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0034 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 34 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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18   13. ALAINS

the 9th cent. ; MINORSKY (Mi, 445, 456, 457) favours this view. BARTHOLD (EI, s. v. « 'Allan ») has doubted the correctness of MARQUART's interpretation, and says that the name As, or Ai-As («The As »), appears only in the Mongol period, and only in Oriental sources, while missionaries and travellers speak only of the Alans (this is wrong, as is shown by the above-quoted passages of Plan Carpine and Rubrouck). But everybody admits that the name Yasy (plural of Yas), used in Russian chronicles when referring to the middle of the 10th cent., is the very name of the As or Ossets, and this carries it back well before the Mongol period. The same can be said of the «As» in Al-Birûni (Mi, 481) and of probable mentions of the As in the 'Mice of Constantine Porphyrogenet (cf. Mi, 445) and in a term of the letter of the Khazar ruler discovered in the Cairo Genizah (cf. KoKovcov, in Lurn. minist. nar. prosy., Nov. 1913, 163).

The name has been said to be much more ancient still. DE GUIGNES, and after him VIVIEN DE SAINT-MARTIN (105-106, 154-159, 178), have thought that it was the original of Yents'ai, and also of ips , An-hsi (misread by them A-hsi, « A-si », and moreover confounded by

VIVIEN with the purely Chinese name   An-hsi of T'ang times). Moreover, VIVIEN saw also
the Ossets in the « Essedones » of Pliny, and believed in the great age of the Georgian mentions of the Ows (or Ossets). Yen-ts'ai may or may not be Aorsoi, but it has certainly nothing to do

with As; and   . An-hsi transcribes Arsak, the Arsacide kingdom; the identification of the
« Essedones » is arbitrary; the Georgian chronicles are fraught with anachronisms. It would thus seem that this part of VIVIEN's monograph may be dismissed without more ado, if it were not that VIVIEN has come to certain conclusions which are still too readily accepted. Believing the name of As, Ows, to stand for the Ossets of the Caucasus from very ancient times, and admitting at the same time that the same name was transcribed, when the Central Asian Alans are referred to, as Yen-ts'ai and An-hsi, VIVIEN has supposed that the real tribal name had been superseded by Alan, a name derived from a word meaning « mountain » similar to alin in Manchu and given to the As by some Eastern neighbour. This is exactly the position adopted, after VIVIEN, by CHARPENTIER in 1917, simply replacing the exploded Yen-ts'ai and An-hsi by the Chinese name

,f   Wu-sun and by the 'Ago c and Asiani of classical writers (loc. cit., 364-365). The identi-
fication of the Wu-sun and the real value of "Ao'coc or Asiani are two of the moot problems of Central Asian history, and I do not intend to discuss them here. But I wish to say explicitly that there is no basis whatever in Chinese texts for the would-be substitution of a foreign appellation « Alan » for a former native name « As » or « *Os », nor anything in them that connects the Wu-sun with the Alans.

On the contrary, it seems that « Alan » represents the original name of that Iranian confederation. It is well known that the Caucasian Ossets are so called by their neighbours, but that they call themselves « Irôn », i. e. Iranians, from the same root as Aryan. Beyond Sogdiana, Herodotus speaks of the Scythian "Ape:oc, where the Achaemenid inscriptions mention the Haraiva.

Now GAUTHIOT (Grammaire sogdienne, III) has already remarked that, according to a law disco-
vered by ANDREAS, *-ry- became -1- in the language of those Northern Iranians, so that these

tribes, called originally «Arya- » (cf. 'Aplav )), became normally Ala-, Alani (the same has been said since by MARQUART himself in W. DOEGEN, Unter fremden Völkern, 1925, 380-381); their name is the same as the native name « Irôn » of the Ossets.