The Iazyges (IPA: [aɪə'zɪɡiːz]; Ancient Greek: Ἰάζυγες, singular Ἰάζυξ) were an ancient Sarmatian tribe who travelled westward from Central Asia onto the steppes of what is now Ukraine in c. 200 BC. Later on, in c. 44 BC, they moved further into Hungary and Serbia, settling near Dacia, in the steppe between the Danube and Tisza rivers. Although originally migratory, they became semi-sedentary after settling in the steppe between the Danube and the Tisza rivers.
In the Iazyges' early relationship with Rome, they were used as a buffer state, being between the Romans and the Dacians. Later on this would develop into an overlord and client-state relationship, with the Iazyges being nominally sovereign subjects of Rome. Throughout this relationship, the Iazyges still continued their raids Roman land, which often caused punitive expeditions to be made against them.
- 1 Culture
- 2 History
- 3 Geography
- 4 Religion
- 5 List of princes
- 6 References
- 7 Further reading
Although originally nomads, after the Iazyges had migrated to the Tisza plain they became semi-sedentary, and lived in towns. They would migrate between their towns in order to feed their cattle. Eight of their towns are recorded: Uscenum, Bormanum, Abinta, Trissum, Parca, Candanum, Pessium, and Partiscum. They also had a settlement on Gellért Hill. Their capital was at Partiscum, the site of which is roughly around the location of the city of Kecskemét in modern day Hungary. Their language was a dialect of Old Iranian, and was very different from most of the other Sarmatian dialects of Old Iranian. When an Iazyx became too old to fight in battle, they were killed by their sons. The Iazyges used horse-tails in their religious rituals.
The graves made by the Iazyges were flat, and were grouped like a modern cemetery. During the time after the Iazyges migrated to the Tisza plain, and were in serious poverty. This is reflected in the poor furnishings of the burial sites, often filled with clay vessels, beads, and sometimes brooches. Very rarely would there be iron daggers in the burial site, and even more rarely would there be iron swords. Their brooches and arm-rings were of the La Tène type, showing a distinct influence on the Iazyges by the Dacians.
The Iazyges used hanging barrel-shaped pots that were asymmetrical, and had uneven weight distribution. The rope to hang the pot was wrapped around the edges of the side collar, it is believed that the rope was tied tightly to the pot, allowing the pot to spin in circles, due to the spinning motion, several theories have been made of the use of the pots. It is believed that the smaller hanging pots were used to ferment alcohol, by use of the seeds of touch-me-not balsam (Impatiens noli-tangere), and the larger hanging pots were used to churn butter and make cheese. They were cattle breeders, and as such required salt in order to preserve their meat, however, the Iazyges had no salt mines within their land.
The Iazyges wore heavy armor, such as Sugarloaf helms,[b] and scale armor (made of iron, bronze, horn or horse hoof). They used long two-handed lances called Contus, which they wielded from horses, whom they barded.[c] Their military was exclusively made up of cavalry.
In the 3rd century BC the Iazyges lived along the northern shores of the Sea of Azov – which the Ancient Greeks and Romans knew as the Lake of Maeotis – in modern south-east Ukraine. From there, the Iazyges, or at least part of them, moved west along the shores of the Black Sea into modern Moldova and southwest Ukraine.
It is possible that the Iazyges did not move west in their entirety, and that some of them stayed along the Sea of Azov, which would explain the occasional surname of Metanastae, however if this is true, the Iazyges that remained along the Sea of Azov are never mentioned again.
In the 2nd century BC, the Iazyges began to migrate west to the steppe near the Lower Dniester. One possible explanation of this was that the Roxolani, who were the Iazyges' eastern neighbors, were also migrating west, due to pressure from the Aorsi, which put pressure on the Iazyges and forced them to migrate west as well.
From 78 to 76 BC, the Romans led an expedition to an area north of the Danube, then the Iazyges' territory, because the Iazyges had allied with Mithridates VI of Pontus, with whom the Romans were at war. In 44 BC King Burebista of Dacia died, and his kingdom began to collapse. After this, the Iazyges began to take possession of the Pannonian Basin, the land between the Danube and Tisa rivers (modern south-central Hungary). Historians have posited that this was done at the behest of the Romans, who sought to form a buffer state between their provinces and the Dacians. The Iazyges encountered the Basternae and Getae along their migration path sometime around 20 AD, and turned southward, following the coast of the Black Sea until they settled in the Danube Delta.
The effects of this migration have been observed in the ruins of burial sites left behind by the Iazyges, in that they lacked the standard items of gold being buried alongside a person, and even lacked the gear of a warrior. One explanation for this was that the Iazyges were no longer in contact with the Pontic Steppe, and thus cut off from all trade with them, which had previously been a vital part of their economy. Another problem the Iazyges had with their new location was that it lacked both precious minerals and metals, such as iron, that could be turned into weapons. The Iazyges found that it was much harder to raid the Romans, due to them having organized armies around the area, as opposed to the disorganization of the armies of their previous neighbors. Due to their trade with the Pontic Steppe being cut off, they could no longer trade for gold for burial sites, assuming any of them could afford it. The only such goods they could find were the pottery and metals of the Dacian and Celtic peoples near them. Iron weapons would have been exceedingly rare, if the Iazyges even had them, and would likely have been passed down from father to son, rather than buried, because it could have been replaced.
The Iazyges became one of the many new client-tribes of Rome during the reign of Tiberius. Roman client states were treated according to the Roman tradition of patronship, exchanging rewards for service. However, during this time, the Iazyges still conducted raids across their border with Rome, such as they did in 6 AD and again in 16 AD. In 20 AD the Iazyges moved west along the Carpathians into the Pannonian Steppe, and settled in the steppes between the Danube and the Tisza river, taking absolute control of it from the Dacians. In 50 AD, an Iazyges cavalry detachment fought alongside the Suevian King Vannius, a Roman client king of the Quadi.
In the Year of Four Emperors, 69 AD, the Iazyges gave their support to Vespasian, who went on to become the sole emperor of Rome. The Iazyges also offered to guard the Roman border with the Dacians, in order to free up troops for Vespasian's invasion of Italy; however, Vespasian refused, fearing that they would attempt a takeover or defect. Vespasian did require the chiefs of the Iazyges to serve in his army, so that they could not organize an attack on the undefended area around the Danube. Vespasian enjoyed support from the majority of the Germanic and Dacian tribes. However, in 89 AD, Domitian invaded the Iazyges, along with the Quadi and Marcomanni. Few details are known of this war, but it is recorded that the Romans were defeated.
In early 92 AD the Iazyges, Roxolani, Dacians, and Suebi invaded the Roman province of Pannonia (modern Croatia, northern Serbia, and western Hungary). Emperor Domitian called upon the Quadi and the Marcomanni, to supply troops in the war. Both client-tribes refused to supply troops, so Rome declared war upon them as well. In May 92 AD, the Iazyges annihilated the Roman Legio XXI Rapax in battle. Domitian's campaign was overall unsuccessful; however, the Romans winning in a minor skirmish allowed him to claim it as a victory, even though he ended up paying the King of Dacia, Decebalus, an annual tribute of eight million sesterces in tribute to end the war. Domitian returned to Rome, and received an ovation, but not a full triumph. Considering that Domitian had been given the title of Imperator for military victories 22 times, this was markedly restrained, suggesting that the populace, or at least the senate, was aware of the fact that it had been a less than successful war, despite Domitian's claims otherwise.
During the Flavian dynasty, the princes of the Iazyges were trained in the Roman army, officially as an honor, but in reality serving as a hostage, because the kings held absolute power over the Iazyges. There were offers from the princes of the Iazyges to supply troops, but these were denied based on the fear that they might revolt or desert in a war.
An alliance between the Iazyges and the Dacians led the Romans to focus more on the Danube than the Rhine. This is reflected by the placement of the Roman legions; During the time of Augustus's rule, there were eight legions stationed along the Rhine, four stationed in Mainz and another four in Cologne. Within a hundred years of Augustus' rule, however, Roman military resources had become centred along the Danube instead of the Rhine, with nine legions stationed along the Danube and only one at the Rhine. However, by the time of Marcus Aurelius, twelve legions were stationed along the Danube. The Romans also built a series of forts along the entire coast of the right Danube – from Germany all the way to the Black Sea and in the provinces of Rhaetia, Noricum, and Pannonia the legions constructed bridge-head forts. Later, this system was expanded to the lower Danube, with the key castra of Poetovio, Brigetio, and Carnuntum. The Classis Pannonica and Classis Flavia Moesica were deployed to the right and lower Danube, respectively; however, they had to overcome the mass of whirlpools and cataracts of the Iron Gates.
First Dacian War
Trajan, with the assistance of the Iazyges, led his legions[d] into Dacia against King Decebalus, in the year 101. In order to cross the Danube with such a large army, Apollodorus of Damascus, the Romans' chief architect, created a bridge through the Iron Gates by cantilevering it from the sheer face of the Iron Gates. From this he created a great bridge with sixty piers that spanned the Danube. Trajan used this to strike deep within Dacia, forcing the king, Decebalus, to surrender and become a client king.
Second Dacian War
But as soon as Trajan returned to Rome, Decebalus began to lead raids into Roman territory, and also attacked the Iazyges, who were still a client-tribe of Rome. Trajan concluded that he had made a mistake in allowing Decebalus to remain so powerful. In 106 AD, Trajan once more invaded Dacia, with 11 legions, and, again with the assistance of the Iazyges, who were the only barbarian tribe that aided the Romans in this war,[e] rapidly pushed into Dacia. Decebalus chose to commit suicide rather than be captured, knowing that, if he were, he would be paraded in a triumph before being executed. In 113 AD Trajan annexed Dacia as a new Roman province, the first Roman province to the east of the Danube; However, Trajan did not incorporate the steppe between the Tisza river and the Transylvanian mountains into the province of Dacia, but left it for the Iazyges. Back in Rome, Trajan was given a triumph lasting 123 days, with lavish gladiatorial games, and chariot races. The wealth coming from the gold mines of Dacia funded these lavish public events, and also the construction of a column, designed and constructed by Apollodorus of Damascus, that was 100 feet (30 m) tall with 23 spiral bands filled with 2,500 figures, giving a full depiction of the Dacian war. While ancient sources say 500,000 slaves were taken in the war, moderns sources believe that it was probably closer to 100,000 slaves.
After the Dacian Wars
Ownership of the region of Oltenia became a source of dispute between the Iazyges and the Roman empire. The Iazyges had originally occupied the area before the Dacians seized it; it was later taken again by Trajan, who was determined to constitute Dacia as a province. The dispute was resolved with a peace treaty after Hadrian invaded the Iazyges. The exact terms of the settlement are not known, but it is believed that the Romans kept Oltenia in exchange for some form of concession, likely a one-time tribute payment. The Iazyges also took possession of Banat around this time, suggesting it may have been part of the treaty.
The Iazyges and the Roxolani invaded Lower Pannonia and Lower Moesia, respectively, in 117. The war was probably brought on by difficulties in visiting and trading with each other due to the location of Dacia between them. The Dacian provincial governor, Gaius Julius Quadratus Bassus, was killed in the invasion. The Roxolani surrendered first, so it is likely that the Romans exiled and then replaced their client king with one of their choosing. The Iazyges then concluded peace with Rome. The Iazyges and other Sarmatians invaded Roman Dacia in 123, likely for the same reason as the previous war of not being allowed to visit and trade with each other, Marcius Turbo stationed a thousand legionaries in Potaissa and Porolissum. The Romans probably used these towns as the invasion point into Rivulus Dominarum. Marcius Turbo succeeded in defeating the Iazyges; however, the terms of the peace, and the date, are not known.
The Iazyges, Quadi, and Marcomanni once again invaded Roman territory in 169. The Iazyges led an invasion into Alburnum, in an attempt to seize its gold mines. Marcus Claudius Fronto, a former general during the Parthian wars, then the governor of both Dacia and Upper Moesia, held them back for some time but was killed in battle in 170. The Quadi were the first to surrender, in 172. The known terms of the peace are that Marcus Aurelius installed a client king, Furtius, on their throne, and the Quadi were denied access to the Roman markets along the limes. The Marcomanni accepted a similar peace, but the name of their client-king is not known.
In 173, the Quadi rebelled and overthrew Furtius, who was their client-king appointed to them by Rome, and replaced him with Ariogaesus, who wanted to enter into negotiations with Marcus. As the success of the Marcomannic wars was in no danger, Marcus refused to negotiate. At that point only the Iazyges had not yet been defeated by Rome. Judging from the lack of action on Marcus Aurelius' part, it appears he was unconcerned, but when the Iazyges attacked across the frozen Danube in late 173 and early 174, Marcus redirected his attention to them. Trade restrictions on the Marcomanni were also partially lifted at that time – they were allowed to visit the Roman markets at certain times of certain days. In an attempt to force Marcus to negotiate, Ariogaesus began to support the Iazyges. Marcus Aurelius put out a bounty on him, offering 1,000 aurei for his capture and delivery to Rome, or 500 aurei for his severed head.[g] After this, Ariogaesus was captured by the Romans, but rather than executing him, Marcus Aurelius sent him into exile.
In the winter of 173, the Iazyges launched a raid across the frozen Danube, but the Romans were ready for pursuit and followed them back to the Danube. The Iazyges prepared an ambush, planning to attack and scatter them as they tried to cross the frozen Danube, knowing that the Roman legionaries were not trained to fight on ice, and that their own horses had been trained to fight on ice without slipping. However the Roman army formed a solid square and dug into the ice with their shields, so that they would not slip. When the Iazyges could not break the Roman lines, the Romans counterattacked, pulling the Iazyges off of their horses by grabbing on to their spears, clothing and shields. Soon both armies were in disarray after having slipped on the ice, and the battle was reduced to many brawls between the two sides, literally tooth and nail battles, which the Romans won. After this battle the Iazyges, and presumably the Sarmatians in general, were declared the primary enemy of Rome.
The Iazyges surrendered to the Romans in March or early April of 175. Their prince, Banadaspus, had attempted peace in early 174; however, the offer was refused, and Banadaspus was deposed by the Iazyges and replaced by Zanticus.[h] The terms of the peace treaty were harsh: the Iazyges were required to provide 8,000 men as auxiliaries and release 100,000 Romans they had taken hostage, and forbidden from living within ten Roman miles (roughly 9 miles or 15 km) of the Danube. Marcus had intended to give even harsher terms – it is said by Cassius Dio that he wanted to entirely exterminate the Iazyges, – but was distracted by the rebellion of Avidius Cassius. Of the 8,000 auxiliaries, 5,500 of them were sent to Britannia, suggesting that the situation there was serious; it is likely that the British tribes, seeing the Romans being preoccupied with war in Germania and Dacia, had decided to rebel. All of the evidence suggests that the Iazyges' horsemen were an impressive success. The 5,500 sent to Britain were not allowed to return home, even after their 20-year term of service had ended. After Marcus Aurelius had beaten the Iazyges, he took the title of Sarmaticus, in accordance with the Roman practice of victory titles.
In 177, the Iazyges, the Buri, and other Germanic tribes[i] invaded Roman territory again. It is said that in 178, Marcus Aurelius took the bloody spear from the Temple of Bellona, and hurled it into the land of the Iazyges. In 179 the Iazyges and the Buri were defeated, and the Iazyges accepted peace with Rome. The peace treaty added to restrictions placed on the Iazyges, but also included some concessions. It stated that they could not settle on any of the islands of the Danube, and could not keep boats on the Danube; however, they were given the concession that they could visit and trade with the Roxolani throughout the Dacian Province with the knowledge and approval of its governor, and that they could trade in the Roman markets at certain times on certain days. Because of the new concession allowing them to trade with the Roxolani they could, for the first time in several centuries, trade indirectly with the Pontic Steppe and the Black Sea. As part of a treaty made in 183, Commodus forbade the Quadi and the Marcomanni from waging war against the Iazyges, the Buri, or the Vandals, suggesting that at this time all three of them were loyal client tribes of Rome. However this didn't last long, as in 236 the Iazyges invaded Rome, but were defeated by Emperor Maximinus Thrax, who took the title Sarmaticus Maximus following his victory. The Iazyges and the Quadi soon both raided Pannonia, in 248, and again in 254. Later on, in 260, the Goths took the cities of Tyras and Olbia from the Iazyges causing the Iazyges' trade with the Pontic Steppe and Black Sea to be cut off yet again. In the period from 282 to 283, Emperor Carus lead a successful campaign against the Iazyges. In 358 it is recorded that the Iazyges were at war with Rome. Later on, in 375, Emperor Valentinian had a stroke in Brigetio, while meeting with envoys from the Iazyges.[j]
Late history and legacy
In late antiquity, historic accounts become much more diffuse, and the Iazyges generally cease to be mentioned as a tribe. In the late 4th century, two Sarmatian peoples were mentioned, the Argaragantes and the Limigantes, who lived on opposite sides of the Tisza river. One theory is that these two tribes were formed when the Iazyges were conquered by the Roxolani, with the Iazyges becoming the Limigantes, and the Roxolani becoming the Argaragantes. Another theory is that a group of Slavic tribesmen gradually migrated into the area, subservient to the Iazyges, and the Iazyges became known as the Argaragantes, and the Slavs were the Limigantes. Regardless of which is true, in the 5th century they were conquered by the Goths, and, by the time of Attila, they were absorbed into the Huns.
The area of plains between the Danube and Tisza rivers that was controlled by the Iazyges was similar in size to Italy, and about 1,000 mi (1,600 km) long. The terrain was largely swampland, dotted with a few small hills, that was devoid of any minable metals or minerals. This lack of resources, on top of the problems the Romans would face trying to defend it, may explain why the Romans never annexed it into a province, but left it as a client-kingdom.
One of the Iazygian towns, Bormanon, is believed to have had hot springs, because cities or town names starting with "Borm" were common among European tribes to denote that the location had hot springs. Hot springs held religious importance for many Celtic tribes; However, it is not known if the religious significance of the hot springs passed on to the Iazyges with the concept itself.
List of princes
- Gesander ? – ?
- Banadaspus: ? – 174 AD
- Zanticus: 174 AD–?
- Benga and Babaï: co-rulers in 470–471 AD
- They were also rarely called the Iazyigs, Iazygians, Iasians, or Yazigs. Several corruptions of their names existed such as Jazamatae, Latiges, and Cizyges.
- Sugarloaf helms are a type of conical great helm.
- Barding is giving armour to a horse in order to protect it.
- Presumably around nine of them, because during this period nine legions were permanently stationed around the Danube.
- It was said by some Roman leaders, such as Quadratus, that it was crucial to the Romans that the Iazyges not join in on the Dacian side.
- Cichorius identified them as Iazyges, however Frere and Lepper have identified them as Roxolani.
- The most likely reason that Marcus Aurelius offered more for him alive than dead is that he planned to parade him in a triumph, which was the standard Roman treatment of captured leaders.
- Cassius Dio claims that it was Marcus Aurelius that imprisoned Banadaspus, not the Iazyges.
- The only Germanic tribe that is named is the Buri, but there were more.
- Some sources say that the meeting was with the Quadi, and not the Iazyges.
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