The Alans (Latin: Alani) were an ancient and medieval Iranian nomadic pastoral people of the North Caucasus[1][2][3][4][5] – generally regarded[by whom?] as part of the Sarmatians, and possibly related to the Massagetae.[6] Modern historians have connected the Alans with the Central Asian Yancai of Chinese sources and with the Aorsi of Roman sources.[7] Having migrated westwards and become dominant among the Sarmatians on the Pontic–Caspian steppe, the Alans are mentioned by Roman sources in the 1st century CE.[1][2] At that time they had settled the region north of the Black Sea and frequently raided the Parthian Empire and the Caucasian provinces of the Roman Empire.[8] From 215–250 CE the Goths broke their power on the Pontic Steppe.[4]

Map showing the migrations of the Alans
Scythian, Alanian
Related ethnic groups

Upon the Hunnic defeat of the Goths on the Pontic Steppe around 375 CE, many of the Alans migrated westwards along with various Germanic tribes. They crossed the Rhine in 406 CE along with the Vandals and Suebi, settling in Orléans and Valence. Around 409 CE they joined the Vandals and Suebi in crossing the Pyrenees into the Iberian Peninsula, settling in Lusitania and Hispania Carthaginensis.[9] The Iberian Alans, soundly defeated by the Visigoths in 418 CE , subsequently surrendered their authority to the Hasdingi Vandals.[10] In 428 CE, the Vandals and Alans crossed the Strait of Gibraltar into North Africa, where they founded a powerful kingdom which lasted until its conquest by forces of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I in 534 CE.[10]

Those Alans who remained under Hunnic rule eventually founded the powerful kingdom of Alania in the North Caucasus in the 9th century CE; it survived until the Mongol invasions of the 13th century CE. Various Ossetian scholars regard these Alans as the ancestors of the modern Ossetians.[8][11]

The Alans spoke an Eastern Iranian language which derived from Scytho-Sarmatian and which in turn evolved into the modern Ossetian language.[2][12][13] The name Alan represents an Iranian dialectal form of Aryan.[1][2]