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


3. The Sarmatian Dialects of the North Pontic Region


The Old Iranian group of phonemes -sp- has three different developments: 1. -sp-, 2. -fs-, 3. -sf-.

Old Iranian *-sp- > -sp-.

Olbia, Latyshev, IOSPE I, 67 ~ Avestan ama- 'stark' +
spāδa 'Heer' (Vasmer, op. cit., 32).

Tanais,  No. 85 (220 A. D.). In Vasmer's view (op. cit., 34) the word has been obtained by suffixation from the short form of a name formed from aspa- (like aspačanah-, paruaspa-).

Procopius, De bello Vandalico I, 3, 8 < Old Iranian *aspabāra- 'Reiter' (Vasmer, op. cit., 34).


Tanais,  No. 68 (220 A. D.) < Old Iranian baivaraspa-, '10000 (viele) Pferde habend' (Vasmer, op. cit., 35).

'King of the Iazyges' Dio Cass. 71, 16, 1: < Old Iranian *vanat-aspa- 'siegreiche Pferde habend' (Vasmer, loc. cit.).

Tanais,  No. 76 (193 A. D.): ~ Ossetian bor 'gelb', Modern Persian bōr 'color ruber' (Vull. I, 274) + aspa- (Vasmer, op. cit., 36).

'King of the Sanigae' Arrian. Peripl. 11, 3.

Olbia, Latyshev, IOSPE I, 84: names formed from the Old Iranian word spāδa- 'Heer', analogous to names derived by suffixation from the short forms of Avestan pouruspāδa-, srutōspāδa- (Vasmer, op. cit., 52 foll.).

Old Iranian *-sp- > -fs-.

Steph Byz. According to Marquart's very probable conjecture the correct form of the name is , to be explained as a compound of the words *fsänd (~ Avestan spənta- 'heilig') and *ārt (~ Avestan ātar- 'Feuer'). [85] This view was accepted by Vasmer (op. cit., 57 and Iranisches aus Südrußland, 371 foll.) who would, however, assign the change sp > fs to a period later than the third century A. D. and hence concludes that Stephanus Byzantius must have derived this datum from a later source. This view, hovewer, is by no means probable. The sources used by Stephanus Byzantius are mostly geographical works dating from a period  a n t e r i o r  to the second century A. D.; [86] hence there is a strong likelihood at the very outset that this particular datum comes from the same sources. Moreover, we can define more closely the origin of this particular datum. The phrase cannot be separated from the place-name  concerning which Stephanus supplies the following information: . Hence it seems indubitable that both data derive from Polyhistor [87]. Since, however, Stephanus had no direct access to the work of Alexander Polyhistor [88], it would be an obvious assumption that the mediator, as in many other cases, was Philo of Byblus. But even in the absence of such a fairly precise delimitation, the name  which appears in Procopius would still prove that the development of the group of phonemes sp was not homogeneous because the datum supplied by Stephanus could in no case derive from a time later than the fifth century A. D. It does not, in fact, matter very much whether we assign the parallel groups sp ~ fs to the third or the fifth century. But since it seems certain that Stephanus Byzantius took the datum  from a considerable earlier source, we may assume that, as early as the first century A. D., the Old Iranian group of phonemes sp was replaced in the language of some Iranian tribes of South Russia by fs.

Olbia, Latyshev, IOSPE I, 64: in Miller's view it is the same name as , but it shows a later development of phonemes (sp > fs). Vasmer doubts this (op. cit., 36) since, in his opinion, the phonemic change sp > fs had not yet taken place at the time. But having established the chronological position of the name  this argument loses its force. Hence the name  may safely be regarded as the transcription of the form *borəfsa- 'having a roan horse'. The final element  may probably be compared with the suffix -tca- or -ca- known from

85. Untersuchungen zur Geschichte von Eran, II, 88.

86. Honigmann: RE II, R. III, 2379.

87. Harmatta, Ant. Hung. II, 32.

88. Honigmann, op. cit., 2384.


Saka (cp. pätajsa- 'kräftig', rrätajsa- 'löcherig', Konow, Khotansakische Grammatik, 68).

Tanais,  No. 63 (220 and 236 A. D.). This name, too, may be regarded as the transcription of a form *afsaχ < Old Iranian *aspa-aχva-. The first element  corresponds exactly to Ossetian äfsä 'mare'. Thus it comes from a dialect in which the Old Iranian group of phonemes *sp had developed into fs.

Olbia, Latyshev, IOSPE I, 81. This name probably hides a form *afsγ, so that it corresponds to Old Iranian *aspaka-. It is worth noting that this name comes from the same district as , viz. from Olbia.

Old Iranian *-sp- > -sf-.

Panticapaeum. In Vasmer's view (op. cit., 53) the word corresponds to the Old Persian name vayaspāra-, with the elements of the compound in the reverse order. The chief difficulty about this interpretation is that the etymology of the Old Persian name has not been satisfactorily explained. Bartholomae (AirWb., 1358) divides it into vayas-pāra- and gives it the meaning 'der der Verfolgung ein Ende macht'. But this interpretation is by no means certain. The best course seems to be, therefore, to disregard the Old Persian word altogether and to try interpreting the name by itself. There are two possibilities for dividing the word: either as  or as . In the first case, the element  may be compared with the Old Iranian word *spara- 'Schild', while the second element : baya- may be compared with either of the following words: Avestan bay- 'erschrecken' (Bartholomae, AirWb., 927) or - 'scheinen' (Bartholomae, AirWb., 952). The compound yields, in either instance, a satisfactory meaning: the sense is either 'one who inspires terror with his shield' or 'one shining with his shield'. On the other hand, if we divide the word into , the first element may be compared with Avestan spā- 'Gedeihen, Glück' (Bartholomae, AirWb., 1616), while the element : *
raβaya- may be compared with Avestan rap- 'Unterstützung gewähren — finden' (Bartholomae, AirWb., 1508); the sense, in this case, would be 'one supported by good fortune'. Whichever possibility we accept the initial group of phonemes sf- corresponds in any case to Old Iranian *sp-.

Olbia, Latyshev, IOSPE I, 118. Miller and Justi (Iranisches Namenbuch, 47) connect this word with the name  which, in its turn, is interpreted by Justi as corresponding to the Armenian name Aspūrak, while Miller and Tomaschek (RE II, 1738 foll.) thought to recognize the word aspa- in the first part of the compound. This latter suggestion is certainly correct but the second element of the name needs to be explained. The most obvious solution is to regard the name  as a transcription of the compound *asp-urg < *aspa-ugra-, the second element of which, viz. -ugra-, may be compared with Avestan ugra- 'stark, kräftig'. For the development of the Old Iranian group of phonemes -gr- into -rg- there are numerous examples: in Ossetian, too, -- is the regular development of Old Iranian -gr-: Ossetian ćirγ < Old Iranian *tiγra- etc. (see Miller, Die Sprache der Osseten, 36). Thus the name  is a fairly clear compound which it is relatively easy to interpret: but this interpretation does not help one at all in explaining the sense of the name  because the element  in this latter name obviously cannot be identified with the element  which admits of a clear interpretation. Yet, while we have to give up the identification of the name  with the name , the interpretation of the former is by no means a hopeless task. In the final element  we may recognize the suffix -ug which exists in Modern

Additional Notes

To p. 87. The doubts expressed by W. P. Schmidt (BzN 7 [1956] 208) in connection with the interpretation of the name  are unfounded. He is not even acquainted with Middle Persian asvār (’swbl) 'horseman, knight'.


Ossetian (-ug, -ig, -əg, see Miller, op. cit., 90) and which used to exist also in the language of the Iazyges of Hungary (-uh, see Gombocz, Ossetes et Iazyges. Repr. 5). The remaining stem  may be regarded without any difficulty as the equivalent of the Old Iranian word *aspabāra- 'Reiter'. Hence it seems to be identical with the name Aspar discussed above, only the Old Iranian group of phonemes -sp- has here been replaced by -sf-, while the group of phonemes -abā- > aβā > -avä- has been contracted to the labial phoneme -- (ω). Thus the name : asfr-ug, too, shows the development of the Old Iranian group of phonemes *-sp- into -sf-.

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