Iazyges

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The Iazyges (Jazyges is an orthographic variant) were a nomadic tribe. Known also as Jaxamatae, Ixibatai, Iazygite, Jászok, Ászi. They were a branch of the Sarmatian people who, c. 200 BC, swept westward from central Asia onto the steppes of what is now Ukraine.[1] Little is known about their language, but it was one of the Iranian languages.

Contents

Antiquity

The Iazyges first make their appearance along the Sea of Azov, known to the Ancient Greeks and Romans as the Maeotis. For this reason they are referred to by the geographer Ptolemy as the Iazyges Metanastae. From there, the Jazyges moved west along the shores of the Black Sea to what is now Moldova and the southwestern Ukraine.

They served as allies of Mithradates VI Eupator, king of Pontus (in what is now North-Western Turkey), in his wars against the Romans (c. 88-84 BC). In 78-76 BC, the Romans sent a punitive expedition over the Danube in an attempt to overawe the Jazyges.

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 Jazyges to settle in the Pannonian plain, between the Danube and the Tisza (Theiss) Rivers.

Roman times

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 34 AD, but were repressed by foreign aid.

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 (mod. Croatia, northern Serbia, and western Hungary). In May, the Iazyges shattered the Roman Legio XXI Rapax, soon afterwards disbanded in disgrace. The fighting continued until Domitian’s death in 96.

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