Prometheus among the Circassians

(1989, c) Prometheus among the Circassians, The World & I, March issue.  Washington, D.C.: The Washington Times Publishing Corporation.  Pp. 644-651.

Modern oral tale from a little known people of the Caucasus shows striking parallels with myths from Ancient Greece, Ancient India and the pagan Germanic world.

In the southwest of the Soviet Union, bordering upon Turkey and Iran, lies one of the most ethnographically complex areas in all Eurasia, the Caucasus. The Caucasus mountains, which dominate this area nearly the size of Spain, are home to a bewildering variety of ethnic groups, some of which seem to be survivors from earlier eras. These groups speak roughly fifty languages, the majority of which are unrelated to any other languages on earth, and show complex and exotic features that set them apart from the other languages of Eurasia. In this one area there are three distinct language families: the Southern or Kartvelian, the Northeastern or Daghestanian, and the Northwestern. The Northwestern languages are perhaps the most complex of any in the region and are spoken by the Abkhazians, the Abazas, the Ubykhs, the Kabardians and the Adygheans. The last two peoples are often grouped together as Circassians.

The Circassians originated in the northwestern quarter of the Caucasus, bounded on the north by the Kuban river. They practiced a mixed economy. Those in the higher vallies and montane forests practiced small scale agriculture and hunting, and often preserved old Christian or pagan customs. Those in the foothills and plains practiced horse-breeding, farming and trade, and usualy espoused Sunni Islam, though in their towns Christian and Jewish Circassians could be found. The Circassians were famed throughout the Middle East for the beauty of their women and the courage of their men. Physically most Circassians are European in appearance with perhaps a slight oriental cast to their features. Many Circassians are blond and blue-eyed, while others show a common feature of the Caucasus: very light skin coupled with black or extremely dark hair. A lithe and erect physique were favored, both for the men and the woman, and many villages even today have large numbers of healthy elderly people, many over a hundred years of age.

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