High Sarmatian 50AD to 450AD

Sarmatians were originally as other horse nomads, being bow or javelin equipped and relying on the light cavalry horse archer for survival. Over a process of time and through contact with such people as the Parthians and the Massagetae they acquired the use of the lance and increasingly of body armour. As this happened they became notoriously keen to close with others who were better at horsebow use. Operating in ad-hoc warbands, they developed a capacity to deliver flank attacks as well as the fierce frontal charge powerful enough to coin the Roman phrase "Going at it like a Sarmatian".

A leader might recruit warriors to him by killing a cow and inviting a group of men to a feast. The animal hide would be stretched on the ground and the men required to place one foot on the hide while the leader stood upon it. Each man would then be sent away to recruit a similar number of men, and so on. Swords might be offered up as votive offerings to the Gods before the famed Draco standards were raised for war.

Since leaders recruited horse and foot on a personal basis, the heaviness of armour or type of equipment could vary immensely and the Sarmatians not only fought as allies with many other nations but also enjoyed the support of others in their battles. The Sarmatians gave particular support to Dacians and Germans and vice versa. The Sarmatians were present in some strength, one Roman Emperor taking 9,000 Sarmatian HOSTAGES after an abortive war against the Romans and settling them in Brittania.

All kinds of armour were valued with possible metal and hide breastplates being found at various sites. A given force of Sarmatians might vary tremendously in look and equipment. If this writer were painting Sarmatians again, he would draw on all types of armoured riders and do some head swaps (not as hard as some think!).

Horse armour has not been found in the 60 Sarmatian graves excavated, but Sarmatians did not bury horses and thus would not bury the armour either. This leaves us with art that does show horse armour and some accounts of split horse hoof armour. However, the Northern Alans made little use of horse armour, and some of the riders were quite lightly equipped, although the author of the account may have been referring to Light Cavalry in Armati terms. All this aside, the paucity of armour in graves may also be down to Roman tribute demands for arms and armour.

There was some controversy over comments that the Sarmatians rode small horses, making the point that Romans were more impressed by the swiftness than the strength of these horses which were of a strong but small steppe nomad type.

Infantry were more in evidence in Sarmatian armies than was previously believed. Many authors, particularly among wargamers, miss the point that Romans usually met Sarmatians as raiders rather than as a coherent national army. The modern line of approach also shows a tendency to pay low attention to Trajan’s column and dwells more on information on the Alans, who were encountered later and in more Northern areas, relying on archaeological work to support the claim that the Sarmatians were very lightly armoured. There is no doubt that the horse barding was not popular among the northern troops (or perhaps not available), but it is a long step from that to claiming a culture famed for its heavy armoured cavalry did not have much armour.

The more Southern tribes of the Roxolani seem to have been better equipped with body and horse armour, an indication of more resources and wealth. Whatever the source of this wealth, the fall of Dacia seems to have led to the dispersal of the Roxolani. Once the Dacians had been overrun by the Romans, the Roxolani fade from history and less is heard of barded Sarmatian horses while the riders make use of more metal armour. With the Dacian source of employment gone, the Sarmatians became more involved in German affairs - one tribal leader fighting with half his army made up of Sarmatians, the other half of Germans.

Much has been made of the inferiority of Sarmatian bows. This stand is not supported by archaeological finds, which have unearthed bows of the same dimensions as Hunnic bows. A poor assumption seems to have been made here. The Sarmatian tendency to close may have had more to do with superiority in combat, with the long sword, or the unique long fighting dagger. All warriors carried the distinctive thigh dagger, but mystic importance was often attached to swords. These were often placed on mounds during thunderstorms to receive a final treatment in the ‘forge of the Gods’.

Era: Age of Empires   High Sarmatian 50 AD to 450 AD CR: H: 4 L: 4   BP: 2 Init: 6
Number Type   Description Key FV PROT Weapon Cost
4 HC Northern Riders or Alans Key 5[0]0 2 Lances 11
2 LC Young Men Key 1[0]0 1 Bows 6
6 HC Riders Key 5[0]0 1 Lances 11
6 HC Goths Key 4[0]0 1 Spears 10
3 LC Young Men or Women Key 1[0]0 1 Bows 6
2 LI Black Sea Infantry   4[1]2 1 Javelins 7
3 SI Black Sea Peasants   2[1]1 2 Bows 2
2 SI Black Sea Peasants   3[1]2 2 Javelins 2
3 WB Dacians* Key 5[1]3 1 Various 7
3 WB Germans* Key 5[1]3 1 Various 8


Core: 1GR

Bonus: (Max: 3 ) 2GR; 1SH; 1W; 1RG


Core: 96 Bonus: 273

* German and Dacian WB may not be used in the same army. German WB are BP 4 and move 6 inches and are subject to obligatory charge. Dacian WB are BP3 and move 9 inches and are not subject to obligatory charge.


No Dacian WB may be used taken if this army is used for Triumph of Cavalry.

Ordo Link: Oddly enough, given the amount of controversy generated in the past by the various Sarmatian armies, there is no dedicated threat for the High Sarmatian list. Discussion on the Sarmatians can be found on literally dozens of other threads (particularly late Republic/Early Imperial Roman lists and various Pontic lists). Some information can be found on the New Army Submissions Thread. We also suggest that one use the Ordo's general Search function for further guidance. The information is in there! Or, if someone is feeling very ambitious, they might want to extract references to the various Sarmatian lists from other threads in order to collect them under a new (dedicated) Sarmatian thread. Such an endeavour would be much appreciated.

Edited on 03 April 20007. Ability to have German and Dacian Warbands deploy deep removed as a result of a Warflute Group discussion on deep Warbands and for consistency with other lists.

Further edited on 01 November 2007 to clarify Ordo Status.

List Author: Luxor