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In 425 BCE Athens scores a stunning victory over the Spartans at Pylos, capturing Spartiate hostages and the entire Spartan fleet. The Athenians follow this victory up by capturing the island of Cythera in 424 and using it as a base from which to raid the Lakonian coast. The Spartans have no answer to these hit-and-run raids and decide to raise a corps of cavalry to provide a quick response. Lacking the expertise and experience to create their own cavalry they decide to hire mercenaries and Kallicrates is sent to Asia to hire Scythians

Kallicrates finds that the western Scythians are allied to the Athenians who buy their wheat, and is obliged to travel further east. He ends up among the Royal Scythians and presents his request to their king, Ariantas. Ariantas refuses to provide mercenaries, but offers a treaty of alliance with Sparta under which he will send warriors to aid them. Kallicrates agrees and swears an oath without the concurrence of the Ephors. To cement the alliance Ariantas gives his daughter Antia to Kallicrates

Antia is horrified at the prospect of going to Sparta, not least because she is secretly in love with Obidos, a young warrior who has risked his life to sleep with her. Unbeknown to everybody, Antia is pregnant from this. Kallicrates returns to Sparta with his cavalry and his bride, and Antia gives birth to a daughter. They name the child Scythia Antiope and she receives Spartan values from her father and Scythian lore and weapon skill from her mother

Later, Kallicrates is killed in action and Scythia finds herself a social outcast in Sparta. When the war ends, she decides to become a mercenary in order to gain wealth with which to return to her tribe.

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