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Earthdate 2004-01-05

“Horsey” Vikings II — Sarmatians, contd.

The Sarmatians were featured in Impearls' earlier article Horsey Vikings I (permalink).  Why emphasize them in particular?

Sarmatian: Gold plaque. Two warriers with a slain (?) companion rest under the Tree of Life. Symmetry here in tension with asymetry. The centrality of the tree of life (Hauma, Hom) in a belief system typified Sakas specific to the Steppe. (University of Alabama Birmingham)

  1. They're an interesting folk, little known to most people today.
  2. Sarmatians occupied an important borderland of the Roman Empire during most of its history, and participated in major historic events involving that Empire.
  3. Sarmatians are the conduit which led to the medieval knight: that's a big one.  As Impearls' earlier piece pointed out, Norman knights shown in the Bayeux Tapestry are equipped strikingly similarly to the Sarmatians' warrior kit — which makes sense since that's from whence it was derived!  Notice that the Rohirrim cavalry displayed in Jackson's Lord of the Rings films are also nearly exact replicas of the Norman knights of Bayeau Tapestry — except that the Rohirrim used a round shield, just like the Sarmatians!
  4. It may even be that Sarmatians were the inspiration for King Arthur's knights.  It is known that Sarmatian auxiliaries serving as part of the Roman army — equipped, as Sarmatians were, as armored horse warriors — were stationed in Roman Britain.  It has been suggested that, to the extent that legends of King Arthur's knights correspond to reality, these Sarmatian warriors may have inspired (and perhaps served as the nucleus for) a troop of armored knights during the post-Roman period in Britain when Arthur is supposed to have lived.
  5. While talking about exact matches, what other people in history has ever allowed their womenfolk to fight as warriors!  (I'm tempted to say Q.E.D. to the Bainbridge debate in this regard, but I shan't be so cruel!)

Assessment:  The Sarmatians are no precise match for Rohan's Rohirrim — but then no one else is (or can be) either.  They do come about as close as anyone can to that ideal, especially given the last item above.



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