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The Scytho-Sarmatian Problems. / The Alans

The Alans

Alans considered unreservedly as Iranian-speaking people, and mainly because of that their alleged descendants Ossetians belong to the Iranian language family. Such justification may be treated with care. However, when their ancestral home is looking for somewhere in Asia, considering that the Iranian people dwelled only there, then Ossetians had to come to modrern-day habitat from Asia. However, we know that their Urheimat was in the upper reaches of the Dnieper River and this fact has evidence in the language matches of the Ossetian and Germanic languages. However, reputable scientists arbitrarily manipulating with archaeological cultures without linguistics, as this did, for example, Tadeusz Sulimirsky (SULUMIRSKI T. 2008) readyly draw us the story of Alan. We shall try to present only its outline in general terms, using mainly linguistics, partly historical evidences, and to a lesser extent archeology.

The evidences of ancient writers do not allow conclude about ethnicity of the Alans. Here it is appropriate to recall the prejudice that ancients were better informed about the times closer to them than we are. However, it is believed also that this was not so. For example, scholars at King Alfred's time knew very little about the origin of the Anglo-Saxons (COLLINGWOOD ROBIN J. 1996, 127). This remark applies directly to our topic because we consider Anglo-Saxons among other nations as a part of Alans.

Contradictory views on the Alans can be found just in the notes to Jordanes’ "Getica" made by the translator of it E. Skrzhinsky (JORDANES, 1960). It seems that most evidences about them were left by Ammianus Marcellinus. He, as well as some other historians of the time, believed that the Alans were the Massagetai of the past, however, no evidence on this did not give. Describing the appearance of the Alans, Ammianus Marcellinus, noted they had "somewhat slanting eyes" (ALEMANY AGUSTI. 2000: 36). This may indicate certain Mongoloid features, although in general the Alans on appearance were very different from the Huns, the obvious Mongoloids, and this was noted by Jordanes (JORDANES, 1960: 126). However, it should be borne in mind that Ammianus described Alans of his time, ie, the end of the 4th century. Until that time, Alans could to a large extent mingle with the Huns, because they were the first to be subdued by the Huns in Europe, and then in 375 AD Huns and Anans together defeated the tribal alliance of Ostrogoths. The date of Huns’ invasion into Alanian area remains unclear, so it is unknown how long the Alans remained in close contact with the Huns. Ammianus wrote only that the many Alans were killed during invasion, and the survived (mostly women) were included in their staff. In this case, one generation is enough to become by the defeated Alans weak Mongoloid features, which they could lose in the next generations.

Ammianus also found similarities between the Alans and Huns in the way of life characteristic for nomads. Thus the distinguishing feature of these judgments was rather the lack of permanent residence than similarity in the device of carts or transported dismounted cabins. According to Ammianus the Alans occupied the territory from Pontic steppes to the Vistula in the north-west and till the north-eastern shores of Caspian Sea, but they penetrated farther to the east and southeast in separate groups. Perhaps the latter gave reason to separate the Alans on European and Asiatic parts, while Europe and Asia at that time was shared by the Tanais (Don). However, it remains unclear whether all the Alans said the same language. Many other folks, collectively known also as the Scythians, inhabited throughout this vast territory. We can conclude from Ammianus’ texts that gradually some warlike tribe subjugated all these people and united them into an union under the common name Alans. Among these tribes were Neuroi, Melanchlainoi, Gelonians, Agathyrsians, and other tribes, previously mentioned by Herodotus and the several ones that appeared later (ALEMANY AGUSTI, 2000: 34).

As for the Alanian language, it is important Lucian's notion about the difference between the Alanian and Scythian languages which was made in the passage about the Scythian (Αρσακομασ) and his loyal friends Lonhates (Λογχατησ) and Makentes (Μακεντησ), which helped him kidnapping a bride. The latter, pretending to be as an Alan in an episode, was to speak their language (Ibid; 3,11). We can conclude from this that the Scythian and Alanian languages to some extent differed. Moreover, the names of these heroes have no good means of deciphering by the Iranian languages, but they are well explained by Old English. Name Λογχατησ (longchate:s) can be translated as "a long-haired" (OE lang, Eng long and OE hæd “hair”), and the name Μακεντησ (makente:s), obviously, was derived from the OE magen "force" with the formant – te:s, which could be a metathesis of the suffix of superlatives – st, and then Makentes can be translated as "the strongest".

Some evidences about presence of the Anglo-Saxons in the territory of Ukraine in the Scythian-Sarmatian time have already been given in the previous sections. Epigraphy and some realities of the Scythian-Sarmatian times decrypted by means of Old English have been compiled in The Alan-Anglo-Saxon Onomasticon, a small part of which is given below.

ακινακεσ (akinakes), a short, iron Scythian sword – OE ǽces "an ax" and nǽcan "to kill" suit well.

Αργαμηνοσ (argame:nos) – OE earg “cowardly”, mann “a man”.

Αριαπειθεσ (ariapeithes), the name of a Scythian king – OE ār „honor, dignity, glory” (ārian "to honor"), fǽtan „to decorate” (“adorned with glory”).

Beorgus, the Alanian king who invaded Italy in V century AD – OE beorg 1. "a mountain, hill", 2. "protection".

Βουδινοι (budinoi) Boudinoi, rather, Woudinoi, the people who lived, according to Herodotus, in the country, overgrown with various trees – OE widu, wudu “tree, wood", Eng wooden.

Γωαρ (go:ar), Alanian leader in Gaul at the beginning of the 5th century. – OE gear "protection, weapon".

Dula, Alanian Prince – OE dwola "a heretic".

Ηλμανοσ (e:lmanos), Olbia, Vasmer – OE el “strange”, mann "a man".

Eochar, Alanian king in Armorica (north-west France) – OE eoh "a horse" and ār "a messenger, herald, apostle".

Ιδανθιρσοσ (idantirsos), Scythian king – OE eadan "performed, satisfied” and đyrs "a giant, demon, wizard".

Ιεζδραδοσ (iedzdrados), Olbia – OE. đræd "thread, wire”, while the first part of the name semantic approach OE īse(r)n "iron, of iron".

Λικοσ (likos), the son of Spargapeithes – by OE līc "body" could be called a man of large stature.

Λογχατησ (longchate:s), Lucian – (OE long "long", hæd “hair”).

Μαστειρα (masteira), the Alanian, the wife of the king of the Bosporus Leukanorus – OE māst "most", āre "honor, dignity."

Respondial, the Alanian king in Gaul, 406 – OE refsan, pespan "to blame" and deall "proud, famous".

σαγαρισ (sagaris), battle axe, the Scythian weapon – OE sacu "strife, war" and earh "an arrow".

Σαδιμανοσ (sadimanos) – OE sǽd "sated, satiated" and mann "a man".

Sangibanus, according to Jordanes, Alanian king in Gallia in the 5th c. – OE sengen "to burn" and bān "a foot, bone" are better.

Σαυλιοσ (saulios), the son of Gnuros – apparently from OE sāwol "soul."

Σπαροβαισ (sparobais), Panticapaeum – OE spær "gypsum, limestone” and býan "to build" ("a mason, builder").

Τασιοσ (tasios), the Roxolanian leader at the end of the 2nd cen. BC – OE tæsan "to wound"

Φαδινομοσ (phadinomos), Tanaïs – OE fadian "to lead" and nama "name".

Φηδανακοσ (phedanakos), Tanaïs – OE fadian „to lead” and naca „a boot, ship”.

Φλιανοσ (phlianos), Olbia – OE fleon "to escape, avoid".

However, as the descendants of the Alans are rightly regarded the modern Ossetians, when by recognized diversity of the population of the Northern Black Sea region we have no other choice but to assume that some tribal alliance was hiding under the common name of Alans at that time. The Anglo-Saxons could play a major role in this alliance, and the ancestors of the Ossetians were the only members of the union. The assumption that just the Anglo-Saxons were dominating top in the alliance is based on names Alanian rulers, explained by means of the Old English language (Αρδαβουριοσ, Beorgus, Γωαρ, Eochar, Μαστειρα, Respondial, Sangibanus, Τασιοσ etc.)

Herodotus wrote that “Royal Scythians” were among all Scythian tribes. Strabo also singled out “Royal Sarmatians” among the tribes of the Iazyges, Urgs, Roxolani, Aorsi, the Siraces. Obviously the definition of "royal" reders to the dominant tribe, which could be ethnic Alans. J. Harmatta believes that the peak power of the Sarmatians occurred for the last quarter of the 2nd and the first half of the 1st cent BC . Under conditions of stability, the development of trade, ways, and means of communication had resulted that different ethnic groups began to appear in the Black Sea steppes at the beginning of the 1st mill AD. They were included in the tribal alliance of the Alans. Historians come to the conclusion about the possibility of rule power of a warlike tribe, ethnically alien to the masses of population:

Ethnische Vielfalt und Flexibilität, kultureller Austausch, oft über große Distanzen, weiträumige Politik und regionale Differenzierung treten bei der Erforschung der Steppenreiche immer deutlicher hervor. Die Einsicht der modernen Ethnosoziologie, dass die frühmittelalterlichen Völker aus unterschiedlichen Gruppen bestehen, die sich um einen relativ kleinen Kern sammeln und ihm bald zugehörig fühlen, bestätigt sich. (Translation: Ethnic diversity and flexibility, cultural exchange, often over long distances, long-range policy and regional differences occur in the study of steppe empires ever more apparent. The understanding of modern social anthropology, that the early medieval folks consist of different groups that gather around a relatively small core, and soon feel to being attached to it, is confirmed) (POHL WALTER, 2002: 3).

The fact that Alans had a different ethnic composition is confirmed by the ethnonym Roxolani, which can be explained as "White Alans" by means of Ossetian ie, there were still common Alans and there was some significant difference between them, obviously, language one. The Iazyges (Asses) could be some Turkic tribe. It is noteworthy that Ossetian own name (Digor and Iron) does not contain any similarity on ethnonyms of Alans or Asses. Just they call the Balkars by the Asses, and Chuvash, especially older ones say "Epir Assem" (we are the Asses). At the same time ethnonyms of the Bulgar and Balkar are connected together etymologically.

Apart the names of the Alanian leaders, the Germanic origin of Alans is confirmed also by friendly relations of the Alans with the Germanic tribes of Goths, Vandals and Suevi (Suebe). These relations supposed to have some more serious explanation than a situational alliance of the tribes of different languages without a purpose and reason. In 378, the Alans, in alliance with the Ostrogoths defeated the Roman army at Adrianople. Later, a large part of the Alans together with the Goths and Huns moved into a long trek through Europe. In alliance with the Vandals and Suevi, the Alans reached Spain, where they founded their kingdom, and after the destruction of the kingdom by the Visigoths, they, along with the Vandals crossed into North Africa. If the Alans were Iranian-lingual, as is commonly believed, then why are they so tied to the German tribes with whom they shared the complicated fate? It should be said that the idea of German ethnicity of Alans is not new. Norman Davies is referred to the East German tribes, except the Swabians, the Lombards, Burugundes, Vandals, Gepids, and Goths, also Alans (DAVIES NORMAN. 2000: 241).

Some evidence of friendly relations between the Alans and Goths provides also archaeology. While the Slavic tribes of the Zarubintsy culture were displaced by the Sarmatians from the Forest-steppe Dnieper Land between the rivers Tyasmyn and Stugna, "the relation the Sarmatians and the bearer of the Cherniakhivska culture in the 2nd-4th centuries was totally different than the situation between the Sarmatians and Zarubintsy people. The Sarmatians were involved in the creation of the south-western region of the Cherniakhiv culture, and their funerary rites are like Chernyakhiv ones. (BARAN V.D., Otv. Red., 1985: 9-10). The Chernyakhiv culture was largely created by the Goths who came to the Black Sea, so we can assume that cultural interaction of the Goths and some part of the Sarmatians was due to the similarity of their languages.

However, most experts perceive the name of Alans only as ethnonym and assume a priori their Iranian origins. Tracing the history of the Alans until the 13th, they actually talk about the history of the Ossets, when only their name could remain on the North Caucasus. The fundamental work of A. Alemany (ALEMANY AGUSTI. 2000), largely based on Abaev’ works, is indicative in this respect.

On the other hand, a part of the Alans remained in the North Caucasus, what has historical evidence, and some of then, though few, Alanian names can not be explained by means of the Old-English language, while others of them appear clearly Turkic (Ιτιλησ, Αραβατησ, Thogay). In addition, the presence of the Alans in Central Asia was evidenced too.

Taking this all into account, we must assume that only part of the Alans could be the Germanic-speaking, which during the Great Migration had gone to Central Europe and then in Spain and Africa, and perhaps even the British Isles. In other words, the name Alans could hide as German-speaking, Iranian-speaking, and even Turkic-speaking tribes of the Northern Black Sea region, causing by the transfer of the name of a dominant tribe to the other participants of the union of different tribes, created for fighting against the Scythians.

One can find statements in popular literature, that certain place names in England sound exactly like Ossetian (London, Dover, etc.), although experts believe that their etymology is Celtic. This topic could be ignored if it were not revealed correspondences of the cycle of legends about King Arthur, Knights of the Round Table and the Holy Grail with Scythian-Sarmatian world and with the Ossetian cultural heritage of this world. In 2000 a book was published which in authors try to explain these relationships (LITTLETON C. SCOTT, MALCOR LINDA A. 2000). The book was controversial in the scientific world, as evidence of the authors are based on analogies which maybe not convincing. The reasons for these connections in influencing a small number of the Yazyges served in the Roman legions in Britain in the 2nd cent on the culture of the indigenous Celtic population look unconvincing too. Hostile to the Romans, the Celts could not have close cultural contacts with them, the more doubtful is that they were cultural influenced by the Yazyges. Such effect could make many new migrants of Alans-Anglo-Saxons, of course, having common cultural elements with the Iranian-speaking population of the Northern Black Sea. However trusty historical data of the migration of the Alans to the Britain are absent. Although Linda Malcor explains the name of Lancelot, one of the knights of King Arthur as “(A)lan(u)s à Lot” (Alan of Lot, the area in Southern Gaul, where at one time massed Alans). One would assume that other Alans came to Britain with Lancelot, but Celtic mythology has no hint of this (BOTHEROYD SYLVIA und PAUL F. 1999: 241-242).

If the Alans arrived in Britain from Southern Gaul, the more they could do it from Northern Gaul. It is known that Flavius Aetius, the honored leader, the actual governor of Gaul, known for his victory over the Huns on the Catalaunian Plains in 451, gave Armorica area (north-west France) into the possession to Alanian King Eochar (otherwise Foar). It is not superfluous in the case recall that the name of King Eochar could be understood by maens of the Old English language – OE eoh "horse" and ār "a messenger, herald, apostle". He was succeeded by Sanginanus whose name could be translated by Old English – sengen “to burn” and bān „leg, bone”. Later some rulers of Armorica had the name Alan. Thus, the peninsula of Brittany and the surrounding areas were inhabited by a large horde of Alans. The future of these Alan is unknown, therefore the possibility that they eventually settled in Britain can not be excluded. It is believed that the common English name Alan was brought from Brittany by soldiers of William the Conqueror. Brittany Normans, who formed his army, use the French language and the rapid disappearance of the Scandinavian language here is explained as follows:

Norman place names show that the Scandinavian colonization of this area was predominantly aristocratic (SAWYER PETER, 2002: 240-241).

However, all these arguments, refers to a field of speculation but fact attested by Bede the Venerable is that the tribes of Angles, Saxons, and Jutes migrated to Britain in the 5th century when Roman legions left it and when Alans repeated military clashes in southern Gaul and Spain. According to Bede tribes of Angles, Saxons and Jutes moved to Britain in the 5th century AD, when it was left by Roman legions, and when the other part of the Alan kept constant military clashes in southern Gaul and Spain. Bede tells the two names of Alanian commanders Hengist and Horsa (BEDE, XV), which in Old English can be translated as "stallion" and "horse". These names are suitable for men of the people of horsemen, which were the Alans, but Germans of Central Europe were not riders.

There is in the English county of Oxfordshire on a hillside near the town of Uffington strange figure by length of 110 m and by form resembling a horse. Mysterious figure is made by filling ditches with broken chalk, but its origin is unclear. Among other things, it is believed that the image was made in the Anglo-Saxon period in the reign of King Alfred the Great but it is possible more former dating. We can assume that the figure was made by the rider Alans for whom the horse was a symbol of worship borrowed from these Iranians which were in Sarmatian international alliance.

Uffington White Horse. Photo from Wikipedia.

In principle, the similarity between the ethnonyms of Angles and Alans can indicate their common origin, the more the name of the tribe of the Ρευκαναλοι (Reukanaloi) ie the "Light" or "Wild" Alans says of a possible metathesis in word Alan. If n in this ethnonym sounded like ng (ŋ), then the transformation of "Angl" in "Alan" would be quite possible (angloiaŋloialŋoialanoi). This explanation assumes the German origin of the word.

The German tribe of Anglii has been known since the Roman historian Tacitus (ca. 56 – ca. 117 AD) The preferred etymological theory deduces this name from *angula “hook," supposedly because the country inhabited by them had a curved shape. Other, namely Turkic origin of ethnonym is more suitable in terms of semantics. Old Turkic oğlan (ohlan) "a son, boy, young man" had another meaning, namely, "a rider " (Chuv. dial. yulan "a horseman"). The name of the light cavalry (Pol. ułani, Eng. Uhlans) is arisen from this Turkic word. This plausible explanation encounters phonetic difficulties which overcoming is tentative. The root is represented in Turkic languages by only a few derivative words, but by itself has no sense. We can assume that it is a variant of the root (oŋğ) having several meanings – "a pat", "right", "light, convenient", "to improve ", ie oğlan originally could exist in the form oŋğlan and it gave angl- and alan-.

The presence of the Anglo-Saxons in Eastern Europe can be confirmed by correspondences between the English, on the one hand, and the Chuvash and/or Slavic vocabulary, on the other hand, which has no reliable etymology. Till now a nimber of such correspondences is very small, but it is hoped that targeted searches will bring additional material. While it is possible to talk about such parallels:

OE. ǽwnian, ǽwan “to merry” – Chuv. avlan „to merry”.

OE. cytren “beautiful” – Chuv. khitren “beautifully”.

OE. gnyrran "to crunch", "squeak", Eng grunt – Rus., Ukr. knur, Blr. knyr "boar", Pol. knur "wild boar", Cz. knourati "to howl" and other similar Slavic words.

Eng. curd, curdle – common in many Turkic languages qurt, qurut "dried yoghurt or curd", in the Chuvash kărt "dish made from milk, yoghurt, sugar, and eggs"; Ukr. zğurdytysia "to coagulate".

Eng. scatter, semantically similar to "spread out" and in this sense this word can be matched to Rus., Ukr. skatert'. Both words have no reliable etymology. There in the Chuvash language the word shatra "rash", "uneven, rough surface". Just its protoform in Bulgarish language was borrowed by the Anglo-Saxons. The sound šsk. The Andlo-Saxon loan-wird was used by Slavs for building their own word skatert'.

Eng. scant – Rus., Ukr. skudnyi, Bulg. oskəden "scant" a.o. Slavic. The English word refers to Old Norse skamt "brief", however OE scand "shame" can be considered too. The Slavic worde are been deduced fron Proto-Slavic *skąd, which is connected with Av. skənda "breaking", Lat. scindere "to split". Maybe it is so, but the English and Slavic words are identical in the original form and meaning.

Definitively settling of the question of the relationships between the Alans and the Anglo-Saxon help us place names. They not only provide us with evidence of the presence of the Anglo-Saxons in Eastern Europe, but also demonstrate the ways of their migrations. During an extensive search of names of Anglo-Saxon origin in Eastern and partly in Central Europe, they were found in number about 250. This topic is discussed more datailed in section Ancient Anglo-Saxon Place Names in Eastern and Central Europe.). The following are some examples of the general list.

The village of (v.) Avratyn – OE ǽfre "after, constant", tūn "village";

v. Boriatyn – OE bora "son", tūn "village";

v. Burtyn – OE būr "a peasant", tūn "village";

the town of (t.) Delatyn – dǽl, dell "valley", tūn "village";

the city of Homel – OE humele „bryonia”, hymele "hop, hops”;

v. Kyrdany – OE cyrten, "beautiful”;

v. Myrutyn – OE mūr "wall", tūn "village";

v. Obertyn – OE ofer "over", "high"; tūn "village";

r. Rikhta, – OE riht, ryht, “right, direct”;

t. Senkiv – OE sencan “to dip, sink”;

r. Seym – OE seam "side, seam";

v. Skoviatyn – OE scuwa "shade", "protection", tūn "village".;

r. Sozh – OE socian “to boil”;

t. Sugia – OE sugga "sparrow";

r. Tal – OE dǽl “valley”;

r. Ul – OE ule “owl”.

r. Volfa – OE wulf “wolf”.

t. Yagotyn, the town in Kiev Region – OE iegođ „a little island”.

The presence of Anglo-Saxons in Eastern Europe Particularly is compellingly evidenced by the interpretation of some hydronyms clearly associated with the features of corresponding objects. For example the name of the river Vytebet means "wide riverbed", the river Ressetta – "spouting spring"? the rivers Ivot and Ivotka – "violent river", the river Irpen – "swampland", etc.

One van see on Google Map of Anglo-Saxon place that Anglo-Saxons migrated from their Urheimat in different directions. Their way into Germany is masrked by clearly expressed two chains. One of them goes along the Carpathian Mountains and through the Moravian Gate to Bohemia, and the other crosses Central Poland. However, a complete surprise was the presence of the Anglo-Saxon place names in the Donbas. This topic is discussed in "The Ethnic Composition of the Population of Great Scythia According Toponymy." here we try to make some conclusions from the data.

On the map localities are indicated by an asterisk. Among them deep red ones mark settlements containing the formant tyn/tin/ten/den and the similar, The violets mark settlements with the part Khotyn/Hawtin, the pinks – casual and doubtful cases.

Hydronyms are marked by azure circles.

Red space marks the area of Sosnitsa culture. Blue space is the Urheimat of the Anglo-Saxons. The yellow – Sarmatia.

Of all the place names of Donbass, which can have the Anglo-Saxon origin, the most convincing examples can be the name of the village Vergulivka (OE wergulu "nettle") and the Mius River (OE. mēos "moss, swamp"). Place names are concentrated around the copper mine Kartamishy where mining copper made since the Bronze Age. We can assume that the Anglo-Saxons moved to the territory of modern Donbass from Kharkiv Region, as evidenced by a narrow chain toponimav. Taking control here copper production, so that they due to subdued economic power scattered tribes of Sarmatia, as indicate the names of Sarmatian chiefs. This part of Anglo-Saxons be identified with the Alans, together with other German captivity embarked on a big hike in Europe. The greater part of the Anglo-Saxons to the Alans had no direct bearing on migrating their ways into Germany, and from there to the British Isles .

Talking about the Anglo-Saxon presence in Eastern Europe at the Scythian-Sarmatian times, we can not ignore the similarities of the ethnonyms "Saks" and "Saxons". The Saks were a Scythian tribe which settled in Central Asia, but their language is unknown. One can judge of it only on certain words. One of such word is the name of one of the Sakian leaders Skunha. This "Sak Skunha" was depicted on the monuments of the Achaemenid’s epoch, consisting of several rock-hewn figures and inscriptions to them in a few hundred kilometres from Hamadan. As can be seen from the inscription, Darius seized Skunha captured and mastered by his country. The search for explanations of Skunha’s name was carried out in Iranian languages and for this purpose Os sk'uänxun (Digorian dialect) and sk'uyxyn (Irons dialect) having the sense "to different" have been involved. Participle of the verb, which from origin these words, could mean "famous", "valiant" (FREIMAN A.A. 1948: 239). This explanation is convincing enough, but the scientific objectivity makes check other options. A. Freiman believed that the Ossetian word is cognate with other Iranian and also has a match in some Indo-European languages which are based on the concept of "pay attention". However, there is OE scunian “to avoid" of obscure origin and having no matches in the other Germanic languages. Semantic relation, albeit remote, exists with the Ossetian word (for example, the source sense could be "to separate, distinguish”), so it's possible their common origin. These considerations suggest that the issue of ethnicity of the Saks yet can not be resolved definitively.

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