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


2. Iazyges and Roxolani

It is small wonder therefore, that the Iazyges were living in a ceaseless turmoil and unrest trying to widen the tight corner into which they had been pushed. [139] It was of vital importance to them from a political as well as economical point of view, to re-establish trade relations with the Roxolani and with the Pontic centres. It was, however, only in the days of Marcus Aurelius that after a long strife and after many unsuccessful attempts, they had succeeded in building-up these trade relations once more. The philosopher-emperor gave them leave to contact the Roxolani across the territory of Dacia. [140]

The great importance of this contact of the Iazyges with the Roxolani and with Pontic commerce, can best be seen from archaeological evidence. The investigations of M. Párducz proved that the archaeological material of the Sarmatians in Hungary, may be taken to fall into several periods. [141] Now it is an important fact that the second period set in at about the end of the 2nd century A. D., and that it differs from the first one chiefly that such metallic objects and types of beads were found which had otherwise been completely unknown among the finds in the Carpathian Basin. These are the so-called Sarmatian buckles, the short swords with ringed and cylindric hilts, various types of fibulae and cubo-octaedric beads. [142] Here the question at once arises as to where do these Sarmatian finds come from. There is no doubt about it that the peculiarly Sarmatian remains from the first period, derive from the Pontic workshops and that the Sarmatians had brought them along when they migrated into Hungary. In connection with the archaeological remains of the second period M. Párducz also suspects a Pontic origin based on positive and negative arguments. He succeeded in proving the Pontic origin of one part of the remains as in the case of the swords, double pendants, a certain type of buckle and the fibula with downward bent leg. As to the other part of the archaeological remains, he thinks a similar origin probable on the ground that nothing similar has

Additional Notes

To p. 45. Two problems were mostly discussed during the last two decades: 1. The immigration into Hungary of the various Sarmatian tribes, 2. The ethnical background and chronology of the different Sarmatian find groups. A. Mócsy, Acta Arch. Hung. 4 (1954) 120 foll, and M. Párducz, Acta Arch. Hung. 7 (1956) 174 foll, supposed the immigration of new Sarmatian groups (? Roxolani) at the beginnings of the 2nd Sarmatian Period (about 180), while Á. Salamon, FA 11 (1959) 75 foll, thought of the appearance of new Sarmatian immigrants on the territory of the Kiszombor—Ernőháza find group during the second half of the 3rd century B. C. All these suggestions deserve consideration, even though the archaeological material does not yet permit a definitive solution of the problem.

139. On the wars of the Iazyges see: Budapest története (The History of Budapest), I, pp. 188 ff.

140. Dio Cassius 71, 19, 1—2.

141. See his recent communication in Laureae Aquincenses. II., pp. 320 f.

142. See Párducz, Denkmäler der Sarmatenzeit Ungarns, II., pp. 74 f.


ever been found in Hungary. It is worth while, therefore, to examine these latter finds in some detail.

As regards the cubo-octaedric beads, it has been generally held, as M. Párducz had also thought in a previous paper, [143] that beads from semi-precious stones are of North Indian origin. [144] It seems that the Pontic Greek colonies had lively trade relations with Northern India in the Sarmatian period from the 3rd century B. C. onwards until the appearance of the Huns, and it may be surmised that the chief goods of exchange were these semi-precious stone beads. It is not unlikely that the Syr-Darya river served as a trade route for the traffic in beads, and it is probable that the river got its name laxartes (*Yaxšārt) on this account since Chinese and Turk translations call it the "Bead River". As to the eastern origin of the cubo-octaedric beads in Hungary, it is proved directly by the fact that these beads are well-known in the archaeological finds from Chernyakhovo [145] and from Olbia. [146] It is obvious, therefore, that this type of beads reached the Sarmatians of Hungary through the Greek towns of the Black Sea.

It is equally easy to prove the eastern or more correctly Pontic origin of the Sarmatian buckles, too. M. Párducz himself pointed out that a characteristic type of buckle, viz. the buckle with cross-shaped pin, has an exact parallel in a find from Kertsh. [147] He also showed that some exact parallels to the double pendants used on belts, were found in the graves of Koshibeyev and Kuzminsk. [148] The number of parallel finds may easily be increased. A similar buckle with cross-shaped pin was found further east in Permia near Trandï. [149] Another type of buckle seems to have been also wide-spread, i. e. large buckles sometimes round, sometimes slightly oval-shaped without a strap fastening metal strip. Similar buckles were also found in the East, e. g. in the archaeological remains from Atamanovï Kosti. [150] We know also oblong buckles without strap fastening metal strips in the archaeological finds of Sarmatian origin in Hungary and similar ones in the finds from Olbia. [151] The two last types appear in another shape as well with a short strap fastening metal strip. A semi-circular type was found among others in Olbia, [152] a square one in the kourgans of Mishkina Pristan at the Volga. [153] The most typical form of the Sarmatian buckles from Hungary, are small, semi-circular or square ones with long connecting metal strips. [154] A buckle similar to these was found in the graves of Atamanovï Kosti in Russia. [155] We have to mention one more peculiarly Sarmatian buckle where the pin is surrounded on both sides by an ornament in the shape of two semi-circles. Such pelta-shaped buckle was found in the archaeological remains from Ernőháza, [156]

Additional Notes

To p. 46. A. Mócsy, Acta Arch. Hung. 4 (1954) 120, note 51 proposed to regard the pelta-shaped buckles as Roman imports instead of Pontic ones as I supposed. The possibility, of course, cannot be excluded that some of these buckles were imported from Pannonia. We must take, however, into consideration that such buckles were also produced in the North Pontic Greek cities and the specimens found in Eastern Europe cannot be regarded as Roman imports. Moreover, the chalcedonic buckle found at Monor is surely of eastern origin. Accordingly, admitting the possibility of Roman import on the one hand, we must certainly regard at least a part of the pelta-shaped buckles as imported from the Pontic region on the other hand.

143. Denkmäler der Sarmatenzeit Ungarns, I., p. 71.

144. See among others J. Strzygowski, Altai-Iran und Völkerwanderung. Leipzig, 1916., p. 276.

145. See Ebert, RLV XIII.

146. See B. Posta, Archeologische Studien auf russischem Boden. Budapest—Leipzig, 450, 251., drawing 2.

147. Denkmäler der Sarmatenzeit Ungarns, II., p. 77.

148. Denkmäler der Sarmatenzeit Ungarns, I., p. 74.

149. See A. V. Schmidt, ESA 1 (1927) 31, figure 13.

150. See Schmidt, ESA l (1927) 39, figure 27.

151. B. Posta, Archeologische Studien auf russischem Boden, 390 drawing 226.

152. B. Posta, Archeologische Studien auf russischem Boden, 421 drawing 242.

153. Schmidt, ESA 1 (1927) 37, figure 19.

154. See recently M. Párducz on this subject, Ant. Hung. I (1947), pp. 50 ff.

155. Schmidt, ESA, 1 (1927) 39 figure 29.

156. M. Párducz, AÉ 1 (1940) XLIII., Plate 14.


Csongrád, [157] and Orgovány. [158] The chalcedonic buckle found at Monor may be classed to this type in spite of its slight variation. [159] An exact replica of this type of buckle can be seen in the Museum of Odessa from Olbia or Kertsh [160] and another one was found recently among the Sarmatian grave finds excavated in the vicinity of the "Stepan Razin" kolkhoz (Distr. Davidov, Gov. Voronezh). [161]

There can be no doubt, therefore, that the cubo-octaedric beads together with the various types of Sarmatian buckles, swords with ringed and cylindric hilts and the fibula with downward bent leg, are of Pontic origin in the Sarmatian archaeological material from Hungary. Since in the Sarmatian archaeological material of Hungary from earlier periods we can find no traces of these elements, and on the other hand the chalcedonic beads and the ceramics closely connect the archaeological material of the first and the second Sarmatian periods, we are not justified to assume an ethnical change, the sudden revival of a rather active trade with the Pontic Greek towns seems to be a more likely explanation.

Searching for the historical factors causing this process, it is essential to delimit chronologicaly the first and the second periods. M. Párducz had not succeeded for some time to produce an entirely clear and definite result, [162] but recently working on the exact chronological delimitation of the various Sarmatian periods he came to the conclusion that the central part of the second period must be put between 200 and 270 A. D. [163]

On a closer examination we shall find that the most practical way to establish the date when the second period set in, is to consider the fresh archaeological material from the Black Sea, the more so because this will, first of all, help to establish the main character of the finds. If this is so we can accept the conclusions of M. Párducz on the dates of some of the archaeological material, and might place the beginning of the second period indeed somewhere about 200 A. D. and the end somewhere later about 280—300 A. D. Now if we consider that these pieces had been in use for some twenty years at least before the burial, then we might put the date of this energetic revival of trade with the Pontic region somewhere between 180 and 260 A. D.

As we can see, the beginning of the second period and the revival of Pontic trade, falls together with the time when Marcus Aurelius admitted the Iazyges to a free passage over Dacia to the Roxolani. Thus it seems established that the most important factor in the Sarmatians' material culture as presented by the archaeological evidence from the second period, was first of all the renewed contact of the Iazyges with the Black Sea region.

It seems likely that the end of the second period, the break-off in the trade with the Pontic region, may also be connected with some important historical event. In the Pontic trade with the Dnieper basin the chief part was played by Olbia and Tyras. We have already noted that among the Sarmatian archaeological remains from Hungary of this period, there were several pieces of Pontic origin that have their next parallels in the finds from Olbia. This evidently shows that Olbia was one of the chief centres for the trade with the Iazyges. But the movement of the Goths was a heavy blow to the trade along the Black Sea, and when in 260 A. D. Tyras and

157. M. Párducz, Denkmäler der Sarmatenzeit Ungarns, I. Plate III. figure 2.

158. K. Szabó, FA 1/2 (1939) II., Plate I.

159. M. Párducz, Denkmäler der Sarmatenzeit Ungarns, I., XXI11. 20.

160. B. Posta, Archeologische Studien auf russischem Boden, 433, 244. figure 4.

161. A. Smirnov, VDI 1940 3/4 364, Fig. 3.

162. See Denkmäler der Sarmatenzeit Ungarns, II., pp. 82 ff and Laureae Aquincenses. II. 321.

163. Denkmäler der Sarmatenzeit Ungarns, III.


Olbia was captured by them, [164] it must have put an end to all trade connections of the Iazyges with the Pontic regions. This date agrees again with the conclusions drawn from archaeological evidence which shows that trade relations ceased once more with the Pontic Greek colonies.

164. See on the subject Ebert, Südrußland im Altertum, 228 p. 376.

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