Who were the Cimmerians

cimmeriansIn ancient Greece they are known from Homeric times. Homer mentions them as a numerous people in northern parts where the day lasts only one hour. This resulted in the ancient Greeks considering their country as an entry point to Hades and deriving their name from the Kerberians (Cerberians – Cimmerians).

About 900 BC the Cimmerians were expelled from the northernmost Scythians[1] and following the coastal route they fled to Asia where until 700 BC. they waged important battles against the Assyrians (details are provided by inscriptions of the kings Menua and Sargon in cuneiform writing) over Lake Urmia in present-day Azerbaijan. With these inscriptions on the rocks of Tash-Tepe and the tablets of Sargon, the testimonies of Herodotus, who were considered accurate and detailed[1], agree.

Later they are said to have turned west, leaving the borders of Assyria where they were, unknown when and for what reasons[1]. Most likely they were defeated by the united “Iskuza” (Scythians) and Assyrians. Two roads existed then to move west, the northern one from today’s Erzerum and the coast of the Black Sea and the southern one from today’s Diyarbakır. Since no trace of them was found from the south, it seems that they followed the north. Arriving at Sinope, they marched into Bithynia and Phrygia. In Arrian’s work Bithyniaka which did not survive (it was about a description of this expedition) there was the detail that despite Herakleia of Pontus many Cimmerians died after eating aconite (poisonous plant)[1]. The exploits of the Cimmerians on the route from Assyria to Lydia are related to those of the Amazons perhaps because their women took a very active part, possibly as vanguard.

But also from information from Greek authors, it seems that in 674 BC. the Cimmerians invaded Phrygia and later Lydia, where the Lydian king Gyges failed to prevent the capture of Sardis in 652 BC. For this second fall of Sardis in 646 BC, the poet Callinus in the elegies he tells him about the Trirei who, penetrating Thrace, invaded Asia Minor and, later as allies of the Cimmerians, attacked the Greek cities of the Propontis and Thrace. Cities that were attacked were: Ephesus – then the famous Temple of Artemis in Ephesus was destroyed by the Cimmerian king Lygdamus -, Colophon, Smyrna, Magnesia and Andadros. For 75 years the Cimmerians were a true scourge of the Asia Minor coasts, until 575 BC. so the King of Lydia Alyatis managed to expel them definitively to Cappadocia and Armenia.

And yet the information about this people is still confusing. The Assyrian traditions call them Gimaraia, the Hebrews Gomer or Gamer confusing them with the Phrygians, while in the Armenian texts they are called Karmik or Kamerk. Poseidonius the Rhodian considered them relatives of the Cimbri while Procopius associated them with the much more northern Britons and Irish.