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


1. The Immigration into Hungary of the Iazyges

In the decades immediately preceding our era an advance of the Sarmatae towards the Danube estuary can again be observed. [117] This is very likely connected with the break-up of the Dacian empire after the death of Boirebistas. The power of the Dacians having been broken, the way was open again to the Sarmatians across the Roumanian Lowlands towards the Danube. This time we hear about one of their tribes: the Iazyges. [118] Ovid living in banishment in Tomi between the years 9 and 17 A. D., often complained of their raids. [119] A few decades later we already find them in Hungary. [120] Concerning the route of the Iazyges on their way into Hungary, it has been suggested that they entered the country from Galicia passing through the mountain passes of the Carpathians. [121] The distribution of the early Iazygian archaeological sites contradicts this assumption as it has been clearly proved by M. Párducz. No traces of Sarmatians have so far been found in Galicia or in the Carpathian Ruthenia. The northernmost of the early Sarmatian archaeological sites is the gold treasure found in the vicinity of Eger in Hungary. The number of sites increases as we proceed southwards, and reaches their highest density between the Danube and the Tisa and on the eastern banks of the middle course of the latter river; from these parts on the sites form a continuous chain and reach that stretch of the Danube which lies north of the Iron Gates. [122]

This circumstance clearly shows that the Iazyges entered Hungary from the south through Oltenia and the Banat and not from the north through Galicia. This view receives a further confirmation by a circumstance that has so far not been considered. In his enumeration of the Sarmatian tribes (VII, 3, 18) Strabo passed from south to north and first mentioned the Iazyges, whose seats lay southernmost; to the north of these, between the Carpathians and the Dnieper, were the seats of the Royal Sarmatians and the Urgi. Ovid also mentioned the Iazyges as being settled along the lower reaches of the Danube, i. e. all through the Iazyges had kept southernmost of all the Sarmatian tribes. Thus the geographical distribution of the Iazyges

Additional Notes

To p. 41. In my paper "Iranier, Germanen und Römer im Mittleren Donaubecken" I pointed out in 1960 that the immigration of the Iazyges possibly took place at an earlier date as it was assumed so far. I quote the relevant passage: "Es wird meistens angenommen, daß die Jazygen zwischen 18 und 20 n. Zw. in die große ungarische Tiefebene eingewandert sind. Diese Auffassung stützt sich einerseits darauf, daß Aquincum in dieser Zeit eine militärische Besatzung und ein Lager erhielt, andrerseits, daß die Jazygen noch zwischen 9 und 17 n. Zw. von Ovid in der Nähe von Tomi erwähnt werden. Es scheint trotzdem nicht unmöglich zu sein, daß die ersten Jazygenscharen im Theißgebiet schon früher erschienen sind. Wir können auf eine Angabe des Eusebios hinweisen, wonach Tiberius im Jahre 7 n. Zw. mit den Dalmatern zusammen auch die Sarmaten zur Anerkennung der römischen Oberhoheit gezwungen hat. Da die militärischen Operationen des Tiberius während des großen pan-nonischen Aufstandes im wesentlichen auf das Gebiet zwischen Save und Dräu beschränkt waren, so ist es sehr wahrscheinlich, daß diese Sarmaten, die damals mit den Dalmatern zusammen von ihm besiegt wurden, schon in der Nähe der pannonischen Stämme, irgendwo in der Theißebene seßhaft waren. So könnte man daran denken, daß die Einwanderung der Jazygen in die ungarische Tiefebene viel früher erfolgt sein könnte, als man bisher angenommen hatte. Durch diese Annahme ließe sich auch diejenige Textstelle bei Lukan leichter verstehen, wonach die Jazygen zu seiner Zeit schon seit einem Jahrhundert in der Nähe von Pannonien gelebt hatten. Man darf sich diese Bewegung der Jazygen kaum als einen einzigen Vorstoß nach dem Nordwesten vorstellen. Wie wir noch sehen werden, lebten diese Tränier auch noch 100 Jahre später in einer ziemlich losen Sippen- und Stammesorganisation. So liegt es nahe daran zu denken, daß ihr Vordringen in kleineren Scharen, Sippen oder Stämmen vor sich gegangen ist. Durch diese Annahme läßt sich auch ihre Erwähnung bei Ovid erklären. Als die ersten Gruppen der Jazygen schon zwischen der Donau und der Theiß seßhaft waren, mögen andere Stämme von ihnen noch in Muntenien und in der Nähe von Tomi gelebt haben."

117. See: Budapest története (The History of Budapest), vol. I., p. 180.

118. Concerning the Iazyges and the Roxolani see the latest publication by K. F. Smirnov, in VDI. 1948. I, pp. 213 ff.

119. See: Budapest története (The History of Budapest), vol. I., p. 180. footnote 99.

120. For the entry of the Iazyges into Hungary and the date of their arrival see: Budapest története (The History of Budapest), I. p., 181. For the literature on the subject see the same work footnote 101. on p. 181.

121. See C. Daicoviciu, Apulum I (1939—41) p. 15 and Dacia 7/8 (1941) p. 460.

122. See M. Párducz, AÉ 3 (1942) p. 315.


before their entry into Hungary, also confirms that they invaded Hungary from the south through Oltenia.

The entry of the Iazyges into Hungary and the problems connected therewith, were recently dealt with by Hungarian scientists. They attribute their settlement into Hungary to the Roman foreign policy that desired to set up a series of buffer states in front of their most dangerous enemies. The entry of the Iazyges had been permitted and even encouraged in order to form a bulwark against the Dacians, and it might even by assumed that the Iazyges were ordered by the Romans to settle down in the Danube-Tisa region. [123] The significance of the part played by Rome in the movement of the Iazyges into Hungary, cannot be denied but it is not unlikely that other forces must have contributed, too. We have seen further back that a number of Iranian waves followed each other migrating westwards across the South Russian steppes; each wave of newcomers pushed the earlier ones westward in front of them or else absorbed them completely. Such a newer wave set in with the arrival of the Alani into South Russia in the first decades A. D. [124] For the time being this new wave had not passed beyond the river Don, yet the pressure it brought to bear upon the intervening tribes must have been felt by the Western Sarmatian tribes and by the Iazyges and Roxolani as well. [125] It is very likely that this pressure had played a part in the movement of the Iazyges into Hungary.

This view is further strengthened by the consideration that such a change of seats was far from being desiderable for the Iazyges. As the results show, they were being hemmed in on one side by a well-defended Roman territory and on the other by warlike and inimical Dacians; there was left only a narrow corrider connecting them with the cognate Roxolani, a corridor that could at any time be cut off by the Dacians whose power was increasing; such an isolation did indeed take place in the days of Decebal. Due to these circumstances the Iazyges were forced into a precarious position with hardly any satisfactory way out. Added to this was the consequence that by moving into Hungary they had also lost their contacts with Pontic trade and economy though these contacts had been of vital importance to them.

These factors make themselves strongly felt in the archaeological remains of the Iazyges. [126] The archaeological remains of the Iazyges in Hungary from the first two centuries A. D., strike one at first sight as being rather poor in comparison to the Scythian and Sarmatian finds in South Russia. It is true, though, that the remains in Sarmatian graves from South Russia cannot be compared with the wealth of the Scythian Kurgan graves, [127] but even so the poverty of the Iazygian graves in Hungary remains a rather striking feature. Among the grave goods not only larger sized gold objects are lacking but also the usual equipments of the warrior as well. Opposed to the grave goods found in the Sarmatian graves in South Russia, this feature of the Sarmatian graves in Hungary needs an explanation.

The wealth of the Scythians in the heyday of their state, depended on their

123. See: Budapest története (The History of Budapest), I, p. 181.

124. For literature on the history of the Alani see J. Kulakovskiy, Alani po svedeniyam klassicheskikh i vizantiyskikh pisateley. Kiev, 1899. Ebert, Südrußland im Altertum, pp. 375 ff. Rostovtzev, Iranians and Greeks in South Russia, pp. 116 ff. Junge, Saka-Studien, pp. 76 ff.

125. See Rostovtzev in CAH XI p. 95.

126. The archaeological remains of the Iazyges were examined by M. Párducz to whom we owe a reliable information on the point. The more important works of M. Párducz in this line are: Die frühesten Funde der ersten pontisch-germanischen Denkmälergruppe in Ungarn. Szeged, 1935. Denkmäler der Sarmatenieit Ungarns. I. AH XXV, Budapest, 1941., II. AH XXVIII. Budapest, 1947. Laureae Aquincenses. II., pp. 309 ff.

127. For a general picture of the subject see Ebert, Südrußland im Altertum, p. 344.


trade with the Pontic Greeks. The Scythian state in South Russia was well-organised and created peaceful conditions to a certain extent. The agricultural production in these territories increased remarkably, and their produce found a way to Athens through the Greek towns along the Black Sea. [128] By the 4th century B. C. South Russia had become the granary of Athens. Wheat and other agricultural products were exported from South Russia through the Greek trading towns and correspondingly enormous amounts of Greek articles, precious metal objects, arms, pottery, etc., streamed into Scythia and reached even the innermost parts of her territory. The most important trading centre for the western part of Scythia was the Greek town Olbia. [129]

The flourishing economic life of Scythia ended for ever and with it the wealth of the Pontic Greek towns, too, dwindled when the Scythian power was destroyed by the Iranian newcomers from the East. [130] The long wars prevented trade with the interior of the country and brought about a sharp decline in agriculture. We have seen from the Protogenes inscription what the position of Olbia, the most important trading centre of the Dnieper basin was like about the beginning of the 2nd century B. C. We see an impoverished town with its inhabitants living from day to day amid the constant threats of all kinds of barbarian tribes, interspersed with occasional sackings of the town; the inhabitants were embittered and were planning to leave the town altogether.

There are undoubted traces, however, that the town enjoyed once more an economic improvement for a short spell. In the 2nd century B. C. lively trade relations between Athens and the Pontic Greek towns seems to have been taken up once more. This was undoubtedly the result of the peace treaty concluded between the Pontic powers in 179 B. C. Among the parties to the treaty we find the Sarmatian king Gatalos. It was this peace treaty that to a certain extent had ensured a more peaceful state of affairs bringing about the revival of economic life and of trade relations. [131] This event seems to hang together with the rise of the great Sarmatian confederacy that was founded in the 2nd century B. C. by a new wave of Iranian tribes coming from the East. This spell of peace and economic improvement had brought about the manufacturing and wide-spread use of the silver phalerae that were found in great numbers among the grave finds of the Sarmatians. It can hardly be doubted, therefore, that Olbia was playing an important part in this economic revival since she was the outstanding centre of trade with the Western Sarmatian tribes.

It has already been pointed out that the Sarmatian state came to an end between 75 and 61 B. C. Such an event could not have taken place without greater internal troubles and without affecting, in fact, even crippling economic life once more. A new blow was dealt to the Sarmatian tribes when the Dacians began to expand vigorously eastwards and to cut the Sarmatians off from the Greek coastal towns. Dacian expansion reached its climax when in the middle of the 1st century B. C. the Dacians destroyed Olbia. [132] An attempt was to be made afterwards .to rebuild the town but the new town was just a miserable shadow of the old one. [133]

The destruction of Olbia must have come as a hard blow to the trade of the Western Sarmatian tribes. It is obvious that they became impoverished on account of

Additional Notes

To p. 43. Cf. additional note to p. 19. (Shafranskaya).

128. For the latest publications ont his problem see A. A. Yessen, Grecheskaya kolonizatsiya severnogo Prichernomorya. Leningrad, 1947 and a review of it by B. J. Nadel' in VDI 1948, 3, pp. 122.

129. See Ebert, in RLV XIII, p. 94. Rostowcew, Skythien und der Bosporus, I., p. 404.

130. Cf. Ebert. Südrußland im Altertum, p. 214.

131. This was noticed by Ebert, as well. Cf. his Südrußland im Altertum, pp. 215 f.

132. Ebert, Südrußland im Altertum, p. 225.

133. Ebert, Südrußland im Altertum, p. 226.


tfae break-up of their confederacy, while the eastward expansion of the Dacians and the greatly perturbed conditions brought about a sharp fall in their economic life and trade. These Sarmatian tribes could never organize the economic production of the territories occupied by them in such a degree that they would have been able to export important quantities of agricultural products as the Scythians did. The import of goods, however, was a vital necessity to the Surmatians since their territories were poor in manufactured goods and in metals. That is why it had become vitally important to them to levy a contribution on the agricultural population and the Greek towns — something similar was said by Strabo about the nomads of Crimea (VII 4,6) — because it was only in this way possible to meet their requirements of imported goods. This expedient, however, did not much help them, since in the course of time the Pontic Greek towns and mainly Olbia had impoverished and the latter had been destroyed by the Dacians.

Keeping all these in mind we shall understand the significance of an information from the 2nd century. A. D. by Pausanias who paints a realistic picture of the poverty in which the Sarmatian tribes lived. The Sarmatians have no iron, we read, because iron is not mined with them nor can they rely on imports. From among all the barbarians in those parts, there is the least contact with them. They have bones for their spearheads, bows and arrows are made of sticks, and the arrowheads are also tipped with bones. In their encounters with the enemy they employ lassos and they cover their armour with scales chipped off hoofs. The description of this mail covered with horny scales suggests that the report by Pausanias refers to the Roxolani. If this was the state of affairs with the Roxolani who were still living in the sphere of interest of the Pontic Greek trade and who had remained relatively free, the conditions must have been much worse with the Iazyges who had really got into a tight corner by then.

The seats allotted to the Iazyges suggests that the tribe was a kind of a vanguard such as can be found in many of the nomadic tribal societies. [134] When they moved into Hungary, judging by the remains from their material culture, they might even have been poorer than such nomadic tribal vanguards usually were. In Hungary they first settled in the Great Hungarian Plain which best suited their nomadic system of breeding and small-scale agriculture, [135] but as this region was also poor in minerals, it did not supply them with precious metals, nor with iron needed for their arms and other equipment. Such staple necessities might have been procured if the Iazyges had organised production in their occupied territories for exports for it would not have been impossible to find markets. But the agriculture of the local population must have been on a low level to supply them with goods for trade, and, in addition, they were surrounded by enemies on all sides. The Romans could not be plundered with impunity like the Pontic Greek towns had been, though the Iazyges succeeded later on to extort stipends from their mighty neighbours. [136] We should not be surprised that the welt-organised economic life and industry of the adjacent Roman province was a great temptation to them. And they did make use of the possibilities along this line. But neither their plundering raids, that were almost always followed by punitive expeditions, nor their economic contacts with the Romans, could have been sufficient to satisfy even to a smallest measure their most elementary necessities.

134. For such organizations see J. Németh, A honfoglaló magyarság kialakulása (The Ethnogenesis of the Settling Hungarians). Budapest, 1930., pp. 19 f.

135. For the agriculture of the Iazyges see: Budapest története (The history of Budapest), I., p. 178.

136. According to recent investigations the Iazyges had received some kind of contribution from the Romans already at the very outset of their arrival in Hungary.


Their contacts with Pontic commerce and trade had also ceased especially after the Dacians had occupied the corridor connecting the Iazyges with the Roxolani.

They had to rely almost entirely on what they had brought along with themselves from their earlier seats such as small articles of precious metals made in the Pontic workshops, [137] and what they had found here in the occupied territories as the metal and pottery products of the indigenous Dacian and Celtic population. [138] It cannot surprise, therefore, if only such remains were found in their burying places. It is unlikely that they possessed iron arms but if they did, these must have been very valuable possessions that were passed on from one generation to the other and were never put into the graves. If they had at all put arms along with their dead, made of wood or bone, these would have decayed in the course of the many centuries. But is not unlikely that in this impoverished period of their tribal existence, arms were not included among the grave finds at all.

137. For an analysis of the archaeological evidence sec M. Párducz, Denkmäler der Sarmatenzeit Ungarns, I., pp. 60 f.

138. On Dacian and Celtic influences in the Sarmatian find see M. Párducz, Denkmäler der Sarmatenzeit Ungarns, I., pp. 60 f.

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