Alans

Alans

Overview
The Alans, or the Alani, occasionally termed Alauni or Halani, were a group of Sarmatian
Sarmatians
The Iron Age Sarmatians were an Iranian people in Classical Antiquity, flourishing from about the 5th century BC to the 4th century AD....

 tribes, nomadic pastoralists
Eurasian nomads
Eurasian nomads are a large group of peoples of the Eurasian Steppe. This generic title encompasses the ethnic groups inhabiting the steppes of Central Asia, Mongolia, and Eastern Europe. They domesticated the horse, and their economy and culture emphasizes horse breeding, horse riding, and a...

 of the 1st millennium AD who spoke an Eastern Iranian language which derived from Scytho-Sarmatian and which in turn evolved into modern Ossetian.

The various forms of AlanGreek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

: Αλανοί, Αλαννοί; Chinese
Chinese language
The Chinese language is a language or language family consisting of varieties which are mutually intelligible to varying degrees. Originally the indigenous languages spoken by the Han Chinese in China, it forms one of the branches of Sino-Tibetan family of languages...

: 阿蘭聊 Alanliao (Pinyin
Pinyin
Pinyin is the official system to transcribe Chinese characters into the Roman alphabet in China, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan. It is also often used to teach Mandarin Chinese and spell Chinese names in foreign publications and used as an input method to enter Chinese characters into...

) in the 2nd century, 阿蘭 Alan (Pinyin
Pinyin
Pinyin is the official system to transcribe Chinese characters into the Roman alphabet in China, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan. It is also often used to teach Mandarin Chinese and spell Chinese names in foreign publications and used as an input method to enter Chinese characters into...

) in the 3rd century — and Iron (a self-designation of the Alans' modern Ossetian
Ossetians
The Ossetians are an Iranic ethnic group of the Caucasus Mountains, eponymous of the region known as Ossetia.They speak Ossetic, an Iranian language of the Eastern branch, with most also fluent in Russian as a second language....

 descendants, indicating early tribal self-designation) are Iranian
Iranian languages
The Iranian languages form a subfamily of the Indo-Iranian languages which in turn is a subgroup of Indo-European language family. They have been and are spoken by Iranian peoples....

 dialectical forms of Aryan
Aryan
Aryan is an English language loanword derived from Sanskrit ārya and denoting variously*In scholarly usage:**Indo-Iranian languages *in dated usage:**the Indo-European languages more generally and their speakers...

.
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Encyclopedia
The Alans, or the Alani, occasionally termed Alauni or Halani, were a group of Sarmatian
Sarmatians
The Iron Age Sarmatians were an Iranian people in Classical Antiquity, flourishing from about the 5th century BC to the 4th century AD....

 tribes, nomadic pastoralists
Eurasian nomads
Eurasian nomads are a large group of peoples of the Eurasian Steppe. This generic title encompasses the ethnic groups inhabiting the steppes of Central Asia, Mongolia, and Eastern Europe. They domesticated the horse, and their economy and culture emphasizes horse breeding, horse riding, and a...

 of the 1st millennium AD who spoke an Eastern Iranian language which derived from Scytho-Sarmatian and which in turn evolved into modern Ossetian.

Name


The various forms of AlanGreek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

: Αλανοί, Αλαννοί; Chinese
Chinese language
The Chinese language is a language or language family consisting of varieties which are mutually intelligible to varying degrees. Originally the indigenous languages spoken by the Han Chinese in China, it forms one of the branches of Sino-Tibetan family of languages...

: 阿蘭聊 Alanliao (Pinyin
Pinyin
Pinyin is the official system to transcribe Chinese characters into the Roman alphabet in China, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan. It is also often used to teach Mandarin Chinese and spell Chinese names in foreign publications and used as an input method to enter Chinese characters into...

) in the 2nd century, 阿蘭 Alan (Pinyin
Pinyin
Pinyin is the official system to transcribe Chinese characters into the Roman alphabet in China, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan. It is also often used to teach Mandarin Chinese and spell Chinese names in foreign publications and used as an input method to enter Chinese characters into...

) in the 3rd century — and Iron (a self-designation of the Alans' modern Ossetian
Ossetians
The Ossetians are an Iranic ethnic group of the Caucasus Mountains, eponymous of the region known as Ossetia.They speak Ossetic, an Iranian language of the Eastern branch, with most also fluent in Russian as a second language....

 descendants, indicating early tribal self-designation) are Iranian
Iranian languages
The Iranian languages form a subfamily of the Indo-Iranian languages which in turn is a subgroup of Indo-European language family. They have been and are spoken by Iranian peoples....

 dialectical forms of Aryan
Aryan
Aryan is an English language loanword derived from Sanskrit ārya and denoting variously*In scholarly usage:**Indo-Iranian languages *in dated usage:**the Indo-European languages more generally and their speakers...

. These and other variants of Aryan (such as Iran), were common self-designations of the Indo-Iranians
Indo-Iranians
Indo-Iranian peoples are a linguistic group consisting of the Indo-Aryan, Iranian, Dardic and Nuristani peoples; that is, speakers of Indo-Iranian languages, a major branch of the Indo-European language family....

, the common ancestors of the Indo-Aryans
Indo-Aryans
Indo-Aryan is an ethno-linguistic term referring to the wide collection of peoples united as native speakers of the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-Iranian family of Indo-European languages...

 and Iranian peoples
Iranian peoples
The Iranian peoples are an Indo-European ethnic-linguistic group, consisting of the speakers of Iranian languages, a major branch of the Indo-European language family, as such forming a branch of Indo-European-speaking peoples...

 to whom the Alans belonged.

The Alans were also known over the course of their history by another group of related names including the variations Asi, As, and Os (Bulgarian
Bulgarian language
Bulgarian is an Indo-European language, a member of the Slavic linguistic group.Bulgarian, along with the closely related Macedonian language, demonstrates several linguistic characteristics that set it apart from all other Slavic languages such as the elimination of case declension, the...

 Uzi, Hungarian
Hungarian language
Hungarian is a Uralic language, part of the Ugric group. With some 14 million speakers, it is one of the most widely spoken non-Indo-European languages in Europe....

 Jász, Russian Jasy, Georgian Osi). It is this name that is the root of the modern Ossetian.

Early Alans


The first mentions of names that historians link with the "Alani" appear at almost the same time in Greco-Roman geography and in the Chinese dynastic chronicles.

The Geography (XXIII, 11) of Strabo
Strabo
Strabo, also written Strabon was a Greek historian, geographer and philosopher.-Life:Strabo was born to an affluent family from Amaseia in Pontus , a city which he said was situated the approximate equivalent of 75 km from the Black Sea...

 (64/63 BC–ca. 24 AD), who was born in Pontus
Pontus
Pontus or Pontos is a historical Greek designation for a region on the southern coast of the Black Sea, located in modern-day northeastern Turkey. The name was applied to the coastal region in antiquity by the Greeks who colonized the area, and derived from the Greek name of the Black Sea: Πόντος...

 on the Black Sea
Black Sea
The Black Sea is bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas and various straits. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean...

, but was also working with Persian sources, to judge from the forms he gives to tribal names, mentions Aorsi that he links with Siraces
Siraces
The Siraces were a hellenized Sarmatian tribe that inhabited Sarmatia Asiatica; the coast of Achardeus at the Black Sea south of the Caucasus mountains, Siracena is mentioned by Tacitus as one of their settlements. They were said to be relatively small nation but with great moral...

and claims that a Spadines, king of the Aorsi, could assemble two hundred thousand mounted archers in the mid-1st century BC. But the "upper Aorsi" from whom they had split as fugitives, could send many more, for they dominated the coastal region of the Caspian Sea
Caspian Sea
The Caspian Sea is the largest enclosed body of water on Earth by area, variously classed as the world's largest lake or a full-fledged sea. The sea has a surface area of and a volume of...

: "and consequently they could import on camels the Indian and Babylonia
Babylonia
Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia , with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as a major power when Hammurabi Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq), with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as...

n merchandise, receiving it in their turn from the Armenia
Armenia
Armenia , officially the Republic of Armenia , is a landlocked mountainous country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia...

ns and the Medes
Medes
The MedesThe Medes...

, and also, owing to their wealth, could wear golden ornaments. Now the Aorsi live along the Tanaïs, but the Siraces live along the Achardeüs
Kuban River
The Kuban River is a river in Russia, in the North Caucasus region. It flows mostly through Krasnodar Krai but also in the Karachay-Cherkess Republic, Stavropol Krai and the Republic of Adygea....

, which flows from the Caucasus
Caucasus
The Caucasus, also Caucas or Caucasia , is a geopolitical region at the border of Europe and Asia, and situated between the Black and the Caspian sea...

 and empties into Lake Maeotis
Sea of Azov
The Sea of Azov , known in Classical Antiquity as Lake Maeotis, is a sea on the south of Eastern Europe. It is linked by the narrow Strait of Kerch to the Black Sea to the south and is bounded on the north by Ukraine mainland, on the east by Russia, and on the west by the Ukraine's Crimean...

."

Chapter 123 of the Shiji (whose author, Sima Qian
Sima Qian
Sima Qian was a Prefect of the Grand Scribes of the Han Dynasty. He is regarded as the father of Chinese historiography for his highly praised work, Records of the Grand Historian , a "Jizhuanti"-style general history of China, covering more than two thousand years from the Yellow Emperor to...

, died c. 90 BC) reports:
The mouth of the Syr Darya
Syr Darya
The Syr Darya , also transliterated Syrdarya or Sirdaryo, is a river in Central Asia, sometimes known as the Jaxartes or Yaxartes from its Ancient Greek name . The Greek name is derived from Old Persian, Yakhsha Arta , a reference to the color of the river's water...

 or Jaxartes River, which emptied into the Aral Sea
Aral Sea
The Aral Sea was a lake that lay between Kazakhstan in the north and Karakalpakstan, an autonomous region of Uzbekistan, in the south...

 was approximately 850 km northwest of the oasis of Tashkent
Tashkent
Tashkent is the capital of Uzbekistan and of the Tashkent Province. The officially registered population of the city in 2008 was about 2.2 million. Unofficial sources estimate the actual population may be as much as 4.45 million.-Early Islamic History:...

 which was an important centre of the Kangju confederacy. This provides remarkable confirmation of the account in the Shiji.

The Later Han Dynasty
Han Dynasty
The Han Dynasty was the second imperial dynasty of China, preceded by the Qin Dynasty and succeeded by the Three Kingdoms . It was founded by the rebel leader Liu Bang, known posthumously as Emperor Gaozu of Han. It was briefly interrupted by the Xin Dynasty of the former regent Wang Mang...

 Chinese chronicle, the Hou Hanshu
Book of Later Han
The Book of the Later Han or the History of the Later Han is one of the official Chinese historical works which was compiled by Fan Ye in the 5th century, using a number of earlier histories and documents as sources...

, 88 (covering the period 25–220 and completed in the 5th century), mentioned a report that the steppe land Yancai was now known as Alanliao (阿蘭聊):
The 3rd century Weilüe
Weilüe
The Weilüe written by Yu Huan between CE 239, the end of Emperor Ming’s reign, and 265 CE, the end of the Cao Wei . Although not an "official historian," Yu Huan has always been held in high regard amongst Chinese scholars....

 states:
By the beginning of the 1st century, the Alans had occupied lands in the northeast Azov Sea area, along the Don and by the 2nd century had amalgamated or joined with the Yancai of the early Chinese records to extend their control all the way along the trade routes from the Black Sea
Black Sea
The Black Sea is bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas and various straits. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean...

 to the north of the Caspian and Aral seas. The written sources suggest that from the end of the 1st century to the second half of the 4th century the Alans had supremacy over the tribal union and created a powerful confederation of Sarmatian tribes.

From a Western point-of-view the Alans presented a serious problem for the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

, with incursions into both the Danubian and the Caucasian provinces in the 2nd and 3rd centuries.
Ammianus Marcellinus
Ammianus Marcellinus
Ammianus Marcellinus was a fourth-century Roman historian. He wrote the penultimate major historical account surviving from Antiquity...

 considered the Alans to be the former Massagetae
Massagetae
The Massageteans or Massagetaeans were an Iranian nomadic confederation in antiquity known primarily from the writings of Herodotus. Their name was probably akin to Thyssagetae.-Name:...

: "the Alani, who were formerly called the Massagetae" and stated "Nearly all the Alani are men of great stature and beauty; their hair is somewhat yellow, their eyes are terribly fierce".

Archaeology


Archaeological finds support the written sources. Late Sarmatian sites were first identified with the historical Alans by P.D. Rau (1927). Based on the archaeological material, they were one of the Iranian-speaking nomadic tribes that began to enter the Sarmatian area between the middle of the 1st and the 2nd century.

The Alani were first mentioned in Roman literature in the 1st century and were described later as a warlike people that specialized in horse breeding. They frequently raided the Parthian empire
Parthian Empire
The Parthian Empire , also known as the Arsacid Empire , was a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Persia...

 and the Caucasian provinces of the Roman Empire. In the Vologeses inscription one can read that Vologeses I, the Parthian king, in the 11th year of his reign, battled Kuluk, king of the Alani.

This inscription is supplemented by the contemporary Jewish historian, Josephus
Josephus
Titus Flavius Josephus , also called Joseph ben Matityahu , was a 1st-century Romano-Jewish historian and hagiographer of priestly and royal ancestry who recorded Jewish history, with special emphasis on the 1st century AD and the First Jewish–Roman War, which resulted in the Destruction of...

 (37–100), who reports in the Jewish Wars (book 7, ch. 8.4) how Alans (whom he calls a "Scythia
Scythia
In antiquity, Scythian or Scyths were terms used by the Greeks to refer to certain Iranian groups of horse-riding nomadic pastoralists who dwelt on the Pontic-Caspian steppe...

n" tribe) living near the Sea of Azov
Sea of Azov
The Sea of Azov , known in Classical Antiquity as Lake Maeotis, is a sea on the south of Eastern Europe. It is linked by the narrow Strait of Kerch to the Black Sea to the south and is bounded on the north by Ukraine mainland, on the east by Russia, and on the west by the Ukraine's Crimean...

, crossed the Iron Gates for plunder and defeated the armies of Pacorus
Pacorus II of Parthia
Pacorus II of Parthia ruled the Parthian Empire from about 78 to 105. A son of Vonones II and brother of Vologases I, he was given the kingdom of Media Atropatene by the latter after his succession to the throne. After Vologases' death, Pacorus revolted against his brother's son and successor,...

, king of Media
Medes
The MedesThe Medes...

, and Tiridates
Tiridates I of Armenia
Tiridates I was King of Armenia beginning in AD 53 and the founder of the Arshakuni Dynasty, the Armenian line of the Arsacid Dynasty. The dates of his birth and death are unknown. His early reign was marked by a brief interruption towards the end of the year 54 and a much longer one from 58...

, King of Armenia, two brothers of Vologeses I
Vologases I of Parthia
Vologases I of Parthia, sometimes called Vologaeses or Vologeses or, following Zoroastrian usage, Valakhsh ruled the Parthian Empire from about 51 to 78. Son of Vonones II by a Thracian concubine, he succeeded his father in 51 AD. He gave the kingdom of Media Atropatene to his brother Pacorus II,...

 (for whom the above-mentioned inscription was made):
Flavius Arrianus
Arrian
Lucius Flavius Arrianus 'Xenophon , known in English as Arrian , and Arrian of Nicomedia, was a Roman historian, public servant, a military commander and a philosopher of the 2nd-century Roman period...

 marched against the Alani in the 1st century and left a detailed report (Ektaxis kata Alanoon or 'War Against the Alans') that is a major source for studying Roman military tactics
Military tactics
Military tactics, the science and art of organizing an army or an air force, are the techniques for using weapons or military units in combination for engaging and defeating an enemy in battle. Changes in philosophy and technology over time have been reflected in changes to military tactics. In...

, but doesn't reveal much about his enemy. In the late 4th century, Vegetius conflates Alans and Huns in his military treatise — Hunnorum Alannorumque natio, the "nation of Huns and Alans" — and collocates Goths, Huns and Alans, exemplo Gothorum et Alannorum Hunnorumque.

In Cathay and the Way Thither, 1866, Henry Yule
Henry Yule
Sir Henry Yule was a Scottish Orientalist.He was born at Inveresk, Scotland, near Edinburgh, the son of Major William Yule , translator of the Apothegms of Ali. Henry Yule was educated at Edinburgh, Addiscombe, and Chatham, and joined the Bengal Engineers in 1840...

 writes:
The Alans were known to the Chinese by that name, in the ages immediately preceding and following the Christian era, as dwelling near the Aral, in which original position they are believed to have been closely akin to, if not identical with, the famous Massagetæ. Hereabouts also Ptolemy (vi, 14) appears to place the Alani-Scythæ, and Alanæan Mountains. From about 40 B.C. the emigrations of the Alans seem to have been directed westward to the Lower Don; here they are placed in the first century by Josephus and by the Armenian writers; and hence they are found issuing in the third century to ravage the rich provinces of Asia Minor. In 376 the deluge of the Huns on its westward course came upon the Alans and overwhelmed them. Great numbers of Alans are found to have joined the conquerors on their further progress, and large bodies of Alans afterwards swelled the waves of Goths, Vandals, and Sueves, that rolled across the Western Empire. A portion of the Alans, however, after the Hun invasion retired into the plains adjoining Caucasus, and into the lower valleys of that region, where they maintained the name and nationality which the others speedily lost. Little is heard of these Caucasian Alans for many centuries, except occasionally as mercenary soldiers of the Byzantine emperors or the [p. 316] Persian kings. In the thirteenth century they made a stout resistance to the Mongol conquerors, and though driven into the mountains they long continued their forays on the tracts subjected to the Tartar dynasty that settled on the Wolga, so that the Mongols had to maintain posts with strong garrisons to keep them in check. They were long redoutable both as warriors and as armourers, but by the end of the fourteenth century they seem to have come thoroughly under the Tartar rule; for they fought on the side of Toctamish Khan of Sarai against the great Timur.

Migration to Gaul


Around 370, the Alans were overwhelmed by the Huns
Huns
The Huns were a group of nomadic people who, appearing from east of the Volga River, migrated into Europe c. AD 370 and established the vast Hunnic Empire there. Since de Guignes linked them with the Xiongnu, who had been northern neighbours of China 300 years prior to the emergence of the Huns,...

. They were divided into several groups, some of whom fled westward. A portion of these western Alans joined the Vandals
Vandals
The Vandals were an East Germanic tribe that entered the late Roman Empire during the 5th century. The Vandals under king Genseric entered Africa in 429 and by 439 established a kingdom which included the Roman Africa province, besides the islands of Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia and the Balearics....

 and the Sueves in their invasion of Roman Gaul
Gaul
Gaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. The Gauls were the speakers of...

. Gregory of Tours
Gregory of Tours
Saint Gregory of Tours was a Gallo-Roman historian and Bishop of Tours, which made him a leading prelate of Gaul. He was born Georgius Florentius, later adding the name Gregorius in honour of his maternal great-grandfather...

 mentions in his Liber historiae Francorum
Liber Historiae Francorum
Liber historiae Francorum is a book that briefly starts as secondary source for early Franks in the time of Marcomer, and it gives a short breviarum of events until the time of the late Merovingians, where it becomes an important primary source of the contemporaneous history...

 ("Book of Frankish
Franks
The Franks were a confederation of Germanic tribes first attested in the third century AD as living north and east of the Lower Rhine River. From the third to fifth centuries some Franks raided Roman territory while other Franks joined the Roman troops in Gaul. Only the Salian Franks formed a...

 History") that the Alan king Respendial
Respendial
Respendial or Respindal was king of a group of Alans in western Europe in the early 5th century CE.Respendial was king of one two groups of Alans which crossed the Rhine into the Roman Empire in 407 CE...

 saved the day for the Vandals
Vandals
The Vandals were an East Germanic tribe that entered the late Roman Empire during the 5th century. The Vandals under king Genseric entered Africa in 429 and by 439 established a kingdom which included the Roman Africa province, besides the islands of Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia and the Balearics....

 in an armed encounter with the Franks
Franks
The Franks were a confederation of Germanic tribes first attested in the third century AD as living north and east of the Lower Rhine River. From the third to fifth centuries some Franks raided Roman territory while other Franks joined the Roman troops in Gaul. Only the Salian Franks formed a...

 at the crossing of the Rhine
Crossing of the Rhine
31 December 406, is the often-repeated date of the crossing of the Rhine by a mixed group of barbarians that included Vandals, Alans and Suebi...

 on December 31, 406). According to Gregory, another group of Alans, led by Goar
Goar
Goar was a leader of the Alans in 5th-century Gaul. He led his followers over the Rhine during the multi-tribe invasion of Gaul in 406, but quickly joined the Romans, and subsequently played a role in the internal politics of Gaul.-Invasion of Gaul:Goar is first mentioned in Gregory of Tours's...

, crossed the Rhine at the same time, but immediately joined the Romans and settled in Gaul.

Under Biorgor (Biorgor rex Alanorum), they infested Gallia round about, till the reign of Petronius Maximus
Petronius Maximus
Flavius Petronius Maximus was Western Roman Emperor for two and a half months in 455. A wealthy senator and a prominent aristocrat, he was instrumental in the murders of the Western Roman magister militum, Flavius Aëtius, and the Western Roman Emperor Valentinian III...

 and then they passed the Alps
Alps
The Alps is one of the great mountain range systems of Europe, stretching from Austria and Slovenia in the east through Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Germany to France in the west....

 in winter, and came into Liguria
Liguria
Liguria is a coastal region of north-western Italy, the third smallest of the Italian regions. Its capital is Genoa. It is a popular region with tourists for its beautiful beaches, picturesque little towns, and good food.-Geography:...

, but were there beaten, and Biorgor slain, by Ricimer
Ricimer
Flavius Ricimer was a Germanic general who achieved effective control of the remaining parts of the Western Roman Empire, during the middle of the 5th century...

 commander of the Emperor's forces (year 464).

Under Goar, they allied with the Burgundians
Burgundians
The Burgundians were an East Germanic tribe which may have emigrated from mainland Scandinavia to the island of Bornholm, whose old form in Old Norse still was Burgundarholmr , and from there to mainland Europe...

 led by Gundaharius, with whom they installed the usurping Emperor Jovinus
Jovinus
Jovinus was a Gallo-Roman senator and claimed to be Roman Emperor .Following the defeat of the usurper known with the name of Constantine III, Jovinus was proclaimed emperor at Mainz in 411, a puppet supported by Gundahar, king of the Burgundians, and Goar, king of the Alans...

. Under Goar's successor Sangiban
Sangiban
Sangiban was a fifth-century Alan king at the time of Attila's invasion of Gaul . He was the successor of Goar as king of the Alan foederati settled in the region around Aurelianum . According to Jordanes, Sangiban had promised Attila before the Battle of Châlons to open the city gates and deliver...

, the Alans of Orléans played a critical role in repelling the invasion of Attila the Hun
Attila the Hun
Attila , more frequently referred to as Attila the Hun, was the ruler of the Huns from 434 until his death in 453. He was leader of the Hunnic Empire, which stretched from the Ural River to the Rhine River and from the Danube River to the Baltic Sea. During his reign he was one of the most feared...

 at the Battle of Châlons
Battle of Chalons
The Battle of the Catalaunian Plains , also called the Battle of Châlons sur Marne, took place in AD 451 between a coalition led by the Visigothic king Theodoric I and the Roman general Flavius Aëtius, against the Huns and their allies commanded by their leader Attila...

. After the 5th century, however, the Alans of Gaul were subsumed in the territorial struggles between the Franks and the Visigoths, and ceased to have an independent existence. In order to quell unrest, Flavius Aëtius
Flavius Aëtius
Flavius Aëtius , dux et patricius, was a Roman general of the closing period of the Western Roman Empire. He was an able military commander and the most influential man in the Western Roman Empire for two decades . He managed policy in regard to the attacks of barbarian peoples pressing on the Empire...

 settled large numbers of Alans in various areas, such as in and around Armorica
Armorica
Armorica or Aremorica is the name given in ancient times to the part of Gaul that includes the Brittany peninsula and the territory between the Seine and Loire rivers, extending inland to an indeterminate point and down the Atlantic coast...

. Several towns with names possibly related to 'Alan', such as Allainville, Yvelines
Allainville, Yvelines
Allainville is a commune in the Yvelines department in north-central France....

, Alainville-en Beauce, Loiret
Loiret
Loiret is a department in north-central FranceThe department is named after the river Loiret, a tributary of the Loire. The Loiret is located wholly within the department.- History :...

, Allaines
Allaines
Allaines is a commune in the Somme department in Picardie in northern France.-Geography:The commune is on the D43 departmental road about northeast of Saint-Quentin.-Demography:-External links:* * *...

 and Allainville
Allainville, Eure-et-Loir
Allainville is a commune in the Eure-et-Loir department in northern France.-Population:-References:*...

, Eure-et-Loir
Eure-et-Loir
Eure-et-Loir is a French department, named after the Eure and Loir rivers.-History:Eure-et-Loir is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790 pursuant to the Act of December 22, 1789...

, and Les Allains, Eure
Eure
Eure is a department in the north of France named after the river Eure.- History :Eure is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on 4 March 1790...

, are taken as evidence that a contingent settled in Armorica
Armorica
Armorica or Aremorica is the name given in ancient times to the part of Gaul that includes the Brittany peninsula and the territory between the Seine and Loire rivers, extending inland to an indeterminate point and down the Atlantic coast...

, Brittany
Brittany
Brittany is a cultural and administrative region in the north-west of France. Previously a kingdom and then a duchy, Brittany was united to the Kingdom of France in 1532 as a province. Brittany has also been referred to as Less, Lesser or Little Britain...

, which retained a reputation for outstanding horsemanship with Gregory of Tours
Gregory of Tours
Saint Gregory of Tours was a Gallo-Roman historian and Bishop of Tours, which made him a leading prelate of Gaul. He was born Georgius Florentius, later adding the name Gregorius in honour of his maternal great-grandfather...

 and into the Middle Ages, preferring to remain mounted to fight in contrast with all their neighbors, who dismounted in battle. Other areas of Alans settlement were notably around Orléans
Orléans
-Prehistory and Roman:Cenabum was a Gallic stronghold, one of the principal towns of the Carnutes tribe where the Druids held their annual assembly. It was conquered and destroyed by Julius Caesar in 52 BC, then rebuilt under the Roman Empire...

 and Valentia
Valence, Drôme
Valence is a commune in southeastern France, the capital of the Drôme department, situated on the left bank of the Rhône, south of Lyon on the railway to Marseilles.Its inhabitants are called Valentinois...

.

Hispania and Africa


Following the fortunes of the Vandals
Vandals
The Vandals were an East Germanic tribe that entered the late Roman Empire during the 5th century. The Vandals under king Genseric entered Africa in 429 and by 439 established a kingdom which included the Roman Africa province, besides the islands of Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia and the Balearics....

 and Suevi into the Iberian peninsula
Iberian Peninsula
The Iberian Peninsula , sometimes called Iberia, is located in the extreme southwest of Europe and includes the modern-day sovereign states of Spain, Portugal and Andorra, as well as the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar...

 (Hispania
Hispania
Another theory holds that the name derives from Ezpanna, the Basque word for "border" or "edge", thus meaning the farthest area or place. Isidore of Sevilla considered Hispania derived from Hispalis....

, comprising modern Portugal and Spain) in 409, the Alans led by Respendial settled in the provinces of Lusitania
Lusitania
Lusitania or Hispania Lusitania was an ancient Roman province including approximately all of modern Portugal south of the Douro river and part of modern Spain . It was named after the Lusitani or Lusitanian people...

 and Carthaginiensis: "Alani Lusitaniam et Carthaginiensem provincias, et Wandali cognomine Silingi Baeticam sortiuntur" (Hydatius
Hydatius
Hydatius or Idacius , bishop of Aquae Flaviae in the Roman province of Gallaecia was the author of a chronicle of his own times that provides us with our best evidence for the history of the Iberian Peninsula in the 5th century.-Life:Hydatius was born around the year 400 in the...

). The Siling Vandals settled in Baetica, the Suevi in coastal Gallaecia
Gallaecia
Gallaecia or Callaecia, also known as Hispania Gallaecia, was the name of a Roman province and an early Mediaeval kingdom that comprised a territory in the north-west of Hispania...

, and the Asding Vandals in the rest of Gallaecia.

In 418 (or 426 according to some authors, cf. e.g. Castritius, 2007), the Alan king, Attaces
Attaces
Addac or Attaces was king of the western Alans in Hispania . In 409, the Alans settled in the provinces of Lusitania and Carthaginiensis: Alani Lusitaniam et Carthaginiensem provincias, et Wandali cognomine Silingi Baeticam sortiuntur...

, was killed in battle against the Visigoths, and this branch of the Alans subsequently appealed to the Asding Vandal king Gunderic
Gunderic
Gunderic , King of the Vandals and Alans , led the Vandals, a Germanic tribe originally residing near the Oder River, to take part in the barbarian invasions of the western Roman Empire in the fifth century.- History :...

 to accept the Alan crown. The separate ethnic identity of Respendial's Alans dissolved. Although some of these Alans are thought to have remained in Iberia
Iberian Peninsula
The Iberian Peninsula , sometimes called Iberia, is located in the extreme southwest of Europe and includes the modern-day sovereign states of Spain, Portugal and Andorra, as well as the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar...

, most went to North Africa with the Vandals in 429. Later Vandal kings in North Africa styled themselves Rex Wandalorum et Alanorum ("King of the Vandals and Alans").

There are some vestiges of the Alans in Portugal, namely in Alenquer (whose name may be Germanic for the Temple of the Alans, from "Alan Kerk", and whose castle may have been established by them; the Alaunt
Alaunt
The Alaunt is often thought of as an extinct breed of dog, however the Alaunt is not a breed, it is a type of dog also known as Mastiff. A number of modern dog breeds are believed directly descended from the Alaunt. The original Alaunt is thought to have resembled a Caucasian Shepherd Dog. They...

 is still represented in that city's coat of arms), in the construction of the castles of Torres Vedras
Torres Vedras
Torres Vedras is a city and a municipality in the district of Lisbon, Portugal, about 50 km north of Lisbon. It belongs to the Oeste subregion and the Centro region.The municipality covers an area of 405.89 km² distributed over 20 freguesias...

 and Almourol
Castle of Almourol
The Almourol Castle is situated in the small Almourol island, a rocky island, in the middle of the Tagus river , in Praia do Ribatejo, a parish in Vila Nova da Barquinha, Central Portugal. The castle was a Knights Templar stronghold used during the Reconquista.-The conquest of the castle:The site...

, and in the city walls of Lisbon
Lisbon
Lisbon is the capital city and largest city of Portugal with a population of 545,245 within its administrative limits on a land area of . The urban area of Lisbon extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of 3 million on an area of , making it the 9th most populous urban...

, where vestiges of their presence may be found under the foundations of the Church of Santa Luzia.

In the Iberian peninsula the Alans settled in Lusitania
Lusitania
Lusitania or Hispania Lusitania was an ancient Roman province including approximately all of modern Portugal south of the Douro river and part of modern Spain . It was named after the Lusitani or Lusitanian people...

 (cf. Alentejo) and the Cartaginense provinces. They became known in retrospect for their massive hunting and fighting dog of Molosser
Molosser
Molosser is a category of large, solidly-built dog that includes several breeds, probably all descended from the same root stock. The name derives from Molossia, a subregion of ancient Epirus, ancient Greece, where the large shepherd dog was known as the Molossus.The proper noun "Mastiff", however,...

 type, the Alaunt
Alaunt
The Alaunt is often thought of as an extinct breed of dog, however the Alaunt is not a breed, it is a type of dog also known as Mastiff. A number of modern dog breeds are believed directly descended from the Alaunt. The original Alaunt is thought to have resembled a Caucasian Shepherd Dog. They...

, which they apparently introduced to Europe. The breed is extinct, but its name is carried by a Spanish breed of dog still called Alano
Alano Español
Alano Español, sometimes called the Spanish Bulldog in English, is a very large breed of dog of the molosser dog type, originating in Spain. The breed is best known for its former use during Spanish bullfights.- Appearance :...

, traditionally used in boar
Boar
Wild boar, also wild pig, is a species of the pig genus Sus, part of the biological family Suidae. The species includes many subspecies. It is the wild ancestor of the domestic pig, an animal with which it freely hybridises...

 hunting and cattle
Cattle
Cattle are the most common type of large domesticated ungulates. They are a prominent modern member of the subfamily Bovinae, are the most widespread species of the genus Bos, and are most commonly classified collectively as Bos primigenius...

 herding. The Alano name, however, has historically been used for a number of dog breeds in a few European countries thought to descend from the original dog of the Alans, such as the German mastiff (Great Dane) and the French Dogue de Bordeaux, among others.

Alans and Slavs


Some historians argue that the arrival of the Huns
Huns
The Huns were a group of nomadic people who, appearing from east of the Volga River, migrated into Europe c. AD 370 and established the vast Hunnic Empire there. Since de Guignes linked them with the Xiongnu, who had been northern neighbours of China 300 years prior to the emergence of the Huns,...

 on the European steppe forced a portion of Alans previously living there to move northwest into the land of Venedes
Venedes
The Vistula Veneti were an ancient Indo-European people along the river Vistula and the Bay of Gdańsk.- Etymology of the ethnonym Veneti :...

, possibly merging with Western Balts
Zarubintsy culture
The Zarubintsy culture was a culture that from the 3rd century BC until 1st century AD flourished in the area north of the Black Sea along the upper and middle Dnieper and Pripyat Rivers, stretching west towards the Southern Bug river. Zarubintsy sites were particularly dense between the Rivers...

 there to become the precursors of historic Slav nations.)

It's believed that some Alans resettled to the North (Barsils
Barsils
Barsils / Barsilts, Chinese Baysi, were a semi-nomadic Eurasian tribe of Turkic linguistic affiliation, and possibly identical with the Bagrasik. Barsils are first mentioned in the Chinese annals as the 15th of the 15 TurkicTele tribes. The Chinese records about the Western Turkic Kaganate ca. 630...

), merging with Volga Bulgars and Burtas
Burtas
Burtas were a tribe of uncertain ethnolinguistic affiliation inhabiting the steppe region north of the Caspian Sea in medieval times...

, eventually transforming to Volga Tatars
Volga Tatars
The Volga Tatars are the largest subgroup of the Tatars, native to the Volga region.They account for roughly six out of seven million Tatars worldwide....


Medieval Alania




Some of the other Alans remained under the rule of the Huns. Those of the eastern division, though dispersed about the steppes until late medieval
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 times, were forced by the Mongols
Mongols
Mongols ) are a Central-East Asian ethnic group that lives mainly in the countries of Mongolia, China, and Russia. In China, ethnic Mongols can be found mainly in the central north region of China such as Inner Mongolia...

 into the Caucasus, where they remain as the Ossetians
Ossetians
The Ossetians are an Iranic ethnic group of the Caucasus Mountains, eponymous of the region known as Ossetia.They speak Ossetic, an Iranian language of the Eastern branch, with most also fluent in Russian as a second language....

. Between the 9th and 12th centuries, they formed a network of tribal alliances that gradually evolved into the Christian kingdom of Alania
Alania
Alania may refer to:*Alania, the medieval state of the Alans or Alani people in the North Caucasus*The short name of the modern North Ossetia-Alania, one of the Caucasian republics in the Russian Federation...

. Most Alans submitted to the Mongol Empire
Mongol Empire
The Mongol Empire , initially named as Greater Mongol State was a great empire during the 13th and 14th centuries...

 in 1239–1277. They participated in Mongol invasions of Europe
Mongol invasion of Europe
The resumption of the Mongol invasion of Europe, during which the Mongols attacked medieval Rus' principalities and the powers of Poland and Hungary, was marked by the Mongol invasion of Rus starting in 21 December 1237...

 and the Song Dynasty in Southern China
Mongol conquest of the Song Dynasty
The conquest of South China's Song Dynasty under Kublai Khan was the final step for the Mongols to rule the whole of China. It is also considered the Mongol Empire's last great military achievement.- Background :...

, and the Battle of Kulikovo
Battle of Kulikovo
The Battle of Kulikovo was a battle between Tatar Mamai and Muscovy Dmitriy and portrayed by Russian historiography as a stand-off between Russians and the Golden Horde. However, the political situation at the time was much more complicated and concerned the politics of the Northeastern Rus'...

 under Mamai
Mamai
Mamai of Borjigin kin, was a powerful military commander of the Blue Horde in the 1370s which is now the Southern Ukrainian Steppes and the Crimean Peninsula....

 of the Golden Horde
Golden Horde
The Golden Horde was a Mongol and later Turkicized khanate that formed the north-western sector of the Mongol Empire...

.

In 1253, the Franciscan monk William of Rubruck
William of Rubruck
William of Rubruck was a Flemish Franciscan missionary and explorer. His account is one of the masterpieces of medieval geographical literature comparable to that of Marco Polo....

 reported numerous Europeans in Central Asia
Europeans in Medieval China
The term ‘Medieval China’ is quite a misnomer as there was no clear ‘medieval’ period in Chinese history. While the medieval period in Europe spanned over one thousand years, between the fifth and fifteenth centuries, the Chinese Imperial period spans a much greater period of time...

. It is also known that 30,000 Alans formed the royal guard (Asud
Asud
Asud were a guard and military group of Alani origin. The Mongol clan Asud is the plural of As, the Arabic name for the Alans.After the Mongol invasion of Rus, many Alans submitted to the Mongol Empire. Some of them resisted the Golden Horde longer. Many warriors moved from Northern Caucasia to...

) of the Yuan
Yuan Dynasty
The Yuan Dynasty , or Great Yuan Empire was a ruling dynasty founded by the Mongol leader Kublai Khan, who ruled most of present-day China, all of modern Mongolia and its surrounding areas, lasting officially from 1271 to 1368. It is considered both as a division of the Mongol Empire and as an...

 court in Dadu
Khanbaliq
Khanbaliq or Dadu refers to a city which is now Beijing, the current capital of the People's Republic of China...

 (Beijing). Marco Polo
Marco Polo
Marco Polo was a Venetian merchant traveler from the Venetian Republic whose travels are recorded in Il Milione, a book which did much to introduce Europeans to Central Asia and China. He learned about trading whilst his father and uncle, Niccolò and Maffeo, travelled through Asia and apparently...

 later reported their role in the Yuan Dynasty in his book Il Milione. It's said that those Alans contributed to a modern Mongol clan, Asud
Asud
Asud were a guard and military group of Alani origin. The Mongol clan Asud is the plural of As, the Arabic name for the Alans.After the Mongol invasion of Rus, many Alans submitted to the Mongol Empire. Some of them resisted the Golden Horde longer. Many warriors moved from Northern Caucasia to...

. John of Montecorvino
John of Montecorvino
John of Montecorvino or Giovanni da Montecorvino in Italian was an Italian Franciscan missionary, traveler and statesman, founder of the earliest Roman Catholic missions in India and China, and archbishop of Peking, and Latin Patriarch of the Orient.-Biography:John was born at Montecorvino...

, archbishop of Dadu (Khanbaliq), reportedly converted many Alans to Roman Catholic Christianity.

Religion, language, and later history


In the 4th–5th centuries the Alans were at least partially Christianized by Byzantine missionaries of the Arian
Arianism
Arianism is the theological teaching attributed to Arius , a Christian presbyter from Alexandria, Egypt, concerning the relationship of the entities of the Trinity and the precise nature of the Son of God as being a subordinate entity to God the Father...

 church. In the 13th century, fresh invading Mongol hordes pushed the eastern Alans further south into the Caucasus, where they mixed with native Caucasian groups and successively formed three territorial entities each with different developments. Around 1395 Timur
Timur
Timur , historically known as Tamerlane in English , was a 14th-century conqueror of West, South and Central Asia, and the founder of the Timurid dynasty in Central Asia, and great-great-grandfather of Babur, the founder of the Mughal Dynasty, which survived as the Mughal Empire in India until...

's army invaded Northern Caucasus and massacred much of the Alanian population.

As the time went by, Digor
Digor
Digor may refer to:* Digor , a traditional sport in Bhutan* Digor dialect, a dialect of the Ossetic language* Digor, Kars, a district in Turkey's Kars Province* Digor , a sub-division of the Ossetians....

 in the west came under Kabard
Kabard
Kabarda or Kabard ; are terms referring to a people of the northern Caucasus more commonly known by the plural term Kabardin . Originally they Kabarda or Kabard ; are terms referring to a people of the northern Caucasus more commonly known by the plural term Kabardin (or Kebertei as they term...

 and islamic influence. It was through the Kabard
Kabard
Kabarda or Kabard ; are terms referring to a people of the northern Caucasus more commonly known by the plural term Kabardin . Originally they Kabarda or Kabard ; are terms referring to a people of the northern Caucasus more commonly known by the plural term Kabardin (or Kebertei as they term...

ians (an East Circassia
Circassia
Circassia was an independent mountainous country located in the Caucasus region of Eurasia and was the largest and most important country in the Caucasus. Circassia was located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea...

n tribe) that Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

 was introduced into the region in the 17th century. After 1767, all of Alania came under Russian rule, which strengthened Orthodox Christianity
Eastern Orthodox Church
The Orthodox Church, officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church and commonly referred to as the Eastern Orthodox Church, is the second largest Christian denomination in the world, with an estimated 300 million adherents mainly in the countries of Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece,...

 in that region considerably. Most of today's Ossetians are Eastern Orthodox Christians.

The descendants of the Alans, who live in the autonomous republics of Russia and Georgia, speak the Ossetic language
Ossetic language
Ossetian , also sometimes called Ossete, is an East Iranian language spoken in Ossetia, a region on the slopes of the Caucasus Mountains....

 which belongs to the Northeastern Iranian language group and is the only remnant of the Scytho-Sarmatian dialect continuum
Dialect continuum
A dialect continuum, or dialect area, was defined by Leonard Bloomfield as a range of dialects spoken across some geographical area that differ only slightly between neighboring areas, but as one travels in any direction, these differences accumulate such that speakers from opposite ends of the...

, which once stretched over much of the Pontic steppe and Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

. Modern Ossetic has two major dialects: Digor, spoken in the western part of North Ossetia; and Iron, spoken in the rest of Ossetia. A third branch of Ossetic, Jassic
Jassic dialect
Jassic is a dialect of the Ossetian language and the name of a nomadic tribe settled in Hungary in the 13th century.The Jassic people came to Hungary together with the Cumanians, chased by the Mongol-Tatars. They were admitted by the Hungarian king Béla IV, hoping that they would assist in...

(Jász), was formerly spoken in Hungary. The literary language, based on the Iron dialect, was fixed by the national poet, Kosta Xetagurov (1859–1906).

External links