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Title: Political authority in north Caucasian Alania, 800-1300
Author: Sprinkle, John Latham
ISNI:       0000 0004 7960 6346
Awarding Body: SOAS University of London
Current Institution: SOAS, University of London
Date of Award: 2018
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The Kingdom of Alania was the most powerful polity in the North Caucasus from approximately 930 to 1100. However, the structure of political authority in Alania is a mystery, as is the reason for the kingdom's rise to regional hegemony. Previous historiography has attempted to shoehorn Alania into a narrative of state development, and has over-emphasised external influence and material factors as causative factors in Alania's development. By contrast, it appears that Alan elites displayed considerable agency and initiative in shaping structures of power in the Central North Caucasus. An analysis of evidence from the North Caucasus suggests that the Kingdom of Alania was not a state in the true sense, but was rather a complex non-state organisation known as a multipolity. In this kind of organisation, semiautonomous social hierarchies, such as the church, clans and urban organisations, were capable of co-ordinating their activities without surrendering their own autonomy. However, Alan kings were able to assume a superior position in negotiations with these hierarchies, since they possessed a high level of access to the outside world, as demonstrated through prestige goods and titles. This 'power of the foreign' seems to have been a commonly accepted source of political power in the medieval Caucasus. Alan kings were able to access the 'power of the foreign' through their ability to direct the military resources of the North Caucasus, an important bargaining chip with their Byzantine and Georgian neighbours. The case of the Alan kingdom clearly demonstrates that state structures have not been necessary historically for large-scale, co-ordinated political action. It also shows the power of ideology in creating human social cohesion, and particularly the power of the exotic and foreign. Far from being irrelevant or epiphenomenal, displays of one's cosmopolitanism can move empires.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral