driven to the south by the Scythians. Place names in Scythia (i.e. southern Russia) recalled the past Cimmerian presence.
Archaeologists tended to identify “the vast southern Russian Catacomb Culture from the Bronze Age” with the Cimmerians “whereas the proto-Scythians were supposed to be responsible for the Timber grave Culture” which replaced them. Kristensen quotes from researchers such as T.Sulimirski, M.Salvini, U.Cozzoli, and others who point out that the said identifications are groundless. There is no archaeological evidence for the Cimmerians (or the Scyths) ever having been north of the Caucasus prior to their first appearances in the Middle East. Nor is there anything in their culture (which in the case of the Scythians at least, was Near or Middle Eastern) relating them to that area. The Cimmerians have not even been properly identified archaeologically and we must rely on Assyrian descriptions for our knowledge concerning them. Greek accounts and place names are SOMETIMES used to support the idea that the Cimmerians and Scythians originated north of the Caucasus. These proofs are actually either misinterpreted or(says Kristensen and the authorities who support her) are literary inventions or anachronisms, based on events occurring a considerable time afterwards.
Herodotus, for instance, says that the Scythians crossed the Araxes to attack the Cimmerians. The Araxes in Classical writings was the Aras River south of the Caucasus. [It may be seen in the top map in Faint Print in the northeast of the Kingdom of Urartu. In the Map just below it is the river dividing the Scythians from Urartu.].
Some modern scholars agree that in other passages Herodotus applied the term Araxes to the Aras but they claim that in this case he meant the Volga! Why? Because it makes more sense according to their preconceived notions to assume that the Volga was intended. The alternate explanation however that by the Araxes River on this point he meant the Aras River in the same way as he means the Aras River everywhere else he speaks of the Araxes not only fits the archaeological facts but also allows Herodotus to be understood in his own terms.
On the other hand, there are factors that do indicate
(contrary to the view of Kristensen) a Possible Early Cimmerian Presence (linked with the Assyrians) North of The Caucasus:
a. The Assyrians conquered the area east of the Caspian Sea and reached right up into Baluchistan and southern Siberia. In western Russia Assyrian remains have been found in Ossetia north of the Caucasus and there is evidence that they reached to the Crimea.
Immanuel Velikovsky opined:
“Repeatedly, the Assyrian kings led their troops across the Caucasus northward….Sargon, the conqueror of Samaria wrote in his annals:
`I opened up mighty mountains, whose passes were difficult and countless, and I spied out their trails.
Over inaccessible paths in steep and terrifying places I crossed..’
“…When the barrier of the mountains was overcome, they could proceed northward in a sparsely populated area barren of natural defenses…The middle flow of the Volga would be the furthermost region of the Assyrian realm” . (Velikovsky, article on the Khazars, published posthumously in Kronos, Summer 1982).
b. Kristensen quotes B. Oded to the effect that the Assyrians lacked manpower to fortify border position and used conscripts taken from the countries that they had conquered. She says that the Gimiri (Cimmerians) were such conscripts taken from the northern kingdom of Israel and this corresponds with evidence adduced by ourselves. It follows that, if it is true that the Assyrians advanced into southern Russia, then they may well have placed Cimmerian (and/or Israelite) border forces north of the Caucasus as well as to the south.
c. Since there was a non-Israelite people mentioned in the Bible called GOMER and according to one way of understanding the indications of the Prophet Hosea this people did amalgamate with the exiled Israelites it may be that Cimmerians were ALSO to be found north of the Caucasus at an early date.
d. In addition to the common understanding (or misunderstanding?) of Herodotus, other Greek sources do indicate the possible early presence of Cimmerians in the Crimea.
In returning to our summary of Kristensen:
3. The First mention of Gamir (=Land of the Gimirri-Cimmerians) and its date: Gamir is first mentioned in a letter addressed to Sargon ii king of Assyria. They recount the defeat of a king of Urartu in Gamir. Both Rusa-i (d.714) and his son Argishti-ii were contemporaries of Sargon. The date of the defeat and which king is involved is therefore uncertain. One group of researchers opts for a date between 709-707 while another claims that it was earlier, in 714, and Kristensen adopts this last opinion.
4. The location of Gamir in Mannae: The Assyrian report said that GAMIR was separated from Urartu by the country of Guriana. Gamir has been located IN SEVERAL DIFFERENT AREAS IN EACH OF WHICH THE CIMMERIANS AT SOME STAGE HAD SOJOURNED.
The King of Urartu requested aid from Urzana the king of Musasir against the Cimmerians. Musasir was a semi-independent buffer state bordering Mannae between Assyria and Urartu. Reports concerning the Gamiri (i.e. the Cimmerians) are frequently concerned with the area of Mannae or its immediate vicinity and Kristensen places GAMIR of the Assyrian report at or near Mannae and in this her opinion is supported by others. In other words the Cimmerians defeated the king of Urartu in Gamir which formed part of Mannae and from there they proceeded to invade Urartu.
5. The role of Musasir: Around the time that Urartu invaded Gamir (i.e. the land of the Cimmerians) the Assyrian king Sargon had been to the east of Musasir in Mannae waging war in Zikirtu. Musasir was a vassal state of Assyria yet Urartu had some claim over it. Sargon king of Assyria claimed “broke off his homeward march” and with an elite army group attacked Musasir which he took “without battle, sacked and placed under Assyrian sovereignty”. Sargon says he then invaded Urartu and Rusa king of Urartu apparently committed suicide.
Sphinx from Urartu
6. Parallelisms between the Assyrians and GIMIR: The reconstruction of the above events depends upon the unraveling of several parallel Assyrian accounts. In the War against Urartu the role played by “Cimmerians” in one account is the same as that of the “Assyrians” in the parallel version. In these cases the “CIMMERIANS” are paralleled by the “Assyrians” and may be identified with them since the CIMMERIANS were serving as ASSYRIAN SOLDIERS! The reasoning of Kristensen is roughly as follows:
a. The reports about the Cimmerians said that Urartu invaded Gimir (“Land of the Cimmerians”) in north Mannae and was defeated after which the Cimmerians attacked the land of Urartu.
b. The reports about the Assyrians parallel those concerning the Cimmerians and say that Urartu invaded a portion of Mannae called Uishdish and fought a battle on Mount Uaush involving the Assyrians.
c. The battle between Urartu and Gimir and that between Urartu and Assyria must have been in the same month, in the late summer of 714 b.c.e. (or 707?).
d. In both the account concerning the Cimmerian encounter with Urartu and that about the Assyrian campaign against Urartu the army of Urartu seems to set out from the same base. In both cases Rusa, king of Urartu, flees from the scene of battle and leaves his army in the lurch. In both cases Rusa flees by the same complicated seemingly unlikely route. In both cases forces enter Urartu after having been provocatively attacked by Urartu: In one case Assyrians and Mannaeans march against Urartu; in the other, Cimmerians. In both cases after the battle, Urzana king of Musasir leaves (albeit unwillingly) the Assyrian side and passes over to that of Urartu.
e. An Assyrian account directed to the king of Assyria which issued from the region of Zikirtu concerning the king of Urartu after his defeat states, “The Urartian, since he went [to] Gamir [now?)] is very afraid of the lord my king”.
-In other words, because of his defeat at Gamir (by the Cimmerians) the king of Urartu had come to fear the king of Assyria! From Zirkitu Sargon had been reported as launching his attack against the advance of Urartu in Uishdish.
It follows from ALL the above that Uishdish and Gamir were one and the same place and that the war of Sargon against Urartu was the same as that of the Gamirra against Urartu!!
7. Parallelisms between the forces of Gamir and Assyria and the explanation of incongruities: According to the Assyrians, Sargon and Sin-ah-usur, the grand visier of Sargon led the cavalry from Zikirtu and defeated a numerically vastly superior force of Urartians in the mountains of Mannae after a breakneck march. Logistically such a feat seems highly unlikely if not impossible! In a parallel situation, in almost the very same words, Sargon claimed to have personally conquered the city of Ashdod even though he had not been there and one of his subordinates had done the work. At Ashdod it is known that Sargon did not personally participate but rather delegated one of his turtanu (nobles) to command the forces instead of him.
The nature of the reports sent to Sargon concerning the war with Urartu also suggest that Sargon lacked firsthand knowledge of the encounter.
Therefore it may be assumed that Sargon did not actually fight the battle but rather others (in this case Cimmerians in Assyrian service) did on his behalf.
8. The fortresses of Mannae: Some years prior to the final defeat of Rusa of Urartu, Rusa had taken control of 12 (or 20 according to another version) Assyrian fortresses in Uishdish. These fortresses had been garrisoned with Assyrian and Mannaean troops whom Kristensen claims had in fact been Cimmerians in Assyrian service since the Assyrians used conscripted exiles for garrison duties in border areas. It was over these Cimmerian (i.e. Gamirra) garrisoned posts and their neighborhood that the battle was fought. The said area was Uishdish and because of its Cimmerian-connections (suggests Kristensen) Uishdish was also known as Gamir.
The Cimmerians therefore when we first meet them are in Assyrian service.
PROOF FROM PTOLEMY
CONCERNING THE POSITION OF “GAMIR”
Kristensen placed the “Gamir” of early Assyrian reports in north Mannae. This identification would appear to possibly receive support from Ptolemy’s Geography. On Ptolemy’s Maps of the relevant regions, the land of Urartu is called Armenia. The former region of Mannae (according to Ptolemy) comprised parts of the lands of the Caspii, Cadussi, and Sambatae (cf. Sambation place of Israelite exile). East of the Sambatae was the Land of the Sagartii who were called Zikirtu by the Assyrians. It was against the Zikirtu that Sargon campaigned when Urartu invaded “Gimir”. “Gimir” may well be in the land of the Sambatae in Mannae where Ptolemy recorded the city of “GOMARA” and “Gomer” like “Gimir” is another form for Cimmerian! Gomara stood on the later site of Sakkiz (in Mannae) which was destined to become a Scythian centre. All of the places mentioned were those to which Israel was recorded as having been exiled.
Illustrations of the Maps of Ptolemy along with detailed explanations of its relevance for much of the ancient world and especially concerning the migrations of the tribes of Israel are to be found in our work,
“The Tribes. The Israelite Origins of Western Peoples“
Kristensen further observes:
A certain Daiaukku, the Mannaean governor had previously been responsible to the Assyrians for this region of the Cimmerian held fortresses. Daiaukku had plotted with Urartu against Assyria and so he was exiled to Hamath. Historians identify him with Deioces the founder of Media in a political sense according to Herodotus. The major Median city of Ecbatana [i.e. Hamadan, which according to the Talmud was one of “The Cities of the Medes” to which the exiled Ten Tribes were taken] appears to have been once controlled by Daiaukku. Kristensen claims that the Cimmerians had been settled in cities formerly controlled by Daiaukku and that analysis of Cimmerian-locii show a certain concentration in areas later considered Median. The Bible (2-Kings 17) says that the exiled Israelites were re-settled in “Halah, Habor, the river Gozan, and the cities of the Medes”. Thus, the positioning of Cimmerians and Israelite exiles overlaps.
After his defeat Rusa king of Urartu flees to Musasir and there captures and crowns Urzana of Musasir as (“mock”) king of Urartu.
Meanwhile, Mannaeans and Cimmerians invade Urartu and capture Urartian cities. Mannae was a vassal state of Assyria and was acting on Assyrian behalf and so must the Cimmerians have been! Sargon captures and destroys Musasir. Rusa and Urzana are either killed, suicide, or otherwise disappear.
9. Esarhaddon and the Cimmerians: R. Ghirshman, the scholar of ancient Persian history, believed the Cimmerians to have been in the service of Assyria under Sennacherib in ca.689 if not before then. This opinion is not generally accepted though at all events, a treaty from 679 b.c.e. in the time of Esarhaddon reveals the presence of a unit of Cimmerians in the Assyrian army. In 675 Cimmerians were reported in or close to Man (i.e. Mannae) and had assured the Assyrians of their neutrality in the struggle then taking place between rebellious Mannaeans and Assyria. Esarhaddon did not believe them. Esarhaddon described them as, “zer amel hal qa ti i, who recognise neither the oath (sworn before) a god nor treaties”.
The above emphasised Assyrian Akkadian words (“zer amel hal qa ti i”) have been subject to various translations all of more or less similar import. This expression has been translated differently by different researchers as: “outcasts”; “deserters”; “a race of fugitives”; “seed of dispersion” (Y.B.Yusifov); “vagabonds”; and “ruinous breed”. These negative connotations applied to the Cimmerians in the time of Esarhaddon are all applicable to a people exiled from its land, at one stage serving the Assyrians, and later (in exile) attempting to re-assert its own identity by rebelling against Assyria.
In Assyrian eyes they would have been deserting. The same expression was also applied to the forces of Lugdamne the Cimmerian king. In other words it is more than an epithet and acquired (in the case of the Cimmerians) an ethnic connotation.
Regarding the Cimmerians near Mannae mentioned above, the opinion exists that these too were still in Assyrian service though Esarhaddon had come to doubt their loyalty.
10. Cimmerian History: Includes events in which the Cimmerians are associated with both the Assyrians and the Medes.
11. The Early Cimmerian Field of Operation: The Cimmerians had made their first historical appearance in the former fief of Daiaukku in Mannae. In the time of Sargon and Esarhaddon they operated mainly from the Zagros and from Media. Their area extended from Man (Mannae) in the north to Elippi (Elam) in the south and included parts of Media proper in the east. As explained above (in no.8 “The Fortresses of Mannae”) the area of the Cimmerians in effect had encompassed “the cities of the Medes” (2-Kings 17;6) which the Bible says were part of the areas in which the exiled Israelites had been re-settled!
12. Completeness of the exile: Kristensen in a footnote (p.123 n.426) quotes M.Cogan (1974) as saying that the exile of the northern Israelites from their land was complete, “areas outside the capital city were available for resettlement, i.e. cleared of their former residents”.
13. The identification of the Cimmerians with Israel:
Kristensen accepts the linguistic identification of the name “Bet Khumri” (i.e. House of Omri) or just “Khumri” applied by the Assyrians to the northern kingdom of Israel with the name given to the Cimmerians.
[Khumri could also have been rendered Ghumri. Omri in North Israelite dialect could have been pronounced as Gomri]. She produces a sound argument saying that the Cimmerians when first heard of were in Mannae and in Assyrian employ and in areas definable as “the Cities of the Medes” to which the exiled Israelites were taken.