Variants of name
- Sarmatai (Greek)
- Sauromatai (Greek)
- Sarmatae (Latin)
- Σαρμάται, Σαυρομάται (Greek)
- Sarmătians (Arrian)
- Sauromatians (Arrian,Ch 1.3)
Map of the Roman empire under Hadrian (ruled 117–138 AD), showing the location of the Sarmatae in the Ukrainian steppe region
Sarmatae probably originated as just one of several tribal names of the Sarmatians, but one that Greco-Roman ethnography came to apply as an exonym to the entire group. Strabo in the 1st century names as the main tribes of the Sarmatians the Iazyges, the Roxolani, the Aorsi and the Siraces.
The Greek name Sarmatai sometimes appears as "Sauromatai", which is almost certainly no more than a variant of the same name. Nevertheless, historians often regarded these as two separate peoples, while archaeologists habitually use the term 'Sauromatian' to identify the earliest phase of Sarmatian culture. Any idea that the name derives from the word lizard (sauros), linking to the Sarmatians' use of reptile-like scale armour and dragon standards, is almost certainly unfounded.
Both Pliny the Elder (Natural History book iv) and Jordanes recognised the Sar- and Sauro- elements as interchangeable variants, referring to the same people. Greek authors of the 4th century (Pseudo-Scylax, Eudoxus of Cnidus) mention Syrmatae as the name of a people living at the Don, perhaps reflecting the ethnonym as it was pronounced in the final phase of Sarmatian culture.
English scholar Harold Walter Bailey (1899–1996) derived the base word from Avestan sar- (to move suddenly) from tsar- in Old Iranian (tsarati, tsaru-, hunter), which also gave its name to the western Avestan region of Sairima (*salm, – *Sairmi), and also connected it to the 10–11th century AD Persian epic Shahnameh's character "Salm".
Oleg Trubachyov derived the name from the Indo-Aryan *sar-ma(n)t (feminine – rich in women, ruled by women), the Indo-Aryan and Indo-Iranian word *sar- (woman) and the Indo-Iranian adjective suffix -ma(n)t/wa(n)t. By this derivation was noted the unusual high status of women (Matriarchy) from the Greek point of view and went to the invention of Amazons (thus the Greek name for Sarmatians as Sarmatai Gynaikokratoumenoi, ruled by women).
The Sarmatians were part of the Indo-Iranian steppe peoples, among whom were also Scythians and Saka. These are also grouped together as "East Iranians". Archaeology has established the connection 'between the Iranian-speaking Scythians, Sarmatians and Saka and the earlier Timber-grave and Andronovo cultures'. Based on building construction, these three peoples were the likely descendants of those earlier archaeological cultures. The Sarmatians and Saka used the same stone construction methods as the earlier Andronovo culture. The Timber-grave and Andronovo house building traditions were further developed by these three peoples. Andronovo pottery was continued by the Saka and Sarmatians. Archaeologists describe the Andronovo culture people as exhibiting pronounced Caucasoid features.
The first Sarmatians are mostly identified with the Prokhorovka culture, which moved from the southern Urals to the Lower Volga and then northern Pontic steppe, in the 4th–3rd centuries BC. During the migration, the Sarmatians seem to have grown and divided themselves into several groups, such as the Alans, Aorsi, Roxolani and Iazyges By 200 BC, the Sarmatians replaced the Scythians as the dominant people of the steppes. The Sarmatians and Scythians had fought on the Pontic steppe to the north of the Black Sea. The Sarmatians, described as a large confederation, were to dominate these territories over the next five centuries. According to Brzezinski and Mielczarek, the Sarmatians were formed between the Don River and the Ural Mountains.
The Sarmatians differed from the Scythians in their veneration of the god of fire rather than god of nature, and women's prominent role in warfare, which possibly served as the inspiration for the Amazons.
Originating in the central parts of the Eurasian Steppe, the Sarmatians started migrating westward around the 4th and 3rd centuries BC, coming to dominate the closely related Scythians by 200 BC. At their greatest reported extent, around 1st century AD, these tribes ranged from the Vistula River to the mouth of the Danube and eastward to the Volga, bordering the shores of the Black Sea and Caspian Sea as well as the Caucasus to the south. Their territory, which was known as Sarmatia to Greco-Roman ethnographers, corresponded to the western part of greater Scythia (it included todays Central Ukraine, South-Eastern Ukraine, Southern Russia, Russian Volga and South-Ural regions, also to a smaller extent north-eastern Balkans and around Moldova). In the 1st century AD, the Sarmatians began encroaching upon the Roman Empire in alliance with Germanic tribes. In the 3rd century AD, their dominance of the Pontic Steppe was broken by the Germanic Goths. With the Hunnic invasions of the 4th century, many Sarmatians joined the Goths and other Germanic tribes (Vandals) in the settlement of the Roman Empire. Large parts of todays Russia, actually the land between the Ural Mountains and the Don River, were controlled in the 5th century BC by the Sarmatians.
The Sarmatians were eventually decisively assimilated (e.g. Slavicisation) and absorbed by the Proto-Slavic population of Eastern Europe.
Herodotus (Histories 4.21) in the 5th century BC placed the land of the Sarmatians east of the Tanais, beginning at the corner of the Maeotian Lake, stretching northwards for fifteen days' journey, adjacent to the forested land of the Budinoi.
Herodotus (4.110–117) recounts that the Sauromatians arose from marriages of a group of Amazons and young Scythian men. In the story, some Amazons were captured in battle by Greeks in Pontus (northern Turkey) near the river Thermodon, and the captives were loaded into three boats. They overcame their captors while at sea, but were not able sailors. Their ships were blown north to the Maeotian Lake (the Sea of Azov) onto the shore of Scythia near the cliff region (today's southeastern Crimea). After encountering the Scythians and learning the Scythian language, they agreed to marry Scythian men, but only on the condition that they move away and not be required to follow the customs of Scythian women. According to Herodotus, the descendants of this band settled toward the northeast beyond the Tanais (Don) river and became the Sauromatians. Herodotus' account explains the origins of their language as an "impure" form of Scythian. He credits the unusual social freedoms of Sauromatae women, including participation in warfare, as an inheritance from their Amazon ancestors. Later writers refer to the "woman-ruled Sarmatae" (γυναικοκρατούμενοι).
Strabo mentions the Sarmatians in a number of places, but never says much about them. He uses both the terms of Sarmatai and Sauromatai, but never together, and never suggesting that they are different peoples. He often pairs Sarmatians and Scythians in reference to a series of ethnic names, never stating which is which, as though Sarmatian or Scythian could apply equally to them all.
Strabo wrote that the Sarmatians extend from above the Danube eastward to the Volga, and from north of the Dnieper River into the Caucasus, where, he says, they are called Caucasii like everyone else there. This statement indicates that the Alans already had a home in the Caucasus, without waiting for the Huns to push them there.
Even more significantly, he points to a Celtic admixture in the region of the Basternae, who, he said, were of Germanic origin. The Celtic Boii, Scordisci and Taurisci are there. A fourth ethnic element interacting and intermarrying are the Thracians (7.3.2). Moreover, the peoples toward the north are Keltoskythai, "Celtic Scythians" (11.6.2).
Strabo portrays the peoples of the region as being nomadic, or Hamaksoikoi, "wagon-dwellers", and Galaktophagoi, "milk-eaters". This latter likely referred to the universal koumiss eaten in historical times. The wagons were used for transporting tents made of felt, a type of the yurts used universally by Asian nomads.
Pliny the Elder writes (4.12.79–81):.... From this point (the mouth of the Danube) all the races in general are Scythian, though various sections have occupied the lands adjacent to the coast, in one place the Getae ... at another the Sarmatae ... Agrippa describes the whole of this area from the Danube to the sea ... as far as the river Vistula in the direction of the Sarmatian desert ... The name of the Scythians has spread in every direction, as far as the Sarmatae and the Germans, but this old designation has not continued for any except the most outlying sections ...
According to Pliny, Scythian rule once extended as far as Germany. Jordanes supports this hypothesis by telling us on the one hand that he was familiar with the Geography of Ptolemy, which includes the entire Balto-Slavic territory in Sarmatia, and on the other that this same region was Scythia. By "Sarmatia", Jordanes means only the Aryan territory. The Sarmatians were, therefore, a sub-group of the broader Scythian peoples.
Prof. B.S. DhillonJats 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.)  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  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.".
In a study conducted in 2014 by Gennady Afanasiev et al. on bone fragments from ten Alanic burials on the Don River, DNA was extracted from seven.
In 2015, the Institute of Archaeology in Moscow conducted research on various Sarmato-Alan and Saltovo-Mayaki culture Kurgan burials. In these analyses, the two Alan samples from the 4th to 6th century AD turned out to belong to yDNA haplogroups G2a-P15 and R1a-z94, while two of the three Sarmatian samples from the 2nd to 3rd century AD were found to belong to yDNA haplogroup J1-M267 while one belonged to R1a. Three Saltovo-Mayaki samples from the 8th to 9th century AD turned out to have yDNA corresponding to haplogroups G, J2a-M410 and R1a-z94.
Arrian writes....On the third day after the battle, Alexander reached the river Ister, which is the largest of all the rivers in Europe, traverses a very great tract of country, and separates very warlike nations. Most of these belong to the Celtic race, in whose territory the sources of the river take their rise. Of these nations the remotest are the Quadi and Marcomanni; then the lazygianns, a branch of the Sauromatians; then the Getae, who hold the doctrine of immortality; then the main body of the Sauromatians; and, lastly, the Scythians, whose land stretches as far as the outlets of the river, where through five mouths it discharges its water into the Euxine Sea. Here Alexander found some ships of war which had come to him from Byzantium, through the Euxine Sea and up the river. Filling these with archers and heavy-armed troops, he sailed to the island to which the Triballians and Thracians had fled for refuge. He tried to force a landing; but the barbarians came to meet him at the brink of the river, where the ships were making the assault. But these were only few in number, and the army in them small. The shores of the island, also, were in most places too steep and precipitous for landing, and the current of the river alongside it, being, as it were, shut up into a narrow channel by the nearness of the banks, was rapid and exceedingly difficult to stem.
Alexander therefore led back his ships, and determined to cross the Ister and march against the Getae, who dwelt on the other side of that river; for he observed that many of them had collected on the bank of the river for the purpose of barring his way, if he should cross. There were of them about 4,000 cavalry and more than 10,000 infantry. At the same time a strong desire seized him to advance beyond the Ister. He therefore went on board the fleet himself. He also filled with hay the hides which served them as tent-coverings, and collected from the country around all the boats made from single trunks of trees. Of these there was a great abundance, because the people who dwell near the Ister use them for fishing in the river, sometimes also for journeying to each other for traffic up the river; and most of them carry on piracy with them. Having collected as many of these as he could, upon them he conveyed across as many of his soldiers as was possible in such a fashion. Those who crossed with Alexander amounted in number to 1,500 cavalry and 4,000 infantry.
1. The classical writers have three names to denote this race:— Celts, Galatians, and Gauls. These names were originally, given to all the people of the North and West of Europe; and it was not till Caesar's time that the Romans made any distinction between Celts and Germans. The name of Celts was then confined to the people north of the Pyrenees and west of the Rhine. Cf. Ammianus (xv. 9); Herodotus (iv. 49); Livy (v. 33, 34); Polybius (iii. 39).
2. Arrian is here speaking, not of Alexander's time, but of his own, the second century of the Christian era. The Quadi were a race dwelling in the south-east of Germany. They are generally mentioned with the Marcomanni, and were formidable enemies of the Romans, especially in the reign of Marcus Aurelius, when Arrian wrote. This nation disappears from history about the end of the fourth century.
3. The Marcomanni, like the Quadi, were a powerful branch of the Suevic race, originally dwelling in the south-wesb of Germany; but in the reign of Tiberius they dispossessed the Boii of the country now called Bohemia. In conjunction with the Quadi, they were very formidable to the Romans until Commodus purchased peace from them. The name denotes "border men." Cf. Caesar (Bel. Gal., i. 51).
4. The lazygians were a tribe of Sarmatians, who migrated from the coast of the Black Sea, between the Dnieper and the Sea of Azov, in the reign of Claudius, and settled in Dacia, near the Quadi, with whom they formed a close alliance. They were conquered by the Goths in the fifth century. Cf. Ovid (Tristia, ii. 191).
5. Called also Sarmatians. Herodotus (iv. 21) says that these people lived east of the Don, and were allied to the Scythians. Subsequent writers understood by Sarmatia the east part of Poland, the south of Russia, and the country southward as far as the Danube.
6. These people were called Dacians by the Romans. They were Thracians, and are said by Herodotus and Thucydides to have lived south of the Danube, near its mouths. They subsequently migrated north of this river, and were driven further west by the Sarmatians. They were very formidable to the Romans in the reigns of Augustus and Domitian. Dacia was conquered by Trajan ; but ultimately abandoned by Aurelian, who made the Danube the boundary of the Roman Empire. About the Getae holding the doctrine of immortality, see Herodotus (iv. 94). Cf. Horace (Carm., iii. 6, 13; Sat., ii. 6, 53).
7. The Scythians are said by Herodotus to have inhabited the south of Russia. His supposition that they came from Asia is doubtless correct. He gives ample information about this race in the fourth book of his History.
8. Herodotus (iv. 47) says the Danube had five mouths; but Strabo (vii. 3) says there were seven. At the present time it has only three mouths. The Greeks called the Black Sea πόντος εύξεινος, the sea kind to strangers. Cf. Ovid (Tristia, iv. 4, 55):—"Frigida me cohibent Euxini litora Ponti, Dictus ab antiquis Axenus ille fuit."
- Brzezinski, Richard; Mielczarek, Mariusz (2002). The Sarmatians 600 BC–AD 450. Men-At-Arms (373). Bloomsbury USA; Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84176-485-6.p. 6.
- Bailey, Harold Walter (1985). Khotanese Text. Cambridge University Press. p. 65.
- Gluhak, Alemko (1990), Podrijetlo imena Hrvat [The origin of the ethnonym Hrvat] (in Croatian), Zagreb: Jezik (Croatian Philological Society), pp. 131–133
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- Kuzmina, Elena Efimovna (2007). The Origin of the Indo-Iranians. BRILL. ISBN 90-04-16054-X. p.50.
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- Kuzmina, Elena Efimovna (2007). The Origin of the Indo-Iranians. BRILL. ISBN 90-04-16054-X. p.78.
- Keyser, Christine; Bouakaze, Caroline; Crubézy, Eric; Nikolaev, Valery G.; Montagnon, Daniel; Reis, Tatiana; Ludes, Bertrand (May 16, 2009). "Ancient DNA provides new insights into the history of south Siberian Kurgan people". Human Genetics. Springer-Verlag. 126: 395–410. doi:10.1007/s00439-009-0683-0. PMID 19449030.
- Barry W. Cunliffe (2001). The Oxford Illustrated History of Prehistoric Europe. Oxford University Press. pp. 402–. ISBN 978-0-19-285441-4.
- Grousset, Rene (1970). The Empire of the Steppes. Rutgers University Press. p. 15. ISBN 0-8135-1304-9.
- Sinor, Denis, ed. (1990). The Cambridge History of Early Inner Asia. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-24304-9. p.113.
- Brzezinski, Richard; Mielczarek, Mariusz (2002). The Sarmatians 600 BC–AD 450. Men-At-Arms (373). Bloomsbury USA; Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84176-485-6.
- Britannica "Sarmatian "
- Periplus of Pseudo-Scylax, 70; cf. Geographi Graeci minores: Volume 1, p.58
- Strabo's Geography, books V, VII, XI
- J. Harmatta, Studies in the History and Language of the Sarmatians, 1970, ch.1.2
- History and study of the Jats/Chapter 2, p.31
- 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).
- Scythians, The Encyclopaedia Britannica, The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., Chicago, 1984, pp. 438-442.
- Афанасьев Г.Е., Добровольская М.В., Коробов Д.С., Решетова И.К. О культурной, антропологической и генетической специфике донских алан // Е.И. Крупнов и развитие археологии Северного Кавказа. М. 2014. С. 312-315. | Gennady Afanasiev and Irina Reshetova - Academia.edu
- дДНК Сарматы, Аланы Google Maps
- Г.Е., Вень Ш., Тун С., Ван Л., Вэй Л., Добровольская М.В., Коробов Д.С., Решетова И.К., Ли Х.. Хазарские конфедераты в бассейне Дона // Естественнонаучные методы исследования и парадигма современной археологии. М. 2015. С.146-153. | Irina Reshetova and Gennady Afanasiev - Academia.edu
- The Anabasis of Alexander/1a, Ch.3