The Greek writer Herodotus visited the
Scythians and described what they did when a king died. After digging a
large, square grave,
they take the
king's corpse and having opened the belly, and cleaned out the inside,
fill the cavity with a preparation of chopped cypress, frankincense,
parsley-seed, and anise-seed, after which they sew up the opening,
enclose the body in wax, and placing it on a wagon, carry it about
through all the different tribes.
On seeing the body, every
man in the tribe had to sever a piece of his ear, cut his hair short, make
a cut all the way around his arm, make a hole in his forehead and nose,
and finally, as if this weren't enough, drive an arrow completely through
his left hand.
After the king's body was
shown to each tribe, it was taken to Gerrhi, the most remote area of the
Scythian territory, and buried. At that time, his servants were killed,
usually by strangulation. Then earth was thrown into the grave and a tall
mound was built.
But the most important part
of the ceremony took place a year later. Fifty of the dead king's best
attendants were strangled along with fifty of the king's most beautiful
horses. Then their internal organs were removed and their abdomens were
filled with chaff and sewn shut.
Next the Scythians dug a large circular
grave around the king's burial mound. Each horse was placed in the grave,
staked down so that it looked as if it were galloping. Onto each horse a
strangled and mummified attendant was placed - with a large stake driven
down the spinal cord and through the horse. Then all were covered with
earth - a ring of mummified horses with mummified riders encircling the
grave of the beloved king.