Tuesday, 23 June 2020

Uaran faz

Uaran faz

I have written (this is in ‘Breach and Exit’, should it ever come out) about Eddie Flintoff’s poem, ‘Sarmatians’ (1978).

eyes on the far horizon
to still newer distribution-plains, uaran faz,
under the green edges and ridges of the Caucasus,
whose peaks we named as we passed, Elbatiy Hokh
the Squatting Mountain, Aday Hokh, Grandfather Hill
out of Asia across the lush hush of Russia,
the crane crossed Ukraine, numinous and luminous Rumania,
below the carboniferous Carpathians, across the flat Banat
westwards across the wastelands, up into polar Poland
along the long frozen strand of the cobalt Baltic.

The poem describes the migration of a tribe, of Iranian language, from the Caucasus to France, in about the 4th C AD. I am interested in one aspect of the poem. It includes words in the language of the migrants. However, we don’t have any records of the Sarmatian language. Personal names don’t get you very far, although they do support the “Iranian” classification. I guessed that he had used the Ossete language, since the Ossetes live in the North Caucasus (within Europe, technically) and speak a language directly related to Alan and, less so, to Sarmatian. I have just spent some very idle time surfing the Net to check this. I started with Abaev’s grammar of Ossetian. At p. 9 we find khokh, mountain. So for ‘hokh’ read ‘khokh’. Both mountain names are Ossete, and further surfing uncovers an article in the Alpine Journal for 1936 where someone has visited both peaks. The names are identified as Ossetian there so it looks as if Flintoff used Ossete and my guess was right. I haven’t traced “uaran faz” but it is credible that it is Ossete.
Another atlas entry has: Gora Uilpata is a mountain in North Ossetia and has an elevation of 4646 meters. ... Russian: Гора Уилпата; El'badty-Kokh; Gora Adaykhokh; Mt'a Uilpat'a ...

So Uilpata is a more disseminated form for local (and Ossete) El’badty Khokh.

The alpinist (Heybrock) reports charnel-towers – claims to have found 3 towers still in use (and full of bones). These were for exposing the dead (“sky burial”), and it was a Zoroastrian practice (so the locals were not Moslem). It links the Ossetes to a wider Iranian world. He cites two local river names in -don. (Don means 'river’ in Ossete, according to Abaev, and philologers have linked this to rivers like Danube, Don, Dniepr, Dniestr. The names would come from a wider north Iranian speech community, not Ossetes in the narrow sense.)

I will admit to knowledge of Sarmaten, unbekannte Väter Europas by Reinhard Schmoeckel. This claims not only that Sarmatians reached western Europe (which is uncontroversial), but that their influence made the West what it is. Hmmmm. I do not buy this, but it would be great if someone found a Charnel Tower in Yorkshire and linked it to Sarmatian cavalry-units defending the Empire against the Picts. I saw a stray reference to village names in Germany recalling the Sarmatians in forms like Sormen, Sohrmen. They were near the Limes, where Roman soldiers would be settled as colonists. I haven’t checked this out so it may not be right. Another unchecked source connects French place-names, stretching north-east of Paris, SampignySermaiseSermoiseSermiers, with Sarmatians, and AlaincourtAlland'huy, Aillainville with Alans. This does not suggest dense settlement - a village is only called "sarmat ville" if the people in nearby villages are NOT Sarmatian.

'Sarmatians' is a terrific poem.

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