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


3. Goths and Roxolani

It is very important to observe that in the archaeological material which showed such a marked change in the Iazygean civilization of the second period, there were present such elements that take us back not only to the vicinity of the Black Sea but even further east as far as the Volga basin. If the first place we refer to the swords with ringed and cylindric hilts and to the cubo-octaedric beads which were found in the Alanian tombs of the Volga basin. [165] This bears on our argument in so far as it shows that during the 1st and 2nd centuries A. D. some shifting of the peoples took again place in South Russia. On the evidence of a number of classical sources it has been generally believed by scholars that the Alani slowly migrated towards the West during the 1st and 2nd centuries A. D., and that in the time of Marcus Aurelius they had arrived as far as the lower Danube. [166]

But this belief rests on an error. The statements of those classical geographical sources which put the Alani west to the Don, were based on a simple cartographical mistake, whereas the historical sources that placed the Alani to the same territory, were a pseudo-historical reflection of later ages. [167] But there is another way to deal with the problem as to how the Alani settled down in South Russia, which have been neglected so far. The Greek cities in South Russia became Iranian to a great degree during the first centuries A. D. [168] In the course of this process members of different Iranian tribes migrated into the Greek cities in such great numbers that hundreds of inscriptions remained along the coast of the Black See to preserve their names. [169] Obviously this enormous number of names is comparatively the safest evidence to establish the presence of Alanian ethnic elements. We are well-informed of the differences that distinguish Alanian language from the languages of other Iranian peoples; [170] hence there is no peculiar difficulty to pick out the Alanian names. If we examine the inscriptions from this angle, then we shall find that we can trace a great number of Alanian elements in the Pontic towns lying east of the Don and in the Crimea, but not a single one in the Greek cities on the north-western coast of the Black Sea. It is not very likely, therefore, that the Alani should have reached the Danube in the 2nd century A. D. It might, of course, have happened that they exten-

Additional Notes

To p. 48. On the Alans cf. F. Altheim: Geschichte der Hunnen. I. Berlin 1959. 55 foll., 57—75.

165. See Ebert, RLV XII 106, 108.

166. See among others Ebert, Südrußland im Altertum, p. 376.

167. A good example of the latter case can be seen in connection with Maximinus I, whom the biassed Herodianos made out to be a semi-barbarian of Thracian origin, and adding to this the Historia Augusta took him to have been of Gothic-Alanian extraction.

168. Ebert, Südrußland im Altertum, pp. 343 f; Rostovtzeff, Iranians and Greeks in South Russia, pp. 144., 167 ff.

169. These inscriptions were collected and published by B. Latyschev Inscriptions antiquae orae septentrionalis Ponti Euxini Craecae et Latinae. Petropoli I. 1885, II. 1890. IV. 1901. The investigations concerning the Iranian names of the inscriptions were summarised by Vasmer, Die Iranier in Südrußland, pp. 23 ff.

170. See Ws. Miller, Osetinskiye etyudï III. Moskva 1887, p. 82f., Die Sprache der Osseten, Straßburg 1903. 7; Vasmer, Die Iranier in Südrußland, p. 28 f.


ded their power west of the Don, probably even as far as the river Donets, but in the western parts of South Russia we cannot reckon with them as having been one of the ethnic elements.

This implies some important consequences. First of all it eliminates that widespread belief that the Roxolani had been absorbed by the Alani [171] and leaves the Roxolani as important factors in history even as late as the 2nd and 3rd centuries A. D. In the 2nd century A. D. or rather at the end of it, the Goths arrived in South Russia and conquered the territories that had formerly been the seats of the Roxolani. The Goths in South Russia stood under a strong Iranian influence that affected almost all sections of their civilization. [172] This influence has so far been attributed to the Alani, partly in the belief that the Goths had already found the Alani on the spot, and partly based on the fact that in the age of the Huns the Goths often appeared together with the Alani. [173] But as we have already pointed it out, in those days there were no Alani settled west of the Don, where the Goths must have found the Roxolani, and therefore the Iranian influence on the Goths was mainly due to the Roxolani.

171. Rostovtzeff, CaH XI. 95, 97; F. Altheim, Die Krise der alten Welt. I. Berlin—Dahlem, 1943, 97.

172. See Altheim, Die Krise der alten Welt, pp. 98 ff.

173. See Altheim, Die Krise der allen Welt, op. cit., pp. 97, 104 ff.

[Previous] [Next]
[Back to Index]