Skripkin A.S. About Determining the Meaning of the Ethnonyms “Sauromatians” and “Sarmatians”

Anatoly S. Skripkin, Doctor of Sciences (History), Professor, Department of Russian and World History, Archaeology, Volgograd State University, Prosp. Universitetsky, 100, 400062 Volgograd, Russian Federation
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Abstract. The tendency to transfer the early names of peoples to the later inhabitants of same places was characteristic for the historical and geographical genres of ancient literature, regardless of the kinship between them. In that way the ethnonym “Sauromatians” was used to name certain groups of the Eastern European steppes nomads until the first centuries AD, although an analysis of all the sources, including archaeological ones, suggests that Sauromatians cease to exist as an independent ethno political formation since the middle of 4th century BC, perhaps a little earlier. The reason for that was the migration of the South Ural nomads who had occupied the territory that previously belonged to the Sauromatians. Simultaneously with that process, a new ethnonym “Sirmati”, associated with Tanais (Don), appears in the works of ancient authors. The names “Sarmatia” and “Sarmatians” start to be mentioned increasingly since the 3rd century BC in written sources, including epigraphic ones. I believe, that indicates emerging of a new nomadic unity led by the Sarmatians east of the Don, located in the Volga-Ural steppes, existed before the beginning or middle of the 2nd century BC. Its disintegration is associated with the migrations of the first half – middle of the 2nd century BC, with the epicenter in Central Asia. These events led to significant changes in the ethnic composition of the population between Caspian Sea and the Dnieper, recorded by Strabo. Separate ethno-tribal associations were located here: Aors, Siraks, Roksolans, later Yazygs, Alans, with their own history and destiny, but all of them were often continued to be called Sarmatians in written sources. All this should be taken into account by modern researchers, since uncritical approach to the ancient authors often leads to incorrect historical reconstructions.
Key words: Sauromatians, Sirmats, Sarmatians, Yuezhi, Usuns, migrations, ethnopolitical reconstructions.
Citation. Skripkin A.S., 2021. K opredeleniyu soderzhaniya etnonimov «savromaty» i «sarmaty» [About Determining the Meaning of the Ethnonyms “Sauromatians” and “Sarmatians”]. Nizhnevolzhskiy Arkheologicheskiy Vestnik [The Lower Volga Archaeological Bulletin], vol. 20, no. 1, pp. 82-102. DOI:
About Determining the Meaning of the Ethnonyms “Sauromatians” and “Sarmatians” by Skripkin A.S. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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