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Alanic Sarmatian influence in the 5th century
The hybrid armour is generally described as large plates on the abdomen, and small plates or maille on the chest (reconstruction and find of such with scale in Simonenko). An alternative combination with scale on the chest, and maille elsewhere is also known (also in Sarmatian finds). This is really a Central Asian, not a Chinese, style of armour, and appears in Gandhara, Sogdiana, and Iran, but doesn't appear east of the Tien Shan in any significant capacity until the Hephthalite period.
Nadeem Ahmad

Eran ud Turan - reconstructing the Iranian and Indian world between Alexander and Islam
It's really interesting to note the helmets worn by them had the same shape as the traditional "noble" head shape the Alanic tribesmen had. So this was without a shadow of question something very common amongst their armor shapes.

The later the period, I'd imagine the more they'd rely on Roman weaponry and armor. Is that a correct assumption? Also, it's quite contradicting to say Alans didn't had horse archers, being that they also served the eastern roman empire as cataphracts, and the traditional cataphract didn't not only had a lance, but a bow as a side weapon.

Other interesting thing I've noticed is their falconry and their dog breeding capabilities. I assume those two animal breeding qualities were primordial for a nomad tribe who survived by hunting. The dogs being huge and ferocious, as the sources claim (Alaunt breed) could most likely be used as both a guard and hunting dog, to go with their wagons.

Thanks for insights, gentlemen. Feel free to correct me if whatever I wrote here could be regarded wrong or anything. I'm here to learn.
Lance-and-bow warfare was very new for the Romans even if it was traditional for the Alans.

Falconry was HUGELY POPULAR with Iranic peoples, the Alans and Huns were the ones who made it popular in Medieval Europe.
Quote:It's really interesting to note the helmets worn by them had the same shape as the traditional "noble" head shape the Alanic tribesmen had. So this was without a shadow of question something very common amongst their armor shapes.

This feature may be connected to reports that the Alans and some of the other steppe tribes practiced cranial deformation. Not sure if that had any specific bearing on how they shaped their armor, though.

Source pulled off Wikipedia (due to time constraints): Bachrach, Bernard S., A history of the Alans in the West: from their first appearance in the sources of classical antiquity through the early Middle Ages, U of Minnesota Press (1973), pp. 67-69
Nate Hanawalt

"Bonum commune communitatis"
Cranial deformation was a feature of 4th or 5th century Eastern Alans and Huns or the peoples who lived east of the Don but I don’t think it was practised amongst the earlier western Sarmatian groups like Iazyges or Roxolani and earlier Alans like the Aorsi etc. The early Spangenhelms were worn by the 2nd century Roxolani as depicted on Trajan’s Column and there was no evidence or observations by Roman writers of the practice of skull deformation amongst earlier Sarmatian groups.


The Alans never gave up the bow but the Sarmatians in general relegated it to a secondary weapon to the lance. I think the Romans boosted their long range archery capabilities on the Hungarian front by bringing in auxiliary archer units after the defeat of the Iazyges in 175AD so they must have realised that they were lacking in long range weapons capability against the Iazyges, who had the bow and even though Cassius Dio made no mention of them using bows it seems that they did some damage to the Romans in the early part of the Marcomannic wars for them to fix this deficiency.

As to falconry Evan is correct in saying that the Alans and Huns being excellent horsemen and hunters made falconry popular in Europe. The Alans probably spread it amongst the later Romans and it seems the Huns spread falconry amongst the various Germanic groups who they had contact with. Paulinus of Pella recalled in 459AD his wish to possess, besides a horse with fine trappings, a swift dog and a splendid hawk and he had close contact with Alans at times that he even helped an unnamed Alan king to switch allegiance from Athaulf of the Visigoths to Rome Even Sidonius Apollinaris wrote a letter to Ecdicius recalling their youth when they played with a ball, dice, a hawk, a dog, a horse and a bow. We know falconry was popular amongst the Germans by the numbers of laws amongst the various groups like the Ripaurian Franks, the Lombards etc. where fines are mentioned for the theft of falcons and hawks scaled as to how well trained the hawk or falcon was that was stolen.

As to dogs, they would have been essential to nomadic groups for herding, guarding, hunting and killing predatory animals like wolves and foxes. They would have been used to flush birds out of the tall reeds prominent in the wetlands of the major river systems they frequented from the Don to the Danube. So like their horses I think dog breeding would be very profitable for Sarmatian tribes as a good dog would be worth its weight in gold and would be prized at markets. However I think they used a variety of dogs large or small and not just the aluant. Originally the spoilt looking poodle was bred in Germany as a working dog to retrieve birds from rivers and lakes that were shot down by hunters and a pack of Afghan hounds could chase down and kill a lone wolf in no time. The Aluant would have been used as a herding dog who could guard the herds from various predators and alert the occupants of an encampment of approaching danger, either human or animal. Unfortunately a lot of Sarmatian and Alan dogs like the aluant are now extinct but the molosser along with some Central Asian mastiffs seem to be the closest relatives to these dogs. :-)
Michael Kerr

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Michael Kerr
"You can conquer an empire from the back of a horse but you can't rule it from one"
As Michael noted, the practice of skull deformation was late. At least two deformed Alan sculls have been found in France, but the tall conical helmet was developed in the early iron age. Here is a reconstruction of a Sargat heavy-armored horseman from the 4th to 3rd century BC:

To refer back to lamellar armor, it first arrived in bone, then replaced by iron. Here are a couple of archaeological examples of bone armor finds from the Karasuk Culture, Minusinsk Basin, 1,800 to 1,100BC.

The Tagars and Sargats replaced the bone plates with iron, but this shows how old, and influential, lamellar was. Almost every warrior on the Orlat buckle-plaques is wearing some form of lamellar. These tribes, along with others, became the Saka/Massagetae confederation, then socially restructured as the Alans. Their arch enemy, the Hsiung-nu became the Huns. They were lighter armored and very dependent on the improved bow which is actually traced back to the Sargats. The two cultures, Alans and Huns, remained as heavier-armored and lighter-armored up into the 5th century.

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Alan J. Campbell

member of Legio III Cyrenaica and the Uncouth Barbarians

Author of:
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Forging the Blade (2012)

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