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The Alans or Alani were a nomadic Sarmatian people, warlike nomadic pastoralists who spoke an Indo-Iranian language.

Table of contents
1 Early Alans
2 The 'western' Alans and Vandals
3 The 'Eastern' Alans and Huns
4 References
5 External links

Early Alans

Their name is first met with north of the Caspian Sea, designating a people roaming the Ural steppes between the Volga and the north Aral Sea. To the Chinese their land was known as Alanliao (阿蘭聊). They later (ca. first century) spread westwards into the steppes of what is now the Ukraine, where they displaced the more agricultural and settled Scythians. The Alans made incursions into both the Danubian and the Caucasian provinces of the Roman empire and troubled the Parthians.

At the beginning of the 1st century A.D., the Alans had occupied lands in the northeast Azov Sea area, along the Don. 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 A.D. Late Sarmatian sites were first identified with the historical Alans by P.D. Rau.

The written sources suggest that from the second half of the 1st to 4th century A.D. the Alans had supremacy over the tribal union and created a powerful confederation of tribes. The Alans made trouble for the Roman Empire with incursions into both the Danubian and the Caucasian provinces in the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE.

The Alani were first mentioned in Roman literature in the 1st century CE and were described later as a warlike people that specialized in horse breeding. They frequently raided the Parthian empire and the Caucasian provinces of the Roman Empire. In the Vologeses inscription one can read that Vologeses, the Parthian king, in the 11th year of his reign, battled Kuluk, king of the Alani. This inscription is supported by a contemporary Jewish historian, Josephus (37 - 100 CE), who reports that Alans, whom he calls a Scythian tribe living near the Don (Tanais) and the Sea of Azov, crossed the Iron-gate and defeated the armies of Pacorus, king of Media, and Tiridates, King of Armenia, two brothers of Vologeses I, for whom the inscription was made.

Flavius Arrianus ('Arrian') marched against the Alani and left a detailed report that is a major source for the study of Roman military tactics

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The 'western' Alans and Vandals

About 370 CE the Alans were overwhelmed by the Huns. They were divided into two groups. One group fled westward. These 'western' Alani joined the Germanic nations in their invasion of Gaul. Gregory of Tours mentions that their king Respendial saved the day for the Vandals in an armed encounter with the Franks at the crossing of the Rhine (c. 407). Although some of the Alani perhaps invaded England or settled in Spain and Portugal, and others settled near Orléans and Valence, most went to Spain and eventually North Africa with the Vandals.

Following the fortunes of the Vandals into Spain, the separate ethnic identity of the western Alans dissolved. In 426, the western Alan king, Attaces, was killed in battle against the Visigoths, and this branch of the Alans subsequently appealed to the Vandal king Gunderic to accept the Alan crown. Later Vandal kings in North Africa styled themselves Rex Wandalorum et Alanorum (King of the Vandals and Alans).

Along with the Vandals and Suevi, these Alans eventually reached the shores of Gilbraltar.

In Iberia, the Alans were famous for their massive hunting and fighting dogs, which they introduced to Europe. A giant breed of dog still called Alanos survives in the Basque region of northeastern Spain. The dogs, which are traditionally used in boar hunting and cattle herding, are associated with the massive dogs that Alans and Vandals brought into Spain.

The 'Eastern' Alans and Huns

Some of the other Alani, who remained under the rule of the Huns, were among the federates at the Battle of the Halys River, in Anatolia, 430 CE. These 'eastern' Alans are said to be ancestors of the modern Ossetians of the Caucasus.

Those of the eastern division, though dispersed about the steppes until late medieval times, were forced by fresh invading hordes into the Caucasus, where they remain as the Ossetes. Their most famous leader was Aspar, the magister militum of the Byzantine Empire during the 460s. Their most famous leader was Aspar, the magister militum of the Byzantine Empire during the 460s. They formed a network of tribal alliancess between the ninth and twelfth centuries.In the 1x 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. Digor in the west came under Kabard and Islamic influence. Tuallag in the southernmost region became part of what is now Georgia, and Iron, the northernmost group, came under Russian rule after 1767, which strengthened Orthodox Christianity considerably. Most of these Ossetes today are Eastern Orthodox Christians.

The remaining Alans speak a unique language where they remain as the Ossetes, divided beteen Russia and Georgia (see Ossetia). There is an Ossete minority in Chechnya too. Jacob Reinegg, in Description of the Caucasus, may have been the first to make this connection. He noted that the Tatars called them Edeki-Alan. Their language, Ossetic, belongs to the North Iranian language group; it is the sole survivor of the northeastern branch of Iranian languages known as Scythian, which once included languages of the Russian steppes and Central Asia: Scythians, Sarmatians, Massageti, Alans. Modern Ossetic has two distinct major dialects.Digor, spoken in the western part of North Ossetia, and Iron, spoken in the entire remaining Ossetian region. The literary language, based on the Iron dialect was fixed by the national pot, Kosta Xetagurov (1859-1906).

In the 4th-5th centuries they were at least partially Christianized by Byzantine missionaries of the Arian church. Islam was introduced in the 17th century through the Kabardians (an East Circassian tribe). Energetic re-Christianization was begun with increasing Russian influence after the Ossetes acknowledged Russian overlordship in 1802.

(Greek Αλανοι, Αλαννοι; Chinese O-lan-na; since the 9th century A.D. they have been called As, Russ. Jasy, Georgian Ossi),


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