Abaris was a Hyperborean physician, priest, and prophet of Apollo. Abaris the Hyperborean is said in apocryphal legends to have visited Greece several times around 770 BC. Variant legends favor a lower chronology for these visits - as recently as two or three centuries later, possibly during epidemics of plague. According to such legends, Abaris travelled and fasted extensively throughout mainland Greece, using on a golden arrow which was the gift of god Apollo; he healed the sick, foretold the future, worked miracles, and delivered Sparta from miasmata coming from mount Taygetus. Apollo's magical arrow gave Abaris the power to fly, cure the sick, be invisible, and even make prophecies.

Interestingly, Plato mentioned Abaris the Hyperborean only in connection with the "Thracian" physicians. In Charmides, Plato maintained that these physicians knew the secret of immortality and cured all disease with incantations, ointments and plants. Later neoplatonists, including Porphyry and Iamblichus Chalcidensis, also wrote about Abaris. Notably, they insisted on Abaris having given the arrow back to Pythagoras in whom he might have recognized god Apollo or only his hierurgical hypostasis. Suda credited Abaris with several written works on Scythian oracles, the visit of Apollo to the Hyperboreans, expiatory formulas, and a prose theogony.

Attempts to equate Abaris and magic, or shamanism are reductionist, for Abaris is more of a convenient name for a whole class of eurocentric medical school values and tradition. Recently, reputed commentators, including Mihai Olteanu and Dan Olteanu have argued conclusively that ́Αβαρις: Σκύθης and Σκύθου υιός in Suda do not necessarily mean that Abaris was a Scythian. Indeed, Σκύθης was a known figure of a foundation myth (for instance in Herodotus), and both passages converge in showing that Abaris was perhaps only the son of a certain Scythes.

In conclusion, this enigmatic figure of the higher European antiquity was more of a legendary "wisdom-figure" than a single person or even a representative of some particular trade.

Originally based on an article from the 1911 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica.

Also see: Plato's Charmides in the most famous passage concerning Αβάρις Υπερβορέος, and History of Herodotus, in the classical translation of George Rawlinson (ed. and tr., vol. 3, Book 4, Chapters 2-36, 46-82. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1885.)