The Alans or Alani (occasionally but more rarely termed Alauni or Halani) were an Iranian [Encyclopedia Iranica, "Alans" V. I. Abaev External link: [http://www.iranica.com/newsite/index.isc?Article=http://www.iranica.com/newsite/articles/unicode/v1f8/v1f8a013.html] ] [Agustí Alemany, "Sources on the Alans: A Critical Compilation."
Brill Academic Publishers, 2000 ISBN 90-04-11442-4] nomadic group among the Sarmatian people, warlike nomadic pastoralists of varied backgrounds, who spoke an Iranian languageand to a large extent shared a common culture. [For ethnogenesis, see Walter Pohl, "Conceptions of Ethnicity in Early Medieval Studies" "Debating the Middle Ages: Issues and Readings", ed. Lester K. Little and Barbara H. Rosenwein, (Blackwell), 1998, pp 13-24) ( [http://www.kroraina.com/bulgar/pohl_etnicihttp://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Ethnic_group&action=editty.html On-line text] ).]
The various forms of "Alan" — Greek: "Αλανοί", "Αλαννοί"; Chinese: 阿蘭聊 "Alanliao" (
Pinyin) in the 2nd century [ [http://depts.washington.edu/silkroad/texts/hhshu/hou_han_shu.html The "Hou Hanshu"] ] , 阿蘭 "Alan" ( Pinyin) in the 3rd century [ [http://depts.washington.edu/silkroad/texts/weilue/weilue.html The "Weilüe"] ] — and "Iron" (a self-designation of the Alans' modern Ossetian descendants,) indicating early tribal self-designation) are Iranian dialectical forms of " Aryan" [Alemany p. 3] [Encyclopedia Iranica, "Alans" V. I. Abaev External link: [http://www.iranica.com/newsite/index.isc?Article=http://www.iranica.com/newsite/articles/unicode/v1f8/v1f8a013.html] ] . These and other variants of "Aryan" (such as "Iran"), were common self-designations of the Indo-Iranians, the common ancestors of the Indo-Aryansand Iranian peoplesto whom the Alans belonged.
The Alans were also known over the course of their history by another group of related names including the variations "Asi", "As", and "Os" (Hungarian "Jász", Russian "Jasy", Georgian "Osi"). It is this name that is the root of the modern "Ossetian". [Alemany pp. 5-7]
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The first mentions of names that historians link with the "Alani" appear at almost the same time in Greco-Roman geography and in the Chinese dynastic chronicles. [See Agustí Alemany, "Sources on the Alans" Handbook of Oriental Studies, sect. 8, vol 5) (Leiden:Brill) 2000.]
The "Geography" (xxiii, 11.v) of
Strabo(63/64 BC - ca. 24 AD), who was born in Pontuson the Black Sea, but was also working with Persian sources, to judge from the forms he gives to tribal names, mentions "Aorsi" that he links with " Siraces" and claims that a Spadines, king of the Aorsi, could assemble two hundred thousand mounted archers in the mid-1st century BC. But the "upper Aorsi" from whom they had split as fugitives, could send many more, for they dominated the coastal region of the Caspian Sea:"and consequently they could import on camels the Indian and Babylonian merchandise, receiving it in their turn from the Armenians and the Medes, and also, owing to their wealth, could wear golden ornaments. Now the Aorsi live along the Tanaïs, but the Siraces live along the Achardeüs, which flows from the Caucasusand empties into Lake Maeotis."
Chapter 123 of the "
Shiji" (whose author, Sima Qian, died circa 90 BC) reports:
:"Yancai lies some 2,000 "li" [832 km] [The Chinese "li" of the Han period differs from the modern
SI base unitof length; one "li" was equivalent to 415.8 metres.] northwest of Kangju. The people are nomads and their customs are generally similar to those of the people of Kangju. The country has over 100,000 archer warriors, and borders on a great shoreless lake". [Perhaps what is known in the sources as the Northern Sea". The "Great Shoreless lake" probably referred to both the Araland Caspianseas. Source in Watson, Burton trans. 1993. "Records of the Grand Historian by Sima Qian. Han Dynasty II." (Revised Edition), p. 234. Columbia University Press. New York. ISBN 0-231-08166-9; ISBN 0-231-08167-7 (pbk.)]
The mouth of the
Syr Daryaor Jaxartes River, which emptied into the Aral Seawas approximately 850 km northwest the oasis of Tashkentwhich was an important centre of the Kangju confederacy. This provides remarkable confirmation of the account in the "Shiji".
Han DynastyChinese chronicle, the "Hou Hanshu", 88 (covering the period 25-220 and completed in the 5th century), mentioned a report that the steppe land "Yancai" was now known as "Alanliao" (阿蘭聊):
:"The kingdom of Yancai [literally "Vast Steppe"] has changed its name to the kingdom of Alanliao. They occupy the country and the towns. It is a dependency of
Kangju(the Chu, Talas, and middle Jaxartesbasins). The climate is mild. Wax trees, pines, and ‘white grass’ [aconite] are plentiful. Their way of life and dress are the same as those of Kangju." [Hill, John E. 2003. "Annotated Translation of the Chapter on the Western Regions according to the "Hou Hanshu"." Revised Edition - to be published soon.]
The 3rd century
:“Then there is the kingdom of Liu, the kingdom of Yan [to the north of Yancai] , and the kingdom of Yancai [between the Black and Caspian Seas] , which is also called Alan. They all have the same way of life as those of
Kangju. To the west, they border Da Qin [Roman territory] , to the southeast they border Kangju [the Chu, Talas, and middle Jaxartes basins] . These kingdoms have large numbers of their famous sables. They raise cattle and move about in search of water and fodder. They are close to a large shoreless lake. Previously they were vassals of Kangju [the Chu, Talas, and middle Jaxartes basins] . Now they are no longer vassals.” [ [http://depts.washington.edu/silkroad/texts/weilue/weilue.html For an earlier version of this translation] ]
By the beginning of the 1st century, the Alans had occupied lands in the northeast
Azov Seaarea, along the Don and by the 2nd century had amalgamated or joined with the Yancai of the early Chinese records to extend their control all the way along the trade routes from the Black Seato the north of the Caspian and Aral seas. The written sources suggest that from the second half of the 1st to 4th century the Alans had supremacy over the tribal union and created a powerful confederation of Sarmatian tribes.
From a Western point-of-view the Alans presented a serious problem for the
Roman Empire, with incursions into both the Danubian and the Caucasian provinces in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. Ammianus Marcellinusconsidered the Alans to be the former Massagetae: "iuxtaque Massagetae Halani et Sargetae", "per Albanos et Massagetas, quos Alanos nunc appellamus", "Halanos pervenit, veteres Massagetas" ; he stated that "Almost all of the Alans are tall and good looking; their hair is generally blond, and their eyes are frighteningly fierce" [Ammianus Marcellinus, XXX.2.21] , and elsewhere, "The Alans were a tall, blond people" [Ammianus Marcellinus, XXXI.4.7] .
Archaeological finds support the written sources. Late Sarmatian sites were first identified with the historical Alans by P.D. Rau (1927). Based on the archaeological material, they were one of the Iranian-speaking nomadic tribes that began to enter the Sarmatian area between the middle of the 1st and the 2nd century.
The Alani were first mentioned in Roman literature in the first century and were described later as a warlike people that specialized in horse breeding. They frequently raided the
Parthian empireand the Caucasian provinces of the Roman Empire. In the Vologeses inscription [ [http://www.lostlanguages.com/parthian.htm Vologeses inscription.] ] one can read that Vologeses, the Parthian king, in the 11th year of his reign, battled Kuluk, king of the Alani.
This inscription is supplemented by the contemporary Jewish historian,
Josephus(37–100), who reports in the "Jewish Wars" (book 7, ch. 8.4) how Alans (whom he calls a " Scythian" tribe) living near the Sea of Azov, crossed the Iron Gates for plunder and defeated the armies of Pacorus, king of Media, and Tiridates, King of Armenia, two brothers of Vologeses I (for whom the above-mentioned inscription was made):
:"4. Now there was a nation of the Alans, which we have formerly mentioned somewhere as being Scythians, and inhabiting at the Lake Meotis. This nation about this time laid a design of falling upon Media, and the parts beyond it, in order to plunder them; with which intention they treated with the king of
Hyrcania; for he was master of that passage which king Alexander shut up with iron gates. This king gave them leave to come through them; so they came in great multitudes, and fell upon the Medesunexpectedly, and plundered their country, which they found full of people, and replenished with abundance of cattle, while nobody durst make any resistance against them; for Pacorus, the king of the country, had fled away for fear into places where they could not easily come at him, and had yielded up everything he had to them, and had only saved his wife and his concubines from them, and that with difficulty also, after they had been made captives, by giving them a hundred talents for their ransom. These Alans therefore plundered the country without opposition, and with great ease, and proceeded as far as Armenia, laying all waste before them. Now, Tiridates was king of that country, who met them and fought them but had luck to not have been taken alive in the battle; for a certain man threw a net over him from a great distance and had soon drawn him to him, unless he had immediately cut the cord with his sword and ran away and so, prevented it. So the Alans, being still more provoked by this sight, laid waste the country, and drove a great multitude of the men, and a great quantity of the other prey they had gotten out of both kingdoms, along with them, and then retreated back to their own country."
Flavius Arrianus marched against the Alani in the first century and left a detailed report ("Ektaxis kata Alanoon" or 'War Against the Alans') that is a major source for studying Roman
military tactics, but doesn't reveal much about his enemy. In the late fourth century, Vegetius conflates Alans and Huns in his military treatise— "Hunnorum Alannorumque natio", the "nation of Huns and Alans"— and collocates Goths, Huns and Alans, "exemplo Gothorum et Alannorum Hunnorumque" [Vegetius 3.26, noted in passing by T.D. Barnes, "The Date of Vegetius" "Phoenix" 33.3 (Autumn 1979, pp. 254-257) p. 256. "The collocation of these three barbarian races does not recur a generation later," Barnes notes, in presenting a case for a late fourth century origin for Vegetius' treatise.]
The Alans in Gaul
Around 370, the Alans were overwhelmed by the
Huns. They were divided into several groups, some of whom fled westward. A portion of these western Alans joined the Germanic tribesof Vandalsand Suevesin their invasion of Roman Gaul. Gregory of Toursmentions in his Liber historiae Francorum("The book of the history of the Franks") that the Alan king Respendialsaved the day for the Vandalsin an armed encounter with the Franksat the crossing of the Rhineon December 31 406). According to Gregory, another group of Alans, led by Goar, crossed the Rhine at the same time, but immediately joined the Romans and settled in Gaul.
In Gaul, the Alans originally led by Goar were settled by Aetius in several areas, notably around
Orléansand Valentia. [Bernard S. Bachrach, "The Alans in Gaul", "Traditio" 23 (1967).] Under Goar, they allied with the Burgundiansled by Gundaharius, with whom they installed the usurping Emperor Jovinus. Under Goar's successor Sangiban, the Alans of Orléans played a critical role in repelling the invasion of Attila the Hunat the Battle of Chalons. After the fifth century, however, the Alans of Gaul were subsumed in the territorial struggles between the Franks and the Visigoths, and ceased to have an independent existence. Flavius Aëtiussettled large numbers of Alans in and around Armoricain order to quell unrest. The Breton languagename "Alan" (rather than the French "Alain") and several towns with names related to 'Alan', such as Allainville, Yvelines, Alainville-en Beauce, Loiret, Allainesand Allainville, Eure-et-Loir, and Les Allains, Eure, are taken as evidence that a contingent settled in Armorica, Brittany, which retained a reputation for outstanding horsemanship with Gregory of Toursand into the Middle Ages, preferring to remain mounted to fight in contrast with all their neighbors, who dismounted in battle. [Bernard S. Bachrach, "The Origin of Armorican Chivalry" "Technology and Culture" 10.2 (April 1969), pp. 166-171.]
The Alans in Hispania and Africa
Following the fortunes of the
Vandalsand Sueviinto the Iberian peninsula( Hispania, comprising modern Portugaland Spain) in 409, the Alans led by Respendial settled in the provinces of Lusitaniaand Carthaginiensis: "Alani Lusitaniam et Carthaginiensem provincias, et Wandali cognomine Silingi Baeticam sortiuntur" ( Hydatius). The Siling Vandals settled in Baetica, the Suevi in coastal Gallaecia, and the Asding Vandals in the rest of Gallaecia.
In 418 (or 426 according to some authors, cf. e.g. Castritius, 2007), the Alan king,
Attaces, was killed in battle against the Visigoths, and this branch of the Alans subsequently appealed to the Asding Vandal king Gundericto accept the Alan crown. The separate ethnic identity of Respendial's Alans dissolved. [For another rapid disintegration of an "ethne" in the Early Middle Ages, see Avars. (Pohl 1998:17f).] Although some of these Alans are thought to have remained in Iberia, most went to North Africawith the Vandals in 429. Later Vandal kings in North Africa styled themselves "Rex Wandalorum et Alanorum" ("King of the Vandals and Alans").
There are some vestiges of the Alans in Portugal [Milhazes, José. [http://www.rtp.pt/index.php?article=264957&visual=16&rss=0 Os antepassados caucasianos dos portugueses] -
Rádio e Televisão de Portugalin Portuguese.] , namely in Alenquer(whose name may be Germanic for the "Temple of the Alans", from "Alen Ker", and whose castle may have been established by them; the Alauntis still represented in that city's coat of arms), in the construction of the castles of Torres Vedrasand Almourol, and in the city walls of Lisbon, where vestigies of their presence may be found under the foundations of the Church of "Santa Luzia".
In the Iberian peninsula the Alans settled in
Lusitania(cf. Alentejo) and the Cartaginense provinces. They became known in retrospect for their massive hunting and fighting dog, the Alaunt, which they apparently introduced to Europe. The breed is extinct, but its name is carried by a giant breed of dog still called "Alano" that survives in the Basque Country. The dogs are traditionally used in boarhunting and cattleherding.
Modern genetic science's disclosure of the geographical distribution of historical
genetic markers has convinced certain theorists of the connection between Sarmato-Alanic deep ancestral heritage in Europe and the Y-DNA paternal Haplogroup G (Y-DNA), specifically G2.
Alans and Slavs
Alan tribes living north of the
Black Seamay have moved northwest into what is now Poland, merging with Slavic peoplesthere to become the precursors of historic Slav nations (notably Serbsand Croats). Third-century inscriptions from Tanais, a town on the Don River in modern Russia, mention a nearby Alan tribe called the Choroatos or Chorouatos. The historian Ptolemyidentifies the ' Serboi' as a Sarmatian tribe who lived north of the Caucasus, and other sources identify the Serboias an Alan tribe in the Volga-Don steppe in the third century.
Accounts of these names reappear in the fifth century, with the
Serboi, or Serbs, established east of the river Elbein what is now western Poland, and the Croatsin what is now Galicia. The Alan tribes likely moved northeast and settled among the Slavs, later assimilating into the Slav population. In the seventh century the Serbs and Croats migrated into the western Balkans, supposedly at the invitation of the Eastern Roman Emperor Heraclius, and settled there among earlier Slavic migrants to become ancestors of the modern Serbs and Croats. Some Serbs remained on the Elbe, and their descendants are the modern Sorbs. Tenth-century Byzantine and Arabaccounts describe a people called the Belochrobati( White Croats) living on the upper Vistula, an area later called Chrobatia.
It's believed, that some Alans resettled to the North (
Barsils), merging with Volga Bulgarsand Burtas, eventually transforming to Volga Tatars[ru icon [http://kitap.net.ru/bayar.php Тайная история татар] ]
Some of the other Alans remained under the rule of the Huns. Those of the eastern division, though dispersed about the steppes until late medieval times, were forced by the
Mongolsinto the Caucasus, where they remain as the Ossetians. Between the ninth and twelfth centuries, they formed a network of tribal alliances that gradually evolved into the Christian kingdom of Alania. Most Alans submitted to Mongol Empirein 1239-1279. They participated Mongol invasions of Europe and Song Dynasty in Southern China and the Battle of Kulikovounder Mamaiof Golden Horde[Handbuch Der Orientalistik By Agustí Alemany, Denis Sinor, Bertold Spuler, Hartwig Altenmüller, p.400-410] .
In 1253, the Franciscan monk
Guillaume de Rubrouckreported numerous Europeans in Central Asia. It is also known that 30,000 Alans formed the royal guard of the Mongol court in Khanbaliq(Beijing). Marco Pololater reported their role in Mongol Dynasty in his book Il Milione. It's said that those alongs contributed to modern a Mongol tribe, Asud. John of Montecorvino, archbishop of Khanbaliq, reportedly converted many Alans to Roman Catholic Christianity. [Roux, p.465] [ [http://www.luc.edu/publications/medieval/vol2/guzman.html Christian Europe and Mongol Asia: First Medieval Intercultural Contact Between East and West ] ]
Religion, language, and later history
In the 4th–5th centuries the Alans were at least partially Christianized by Byzantine missionaries of the Arian church. In the thirteenth century, fresh invading
Mongolhordes pushed the eastern Alans further south into the Caucasus, where they mixed with native Caucasian groups and successively formed three territorial entities each with different developments. Around 1395 Timur's army invaded Northern Caucasusand massacred much of the Alanian population.
As the time went by,
Digorin the west came under Kabardand Islamicinfluence. It was through the Kabardians (an East Circassian tribe) that Islamwas introduced into the region in the 17th century. Kudar in the southernmost region became part of what is now South Ossetia(Georgia), and Iron, the northernmost group, came under Russian rule after 1767, which strengthened Orthodox Christianity considerably. Most of the Ossetes today are Eastern Orthodox Christians.
The linguistic descendants of the Alans, who live in the autonomous republics of Russia and Georgia, speak the
Ossetic languagewhich belongs to the Northeastern Iranianlanguage group and is the only remnant of the Scytho-Sarmatian dialect continuumwhich once stretched over much of the Pontic steppeand Central Asia. Modern Ossetic has two major dialects: "Digor", spoken in the western part of North Ossetia; and "Iron", spoken in the rest of Ossetia. A third branch of Ossetic, " Jassic" ("Jász"), was formerly spoken in Hungary. The literary language, based on the Iron dialect, was fixed by the national poet, Kosta Xetagurov(1859–1906).
* Agustí Alemany, "Sources on the Alans: A Critical Compilation."
Brill Academic Publishers, 2000 ISBN 90-04-11442-4
* Bernard S. Bachrach, "A History of the Alans in the West, from their first appearance in the sources of classical antiquity through the early Middle Ages,"
University of MinnesotaPress, 1973 ISBN 0-8166-0678-1
* Bachrach, Bernard S. [http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0040-165X%28196904%2910%3A2%3C166%3ATOOAC%3E2.0.CO%3B2-S "The Origin of Armorican Chivalry."] "Technology and Culture", Vol. 10, No. 2. (Apr., 1969), pp. 166–171.
* Castritius, H. 2007. Die Vandalen. Kohlhammer Urban.
* Golb, Norman and
Omeljan Pritsak, "Khazarian Hebrew Documents of the Tenth Century." Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1982.
* Hill, John E. 2003. "Annotated Translation of the Chapter on the Western Regions according to the "Hou Hanshu"." 2nd Draft Edition. [http://depts.washington.edu/silkroad/texts/hhshu/hou_han_shu.html]
*Hill, John E. 2004. "The Peoples of the West from the Weilüe" 魏略 "by Yu Huan" 魚豢": A Third Century Chinese Account Composed between 239 and 265 CE." Draft annotated English translation. [http://depts.washington.edu/silkroad/texts/weilue/weilue.html]
* Yu, Taishan. 2004. "A History of the Relationships between the Western and Eastern Han, Wei, Jin, Northern and Southern Dynasties and the Western Regions". Sino-Platonic Papers No. 131 March, 2004. Dept. of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Pennsylvania.
* [http://depts.washington.edu/uwch/silkroad/texts/hhshu/notes19.html Strabo and "Hou Han Shu"references discussed]
* [http://www.kafkas.org.tr/english/bgkafkas/Ethnicgeography_Ossets.htm Caucasus Foundation: Caucasus Today: Ossets]
* [http://www.google.com/search?q=cache:DfH6I9af-54J:home.btconnect.com/CAIS/Religions/iranian/Zarathushtrian/Oric.Basirov/origin_of_the_iranians.htm+basirov+origin+iranians&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1 Brief histories of the pre-Imperial Iranian peoples, Dr Oric Basirov]
* [http://sophistikatedkids.com/turkic/70%20Dateline/alan%20dateline%20En.htm The Alans Timeline]
* [http://www.enciklopedia.gobeportal.com/index.php?title=Main_Page The Transylvanian szeklers The Golden Scythians]
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