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2023
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2023

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European Kingdoms

Barbarians

 

Siraces (Indo-Iranians)

During the first millennium BC (and likely for much of the largely-unrecorded second millennium BC too) various Indo-Iranian tribes of the East Indo-European division dominated the Pontic-Caspian steppe. They took control from remaining West Indo-European groups, with the Agathyrsi rising early to supremacy over the other tribes. They in turn were superseded by the Scythians, and it was they who imposed a ruling elite over the early Sarmatians and Alani.

The Alani were either neighbours of the Sarmatians or (as some claim) a division of the Sarmatians themselves. The fortunes of both groups were closely intertwined, and some of their constituent sub-groups could be mistaken as Alani or Sarmatians, depending on how they were being recorded by early writers.

The Sarmatians soon migrated from Central Asia towards the Ural Mountains, at a point between the sixth and fourth centuries BC. This was just in time for them - with a division of the Alani in tow - to be mentioned by Herodotus when he described the tribes to the north of the Black Sea.

The Siraces (or Sirakoi in Greek, while Latin variations include Siraci, Siraceni, Seraci, and Sirakians) were one such constituent sub-group. They were usually described as being Sarmatian, although there was very little difference between them and the Alani.

In time the general Sarmatian confederation settled much of southern European Russia and the eastern Balkans. Like the closely-related Scythians, they were highly developed horse-riding warriors. Their administrative capability and political astuteness contributed to their gaining widespread influence, and it was through this that many of their sub-groups were able to spread far into Central Europe.

This was not a particularly big tribe, or one which dominated a great territory. However, nestled in their newly-founded home on the eastern side of the Sea of Azov at the north-western end of the Caucus Mountains foothills, their morale was claimed (by Brzezinski & Mielczarek at least) as being high.

Bordered by their rivals, the Aorsi, they grew wealthy from trade with the Near East and played a role in the politics of the Black Sea region until their disappearance at the end of the second century AD.

Sakas on a frieze at Persepolis

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Edward Dawson, from The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World, David W Anthony, from the Encyclopaedia of Indo-European Culture, J P Mallory & D Q Adams (Eds, 1997), from The Sarmatians 600 BC-AD 450, Richard Brzezinski & Mariusz Mielczarek (Osprey Publishing, 2002), from Annals of the Roman Empire (Book XII, 15-19), Tacitus, from The Pechenegs: Nomads in the Political and Cultural Landscape of Medieval Europe, Aleksander Paroń (Translated by Thomas Anessi, Brill, 2021), and from External Links: The United Sites of Indo-Europeans, and Studies in the History and Language of the Sarmatians, and Linguistics Research Center, University of Texas at Austin, and Indo-European Chronology - Countries and Peoples, and Indo-European Etymological Dictionary, J Pokorny, and Sarmatians (Encyclopaedia Britannica).)

339 BC

The Scythians are defeated by the Macedonian king, Phillip II, and the Scythian king, Ateas, is killed. His kingdom collapses, heralding the end for Scythian domination. The Sarmatians take advantage to swiftly establish their own domination over the steppe when they establish themselves the Belgorod Oblast area of modern Russia (on the north-eastern Ukrainian border).

Map of Scythian Lands around 500 BC
This map attempts to show the Scythian lands at their greatest extent, failing to extend northwards thanks to the Balts (click or tap on map to view full sized)

The Siraces and the Aorsi both migrate in this approximate period across the Volga to establish themselves in the northern foothills of the Caucasus mountains. The Siraces at least come into contact with Greek coastal colonies there and absorb a degree of Greek influence.

fl 310 - 309 BC

Ariphanes / Arypharnasha

King of the Siraces.

310 - 309 BC

Aripharnes (otherwise known as Arypharnasha the Thataean, with the epithet arising out of these events) takes part in the First Bosporan Civil War between King Satyros II and his pretender brother, Eumelos. All parties are seeking support from Ariphanes but he selects Eumelos.

Aripharnes proclaims Eumelos 'King of the Cimmerians'. The pair fight Satyros at the Battle of River Thatis but are defeated. They retreat to the main Siraces settlement at Siracena which is besieged by Satyros.

Cimmerians
The year 652 BC marked the apogee of Cimmerian power, with their conquest of the kingdom of Lydia, but their supremacy would last only another eleven or so years before defeat and total eclipse

Following a lengthy siege Satyros is killed in action and his forces break off to return his body to Panticapaeum for a royal burial. Aripharnes disappears from history despite Eumelos gaining the throne.

c.100 BC

During an unknown point in the second century BC, a division of the Osi migrates south to enter Pannonia, on the southern bank of the Danube. Here they become lowland farmers, surrounded by the Illyrian Antari tribe who seem not to oppose their arrival (possibly this is due to the dominance of the Celtic Taurisci confederation).

For the Osi, the Germanic advance from the north means that by around 100 BC the remaining Osi in Galicia are cut off from the Celtic world by the infringement of the Quadi. They have to pay tribute to the militarily dominant Germanics and a tribe of Sarmatians. Unusually, though, they are not absorbed by the Germanics and manage to retain their language.

Sarmatian warrior
Sarmatians followed the Agathyrsi and Scythians onto the Pontic steppe, and were followed by the Alani and, unfortunately for all of them, the Huns

Sarmatians are becoming increasingly numerous in territory to the west of the Vistula. The Siraces and the Aorsi are both already applying increasing pressure on established core Sarmatian territories, forcing elements westwards.

The power-base of the Iazyges is similarly disrupted and then destroyed, forcing them westwards too. This allows the Roxolani to slip in behind them to escape Siraces pressure.

The Aorsi establish control over territory between the Caucasus and the Aral Sea far to the east where they dominate or push out previously dominant Saka groups. The Siraces dominate the northern Caucasus, closely bordering the kingdoms of Kolkis and Iberia.

Western Slovakia
The landscape of western Slovakia into which the Quadi migrated offers a dramatic contrast in landscape, making the region protectable, but also very verdant and productive

fl 63 - 47 BC

Abeacus

King of the Siraces.

63 - 62 BC

Pontus becomes a Roman province through Pompey, although some areas become principalities and free cities which are not absorbed into the empire until between 7 BC and AD 63. The Siraces profit greatly from the Roman occupation, organising the sale of twenty thousand horses. They and the Aorsi are both becoming rich from their trade through the Armenians and Babylonians.

fl AD 36? - 49

Zorsines

King of the Siraces. Acknowledged Roman authority.

AD 36? - 49

Zorsines has a fortification at Uspe when he takes part in the war against the Dandarii which is being fought by the Armenian king, Mithridates. Mithridates later has his throne taken from him by Roman Emperor Claudius but is defeated when he and Zorsines offer battle against his replacement.

Emperor Trajan and the Dacians
Trajan would soon launch a series of wars to expand the Roman empire and conquer troublesome areas and enemies - the defeated Dacians are shown here - but many of these were unnecessary, and supplied short-term gains which were soon lost or handed back

The pro-Roman Aorsi under Eunones pursue Mithridates and clash with Zorsines at Uspe. The town offers ten thousand slaves to end the siege but this is declined. Zorsines eventually has to abandon Mithridates, providing hostages to Rome and acknowledging Roman authority. The Siraces are weakened by this outcome while the Aorsi are strengthened.

193

The Siraces receive their final mention in historical records during some disturbances in the Bosporan region in this year. The details seem to be unclear but the Siraces are not mentioned again. They are subjugated and absorbed by the increasingly powerful Alani with who they share very few differences, even down to their mutual Greek influences.

 
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