V.Stetsyuk's personal site logo
Mail to site
Print version
News (RSS)
The Scytho-Sarmatian Problems. / Alans – Angles – Saxons

Alans – Angles – Saxons

Understanding the name of Alans as ethnonym, the most experts unreservedly consider the Alans as Iranian-speaking people, and mainly because of their alleged descendants Ossetians belong to the Iranian language family. The fundamental work of A. Alemany (ALEMANY AGUSTI. 2000), largely based on V. Abaev’ works, is indicative in this respect. But V.Abayev missed a lot of facts that would only be able to confirm his views. For example, even with its rich imagination, he lost sight of the Iranian origin of such place names as Azov, Vorskla, Oskol, Kalitva a.o. but he deciphered the Northern Pontic epigraphy most erroneous because doing so only by means of the Iranian languages.

At left: Caucasian Alania (By Constantine Plakidas).

Of course a part of the Alans remained in the North Caucasus, but they did not have to be necessarily ancestors of the Ossetians, because many Alanian names can not be explained only by the Ossetian language, but also by other Iranian, while others look completely Turkic (Ιτιλησ, Αραβατησ, Thogay) or can be translated by means of other languages.

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.

The abundance of contradictory facts has led that reputable scientists, arbitrarily manipulating as by facts and archaeological cultures, but without regard to linguistics, as did this, for example, Tadeusz Sulimirsky (SULIMIRSKI T. 2008), readily draw for us the story of the Alans. However, when their ancestral home is looking for somewhere in Asia, considering that the Iranian people were arisen just only there, then also the Ossetians had to come from Asia. But we know that their Urheimat was in the upper reaches of the Dnieper River and this fact has evidence in place names of in nearest locality (see the section Iranic Tribes in the Eastern Europe at the Bronze Age).

At left: The Ancestral home of the Ossetians (yellow)

The evidences of ancient writers don't allow conclude about ethnicity of the Alans. Here it is appropriate to recall the prejudice that ancients were better informed about the times nearest 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). As we can see farther, this remark applies directly to our topic.

Contradictory views on the Alans can be found in the notes to Jordanes’ "Getica" made by its translator E. Skrzhinsky (JORDANES, 1960). It seems that most evidences about them were left by Ammianus Marcellinus. He, as well as some other historians of their time, believed that the Alans were the Massagetai of the past, however, no evidence for this didn't 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. Moreover, Ammianus could not know about the ideological differences between the Alans and Huns, which are usually reflected in the types of burials of the nomadic peoples. Research of Hun graves revealed a significant difference between them – some of them were kurgan burials and other without kurgan. Because of this difference, it was concluded:

At common unity of culture, material for all its ethnic components, researchers found traits marking ethnic differences in the types of burial structures. However, according to most experts Hun Union also had a complex multicomponent ethnic structure. This allows us to offer as an option to explain the differences in the construction of burial structures (the mound – not mound) just some ethnic difference of the population, leaving them (IVCHENKO A.V. 2003, 46).

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 the 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 Arsakomas (Αρσακομασ) and his loyal friends Longhates (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 hād/hæd “hair”). While OE maca "a friend, companion" included, according to Holthausen in such Anglo-Saxon proper nouns as Meaca, Mackenthorp, Mackensen (A. HOLTHAUSEN F. 1974: 209, 216), and OE. ent "a giant" suit for the name Makentes. Thus, Makentes has not to pretend to be an Alan, he was really Alan. Being aware of the presence of the Anglo-Saxons in Ukraine in Scythian time (see the sections Anglo-Saxons on the Ukraine, The Sarmatians , The Ethnic Composition of the Population of Great Scythia According Toponymy), consider how they might be connected with the Alans.

The Urheimat of Anglo-Saxons on the ethno-producing area between the Sluč, Prypyat’, and Teteriv Rivers and Anglo-Saxon place names in Ukraine (see the map at left) confirm the presence of the Anglo-Saxons in Ukraine for a long time.

Later the Anglo-Saxons migrated from their ancestral home in different directions for Eastern Europe and place names not only confirm this, but also demonstrates the ways of their migration. 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.

Avratyn, a few villages in Right Bank Ukraine – OE ǽfre "after, constant", tūn "village.

Boriatyn, villages in Lviv and Zhytomyr Regions of Ukraine, Briansk and Tula Regionf of Russia – OE bora "a son", tūn "village". Here also the villages of Boratyn in Lviv, Volyn, Rivne Regions of Ukraine.

Burtyn, a village in Khmelnytsk Region – OE būr "a peasant", tūn "village".

Delatyn , a town in Ivano-Frankivsk Region – dǽl, dell "valley", tūn "village".

Gladosove, a town in Donetsk Region – OE glæd «shining, gracious», ōs «pagan divinity».

Homel, a city in Belorus – OE humele „bryonia”, hymele "hop, hops”.

Khotyn, a few of towns and villages with this or with derivate if it in Ukraine, Russia, Belorus, Poland – OE. hof “court, area”, tūn "village".

Konotop, ten towns and villages in Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Poland aand a few derivatives of it – OE. cyne- «royal», topp "a top".

Kyrdany, a village in Zhytomyr Region – OE cyrten, "nice".

Myrutyn, a village in Khmelnytsk Region and the village of Myrotyn in Rivne Region – OE mūr "wall", tūn "village";

Obertyn, a village in Ivano-Frankivs Region – OE ofer "over", "high"; tūn "village";

Rikhta, a river, lt of the Trostianytsia Rive, rt of the Irsha River, lt of the Teteriv River, rt of the Dnieper and a few villages in Kiev and Khmelnytsk Regions – OE riht, ryht, “right, direct”;

Romodan a town in Poltava Region – OE. rūma „space”, dān "humid, humid locality".

Seym, a river, lt of the Desna River, lt of the Dnieper – OE seam "side, seam";

Skoviatyn, a village in Ternopil Region – OE scuwa "shade", "protection", tūn "village".;

Sozh, a river, lt of the Dnieper – OE socian “to boil”.

Verhulivka (Vergulivka), a village in Luhansk Region – OE wergulu "nettle”.

Volfa, a river, lt of th Seym River, lt of the Desna River – OE wulf “wolf”.

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

Particularly convincing evidence of the Anglo-Saxons stay in Eastern Europe is the interpretation of certain hydronyms, apparently due to the nature of the corresponding objects. Cf.

Irpen', a river, rt of the Dnieper – OE ear 1. "lake" or 2. “ground”, fenn “bog, silt”, could mean “sludgy lake” or “boggy ground”.

Ivotka, a river, lt of the Desna – OE ea "river", wœt "fury".

Mius, a river flowing in Sea of Azov – OE mēos «moss, swamp».

Nerussa, a river lt of the Desna – OE nearu "narrow", essian "to waste".

Resseta, a river, rt of the Zhizdra, lt of the Oka – OE rǽs "running" (from rǽsan "to race, hurry") or rīsan "to rise" and seađ "spring, source".

Vytebet', a river, lt of the Zhizdra, rt of the Oka – OE wid(e) "wide", bedd "bed, river-bed".

Once more evidence can be correspondences between English words, on the one hand, and Chuvash and/or Slavic ones, on the other hand, which have no reliable etymology. Till now a number of such found 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 š was absent in their language, so they articulated it as sk. The Andlo-Saxon loan-word 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.

Finally, the presence of the Anglo-Saxons in Eastern Europe convinces decryption of epigraphy and certain realities of the Scythian time 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".

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.

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

Respendial, Alanian king in Gallia in early 5th century – OE respan "to reproach" and deall “proud, brave”.

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, 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".

Having found in the above list the names of several Alanian leaders (Αρδαβουριοσ, Beorgus, Γωαρ, Eochar, Μαστειρα, Respendial, Sangibanus, Τασιοσ a.o.), we can assume that the Alans were in fact the Anglo-Saxons. However, as the descendants of the Alans quite rightly considered to be the modern Ossetians, recognizing diversity of the population of the Northern Black Sea region, we have no choice but to agree with the fact that some tribal alliance was hiding under the common name of Alans at that time. It should be borne in mind that the identification with the "prestigious" ethnos by individuals or groups of people, even without adopting their language is a widespread phenomenon even in our 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. Explanation of a dominant position of the Anglo-Saxon in this tribal alliance is they occupied an area in the Donbas, rich deposits of copper ore. Copper smelting and fabrication of objects of everyday use allowed them to gain economic advantage over population of other ethnicity in the Northern Black Sea and, as a consequence, the political dominance (about Anglo-Saxons in the Donbass see the section The Ethnic Composition of the Population of Great Scythia According Toponymy.

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" refers 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 (HARMATTA J., 1970, 39). 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.

In addition to 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. Obviously, the common Germanic ethnopsychology helped Alans quickly find mutual understanding with the Goths and Vandals, than with other people. In 378 the Alans in alliance with other Gothic disparate units under the general command of Fritigern participated in the defeat of the Roman army at Adrianople.

The Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Alans, migrating under pressure of the Huns in search of new lands for settlement, has not moved a single stream, but each of these people by their own way and only temporarily united for military purposes. Even the Alans moved at least in two groups, making it difficult to establish their migration routes. As always during migration of peoples, their way has been marked by settlements, where a part of the migrants remains to stay for various reasons. This phenomenon was observed by the ancient migrations of the Bulgars, Cimbri, Angles, and Saxons. The chain of place names that may mark the path of further movement of the Alans after Adrianople, consists of the following:

Haskovo, a village in southern Bulgaria – OE hassuk "wet, row grass", Eng. hassock.

Rashkovo, a village in Sofia Region, Bulgaria – OE. ræscan "to tremble, swing", īw, eow "yew". Place-names with the root rashk are common in Eastern Europe and is doubtful that a narrow meaning of tremor or swing lay in their stem. Most likely the Old English word had another meaning, as it does in its related the Old Norse raska, which is translated as both "to tremble", and as "to rock", "to displace". This meaning is much better suited for names of settlemants of migrants,

Raška, a town, the center of Rashka district in Serbia – OE ræscan "to tremble, swing". See Rashkovo

Sige, a village in the municipality of Žagubica, Serbia – OE sige 1. "lowland", 2. "victory".

Raškovići, a village in the municipality of Goražde, Bosnia and Herzegovin – OE ræscan "to tremble, swing". See Rashkovo

Raškovci, a village in the municipality of Doboj, Bosnia and Herzegovina – OE ræscan "to tremble, swing". See Rashkovo

Vinkovci a city in eastern Croatia – OE wincian "wink".

Valpovo, a city in eastern Croatia – OE hwelp(a) "whelp".

Szekszárd (Szekszárd), a city in Hungary, the capital of Tolna county – OE sex, siex, "six", eard "land, place, settlement".

A further way of the Alans through the territory settled by Germanic tribes is difficult to trace because of the similarity of local dialects to Old English. However, it is known that the Alans together with the Vandals and Suevi 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. While driving through France the Alans also founded their settlements and their way to Spain across southern France, which has not been yet reached by other Germans, can be marked as follows:

Bourg-en-Bresse, a commune, the capital of the Ain department,– OE burg "botough, town", bræs "ore, bronze".

Sault-Brénaz, a commune in the Ain department – OE sealt "salt".

Lyon, a city in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region – OE lion "to lend", "to preserve".

Lemps, a commune in the Ardèche department – OE. limpan "to belong", "to be fit".

Gignac, a commune in the Hérault département in the Occitanie region – OE. geagn "against", gegn "right".

At left: Alanian kingdom in Spain.
Is indicated in pink, a map of Wikipedia.

The Alanian kingdom existed In Spain for a short time (409-426), but Alanian presence here is reflected in a few place names, allowing decryption using the Old English language. For example:

Alenquer, a municipality in the Oeste Subregion in Portugal – there is an explanation of the name as "Alanian temple" involving OG kerika "church". The name can be given by Visigoths, but this word is not fixed in the Gothic language, and there was in OE cirice "a church".

Madrid, the capital of Spain – the first mention of the city is preserved in the Arab transcription: مجريط (Majrīṭ, pronounced as maʤrit). There are several versions of the origin of the name, but we can stand up about Alanian origin: OE māg "bad, shameless" and rīđ "a stream, river". Madrid is located on a small river Manzanares.

Murcia, a city in south-eastern Spain, the capital of the Autonomous Community of the Region of Murcia – OE murcian "be unhappy, complaining".

Utiel, a municipality in the comarca of Requena-Utiel in the Valencian Community, Spain. – OE ūtian "to banish, steal".

Of course, these decoding themselves will not be able to convince the skeptics, but together with other facts they still gain more weight. The counter could be decoding the same place names using the Ossetian language, but it seems impossible.

Google Map below, which shows the distribution of names decrypted using Old English, helps to clarify the relationship between the Anglo-Saxons and the Alans. On the map, it is clear that the Anglo-Saxons moved from their ancestral home lacated between the Teteriv, Sluch, and Pripyat Rivers in different directions. Their paths are marked by place names chains clearly expressed. There are in Poland two such chains. Obviously, the Angles were moving through Central Poland, but the way along the northern spurs of the Carpathians and through the Moravian Gate to Bohemia was made by the Saxons. Such separate movement was due to the fact that already at that time the Angles and Saxons had different self-consciousness. Their homeland is divided into three approximately equal parts by the Uzh and Ubort Rivers. One can assume that on these subareas arising of close Germanic dialects was occurred which speakers were formed into separate ethnic units of the Angles, Saxons, and Alans. While the Angles and Saxons moved into Central Europe, the Alans crossed to the left bank of the Dnieper, were makers of Sosnitsky culture here, and eventually migrated to south-westerly direction along the path, where the highway Kharkov – Rostov lies now. They stopped at the Donbass and their stay here is the reason of the communication of the Alans with the Iranian world, which discussed below. Their further migration to Western Europe through the Balkans is also marked with place names on the map.

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, brown – Konotop and similar, the pinks – casual and doubtful cases.

Hydronyms are marked by azure lines and circles.

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

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 created by the Goths who came to the Black Sea but its cultural Sarmatian traits were superstrate, "that is, they are superimposed on the already established culture in the process of its spread to new territories" (GUDKOVA O.V. 2001:39). In this connection,we can assume that cultural interaction of the Goths and some part of the Sarmatians was due to the similarity of their languages and customs preserved since Germanic community.

Taking all this into account, we have to make a final conclusion that only the part of the Alans could be the Germanic-speaking people, 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.

Quite recently communication correspondences has been revealed between the cycle of legends about King Arthur, Knights of the Round Table and the Holy Grail with Scythian-Sarmatian 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.

The one of the Slide Show: Morte D'Arthur by Daniel Maclise

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 near the city of Châlons-en-Champagne, gave Armorica area (north-west France) into the possession to Alanian King Eochar (otherwise Goar). It is known that Eochar with a part of the Alans did not follow the king Respendial to Spain and stayed in central France. It is not superfluous to recall on occasion, that the names of Alanian leaders Respendial, Eochar, Sangibanus are perfectly decrypted by means of the Old English language (see. Above).

Invasions of Roman Empire by Goths, Huns, Vandals, and Anglo-Saxons in 4-6 cen AD

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).

English monk Bede the Venerable in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People asserted that the tribes of the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes arrived to Britain in the 5th after Roman legions left it. Bede wrote about this relocation very scantly and didn't mention about the Huns at this point, but obviously just they have forced these tribes to resettle in Britain. He also reports the names of the leaders of the Angles Hengist and Horsa (BEDE, XV), which can be translated from Old English as "a stallion" and "a horse". Such names are suitable for men of the people of horsemen, what were the Alans, but the people of Central Europe, where from Bede's opinion the Angles, riders were not. Bede described the event after more than 150 years and we don't know what sources he used. It is possible that also a part of the Alans moved to the Britain together with related Angles and Saxons.

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 greater part of the Anglo-Saxons had no direct relation to the Alans bearing on migrating their ways into Germany, and from there to the British Isles. Alans, crossing the Dnieper, were in close contact with Iranian tribes for quite a while. To solve the question of how and in what way Angles and Saxons could accept elements of Iranian culture and then bring them to Britain is unpossible. Most likely this cultural impact was made by some part of the Alans who migrated to Britain sometime, but one still needs to find evidence for this.

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.

See also



Free counter and web stats            


Please this page? Help us to develop this site!

© 1978 – 2017 V.Stetsyuk

Reprinting of articles from site are encouraged while
reference (hyperlink) to my site is provided

Site powered by

Load count : 12676

Modified : 7.01.2017

If you look up the type error
on this page, please select it
by mouse and press Ctrl+Enter.