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


4. The Disappearance of the Roxolani

At this point the historical events, hitherto relatively easy to follow, begin to get confused. Thus if we take the Roxolani as an important factor in South Russia, how are we to account for their sudden disappearance in the 3rd century? Formerly it used to be maintained that they had been absorbed by the Alani [174]. While those who did not accept this view, believed that the Goths had crushed and assimilated them. [175] We have already pointed out the improbability of the first assumption, but the latter one is hardly more tenable. If we follow closely the fate of the nations connected with the Goths, we shall find absorption or coalescence had never taken place, not even in the case of much smaller nations than the Roxolani such as the Skiri, the Bastarnae or the Carpi were. It seems by all means certain that the Goths pushed them out from their original seats around the Dnieper and squeezed them into the Roumanian Plain. Yet the question still remains open what happened to them later on.

At the same time as the Roxolani vanished from the scene, other events, hardly less unaccountable, took place with the Iazyges settled in Hungary. The Iazyges caused a considerable stir during the 3rd century [176] but we are at a loss to explain the vigorous activity they displayed during the time of the Tetrarchy. The emperors themselves had to lead during their twenty years seven campaigns against them [177] and in the meantime they had to settle them in great numbers on Roman territory. [178] What was it that had strengthened the forces of the Iazyges to that extent? Later on, under the rule of Constantino, internal disturbances broke out among them, and by the orders

174. See among others Rostovtseff and Altheim mentioned in footnote 171.

175. Bibl. Pann. VI. 276; J. Harmatta, Das Volk der Sadagaren. Kőrösi-Csoma Emlékkönyv. Budapest, 1942. p. 27.

176. About the wars of the Iazyges in the 3rd century see: Budapest története (The History of Budapest), I., 670.

177. See: Budapest története (The History of Budapest), I., 675.

178. Orosius, VII. 25. 12.


of emperor again great numbers of them were settled in Roman provinces, according to the sources about 300,000. [179] We can only realize fully the meaning of these numbers, if we consider that the number of the Hungarians entering this country, were estimated to have amounted to not more than 200,000. [180] In spite of such large-scale settlements the Iazyges, already called by the name Sarmatae, still kept on besieging the Roman frontiers with the same force during Constantine and Valentinian. [181] It is hardly possible that the Iazyges not too numerous when they came to Hungary, should have multiplied and grown in strength to such an extent while they were having one destructive war after another.

It would be obvious that this increase of the Iazyges took place by the addition of new ethnical elements and, in fact, there are certain traces that seem to strengthen this view. A part of the Sarmatian names preserved by Ammianus Marcellinus, show such phonetic peculiarities which differ from former Iazygian names and point to a different Iranian language. There occur among these names already some typically East Germanic names, too which testified that for sometimes already the Sarmatae have intermingled with the East Germans. Ammianus described the Iazyges (XVII 12, 2.) as wearing armour made of chipped scales of bones, a type of armour not worn by the Iazyges [182] but which was, as we have seen, a typical armour of the Roxolani [183].

Similar problems present themselves in the archaeological material as well. [184] M. Párducz proved that at the end of the 3rd century a new period shows in the archaeological remains of the Sarmatians in Hungary, [185] with two different groups discernible from this time on. One group is represented by burial places with barrows, the other is represented by an absence of any burial mounds. There is more than one reason for supposing that the civilization of the latter type of burials, developed from the Sarmatian civilization of the second period under the influence of the small-mound graves. On the other hand, the new rite of burial and the mass of the discovered things which point to the Black Sea and the Roumanian Plain, witness that the archaeological material of the third Sarmatian period points to the appearance of a new people. [186] It is worth while to note that among the grave finds there appeared the long sword, [187] which had not yet been known to the Iazyges, [188] but which, as we know from a description of Tacitus (Hist. I. 79), was a typical weapon of the Roxolani. It is equally important that in the archaeological remains there appeared a large number of traces bearing Germanic influence, but in all probability the influence not of the Hungarian Vandals but of East Germanic tribes, Goths or Taifals. [189]

Additional Notes

To p. 50. The problem of the cemeteries with barrow graves was often discussed in recent times. At first dating the northern group of the cemeteries with barrow graves to the end of the 2nd and the first half of the 3rd centuries A. D. L. Barkóczi ascribed this group of finds to the Vandals (Intercisa. II. AH XXXVI. Budapest 1957. 509 foll.). Later, in Ant. Tan 6 (1959) 247 and Acta Ant. Hung. 7 (1959) 447 he abandoned this theory. D. Gabler also dated the northern group of the cemeteries with barrow graves at least partly to the same epoch (AÉ 95 [1968] 232). On the archaeological materials of the 2nd and 3rd Sarmatian Periods cf. M. Párducz: Denkmäler der Sarmatenzeit Ungarns. III. and J. Harmatta: Acta Arch. Hung. 2 (1952) 341 foll. L. Barkóczi suggested to see the Roxolani in the population of the group of Kiszombor—Ernőháza (Ant. Tan. 6 [1959] 248 foll, and Acta Ant. Hung. 7 [1959] 448 foll.).

On the basis of these discussions the immigration and tribal stratification of the Sarmatians in Hungary seem to be a more complicated historical phenomenon than it could be recognized before two decades. The immigration of the Roxolani possibly began already during the 2nd century A. D. and besides them we can perhaps reckon also with the settlement in Hungary of the other tribes of the Sarmatian tribal confederacy controlling the Northwestern Pontic region at the Age of Mithridates VI.

179. Exc. Val. 32.

180. See recently: A magvarság őstörténete. (The Prehistory of the Hungarians). Editor L. Ligeti. Budapest, 1943. 125.

181. See about these wars Budapest története (The History of Budapest), I., pp. 679 ff.

182. See Budapest története (The History of Budapest), I. 177.

183. Tacitus, Hist. I. 79.

184. We discovered this problem with Mihály Párducz and solved it together. Later Aladár Radnóti also added interesting observations in Roman provincial archaeology and numismatics. We gave an account of our results at a meeting of the Régészeti és Mvészettörténeti Társulat (Society for Archaeology and the History of Arts) giving a joint lecture on 26th October, 1946.

185. Laureae Aquincenses, op. cit., II. pp. 321 ff.

186. Párducz already thought of that possibility and dealt with it in some detail, See M. Párducz, Laureae Aquincenses. II., p. 325.

187. See M. Párducz, AÉ 2 (1941) pp. 111 ff. Laureae Aquincenses, II. p. 322 f.

188. In the Sarmatian second period we have come across only of short swords. See M. Párducz, Denkmäler der Sarmatenzeit Ungarns. II., II. 77 ff.; Budapest története (The History of Budapest). I. 177.

189. See M. Párducz, Laureae Aquincenses, II. p. 324.


The importance of this fact will only be clear if we consider that among the Sarmatian names of Ammianus, we can find typically Eastern Germanic names, too. Archaeological evidence points to the assumption that the barrow people had already been intermixing for some time with Eastern Germans.

These historical and archaeological data present the following two problems. The Goths pushed the Roxolani out of their seats at the Black Sea and squeezed them into the Roumanian Plain. This event must have gone on for some time and could not have taken place without the two nations influencing each other deeply. The Goths had adopted numerous Iranian cultural elements and obviously absorbed several ethnic features of the Roxolani as well. We might presume similarly that a great cultural and ethnic influence had been exerted by the Goths on the Roxolani. At the time when the Goths led their great attack, the Roxolani had completely vanished from the scene, while history can still trace the rest of the small nations crushed by the Goths, such as e. g. the Bastarnae, the Carpi and others, after this event. The question is, therefore, where and why did the Roxolani vanish.

On the other hand, at the same period such an activity and such an increase in the population, can be observed to have taken place with the Sarmatians of Hungary that is easiest explained by assuming the arrival of newcomers. This assumption is corroborated by a new set of Sarmatian names appearing in the work of Ammianus. In addition Ammianus gave such a description of the Sarmatians of Hungary that does not fit the Iazyges, but is very like the picture we have formed about the Roxolani from other sources. The names known by Ammianus will convince us as well that these Sarmatians had for some time contacts with East Germans and had intermingled with them. Archaeology presents a new ethnic element, too, in the new rite of burial and in the numerical increase of the finds almost to the double number. [190]

Among the archaeological remains we come across a long, claymore like sword which indicates the Roxolani, but other recovered articles clearly show that the newcomers had been intermingled with Eastern Germanic ethnic elements.

190. According to the statistics of the Sarmatian archaeological finds in Hungary the finds are distinguished according to different periode: first period: 30 finds, second period: 50 finds and third period: 105 finds. Kind information by M. Párducz.

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