ALANIA was a medieval kingdom of the Iranian
that flourished in the
Northern Caucasus , roughly in the
location of latter-day
Circassia and modern
North Ossetia–Alania ,
from the 8th or 9th century until its destruction by the Mongol
invasion in 1238-39. Its capital was
Maghas , and it controlled a
vital trade route through the
Darial Pass .
* 1 History
* 1.1 Invasions by the Caliphate
* 1.2 Alliance with Khazaria
* 2 Later history
* 3 Legacy
* 4 References
* 4.1 Citations
* 4.2 Sources
Further information: History of
Alans (Alani) originated as an Iranian -speaking subdivision of
Sarmatians . They were split by the invasion of the
Huns into two
parts, the European and the Caucasian. The Caucasian
part of the North Caucasian plain and the foothills of the main
mountain chain from the headwaters of the
Kuban River in the west to
the Darial Gorge in the east.
INVASIONS BY THE CALIPHATE
Alania was an important buffer state during the Byzantine-Arab Wars
Khazar-Arab Wars of the 8th century.
Theophanes the Confessor left
a detailed account of
Leo the Isaurian 's mission to
Alania in the
early 8th century. Leo was instructed by Emperor
Justinian II to bribe
the Alan leader Itaxes into severing his "ancient friendship" with the
Kingdom of Abkhazia
Kingdom of Abkhazia which had allied itself with Caliph
Al-Walid I .
He crossed the mountain passes and concluded an alliance with the
Alans, but was prevented from returning to Byzantium through
Although the Abkhazians spared no expense to have him imprisoned, the
Alans refused to convey the Byzantine envoy to his enemies. After
several months of adventures in the Northern Caucasus, Leo extricated
himself from the precarious situation and returned to
After Leo assumed the imperial title, the land of his mountaineer
allies was invaded by
Umar II 's forces. A
hastened to their succor and, in 722, the joint Alan-
inflicted a defeat on the Arab general Tabit al-Nahrani . The Khazars
Skhimar and several other strongholds in
Alania at this
period. In 728
Maslamah ibn Abd al-Malik , having penetrated the Gate
Alans , devastated the country of the Alans. Eight years later,
Marwan ibn Muhammad passed by the Gate in order to ravage the forts in
Alania. In 758, as
Ibn al-Faqih reports, the Gate was held by another
Arab general, Yazid ibn Usayd .
ALLIANCE WITH KHAZARIA
Surviving architectural monuments of the Alanian kingdom include
three churches in
Arkhyz , the
Shoana Church , and the
Senty Church .
As a result of their united stand against the successive waves of
invaders from the south, the
Alans of the Caucasus fell under the
overlordship of the
Khaganate . They remained staunch allies of
the Khazars in the 9th century, supporting them against a Byzantine
-led coalition during the reign of the
Khazar king Benjamin .
According to the anonymous author of the
Schechter Letter , many Alans
were during this period adherents of
Judaism . However, in the early
10th century, the
Alans fell under the influence of the Byzantine
Empire, possibly due to the conversion of their ruler to Christianity
. The conversion is documented in the letters of Patriarch Nicholas
Mysticus to the local archbishop, whose name was Peter.
Ibn Rustah visited
Alania at some point between 903 and 913, its
king was by then Christian. The Persian traveller came to
Sarir , a Christian kingdom immediately to the east:
You go to the left from the kingdom of
Sarir and, after three days of
journey through mountains and meadows, arrive in the kingdom of
Al-Lan. Their king is Christian at heart, but all his people are
idolaters. Then you travel for ten days among rivers and woods before
arriving at a fortress called the "Gate of the
Alans ". It stands on
the top of a mountain at the foot of which there is a road; high
mountains surround it and a thousand men from among its inhabitants
guard its walls day and night. —
The Byzantines, who had adopted an anti-
Khazar foreign policy,
Alans in a war against the
Khaganate during the reign of
Khazar ruler Aaron II , probably the early 920s. In this war the
Alans were defeated and their king captured. According to Muslim
sources such as al-Mas\'udi (943/56), the
Alans abandoned Christianity
and expelled the Byzantine missionaries and clergy roughly
contemporaneously with these events. Aaron's son married the daughter
of the Alan king and
Alania was re-aligned with the Khazars, remaining
so until the collapse of the
Khaganate in the 960s.
After the downfall of Khazaria, the Alan kings frequently allied with
the Byzantines and various Georgian rulers for protection against
encroachments by northern steppe peoples such as the
John Skylitzes reports that
Alda of Alania , after the
death of her husband, "George of Abasgia" (i.e., George I of Georgia
Anakopia as a maritime fief from Emperor
Romanus III .
This happened in 1033, the year when the
Alans and the Rus sacked the
Shirvan in modern-day
Alania is not mentioned in
East Slavic chronicles, but archaeology indicates that the Alans
maintained trade contacts with the Rus\' principality of
There is a stone grave cross, with a Cyrillic inscription from 1041,
standing on the bank of the Bolshoi
Yegorlyk River in present-day
Stavropol Krai , immediately north of Alania. Two Russian crosses,
datable to ca. 1200, were discovered by archaeologists in
Arkhyz , the
heartland of medieval Alania. Despite her name, Empress Maria of
Alania (on the right side), the wife of
Michael VII and Nicephorus III
, was only Alan on the side of her mother. Her maternal uncle was king
Dorgolel of Alania.
Alans and Georgians probably collaborated in the Christianization
Dvals in the 12th and 13th centuries, Georgian
missionaries were active in
Alania and the Alan contingents were
frequently employed by the Georgian monarchs against their Muslim
neighbors. The Alanian-Georgian alliance was cemented in the 1060s,
Alans struck across
Muslim Arran and sacked Ganja . In the
David the Builder of Georgia visited the Darial to
Alans with the Kipchaks, who thereupon were allowed to
Alania to the Georgian soil . David's son, Demetre I ,
also journeyed, c. 1153, to
Alania accompanied by the Arab historian
Ibn al-Azraq . The alliance culminated in 1187, when the Alanian
David Soslan married Queen
Tamar of Georgia , with their
descendants ruling Georgia until the 19th century. The medieval
Alanian princesses also married Byzantine and Russian
more than once. For instance, Maria the Ossetian , who founded the
Convent of Princesses in Vladimir , was the wife of Vsevolod the Big
Nest and grandmother of
Alexander Nevsky .
In the late 1230s all three Christian powers - Alania, Georgia, and
Vladimir-Suzdal - fell before the Mongol invaders. Bishop Theodore of
Alania described the plight of his metropolis in a lengthy epistolary
sermon written during the tenure of
Patriarch Germanus II (1222–40).
The wars of
Timur in the 14th century inflicted the final blow on
Alania and decimated its population. Those who survived being killed
or enslaved by the Mongols and
Timur 's armies, broke up into three
groups. One retreated into the foothills and valleys of the central
Caucasus and produced the two principal Ossetian groups, Digor and
Iron . Another group of
Alans migrated with the
Kipchaks into Eastern
Europe and preserved their language and ethnic identity as the Jassic
people until the 15th century. The third group joined the Mongol horde
and soon disappeared from history.
In the last years of the
Soviet Union , as nationalist movements
swept throughout the Caucasus, many intellectuals in the North
Ossetian ASSR called for the revival of the name "Alania". A leading
Ossetian philologist, T.A. Guriev, was the main advocate of this idea,
insisting that the
Ossetians should accept the name of the
their self-designation and rename North Ossetia into Alania. The term
"Alania" quickly became popular in Ossetian daily life through the
names of various enterprises, a TV channel, political and civic
organizations, a publishing house, a soccer team , an airline company
etc. In November 1994, the name of "Alania" was officially added to
the republican title (Republic of
North Ossetia–Alania ).
* ^ "ALANS".
Encyclopædia Iranica . Bibliotheca Persica Press.
Retrieved 16 May 2015.
* ^ http://www.aors.narod.ru/images/Al-VII.gif
* ^ http://iratta.com/uploads/posts/atlas/09/karta.jpg
* ^ "Ossetic Language".
Encyclopædia Britannica Online .
Encyclopædia Britannica . Retrieved 16 May 2015. Ossetic is the
modern descendant of the language of the ancient Alani, a Sarmatian
people, and the medieval As.
* ^ "Caucasian Peoples".
Encyclopædia Britannica Online .
Encyclopædia Britannica . Retrieved 16 May 2015. A second ancient
Indo-European group is the Ossetes, or Ossetians, in the central
Greater Caucasus; they are a remnant of the eastern Iranian nomads who
roamed the south Western Steppe from the 7th century bc until the 4th
century ad (when they were dispelled by the Huns) and who were
successively known as Scythians, Sarmatians, and Alans.
* ^ "Alani".
Encyclopædia Britannica Online . Encyclopædia
Britannica . Retrieved 16 May 2015. The Alani who remained under the
rule of the
Huns are said to be ancestors of the modern Ossetes of the
* ^ "North Ossetia-Alania".
Encyclopædia Britannica Online .
Encyclopædia Britannica . Retrieved 16 May 2015. Ossetes are of mixed
Iranian-Caucasian origin; their language belongs to the Iranian group
of the Indo-European family of languages. From the 7th century bce to
the 1st century ce Ossetia came under Scythian-Sarmatian influence,
which was succeeded by that of the warlike Alani, who are believed to
be the direct ancestors of the present-day Ossetes.
* ^ Waldman & Mason 2006 , pp. 12–14
* ^ "OSSETIC LANGUAGE i. History and description". Encyclopædia
Iranica . Bibliotheca Persica Press. Retrieved 16 May 2015.
* ^ Waldman Mason, Catherine (2006). Encyclopedia of European
Infobase Publishing . ISBN 1438129181 . Retrieved January 16,
* West, Barbara A. (January 1, 2009). Encyclopedia of the Peoples of
Asia and Oceania.
Infobase Publishing . ISBN 1438119135 . Retrieved 16