Narty Epic

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Narty Epic


an epic that arose among several Caucasian peoples—Kabardins, Cherkess, Adygeians, and Ossets. It is also known among the Abkhazians, Balkars, Karachai, Ingush, and Chechen, and traces of the epic may be found among the Svans, Georgian mountain tribes, and Dagestan peoples. The epic’s protagonists, called narty, belong to a kind of heroes’ society. The guiding spirit of the group is the wise woman Satana (Sata-nei in Adygei), the mentor of the main heroes and a powerful sorceress. In some versions of the epic the progenitor of the narty is Uarkhag, the father of the twins Khsar and Khsartag.

The origin of the epic has not been fully explained, although it is clearly based on an ancient Alani epic cycle dating from the Scythian period (seventh to fourth centuries B.C.). The national variants of the epic have been enriched by local folklore. The epic arose in a patriarchal society that preserved vestiges of matriarchy, and it absorbed elements of subsequent social formations. The epic has kept its vitality to this day. In Ossetia, Kabarda, Adygeia, and Abkhazia there are dozens of bards who sing the songs of the narty. The narty tales of the Ossets and Adygeians were first written down in the middle of the 19th century, and other national variants were recorded later. The Abkhazian narty epics only became known in the last few decades. The texts were first published in the Soviet period, both in the original languages and in Russian translation. They have also been translated into German, French, and English.


Narty: Epos osetinskogo naroda. Moscow, 1957.
Narty: Kabardinskii epos, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1957.
Prikliucheniia Narta Sosrykvy i ego devianosta deviati brat’ev: Abkhazskii narodnyi epos. Moscow, 1962.


Miller, V. F. “Cherty stariny ν skazaniiakh i byte osetin.” Zhurnal Ministerstva narodnogo prosveshcheniia, 1882, nos. 7–8.
Abaev, V. “Nartovskii epos.” Izv. Sev.-Osetinskogo Nil, 1945, vol. 10, no. 1.
Nartskii epos: Materialy soveshchaniia 19–20 okt. 1956. Ordzhonikidze, 1957.
Dalgat, U. B. Geroicheskii epos chechentsev i ingushei: Issledovanie i teksty. Moscow, 1972.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.