Greek Name: Γελωνῶν

Latin Name: Geloni

Toponyms: Gelonus 

Cultural Notes

They have sanctuaries with Greek Gods, because "the inhabitants of Gelonus were originally Greeks from the trading-centres, who moved away from there and settled among the Budinians". Their language is a mixture of Scythian and Greek and distinct from the language spoken by the Budinians. Budinians are wrongly called Gelonians by the Greeks. Gelonians are farmers, cultivated foods, and looking alltogether different than the Budinians. They live in a dense wooded country, with animals whose fur is used to decorate their mantals, and whose testicles are used to treat illness of the womb. 

Geographical Notes

Neighbours of the Scythians, their country is wooded and contains a large lake surrounded by marsh. 

Citations in Herodotos

4.102 Called to meeting with Scythians: 4.108 Greek origin and distinct language;  4.109 Geloni and Budini cultures; 4.119 Promise to aid Scythians in campaign against Darius; 4.120  Drawing off Persian approach; 4.136 Pursuit of the Persians toward the Ister

Key Passages in English Translation

[4.108]  The Budini are a great and populous nation; the eyes of them all are very bright, and they are ruddy. They have a city built of wood, called Gelonus. The wall of it is three and three quarters miles in length on each side of the city; this wall is high and all of wood; and their houses are wooden, and their temples; [2] for there are temples of Greek gods among them, furnished in Greek style with images and altars and shrines of wood; and they honor Dionysus every two years with festivals and revelry. For the Geloni are by their origin Greeks, who left their trading ports to settle among the Budini; and they speak a language half Greek and half Scythian. But the Budini do not speak the same language as the Geloni, nor is their manner of life the same.

[4.109] The Budini are indigenous; they are nomads, and the only people in these parts that eat fir-cones; the Geloni are farmers, eating grain and cultivating gardens; they are altogether unlike the Budini in form and in coloring. Yet the Greeks call the Budini too Geloni; but this is wrong. [2] Their whole country is thickly wooded with every kind of tree; in the depth of the forest there is a great, wide lake and a marsh surrounded by reeds; otter is trapped in it, and beaver, besides certain square-faced creatures whose skins are used to trim mantles, and their testicles are used by the people to heal sicknesses of the womb.

English translation by A. D. Godley. Cambridge. Harvard University Press. 1920. Retreived from <>

Key Passages in Greek

[4.108] Βουδῖνοι δὲ ἔθνος ἐὸν μέγα καὶ πολλὸν γλαυκόν τε πᾶν ἰσχυρῶς ἐστι καὶ πυρρόν: πόλις δὲ ἐν αὐτοῖσι πεπόλισται ξυλίνη, οὔνομα δὲ τῇ πόλι ἐστὶ Γελωνός. τοῦ δὲ τείχεος μέγαθος κῶλον ἕκαστον τριήκοντα σταδίων ἐστί, ὑψηλὸν δὲ καὶ πᾶν ξύλινον, καὶ αἱ οἰκίαι αὐτῶν ξύλιναι καὶ τὰ ἱρά. [2] ἔστι γὰρ δὴ αὐτόθι Ἑλληνικῶν θεῶν ἱρὰ Ἑλληνικῶς κατεσκευασμένα ἀγάλμασί τε καὶ βωμοῖσι καὶ νηοῖσι ξυλίνοισι, καὶ τῷ Διονύσῳ τριετηρίδας ἀνάγουσι καὶ βακχεύουσι. εἰσὶ γὰρ οἱ Γελωνοὶ τὸ ἀρχαῖον Ἕλληνες, ἐκ τῶν δὲ ἐμπορίων ἐξαναστάντες οἴκησαν ἐν τοῖσι Βουδίνοισι: καὶ γλώσσῃ τὰ μὲν Σκυθικῇ, τὰ δὲ Ἑλληνικῇ χρέωνται.

[4.109] Βουδῖνοι δὲ οὐ τῇ αὐτῇ γλώσσῃ χρέωνται καὶ Γελωνοί, οὐδὲ δίαιτα ἡ αὐτή. οἱ μὲν γὰρ Βουδῖνοι ἐόντες αὐτόχθονες νομάδες τε εἰσὶ καὶ φθειροτραγέουσι μοῦνοι τῶν ταύτῃ, Γελωνοὶ δὲ γῆς τε ἐργάται καὶ σιτοφάγοι καὶ κήπους ἐκτημένοι, οὐδὲν τὴν ἰδέην ὅμοιοι οὐδὲ τὸ χρῶμα. ὑπὸ μέντοι Ἑλλήνων καλέονται καὶ οἱ Βουδῖνοι Γελωνοί, οὐκ ὀρθῶς καλεόμενοι. [2] ἡ δὲ χώρη σφέων πᾶσα ἐστὶ δασέα ἴδῃσι παντοίῃσι: ἐν δὲ τῇ ἴδῃ τῇ πλείστῃ ἐστὶ λίμνη μεγάλη τε καὶ πολλὴ καὶ ἕλος καὶ κάλαμος περὶ αὐτήν. ἐν δὲ ταύτῃ ἐνύδριες ἁλίσκονται καὶ κάστορες καὶ ἄλλα θηρία τετραγωνοπρόσωπα, τῶν τὰ δέρματα παρὰ τὰς σισύρνας παραρράπτεται, καὶ οἱ ὄρχιες αὐτοῖσι εἰσὶ χρήσιμοι ἐς ὑστερέων ἄκεσιν.

Other Testimonia

J. B. Greenough, Ed. P. Vergilius Maro, Georgics: Book 2, Line 116

Pliny the Elder, The Natural History (ed. John Bostock, M.D., F.R.S., H.T. Riley, Esq., B.A.): Book 4, Chapter 26

Other Commentary

David Asheri, Alan Lloyd, Aldo Corcella, A Commentary on Herodotus Books I-IV (2007): Defines φθειροτραγέουσι in 4.109 above as 'lice eater' rather than 'fir-cone' eater: "underlining the primitiveness of the Boudini in contrast to the customs of the Geloni". Concerning the use of furs, the animals 'with a square muzzle' is most likely a furred animal similar to the beaver and the otter, such as martens or minks. "Beavers in particlular (and only those from the Pontus, see Strabo III, 4,15) provided the medication indicated here and are often mentioned in the gynaecological treatises of the Hippocratic corpus: see De Nat. Mul. 3,26,32; Mul. I 71, etc." (657-658).

Perseus Encyclopedia: Geloni, neighbours of the Scythians

W. W. How, J. Wells, A Commentary on Herodotos: Book 4, Chapter 7; Book 4, Chapter 24; Book 4, Chapter 102-117; Book 4, Chapter 108 

Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities (1898): Gelōni,(Γελωνοί). A Scythian people, dwelling in Sarmatia Asiatica, to the east of the river Tanaïs (Don) (Herod.iv. 108). Their chief city was called Golonus. 

Falx, dim. Falcŭla (ἅρπη, δρέπανον, dim. δρεπάνιον). A sickle; a scythe; a pruning-knife or pruning-hook; a bill; a falchion; a halbert...Numerous as were the uses to which the falx was applied in agriculture and horticulture, its employment in battle was almost equally varied, though not so frequent. The Geloni were noted for its use.


Rolle, R. (1989). The world of the Scythians. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Munson, Rosaria Vignolo. 2005. Black Doves Speak: Herodotus and the Languages of Barbarians. Harvard University Press. 12, 24-25, 28,34,43.


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