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The Urheimat of the Nostratic Languages

The Relationship of the Altaic and Turkic languages. Origin and development.


            Already M. I. Rostovtsev considered the Sauromatians and Sarmatians absolutely different ethnoi and adduced weighty evidences to that, such as, e.g. signs of matriarchy at the Sauromatians and complete absence of it at the Sarmatians . In due time, Rostovtsev's conclusions were contested by other scholars with bringing evidences of ancient authors. A term "Sarmatians" was firstly used by the Greek historian Ephoros which lived one and a half centuries after Herodotus however his information and information of other historians are enough confused, therefore it is often not clear, whom the question is about – about the Scythians, or Sauromatians, or about the new people of Sarmatians. It is quite possible that later the term Sarmatians became also a common meaning also for all population of steppe stripe from the Volga to the Carpathians, however at first, this term must be the name of some one tribe.

            Herodotus wrote about the Sauromatians as a single ethnic group, at least not pointed to the fact that they comprised the tribes of different ethnic origin. Strabo singled out among the Sarmatians individual tribes of Iazyges, Alans, Roxolani, Aorsi, Ugrs, etc. More recent authors cite a significant larger number of tribes in Sarmatia, and it is just impossible to identify them by confusing their evidences. Similarly, it is impossible to locate the place of settlements of individual Sarmatian tribes according to archaeological data, although from sources we know that Roksolana, for example, lived on the coas of the Sea of Azov . Obviously, the ethnic composition of the Sarmatians could be very colorful, and among them could be also the descendants of the Sauromatians of Herodotus but under a different name. To find out more specific ethnicity at least some of the Sarmatian tribes we can study preserved epigraphy Northern Black Sea coast, which was collected and researched by many experts. We can add to mentioned earlier V. Latyshev also names of L. Zgusta, V. Miller, M. Vasmer, G Lommel, and others. For a long time Janos Harmatta was engaged in this issue . It goes without saying that they believed a priori that all the Scythian and Sarmatian names must have Iranian origin, took exclusively Iranian languages for their explanation, and did not apply other languages, even when it was obvious their Turkic or Greek origin. This was their big mistake.

            In particular, V. Abayev, developing the idea of H. Lommel of the existence Iranian language group a special "Scythian" language, which supposedly was split to the Ossetic, Sogdian, Alan, and other languages, was compiled "the Scythian vocabulary" . His goal was to restore the said "Scythian" language, therefore he added to the Black Sea epigraphy the names and words that have, in his opinion, something to do with the Scythians.

            Let's try to do the same work on the Sarmatian Onomastikon, according to data compiled by V. Abayev, J. Harmatta and A. Alemany , supplemented with data from several other sources and without the inclusion in the list of the names that have already been discussed formerly. Similarly, also the names of the kings of Abkhazia, Iberia, Colchis of Ossetian origin, and other names that have no relation to the Sarmatians were not included in the Onomasticon. However, we do not set the goal of clarification of the relationship of Iranian languages at the Scythian-Sarmatian time, but just try to install the ethnicity of the Sarmatians and simultaneously test the relative accuracy of the analysis of the names of the tribes mentioned by Jordanes. If there are better options, we do not take into account the vocabulary of the Avesta, often used by V. Abaev and other professionals as an argument in favor of the existence of this word also in the Ossetian. The formation of the primary Iranian languages (dialects) occurred long before the Scythian times and the writing of the Avesta. Its language has to be some Iranian language known for us but not Common Iranian as mentioned experts obviously supposed. On this basis, we will take to explain the meaning of names modern Iranian languages – Ossetic, Kurdish, Afghan, and others retained to a great extent their ancient word stock. In addition to them the Turkic, Germanic, Baltic, Finno-Ugric languages, and the languages of the peoples of the Caucasus will be considered too.

            The analysis shows that the transcript of the Sarmatian Onomastikon is possible by using much larger number of languages than when dealing with the Scythian Onomastikon. However the ange of languages used for decoding can be extended further. B. Nadel, using the monograph of L Zgusta "Proper Names of inhabitants of the Greek cities of the northern coast of the Black Sea," gives some of them Hurrian-Hittite explanation . This conclusion should be treated carefully, because it is possible that some part of the Hittites stayed on the coast of the Black Sea, while the bulk of them went to the Balkans and later in Asia Minor. Thus, the Sarmatians still can not be identified with some particular ethnic group, and we can conclude that Sauromatians and Sarmatians are completely different category, although it is possible that both have a common origin of the ethnonym. If the first followed by Herodotus can spoken as particular ethnic group, that of the Sarmatians do not.

            Before making quantitative estimate of the ratio of languages usinf fot transcrip, it should be noted that this ratio in no way reflects the mosaic of ethnic composition of the Sarmatians. On the one hand, the list can have names without relation to the Sarmatians, and on the other hand, these relations can speak to some extent only about the ethnic composition of the ruling elite, as some tribes had a dominant position in tribal unions. Added to this is that the newcomers wealthy merchants more than the local population could be buried with expensive tombstones in the form of stone slabs and carved with the names and it is also distorted the overall picture of the ethnic composition of the Northern Black Sea. Ethnic diversity of the populationhas been intensified here after the arrival of the subsequent invasion of the Goths and Huns, led to the Great Migration. All that we have in mind when considering the data analysis.

            The reason to consider Alans as the ancestors Ossets, which populated now Central Caucasus, is Alanian habitats and generally accepted their Iranian language. Such point of view is confirmed also by other information which often can be objected or is a result of erroneous conclusions done before. For example, Lucian's words about full likeness of Scythian and Alanian languages bring automatically to the conclusion that Alans spoke Iranian if Scythian language belonged to Iranian family. However sometimes, all habitants, of so-called Scythia as geographical concept, even Goths, have been named by Scythians. Jordanes, in person being a Goth, names Goths in one place of his work as some Scythian tribe. So, Lucian's evidence and other similar ones have no great importance and likeness in clothes and way of life of Scythians and Alans are conditioned by the natural peculiarity of the locality but nit by ethnic distinctions. On the other hand, Ammianus Marcellinus and some other ancient historians considered that Alans were Massagetai of pasts. He found even the likeness between Alans and Huns meaning only the same nomadic way of life. As the main distinctive feature was considered the absence of permanent dwellings, but not likeness in the device of wagons or transported demountable huts. Ammianus affirmed that Alans occupied the territory of Pontic steppes and forest-steppes from the Vistula on north-west to the north-eastern Caspian seashores, but some groups of them penetrated further east and south-east. Perhaps, this gave the reason to dived whole Alans to European and Asiatic Alans (the Don, or the Tanais, was the frontier between Europe and Asia at this time). However it is not clear, whether all Alans talked in the same language. The whole this enormous large territory was populated by great deal of several peoples generalized by the name of Scythians. One can conclude out of Ammianus' texts that Alans subordinated gradually all these tribes and united them in one coalition under the joint name of Alans. Among these tribes were Neuroi, Melanchlainoi, Gelonians, Agathyrsians, and other tribes mentioned by Herodotus and a few tribes appeared later. One can become acquainted about the looks on Alans of other ancient historians, which contradicted often one to other, in the notes to Jordanes' "Getica" done by its translator in Russian E. Skrzynska.

            Ancient historians didn't identify the Scthians, Alans, and Sauromatians (Sarmatians ?). For example, Flavius Arrianus of Nicomedia (ca. 95-175) had written:

            The lancers (of Scythians – V.S.) are those who approach the enemy lines and fight with lances or pikes, hurling them during the assault, like the Alans and the Sauromatians (ALEMANY AGUSTI. 2000: 80).

            But even admitting linguistic relationship of Alans and Ossets, many scholars have different opinion about the languages of Sarmatians. Some of them consider Sarmatian language as homogeneous, the other acknowledge existence of separate dialects. However the majority of authorities consider in any case that the population of the south Ukrainian plains in Sarmatian time belonged to the Iranian linguistic group. Accordingly, some of them consider Ossets as descendants of a some deal of Iranian people, the other consider them as one of many possible descendants. The Hungarian linguist J. Harmatta gives detailed analisis of looks of different scholars and expounds his own point of view, in obedience to which the Iranian tribes of Pontic parts spoke on the different Iranian dialects at least in the first centuries AD. He asserts that "… Ossetic only represents the outcome of a single Alanic dialect group, the historical development of which was different from that of Sarmatian dialects attested by the Iranian proper names occurring in the inscription of the North Pontic Greec cities.

            Let us turn to the question about the relation of the Sarmatians and Sauromatians. Herodotus wrote about the Sauromatians as the unitary ethnos, at least he did not specify that the tribes of different ethnic origin were their member. More late ancient historians distinguished, in particular Strabo, among the Sarmatians the separate tribes of Jazyges, Alans, Rhoksolani, Aorsi, Urges and other. Posterior authors mentioned more other tribes in Sarmatia and it is impossible to identify them due to their confused evidences. Obviously, the ethnic composition of the Sarmatians could be quite motley, the descendants of the Sauromatians could be among them but already under other name. More concrete establishment of the ethnic belonging even if some Sarmatian tribes is possible by studying the ancient inscriptions of Pontic region what many scholars practise. In particular, V.I. Abayev, developing G. Lommel's idea about the existence of a special unitary "Scythian" language in the Iranian group has been split to Ossetic, Sogdian, Alanian, and other languages, worked out "Scythian Dictionary ". He had purpose to restore the mentioned "Scythian language" therefore he added to Pontic inscriptions the names and words which have to his opinion some attitude toward Scythians.

            Many scholars were engaged in collection and study of inscriptions of North Pontic land. These were mentioned above Latyshev, Miller, Vasmer, Lommel, and other. J Harmatta was engaged in this question long time " In itself certainly, that all of them considered a priori, that all Scythian-Sarmatian names must have the Iranian origin and considered only the Iranian languages for their interpretation. They didn't turn to other languages even then, when, e.g. the Turkic or Greek origin of some word was obvious. Herein there was their great error. We make attempt to do the same work on the onomasticon, combined out of Abayev's dictionary and Harmatta's data, partly complemented by words from other sources without including in the list the names which were already considered in the previous chapter. The names of kings of Abchasia, Iberia, Kolchida of Ossetic origin, and other names have been taken by Abayv but having no relation to the Sarmatians, didn't also insert to the list. However we don't have a purpose clarify mutual relation of Iranian languages in the Scythian time, we try only to determine the ethnic belonging of the Sarmatians and simultaneously to check up relative authenticity of the names of the tribes mentioned by Herodotus. Having best variants of interpretation, we will not take into consideration words from Avesta, often taken by Abayev and other experts as an argument for the existence of similar word also in Ossetic. The outcome of primary Iranian languages (dialects) happened long before Scythian times and the writing of Avesta. Its language must be some unknown to us one of Iranian languages, but not common Iranian one, as mentioned scholars above obviously supposed. Going out of such pint of view, we will draw for explanation of names of the onomasticon the modern-day Iranian languages – Ossetic, Kurdish, Afgan and other, saving in great part the ancient vocabulary. Except for them Turkic, Germanic, Baltic, Finno-Ugric and languages of people of North Caucasus will be used too.

            The made analysis shows that interpretation of the names of Abayev's onomasticon is possible by means of considerably greater deal of languages, as it this took place while working with Petrov's onomasticon. Obviously, the Sarmatians cannot be connected with some certain ethnos therefore one could conclude that the Sauromatians and Sarmatians are categories quite different. However it is not eliminated, that both ethnonyms have the same origin. If we can say about the first as of the certain ethnos, as Herodotus did, the same cannot be said about the Sarmatians.

            Before to do the quantitative estimation of the relation of languages which were used while interpreting the names, one has to say, that this relation does not represent nowise the mosaic of ethnic composition of the Sarmatians. Firstly, there can be in the list the names not belonging to the Sarmatians. Secondly, the got relation can talk if only about the ethnic composition of ruling clique as some tribes in tribe unions occupied dominant position. One can also add to it that arriving rich merchants could be buried oftener as local population with rich tombstones having names carved on them. This also disturbed the general picture of ethnic composition of the population of North Pontic region. The ethnic brindle here yet more increased after the arrival of Goths and the subsequent encroachment of Huns resulting Great Migration. We will mean all this considering data of analysis.

            Approximately 40% of the names of the list have different interpretations or can be explained by means of languages clearly not related to the Sarmatians (Greek, etc.) The retio between the remaining names is such that does not confirm the assumption of Sauromatians as the ancestors of modern Hungarians. Obviously, the Sauromatians were few among the Sarmatians (only 7% of the names decipherable only by means of one language can be explained by the Hungarian). If we talk about the quantitative relationship between the different peoples in the northern Black Sea region, we should recognize that the presence of the Iranian element significantly increased compared with the Scythian period. Iranian-speaking people had to be at least 40% of the Sarmatians. On the relation between the individual ethnic groups within the Iranian community is difficult to judge, because a lot of names can be deciphered with the help of several Iranian languages. These names can be more or less clearly explained by means of the Kurdish and Ossetian languages, to a lesser extent – with the help of Afghan, but keep in mind that the ancestors of the Mazandarani, Baluchi, Talysh could be present as in the Black Sea region too. Most of the Iranians (about half) had to be the ancestors of Ossetians (20-25% of all the Sarmatians), the Kurds were in half less. Some data suggest that the Kurds, with whom we have tied Alazoni of Herodotus, moved to the Fore Caucasus, more precisely on the Taman Peninsula.

            Apparently, the relative amount of the Bulgar population on the Black Sea Region has decreased markedly. Judging from the transcribed names of the Sarmatians, the Bulgars number approximately 18% of thewhole population. In addition, the presence of another Turkic ethnic group is visible (6%), perhaps this was the tribes of the Kipchaks or Oghuz. However, judging by the remarks of Jordanes: "Farther away and above the Sea of Pontus are the abodes of the Bulgares, well known from the wrongs done to them by reason of our oppression", it can be assumed that they constituted a significant part of the population of the Black Sea Region, and the relatively small representation if the Bulgar name in the Onomastikon may indicate that the Bulgars were under more warlike tribes. This this also indicates the Chuvash expression Epir Assem “we are Asses” (YEGOROV GENNADIY. 1993: 28), if they were a part of the tribal alliance, led by Asses (Yazygs). Among the rest of the population of the Northern Black Sea Region, unknown Baltic tribes can be present (6%), as well as the Kasogs, the ancestors of the Circassians and Kabardins (3%).

            Significant ethnic unity among the Sarmatians was represented by Anglo-Saxons, because more than 20% of names can be explained by means of Old English. A separate discussion will be about Alans in the next section.

            When considering the ethnic composition of the Northern Black Sea Region should take into account the fact that the intentsification of trade and personal contacts between the leadership of the various ethnic groups of the Pontic Region, the Balkans, the Caucasus, secured by the supermacy of the Sarmatians and the Bosporus state, led not only to a certain confusion of the population in large cities, but also to borrowing proper names. For example, the children of the Byzantine commander Ardabur Aspar (Ardabur Jr., Patritsius, and Hermanarich) had clearly the names of different origins. Jordanes direct evidenced of borrowing names:

            …let no one who is ignorant cavil at the fact that the tribes of men make use of many names, even as the Romans borrow from the Macedonians, the Greeks from the Romans, the Sarmatians from the Germans, and the Goths frequently from the Huns (JORDANES: 58-59)

            Among the other population of the North Pontic parts could be an unknown Baltic tribe (6%) and also the Kasoges, ancestors of the modern-day Kabardians and Circassians (3%).

            The considerable ethnic unit among the Sarmatians was represented by the Anglo-Saxons or they made the ruling apex of the Sarmatians as more than 20% names could be interpreted by means of the Old English language. We supposed discreetly that among the Sarmatians the Alans had Germanic origin. This question will be considered in the next chapter "The Alans".

            Harmatta specified that so-called "Royal Sarmatians" were among all Sarmatian tribes. They stood at the head of the durable tribe union. He though that the peak of the Sarmatian power was on the last fourth of the 2nd and the first half of the 1st c BC. At the conditions of stability, the development of trade, means, and ways of communication resulted that by the beginning of the 1st mill AD different ethnic groups appeared in Pontic steppes. In addition, one have to take into account that the development of trade connections and personal contacts between the apexes of different ethnic groups of Pontic region, Balkan, Caucasus, secured by the domination of the Sarmatians and Bosporan kingdom, resulted not only in the mixing of population in large settlements but also in the borrowing of proper names. Iordanes just pointed out to such phenomenon:

            "the fact is known that the tribes have custom to borrow names: Romans borrow from the Macedonians, the Greeks from the Romans, the Sarmatians from Germans, and the Goths mainly from the Huns".

            All this can say that the population of the North Pontic region, on the whole named by contemporaries as Sarmatians, at the beginning of the 1st mill AD was nowise homogeneous. Obviously, there are other reasons for this conclusion, which, in principle, have long been made:

            The name of Sarmatae could not have been the name of one single tribe only, it must have been much more a collective name for a number of tribes scattered over awide area (HARMATTA J. 1970: 10)

            The descendants of the Sarmatians are confidently attributed by some experts to the Alans, which in turn were the ancestors of the Ossetians. The connection the Alan with the Ossetians is supported by relatively recent historical evidence (mainly the existence of thestate Alania in the North Caucasus) and by the national consciousness of the Ossetians.

            Recognition the language kinship of the Alans and Ossetians, greater part of scholars have a wide variety of views as about the Sarmatian language and about the ethnicity of its speakers. Some believe that their language was homogeneous, while others recognize the presence of separate dialects. However, the vast majority of scientists believe in any case, that the population in the Northern Black Sea Region at Sarmatian time belonged to the Iranian language group. Accordingly, some consider the Ossetians as descendants of some Iranian-speaking people, while others do as one of several possible successors. Hungarian linguist J. Harmatta gives a detailed analysis of the views of various scholars (Ibid: 59-65)and expressed his own point of view that the Iranian tribes of the Northern Black Sea spoke different dialects of Iranian at least in the first centuries AD. He argues that "Ossetian only represents the outcome of a single Alanic dialect group, the historical development of which was different from that of Sarmatian dialects attested by the Iranian names occurring in the inscription of the Northern Pontic Greek cities" (Ibid: 96-97).

            This diversity of opinion is just due to diversity of the population in the northern Black Sea Region in the so-called Sarmatian period what has also evidences of ancient historians. Despite some of their negligence in the name of the peoples of the northern shores of Black Sea, they did not identify the Scythians, Alans and Sauromatians (Sarmatians?). A. Alemany himself sometimes implying the name of the Scythians for the Alans, gives the passage of the "Tactics" of Flavius Arrian of Nicomedia (c. 95 – 175 AD) in the description of the campaign of the Romans against Alans (Scythians):

            … the lancers are those who approach the enemy lines and fight with lances or pikes, hurling them during the assault, like the Alans and the Sauromatians… (ALEMANY AGUSTI, 2000: 80.)

            It is unclear out of the text, who were tese lancers, if the campaign was against Alan, but they were not Alans, just use tactics like Alans. One thing is clear that the difference between the Alans, Sauromatians, and Scythians (?) was nored with confusing their names.

            So, taking all this into account, we can conclude that, although the Ossetians are descendants of the Sarmatians, but only a certain part of them. Another part was represented by the Germans, which will be discussed further

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