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The Iazyges were an ancient Sarmatian nomadic tribe who had swept westward from Central Asia onto the steppes of what is now Ukraine in c. 200 BC and then, in the 1st century BC, further into Hungary and Serbia, settling in Dacia. They were constantly at war with the Romans until their assimilation in the 4th century.
The Iazyges are mentioned by the geographer Claudius Ptolemy in his Geography as the "Wandering Iazyges" (Ἰάζυγες Μετανασται, Iázyges Metanastai). Their name was variously latinized as Iazyges Metanastae and as Jaxamatae, whence the English variant name Jazyges. They are also referenced as Sarmatians.
1st century BC
The Iazyges first make their appearance in the historical record on the northern shores of the Lake of Maeotis (as the Ancient Greeks and Romans knew the Sea of Azov, in modern south-east Ukraine). From there, the Iazyges moved west along the shores of the Black Sea (into modern Moldova and southwest Ukraine.
In the early 1st Century BC, they were allies of Mithradates VI Eupator, king of Pontus (modern north-west Turkey), in his wars against the Romans (c. 88–84 BC). And in 78–76 BC, the Romans sent a punitive expedition over the Danube, in an attempt to discourage Iazyges incursions. The prime enemy of Rome along the lower Danube at this time were the Dacians.
In 7 BC, when the Dacian kingdom built up by Burebista began to collapse, the Romans took advantage and encouraged the Iazyges to settle in the Pannonian Basin, between the Danube and the Tisa rivers (modern south central Hungary).
They were divided into freemen and serfs (Sarmatae Limigantes). These serfs had a different manner of life and were probably an older settled population, enslaved by nomadic masters. They rose against them in AD 34, but were repressed with Roman assistance.
The Romans wanted to finish off Dacia, but the Iazyges refused to cooperate. The Iazyges remained nomads, herding their cattle across what is now southern Romania every summer to water them along the Black Sea; a Roman conquest of Dacia would cut that route. The Roman emperor Domitian became so concerned with the Iazyges that he interrupted a campaign against Dacia to harass them and the Suebi, a Germanic tribe also dwelling along the Danube.
In early 92, the Iazyges, in alliance with the Sarmatians proper and the Germanic Quadi, crossed the Danube into the Roman province of Pannonia (modern Croatia, northern Serbia, and western Hungary). In May, the Iazyges shattered the Roman 21st Legion, soon afterwards disbanded in disgrace. The fighting continued until Domitian's death in 96.
In 101–105, Trajan finally conquered the Dacians, reducing their lands to a Roman province. In 107, Trajan sent his general Hadrian to force the Iazyges to submit. Trajan also officially allowed the Iazyges to settle there as confederates. In 117, Trajan died, and was succeeded as emperor by Hadrian, who moved to consolidate and protect his predecessor's gains. While the Romans kept Dacia, the Iazyges stayed independent, accepting a client relationship with Rome, following the Roman political doctrine of putting buffer states between them and potential threats such as the Dacians.
As long as Rome remained powerful, the situation could be maintained, but in the late second century, the Empire was becoming increasingly overstretched. In the summer of 166, while the Romans were tied down in a war with Parthia, the peoples north of the Danube, the Marcomanni, the Naristi, the Vandals, the Hermanduri, the Lombards and the Quadi, all swept south over the Danube to invade and plunder the exposed Roman provinces. The Iazyges joined in and killed Calpurnius Proculus, the Roman governor of Dacia. To counter them, the 5th Macedonian Legion, a veteran of the Parthian campaign, was moved from Moesia Inferior to Dacia Superior, nearer the enemy. The Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius spent the rest of his life trying to restore the situation (see the Marcomannic Wars). In the autumn of 169, Marcus set out from Rome, together with his son-in-law and closest aide Claudius Pompeianus. The Romans had gathered their forces and intended to subdue the independent tribes (especially the Iazyges), who lived between the Danube and the Roman province of Dacia. In 170, the Iazyges defeated and killed Marcus Claudius Fronto, Roman governor of Lower Moesia. Operating from Sirmium (today Sremska Mitrovica, Vojvodina, Serbia) on the Sava river, Marcus Aurelius focused attention on the Iazyges living in the plain of the river Tisza (Expeditio Sarmatica). After hard fighting, and few victories, the Iazyges were pressed to their limits.
The Iazyges came to an agreement after experiencing downfall, and all foremost men came in the company of King Zanticus before Aurelius to accept peace. The Iazyges had earlier imprisoned their second king Banadaspus for making proposals to Aurelius. At the same time, Aurelius's former friend Avidius Cassius had led a revolt in the East, which greatly upset Aurelius and forced him to come to terms with the Iazyges, contrary to his wishes. The treaty yielded the Romans some 100,000 Roman captives, which showed the strength that the Iazyges still had and what great harm they were capable of. The treaty was the same as those of the Quadi and Marcomanni, except that the Iazyges were required to live twice as far from the Danube as those two tribes (Aurelius wanted to uproot them). Another stipulation of the treaty was that the Iazyges were allowed to venture through Roman land to trade with the Roxolani, as long as they had permission from the governor of the province. Another few terms were that the Iazyges were not to settle within 10 Roman miles (9.2 modern miles) of the Danube, or on the islands of the Danube, or to own boats; however, these terms were lifted in 179. At once, the Iazyges provided the Romans with 8,000 cavalry to serve in the Roman army as auxiliaries; 5,500 of these were shipped off to serve in the Roman army in Britain, where some chose to remain after their service, settling down by the River Ribble in Lancashire, where a grave stela depicting a Sarmatian warrior has been found.  Marcus's victory was decisive in that the Iazyges did not again appear as a major threat to Rome.
Around 230, the Asding Vandals pushed in to the north of the Iazyges. The Vandals, and new Germanic tribal coalitions like the Alamanni and the Franks now became the Romans' primary security concerns. But as late as 371, the Romans saw fit to build a fortified trading center, Commercium, to control the trade with the Iazyges.
In order to defend the Iazyges from outside tribes such as the Gepids and the Goths, Constantine the Great erected the Limes Sarmatiae, which joined with the previous wall that had been built against the Iazyges, and separated the Iazyges from the Quadi.
Aftermath and legacy
In Late Antiquity, records become much more diffuse, and the Iazyges generally cease to be mentioned as a tribe. In the 4th century, two Sarmatian peoples were mentioned, the Argaragantes and the Limigantes, who lived on opposite sides of the Tisza river.
List Of Kings
- Banadaspus ?-174
- Zanticus 174-?
- Beuca/Beukan ?-?
- Babay/Babai ?-?
- Dio, p. 126
- Dio, p. 127
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