Face Music - History: Horsemen – Nomads
      • History of the Horsemen

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P & C December 1998
- Face Music / Albi

- last update 03-2016

  • Alans
    - 2nd century before Christ until 13th century after Christ
- map sketch: Alans immigrations
The Alans, a tribe of the Sarmatians, survived longer than their relatives, and later on they also integrated and incorporated other cultural elements. They settled in northern Kazakhstan and in the northeastern area of the Caspian Sea from the 2nd century before Christ on. The Xiong-nu prince Chih-chih, who had fled the Chinese, settled with his tribe at the Chu River in northern Kyrgyztan and southeastern Kazakhstan. He took his toll from the Alans and other neighbouring tribes such as the Sogdians (Sogdiania was an area in Central Asia where the Sogdians, an Iranian tribe, lived). Chih-chih was murdered by the Chinese in 35 before Christ. The permanent pressure consequently resulted in the fact that a part of the Alans migrated farther to the West. Another part submitted itself to the Kangju living in neighbouring Sogdiana which, at that time, was a nomadic realm situated between Aral Sea and the Tian Shan Mountains and Lake Balkhash (swampy lake without effluent), respectively. In the late 1st century, the Alan tribes also immigrated into the Caucasian area in the north; they joined their related tribes having settled at the Caspian Sea and invaded the Parthian Empire, the Median area, Armenia, and they also forcefully entered Asia Minor. In 137 after Christ they even invaded the Roman province of Cappadocia where they were, however, beaten by governor Flavius Arrianus. Some Alans enlisted for service in the Roman Empire and consequently came to Gaul (Celtic area) and Britannia where they also founded new settlements. The Alans were the only nomadic tribe to survive an invasion by the Goth. They founded their first kingdom around 200 after Christ in the area between the Don River and the Volga, and they continued a type of culture adopted from the Sarmatians. Around 374 after Christ, some Alanian tribes were beaten and submitted by the invading Huns. Alanian warriors also participated, in alliance with the Goth people, in the Battle of Adrianopel in 378 after Christ against the Romans. In 406, some joined the Vandals (a Germanic tribe, part of the East-Germanic group) and wandered with them across the Rhine River to Spain and later on to North Africa.

In the 9th century, a new Alanian state was developed in the Kuban area and the northern Caucasus Mountains which was then christianized by Byzantine missionaries some centuries later. Upon the invasion of the Mongols in the 13th century, this state, however, disintegrated. Around 1237, the Mongols drove some thousand Alans, together with their allies, the Kipchaks (who were also called Cumans), ancestors of today's Gagauz' people (a Turk people settling in Moldavia), to Hungary. Among these was the tribe of the Jazyges, a group speaking an East Iranian language (Sarmatian tribe). Some Alans co-operated with the Mongols and even enlisted for service. In the years 1239 up to 1277, they participated in cruzades leading them to Europe and to the Song Dynasty in Southern China. The Alans also took part in the Battle of Kulikovo at the Don River in the year 1380 under Great Khan Mamai (originally a Tatarian warlord) of the Golden Horde. In the northern area of the Caucasus Mountains today there are still living descendants of the Alans: the Ossetians. This name was much more common for the Alanian population in the Caucasus Mountains.

The Alans were horsemen, originally semi-nomads, and they used to breed cattle, sheep, goats, and horses. They lived in yurts or wagons. They mainly lived on milk products and meat. Their language was part of the East-Iranian language group. In battle they used reflex bows and a long, double-edged sword as well as dagger and lance. When they finally came in contact with the Romans, they consequently settled down and spread across entire Europe during the Migration Period.

February - July 2009 – Albi – translated by Hermelinde Steiner - October 2009