Studies in the History and Language of the Sarmatians
J. Harmatta


7. Chronology of the Rise and Fall of the Western Sarmatian Tribal Confederacy

Thus the picture of a Sarmatian power which is easily tangible also in its historical effects, unfolds itself clearly from the reported sources, in fact it can be ascertained without doubt that its existence, at least in part coincides with the Pontic expansion of Mithridates Eupator. In addition, certain clues are extant as to the upper and lower time limit of the existence of this historically so important Sarmatian tribal confede-


racy. A good clue to the lower limit is the report of Appianos (Mithr. 69) according to which Mithridates when preparing his second campaign against the Romans, secured among others also the participation of the "Royal" Sarmatians (). Geyer puts this date of Appianos between 80 and 74 B. C., [89], since however, we may not assume any serious preparations by Mithridates prior to Sulla's death, this timing may be narrowed down to between 78 and 74 B. C., in fact with some likelihood even to 76 and 74 B. C. Hence, about 75 B. C. the "Royal" Sarmatians and the tribal confederacy, which is inferred from this tribal denomination, was still a significant power factor.

On the other hand, not much later than 60 B. C. began the sudden increase of Boirebistas and the Dacians' power, in the course of which, within a few years, they came to possess not only the Roumanian plain and Dobrudja, but the whole territory as far as Olbia. It is evident that this large-scale expansion of the Dacians was possible only after the collapse of Sarmatian power. Thus the conclusion is that the strong tribal confederacy under "Royal" Sarmatian leadership had broken up by about 60 B. C. and so the Sarmatians thus disintegrated could no longer preserve even the Roumanian Plain, let alone their South-Danubian conquests. The dissolution of the Sarmatian tribal confederacy is clear also from the fact that we no longer hear of "Royal" Sarmatians after the report of Appianos, while later sources only mention the other Sarmatian tribes. That this event was felt as early as about 60 B. C. is seen also from the defeat which Antonius, Cicero's partner in the consulship, suffered at the hands of the Scythians and their allies the Bastarnae in 61 B. C. in Dobrudja near Istros, which shows that at this time the Sarmatians were no longer in that area. Accordingly, we may put the dissolution of the tribal confederacy, brought about by the "Royal" Sarmatians, at between 75 and 61 B. C.

As to the formation of this strong Sarmatian power, so much is certain — as was seen — that Mithridates at the time of his expansion in the Pontic region, had found himself face to face with it, therefore its foundation must be conjectured to have been earlier. Considering, however, that the appearance of Mithridates in the northern coastal region of Pontus is closely connected with the expansion of the Sarmatian tribal confederacy, its foundation may not be put at a much earlier date. This is rendered impossible also by the fact that hardly a decade or two earlier, the domination of the Crimean Scythians extended as far as Olbia and their king Skiluros had even money coined in that city. On the other hand, according to one of Strabo's data (VII 4, 3) Skiluros himself was still alive when Mithridates' generals began their operations in the Crimea, although by then his son Palakos may have played the chief part. In any case, so much is clear that Skiluros lived through the height of Crimean Scythian power and survived its downfall, therefore, if he had even been ruling for 40 years when about 108 B. C. the troops of Mithridates appeared in the Crimea, we could not put the foundation of a strong tribal confederacy under "royal" Sarmatian leadership prior to 130 B. C. This is quite in keeping with the fact that we learn of the new Sarmatian power formation for the first time from a report of Strabo dealing with the Mithridatic campaigns, thus from a source recording the geographical picture of this epoch. Hence, the formation of the new Sarmatian power may roughly be put between 130 and 108, yet as we must place within these limits also the Epikrates and Nikeratos inscriptions which look back upon several years' events, but infer the existence of the new Sarmatian power, this interval with much likelihood may be narrowed down to between 130 and 120 B. C.

89. RE XV, pp. 2179. 30


In this respect there is one more clue. In a passage (II 5, 7) Strabo reports Hipparchos' view on the size and shape of the oikumene and points out that above the Borysthenes, in the north farthest from "the known Scythians", there are Roxolani. In itself it would be difficult to decide whether the information originates from Hipparchos or whether it is Strabo's addition. The latter is borne out by the whole passage having the character of an incidental remark and is a little irrelevant in the enumeration of data concerning the size and distances of the oikumene. Despite this, however, we may find it probable that this information comes from Hipparchos. When mention is made of the Roxolani a remark is added, namely that these are more in the south than the known people living on the farthest spot north of Britannia.

This remark is comprehensible only in Hipparchos, because he put Britannia on the same latitude as Borysthenes and held Thule — probably after Pytheas — to be the northernmost point of the oikumene. Strabo, on the other hand, imagined Byzantium to have been much more in the north than Massalia while he considered the distance between the latter and Britannia as well as the distance between Byzantium and Borysthenes equal, therefore, the Roxolani living in the north farthest from Borysthenes, could not have been more in the south than the people who lived farthest north of Britannia. Thus it seems probable that Hipparchos knew the Roxolani. The activity of this eminent astronomer of antiquity probably took place in the second half of the second century B. C. [90], astronomic observations from him date back to between 146 and 126 B. C. [91] Even though it is not entirely impossible that his activity reached as far as into the last decades of that century, nevertheless we may place his information on the Roxolani with greatest likelihood at the most in the time of his last known astronomical observations, i. e. in the years round about 125 B. C. The mentioning of the Roxolani at that time, shows that the new Sarmatian power was an important factor by then and that even their remotest tribes were known.

90. See H. Berger, Geschichte der Wissenschaftlichen Erdkunde der Griechen. Leipzig, 1903. p. 459.

91. See Rehm, RE VII, 1666.

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