National Geographic : 1996 Sep
The Scythians Though their name became a byword for warring barbarians, these enigmatic people did more than pillage and burn. At their zenith in the S fourth century B.C., the Scythians held sway over an area embracing most of Smodern-day Ukraine and Sthe plains of southern Rus sia. Trade linked Greek colonies rimming the Black Sea to Scyth ian rulers, who acted as middle men between the northern hinterland and the classical world to the south. Why this flourishing culture waned is unclear. Some experts suspect that prolonged drought or overgrazing degraded grass lands; others cite hordes of Sarmatians invading from the east. Or perhaps an increasingly sedentary lifestyle undermined the Scythians' nomad spirit, leading to cultural collapse.