Sarmatian riding Picture

Gerenth, from "Sauromatae" project - work in progress

Color pencils on A4

SARMATIANS
The Iron Age Sarmatians (Latin Sarmatæ or Sauromatæ, Sanskrit Sakas) were an Iranian people in Classical Antiquity, flourishing from about the 5th century BC to the 4th century AD. Their territory was known as Sarmatia to Greco-Roman ethnographers, corresponding to the western part of greater Scythia (modern Southern Russia, Ukraine, and the eastern Balkans). At their greatest reported extent, around 100 BC, these tribes ranged from the Vistula River to the mouth of the Danube and eastward to the Volga, bordering the shores of the Black and Caspian seas as well as the Caucasus to the south. The Sarmatians declined in the 4th century with the incursions connected to the Migration period (Huns, Goths). The descendants of the Sarmatians became known as the Alans during the Early Middle Ages, and ultimately gave rise to the modern Ossetic ethnic group. Sarmatae is in origin probably just one of several tribal names of the Sarmatians which came to be applied to the entire group as an exonym in Greco-Roman ethnography. Strabo in the 1st century names as the main tribes of the Sarmatians the Iazyges, the Roxolani, the Aorsi and the Siraces. The Greek name Sarmatai derives from the shortening of Sauromatai apparently by association with lizards (sauros). Suggestions for the reason the Sarmatians were associated with lizards include their reptile-like scale armour and their dragon standards. Both Pliny the Elder (Natural History book iv) and Jordanes are aware that the names in Sar- and in Sauro- are interchangeable variants, referring to the same people.
Greek authors of the 4th century (Pseudo-Scylax, Eudoxus of Cnidus) mention Syrmatae as the name of a people living at the Don, perhaps reflecting the ethnonym as it was pronounced in the final phase of Sarmatian culture. The Avesta mentions Sairima as a region "in the west". The Sarmatians emerged in the 7th century BC in a region of the steppe to the east of the Don River and south of the Ural Mountains in Eastern Europe. For centuries they lived in relatively peaceful co-existence with their western neighbors the Scythians. Then in the 3rd century BC they spilled over the Don to attack the Scythians on the Pontic steppe to the north of the Black Sea. The Sarmatians were to dominate these territories over the next five centuries. Pliny the Elder wrote that they ranged from the Vistula River in Poland to the Danube. The numerous Iranian personal names in the Greek inscriptions from the Black Sea Coast indicate that the Sarmatians spoke a North-Eastern Iranian dialect ancestral to Ossetic (see Scytho-Sarmatian). Like the Scythians, Sarmatians were of a Caucasoid appearance, and before the arrival of the Huns (4th century AD) it is thought that few had Asiatic or turco-Mongol features. Sarmatian noblemen often reached 1.70-1.80m (5ft 7ins-5ft 11ins) as measured from skeletons, and they had sturdy bones, long hair and beards.
The Alans who were a group of Sarmatian tribes according to the Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus "Nearly all the Alani are men of great stature and beauty , their hair is somewhat yellow, their eyes are frighteningly fierce".
Herodotus (Histories 4.21) in the 5th century BC placed the land of the Sarmatians east of the Tanais, beginning at the corner of the Maeotian Lake, stretching northwards for fifteen days' journey, adjacent to the forested land of the Budinoi. As seen in Roman depictions of Sarmatians they are of caucasian types. Herodotus (4.110-117) gives a story of the Sauromatians' origin from an unfortunate marriage of a band of young Scythian men and a group of Amazons. In the story, some Amazons were captured in battle by Greeks in Pontus (northern Turkey) near the river Thermodon, and the captives were loaded into three boats. They overcame their captors while at sea, but were not able sailors. Their ships were blown north to the Maeotian Lake (the Sea of Azov) onto the shore of Scythia near the cliff region (today's southeastern Crimea). After encountering the Scythians and learning the Scythian language, they agreed to marry Scythian men, but only on the condition that they move away and not be required to follow the customs of Scythian women. According to Herodotus, the descendants of this band settled toward the northeast beyond the Tanais (Don) river and became the Sauromatians. Herodotus' account explains the origins of the Sarmatians' language as an "impure" form of Scythian and credits the unusual freedoms of Sauromatae women, including participation in warfare, as an inheritance from their supposed Amazon ancestors. However, Herodotus' belief that the Sarmatians were descendants of mythological Amazons is very likely a fictional invention designed to explain certain idiosyncrasies of Sarmatian culture. The Sarmatians remained dominant until the Gothic ascendancy in the Black Sea area. Goths attacked Sarmatian tribes on the north of the Danube in Dacia, what is today Romania. The Roman Emperor Constantine called Constantine II up from Galia to run a campaign north of the Danube. In very cold weather, the Romans were victorious, killing 100,000 Goths and capturing Ariaricus the son of the Goth king. In their efforts to halt the Gothic expansion and replace it with their own on the north of Lower Danube (present-day Romania), the Sarmatians armed their captives. After the Roman victory, however, the local population revolted against their Sarmatian masters, pushing them beyond the Roman border. Constantine, on whom the Sarmatians had called for help, defeated Limigantes, the leader of the revolt, and moved the Sarmatian population back in. In the Roman provinces, Sarmatian combatants were enlisted in the Roman army, whilst the rest of the population was distributed throughout Thrace, Macedonia and Italy. The Origo Constantini mentions 300,000 refugees resulting from this conflict. The emperor Constantine was subsequently attributed the title of Sarmaticus Maximus. In the 4th and 5th centuries, the Huns expanded and conquered both the Sarmatians and the Germanic Tribes living between the Black Sea and the borders of the Roman Empire. From bases in modern day Hungary, the Huns ruled the entire former Sarmatian territory. Their various constituents flourished under Hunnish rule, fought for the Huns against a combination of Roman and Germanic troops, and went their own ways after the Battle of Chalons, the death of Attila and the disappearance of the Chuvash ruling elements west of the Volga.

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