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178

(1889) [MARC] Author: Georg Brandes Translator: Samuel Coffin Eastman - Tema: Russia
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many mouths, mingles its waters with the sea, freezes,
when the winds harden its waves, and steals out into
the sea under a covering of ice. Where the ships went
before, people go on foot. The horse’s hoof stamps on
the frozen plain, and over these new bridges, above the
flowing waves, the Sarmatian oxen drag the barbaric
vehicles. You may hardly believe me, but, since I shall
gain nothing by telling a falsehood, I ought to be
believed: I have seen the immense Black Sea hardened
into ice, which like a smooth shell lay upon the
immovable waters. And I have not only seen it, but I have
trodden on the hard ocean plain and walked with dry
feet over the sea.” (Tristia, iii. 10.)

In the next place, the lack of trees in these regions
made a great impression on those who came here from
Greece and Italy. Of the country of the Sarmatians,
Herodotus says that it is entirely bare both of cultivated
and wild trees; of the Scythians he relates how for
want of wood they cook the flesh of their sacrificed
animals in the stomachs of the latter, with fire which
is made of their bones (iv. 21, 61). Ovid turns back
again and again to the melancholy want of vegetation
in the region. “No trees, no vines in the Getian land.
Rarely in the open fields is there a bush, which even then
does not flourish.” (Tristia, iii. 12; Ex Ponto, iii. 1, 7.)

In remote times, as is well known, all the races on
the plains which became Russia were mingled together
under the names of the Scythians, Sarmatians, Getians,
and some others. It is impossible now to determine how
far they were the ancestors of the Slavs. But that the
latter generally had ancestors among them, is evident
from the character of the bones which have been found
in the old burial mounds (Kurgans) in Southern Scythia.[1]


[1] Elisée Reclus: Géographie universelle, v. 299.

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