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The Scythians and Sarmatians

These two peoples of ancient times both spoke languages in the Iranian language family and lived in the area north of the Black Sea. The languages and cultures of the Scythians and Sarmatians were related but distinct. In particular their styles of warfare were different. The Scythians were noted as mounted archers. They may have been the inventors or one of the inventors of the stirrup. The stirrup enabled mounted archers to fire (shoot) arrows reasonably accurately while riding. The Scythians attacked in a mass firing of arrows. If their adversaries were not overwhelmed by the hail of arrows then the Scythians turned and rode to a safe distance for regrouping to mount another mass attack.

Most adversaries were overwhelmed by the Scythian battle tactics. It was only the Sarmatians who found a successful counter-strategy to withstand the Scythians. The Sarmatian warriors and their mounts were protected with armor. Usually the armor consisted of metal plates of bronze or iron sewn onto leather garments. This armor enabled the Sarmatians to withstand a Scythian attack. After a Scythian onslaught the Sarmatians would attack the Scythians with fifteen-foot-long lances. The Sarmatians were probably the originator of the armored knights of medieval Europe.

For more on surprising role of Sarmatians in world history see Sarmatians.

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