Tomyris assumed leadership of her group of nomadic pastoral tribes in 530 BC upon the death of her husband, the current chieftain. Her exploits were mentioned in the works of several great ancient writers such as Herodotus, Strabo, Polyaenus, Cassiodorus, and Jordanes.
The most notable story about Tomyris involves the Persian ruler Cyrus the Great and his efforts to invade and subjugate Tomyris’ people. Cyrus and his troops planted an unattended camp with a healthy supply of wine in the Scythian territory. The Scythian army, led by Tomyris’ son, stumbled upon the wine and, unfamiliar with the intoxicating effects of alcohol, drank themselves into a stupor. After, the Persians attacked the incapacitated army and kidnapped Tomyris’ son.
Tomyris, enraged, challenged Cyrus and another battle ensued; however, this time, Cyrus and his forces were defeated, suffering a great many casualties including Cyrus himself. After the death of Cyrus, Tomyris had his corpse beheaded and crucified, and shoved his head into a wineskin filled with human blood. During this act, Tomyris is quoted as saying, “I warned you that I would quench your thirst for blood, and so I shall.”
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