Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Lion.Kanzen

Sarmatians / Massagetae/ Scythians

Recommended Posts

Brief.

 

Sarmatians: They arose in the foothills of the southern Ural Mountains during the 4th Century BC. They conquered the Sauromatians. The Sarmatians drove their Scythian kin from the Ukraine sometime shortly before 200 BC. The Sarmatians were also famous for their warrior women who inspired legends about Amazons. They wore heavy armor and used lances as weapons. Their artwork was a more austere variation of the Scythian Animal Style. By about 200 AD, some Sarmatians served as auxiliary horse soldiers in the Roman Army, with some of these serving in Britain—where they may have become the basis for the legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table!

The basis of the so-called Sarmatian-Arthurian connection can be summarized as follows. Before the Sarmatian troops arrived in Britain in Roman service, there was no established practice in Britain of fighting from astride a horse with a lance while wearing heavy armor; and, of course, the image of the lance-wielding equestrian knight-in-shining-armor is the central motif of Arthurian legend. The Sarmatian practice of worshipping before a sword thrust into the ground obviously suggests the "Sword in the Stone" story from the larger Arthur story. And one of the Roman commanders of the Sarmatian troops in Britain was named Artorius. All these coincidences are enough to make romantically inclined people swoon and to give even the most cynical and jaded analyst pause. The Hollywood movie King Arthur, released in 2004, plays up the Sarmatian-Arthurian connection with gusto.

The Sarmatians were categorized as follows by ancient authors:

"Royal" Sarmatians: We may assume these were the ruling clans of the greater Sarmatian nation.

Issedones: The location of these people in central Asia is uncertain but may have been northeast of the Aral Sea. According to the ancient Greek writer Herodotus, they practiced ritual cannibalism on their elderly males. Herodotus also said Issedone women had high social status and could have several husbands.

Urgi: They are thought to have lived in the north-central Ukraine. Today, "Urgi" is the name of a town in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan.

Aorsi: They were the largest of the Sarmatian tribes. They lived in what is now Kazakhstan for centuries before being driven west. They formed an alliance with the Romans to defeat the Siraces and the Bosphoran allies of the Siraces in 40-45 AD. They were eventually absorbed by the Alans.

Siraces (or Siraki): They moved into the northwestern Caucasus shortly before 300 BC and lived there until about 200 AD. They allied themselves with the Bosphorans but they and the Bosphorans were defeated by an alliance of the Romans and the Aorsi in 40-45 AD. After this defeat, the Siraces sank into obscurity.

Saii: Presumably, they lived in the south-central Ukraine. But in the confusion that inevitably attends ancient sources, this supposedly Sarmatian tribe could in fact have been a Thracian tribe living on the northern shore of the Aegean Sea.

Iazygians (or Jazyges): They lived in the western Ukraine. They were pushed into what is now Hungary by the Roxolani by 80 AD. They then made war on the Romans with some success until they were finally suppressed by the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius in 175 AD. They became the Sarmatian tribe most famous for providing military units for the Roman Army. They were forced to provide 8,000 horse warriors for Roman service, of which, 5,500 were shipped to Britain where they may have formed the basis of the Arthurian legends. They were absorbed by the Germanic Asding Vandal tribe by 230 AD and disappeared as a distinct group.

Roxolani: They lived in the eastern Ukraine. After being pushed westward by the Alans, they in turn pushed the Iazygians out of the western Ukraine by 80 AD. They made frequent war on the Romans, sometimes winning and sometimes losing. They also provided a number of troops for service in the Roman Army. They were conquered by the Germanic Ostrogoth horse tribe during the 4th Century AD.

NOTE: There were many Germanic tribes living in central Europe. Of these, only the easternmost of them, the Ostrogoths, developed a true horse nomad culture as they expanded into the Ukraine during the 4th Century AD, conquering the Roxolani, the last of the Scythians, and the Bosphoran Kingdomon the way. Their great warrior chieftain in this adventure was named Ermanaric. Their steppe realm was destroyed by the Black Huns in 372-375 AD. Ermanaric committed suicide. According to legend, there were two famous Ostrogothic female warriors named Hervor who were grandmother and granddaughter to each other. Their title was "shield maiden." The story is told that the younger Hervor died heroically in battle fighting against the Black Huns. Both she and her "shield maiden" title may be seen as a prototype for the character of Éowyn of Rohan in the Lord of the Rings books and movies.

 

source:

http://www.horsenomads.info/section1.html

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

At first glance there's no much in common between the equipment of Sarmatians, Xiongnu, and Han Chinese.

Except that hat.

I don't think Xiongnu used the "back shield" of the Scythians either.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 minutes ago, wolflance said:

At first glance there's no much in common between the equipment of Sarmatians, Xiongnu, and Han Chinese.

Except that hat.

I don't think Xiongnu used the "back shield" of the Scythians either.

Indeed , only used horse archer tactics. And Conquest their enemies to have more Mercenaries.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Source:http://asianhistory.oxfordre.com/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780190277727.001.0001/acrefore-9780190277727-e-237?rskey=P4qtPx&result=3

 

The Scythian-Sakas Age, 6th–3rd Centuries bce

Ethnic and Historical Background

In the Scythian-Sakas period, Iranian-speaking nomads dominated the Eurasian steppes. They were at an early state level of social organization, characterized by an emergence of unstable polities with elements of statehood. Such polities were headed by the most energetic, courageous, and venturesome tribal leaders, called “kings” in the literary sources.

Tribes of the Asian part of the steppe zone, from Mongolia to Central Asia, are known from Persian and Greek sources as Sakas, Massagetae, and Dahae. The territories further westward, from the Ural to the Don rivers, were inhabited by nomads called by Herodotus the Issedonians and Sauromatians. The European Scythians were the western neighbors of the Sauromatians and, to a certain extent, were related to them. The territory of Scythia stretched from the Don Basin in the east to the Carpathian foothills in the west, from the forest zone in the north to the Crimean Mountains in the south.

Arms and Harness

The main weapon of the Scythians, Sauromatians, Sakas, and other nomads of their time was the bow, repeatedly mentioned in the works of classical authors. The composite bow of the “Scythian” type was made of several different pieces of wood. Such a bow was not large, 60 to 70 cm long. Archaeological finds of bows are almost unknown; therefore, they have been reconstructed on the basis of pictorial data, first of all found on toreutic objects. Arrows were from 40 to 70 cm long, made from reed or birch tree, with fletching. Their heads were of a pyramidal shape, made of bronze, casted, and socketed. The average length of a Scythian arrowhead was 2.5–3 cm. Arrowheads for Scythian, Sauromatian, Sakas, and Massagetian bows were almost identical, with small typological differences. Classical authors mentioned that Scythians used poisoned arrows.

A bow with arrows was carried in a gorytos, as a rule, made of wood and leather. One compartment contained the bow, while the other held the arrows. Gorytoi of Scythian aristocrats and kings were covered with golden plates (presumably made in Macedonia) bearing stories from classical mythology; similar decoration is unknown to the east of the Don.

Close-combat weapons of the nomads of the Scythian-Sakas period included swords and daggers, as well as battleaxes. The average length of a sword varied from 40 to 60 cm, although longer (up to 1 m) swords occasionally were used as well. The latter were most often found in Sauromatian and Sakas burials, while they were not popular with the European Scythians. Handles and sheaths of ceremonial swords were decorated with gold. A series of golden covers of sword sheaths made by Greek artisans has been found in burials of Scythian aristocrats.

The panoply of a nomad of this period, discovered in burials, always included a spear and one or two javelins. Their length did not exceed 2 m; they had iron heads and butts. Slings and lassos were additional kinds of throwing weapons possessed by ordinary nomads.

The main type of armor of the period was scale armor (lorica squamata). This cuirass was supposed to protect the torso, while armored chaps and a scaled shield were worn separately. Such a cuirass was flexible but rather heavy. An additional means of protecting the legs might have been scaled, or could have consisted of imported Greek greaves.

About two hundred armors have been discovered in Scythian graves,7 while such finds are very rare in Sauromatian or Sakas lands.8 It is possible that the Sakas favored cuirasses made from organic materials: leather, textile fabrics, or thick felt.

North Pontic Scythians widely used helmets. In the 6th century bce they were of the so-called “Kuban” type and later of Corinthian, Attic, or Chalkidian types, sometimes with various modifications (eliminated cheek covers). Scaled helmets were properly Scythian.

Horse harnesses of the Scythian-Sakas period were diversified and perfected for the warfare of their time. The iron bit was fastened to the bridle by decorated bronze cheek-pieces. The bridle was decorated with bronze, silver, or golden sets of plaques, figured cheek covers, and frontlets. In this era so-called pad saddles were common, consisting of two leather cushions, unevenly filled, with thickenings at the front and from behind, without stirrups. Such saddles were widespread from China to the Dnieper.

Archaeological materials of this period demonstrate that Scythian cavalry was already divided into light cavalry, armed with bows and javelins, and heavy cavalry, equipped with armor, swords, and spears for close combat. It is unclear whether such division existed among Sauromatian and Sakas troops—as has already been mentioned, finds of armor are almost unknown there. It is probable that the absence of a permanent enemy with heavy infantry did not favor the development of heavy cavalry by eastern nomads. The Scythian armored cavalry consisted of well-to-do nomads: almost all known armors have been found in noble graves.

Finds of arrowheads in the ramparts of Scythian forest-steppe fortified settlements and in skeletons from some Scythian burials testify to internecine conflicts and even wars. Classical sources contain information about Scythian-Sauromatian military conflicts.9

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Riding horses

Eurasian nomads setting off for a military campaign took two or more horses each, so that they had reserves. The use of reserve horses, which significantly enhanced the mobility of the nomads, was their usual habit: “And they run over very great distances, pursuing others or themselves turning their backs, being mounted on swift and obedient horses and leading one, or sometimes even two, to the end that an exchange may keep up the strength of their mounts and that their freshness may be renewed by alternate periods of rest,” wrote Ammianus Marcellinus about the Sarmatians.28

Riding horses were an important component of the military success of Eurasian nomads. They were of the aboriginal steppe type, similar to modern Kazakh or Mongolian horses: stocky, with a short neck and a big head, with powerful short legs. The shoulder and hip of the silver horse figurine from the Sarmatian “royal” grave near Porohy (Ukraine) bear miniature tamgas, which prove that Sarmatian horse keepers branded their horses. An excellent description of these horses is provided by the procurator of the province of Cappadocia Arrianus (2nd century ce): “Scythian horses . . . first are difficult to speed up, so one can treat them with full contempt, while comparing them with a Thessalian, Sicilian or Peloponnesian horse, but they endure difficulties whatsoever; and then one can see that swift, fleet, mettlesome horse straining himself to the utmost, while this short and scabby jade first catches up with him and then leaves him far behind.”29

Paintings in Bosporan vaults and in gravestones of the Sarmatian period bear images of horses of a slightly different type: tall, with long necks and slender small heads, resembling horses of Akhal-Teke breed. Horses of a similar constitution are depicted on the already mentioned bone belt-buckles of the 1st century ce from the Orlat burial ground; see also Xiongnu-Sarmatian Age, 2nd Century bce–4th Century ce: Arms and Harness.

The Amazons

It is assumed that a peculiarity of the Sarmatian military art consisted in the participation of women in warfare. This opinion is based on female burials containing weapons and on the information of ancient authors.31However, female burials containing weapons are present in many cultures of the Eurasian nomads. The nomads probably practiced the involvement of women in hostilities only in extreme cases: during defense against numerically stronger enemies or in the absence of male warriors. Apparently, nomadic women were armed with bows, javelins, or lassos.

Military Psychology, Customs, and Rituals

The nomads established military and political control over conquered territories and tributary relations with their populations. Sedentary peoples and nomads formed a kind of economic symbiosis: they could not exist without each other. The military aspect played an important role in this symbiosis. The sedentary population adopted, first of all, riding skills, cavalry, and all other characteristics associated with horse breeding and mounted warfare.

In the confrontation between nomadic and sedentary worlds, the nomads had several military advantages.32First, it was not necessary for nomads to keep the expensive, specialized professional army that a sedentary society needs. Most nomads in peacetime were shepherds and became soldiers only during war, whereas each nomadic man was an armed and skillful warrior. The ratio of warriors to the total population in nomadic societies was 1:5 and sometimes even 1:4. Herodotus said that the Scythians, in the 5th century bce, were the type of society “where everyone is a mounted archer.”

Second, nomadic military organization was based on the clan and tribal principle. They had no specialization of warriors. Each horseman was able to shoot with bow and arrow at full gallop and to fight in close combat. The difference in equipment and arms depended only on the degree of prosperity of the warrior.

The third military advantage of Eurasian nomads was their way of life. All the boys prepared for careers as warriors almost from birth. Contemporary ethnographical examples allow us to confidently assert that in nomadic society some age-related groups had always existed, whose task it was to educate boys as future warriors. At a very young age each boy was presented with his first weapon—a knife—and put on horseback. The Turkmens, for example, did it between the ages of five and eight years in different tribes.33 The transition to the next age group was accompanied by initiations (varying for different nomads) and the change in the legal status of the future warrior: the young man had the right to feast with adult warriors, could carry and use weapons, etc. In the next age group young warriors became full members of the military community and were ready to fight for the tribe. Thus, a nomad entered into the cycle of military training from the time he could first walk.

Yet the most important advantage of Eurasian nomads was their great number of saddle-horses. The transformation of the horse into a weapon of war was one of the highest achievements of human civilization, if not the most progressive. The first and most important step in this direction was the development of the release of the bow from a galloping horse. For comparison, in the Assyrian reliefs of the 9th–middle of the 8th c. bce the mounted archer shoots from a standing horse held by a footman. The mobile nomadic archers amazed the unaccustomed warriors of settled peoples, who were “smashed” by the charge of a close cavalry formation. Physical and psychological characteristics of the horsemen’s charge, as a rule, made it quick and victorious. The image of an avalanche of galloping horses, crashing hooves, grinning muzzles, and the heavy breathing of animals, as well as the upraised arms of horsemen, plunged footmen into horror and shock. As Franco Cardini said, “just imagine for a moment a huge mass of steel, riding on a sweaty horse, the very embodiment of the sacred ancient horror and a new apocalyptic nightmare.”34 It is not without reason that all service regulations forbade infantry from taking to flight from cavalry—encounters could still be won, but flight meant certain death.

Ideology played an important role in the consolidation of nomadic armies. As their highest spiritual qualities, the nomads cultivated personal courage, military heroism, mercilessness to enemies, and defiance of death, as well as friendship and self-sacrifice toward friends. A special place in nomadic military morality was occupied by a cult of a “victorious hero,” according to which commonly held values of grace, pity, honesty, and nobility of spirit were not applied to defeated enemies, who were not considered human beings at all. These dominating worldviews were consolidated by traditions, religious beliefs, and heroic epos, as well as by civil and, significantly, by gender morality. A coward, an awkward warrior, or a loser was despised by women, and he risked remaining without descendants. The material reward—each warrior had his share in the booty—also raised the fighting spirit of nomadic warriors. All these factors guaranteed an availability of numerous skilled and victorious troops to nomadic leaders.

We have little literary evidence of the warrior ceremonies and military cults of the ancient steppe nomads. Archaeological finds have yielded even less evidence. However, the presence of warrior burials with weapons and armor among general masses of nomadic graves itself speaks to the existence of some specific military funeral rites. Herodotus described the altars of the Scythian god of war Ares:

 

In each district of the several governments they have a temple of Ares set up in this way: bundles of brushwood are heaped up for about three furlongs in length and in breadth, but less in height; and on the top of this there is a level square made, and three of the sides rise sheer but by the remaining one side the pile may be ascended. Every year they pile on a hundred and fifty wagon-loads of brushwood, for it is constantly settling down by reason of the weather. Upon this pile of which I speak each people has an ancient iron sword set up, and this is the sacred symbol of Ares. To this sword they bring yearly offerings of cattle and of horses; and they have the following sacrifice in addition, beyond what they make to the other gods, that is to say, of all the enemies whom they take captive in war they sacrifice one man in every hundred, not in the same manner as they sacrifice cattle, but in a different manner: for they first pour wine over their heads, and after that they cut the throats of the men, so that the blood runs into a bowl; and then they carry this up to the top of the pile of brushwood and pour the blood over the sword. This, I say, they carry up; and meanwhile below by the side of the temple they are doing thus: they cut off all the right arms of the slaughtered men with the hands and throw them up into the air, and then when they have finished offering the other victims, they go away; and the arm lies wherever it has chanced to fall, and the corpse apart from it.35

 

The further—medieval—history of the military art of Eurasian horse breeders is associated with Turkic-speaking peoples, and with two outstanding inventions of the nomads: stirrups and the sabre.36

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just a heads-up: Saka, Sarmatian, Sauromatian, and Scythian, although not exactly the same, are more often than not used interchangeably, and are in practice applicable to any Eastern Iranian (a linguistic term) people, tribe, or other group.

 

And Herodotus, the most important source on the Scythians c.s., is often unreliable at best.

Edited by Nescio

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...