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European Kingdoms

Barbarians

 

 

 

Alans (Alani / Geloni)
Incorporating the Alauni and Roxolani

MapThese were originally an Iranian steppe people who settled in Scythia in the fourth century BC, displacing the Scythians, a similar Iranian Steppe culture. Scythia consisted of the plains which stretch from the north of the Black Sea over to the Caspian Sea. The Alani are first mentioned in the west by the Roman historian, Josephus, in the first century AD. He calls them a Scythian tribe living near the Don (Tanais) and the Sea of Azov. They seem to be indivisible from the Samartians and the Geloni of the same region. Herodotus mentions the Geloni (Gilans), so they were either closely related, or more likely the same peoples. The fourth century Roman writer Ammianus Marcellinus considered them to be the direct descendants of the Massagetae. There were also (probable) elements of the Alans in the form of the Alauni and Roxolani along the Danube in the first century BC, showing how far their various divisions had migrated.

Conquered by the Huns, they became allies, and most travelled west with the Huns. Split by the Hunnic attacks, some Alani tribes remained behind, dispersed across the steppes. They were forced by further waves of invaders to migrate into the Caucuses where they eventually founded the regionally-powerful kingdom of Alania, only to be conquered by the Mongols in the thirteenth century. They re-emerged as the Ossetians, based in modern Georgia and southern Russia.

(Additional information from The Oxford History of England: Roman Britain, Peter Salway.)

90s BC

The nomadic Yancai are recorded by Sima Qian of China, centred on the northern shore of the Aral Sea. Their territory lays to the north-west of the Kangju nomadic federation, to whom they hold some similarities in terms of customs.

Alans fighting Romans
The Alans formed part of a major incursion into Roman territory in the fifth century AD, but there had already existed sizable pockets of them in southern-central Europe in the first century BC, in the form of the Alauni and Roxolani

Around the same time, two tribes on the banks of the Danube in southern-central Europe are generally linked to the Alans as sub-divisions of the main body. The first of these is the Alauni, located on the south bank of the river, between that and the town of Iuvavum (modern Salzburg in Austria). They are neighboured to the north by the Celtic Sevarces, to the east and south by the powerful Taurisci and the Ambisontes, and to the west by the Vindelici.

The other sub-division is the Roxolani, who are know to arrive in the region of the Baragan Steppes in modern Romania in the first century BC. They quickly find themselves neighboured to the north by the Daci, and to the east, south and west by smaller Dacian tribes.

mid-1st cent BC

Spadines

King of the Aorsi.

Spadines is mentioned in Strabo's Geography as the leader of a fugitive group of Aorsi, which is divided from the 'Upper Aorsi'. The latter group is much more powerful, apparently dominating the coastal area around the Caspian Sea. They trade with India and the Babylonians via the Armenians and Medes.

fl AD 70

Külük / Kuluk

Defeated the Medians and Armenians in a raid south.

1st century AD

Elements of the Alans are now occupying territory to the north of the Sea of Azov, much further west than previously. Within a century whatever distinction there might be between this branch and the Yancai of Chinese records has disappeared, and the united peoples extend their influence to cover the trade routes from the Black Sea to the northern shores of the Caspian Sea and Aral Sea.

c.125

By now, Chinese records confirm the unification of the Yancai peoples as the Alanliao (or the 'old Yancai'), who have expanded towards the Caspian Sea (or perhaps reclaimed territory there). They appear to remain dependent upon the Kangju, at least for a time, before becoming dominant in Sarmatia. They cause concern for the Roman empire thanks to southwards incursions into the Danubian province and the Caucuses during this and the next century.

175

The Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius, defeats the Iazyges tribe of Alans (otherwise known as Sarmatians). He takes them into Roman service and settles them in Northern Britain, at Ribchester, south of Lancaster. The Alans are assigned to the VI Legion Victrix, commanded by the Alani warlord who is renamed Lucius Artorius Castus.

c.240s - 250s

The Alans are no longer dependent upon the Kangju, as recorded by the Weilüe history of the Chinese Wei dynasty.

fl c.280s

Askhkadar

372

The Huns burst into Scythia and defeat the Alans, splintering their tribes. Probably with little choice in the matter, the Alans ally themselves with the Huns, following them as they head west. Some Alan tribes manage to remain, migrating into the valleys of the northern Caucuses where they maintain their identity.

372 - 407

The Huns and Alans arrive in the territory north of the Danube. The Huns eventually unify into a single cohesive force and begin to threaten the Western Roman empire. They start by clashing with the Ostrogoths, overrunning them, and in 376 they also defeat the Visigoths.

Subsequently, there appear to be various rulers of the Alans, perhaps of individual tribes alone. They are part of the Hunnic confederation and are subsequently allied to the Vandali.

fl late 300s?

Beler

fl 407

Respendial

406 - 409

Following the dream of most barbarians, in 406 the majority of Alans leave the Huns behind and cross the Rhine at Mainz, entering into the Roman empire. They move in association with the Suevi and Vandali. Refused permission to settle by the Franks at the crossing of the Rhine, the Vandali are instead attacked by them, but the Alans come to their rescue and save the day. Subsequently, the Alans and Vandali settle initially in southern Gaul (around Orleans and Valence), where they cause chaos in Gaul. All three tribes migrate to Spain by 409, disrupting the Gallic empire of Constantine III.

Crossing the Rhine
The main bodies of the Vandali, Alans, and Suevi tribes crossed the Rhine at the end of 406

c.411 - c.413

Goar

411 - 413

Gundahar of the Burgundians and Goar set up Jovinus as their puppet Roman usurper. He is defeated by the Visigoths, and as they subsequently move southwards, an important group of Alans joins them.

c.413 - 415

Addac

415? - 426

Attaces

Killed in battle against the Visigoths.

426

The Suevi settle in north-western Iberia. With the Visigoths becoming more powerful in southern Gaul and northern Spain, the weakened Alans merge with the Asding Vandali, and migrate further south, leaving at least some of their people behind in Gaul.

fl c.430s - 450s

Goar / Gokhar

Same person as c.411?

442

Two groups of Alans had been settled by Rome in Gaul, sharing the land with the Gallo-Roman inhabitants. The presence of one of these groups of uncouth barbarians, possibly on the Loire, leads to a major clash between them and the Gallo-Roman owners of the region, with the Alans ejecting the Romanised Celts. While the deal proves good for Rome in that this group of Alans remains available for military service, it is not so favourable for provincial landowners.

fl c.453

Sangipan

? - 464

Beorgor

The Alans of western Europe appear to merge into the general population during the fifth century, becoming totally submerged by the Frankish conquest of Gaul later in the same century. Those Alans who had followed the Vandali into Africa disappear into the local population. The Alans of the Caucuses survive as an identifiable people.

Alans of the Caucuses

In the Caucuses, the Alans who had not followed the Huns in the fourth century remained settled and relatively undocumented. They occupied an area of the Northern Caucuses plain around the source of the River Kuban and Darial Gorge. The Alans occasionally appeared as mercenaries of the Byzantine empire or the Persians, but received few other mentions of note.

fl late 300s

Boz-Uruz

fl 370s

Balambar

Alatey

Safrak

fl 400s

Saros

fl c.450

Kandak

fl c.600

Alanui K'an

Literally 'Leader of the Alans', more likely a title, not a name.

8th century

The Alans coalesce to form a minor but fairly powerful kingdom known as Alania.

Kingdom of Alania
c.8-9th Centuries AD - 1239

The Alans flourished in the Northern Caucuses, even when subjugated by the Khazars. The capital was at Maghas (also known as Maas), although its exact location is unknown. There is a modern Magas in Ingushetia which was founded in 1995 and named after the ancient capital. This is no proof that the location is the same, however.

c.710

Prior to his accession as Leo III of Byzantium, Leo the Isaurian is sent on a diplomatic mission to bribe the Alans into severing links with the pro-Islamic kingdom of Abasgia. The mission proves successful.

fl c.715

Itaz

Khazar vassal.

c.720 - 722

Alania is invaded by the troops of the Umayyad Caliph Umar II. In 722, the Khazars come to their aid under a chieftain called Barjik. Together, the two peoples push out the Muslims, and the Khazars subsequently erect several strongholds in the region.

North Ossetia
The countryside of Alania, now North Ossetia, is mostly mountainous scrub

728

Another Umayyad general penetrates the fortress known as the Gate of the Alans and devastates the region of the North Caucuses.

736

Again, the Islamic empire sends a force into the land of the Alans which manages to devastate the forts there.

758

The last-known serious attack by the Islamic empire on Alania takes place. An Arab general captures and holds the Gate of the Alans, although for how long is unknown. Not permanently, it seems. As a result of the alliance between the Alans and the Khazars, the latter become overlords of the Alans. The situation serves the Alans equally, as the two peoples are able to work together to defend the territory.

c.900

The Alans and the Khazars join together to defeat a Byzantine-led coalition which is aimed against the Khazar king, Benjamin.

fl c.910

?

Unnamed Christian king of a pagan people.

c.920

?

Unnamed rebel.

c.920 - 960s

Following a rebellion by the Alans, their king is captured and they are defeated. They abandon Christianity at the same time, expelling Byzantine missionaries. Khazar domination over them is renewed until the collapse of the latter kingdom. Afterwards, Alania begins a fruitful relationship with Georgia, frequently providing the larger kingdom with troops to serve in the region's defence. The alliance culminates with a royal marriage between the king of Alania and the queen of Georgia around 1193.

fl c.1000

Durgulel the Great

fl c.1100

Yasynya

fl c.1125

Aton Bagratuni

Surname suggests a familial link to the Bagratids of Georgia.

fl c.1150s

Huddan

fl c.1170s

Suarn

c.1189 - 1207

David Soslan

m Queen Thamar of Georgia.

c.1193 - 1223

David Soslan marries Queen Tamar of Georgia and becomes her co-ruler. The rule of the Alans is subsequently passed to Vladislav. In 1223, Georgia is subordinated by the Mongols, but the descendants of Thamar and David survive and continue to supply Georgia with kings until the nineteenth century.

fl c.1200?

Vladislav

1222 - 1239

Following the fall of the kingdom of Georgia to the south, the Alans put up a stiff resistance to the Mongol invasion which sees them driven from their valleys but otherwise undefeated. They remain encamped in mountainous strongholds and continue to raid the territory of the subsequent Tartar rulers of the Wolga. Some Alans are, however, subjugated, and serve the Mongols in various guises. In 1227, the Golden Horde inherits control of the region.

fl c.1250s

Khankhusy

Either a client king or one of the free Alans.

1395 - 1405

Despite holding out and renewing their reputation as fine warriors, the Alans are conquered by the end of this century at the latest, with the capital at Maghas being destroyed. They fall under the rule of the Tartars and fight for them under Toqtamish Khan of the Greater Golden Horde against Timur of Persia. Timur wins in 1395, gaining control of the Caucuses briefly, and massacring a great many Alans.

The fragmented survivors, pushed further south into the Caucuses, begin to integrate with the native Caucasians and eventually re-emerge as proto-Ossetians. They form into two groups, Digor and Iron (today the two main dialects of Ossetian speech).

1767

After this date, the former Alans fall under the rule of the Russian empire. They are generally converted to the Russian Orthodox church and in terms of identity they form the Ossetians, based in modern Georgia and the bordering Russian republics. They are the only remaining representatives of the ancient Scythians and Sarmatians.

Modern Ossetia (Alania)
AD 1767 - Present Day

As the Russian empire expanded into the Caucuses in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Ossetians (or Alans) did not resist as other peoples in the North Caucasus did. Instead the Ossetians remained on good relations with Russia and were regarded as loyal citizens, first of the Russian empire and later of the Soviet Union. They sided with the Kremlin when Bolshevik forces occupied Georgia in the early 1920s and, as part of the carve-up which followed, the South Ossetian Autonomous Region was created in Georgia and North Ossetia was formed in Russia.

1918 - 1919

During the Russian Civil War, the Ossetians form part of the Transcaucasian republic in 1918-1919, before forming one of several pockets of White Guard/Republican resistance against Bolshevik Moscow until 1920.

1920 - 1991

North Ossetia (still known by some as Alania) forms part of Soviet Russia, while the southern portion is carved off to form part of Georgia. In 1924 the north becomes an autonomous region, and in 1936 an autonomous republic.

1990 - 1991

South Ossetia loses its status as an autonomous region within Georgia, sparking the eighteen-month South Ossetian War.

1991 - 1996

North Ossetia gains a greater degree of self-rule during the break-up of the Soviet Union, becoming the North Ossetian Autonomous Republic within the Russian Confederation of Independent States. In South Ossetia, although the area's status as an autonomous region is reaffirmed in 1992, nationalists continue to work towards a unification of Ossetia as a whole. Agreement is reached with Georgia on the deployment of peacekeepers. Peace is agreed in 1996.

South Ossetian memorial 1991
This memorial in South Ossetia commemorates the 1991 war

1994

During the break-up of the Soviet Union, the renaming of the region to Alania had been put forward. In this year, North Ossetia is officially re-titled as North Ossetia-Alania.

2006

President Saakashvili of Georgia offers South Ossetia autonomy but not independence or reunification, so a vote is taken which overwhelmingly supports a renewed call for independence. Georgia refuses to recognise the call.

2008

Partially fooled by Russia into commencing an attack on South Ossetia to recover the breakaway territory, Georgia is humiliated as a pre-prepared Russian taskforce crushes its forces and occupies South Ossetia under the pretence of protecting Russian passport holders there. Russia soon recognises South Ossetia (and Abkhazia, another breakaway Georgian region) as independent states.