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Eth. AORSI (Eth. Ἄορσοι: Strab., Ptol., Plin., Steph.B.), or ADORSI (Tac. Ann. 12.15), a numerous and powerful people, both in Europe and in Asia. Ptolemy (3.5.22) names the European Aorsi among the peoples of Sarmatia, between the Venedic Gulf (Baltic) and the Rhipaean mountains (i. e. in the eastern part of Prussia), and places them S. of the Agathyrsi, and N. of the Pagyritae. The Asiatic Aorsi he places in Scythia intra Imaum, on the NE. shore of the Caspian, between the Asiotae, who dwelt E. of the mouth of the river Rha (Volga), and the Jaxartae, who extended to the river Jaxartes (6.14.10). The latter is supposed to have been the original position of the people, as Strabo expressly states (xi. p. 506); but of course the same question arises as in the case of the other great tribes found both in European Sarmatia and Asiatic Scythia; and so Eichwald seeks the original abodes of the Aorsi in the Russian province of Voloyda, on the strength of the resemblance of the name to that of the Finnish race of the Erse, now found there. (Geog. d. Casp. Meeres, pp. 358, foll.) Pliny mentions the European Aorsi, with the Hamaxobii, as tribes of the Sarmatians, in the general sense of that word, including the “Scythian races” who dwelt along the N. coast of the Euxine E. of the mouth of the Danube; and more specifically, next to the Getae (4.12. s. 25. xi. s. 18).

The chief seat of the Aorsi, and where they appear in history, was in the country between the Tanaïs, the Euxine, the Caspian, and the Caucasus. Here Strabo places (xi. p. 492), S. of the nomade Scythians, who dwell on waggons, the Sarmatians, who are also Scythians, namely the Aorsi and Siraci, extending to the S. as far as the Caucasian mountains; some of them being nomades, and others dwelling in tents, and cultivating the land (σκηνίται καὶ γεωργοί). Further on (p. 506), he speaks more particularly of the Aorsi and Siraci; but the meaning is obscured by errors in the text. The sense seems to be, as given in Groskurd's translation, that there were tribes of the Aorsi and the Siraci on the E. side of the Palus Maeotis (Sea of Azov), the former dwelling on the Tanaïs, and the latter further to the S. on the Achardeus, a river flowing from the Caucasus into the Maeotis. Both were powerful, for when Pharnaces (the son of Mithridates the Great) held the kingdom of Bosporus, he was furnished with 20,000 horsemen by Abeacus, king of the Siraci, and with 200,000 by Spadines, king of the Aorsi. But both these peoples are regarded by Strabo as only exiles of the great nation of the Aorsi, who dwelt further to the north (τῶν ἀνωτέρω, οἱ ἄνω Ἄορσοι), and who assisted Pharnaces with a still greater force. These more northern Aorsi, he adds, possessed the greater part of the coast of the Caspian, and carried on an extensive traffic in Indian and Babylonian merchandize, which they brought on camels from Media and Armenia. They were rich and wore ornaments of gold.

In A.D. 50, the Aorsi, or, as Tacitus calls them, Adorsi, aided Cotys, king of Bosporus, and the Romans with a body of cavalry, against the rebel Mithridates, who was assisted by the Siraci. (Tac. Ann. 12.15.

Some modern writers attempt to identify the Aorsi with the Avars, so celebrated in Byzantine and medieval history.


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