Cimmerians (also Kimmerians; Greek: Κιμμέριοι,
Kimmérioi) were an ancient people, who appeared about 1000 BC  and
are mentioned later in 8th century BC in Assyrian records.
Probably originating in the Pontic steppe and invading by means of the
Caucasus, they are likely to be those who in c. 714 BC assaulted
Urartu, a state in north eastern
Anatolia subject to the Neo-Assyrian
Empire. They were defeated by Assyrian forces under
Sargon II in 705
and turned towards Anatolia, conquering
Phrygia in 696/5. They reached
the height of their power in 652 after taking Sardis, the capital of
Lydia; however an invasion of Assyrian controlled
Anshan (Persia) was
thwarted. Soon after 619, Alyattes of
Lydia defeated them. There are
no further mentions of them in historical sources, but it is likely
that they settled in Cappadocia.
3 Assyrian records
4 Greek tradition
8 See also
11 External links
The origin of the
Cimmerians is unclear. They are mostly supposed to
have been related to either Iranian or Thracian speaking groups which
migrated under pressure of the Scythian expansion of the 9th to 8th
According to Herodotus, the
Cimmerians inhabited the region north of
Caucasus and the
Black Sea during the 8th and 7th centuries BC
(i.e. what is now
Ukraine and Russia), although they have not been
identified with any specific archaeological culture in the
Main article: Thraco-Cimmerian
The supposed origin of the
Cimmerians north of the
Caucasus at the end
of the Bronze Age loosely corresponds with the early Koban culture
(Northern Caucasus, 12th to 4th centuries BC), but there is no
compelling reason to associate this culture with the Cimmerians
There is a tradition in archaeology of applying Cimmerian to the
archaeological record associated with the earliest transmission of
Iron Age culture along the
Danube to Central and Western Europe,
associated with the Cernogorovka (9th to 8th centuries) and
Novocerkassk (8th to 7th centuries) between the
Danube and the Volga.
This association is "controversial", or at best conventional, and is
not to be taken as a literal claim that specific artifacts are to be
associated with the "Cimmerians" of the Greek or Assyrian record.
The use of the name "Cimmerian" in this context is due to Paul
Reinecke, who in 1925 postulated a "North-Thracian-Cimmerian cultural
sphere" (nordthrakisch-kimmerischer Kulturkreis) overlapping with the
Hallstatt culture of the Eastern Alps. The term
Thraco-Cimmerian (thrako-kimmerisch) was first introduced by I. Nestor
in the 1930s. Nestor intended to suggest that there was a historical
Cimmerians into Eastern Europe from the area of the
former Srubna culture, perhaps triggered by the Scythian expansion, at
the beginning of the European Iron Age. In the 1980s and 1990s, more
systematic studies[by whom?] of the artifacts revealed a more gradual
development over the period covering the 9th to 7th centuries, so that
the term "Thraco-Cimmerian" is now rather used by convention and does
not necessarily imply a direct connection with either the
Cimmerian invasions of Colchis,
Assyria 715–713 BC
Sir Henry Layard's discoveries in the royal archives at
Calah included Assyrian primary records of the Cimmerian invasion.
These records appear to place the Cimmerian homeland, Gamir, south
rather than north of the Black Sea.
The first record of the
Cimmerians appears in Assyrian annals in the
year 714 BC. These describe how a people termed the Gimirri helped the
Sargon II to defeat the kingdom of Urartu. Their original
homeland, called Gamir or Uishdish, seems to have been located within
the buffer state of Mannae. The later geographer
Ptolemy placed the
Cimmerian city of Gomara in this region. The Assyrians recorded the
migrations of the Cimmerians, as the former people's king Sargon II
was killed in battle against them while driving them from Persia in
Cimmerians were subsequently recorded as having conquered Phrygia
in 696–695 BC, prompting the Phrygian king
Midas to take poison
rather than face capture. In 679 BC, during the reign of
Assyria (r. 681–669 BC), they attacked the Assyrian colonies Cilicia
Tabal under their new ruler Teushpa.
Esarhaddon defeated them near
Hubushna (Hupisna), and they also met defeat at the hands of his
A people named Kimmerioi is described in Homer's
Odyssey 11.14 (c.
late 8th century BC), as living beyond the Oceanus, in a land of fog
and darkness, at the edge of the world and the entrance of Hades.
Herodotus (c. 440 BC), the
Cimmerians had been expelled
from their homeland between the Tyras (Dniester) and Tanais (Don)
rivers by the Scythians. Unreconciled to Scythian advances, to ensure
burial in their ancestral homeland, the men of the Cimmerian royal
family divided into groups and fought each other to the death. The
Cimmerian commoners buried the bodies along the river Tyras and fled
Caucasus and into Anatolia.
Herodotus also names a
number of Cimmerian kings, including
Tugdamme (Lygdamis in Greek;
mid-7th century BC), and
Sandakhshatra (late-7th century).
In 654 BC or 652 BC – the exact date is unclear – the Cimmerians
attacked the kingdom of Lydia, killing the Lydian king Gyges and
causing great destruction to the Lydian capital of Sardis. They
returned ten years later during the reign of Gyges' son Ardys II; this
time they captured the city, with the exception of the citadel. The
Sardis was a major shock to the powers of the region; the
Archilochus recorded the fear that it
inspired in the Greek colonies of Ionia, some of which were attacked
by Cimmerian and
Treres raiders.
The Cimmerian occupation of
Lydia was brief, however, possibly due to
an outbreak of plague. They were beaten back by
Alyattes II of
Lydia. This defeat marked the effective end of Cimmerian power.
The term Gimirri was used about a century later in the Behistun
inscription (c. 515 BC) as an
Assyro-Babylonian equivalent of Persian
Saka (Scythians). Otherwise,
Cimmerians disappeared from the
In sources beginning with the Royal Frankish Annals, the Merovingian
kings of the
Franks traditionally traced their lineage through a
pre-Frankish tribe called the
Sicambri (or Sugambri), mythologized as
a group of "Cimmerians" from the mouth of the
Danube river, but who
instead came from
Gelderland in modern
Netherlands and are named for
the Sieg river.
Early modern historians asserted Cimmerian descent for the
the Germans, arguing from the similarity of Cimmerii to
Cymry. The etymology of Cymro "Welshman" (plural: Cymry), connected to
Cimmerians by 17th-century Celticists, is now accepted by Celtic
linguists as being derived from a Brythonic word *kom-brogos, meaning
The Cambridge Ancient History classifies the
Maeotians as either a people of Cimmerian ancestry or as Caucasian
aboriginals under Iranian overlordship.
The Biblical name "Gomer" has been linked by some to the
According to Georgian national historiography, the Cimmerians, in
Georgian known as Gimirri, played an influential role in the
development of the Colchian and Iberian cultures. The modern
Georgian word for "hero", გმირი gmiri, is said to derive
from their name.
It has been speculated[by whom?] that the
Cimmerians finally settled
in Cappadocia, known in Armenian as Գամիրք, Gamir-kʿ (the same
name as the original Cimmerian homeland in Mannae).
It has also been speculated that the modern Armenian city of Gyumri
(Arm.: Գյումրի [ˈgjumɾi]), founded as Kumayri (Arm.:
Կումայրի), derived its name from the
Cimmerians who conquered
the region and founded a settlement there.
8th century BC
Only a few personal names in the Cimmerian language have survived in
Te-ush-pa-a; according to the Hungarian linguist János Harmatta, it
goes back to Old Iranian Tavis-paya "swelling with strength".
Mentioned in the annals of Esarhaddon, has been compared to the
Hurrian war deity Teshub; others interpret it as
Iranian, comparing the
Achaemenid name Teispes (
Dug-dam-mei (Dugdammê) king of the Ummân-Manda (nomads) appears in a
Ashurbanipal to Marduk, on a fragment at the British Museum.
According to professor Harmatta, it goes back to Old Iranian
Duγda-maya "giving happiness". Other spellings include Dugdammi,
Edwin M. Yamauchi also interprets the name as Iranian,
citing Ossetic Tux-domæg "Ruling with Strength." The name appears
corrupted to Lygdamis in
Sandaksatru, son of Dugdamme. This is an Iranian reading of the name,
Manfred Mayrhofer (1981) points out that the name may also be read
as Sandakurru. Mayrhofer likewise rejects the interpretation of "with
pure regency" as a mixing of Iranian and Indo-Aryan. Ivancik suggests
an association with the Anatolian deity Sanda. According to Professor
J. Harmatta, it goes back to Old Iranian Sanda-Kuru "Splendid Son".
Kur/Kuru is still used as "son" in the Kurdish languages, and in
modified form in Persian as korr, for the male offspring of horses.
Some researchers have attempted to trace various place names to
Cimmerian origins. It has been suggested that Cimmerium gave rise to
the Turkic toponym Qırım (which in turn gave rise to the name
Based on ancient Greek historical sources, a Thracian or a
Celtic association is sometimes assumed. According to Carl
Ferdinand Friedrich Lehmann-Haupt, the language of the Cimmerians
could have been a "missing link" between Thracian and Iranian.
721–715 BC –
Sargon II mentions a land of Gamirr near to Urartu.
714 – suicide of Rusas I of Urartu, after defeat by both the
Assyrians and Cimmerians.
Sargon II of
Assyria dies on an expedition against the
Cimmerians destroy Phrygia. Death of king Midas.
679/678 – Gimirri under a ruler called
Assyria defeats them in battle.
Cimmerians invade and destroy Phrygia, and reach
654 or 652 – Gyges of
Lydia dies in battle against the Cimmerians.
Sack of Sardis;
Treres plunder Ionian colonies.
Cimmerians occupy Sardis, but withdraw soon afterwards
Cimmerians defeated by Alyattes II.
City Cimmerian people
Kemi Oba culture
^ map based on Археология Украинской ССР vol.
2, Kiev (1986).
^ MacKenzie, David; Curran, Michael W. (2002). A History of Russia,
the Soviet Union, and Beyond. Wadsworth/Thomson Learning. p. 12.
^ "Cimmerian (people)". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 8
^ "The origin of the
Cimmerians is obscure. Linguistically they are
usually regarded as Thracian or as Iranian, or at least to have had an
Iranian ruling class." "Cimmerian", in Encyclopædia Britannica, 2006,
Retrieved August 30, 2006. Quote: "The origin of the
obscure. Linguistically they are usually regarded as Thracian or as
Iranian, or at least to have had an Iranian ruling class."
^ a b c d J.Harmatta: "Scythians" UNESCO Collection of History of
Humanity: Volume III: From the Seventh Century BC to the Seventh
Century AD, Routledge/UNESCO. 1996, p. 182
^ Renate Rolle, "
Urartu und die Reiternomaden", in: Saeculum 28, 1977,
^ a b
Encyclopædia Britannica (2006): "They [the Cimmerians] probably
did live in the area north of the Black Sea, but attempts to define
their original homeland more precisely by archaeological means, or
even to fix the date of their expulsion from their country by the
Scythians, have not so far been completely successful"
^ Ioannis K. Xydopoulos, "The Cimmerians: their origins, movements and
their difficulties" in: Gocha R. Tsetskhladze, Alexandru Avram, James
Hargrave (eds.), The Danubian Lands between the Black, Aegean and
Adriatic Seas (7th Century BC – 10th Century AD), Proceedings of the
Fifth International Congress on
Black Sea Antiquities (Belgrade –
17–21 September 2013, Archaeopress Archaeology (2015), 119–123.
Dorin Sârbu, "Un Fenomen Arheologic Controversat de la Începutul
Epocii Fierului dintre Gurile Dunării și Volga: 'Cultura
Cimmerianã'" ("A controversial archaeological phenomenon of the early
Iron Age between the mouths of the
Danube and the Volga: the Cimmerian
Culture"), Romanian Journal of Archaeology (2000) ((in Romanian)
online version (with bibliography); English abstract)
^ K. Deller, "Ausgewählte neuassyrische Briefe betreffend Urarṭu
zur Zeit Sargons II.," in P.E. Pecorella and M. Salvini (eds), Tra lo
Zagros e l'Urmia. Ricerche storiche ed archeologiche nell'Azerbaigian
Iraniano, Incunabula Graeca 78 (Rome 1984) 97–122.
^ Cozzoli, Umberto (1968). I Cimmeri. Rome Italy: Arti Grafiche Citta
di Castello (Roma).
^ Salvini, Mirjo (1984). Tra lo Zagros e l'Urmia: richerche storiche
ed archeologiche nell'Azerbaigian iraniano. Rome Italy: Ed.
^ Kristensen, Anne Katrine Gade (1988). Who were the Cimmerians, and
where did they come from?: Sargon II, and the Cimmerians, and Rusa I.
Copenhagen Denmark: The Royal Danish Academy of Science and
^ "Cimmerians" (Κιμμέριοι), Henry Liddell & Robert Scott,
Perseus, Tufts University
^ Herodotus, Histories, Book 4, sections 11–12.
^ Herodotus, 1.16; Polyaenus, 7.2.1, Sergei R. Tokhtas’ev
"Cimmerians" in the Encyclopedia Iranica (1991), several
^ Geary, Patrick J. Before France and Germany: The Creation and
Transformation of the
Merovingian World. New York: Oxford University
^ Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru, vol. I, p. 770. Jones, J. Morris. Welsh
Grammar: Historical and Comparative. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995.
Russell, Paul. Introduction to the Celtic Languages. London: Longman,
1995. Delamarre, Xavier. Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise. Paris:
^ Boardman & Edwards 1991, p. 572
^ Robert Drews, Early Riders, 2004, p 119. He also links them to Gog
^ Berdzenishvili, N., Dondua V., Dumbadze, M., Melikishvili G.,
Meskhia, Sh., Ratiani, P., History of Georgia (Vol. 1), Tbilisi, 1958,
^ ""Kumayri infosite". Cimmerian. Retrieved 14 June 2015". Archived
from the original on 6 November 2012.
^ Yamauchi, Edwin M (1982). Foes from the Northern Frontier: Invading
Hordes from the Russian Steppes. Grand Rapids MI USA: Baker Book
^ Asimov, Isaac (1991). Asimov's Chronology of the World. New York:
HarperCollins. p. 50.
^ Meljukova, A. I. (1979). Skifija i Frakijskij Mir. Moscow.
Strabo ascribes the
Treres to the
Thracians at one place (13.1.8)
and to the
Cimmerians at another (14.1.40)
Boardman, John; Edwards, I. E. S. (1991). The Cambridge Ancient
History. Volume 3. Part 2. Cambridge University Press.
ISBN 0521227178. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
Ivanchik A.I. "
Cimmerians and Scythians", 2001
Terenozhkin A.I., Cimmerians, Kiev, 1983
Cimmerian. (2006). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved August 30,
Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service:
Collection of Slavonic and Foreign Language Manuscripts – St.St
Cyril and Methodius – Bulgarian National Library:
Wikisource has the text of the 1920
Encyclopedia Americana article
Cimmerians by Jona Lendering
Wiki Classical Dictionary: Cimmerians
Cimmerians on Regnal Chronologies
"Cimmerii". Encyclopædia Britannica. 6 (11th ed.). 1911.