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Who were the Sarmatians and where did they come from
Who were the Sarmatians and where did they come from

Ammianus Marcellinus, who lived in the IV century, wrote about the Sarmatians: "They consider the one who gives up the spirit in battle to be happy." Who were these indefatigable horsemen?

Great Steppe - homeland and nurse of the Sarmatians

The ethno-cultural community of the Sarmatians is in the shadow of their more famous "colleagues" - the Scythians, Goths and Huns, although their history and deeds were no less, and sometimes even more significant. Poles and Russians were considered the descendants of the Sarmatians, and contemporaries wrote that "they enjoy danger and war." So how did the newcomers from the Ural steppes manage not only to press out their neighbors, but also terrified even the Romans themselves?

The territories of the Sarmatian tribes during the heyday of their power stretched from Central Asia to the Balkans, and some of them even ended up in Gaul, Spain and even Britain - territories infinitely far from their ancestral home. It should be said that the Sarmatian-Alans themselves were not a single people, but constituted several ethnic groups united by the peculiarities of the language, spiritual and material culture and type of management.

Most of the Sarmatians were nomadic pastoralists: "They live forever in a camp, transporting property and wealth wherever their best pastures attract or compelled by retreating or pursuing enemies," wrote one 1st century Roman geographer. The horse played an important role in the life of the Sarmatians, like many other nomadic peoples, which predetermined the dominant position of cavalry in the military organization of the steppe inhabitants, which, however, was distinguished by important features.

<img alt = "Map of the settlement of the Sarmatian community."src =" style = "height: 360px; width: 600px" title = "Map of the settlement of the Sarmatian community" />

The early Sarmatians or Sauromats as a community formed back in the 7th century BC. e., however, the period of their rise in power belongs to the era of Alexander the Great - the end of the 4th - the beginning of the 3rd century BC. e. and is connected, on the one hand, with the next round of the Great Migration of Nations, and on the other, with the period of decline of Great Scythia. The change in the foreign policy landscape and the economic upheavals that had such a detrimental effect on the fate of the Scythians opened the way for the Sarmatians to the west, allowing them to occupy vast areas from the Danube to the Urals. The Scythians were locked up in the Crimea, and the Sarmatians became the masters of the Great Steppe.

The appearance of new tribes in the Black Sea region was immediately felt not only by the Scythians, but also by the Balkan tribes and the Hellenistic rulers. The steppe inhabitants made regular raids across the Danube and into the Caucasus, disturbing the borders not only of Thrace and the Bosporus, but even of the Pontic kingdom itself. So Mithridates VI Eupator was forced to pay special attention to the "Sarmatian issue" while repelling the raids of the nomads and inflicting preventive strikes and recruiting them to his side. It was as mercenaries and allies of the Pontic ruler that the Sarmatians first met the formidable Roman legions.

Migration of peoples: from the Urals to the Balkans

With all this, it would be completely wrong to perceive the Sarmatians as a kind of political monolith. Alans, Roksolans, Aors, Urugs, Iazygs and other tribes fought among themselves for the best pastures and nomads, for control over trade and waterways, for power and dominance in the Sarmatian world. It is not surprising that in such an atmosphere of constant military danger and combat readiness, the nomads managed to develop and perfect the nuances of the strategy and military art of the steppe peoples and become a real disaster for the Romans on the Danube.

"There is no one worse and weaker than them in a foot battle, but there is hardly an army capable of withstanding the onslaught of their horse hordes" - justly, albeit somewhat arrogantly wrote Tacitus. And if in the 1st century A.D. e.As the main enemies of Rome in the Balkans were the Dacians, in the next century their place was taken by the Sarmatians, especially the Yazygs and Alans.

Duel of the Sarmatians

It is curious that initially the Roman authorities perceived the Sarmatians as a kind of counterweight or buffer against the Dacians, allowing the Yazygs and Roxolans to settle on the Middle and Lower Danube. But already at the end of the 1st century A.D. e. the Sarmatians made a whole series of invasions into the territory of Moesia and Pannonia, often acting as allies and assistants of the Dacians.

In 89, they managed to defeat an entire legion, so that Emperor Domitian even had to make peace with the Dacians and rallied with strength to attack the unbelted Sarmatians. During the reign of Trajan, the Romans reached, perhaps, the peak of their power on the Danube, so that many Sarmatian tribes who took part in the raids and raids in Pannonia and Moesia were forced to abandon robberies, on pain of death, recognize the patronage of the emperor and even supply their contingents to his army. …

Battle of Adrianople: solution of the "Sarmatian question"

However, after the death of Trajan, the Danube Limes very soon underwent new attacks, which reached such a scale that Emperor Hadrian had to first wage a bloody war with the Sarmatians, and then agree to the payment of monetary rewards, ensuring the peaceful mood of the Sarmatian nobility. The Alans, who replaced the Yazygs and Roxolans, became even more fierce and implacable enemies of Rome.

The Marcomanian wars for contemporaries seemed no less intense than the Second Punic or Yugurtinsky War. The appearance in the south of Eastern Europe of the Germanic tribes of the Lombards, Vandals and Goths forced the Sarmatians to attack the Roman lands again and again. Only in the late 170s was it possible to cope with the misfortune and even recapture a narrow strip of land from the Sarmatians on the opposite bank of the Danube. From now on, nomads were forbidden to settle closer than 76 stades (13.5 km) to the river dividing Roman and barbarian territories.

The crisis of the 3rd century led to the fact that the Danube Limes actually ceased to exist, and the Iazygs, Roxolans and Alans invaded the Pannonian and Dacian lands with enviable regularity. Only Diocletian, Galerius and their successor Constantine the Great managed to calm down the raging barbarians for a while, however, not for long. It is interesting that it was during this period that the usual tribal names and names disappear from Roman sources, giving way to arkaragant masters and limigant slaves.

This, according to some experts, was only a reflection of the process of the conquest of the Yazygs by the Roxolans, however, neither one nor the other could contain the influx of Gothic hordes and were forced to make a choice in favor of a new patron. In 334, 300,000 Sarmatians were adopted by Emperor Constantine under his tutelage as federates and settled throughout the Danube Limes and even in Italy.

This decision clearly marked the decline of the military forces of the Romans and played a cruel joke with them in the future. In 374, the Sarmatians managed to defeat two Roman legions (it is better to leave the question of the relativity of the concept of legion in this period aside) and only the personal intervention of the future emperor Theodosius made it possible to stop the predatory raids.

Sarmatians in the battle against the Huns

But the finest hour of the Sarmatian cavalry struck four years later. Then, in the campaign of 378, the Alans, who came from the east in the vanguard of the Hunnic hordes, broke through the Danube, where they joined the troops of the Ostrogoths and participated in the battle of Adrianople. It was the sudden blow of the closed orders of the Alano-Gothic cavalry that decided the outcome of the battle and the fate of the entire ecumene. And the Sarmatian tribes rushed to settle in the Empire either as invaders or as federated allies. So what made the Sarmatians so successful in battles against the most advanced military machine of the time? To be continued.

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