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mortem sibi consciverint out fugerint, quae i n damnotorum bonis constituta sunt. Ce document du l l r e siecle apres J. C. montre
que lYint6r&t patron l'emporte sur celui du fisc ; la phradu se: Sed reliquam partem .... placet est fort suggestive sur ce point.


Anent the

Epic Poetry of



L'analyse des sources ayant trait au probl6me j ? du suicide dans I'antiquite romaine nous autorise A presenter deux observations d'ordre g6nkral. En premier lieu, il convient de se garder d'exagkrer la partke du principe liber mori. I1 est inexact, comme I'ont fait de nombreux auteurs depuis le moyen Age jusqu'a nos jours, de pretendre que les Romains ont toujours estim6 que I'individu Ctait libre de quitter la vie qui lui deplaisait. A I'epoque impkriale, la legitimite du meurtre de soi-m&me est subordonnke a plusieurs conditions : il importe de tenir compte de la cause du suicide, de la qualite sociale du suicidk et, au moins pendant un certain temps, du procede utilise pour mettre un terme a son existence. I1 n'y a donc pas A Rome une conception unitaire du suicide. D'autre part, le rCgime juridique du suicide a subi l'influence des theories philosophiques grecques. Cette penetration des idees helldniques s'est traduite par la discrimination des motifs de se tuer: les uns sont admis, d'autres sont rkprb hensibles. (( Que l'on considere stoicisme, epicurisme, platonisme, nulle part on ne discerne une doctrine simple, indiscretement favorable a la mort; partout, au contraire, on retrouve l'idke qu'il y a suicide et suicide (I). )) La penske de Ciceron est tres significative a cet egard : Atque haec diffe-

rentia naturarum tantam habet vim, u t nonnunquam morfem sibi ipse consciscere alius debeat, alius in eadem causa non debeat (2). L'ktude du suicide constitue ainsi un nouveau t 4
moignage du r81e jou6 par la philosophie grecque dan lution du droit pknal romain.

The Sarmatian tribes - of whom the Alans were the strongest group - belonged to the Iranian family, linguistically. In regard to their way of life most of the Sarmatians lvere nomads or semi-nomads, in any case a t the early stage of their history. Both of these basic affiliations of theirs - with the Iranian world and with the nomadic world were reflected in the material culture of the Sarmatians as well as in their religion and their art. It is on the basis of these preliminary considerations that we may best approach the problem of the Sarmatian folklore and epic poetry. In that poetry connections with both the heroic themes of the Persian epics and the ballads and magic incantations of the northern Eurasian nomads - Turks, Mongols, Finno-Ugrians - may be presupposed. The roots of the Persian epic poetry go deep into the ages and elements of it are already discernable in the mythology of the Avesta (3. That heroic poems were popular in Persia in the Achaemenian era, we may infer from the evidence of Herodotus and other Greek authors. Persian epic poetry is undoubtedly a source of legendery stories of Cyrus, for example. Furthermore Strabo states that ballads of gods and heroes were part of the educational curriculum for the children of Persian nobility : And they use as teachers of science their wisest men, who also interweave their teachings with the mythical element, thus reducing that element t o a useful purpose, and rehearse both with song and without song the deeds both of the gods and of the noblest men a (2).



(1) A. BAYET, e suicide et la morale, p. 287. L (2) CICBRON, officiis, I, 31. De

(1) See A. CHRISTENSEN, sur l a Dt?monologie iranienne (CoEssai Zoroaster, the penhagen, 1941), ch. 11. Cf. also A. V. W. JACKSON, Prophet of Ancient I r a n (NewYorlr, 1899), pp. 103-104. (2) STRABO, 15,3, 18 (H. L. Jones' translation in the Loeb Classical Library edition of Strabo's Geography, 7, p. 179).







In the sixth century A. D. - that is during the Sassanid period - a number of old heroic legends were written down and digested into a co$pilation known as Hudai-nama. ~t is on the basis of this i o r k that Firdausi created his Shahnama. I t seems that born Firdausi and the compilers of the Sassanian epic digests hdve drawn not only from the purely Persian sources but likewise from the legends of the Sakas (1). And the Saka peoples, or in any case some groups of them, were close to the Sarmati'ans. As to the folklore of the northern nomads, most of the Turkish and Mongol trihes of Central Asia preserved epic tales down to our days, :and the Finns have their (( Kalevala n. No precise date fbr the origins of the folk poetry of the northern Eurasian nomads can be established, but it may be safely assumed that its roots are very old. Magic and poetic folklore is an kssential part of the spiritual culr ture of the nomads. ~ h d hunting expeditions and their military conflicts serve as an appropriate stage for heroic exploits of their leaders, and tales of such exploits could not but entertain and excite the old and young alike. The folk poet still is a popular figure in Central Asia and presumably always was. ~t the early stage of thk history of the northern nomads and peoples connected wiih them in one way or another there must have been a close connection between magics and poetry, and the shaman must have played an important role in promoting both; i t :has been suggested that Wainamoinen in the Kalevala is merely an idealized shaman ('). According t o F. Altheim a t least one Kalevala runo originated in the third or fourth century A. D. and the whole cycle took shape not later than the Viking period (eighth to eleventh centuries A. D.) (3). The poetic form of the Orkhon inscription of the eighth
(1) See Sir J. C. COYAJEC, (( Some Shahnameh Legends and their Chinese Parallels J), Journal and Proceedings of the Asiatic SociefY of Bengal, New Series, 24 (1928), pp. 177-202. ( 2 ) A. Veselovsky and V. Shishmarev, (( Epos O ,~ n t s i k l o ~ e d i c h e s k ~ ~ Slovar (Brockhaus-Efron), Half-Volume 80, p. 733. (3) F. ALTHEIM, Goten und Fipnen (Berlin, 1944), p. 35,

A. D. in which the rise to po$er of Bumyn Kagan of the sixth century A. D. is described:(l) indicates the probability of the florishing of epic poetry! among the Turks in the period of the Turkish Kaganate (si#th to eighth centuries A. D.), and it may be assumed that elements of epic folklore existed among the nomads and :semi-nomads of Turkish origin much earlier than that. !Likewise in George I Roerich's opinion many episodes in t h e Mongol heroic tales ) of the thirteenth and following centuries (( probably represent remnants of an ancient nomad epos, :which may be preTibetan or prsMongol in its origin fi (2)1. ) All said, we may postulate the high)development of the epic folklore already in the ancient tiines for both of the basic sources or affiliations of the early Sarmatian culture : - the Iranian and the nomadic. Frorri this i t may be in: ferred, with a degree of probability, that epic folklore must have been an important element of the: spiritual life of the Sarmatians themselves already in the karly period of Sarmatian history. Such an assumption seems to be logical enough; a t the same time, however, we have to face the sad fact that no text of Sarmatian epic songs of the Hellenistic and Roman era (not to speak of the earlier ages) has been preserved in our sources. This, in itself, should not surprise us. How could such poems be preserved? While some groups ol the Sarmatians developed a system of alphabetic signs, they used them only for short inscriptions (3). Moreover, as Roman Jakobson made clear in regard to the ~ u s s i a nfolklore, the only medium for the diffusion of lay fiction a t the certain stage of spiritual culture of a people, is oral tradition (3.What Jakobson says about the early Russian: literature must be 1 true in regard to the Sarmatian epic poetry as well. And,


1 1

(1) See W. RADLOW, alttiirkischen lnsihriften aus der MonDie golei. New Series (St. Petersburg, 1897), p. 131. (2) G. ROERICH'S t o M. Rostovtzeff's: 8 The Great Hero of note Middle Asia and His Exploitso, Artibus Asiae, 4 (1930-1732), p. 114. ( 3 ) M. ROSTOVTZEFF, Iranians and Greeks i n South Russia (Oxford, 1922), pp. 130, 167. (4) R. JAKOBSON, Russian Fairy Tales (hew York, 1945), pp. 632-633.





as has already been stated, the case of the Persian heroic poetry of the Achaemenian period is quite similar. Should we, then, abandon any attempt to explore the problem of the Sardatian epic poetry? Not necessarily, since many an element of it could be extracted from various literary and folkloristi: sources, as well as from archeological evidence. I In the first place, there are reports and writings of eontemporaneous foreign observers of Sarmatian society and life - Greek and Rorhan as well as Chinese - and some reflections of the Sako~Sarmatian legends in the Chinese and Indo-Buddhist folklork and literature. Secondly, elements of Alanic heroic poem$ have been preserved in the folklore of certain Caucasian niountaineer tribes, including that of the Ossetians who were direct descendants of a group of , the Alans. As to the archeolodical evidence, ample materials have been unearthed and described in the course of the last hundred years, but i t is only rekently that attempts have been made to interpret those materials in the light of comparative religion and folklore. It may be added that besides the information bearing directly on the Sarmatians, some of the evidence available on the Scythians and the Saka must also be considered, since all of these three groups of peoples had much in common not only because of their common Iranian background but aIso because of the similarity of their habits and ways of life. TO start with the Indo-Buddhic literature, J. Przyluski pointed out some interesting traces of the Saka ( ~ a k y a ) myths of the sacred deer in Buddhist legends. ~rzyluski labels these myths (( Scythian +, but in my opinion it would be more proper to call them (( Saka )) or (( Sako-Sarmatian 1). According to the Buddhist tradition, the Saka ( ~ a k y a ) of Kapilavastu, being converted to Buddhism, refused to take arms against the king of Kosala when the latter attacked them, since i t would be contrary to Buddha's law. ( Seul un Cakya, nommi: Cambaka, tua un grand nombre ( d'ennemis, mais il en fut puni par ses concitoyens qui l'exilhrent. I1 se rendit alors au pays de Bakuda, en devint roi

et, nous dit le texte bouddhique, il k p p r i f I ses sujefs I ne ; P tuer le cerf )) (Italics mine) (I). Since the deer played an important role in the religion and the magics of the Scythians a n d the Sarmatians (espedally of the Alans), we have here ; clear evidence of the i Penetrati~nof elements of the Sako-Garmatian religious folklore into the Indo-Buddhic literadre (2). In other Buddhist texts the legend of the Golden Deer is mentioned. (( C'est un animal qui s'apance a travers les airs repandant une clarte qui illuniiae les gorges des montagnes o (3). Of particular interest is an 1ndo-~hinesetale describing the king's ritual chase of the deer a f t e r which the king's soul is supposed to find its abode i$ the corpse of the deer killed by him. a Cette chasse rituelle, ou le gibier etait l'anima1 solaire, se terminait par l'union sexuelle du roi et de la reine )) (4). Certain Saka (or Sako-Sarmatian) motives have also found their way into t h e Chinese legends :and Chinese literature. Sir J. C. Coyajee has demonstrated that there is a close parallelism between the Saka legends preserved in Shahnama and a number of Chinese legends. To mention but one example, in Shah-nama, the eve1 denlon Akwan Dev appears in the shape of a monstrous stag of a yellow color. Akwan lifts up Rustam in the air and then drops him in to the sea. The Chinese demon of the wind, Fei-Lien, likewise has the body of the stag, and, i n Cayajec's opinion, Akwan Dev must be indentified with the wind-god. According to Cayajee, there are also old Chinese stories of n were-stags r and

(1) J. PRZYLUSKI, Nouveaux aspectsde l'histoire des Scythes r, Revue de l'uniuersitt! de Bruxelles, 42 :(1936-1937), p. 214. (2) On t h e cult of the deer among Scythians and Sarmatians see Przyluski, ibid., pp. 217-222 ; N. P. KONDAKOV, Ocherki i zametki Po istorii sredneuekovogo iskussfva i k u l f u r y (Prague, 1939), p.22. Cf. L. P. Potapov, (( Sledy totemisticheskikh predstavlenii u altaitsev Sovetskaia Etnugrafiia, 1935, 4-5, p p . 134-151 ; French rCsumB ((( Traces de conceptions totkmiques chez les Alat'iens r) in Revue des Arts Asiafiques, 10 (1936), pp. 208-209. (3) PRZYLUSKI, 219. p. (4) Ibidem.




s were-bucks r which offer great resemblances to the

episode (I). In view of the Saka origin of the deer in rodo. Buddhic and Indian legends, I am inclined to think that the Chinese (( were-stags n might have derived from the SakeSarmatian folklore as well. Valuable reports on the states and tribes of Central Asia, including the Saka and the Alans, have been preserved in Chinese chronicles, namely in the (( Historical Records )) (Shiki) and the Annals of the Han dynasty (of both the Former and the Later Han). However, since the Chinese envoys were interested chiefly in political and military data on the Central Asian area, their reports cannot be expected to contain much information on the poetry of the Central Asian tribes. In one case, however, - that of the horses of Central Asia - the Chinese reports decidedly become poetic. Describing the country of Ta-wan (Ferghana) Chang K'ien (who visited Central Asia in the period of K'ien-yiian, 140134 B. C.) mentions a remarkable breed of blood sweating horses. According to his report, if a horse sweats blood, it means that i t derives from a heavenly horse (z). Later Chinese chroniclers preseved some of the legends told about those heavenly horses. I t is related that hoofprints of these horses were seen on rocks (3). According to Meng K'ang, there is a certain high mountain in the kingdom of Ta-wan where horses live whom nobody can catch. The people of Ta-wan bring their mares to that mountain (these mares have to be of five different colors) for breeding with the heavenly stallions ; the colts thus sired sweat blood () 4. According to another report, it is the horses from the country of Osun that had been first considered heavenly horses o by the Chinese and only later those of Ferghana ( 5 ) ( (


presumably, legends of the heavenly horses were popular in the Osun country and not only in Ferghana. And there are good reasons t o think t h a t the people of Osun was a branch of the Alans (I). The design of the winged horse on some of the Khoresmian seals might have derived from the same tales of the (( heavenly horse n (7. The cult of the horse was widely spread among the steppe including the Scythians and the Massagetae. Among the Altaian Turks and some Ugrian tribes of Western Siberia the ritual of the horse sacrifice survived until the Russian revolution () 3. While among the Alans of South Russia the cult of the horse did not seem to play such prominent a role as among the Scythians and the Massagetae the horse constituted a favorite theme of thesarmatian art and the ritual of symbolic horse sacrifice survived among the Ossetians (4). The approach of the Roman historians towards the Sarmatian world was, on the whole, similar to that of the Chinese. As a result of such attitude, while their works contain valuable information on political, military and social organization of the Sarmatians, their evidence on spiritual culture of the Sarmtians is scant. I t is then the Greek writers of the Classical and Hellenistic periods who are of special usefulness for our purpose. Owing to the early expansion of their cities in the Crimea and the North Pontic area, t h e Greeks came into a close contact with the Scythians and, later on, the Sarmatians. It is the Bosporan kingdom that eventually became the most important link between the Greek (later Hellenistic) world on the one hand and that of the steppe Iranians on
(1) See J. CHARPENTIER, efhnographische Sfellung der ToDie charer r, Zeitschriff der Deutschen Morgenllindischen Gesellschaft, 71. (1917), p. 359 f. ; G. VERNADSKY, Ancient Russia (New Haven, l943), pp. 83-84. (2) TOLSTOV, Dreunii Khorezm, 208 and plate 83, fig. 10. (3) TOLSTOV, 207. p. (4) A. SCHIEFNER, Osetinskie teksty ,), Zapiski Akademii Nauk, 14, Supplement 4 (1868), pp. 25-29 and 36-38. Cf. V. Miller, ((Cherty Stainy v skazaniiakh i byte Osetin s, Zhurnal M inisterstva Narodnogo Prosueshcheqiia, 222 (1882), pp. 203-204.

(1) COYAJEE, 181-184. pp.

(2) J. J. M. DE GROOT Chinesische Urkunden ~ur~eschichte Asiens, 7----na' 2 (1926), p. 12. Cf. F. HIRTH, The story of Chang K'ier (< of the American Oriental Society, 37 1917), p. 95.

(3) GROOT, p. 12. 2, GROOT, p. 110, Cf. S. P. TOLSTOV, 2, Dreuni Khorezm cow, 1948), p. 208. ( 5 ) GROOT, p. 28. 2,





the other. Olbia a t the Dnieper estuary was another im. portant meeting place between the Greeks and the Iranians In their interrelations both nations were primarily ested in trade, but other aspects of contact should not be neglected either. Greek jewelers and artizans were an important factor in the development of Scythian and sarmatian a r t industries. The inhabitants of the Greek cities on the fringe of the Scytho-Sarmatian world possessed ample information on Scythia and Sarmatia even if not all of this information was reliable. In this way even those Greek geographers and historians who never travelled in Sarmatia themselves and entered in no direct contact with the steppe nomads, were able to obtain much evidence on the nomads in Olbia, Panticapaeum, or any other Greek city in the North Pontic area. In such case the information received was conditioned by the locality of the source. Thus, as Rostovtzeff points out, Herodotus' narrative is based chiefly on Olbia () as a result of which his information on the I, Dnieper Scytians is more precise than on the Sarmatians (Sauromatae) of the Don area. It must be born in mind that some of Herodotus' data on the Scythians are relevant for a better understanding of the Sarmatians as well, since there were common Iranian elements in the culture of both these peoples. In ~articular, roots of certain themes of Sarmatian folklore may be found in the Scythian magics and legends. The methods of divination may serve as a good example of the continuity of certain folkloristic themes in the ~cythoSarmatian world. Herodotus has left an interesting description of the habit of the Scythian soothsayers of foretelling the future by means of willow wands (2). According to Ammianus Marcellinus the same means of divination were widely spread among the Alans (3). And as late as the nineteenth century the Ossetian medicine men still

practiced the same traditional ways of soothsaying () Here I . we have then a clear case of the continuity of a folkloristic Scythians - Alans - Ossetians. Let us now turn to the legends of the origin of the Scythians as told by Herodotus. In my opinion, Vsevolod Miller is right when he insists t h a t most of 'those legend have not been invented by Herodotus or his, plbian jinformers, but, in their essence, represent the local folklore of the natives (2). In some, the old Iranian background is clearly discernible ; of others appear in the later folklore of the mountaineer tribes of the Caucasus. Consider, for example, the legend of Hercules and the Maiden-Serpent (3). According t o Vsevolod Miller, i t may be connected with some of the Mithra legends (4). On the other hand a similar theme occurs in the Ossetian epics, namely in the story of the Nart (6) Khamyts and the daughter of the Sea-God, Don Bettyr () 6. In this case we cannot indicate any intermediary between the early (Scythian) and a later (Ossetian) evidence. Thus, the pattern is incompIete : Scythian folklore - 2 - Ossetian folklore. However, the existence of the same theme in the Sarmation (Alanic) folklore may be assumed with a degree of probability. Another similar case is the theme of the magic bowl of wine of which only heroes may partake. According t o Herodotus, Once a year the governor of each district, a t a set place in his own province, mingles a bowl of wine, of which all Scythians have a right t o drink by whom foes have been

(1) MILLER, Cherty starinp

( (

), )

p. 201.

(1) M. ROSTOVTZEPF, Skythien und der Bosporus (Berlin, 1 9 ~ ' ) ~

p. 20.

(2) Herodotus, 4, 67. (3) Ammianus Marcellinus, 31, 2, 24.

MILLER, Osetinskie Etiudy, 3 (1887), pp. 125-129. Herodotus, 4, 59. MILLER,Osetinskie Etiudy, 3, pp. 128-129. The Narts, a legendary people of heroes, are glorified in the tales of several mountaineer tribes of the Caucasus. See G. Dum6zi1, Le'gendes sur les Nartes (Paris, 1930). ( 6 ) MILLER, Cherty stariny )r, p. 200.
(2) (3) (4) (5)


slain ; while they who have slain no enemy are not allowed to taste the bowl, but sit laloof in 'disgrace. No greater shame than this can happen to them. Such as have slain a very large number of foes, have two cups instead of one, and d r i n c from both u () I. )The magic bowl plays an important role id the Ossetian epos where i t has a special name, - the ,watsamonga. According to the legend, the bowl was used as a kind of lie-detector. At the assemblies of the heroes, as each of them in turn was boasting about his exploits, the other watched the bowl. If the narrator was lying, the bowl stood still ; if he was telling the truth, the bowl miracuously lifted itself to his mouth so that he could drink the wine (2). Herodotus' information on the Sarmatians of the Don region-Sauromatae, as he calls them (3), is scant and rather vague, but the matriarchal organization of that particular group of Sarmatian and Maeotian tribes gave Herodotus an excellent opportunity of elaborating on the Amazon legend (4). As told by Herodotus, that legend undoubtedly has a certain couleur locale of the steppes. Consider, for example, the story of the Scythian youths who pitched their tents not far from the camp of the Amazons; n day after day the camps approached nearer to another )). The story survived in the epos of the Circassians. It

I i



(1) Herodotus, 4, 66 (George Rawlinson's translation).

(2) V. DYMNIK, transl., Skazaniia o Nartakh (Moscow, 1944), PP. 66-68. Cf. Miller, (i Cherty stariny ,), p. 17-198. According to Miller, t h e Watsamonga bowl was also known among t h e Ossetians under t h e name of Nartamonga - t h e G Indicator of the Narts)) (3) In Rostovtzeff's opinion t h e Sauromatae G are not to be confounded with t h e Sarmatians ,) (ROSTOVTZEFF, Iranians and Greeks in South Russia, p. 33). From t h e philological point of view, however, there is no ground for t h e differentiation of t h e two names, see M. Vasmer, Die Iranier in Siidrussland (1923), p. 51. It must be said t h a t most of t h e Greek authors use the term (i sauromatae not only in reference to t h e tribe described b y Herodotus but to t h e Sarmatians a t large. In any case it is obvious t h a t in rebard of the peculiarity of their social regime - their matriarchal organization - Herodotus' Sauromatae constituted a group of their .fithin t h e larger family of t h e Sarmatian peoples. (4) Herodotus, 4, 110-117.


must be noted that there are many common topics in the heroic poetry of a whole group of the mountaineer tribes of the central and western areas of the Caucasian range in spite of the linguistic differences between them. Thus, the so-called legends of the Narts are popular not only among the Ossetians but among the ~ a b a r d i a n sand Circassians well, In certain cases, however, only one of the group of tribes preserved some particular legend of their common poetic heritage. Such, apparently, was the case with the Amazon legend. In the Circassian story, as written down by Baron Uslar () I, we have the same motive of the two camps - that of young men and that of bellicose women - gradually coming close one to another. The difference is that while Herodotus speaks of the two whole groups approaching each other, the Circassian legend mentions a meeting of only the respective leaders of each group in a specilly built tent which then results in friendship and intermarriage of the two groups as a whole. Legends similar to those told by Herodotus are also found in Diodorus' Bibliotheea Hisforica. Thus, Diodorus mentions briefly the Scythian legend of the Maiden-Serpent but makes Zeus and not Hercules her mate (2). As to the Amazon legend, Diodorus adds a story of two Amazon queens mother and daughter - not named by him. According to him, the mother who (( excelled in intellect and military abilities a conquered all her neighbours in the Tanais (Don River) region and built a large city - The Tamiscyra - and a sumptuous palace. Later on, she was killed in a battle. Her daughter was evenmore warlike and undertook successful campaigns in the direction of both Thrace and Syria. Her maiden warriors were trained in hunting and warfare from their very childhood. T o support their martial spirit the queen established an elaborate cult of Ares and Artemis (3). while these tales are on the whole of legendery nature, some
(1) As quoted by Miller, Osetinskie Efiudy, 3, p. 90. 43, 3, as in LATYSCHEV, Scythica et Caucasica, 1 (St. Petersburg, 1890), p. 458. (3) Diodorus, 2, 45-46 (Latyschev, pp. 460-461).
( 2 ) Diodorus 2,






traits of reality may be noticed in them (like the role of hunting in the educational curriculum (l).) I t is possible that in them some of the Sarmatian (Sauromatian) epi, poems have been reflected - hero stories original.ly basec on historical characters. n ! In my opinion, it is on the materials used by uloaorus that a (( Scythian novel )) of the second century A. D. might have depended to a certain degree. Of this (( novel s only two brief fragments have been preserved. The heroine is a Greek girl, Kalligone, who, as it seems, returns to Panticapaeum after having spent some time among the Amazons. She has a stormy interview with a certain Eubiotes - apparently a Bosporan king. Says Kalligone to Eubiotes : (( I am not an Amazon, not Themisto, but a Greek girl, Kalligone; my spirit, however, is not weaker than that of any of the Amazons )) (2). As Rostovtzeff has. noticed, the name Eubiotf :s remin~ d s that of Eumelus, a Bosporan king, and it will be recalled that Eumelus' story has been told by Diodorus (3). I t seems that a similar parallel may be drawn between the name of Themisto which occurs in the (( Scythian novel n and that of Themiscyra, the capital of the first of the t wro Amazon queens mentioned by Diodorus. While the Amazon motives in the Hellenistic novel tnrow some light on the interest of the Greeks in the romantic aspects of the Scytho-Sarmatian world, they are, in this -case, more characteristic of the Greek literature than of int Sarmatian folklore. Much more valuable from our po of view are Polyaenus' two stories of Amazon-like queens' The scene of both is the region around the Sea of AZOVY in the vicinity of the Bosporan kingdom where tribes of various ethnic origin - Scythian, Maeotian and sarmatian - used t o live in the Hellenistic period. The heroine of the first story is a Maeotian girl by the name of Tirg iho
, I


married the king of the Sindians. Owing to the intrigues of Satyrus, the Bosporan tyrant, Tirgatao was put in prison by her husband but succeeded in escaping and went to the country of the Ixomatians (I), where she had relatives. She married the ruler of the Ixomatians and convinced her new people to start a war against both Satyrus and her former husband (the king of the Sindians). Thereupon Satyrus sent two of his agents - posing as refugees - t o murder Tirgatao but the attemptfailed and the Ixomatian queen became an even more dangerous enemy of the Bosporan rules. After the death of the latter, his son sued for peace (2). Polyaenus' second story deals with Amaga, queen of the Sarmatians - apparently of that Sarmatian tribe who lived in North Tauria, north and northeast of the Perecop Isthmus. Her alliance with the city of Chersonesus against the Scythians and her dashing cavalry raid on the Scythians are vividly described C). While Polyaenus' stories, in their literary aspects, are close to the Amazon legends a t large, they obviously are based on historical facts as Rostovtzeff has brillantly shown (4). In Rostovtzeff's opinion, Polyaenus must have perused the work of a Chersonese chronicler. There is another angle in the picture, however, not sufficiently clarified by Rostovtzeff. I t may be assumed that the Greek historian from whose work Polyaenus drew his information was well acquainted with the Sarmatian historical songs or tales in which the deeds of their valiant queens were glorified. Men, instead of women, appear as chief characters in the dialogue a Toxaris, or Friendship )), b y Lucian. In that dialogue, the Greek, Mnesippes, and the Scythian, Toxaris, tell each other stories of true friendship among the Greeks

(1) Compare with Strabo's evidence on the education of boy in Persia, Strabo, 15, 3, I8 (Loeb Classical Library edition, 7,p. 181 (2) M. ROSTOVTZEFF, Skifskii roman, Seminarium ~ondakovi~ num, 2 1928), p. 137. ' (3) Diodorus, 2, 22-24 (Latyschev, pp. 474-477).
( (

(1) The name Ixomatae occursin other sources as Iaxamatae, Iazabatae and Iazyges, see Pauly-Wissowa, article, (( Sarmatae )), Coil. 2546. (2) POLYAENUS, Strategemata, 8, 55 (Latyschev, pp. 567-568). (3) POLYAENUS,56 (Latyschev, p. 568). 8, (4) M. ROSTOVTZEFF, (( Amaga and Tirgatao 0 , Zapiski Odesskogo Obshchestva Zstorii i Dreunosfii, 32 (1915, pp. 58-77.
M$L. H. GRBGOIRE. IV. - 34.




53 1

and the Scythians, respectively. The dialogue is, of course, a product of the Hellenistic fiction of the period ; i t is a piece of moralizing literature, not a historical or ethnographical treatise. And yet it is obvious that through his sources Lucian was well acquainted with the habits and customs of both the Scythians and Sarmatians. Consider, for example, such episodes as Arsakomas' (( sitting upon the hide )), a ritual device for gathering a band of supporters for a military expedition he planned ; or Dandamis' coming t o the Sarmatians (Sauromatae) for the purpose of redeeming his friend from captivity. As he approaches the battle line of the Sarmatians, he utters the Zirin (that is c Redem~tion ))), call ( I ) . We have here precious details which vouch for a f air degrt:e , . of knowledge of the Iranian society of the steppes. 1 In Rostovtzeff's opinion, Lucian drew most of his information from Greek novels with a Scythian plot (2). It seems to me that, in addition to this, Lucian must have used some historical and geographic compilations containing more precise information on Scythian habits, probably some local Greek records of Scythian tales and habits written down in the Bosporan kingdom (3). Among the stories of Scythian friendship told by ' s,
(1) Lucian, Toxaris, 40. M. VASMERconnects the word Zir with the late Persian zer gold a (Vasmer, Iranier in Siidrusslan p. 39). A. M. Harmon, the translator of Lucian's works in the Lot Classical Library, objects t o Vasmer's interpretation (LuciaIn, v01. p. 169), but his argumentation fails t o convince me. (2) See ROSTOVTZEFF, Skythien und der Bosporrus, pp, 9b-W. (3) Take, for example, the above mentioned custom of (c sitting upon the hide s (Lucian, Toxaris, 48. There is an almost identical text of the description of this custom in Apostolius' Synagoge paroimion see E. L. LEUTSCH, Corpus paroemiographorum ed., graecorum, 2 (Gottingen, 1851), pp. 416-41 ; reprinted in C. CLEMEN, ed., Fontes Historiae religionurn primitiuarum (Bonn, 1936,) p. 82. Apostolius authority is Suidas. A. M. Harmon thinks that the allusions to the custom in Suidas and the paroemiographi are mere quotations from Lucian (Loeb Classical Library edition of Lucian, 5, pp. 180-181, note 1). In my opinion, however, both Lucian and Suidas might have used some local (Bosporan) collection of stories on the Scythians aod Sarmatians.
( (

), )

two are of special interest. One is that of Amizokes and the above mentioned Dandamis. Amizokes was taken pisoner by the Sarmatians, Dandamis, as we have seen, came t o his rescue offering to redeem him. Since however, Dandamis had no money, he offered himself as slave t o the captor of his friend. The Sarmatian demanded only his eyes and Dandamis immediately agreed to being blinded. His self sacrifice raised the martial spirit of the Scythians and depressed the Sarmatians to such an extent that they rapidly retreated. After the Sannatian danger was over, Amizokes blinded himself. in order not to have any advantage over his friend. The second episode is that of the Scythian, Arsakomas, and his two friends, Lonchates and Makentes. These friends take upon themselves the task of administering vengeance upon the Bosporan king who offended Arsakomas and of rescuing the king's beautiful daughter who is in love with Arsakomas. Meanwhile, that latter (( sits upon the hide )) and gathers an army of supporters which both of his friends eventually join. There follows a war between the Scythians on the one hand and the Bosporans and their allies, the Alans, the Sauromatae, and the Machlians, on the other. Owing to the heroic exploits of the three friends, the Scythians win the battle against their enemies. Since, as has been already mentioned, many features of Scythian life in these episodes seem t o be genuine, i t may be surmised that the plot of the story likewise is authentic in each case, in the sense that Scythian tales have been used by the author. While Lucian introduced Scythian heroes in his dialogue, he probably could have described the exploits of the Sarrnatian knights along the same lines. One of the heroes of Lucian's stories, Malientes, is, for some time, posing as a Sarmatian, which - as explained in the dialogue - was since the language and the customs of the Alans were, with minor exceptions, identical with those of the Scythians. In any case, if it be admitted that Lucian's Scythian stories are based on native tales, we may assume that similar themes were likewise popular among the Sarmatians. In view of the close contact between the Greeks and the





Iranians in the North Pontic area, especially in the Bosporan kingdom, it may be supposed that while the Greeks were familiar, to some extent, with the folklore of the Iranians, some of the latter in' their turn might have been acquainted with Greek poetry. Judging from archeological sources, poetry flourished in Panticapaeum (Bosporus) and Chersonesus as well as in Olbia () I . Incidentally, the Bosporan poet honored by a memorial stele in Panticapaeum must have been a warrior since weapons and heads of horses are represented on it (2). He might have taken part in the warfare between the Greeks and the Scythians in which the Sarmatians usually sided with the Greeks; he could thus have made friends among the Sarmatians. Of the Greek poets, Homer was the most admired one among the Greek speaking inhabitants of the North Pontic cities ; Dio Chrysostom even bantered the Olbians for their excessive devotion to Homer C). Homer must have been popular among the Bosporans as well; a line from Iliad occurs in one of the Panticapaeum inscriptions (4). If any Greek poet could appeal to the Iranians of the steppes, Homer certainly.could. Characteristically enough, the Polyphemus episode in Odyssey, is repeated, with some variations, in one of the Ossetian poems C). Let us now turn to a peculiar formula of declaration of war preserved by Clement of Alexandria in his Stromafeis Referring to Aristocritus, Clement quotes the following letter of the Scythian king Ateas (6) to the Byzantians : ( Do no harm to my income, lest my mares drink your wa( ter n (').
(1) E. H. MINNS, Scythians and Greeks (Cambridge, 1913), PP. So4? 361, 467, 46, 626, 627. (2) S. REINACE, Antiquit6s du Bosphore CimmBien (Paris, 1.802, p. 96. 76. (3) LATYSCHEV, Scythica et Caucasica, 1, pp. 174-1: - (4) Iliad 10, 242. Cf. MINNS, Scythians and Greeks, p. 627. (5) (( Uruzmag and the One-Eyed Uaig o, V. Dynnik, skazaniia Nartakh, pp. 15-17. (6) Variants : Atoias, Auteas, Anteas. (7) Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis, 5, 5, 31 Laty schev, S( thica et C aucasica, 1, p. 598).

This curious formula of international law is permeated with the spirit of the epics of steppe peoples. I t would be not too much to surmise that similar wording must have been used in some of the Scythian and Sarmatian heroic songs as well. In the steppe warfare, to reach water - a river or a lake - meant achieving an important objective in a campaign. Strategically, it meant penetration to the center of an enemy's land and to the sources of the enemy's supllies. In more direct terms it meant that after difficult crossing of arid areas the thirst of men and horses alike could now be quenched. Centuries after Aristocritus the same theme appears in Russian literature, to wit, in the famous Lay of Igor's Campaign. (( I wish - quoth he - with you, o Russians, to brake a lance on the edge of the Polovcian plain; I wish to lay down my head, or else to quaff of the Don from my helmet )) (I). An indentical formula occurs in Russian chronicles : (( Then Vladimir Monomach quaffed of the Don from his golden helmet )) (2). Significantly enough we find the same theme in the story of the Khan Nogai (killed in 1299) as recorded by the Arabic writer Rukn ad-Din Beybars. Nogai's declaration of war against Khan Tokhta was worded thus : (Says Nogai to Tokhta's envoy :) (( Tell Tokhta that our horses are thirsty and we want to let them quaff of the Don )) (9. As Roman Jakobson has shown, Khan Nogai became, under the name of Sobaka Kalin Tsar (((That dog, Khan Kalin o), a notorious character of the Russian byliny. Undoubtedly, Nogai's story was also reflected in a number of Turko-~ongolepic poems some of which might have been
(1) S. H. Cross translation, H. GRBGOIREand R. JAKOBSON, La Gate du Prince Igor (New York, 1948), p. 153. In the French trans((

lation, by Henri Gr6goire : Car - dit-il - je veux rompre une lance au fond de la plaine koumane avec vous, fils de la Russie, et j ' veux laisser ma t&te,ou j'aurai bu au Don, duns mon heaume o ~ (Ibid., p. 41). (Italics mine in both cases). (2) 0. JANSEN R. Jakobson), Sobaka Kalin Tsar R, Slavia, (= 16 (1939), p. 91. (3) Ibidem.




used by Rukn ad-Din Beybars. We, thus, have here a case of a remarkable continuity of an epic theme expressed in a formula which survived from the Scythian age down to the fourteenth century : Scythian theme - Russian literature of the Kievan period - Turko-Mongol epos. Evidently, there are missing links in this chain, and the Sarmatian epos is, most likely, one of them. From the written sources let us now turn to arc ical evidence. Various episodes represented on Sibenan and Chinese plaques of Sarmatian style have been interpreted, until recently, as so many genre-scenes of the daily life of the nomads who used those plaques : hunt, rest, migration from place t o place. Now, however, Rostovtzeff has convincingly shown that the art of the plaques in question had a deeper meaning (I). The warrior represented on some of them is not a plain mortal, he is a hero. His enemy is, likewise, not a mortal but a forest-monster, an evil spirit. Another theme represented on plaques of this type - wrestling - likewise seems to be not a genre scene but a ritual act. The themes of these artistic creations are closely connected with the magics and folklore of the nomads and must have been reflected in their heroic poems as well. In his note to Rostovtzeff's article, George Roerich states that to each scene represented in the plaques discussed by Rostovtzeff a literary illustration may be found in the Mongol-Oirat heroic epos (2). In view of the fact that the plaques belong t o the area of the Sarmatian-Alanic art, i t is almost certain that similar themes must :have 13een popular in the epic poetry of the Alans as well. + 13 . Another important theme of the Sarmatian a. l ~ -that of the Equestrian God shown either alone or with the king adoring him. This theme first occurs on the rhyton of Karagodeuashkh (fourth or third century B. C.) and later is found on some of the phalarae of the second and first centuries B. C. and on Parthian and Indo-Parthian coins of the third and fourth centuries A. D., as well as on Bactrian

and Khoresmian silver bowls of the Sassanian period () I . According t o Rostovtzeff, that Equestrian God is essentially Iranian and must be connected with the cults of AhuraMazda and Mithra. If so - and Rostovtzef 's argumentation is convincing - it means that ancient Iranian myths must have been popular among the Sarmatians of South Russia. Here we have another probable source of Sarmatian epos. The figure of the sacred deer - in different variations is still another feature of the thematic contents of the Sarmato-Alanic a r t area. The representation of the deer occurs very often in both the Scytho-Sarmatian and the Bosporan antiquities. I t seems that in the Bosporan art the deer was a symbol used in the cult of Sabazius who was apparently worshipped in the Bosporus area as the god of hunting (2). Deer also play a prominent role in the decoration of the famous diadem of the Novochercassk treasure. It has already been mentioned that traces of the deer cult may be found in the Indo-Buddhic literature. There hardly can be any doubt that the deer must have played an important role in the Sarmatian folklore as well. In the Ossetian legend of the Marriage of Atsamaz it is related that, after the nuptial banquet, Agunda - the beautiful bride of Atsamaz - travels t o the groom's home in a chariot drawn by seven deer given t o her, on that occasion, by Afsati, the spirit-ruler of noble animals and protector of hunters (3). There seems to be a parallel between the god Sabazius of the Bosporans and the spirit Afsati of the Ossetians. Agunda is also connected with deer in another Nart legend, t h a t of the death of Sozryko. Sozryko chased a white deer who turned into a beautiful princess with golden braid and golden wings. This happened t o be Agunda (4). One may wonder if tales similar t o the Ossetian legend of
(1) M. ROSTOVTZEFF, ( Bog-vsadnik na iuge Rossii, v Indo-Skifii (
i v Kitae s, Seminarium Kondakovianum, 1 (1927), pp. 341-146. Drevnii Khorezm, ch. IV. Cf. S. P. TOLSTOV, (2) M. ROSTDVTZEFF, Antichnaia dekorativnaia zhivopis na iuge Rossii, 1 (St. Petersburg, 1914), p. 438. (3) DYNNIK,Skazaniia o Narfakh, p. 76.

Artibus The (1) M. ROSTOVTZEFF, Great Hero of Middle Asia Asiae, 4, p. 101. (2) G . ROERICH'S note, Artibus Asiae, 4, pp. 113-114,

(4) V. MILLER, Osetinskie Etiudy, 1, p. a 11






Agunda a n d her dee4 have n o t been_ - n l d about t h e marriage __ f of t h e Sarmatian qu/een t o whom t h e No1 rocherkassk diadem belonged. I On t h e basis of a l lI of t h e above considerations t h e problem of compiling a list bf t h e main themes of t h e Alanic epos m a y now be approached. A n y such list would, of coune, be tentative only, b u t even so i t m a y prove t o be of certain value as a working ~hypothesis. Here is then, with all due reserve, m y tentative list of t h e probable topics of Alanic poetry : I

This is a clear indication of the antiquity of the Syrdon cycle in the Ossetian epos and enables us to refer origin of the Syrdon I theme to the Alanic age.


(1) Legends of G Q ~ sespecially of t h e Equestrian God. , (2) Legends of thk great heroes and their struggle with



(3) (4) (5)

(6) (7) (8)

t h e evil spirits. * I Legend of t h e Maiden-Serpent. Amazon legends. Legends o f sa4red animals, especially t h e deer and t h e horse. Legend of thd Magic Bowl. Tales of warlike queens. Tales of steppk campaigns.
i I

I 1

2. The Bilingual Inscripfion oj ~ t s k h e t ? ,Georgia. This inscription, on a funeral stele, is in Greek and (( Armazian )). I t was first published by G. V. Tseretelli, ~rmarskaiai bilingva (Tbilisi 1941) (inaccessible to me) and then his study 04 it appeared in Vesfnik Drevnei Isforii 1948, 2, p. 49 ff. Tseretelli refers the inscription to the second half of the second century A. D. For a new analysis of it, by F. Altheim, see Melanges Henri ~ r e ~ o i I, epp. 1-9. In r its essence i t is a condensed poem dedicatbd to Serafita, daughter of Zevakh -(( die heroisierte Tote 8 in F. Altheim's words. Its main idea is eine ausdriickliche W e r t u n ~des Todes o. This, as Altheim points out, is an idea which belongs to the sphere of the Hunnish and Alanic concepts. In view of the close historical connection between the Ossetians and the ;Georgians, the Mtskheta inscription is of great interest to the studept not only of the Georgian folklore, but of the Alanic as well. I

111. - The Poetic Form of Diplomatic Messages of the Nomads







- The id Poetry of the Turkish Peoples


For a penetrating aqalysis of the evidence on the thriving of Hunnish heroic poetry a t Attila's court see Franz Altheim, Literatur und Gesellschaft im ausgehenden Altertum, 1 (Halle / Saale 1948), pp. 218 ff. Cf. alsb Altheim's remarks in F. Altheim, H. Junker, R. Stiehl, Inschrijteq aus Gruzinien, Melanges Henri Gregoire 1, p. 6 f. I

11. - The Alanic Background of the Ossetian Poetry


1. Syrdon. In his stimulating study of Loki a (Paris 194: Georges Dumezil has established striking parallels between the adventures of the Ossetian Syrdon and the Scandinavian Loki.

The Scythian king Ateas is mentioned py Strabo, 7, 3, 18. On his policies see T. V. Blavatskaia, Greki ( Skify v Zapadnom Prichernomorie, Vestnik Drevnei Istorii 1948, 1, pp. 206-213. To what I have said about his fonnula of declafation of war and other similar formulas used by the rulers of thesteppe peoples, I would like now to add a few more remarks. The poetic form of diplomatic messages was not merely an expression of the aesthetic feelings of the nomads, but was dictated by practicAl considerations as well. In an illiterate society, the use of writt4n messages was possible in exceptional cases only. Few nomadic rhieftains in the Scythian and Sannatian ages had chanceries or secretaries. Only those close to the Greek cities might have used Grdek scribes, but their use must have been restricted to their relaiions with the Greek or later, the Roman authorities. There certainly would be no sense in a Scythian or a Sannatian king (eve? if he had a secretary) sending a written message to another nomadic chieftain as illiterate as the sender. In King Ateas case, thk message was addressed to a Greek city, but apparently the kind had no Greek secretary with him, or just did not care to take the trouble of dictating the




message. Being illiterate, the messenger had to memorize the contents of the message. The traditional form of epic poetry with which all of the nomads were well familiar certainly could serve as a very useful device of mnemonics. We find the same situation in Mongolia in the twelfth and the early thirteenth century. The messages sent by Temuchin (Chingis-Khan) and other Mongol clan leaders 1 of that period were always oral and always in the form of poems. See S. A. Kozin, Ed., Sokrouenme Sliazanie (MoscowLeningrad 1941), p. 34; samples of such messages appear in Sokrovennoe Skazanie, Sections 126,179, 180, 181, 200,201 (Mongol text and Russian translation) ; cf. Paul Pelliot, Ed., Histoire secr&fedes Mongols (Paris 1949), p. 158 (Section 126, French translation) and pp. 192-194 (French translation, Sections 17:


N e w Document from the Period of

the Latin Empire of Constantinople :

The Oath

of the Venetian


After the issuance in 1082 by Alexius Comnenus of his celebrated chrysobull in favor of the Venetians, Venice posessed its own quarter along the Golden Horn, and extensive commercial privileges in the Empire. The Doge and the Venetian Patriarch of Grado received Byzantine titles and revenues, whileVenice undertook t o defend Byzantium against its enemies. In 1126, John Comnenus was forced, against his will and in the face of a previous refusal, t o renew the chrysobull. In 1148, Manuel also renewed it, but diplomatic relations between Venice and the Empire deteriorated over a variety of questions until the Doge forbade his subjects in 1170 to enter imperial territory ; Manuel lured them back, and then arrested them by the thousand on 12 March 1171, confiscating their immensely valuable property. Relations began to improve under i4ndronicus, who began to repay some of the damages, and the full position of Venice was restored by Isaac Angelus in 1187 and by Alexius I11 Angelus in 1198, except that much money still owing to Venice remained unpaid. All this is a story which has been studied in detail by Heyd, Chalandon, Besta, Kretschmayr, Horatio Brown, and others (1).
(1) The basic collection of documents is G. L. F. TAFEL and G. M. THOMAS, Urkunden zur alteren Handels- und Staatsgeschichte der Republik Venedig, Fontes Rerum Austriacarum, XII-XIV (Vienna, 1856), hereafter referred to as T.-Th. 1-111. See also F. DOLGER, Regesten der Kaiserurkunden des Ostromischen Reiches (Munich,

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