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The Alans, or the Alani, occasionally termed Alauni or Halani or Yancai were an Iranian nomadic pastoral people of antiquity.

The Alans are first mentioned by Chinese authors in the 1st century BC as living near the Aral Sea as vassals of the Kangju under the name of Yancai, and were later mentioned by Roman authors in the 1st century AD. At the time they settled the region north of the Black Sea, and frequently raided the Parthian Empire and the Caucasian provinces of the Roman Empire. Upon the Hunnic defeat of the Goths on the Pontic Steppe around 375 AD, many of the Alans migrated westwards along with other Germanic tribes. They crossed the Rhine in 406 AD along with the Vandals and Suebi, settling in Orléans and Valence. Around 409 AD they joined the Vandals and Suebi in the crossing of the Pyrenees into the Iberian Peninsula, settling in Lusitania and Carthaginiensis. The Iberian Alans were soundly defeated by the Visigoths 418 AD, and subsequently surrendered their authority to the Hasdingi Vandals. In 428 AD, the Vandals and Alans crossed the Strait of Gibraltar into North Africa, where they founded a powerful kingdom which lasted until its conquest by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I in the 6th century AD.

The Alans who remained under Hunnic rule are said to be the ancestors of the modern Ossetians.

The Alans spoke an Eastern Iranian language which derived from Scytho-Sarmatian and which in turn evolved into modern Ossetian.


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