Skip to main content



A nomadic Iranian people occupying the steppe region between the Caucasus Mts. and the Don and Ural Rivers early in the Christian era. They figured occasionally in Roman affairs before falling under the domination of the Huns c. a.d. 350, with whom they moved westward into Ostrogothic territory. One group advanced into central Germany, joined the Vandals in Gaul 406409, and crossed into Spain under their chieftain, Respendial. Decimated there by Visigothic foederati in 418, the survivors merged with the Vandals and accompanied Gaiseric into Africa. Another Alan contingent near Orleans fought with the Roman general Aetius against Attila in 451. Liberated from the Huns after 455, the main body of Alans drifted back to the steppes. Muslims and Mongols dominated them during the Middle Ages. They finally withdrew into the central Caucasus where their descendants survive as the Osset nation. The only ancient report of the Alans' religion says that they worshipped a sword fixed in the ground. Those who associated with the East Germans probably absorbed some Arianism, but their conversion as a tribe came only after Patriarch nicholas i of constantinople (901925) sent the monk Euthymius to evangelize them. Nicholas then established the metropolitan see of Alania whose Orthodox history can be traced to 1590.

Bibliography: s. vailhÉ, Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques 1:133438. e. a. thompson, A History of Attila and the Huns (Oxford 1948). f. dvornik, The Making of Central and Eastern Europe (London 1949). g. deeters, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 195765) 1:265.

[r. h. schmandt]

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Alans." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . 23 Feb. 2019 <>.

"Alans." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . (February 23, 2019).

"Alans." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Retrieved February 23, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.