Anacharsis was a Scythian philosopher who travelled from his homeland on the northern shores of the Black Sea to Athens in the early 6th century BCE and made a great impression as a forthright, outspoken "barbarian," apparently a forerunner of the Skeptics and Cynics, though none of his authentic works have survived.
Anacharsis was half Greek and the son of a Scythian chief, from a mixed Hellenistic culture, apparently in the region of the Cimmerian Bosporus. He cultivated the outsider's knack of seeing the illogic in familiar things. His conversation was droll and frank, and Solon and the Athenians took to him as a natural philosopher, not unlike the way the French took to Benjamin Franklin. His rough and free discourse became proverbial among Athenians as 'Scythian discourse'.
Arriving in Athens about 589 BCE, he came to the house of Solon, philosopher and lawgiver, and said, "I have traveled here from afar to make you my friend." Solon replied, "It's better to make friends at home." Thereupon the Scythian replied, "Then it is necessary for you, being at home, to make friends with me." Solon laughed and accepted him as his friend.
Anacharsis was the first foreigner (metic) who received the privileges of Athenian citizenship. He was reckoned by some ancient authors as one of the Seven Sages of Athens, and it is said that he was initiated into the Eleusinian Mysteries of the Great Goddess, a privilege denied to those who did not speak fluent Greek.
His book paralleling the laws of the Scythians with the laws of the Greeks has been lost. It was he who compared laws to spiders' webs, which catch small flies, but allow wasps and hornets to escape.
He exhorted moderation in everything, saying that the vine bears three clusters of grapes: the first wine, pleasure; the second, drunkenness, the third, disgust. So he became a kind of emblem to the Athenians, who inscribed on his statues: 'Restrain your tongues, your appetites, your passions.' (Compare the philosophy of Epicurus.)
When Anacharsis returned to the Scythians he was killed by his own brother for his Greek ways and especially for the impious attempt to sacrifice to the Mother Goddess Cybele, whose role was unwelcome among the patriarchal Scythians. (Herodotus, iv, 76)