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Written by Hoplites, for Hoplites

Recreating the Ancient World

Combatants in Greece

in the 5th Century B.C.

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The Barbarians!

Notes

 

Scythian Clothing

Support Information for Recreating Scythian Warriors.

Studies undertaken through the Hoplite Association by its members have resulted in a wide variety of speculation around clothing worn within the ancient Greek world, together with a number of hypothetical interpretations of what this might have looked like.

Working from vase paintings as a primary source, there are indications of close fitting garments which are illustrated as so close fitting that if lycra had not been invented and the secrets since lost in time, then the fit seems impossible. In addition, there are many illustrations of 'sleeved' chitons, particularly in the depiction of women.

Archaeological evidence, however, has shown that tight fitting clothing did exist in the form of fine, lace-woven woollen cloth and working from some of the Siberian finds it can be seen that a number of the patterns depicted, particularly on Scythian archers, would have been possible with this type of weave. In addition, and in working from the Pazyryk finds, when direct copies are made of the 'shirts' it can easily be hypothesised that the sleeved chiton worn by Scythians in the Hellas and quite widely illustrated might, indeed, be a patterned Scythian shirt and not a version of the Greek chiton at all.

Alongside this article is one of the many pieces of Scythian clothing produced by reconstructing patterns from the Pazyryk finds. Whilst photographed 'flat', the size of the shirt, with its broad shoulders and long 'skirt', is clear and its similarity to a chiton, for the purpose of a vase illustration, apparent. Copies of the pattern are available to Hoplite Association members through the normal route.

Materials commonly used in clothing were hemp, wool, woollen felt and leather but there has been a further debate around the potential use of linen by Scythians who might have spent some time within the Greek sphere of influence. Once again, close examination of archaeological pieces has shown that individual garments can be made (or patched) from a number of materials. Remember, these were people who lived hard, travelled a lot and had to make the most of what they could obtain. To use and re-use pieces of clothing in this way suggests that they would certainly not be adverse to patching or making clothing from what was to hand. It seems reasonable to conclude, therefore, that linen would have been used and thus it is wholly appropriate for people attempting to recreate this period to use linen cloth in clothing items.

 

Scythian Weaponry

The principle 'weapon' of the Scythian was the bow, used in both warfare and hunting. A powerful, recurved weapon, it would curve completely back on itself into the shape of a 'C' when unstrung. Two modern versions of this are illustrated here and in the title picture it can be seen how the recurve can add power to the flight of an arrow by way of the stored energy within the curved limbs of the bow.

Potential sources of modern reproductions can be found in the links page, but it should be noted that many of these will be of fibre and not wooden construct. There are practicalities involved in making wooden reproductions which can carry a relatively higher price-tag. Do not be put off by fibre bows though. Properly covered the fibre core is not easy to detect by casual invetigation and they are cheap, can shoot well and look the part.

Many Scythian artefact are quite highly decorated, perhaps the product of many long nights by the fire with little else to do. This practice of decoration appears to have extended to arrows and examples of quite highly patterned ones have been found in grave contexts.

Although you cannot simply conclude from a few finds that this practice was widespread and used for any other purpose than burrial, this does seem to fit with the wider practice of decoration and a reproduction of one of the finds is also shown here for interest.

*Photographs* Scythians in action

THE SCYTHIANS

A generic term used to describe the tribes that stretched across the lower steppes of Russia from the Black Sea to the depths of Siberia.

Whilst all shared similar traits, they were very tribal in identity and distinctive cultural elements can be found.

The way of life revolved around hunting and, contrary to modern practice, they appear to have made little distinction between the roles of men and women. Indeed, it is recorded that Scythian women could not marry until they had killed their first enemy in battle!