The most recommended books on Scythians

Who picked these books? Meet our 3 experts.

3 authors created a book list connected to the Scythians, and here are their favorite Scythians books.
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Book cover of Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States

Fernanda Pirie Author Of The Rule of Laws: A 4,000-Year Quest to Order the World

From my list on making us rethink global history.

Who am I?

I'm an anthropologist on a mission to discover how people have used, and abused, law over the past 4,000 years. After a decade in a wig and gown at the London Bar, I headed back to university to pursue a long-standing interest in Tibetan culture. I spent two years living with remote villagers and nomads, freezing over dung fires, herding yaks, and learning about traditional legal practices. Now, based at the University of Oxford, I’ve turned to legal history, comparing ancient Tibetan texts with examples from all over the world. The Rule of Laws brings a long sweep of legal history and its fascinating diversity to a wide audience.

Fernanda's book list on making us rethink global history

Fernanda Pirie Why did Fernanda love this book?

Scott takes us through the evidence of the earliest hunter-gatherer and agricultural societies and asks why anyone ever allowed rulers to amass power and centralize control of resources. The evidence is that farmers flourished for centuries without letting anyone lord it over them. Why, then, does agriculture seem to have led to the rise of the state? Readable and compelling, Scott's latest book makes a really convincing case against the benefits, and inevitability, of the state.

By James C. Scott,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Against the Grain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An Economist Best History Book 2017

"History as it should be written."-Barry Cunliffe, Guardian

"Scott hits the nail squarely on the head by exposing the staggering price our ancestors paid for civilization and political order."-Walter Scheidel, Financial Times

Why did humans abandon hunting and gathering for sedentary communities dependent on livestock and cereal grains, and governed by precursors of today's states? Most people believe that plant and animal domestication allowed humans, finally, to settle down and form agricultural villages, towns, and states, which made possible civilization, law, public order, and a presumably secure way of living. But archaeological and historical…


Book cover of Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the Present

David Austin Beck Author Of The Greek Prince of Afghanistan

From my list on understanding the Scythians.

Who am I?

I'm an author who believes that history contains an endless number of stories of how our past peers dealt with and contributed to the tension, fusion, and reinvention that is human existence. When writing The Greek Prince of Afghanistan, which focuses on the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom of ancient Afghanistan, I included a Scythian character, because I felt the novel’s story, like humanity’s story, is best told through multiple perspectives. The above books helped me greatly in that effort.

David's book list on understanding the Scythians

David Austin Beck Why did David love this book?

While only one chapter of Empires of the Silk Road is dedicated to the Scythians, this book is a compelling introduction to Central Eurasian peoples throughout history. Beckwith’s work stabs right at the heart of ancient and modern writings that frame the Scythians and other nomadic peoples within a pejorative “barbarian” framework. More than that, he explores how societies such as the Scythians viewed themselves, which differs greatly from other approaches, which use them only as a foil to more sedentary peoples.

By Christopher I Beckwith,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Empires of the Silk Road as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first complete history of Central Eurasia from ancient times to the present day, Empires of the Silk Road represents a fundamental rethinking of the origins, history, and significance of this major world region. Christopher Beckwith describes the rise and fall of the great Central Eurasian empires, including those of the Scythians, Attila the Hun, the Turks and Tibetans, and Genghis Khan and the Mongols. In addition, he explains why the heartland of Central Eurasia led the world economically, scientifically, and artistically for many centuries despite invasions by Persians, Greeks, Arabs, Chinese, and others. In retelling the story of the…


Book cover of The Scythians: Nomad Warriors of the Steppe

David Austin Beck Author Of The Greek Prince of Afghanistan

From my list on understanding the Scythians.

Who am I?

I'm an author who believes that history contains an endless number of stories of how our past peers dealt with and contributed to the tension, fusion, and reinvention that is human existence. When writing The Greek Prince of Afghanistan, which focuses on the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom of ancient Afghanistan, I included a Scythian character, because I felt the novel’s story, like humanity’s story, is best told through multiple perspectives. The above books helped me greatly in that effort.

David's book list on understanding the Scythians

David Austin Beck Why did David love this book?

Barry Cunliffe has time and again proved himself to gracefully weave serious scholarship with compelling reflection. As he does with his other books, he builds conclusions and raises questions based on the most recent archaeological evidence. The Scythians are greatly misunderstood, their legacy shaded by the often-disparaging views of their contemporaries. Barry Cunliffe’s archeological approach helps the Scythians speak through the things they left behind.

By Barry Cunliffe,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Scythians as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Brilliant horsemen and great fighters, the Scythians were nomadic horsemen who ranged wide across the grasslands of the Asian steppe from the Altai mountains in the east to the Great Hungarian Plain in the first millennium BC. Their steppe homeland bordered on a number of sedentary states to the south - the Chinese, the Persians and the Greeks - and there were, inevitably, numerous interactions between the nomads and their neighbours. The Scythians fought the
Persians on a number of occasions, in one battle killing their king and on another occasion driving the invading army of Darius the Great from…


Book cover of The Histories (Translated by Robin Waterfield)

David Austin Beck Author Of The Greek Prince of Afghanistan

From my list on understanding the Scythians.

Who am I?

I'm an author who believes that history contains an endless number of stories of how our past peers dealt with and contributed to the tension, fusion, and reinvention that is human existence. When writing The Greek Prince of Afghanistan, which focuses on the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom of ancient Afghanistan, I included a Scythian character, because I felt the novel’s story, like humanity’s story, is best told through multiple perspectives. The above books helped me greatly in that effort.

David's book list on understanding the Scythians

David Austin Beck Why did David love this book?

If one wanted to understand the study of the galaxy, they might start with Galileo. Something similar could be said about starting with the historian Herodotus to understand ancient peoples (and the study of them). Was he serious about his craft? Yes. Was he a product of his time? Yes. Should you take everything he writes as fact? Absolutely not. So why read Herodotus? Because he was the first person (as far as I know) to study the Scythians for the purpose of scholarship. Moreover, his work contains many of the stories that scholars since his time have tried to prove, disprove, or reinterpret. In short, if you want to join a conversation, it can be helpful to know how it began.

By Herodotus, Robin Waterfield (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Histories (Translated by Robin Waterfield) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Herodotus is not only known as the `father of history', as Cicero called him, but also the father of ethnography; as well as charting the historical background to the Persian Wars, his curiosity also prompts frequent digression on the cultures of the peoples he introduces. While much of the information he gives has proved to be astonishingly accurate, he also entertains us with delightful tales of one-eyed men and gold-digging ants. This readable new translation is
supplemented with expansive notes that provide readers the background that they need to appreciate the book in depth.

ABOUT THE SERIES: For over 100…


Book cover of Cataphracts: Knights of the Ancient Eastern Empires

Peter Darman Author Of Pacorus

From my list on the Parthian Empire from a history lover.

Who am I? Why this topic?

My interest in Parthia began with a desire to write a novel about the Spartacus slave rebellion. I first became interested in the Thracian after seeing the Stanley Kubrick film Spartacus as a boy, my interest growing over the years. Knowing there were quite a few fiction accounts of the slave leader, I wanted to find a new perspective. This led me to devise a story around a Parthian prince who is captured by the Romans and ends up fighting in the slave army. ‘The Parthian’ was born, as was my interest in the Parthian Empire, which would lead to the Parthian Chronicles series of novels and to date over 10 years of research into the Parthian Empire. I do not pretend to be an expert on the topic, but I hope my novels have shed light on an empire that lasted nearly 500 years but is almost unknown in the West. I also hope they spur readers on to explore the history of Parthia for themselves and to discover more about a fascinating people.

Peter's book list on the Parthian Empire from a history lover

Peter Darman Why did Peter love this book?

The armies of ancient Parthia were mostly composed of two troop types: horse archers and cataphracts. This title explores the development of the latter horsemen, which in fact predated Parthia but were particularly effective in Parthian service. So much so that they were adopted by the Romans in the second century AD as they sought to defend the borders of their threatened empire.

By Erich B. Anderson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cataphracts as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Cataphracts were the most heavily armoured form of cavalry in the ancient world, with riders and mounts both clad in heavy armour. Originating among the wealthiest nobles of various central Asian steppe tribes, such as the Massegatae and Scythians, they were adopted and adapted by several major empires. The Achaemenid Persians, Seleucids, Sassanians and eventually the Romans and their Byzantine successors. Usually armed with long lances, they harnessed the mobility and mass of the horse to the durability and solid fighting power of the spear-armed phalanx. Although very expensive to equip and maintain (not least due to the need for…


Book cover of The Landmark Arrian: The Campaigns of Alexander

David Austin Beck Author Of The Greek Prince of Afghanistan

From my list on understanding the Scythians.

Who am I?

I'm an author who believes that history contains an endless number of stories of how our past peers dealt with and contributed to the tension, fusion, and reinvention that is human existence. When writing The Greek Prince of Afghanistan, which focuses on the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom of ancient Afghanistan, I included a Scythian character, because I felt the novel’s story, like humanity’s story, is best told through multiple perspectives. The above books helped me greatly in that effort.

David's book list on understanding the Scythians

David Austin Beck Why did David love this book?

Arrian is one of the few primary sources used to illuminate the campaigns of Alexander the Great. It is also one of the few primary sources to focus directly on the Scythians – in this case, the Saka (an eastern group of Scythians). After conquering the Bactrian region, Alexander faced war with the Scythians, as well as local rebellions, which the Scythians played a role in. Arrian’s account is an important source for understanding the Scythians as it speaks directly to the clash of an army built for pitched battle against an army build for more mobile warfare.

By Robert B. Strassler, James Romm,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Landmark Arrian as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Arrian’s Campaigns of Alexander, widely considered the most authoritative history of the brilliant leader’s great conquests, is the latest addition to the acclaimed Landmark series.
 
After twelve years of hard-fought campaigns, Alexander the Great controlled a vast empire that was bordered by the Adriatic sea to the west and modern-day India to the east. Arrian, himself a military commander, combines his firsthand experience of battle with material from Ptolemy’s memoirs and other ancient sources to compose a singular portrait of Alexander. This vivid and engaging new translation of Arrian will fascinate readers who are interested in classical studies, the history…