- A barbarian people who fled westward when the Huns swept across southern Russia (qq.v.) in the late fourth century. In 406 they crossed the Rhine (q.v.), and devastated cities in Gaul (q.v.) before crossing into Spain (q.v.) in 409. In Spain their king was slain and they were conquered by the Visigoths (q.v.). They served in various Byzantine, German and Hunnic armies, including those of Attila (q.v.). The most famous Byzantine general of Alan descent, Aspar (q.v.), had enormous influence in the eastern court in the mid-fifth century. In the early eighth century, Justinian II (q.v.) sent an embassy to the Alans of the northern Caucasus. In the 10th century Alania, as Byzantine sources refer to it, was the object of Byzantine diplomacy and church missions. Constantine IX (q.v.) fell in love with a young hostage from Alania, described (in the Chronographia, Book Six) by Michael Psellos (q.v.) as being the daughter of the Alanian king. However, Maria of Alania (q.v.), who figures so prominently in Anna Komnene's (q.v.) Alexiad, was actually Georgian. Anna Komnene also refers to Alan mercenaries as great fighters (Alexiad, Book 12). However, in the early 14th century they proved unsuccessful in fighting against the Turks and against the Catalan Grand Company (qq.v.), which annihilated them in 1306.
Historical Dictionary of Byzantium . John H. Rosser .
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