Effigy of Odoacer.

The Scirii (also Sciri, Scirians, Skirii, Skiri or Skirians) were an East Germanic tribe[1] of Eastern Europe, attested in historical works between the 2nd century BC and 5th century AD.


The etymology of their name is unclear. A possible derivation based on Germanic yields clean- or pure-bloods as opposed to the neighbouring tribe of Bastarnae mixed-bloods (cf. bastard).[2] Also note that in modern Scandinavian 'Skir' means 'fair/light'.


The Scirii are believed to have first lived near the territory of the Aesti, south of the Baltic Sea (currently northern Poland). They are known as the "Scirri" in the writings of Pliny the Elder. Plinius stated that the territory extending from the Vistula river, as far as Eningia (probably he meant Feningia = Finland), is inhabited by the following nations: the Venedi (centuries later referred to as Wends), the Scirri and the Hirri.[3] They migrated southwards apparently around 200 BC (some secondary works give a more precise date of 230 BC), along with the Bastarnae. The Protogenes Inscription (3rd century BC) mention the Sciri,[4][5] when they tried unsuccessfully to capture the Greek city of Olbia, northwest of the Black Sea. After a peace treaty with the Roman Empire they are recorded as living east of the Bastarnae, near the Black Sea.

For the next six centuries historical references to the Scirii are sporadic, but sufficient to suggest continuity.

In the 4th century AD, some of the Scirii lived in the Carpathians, where they were defeated by the Huns. During the height of the Hunnic empire under the Huns' leader Attila, the Scirians allied themselves with Attila and provided potent infantry for him. After the Hunnic empire disintegrated, part of the Scirii joined with the Western Goths and the Eastern Goths, while others became foederati in the Roman empire.

In 468/469 the Tisa Sciri made a surprise attack on Valamir, who again had to fend for himself. The battle ended with the death of the Ostrogothic king but a victory for his people.[6]

According to Jordanes, the first king of Italy Odoacer, probably of Scirian descent, led the Sciri into Italy, with the Heruli, the Rugians and other Germanic tribes.[7]

See also



  1. Ó hÓgáin, Dáithí (2002). The Celts: A History. Boydell Press. ISBN 9780851159232.
  2. Armin E. Hepp, Völker und Stämme in Deutschland, Manfred Pawlak Verlag, 1986, p.268.
  3. "Nec minor opinione Eningia. Quidam haec habitari ad Vistulam a Sarmatis, Venedis, Sciris, Hirris, tradunt". Plinius, IV. 27.
  4. Studies in the History and Language of the Sarmatians - J. Harmatta
  5. M. M. Austin, The Hellenistic World from Alexander to the Roman Conquest : A Selection of Ancient Sources in Translation, Cambridge University Press, 2006, p. 220.
  6. Herwig Wolfram, History of the Goths, University of California Press, 1990, p. 264.
  7. Jordanes, Getica 242
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