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THE JUAN JUAN KHANATE (NOMAD PEOPLES OF THE EURASIAN STEPPES)

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(photo found at Pinterest, Copyright: The Bulgarian School of horseback archery)

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By  Periklis    Deligiannis

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The vast Asiatic steppes from Manchuria to the Ural River had always been the cradle of nomadic peoples of intense mobility and warlike character. Dashing from this cradle, they used to debouche in order to gradually form nomadic “empires” (sometimes as far as the Hungarian plains) and invade the territories of sedentary peoples such as China, India, Iran, the Greco-Roman regions of the Mediterranean and later the Christian countries of Europe. The European World was equally exposed to the lethal hordes of these horseback warriors of the steppes, as well as the Chinese, the Indian and the Iranian World, paying a heavy toll in human lives and material damage, from the Early Antiquity to the Late Middle Ages. The Iranian Saka (Eastern Scythians) were perhaps the first nomadic people who formed a powerful tribal union (rather a confederation) in Central Asia, the “Great Horde of the Saka” (Ma-Saka-ta), whose name the ancient Greeks linguistically Hellenized and quoted in their writings as Massagetae. This tribal union was followed by other nomadic confederations of Tocharian, Turkic, Mongol, Tungusic, Yeniseic and other origins, such as the Wu Sun (Wusun), the Hsiung Nu (Xiongnu, the Huns?), the Yue Chih (Yuezhi), the Hsien-pi (Xianbei), until the emergence of the Juan Juan (Rouran, Avars).

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KING ARTHUR, ARTHURIAN LEGEND AND THE SARMATIANS – PART II

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 Sarmatian sword ring pommelssssss

Left:  Sarmatian  sword  with  the  distinctive  ring-type  handle  ending. A  leather strap  was  probably  tied  in  the  ring  and  in  the  hand  of  the  warrior  as  well,  in  order  to  prevent  the  loss  of  the  sword  during  combat.

Right: a spangenhelm, popular to  the  Sarmatians (many  researchers consider  it to be of  Sarmatian  origin), the Later Romans, the Romano-Britons  and  many  barbarian   peoples (Goths, Huns, Saxons  etc.)

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By  Periklis  Deligiannis

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Continued  from  PART  I

Arthur’s  warriors  are  described  as  knightsSome  scholars  believe  that  this  description  is  due  only  to  the  fact  that  in  the  time  of  Geoffrey of  Monmouth,  every  hero  had  to  be  a  knight. But  this  view  is  rather  superficial  and  incorrect  because  there  is  clear  evidence  that  in  the  5th-6th  centuries, the  Romano-Britons  had  a  strong  heavy  cavalry,  which  probably  was  their  main  military  striking  force.  The  cataphract (heavy  armoured)  Sarmatian  cavalrymen  were  in  fact  the  first  knights  of  the  European  history,  the  founders  of  European  Chivalry  according  to  the  most  popular  view.

The  Sarmatian  armies  included  among  other  types  of  combatants,  many  cataphract  cavalrymen  protected (like  their  horses)  with  nearly  full-length  metal  armor  (usually  scale  armor).  They  also  included  many  horse-archers  and  horse-spearmen  without  any  cuirass.  The  cataphracts  fought  mainly  as  lancers  with  a  long  heavy  spear  (like  the  subsequent  European  knights) as  their  main  offensive  weapon.  They  were  also  carrying  a  composite  bow,  a  long  sword  and  a  dagger.  The  familiar  to  us,  figure  of  the  Late  Medieval  European  knight  was  created  when  the  East  Germanics  (Goths,  Vandals,  Burgundians),  the  Suebi  Germanics  (Marcomanni,  Longobards/Lombards,  Quadi)  and  the  Romans  adopted  the  full  Sarmatian  cavalry  equipment.  The  decimation  of  the  Roman  army  by  the  Gotho-Sarmatian  cavalry  at  the  battle  of  Adrianople  in  378  AD,  established  the  dominance  of  the  knight  (cataphract)  during  the  Middle  Ages.  The  Normans  of  Northern  France  were  the  ones  who  shaped  the  final  form  of  chivalry.

At  this  point,  Ι  have  to make  a  remark  on  the  origins  of  the Normans. The  Normans  are usually  described  by  the  modern  historians as  the  descendants  of  Danish  Vikings , but  in  reality  they had  little  to  do  with  them. Danish  ancestry  was  in  fact  very  limited  among  the  Normans. They  were  mainly  the  descendants  of  the  Latinized  Gauls (specifically Aulerci  and  Belgae/Belgians) of  the  mouth of  the  Seine  who  adopted  a  Scandinavian  national  name (Normans,  meaning  the  People  of  the  North) mainly  for  propaganda  purposes  and  also  a  few  Scandinavian  elements  of  culture and  warfare.  The  primary  historical  donation  of  the  Danes  to  the  Normans  was  the  complete  independence  of  Normandy  from  France  and  the subsequent  “making”  of  the  Norman  national  identity.  Another  racial  component  of  the  Norman  people  were  the  Sarmatian  Alans,  as  we  shall  see  below.

Returning  to  the  Arthurian  Era,  in  Britain,  the  “knights”  of  Arthur  probably  consisted  of  Latinized  and  Celtisized  descendants  of  the  Sarmatian  mercenaries,  and  of  Celtic  cavalrymen  who  fought  in  the  Sarmatian  way.  The  Iazyges (Iazygae)  of  Bremetennacum  are  mentioned  in  the  early  5th  century  as  “the  army  of  the  Sarmatian  veterans“.  They  probably  survived  until  then  as  a  national  entity,  even  speaking  Latin  instead  of  their  native  Iranian  language.  Furthermore,  almost  all  of  the  Sarmatians  of  the  Roman  Empire  were  already  Latinized  linguistically.  It  is  also  certain  that  many  Alans  (the  most  populus  Sarmatian  tribe)  settled  in  Britain  as  mercenaries.  Some  modern  scholars  have  theorized  that  the  modern  British  personal  name  Alan  and  the  French  or  generally  Neo-Latin  Alain/Alen  come  from  the  Alans.  When  members  of  this  people  settled  en  masse  in  western  Europe  and  were  assimilated  by  the  natives,  they  turned  their  national  name  to  a  personal  name:  Alanus  in  Latin (modern  Alan, Allen, Alain, Alen).  Large  groups  of  Alans  settled  as  local  aristocracies  in  Northeastern  Spain,  Northern  Africa,  Northern  Gaul  (giving  their  name  also  to  the  region  of  Alencon),  etc.

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