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Scythian Archers 

Elizabeth Baughman, edition of January 30, 2003

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· Definition ·

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In Athens the so-called “Scythian Archers” served as a police force. They were public slaves (δημόσιοι) who served as guards (φύλακες) or watchmen (ὕποπτοι) in the city. There is very little evidence that provides any details about these, and what evidence we have is either from the 5th century comedy of Aristophanes—which is difficult evidence to interpret—or from ancient scholarship from many centuries later.

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Scholia (Schol. In Aristoph.).
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The Suda, a historical encyclopedia from the 10th century CE has this to say about the word “archers” (τοξόται), in the context of classical Athens: “Archers: The public slaves, guards of the city, in number 1000, who formerly lived in the Agora, camping out in the middle, but later moved to the Areopagus. These were called ‘Scythians’ and ‘Speusinioi,’ from a certain Speusinos, one of the ancient politicians, who organized their affairs” (Τοξόται· οἱ δημόσιοι ὑπηρέται, φύλακες τοῦ ἄστεος, τὸν ἀριθμὸν χίλιοι, οἵτινες πρότερον μὲν ᾤκουν τὴν ἀγορὰν μέσην σκηνοποιησάμενοι, ὕστερον δὲ μετέβησαν εἰς Ἄρειον Πάγον, ἐκαλοῦντο δὲ οὗτοι καὶ Σκύθαι καὶ Σπευσίνιοι; ἀπὸ Σπευσίνου τινὸς τῶν πάλαι πολιτευομένων συντάξαντος τὰ περὶ αὐτούς) (Suda tau,772; see also Schol. In Aristoph. Ach. 54, which is almost identical except for saying “Peusinioi” and “Peusinus” instead of “Speuninioi” and “Speusinos”; also Hescythius, 1137; Schol. In Aristoph. Ach. 54; Schol. In Aristoph. Ach. 707; Schol. In Aristoph. Lys. 184; Suda omega,243; Suda tau,771).

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