Don River

From Jatland Wiki
(Redirected from Danu)
Author:Laxman Burdak, IFS (R)

For the Gotra see Don
Catchment of the Don River
Reconstruction of the Oikumene (inhabited world) Ancient Map from Herodotus circa 450 BC

Don River (Russian: Дон) is one of the major Eurasian rivers of Russia and the 5th longest river in Europe. Don River's Greek name Tanais appears in ancient Greek sources as both the name of the river and of a city on it, situated in the Maeotian (present Sea of Azov) marshes.


The Don basin is between the Dnieper basin to the west, the Volga basin to the east, and the Oka basin (tributary of the Volga) to the north.

Variants of name

Origin of name

Don River derives its name from Scythian (East Iranian) Dānu "river", akin to Ossetic don "river", and Pashto dand (ډنډ) or dun (depending on dialect) "pond, lake".

Jat Gotras Namesake


It rises in the town of Novomoskovsk 60 kilometres southeast from Tula, southeast of Moscow, and flows for a distance of about 1,950 kms to the Sea of Azov.

From its source, the river first flows southeast to Voronezh, then southwest to its mouth. The main city on the river is Rostov on Don. Its main tributary is the Seversky Donets.

Paleolithic archaeological layers at Kostyonki reveal human histories around 40,000 years ago. The lithic industry at that time developed the technology to drill stone.


In antiquity, the river was viewed as the border between Europe and Asia by some ancient Greek geographers.[1][2] In the Book of Jubilees, it is mentioned as being part of the border, beginning with its easternmost point up to its mouth, between the allotments of sons of Noah, that of Japheth to the north and that of Shem to the south. During the times of the old Scythians it was known in Greek as the Tanaïs (Τάναϊς) and has been a major trading route ever since. Tanais appears in ancient Greek sources as both the name of the river and of a city on it, situated in the Maeotian marshes.

The current name derives from Scythian (East Iranian) Dānu "river", akin to Ossetic don "river", and Pashto dand (ډنډ) or dun (depending on dialect) "pond, lake".

The Khazar fortress of Sarkel used to dominate this point in the Middle Ages. This part of the river saw heavy fighting during Operation Uranus, one of the turning points of the Second World War.

The Don Cossacks, who settled the fertile valley of the river in the 16th and 17th centuries, were named for the river. In modern literature, the Don is often featured in the works of Mikhail Aleksandrovich Sholokhov, a writer from the stanitsa of Veshenskaya.

Jat History

Prof. B.S. Dhillon[3]Jats writes....Jats are the one component of a group of people known as the Scythians in the Western countries and Sakas in India. Diodorus (first century B.C.) [4] wrote, "But now, in turn, we shall discuss the Scythians who inhabit the country bordering India. But some time later the descendants (Scythians) of these kings, because of their unusual valour and skill as generals, subdued much of the territory beyond the Tanais river (far eastern Europe) as far as Thrace (modern north of Greece), and advancing with their power as far as the Nile in Egypt. This people increased to great strength and had notable kings, one of whom gave his name to the Sacae (Sakas), another to the Massagetae ("great" Jats), another to the Arimaspi, and several other tribes". The recent edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica [5] states "The Scythians were a people who during the 8th-7th centuries B.C. moved from Central Asia to Southern Russia, where they founded an empire that survived until they were gradually overcome and supplanted by the Sarmatians (another Scythian people) during the 4th century B.C. 2nd century A.D.".

Bhim Singh Dahiya[6] writes that Ghanghas is a rare name but fortunately, Priscus mentioned a king of white Hunas, as Kong Khas, who made himself lord of Sogdiana in 356 AD and whose brother clans, crossed the Don River in 374/375 AD, as per Franz Altheim, the German Scholar. [7] This king Kangkhas, certainly was a Khangas Jat. Kung-Kas was a son of Kidara, which is improvable - the clan of son can not be different from the clan of the, father, unless, both father and son, founders of new clans. The Sassanid emperor of Iran, Piroz, promised to marry his sister to Kung-Khas.[8] But he broke the promise and the result was in which the Persians were summarily defeated. Piroz was taken prisoner and was released only after pledging his son Kawadh, as hostage and paying a large sum of gold coins as tribute. Kung-Khas restruck the tribute coins with his own name, and it is these coins, inter alia, which through light on the Khangas emperor in 4th century AD. Tribes and Castes names them as Khung as.[9]

Ch 3.28: Alexander crosses the Hindu-Koosh

Arrian[10] writes.... After the transaction of this business, he advanced against Bactra and Bessus, reducing the Drangians and Gadrosians[1] to subjection on his march. He also reduced the Arachotians to subjection and appointed Menon viceroy over them. He then reached the Indians, who inhabit the land bordering on that of the Arachotians. All these nations he reached marching through deep snow and his soldiers experiencing scarcity of provisions and severe hardship. Learning that the Areians had again revolted, in consequence of Satibarzanes invading their land with 2,000 cavalry, which he had received from Bessus, he despatched against them Artabazus the Persian with Erigyius and Caranus two of the Companions, also ordering Phrataphernea, viceroy of the Parthians, to assist them in attacking the Areians. An obstinately contested battle then took place between the troops of Erigyius and Caranus and those of Satibarzanes; nor did the barbarians give way until Satibarzanes, encountering Erigyius, was struck in the face with a spear and killed. Then the barbarians gave way and fled with headlong speed.

Meantime Alexander was leading his army towards Mount Caucasus,[2] where he founded a city and named it Alexandreia.[3] Having offered sacrifice here to the gods to whom it was his custom to sacrifice, he crossed Mount Caucasus, after appointing Proexes, a Persian, viceroy over the land, and leaving Neiloxenus son of Satyrus, one of the Companions, with an army as superintendent. According to the account of Aristobulus, Mount Caucasus is as lofty as any in Asia, and most of it is bare, at any rate in that part where Alexander crossed it. This range of mountains stretches out so far that they say even that Mount Taurus, which forms the boundary of Cilicia and Pamphylia, springs from it, as do other great ranges which have been distinguished from the Caucasus by various names according to the position of each, Aristobulus says that in this part of the Caucasus nothing grew except terebinth trees and silphium;[4] notwithstanding which, it was inhabited by many people, and many sheep and oxen graze there; because sheep are very fond of silphium. For if a sheep smells it even from a distance, it runs to it and feeds upon the flower. They also dig up the root, which is devoured by the sheep. For this reason in Cyrene,[5] some drive their flocks as far as possible away from the places where their silphium is growing; others even enclose the place with a fence, so that even if the sheep should approach it they would not be able to get within the enclosure. For the silphium is very valuable to the Cyrenaeans.

Bessus, accompanied by the Persians who had taken part with him in the seizure of Darius, and by 7,000 of the Bactrians themselves and the Daans who dwelt on this side the Tanais,[6] was laying waste the country at the foot of Mount Caucasus, in order to prevent Alexander from marching any further, both by the desolation of the land between the enemy and himself and by the lack of provisions. But none the less did Alexander keep up the march, though with difficulty, both on account of the deep snow and from the want of necessaries; but yet he persevered in his journey. When Bessus was informed that Alexander was now not far off, he crossed the river Oxus,[7] and having burnt the boats upon which he had crossed, he withdrew to Nautaca[8] in the land of Sogdiana. He was followed by Spitamenes and Oxyartes, with the cavalry from Sogdiana, as well as by the Daans from the Tanais. But the Bactrian cavalry, perceiving that, Bessus had resolved to take to flight, all dispersed in various directions to their own abodes.

1. Gadrosia was the furthest province of the Persian empire on the south-east It comprised the south-east part of Beloochistan.

2. This was not the range usually so called, but what was known as the Indian Caucasus, the proper name being Paropanisus. It is now called Hindu-Koosh.

3. This city was probably on the site of Beghram, twenty-five miles north-east of Cabul. See Grote's Greece, vol. xii. ch. 94.

4. There are two kinds of silphium of laserpitium, the Cyrenaic, and the Persian. The latter is usually called asafœtida. See Herodotus (iv. 169); Pliny (Historia Naturalis, xix. 15; xxiii. 48); Aelian (Varia Historia, xii. 37); Aristophanes (Plutus, 925); Plautus (Rud., iii. 2, 16); Catullus (vii. laserpitiferis Cyrenis).

5. Cyrene was a colony founded by Battus from Thera, an island colonized by the Spartans. The territory of Cyrenaica is now a part of Tripoli. Cf. Pindar (Pyth., iv. 457); Herodotus (iv. 159-205)

6. This Tanais was usually called Jaxartes, now Sir, flowing into the sea of Aral.

7. The Oxus, now called Jihoun or Amou, flows into the sea of Aral, but formerly flowed into the Caspian.

8. Some think this town stood where Naksheh now is, and others think it was at Kesch.


Ch 3.30: Capture of Bessus.—Exploits in Sogdiana

Arrian[11] writes.... Here Ptolemy learned that Spitamenes and Dataphernes were not firmly resolved about the betrayal of Bessus. He therefore left the infantry behind with orders to follow him in regular order, and advanced with the cavalry till he arrived at a certain village, where Bessus was with a few soldiers for Spitamenes and his party had already retired from thence, being ashamed to betray Bessus themselves. Ptolemy posted his cavalry right round the village, which was enclosed by a wall supplied with gates. He then issued a proclamation to the barbarians in the village, that they would be allowed to depart uninjured if they surrendered Bessus to him. They accordingly admitted Ptolemy and his men into the village. He then seized Bessus and departed; but sent a messenger on before to ask Alexander how he was to conduct Bessus into his presence. Alexander ordered him to bind the prisoner naked in a wooden collar, and thus to lead him and place him on the right hand side of the road along which he was about to march with the army. Thus did Ptolemy. When Alexander saw Bessus, he caused his chariot to stop, and asked him, for what reason he had in the first place arrested Darius, his own king, who was also his kinsman and benefactor, and then led him as a prisoner in chains, and at last killed him? Bessus said that he was not the only person who had decided to do this, but that it was the joint act of those who were at the time in attendance upon Darius, with the view of procuring safety for themselves from Alexander. For this Alexander ordered that he should be scourged, and that the herald should repeat the very same reproaches which he had himself made to Bessus in his inquiry. After being thus disgracefully tortured, he was sent away to Bactra to be put to death. Such is the account given by Ptolemy in relation to Bessus; but Aristobulus says that Spitamenes and Dataphernes brought Bessus to Ptolemy, and having bound him naked in a wooden collar betrayed him to Alexander.[1]

Alexander supplied his cavalry with horses from that district, for many of his own horses had perished in the passage of the Caucasus and in the march to and from the Oxus. He then led his army to Maracanda,[2] which is the capital of the land of the Sogdianians. Thence he advanced to the river Tanais. This river, which Aristobulus says the neighbouring barbarians call by a different name, Jaxartes, has its source, like the Oxus, in mount Caucasus, and also discharges itself into the Hyrcanian Sea.[3] It must be a different Tanais from that of which Herodotus the historian speaks, saying that it is the eighth of the Scythian rivers, that it flows out of a great lake in which it originates, and discharges itself into a still larger lake, called the Maeotis.[4] There are some who make this Tanais the boundary of Europe and Asia, saying that the Palus Maeotis, issuing from the furthest recess of the Euxine[5] Sea, and this river Tanais, which discharges itself into the Maeotis, separate Asia and Europe,[6] just in the same way as the sea near Gadeira and the Nomad Libyans opposite Gadeira separates Libya and Europe.[7] Libya also is said by these men to be divided from the rest of Asia by the river Nile. In this place (viz. at the river Tanais), some of the Macedonians, being engaged in foraging, were cut to pieces by the barbarians. The perpetrators of this deed escaped to a mountain, which was very rugged and precipitous on all sides. In number they were about 30,000. Alexander took the lightest men in his army and marched against these. Then the Macedonians made many ineffectual assaults upon the mountain. At first they were beaten back by the missiles of the barbarians, and many of them were wounded, including Alexander himself, who was shot right through the leg with an arrow, and the fibula of his leg was broken. Notwithstanding this, he captured the place, and some of the barbarians were cut to pieces there by the Macedonians, while many also cast themselves down from the rocks and perished; so that out of 30,000 not more than 8,000 were preserved.[8]

1. Curtius (vii. 24) follows the account of Aristobulus, and so does Diodorus (xvii. 83) in the main. Cf. Aelian (Varia Historia, xii. 37).

2. The modern Samarcand.

3. Arrian and Strabo are wrong in stating that the Jáxartes rises in the Caucasus, or Hindu-Koosh. It springs from the Comedae Montes, now called Moussour. It does not flow into the Hyrcanian, or [Caspian Sea]] but into the Sea of Aral. It is about 900 miles long.

4. The river Tanais, of which Herodotus speaks (iv. 45, 57), is the Don; and the Lake Maeotis, is the Sea of Azov. Cf. Strabo (vii. cc. 3 and 4).

5. Euxeinos (kind to strangers); called before the Greeks settled upon it Axenos (inhospitable). See Ovid (Tristia, iv.. 4). C£. Ammianus (xxii. 8, 33): " A contrario per oavillationem Pontus Euxinus adpellatur, et euethen Graeoi dieimus stultum, et nootem euphronen et furias Eumenidas."

6. So Gurtivs (vi. 6) makes the Don the boundary of Etirope and Asia. "Tanais Europam et Asiam medius interfuit." Ammianus says: "Tanais inter Caueasias oriens rupes, per sinuosos labitur circumflexus, Asiamque disterminans ab Europa, in stagnis Maeotieis deliteseit." The Eha, or Volga, is first mentioned by Ptolemy in the second century of the Christian era.

7. Gadeira is now called Cadiz. The Greeks called the continent of Africa by the name of Libya. So Polybius (iii. 37) says that the Don is the boundary of Europe, and that Libya is separated from Asia and Europe respectively by the Nile and the Straits of Gibraltar, or, as he calls the latter, " the mouth at the pillars of Hercules." Arrian here, like many ancient authors, considers Libya a part of Asia. Of. Juvenal, x. i.

8. Curtius (vii. 23) gives an account of the massacre by Alexander of the descendants of the Branchidae, who had surrendered to Xerxes the treasures of the temple of Apollo near Miletus, and who, to escape the vengeance of the Greeks, had accompanied Xerxes into the interior. They had been settled in Sogdiana, and their descendants had preserved themselves distinct from the barbarians for 150 years, till the arrival of Alexander. We learn from the table of contents of the 17th book of Diodorus, that that historian also gave an account of this atrocity of Alexander in the part of his history, now lost, which came after the 83rd chapter. Cf. Herodotus (i. 92, 157; v. 36); Strabo (xi. 11; xiv. 1).


Ch 4.3: Storming of Cyropolis.— Revolt of the Scythians

Arrian[12] writes.... Having thus captured the five cities and reduced them to slavery in two days,[1] he went to Cyropolis, the largest city in the country. It was fortified with a wall higher than those of the others, as it had been founded by Cyrus. The majority of the barbarians of this district, and at the same time the most warlike of them, had fled for refuge thither, and consequently it was not possible for the Macedonians to capture it so easily at the first assault. Wherefore Alexander brought his military engines up to the wall with the determination of battering it down in this way, and of making assaults wherever breaches might be made in it. When he observed that the channel of the river, which flows through the city when it is swollen by the winter rains, was at that time nearly dry and did not reach up to the wall, and would thus afford his soldiers a passage by which to penetrate into the city, he took the body-guards, the shield-bearing guards, the, archers, and Agrianians, and made his way secretly into the city along the channel, at first with a few men, while the barbarians had turned their attention towards the military engines and those who were assailing them in that quarter. Having from within broken open the gates which were opposite this position, he gave an easy admittance to the rest of his soldiers. Then the barbarians, though they perceived that their city was already in the hands of the enemy, nevertheless turned against Alexander and his men and made a desperate assault upon them, in which Alexander himself received a violent blow on the head and neck with a stone, and Craterus was wounded with an arrow, as were also many other officers. Notwithstanding this, however, they drove the barbarians out of the market-place. Meantime, those who had made the assault upon the wall, took it, as it was now void of defenders. In the first capture of the city about 8,000 of the enemy were killed. The rest fled for refuge into the citadel; for 15,000 warriors in all had gathered together in the city. Alexander encamped around these and besieged them for one day,[2] and then they surrendered through lack of water. The seventh city he took at the first assault. Ptolemy says that the men in it surrendered; but Aristobulus asserts that this city was also taken by storm, and that he slew all who were captured therein. Ptolemy also says that he distributed the men among the army and ordered that they should be kept guarded in chains until he should depart from the country, so that none of those who had effected the revolt should be left behind. Meantime an army of the Asiatic Scythians arrived at the bank of the river Tanais, because most of them had heard that some of the barbarians on the opposite side of the river had revolted from Alexander. They intended to attack the Macedonians, if any revolutionary movement worthy of consideration were effected. News was also brought that Spitamenes was besieging the men who had been left in the citadel at Maracanda. Against him Alexander then despatched Andromachus, Menedemus, and Caranus with sixty of the Companion cavalry, 800 of the mercenary cavalry under the command of Caranus, and 1,500 mercenary infantry. Over them he placed Pharnuches the interpreter, who, though by birth a Lycian, was skilled in the language of the barbarians of this country, and in other respects appeared clever in dealing with them.

1. δυσί was not used in Attic Greek, or but seldom. It became common after the time of Alexander.

2.Instead of ἡμέρᾳ μιᾷ, Siutenis reads ἡμέραν μίαν.


Ch 4.4: Defeat of the Scythians beyond the Tanais

Arrian[13] writes.... In twenty days he fortified the city which he was projecting, and settled in it some of the Grecian mercenaries and those of the neighbouring barbarians who volunteered to take part in the settlement, as well as the Macedonians from his army who were now unfit for military service.[1] He then offered sacrifice to the gods in his customary manner and celebrated an equestrian and gymnastic contest. When he saw that the Scythians were not retiring from the river's bank, but were seen to be shooting arrows into the river, which was not wide here, and were uttering audacious words in their barbaric tongue to insult Alexander, to the effect that he durst not touch Scythians, or if he did, he would learn what was the difference between them and the Asiatic barbarians, he was irritated by these remarks, and having resolved to cross over against them, he began to prepare the skins for the passage of the river.[2] But. when he offered sacrifice with a view to crossing, the victims proved to be unfavourable; and though he was vexed at this, he nevertheless controlled himself and remained where he was. But as the Scythians did not desist from their insults, he again offered sacrifice with a view to crossing; and Aristander told him that the omens still portended danger to himself. But Alexander said that it was better for him to come into extreme danger than that, after having subdued almost the whole of Asia, he should be a laughing-stock to the Scythians, as Darius, the father of Xerxes, had been in days of yore.[3] Aristander refused to explain the will of the gods contrary to the revelations made by the deity simply because Alexander wished to hear the contrary. When the skins had been prepared for the passage, and the army, fully equipped, had been posted near the river, the military engines, at the signal preconcerted, began to shoot at the Scythians riding along the river's bank. Some of them were wounded by the missiles, and one was struck right through the wicker-shield and breastplate and fell from his horse. The others, being alarmed at the discharge of missiles from so great a distance, and at the death of their champion, retreated a little from the bank. But Alexander, seeing them thrown into confusion by the effect of his missiles, began to cross the river with trumpets sounding, himself leading the way; and the rest of the army followed him. Having first got the archers and slingers across, he ordered them to sling and shoot at the Scythians, to prevent them approaching the phalanx of infantry stepping out of the water, until all his cavalry had passed over. When they were upon the bank in dense mass, he first of all launched against the Scythians one regiment of the Grecian auxiliary cavalry and four squadrons of pike-men. These the Scythians received, and in great numbers riding round them in circles, wounded them, as they were few in number, themselves escaping with ease. But Alexander mixed the archers, the Agrianians, and other light troops under the command of Balacrus, with the cavalry, and then led them against the enemy. As soon as they came to close quarters, he ordered three regiments of the cavalry Companions and all the horse-lancers to charge them. The rest of the cavalry he himself led, and made a rapid attack with his squadrons in column. Accordingly the enemy were no longer able as before to wheel their cavalry force round in circles, for at one and the same time the cavalry and the light-armed infantry mixed with the horsemen pressed upon them, and did not permit them to wheel about in safety. Then the flight of the Scythians was already apparent. 1,000 of them fell, including Satraces, one of their chiefs; and 150 were captured. But as the pursuit was keen and fatiguing on account of the excessive heat, the entire army was seized with thirst; and Alexander himself while riding drank of such water as was procurable in that country. He was seized with an incessant diarrhoea; for the water was bad; and for this reason he could not pursue all the Scythians. Otherwise I think all of them would have perished in the flight, if Alexander had not fallen ill. He was carried back to the camp, having fallen into extreme danger; and thus Aristander's prophecy was fulfilled.

1. This city was called by the Greeks, Alexandria on the Tanais. See Curtius, vii. 28.

2. Cf. Livy, xxi. 27:— Hispani sine ulla mole in utres vestimentis oonjectis ipsi caetris superpositis inoubautes flumen tranavere.

3. See Herodotus, iv. 122-142.


Mention by Pliny

Pliny[14] mentions Lake Mieotis and the adjoining nations....We then come to the river Tanais3, which discharges itself into the sea by two mouths, and the banks of which are inhabited by the Sarmatæ, the descendants of the Medi, it is said, a people divided into numerous tribes. The first of these are the Sauromatæ Gynæcocratumeni4 the husbands of the Amazons.

3 Or Don. It flows into the Sea of Azof by two larger mouths and several smaller ones. Strabo says that the distance between the two larger mouths is sixty stadia. several smaller ones. Strabo says that the distance between the two larger mouths is sixty stadia.

4 From the Greek γυναικοκρατουμενοὶ, "ruled over by women." It is not improbable that this name was given by some geographer to these Sarmatian tribes on finding them, at the period of his visit, in subjection to the rule of a queen. Parisot remarks, that this passage affords an instance of the little care bestowed by Pliny upon procuring the best and most correct information, for that the Roman writers had long repudiated the use of the term "Sauromatæ." He also takes Pliny to task for his allusion to these tribes as coupling with the Amazons, the existence of such a people being in his time generally disbelieved.


  1. Norman Davies (1997). Europe: A History. p. 8. ISBN 0-7126-6633-8.
  2. Strabo, Geographica
  3. History and study of the Jats/Chapter 2, p.31
  4. Diodorus of Sicily (published around 49 B.C.), translated by C.H. Oldfather, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1936, pp. 27-28 (Vol. II), pp. 377, 382-383 (Vol. VIII).
  5. Scythians, The Encyclopaedia Britannica, The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., Chicago, 1984, pp. 438-442.
  6. Bhim Singh Dahiya, Jats the Ancient Rulers, p. 255
  7. Geschite der Hunnen
  8. ibid
  9. Vol. II, p. 377
  10. The Anabasis of Alexander/3b, Ch,28
  11. The Anabasis of Alexander/3b, Ch,30
  12. The Anabasis of Alexander/4a, Ch,3
  13. The Anabasis of Alexander/4a, Ch.4
  14. Natural History by Pliny Book VI/Chapter 7

Back to Rivers