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Guest Lecture: Scythian Religion and Philosophy


CERES Palais, room "Ruhrpott" (4.13)

Dan Diffendale |

Guest lecture by Chris I. Beckwith

Scholars have long attempted (on the whole, unsuccessfully) to make sense out of the somewhat random information available in Herodotus and other ancient sources on Scythian religion.

At the same time, the topic of Scythian philosophy has been ignored, presumably because it is assumed that there was no such thing. However, the first attested philosophers (in the modern sense of the word) were all Scythians, and their rather advanced philosophical methods and conclusions appear to have developed out of traditional Scythian religious ideas.

This lecture first analyzes the Scythians’ traditional religious thought based on the ancient sources. It then considers the thought of their earliest philosophers: Anacharsis the Scythian (fl. ca. 592–589 BC); Zoroaster (fl. ca. 620 BC); Gautama  Buddha ‘the Scythian Sage’ (Śākyamuni, fl. ca. 500 BC); and Laotzu, a Hu (胡) ‘Scythian’ who taught in China (fl. ca. 400 BC), based on the earliest attested reports.

The connections and distinctions between the Scythians’ metaphysically focused religious beliefs and their logical-epistemological philosophical thought will be discussed.

Please contact Sabrina Finke if you want to participate in the lecture.

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