29 April 2016

“The Slavs and the Avars” — Omelian Pritsak

This is a very original paper by Omelian Pritsak (1919–2006), the prominent scholar of Ukrainian and Turkic studies. He was a historian and linguist. Dr. Pritsak was fluent in a dozen languages. The following article on the mainly Turkic-speaking Avars of Hunnic origin was first published in an obscure and hard-to-access proceedings by the Italian Center for Medieval Studies in Spoleto, Italy. Fortunately, it was in English. It also covers other Hunnic-Turkic groups, such as Bulgars, Onogurs, Kutrigurs, Utigurs, and Khazars. A short discussion of the subject with Dr. Pritsak follows the very-long and detailed article.

The Slavs and the Avars*

Omeljan Pritsak  (Gli Slavi occidentali e meridionali nell'alto medioevo, Spoleto, 15–21 Aprile 1982, t. I, pp. 353–435)



There is [a] general agreement among western scholars that the Avars were instrumental in the appearance of Slavs on the stage of history.[1] As the Huns caused the Germanic peoples (along with the Iranian Alans) to migrate and to develop new political groups, so—a familiar thesis runs—it was the Avars who caused the Slavs to move and to develop. Yet, the Avars have remained, so to speak, stepchildren in historical studies, and the raison d'être of their activities has hardly been explored.[2]

Since World War II, archeological research on Avar sites, especially in Hungary and Slovakia, but also other Slavic countries, has developed rapidly. The state-sponsored academic institutions have been conducting excavations on a large scale according to well-prepared plans, and reports on the new materials are published almost immediately. Specialists have been sifting the old and new data collected from sites in territories once under Avar domination, in an effort to puzzle out the ethnic, economic, and social structure of the Avar realm. In this way, it is the archeologists who have taken the study of the Avars into their hands.[3] The conjectures of the Slavic scholars usually overrate the roles of Slavs in Avar society,[4] while the Hungarians tend to go to the other extreme. There are two reasons for this. The first is the paucity of written sources on the Avars. Although the Avars were a successful imperial elite, they apparently were, like their predecessors, illiterate.[5] All succeeding Eurasian rulers used some sort of writing system and recorded at least a few historical messages.[6] The Avars, however, left no written records about their goals or achievements. The second reason is that scholars studying the Avars have not exploited fully the multilingual and heterogeneous sources for the history of the Eurasian steppe, since it is very difficult to combine experience in both western and eastern philologies in order to put together, for the first time, a historical perspective of the nomadic steppe empires.[7]

In this paper, I will try only to take a fresh look, through the perspective of Eurasian and general history, at the Avars in their relationship to the Slavs. Let us first deal, if only briefly, with the vexed question as to whether the European Avars were identical with the East Asian Jou-jan of Chinese sources.[8] Chinese official historiography of the ancient and early medieval period used two generic designations for «barbarians» to the northwest: Hsiung-nu and Tung Hu. The Tung Hu or «Eastern barbarians» were known from the third century B.C.E., and later developed two branches: the Wu-huan, first mentioned in 78 B.C.E., and the Hsien-pi, documented from 45 C.E. Chinese historical phonology, which is now a precise and reliable discipline,[9] allows us to reconstruct the ancient pronunciation of the two designations: these are *ahwar (= Avar) for the Wu-huan, and *säbir, säbär (> Sibir, hence Siberia) for the Hsien-pi.[10]

The leading clans of both the Jou-jan in the steppe and the Tabgach (T’o-pa) Wei dynasty in China (386–457) originated from the Hsien-pi and both used a Proto-Mongolian language as their lingua franca.[11] The European Avars were not directly connected with the real Avars, but, as contemporary Byzantine sources clearly state, consciously imitated them, especially by copying the way they plaited their hair,[12] in order to gain for themselves the prestige the true Avars, the Wu-huan of Chinese sources, had enjoyed among the steppe peoples. It is also clear, especially from the Byzantine data, that these Pseudo-Avars were of Hunnic origin, the Vär-Hunni (Οὐάρ Χουννί);[13] I will return to this topic below. It is this group, which will henceforth be called simply Avars in this paper, that is important for the history of Europe. They have nothing to do with the Asian Jou-jan.[14]


There were two kinds of «nomads»: those of the steppe and those of the sea.

The Avar realm in Europe was one in a sequence of Eurasian steppe «nomadic» empires, which had a series of fundamental traits in common.[15] Let us examine the general structure of such an empire, for which I use the term pax, reserving empire to refer to sedentary societies. The pax was the creation of the bearers of a steppe warrior religion («Männerbünde,» «Royal Hordes») characterized by specific notions to which we will return.

The idea of rule by professional warrior and merchant elites emerged on the territory of present-day Mongolia about 900 B.C.E., probably among Indoeuropeans (Iranians, Tocharians). Some five hundred years later, the idea was taken over by the Altaic-speaking peoples, who made use of it for almost two millenia. The first to do so were the Hsiung-nu who competed with the Tung Hu or Eastern Barbarians, especially the Hsien-pi or Säbir subdivision.

A special characteristic of the pax was a lack of linear thinking, of the concept of linear development. Time and events were viewed as cyclic. A particular clan could acquire charisma, rise to power, and rule for a certain period, only to be swept away by another group. Whenever a charismatic clan lost charisma, not only its ruling position, but also its name and language were replaced by those of the victorious clan. This does not mean that all the people immediately shifted from one language to another, only that their allegiance changed, and with it the relative prestige of different languages. As soon as one cycle was completed, another followed, in a round of events preconditioned by the society’s non-linear, cyclical thinking.

The territory of the pax was also exchangeable; what was indispensable was that the rulers have people who would follow their lead. For the territory itself, there were only two requirements: first, that it was located along an important commercial route, and second, that it was close enough to a sedentary empire to tap its economy by periodical raids, yet distant enough to allow the warriors to disappear into marshes, sands, or forests. Thus, for example, warriors from Mongolia could easily cross the familiar deserts to raid China more or less at will, but the Chinese found it almost impossible to trace the enemy through the wilderness to the inner stronghold. The sea nomads based, e.g., on the islands of Denmark, could thread their way through dangerous passages to mount a raid against any coastal settlement, but the people they attacked would have the greatest difficulty in following them back to their base.

In consequence, the territory of the pax was divided into inner and outer areas, each with its own administration, troops, and offices, so that every function existed in pairs,  inner and outer.

The inner area, such as the sandy desert of the Orkhon Valley in Mongolia, was the place where the religious and imperial sanctuaries were found. From the time of the T’u-chüe Pax, 550–744, on, the sanctuaries were also decorated with dynastic inscriptions. Here the annual rites and ceremonies of the Tängri religion were held. The inner area, moreover, served as the training ground for new military recruits. The outer area for any pax was the frontier (limes) of the empire of the time (China, Iran, Rome), where the nomads could station garrison-type military units, specially trained for local conditions.

This area was of crucial importance for the pax, since it was where contacts were made with the civilization, culture and, above all, the economy of the sedentary empire. This contact-area is also a focal point for the historian, since it was only there that the non-historical steppe polities entered the stream of history.

At the time and place of concern to us—sixth century Europe—the outer area was the Roman (Byzantine) Danube Limes and the Frankish Saale-Elbe frontier: therefore, it is events on these territories that will occupy our attention.

The charismatic clans themselves were not pastoralists, but professional warriors, ideologists and leaders.[16] Before coming to power, their members usually lived in towns,[17] where they gathered knowledge about economic, geographic, and political affairs and conditions. They maintained close ties with the international merchants, and often served them as guards in their emporia. The (itinerant) merchants, on their part, were interested in the ongoing existence of a pax which could insure peaceful conduct of their business affairs. During the intermezzo between two cycles of ruler-clans, the merchants would search for a suitable new ruler. When they found one, they would supply him with money, arms, and provisions. Once the pax was established, the merchants would function within it as an organized body of tax-farmers and duty-free traders.

The ambitious leader of a suitable clan who wished to become the ruler of a pax first had to gather together a retinue of the Germanic comitatus type, that is of professional warriors who were personally selected by the leader and, therefore, owed him special allegiance. The new pretender, having established such a retinue (in Old Turkic buyruq, in Hunnic boylar), would set out to win decisive victories, in order to attract attention. If he was successful, adventurers from far and wide would flock to him in expectation of sharing in an El Dorado. The territorial center of nomadic society, e.g. Mongolia (n. of the steppe), or the islands of Denmark (n. of the sea) would be flooded with newcomers. There, in what Jordanes called officina gentium,[18] the recruits would undergo a period of training before riding out in successive waves that often resulted in a migration of peoples.

The new leader’s next step would be to find cohorts among the leaders of other charismatic clans or important pastoralist tribes. A system of intermarriages would develop of necessity, because in the steppe exogamy prevailed. With the help of his new partners, the steppe ruler would take control, either by force or by persuasion, of the human resources needed to assure a steady supply of military recruits and revenues for the upkeep of the army and administration. For a nascent steppe pax, the ideal sources were the pastoralist tribes and then the hunting tribes, because of their mobility and expertise with weapons. However, if the territories were unsuited for pastoralism, especially in the outer area (limes), other arrangements could be substituted. Chief among them were the system of military settlements (of the type of the later Russian Kazak settlements) and the military slavery system like that practiced in Egypt and Syria during the Mamlūk era, or the Ottoman qulluq system, or some combination of these arrangements appropriate to the situation.[19]

Foreign administrative expertise was also required. Usually, suitable experts were found among defectors or individuals kidnapped from the sedentary societies.

The most powerful tactical military unit employed in the steppe was a tümän, or a 10,000 man unit, usually of cavalry. Each household, that is five to seven people, was expected to provide two or three adult males, over twelve years old. The territory of the pax was divided into military-political districts called «arrows» (Old Turkic oq, pl. oġəz, later -ġuz, Hunnic pl. oġur, later -ġur) based on the capacity of its population to supply the ten thousand men necessary for a tümän. In practice, this required that a large ethnic tribe be subdivided, or that several smaller ethnic units or tribes be joined into one military «arrow.» For the oq-system to function, the apolitical anthropological tribe (Old Turkic oqsəz) had to acquire appropriate military training and political indoctrination. Camaraderie and uniform military training brought about linguistic assimilation; first, dialectal differences among men of a tümän would fade, and then the emerging lingua franca of the pax would take the place of other languages still used among the specific tribes. The prestige of the warrior, whether on duty or in retirement, prompted the rest of the population to imitate his speech. The Turkic pax was established in Mongolia in 550; by 576, it already reached as far west as Tamatarcha (later T'’mutorokan') at the Kerch Straits. However, it was some time before a supratribal Turkic medium of communication could develop. At first, the official chancery used East Iranian Sogdian, as witnessed by the newly discovered Bugut inscription from about 580.[20] We know Old Turkic written texts from no earlier than about 700, give or take a couple of decades.[21] Their language, the oldest version of Turkic, was already without important dialectal differences; there is no trace of dialectal peculiarities that must have existed before this period of a Turkic lingua franca. Not until after the dissolution of the Turkophone pax in 845 did separate Turkic languages and dialects begin to emerge. This is a situation comparable to the emergence of the Romance languages after the fall of the Roman Empire, which had used Latin as both its lingua franca and its chief medium for cultural expression.[22]

During the period between the fifth and tenth centuries, the Eurasian steppe was the home of two main pastoralist groups, probably of heterogeneous origin. When they were organized into the frameworks of paxes, two linguae francae developed, one Turkic and used in the east, the other Hunnic and used by the western group. This is reflected in the recorded names of some of the groups. In the names of the political tribal groups—usually organized in two wings, left and right—the numerals 5, 9, 10 and 30 occur. The corresponding Hunnic words were *bīl (later bŭl) '5' (Turkic bēš), *qutur '9' (Tu. toqəz), *onno '10' (Tu. ōn) and *utur '30' (Tu. otəz). Therefore, the Old Turkic runic inscriptions from Mongolia mention tribal groups such as the Toqəz Oġəz and On Oq,[23] and characterize them as either loyal members of the Türküt-led confederation or as rebels striving for independence, sometimes (the greatest sin) in cooperation with China. At the same time, the Western, mainly Byzantine, sources often mention the Onnoġur, Quturġur, and Uturġur[24] as unruly members of both the (Proto-)Bulgar and the Avar confederations. I mentioned earlier that the paxes usually employed special garrison troops along their frontiers, that is in the outer zone. They too were structured in groups, whereby the same numbers were used in their names as in the «arrows.» While the Chinese sources contain such designations as Chiu-hsing Hu, «The Nine Tribes of the Iranian [military settlers],»[25] the Byzantine sources mention «the Seven Tribes» of the so-called Sklavins[26] within the pax led by the Proto-Bulgars.

Therefore, we must take into account that ‘tribe’ may, in these sources, in fact mean oq, thus a military rather than an ethnic designation.


Shortly after 450, the Chinese Wei dynasty (the T’o-pa, Tabgach, of Proto-Mongolian origin) put an end to the state of Pei-Liang, the last of the Hunnic commercial centers created by the Hsiung-nu on Chinese territory, in the economically vital province of Kan-su. Some of the defeated ruling clans managed to flee to the distant Hsiung-nu successor state near Lake Balkash, an area known as Yüe-pan in the Chinese sources,[27] reflecting *ör-pän as the old pronunciation.[28] This same designation also occurs in the Old Turkic Bilgä Qagan inscription of 732 (II E 20).[29]

A century later, the Turks (T'’u-chüe) proclaimed their pax in Eurasia (550), and some of the young people of the Örpän-Hunnic group, to the number of about twenty thousand (two tümäns), fled to the European frontiers of the Byzantine empire. Theophylact Simocattes (fl. 610–641) called them, properly, Οὐάρ Ouar (= *ör > vär) and Χουννί Chounni, but he also wrote that these refugees pretended to be the true Avars, because of the latter’s authority among the steppe peoples.[30] Among the first to submit to the Pseudo-Avars were the Iranian merchant clan of Warāz/Barč (Βαρςήλτ),[31] the Hunnic Onnoġurs (Οὐννουγοὺροι), and the Proto-Mongolian Säbirs (Hsien-pi = Σάβιροι).[32] The victorious refugees established themselves in the Northern Caucasus, near the Byzantine holdings in the Crimea. In 558, through the good services of the Alan ruler, they established relations with the Byzantines and soon were granted the status of foederati on Byzantine territory in Scythia Minor, that is, Dobrudja.[33]

We have now arrived at the non-controversial stage in Avar (Pseudo-Avar) history, for the newcomers from Asia, having established their «outer territory» on the Roman Danube limes, had become involved in their colorful relationship with the historically-minded Byzantines and their activities are fairly clearly recorded. Let us, therefore, turn to the Slavic side of the issue.



The name «Slav» appears in the Byzantine cultural sphere shortly after 550 in works written in Greek, Syriac, and Latin by both professional and amateur historians.

It refers to a new group of barbarian warriors roaming to the north of the Danube limes, approximately from Sirmium to the Danube delta, and frequently crossing into Byzantine territory.

Two professional historians dealing with contemporary matters, the secular author Procopius (d. ca. 572) who wrote in Greek, and Bishop John of Ephesus (d. 586) who wrote in Syriac,[34] spoke of a new group of barbarians called Σκλαβην-οι or 'sqlwyn-w (esqlawin-ū).

Both in Procopius’ «History of the Wars» and «Anecdota,» the Σκλαβηνοι are first mentioned under the year 531, at the beginning of the rule of Emperor Justinian I (527–565).[35] They appear along with two other groups of barbarians in two orders:

«History» : Οὖννοι, Ἄνται,[36] Σκλαβηνοί,[37]
«History,» «Anecdota» : Οὖννοι, Σκλαβηνοί, Ἄνται.[38]

An amateur, or at least unsystematic historian, who wrote in Latin rather than in Greek, was Jordanes from Moesia, a pro-Roman Ostrogoth. In 551, he wrote two works, probably in Ravenna: a gesta-type of barbarian «national» story under the title «De origine actibusque Getarum» (commonly referred to as «Getica»), and an outline of Roman history known as «Romana.» He ended the latter work with a statement that his goal had been to relate Roman history proper and not to digress to discuss the activities of three latter-day groups of barbarians, whom he lists in the same order as Procopius did in his «History»: Bulgares, Antes, Sćlaveni.[39] This means that Jordanes was the first to identify the Bulgars correctly as Huns; it shows him as a reliable observer of contemporary events and relationships.

The professional historians of the time mentioned the barbarians only in connection with events along the Danube limes. Jordanes, however, is praised by modern scholarship for providing detailed topographical data about otherwise unknown regions that confirm a tripartite division of the Slavs at that time. His information has been considered invaluable, and has been viewed as a solid basis for classifying the ethnic and linguistic groups of Slavs of the mid-sixth century in the following way:

1) Venethi as Northern and Western Slavs;
2) Sclaveni as Southern Slavs;
3) Antes as Eastern Slavs.

But let us consult the original text of the «Getica»:[40]

34. iuxta quorum sinistruin
latus, qui in aquilone
vergit, ab ortu
Vistulae fluminis
per immensa spatia
Venetharum natio populosa consedit,
quorum nomina licet nunc per
varias familias et loca mutentur,
principaliter tamen
Sclaveni et Antes nominantur.
... near their left ridge [of the Alps,
i.e., Carpathians], which inclines toward the
north, and beginning at the source of
the Vistula river, the populous
band (natio) of the Venethi are
settled throughout a great expanse of land.
Though their names are now dispersed
amid various clans (familiae) and places
they are, nonetheless, chiefly
called Sclaveni and Antes.

35. Sclaveni a civitate
Novietunense et laco qui appellatur
Mursiano usque ad Danastrum et in
boream Viscla tenus commorantur:
hi paludes silvasque
pro civitatibus habent.
Antes vero, qui sunt eorum
fortissimi, qua Ponticum mare
curvatur, a Danastro extenduntur
usque ad Danaprum, quae flumina
multis mansionibus ad invicem absunt.
The Sclaveni dwell from the city (civitas)
of Noviotunum and the lake called
Mursianns to the Dniester and
northwards as far as the Vistula:
they have swamps and forests
for cities (civitas).
The Antes, who are the bravest of those
[bands dwelling] in the curve of the
Sea of Pontus (Black Sea) extend from
the Dniester to the Dniepr, rivers
which are many days’ journey apart.

119. ... Nam hi, ut in initio
expositionis vel catalogo
gentium dicere coepimus, ab
una stirpe exorti,
tria nunc nomina ediderunt, id
est Venethi, Antes, Sclaveni;
qui quamvis nunc,
ita facientibus,
peccatis nostris ubique deseviunt,
tamen tunc omnes Hermanarici
imperiis servierunt.

Now these [bands]—as we started
to say at the beginning of our
account or catalogue of tribes—
being off-shoots of one origin,
now have three names, that
is, Venethi, Antes and Sclaveni.
Though they now rage
far and wide [in war?]
because of our sins,
yet at that time they were all obedient
to Hermanarich’s commands.

Unfortunately, this locus classicus for Slavic history and historical philology has never been subjected to critical analysis. Nineteenth-century scholars found the tripartite division of the Slavs into Southern, Eastern, and Western groups self-evident, natural, and probably, therefore, ancient. Jordanes was, therefore, read as confirming the obvious, and the quotation passed from book to book.[41] Slavists have been so pleased that a mid-sixth century author provided apparently unambiguous insider’s information about the northern barbarians of his time that they failed to scrutinize the text with the rigor that good scholarly method requires.


According to Jordanes’ own words, section 119 is merely a recapitulation of the catalogue of tribes he had already presented in sections 34 and 35. Therefore, there is no reason to regard it as a self-sufficient contemporary statement about three branches of the Slavic people. We need, rather, to look closely at the two earlier, introductory passages in Jordanes.


It is important to understand Jordanes’ aims and the structure of the introductory part of his «Getica.»

Jordanes, let me repeat, was not a fully professional historian. His work is poorly organized. Not only can we see various seams where he has patched together information from different sources, but the basic exposition is full of insertions, digressions and associations.

Jordanes, as he tells us in his introduction, used four types of sources, three of them not known from other surviving writings. His major source was the twelve-book «Historica Gothica» by the Roman senator Cassiodorus (490–585), which has survived only in Jordanes’ meager abridgement. Second was the lost Gothic history by the otherwise unknown Ablavius (descriptor Gothorum gentis, § 28), which Jordanes used for information about events of the second and third centuries, C.E., and third was Gothic popular tradition. His fourth source was works by Greek and Roman authors, both classical (pagan) and Christian; here we can check to see how he used them.

Jordanes’ identifications of places and peoples are often innacurate. From the beginning, he equated his main heroes, the Germanic Goths, with the ancient Getae, a people said to be of Thracian origin, akin to the Daci. This association led him to posit as the second habitat of the Goths the area which was, in fact, the land of the Getae, namely Moesia, Thracia and Dacia. This confusion probably was fostered by the fact that the Ostrogoths, although at a much later time (433–471), had lived in Roman Pannonia as foederati of the empire.

Jordanes then mingled the Gothic popular traditions with classical sources about the Getae, and thus was able to view the Gothic kings as companions to Getic philosophers who were known from Greek literature. With this approach, Jordanes envisioned a high cultural niveau for his ancestors. But in «restoring» the alleged Getic past of the Goths, Jordanes made several chronological blunders, especially in his catalogue of learned Getae. Thus, he fused a Zeuta who was alive in 424 B.C.E. with another who died in 383 B.C.E. into a putative Zeuta he pictured as a contemporary of Dicineus (whom Strabo places in the first century B.C.E.) and presents the two as predecessors of Zalmoxis, a learned Getic slave of Pythagoras. But that famous Greek philosopher belonged to a much earlier period, about 530 B.C.E.[42]

An assiduous reader, Jordanes picked up names from different sources without realizing just what they referred to. For instance, in his list of Greek colonies on the northern shores of the Black Sea, he equates Olbia, located on the Borysthenes River (i.e., the Dnieper), with a «Borysthenide» (§ 32), which simply did not exist.[43] The Dniester becomes two separate rivers, «Tyra, Danaster» (§ 30). The Olt, an important tributary of the Danube, is once called Aluta (§ 30) but reappears as flu[men] Tausis (§ 136).[44] Jordanes’ knowledge of the geography of the regions beyond the Mediterranean was not always accurate; his list of Greek colonies on the northern shores of the Black Sea included the Anatolian trading center of Trebizond (§ 32); he was probably misled by the existence of the Crimean mountain range with a similar name.[45] It is clear that Jordanes must have misinterpreted his written sources. For instance, the «Chorography» of Pomponius Mela (fl. 44 C.E.) contains the river name Hypanis (Boh, Southern Bug) and the tribal name Callipidi;[46] Jordanes records both as names of alleged Black Sea cities (§§ 32, 46).

Jordanes was inconsistent even in dealing with the names for the Danube. Although he was clearly aware that the names Ister and Danubius referred to one river (§§ 32, 75, 114), he still uses Ister in its original Thracian sense, i.e., to designate the Danube from the confluence of the Sava and Tisza to the Black Sea (§§ 30, 33). Not uncommonly, Jordanes, compiling information from different sources, places names side by side and sometimes uses several variants of the same name interchangeably, e.g., Vistula and Viscla; Mursianus lacus and Morsianus stagnus; Alani, Halani and Spali;[47] Sadagarii and Sadagis; Araxes and Abraxes, and the like.


A full critical analysis of the «Gethica» as a source would be out of place here, but it is important to look carefully at the first thirty-eight paragraphs in order to place the locus classicus concerning the Slavs in the context of the larger system, such as it is. Here is an outline, with some comments:

1) Author’s preface (§§ 1–3), which is irrelevant for the present analysis.

2) Division of the earth into a tripartite continent (Asia, Europe, Africa) and an ocean with islands; here Jordanes acknowledges the authority of Paulus Orosius (ca. 380–420) as a source (§ 4).

3) Information on islands, both generic (e.g., the «Cyclades» and «Sporades») and specific (e.g., Orcades, Thyle [probably Ireland], and Skandza [Scandinavia] (§§ 5–9). Main sources are Claudius Ptolemy (d. after 151), Julius Caesar (100–44 B.C.E.), Titus Livy (59 B.C.E.–17 C.E.), Tacitus (55–120), and Dio Cassius (155–240) (§§ 10–15).

4) Topography and geography of the island of Skandza. Following Ptolemy, Jordanes locates it opposite the Vistula river. He quotes Pomponius Mela and Ptolemy (§§ 16–19).

5) Anthropological data on Skandza. The only source Jordanes quotes here is Ptolemy, Geogr. II.11.33–35. But while Ptolemy knew of only seven Scandinavian peoples, Jordanes presents fresh and correct information which must come from Ablavius or oral tradition or both: his list contains about thirty Old Scandinavian tribal groups (§§ 20–24a).

6) Digression about the fate of the king of Heruli, Roduulf (d. 494), which was apparently taken from the «History» of Procopius or a common source (§ 24 bis).[48]

7) Very important and highly original is Jordanes’ historiosophical concept of officina gentium ‘the factory of tribes’ and vagina nationum ‘the vagina of bands’ (i.e., the starting point for the planned migration of nomads of the sea) and its identification with Skandinavia (Skandza). The story of the initial migration of the first Gothic king, Berig, to the Vistula Delta (Gothiscandza), is apparently taken from oral tradition (§§ 25–26).

8) Next follows the migration of Filimer (the fifth successor of Berig) to the northern shores of the Black Sea, in Gothic called Oium (lit. «bei den Auen,» i.e., «Mesopotamia»), that is, the curved shores between the Dniester and the Dnieper, and his victorious encounter with the [Alanic] Spali. Ablavius is named as an authoritative source, but epic songs were probably also used (§§ 26 bis–28). The author also polemicizes with Josephus Flavius (37–95) about the relations between the Goths, the Scythians, and the biblical figure of Magog (§ 29).[49]

9) The topographical and geographical description of Scythia that follows (§§ 30–38) requires more detailed treatment. Here, one must keep in mind that Jordanes’ goal was to set down the history of the Goths; Scythia and its geography were of interest to him only because the Goths once lived there, after they had left the island of Skandza. It is important as a major stop during the long journey of the Goths. What Jordanes wanted to do first was to present the frontiers of Scythia as clearly as possible. Therefore, he delineated points of orientation first as viewed from the south (as did classical maps and both Christian and Arabic early medieval maps) and then from the northern perspective. From time to time, he inserted associations, digressions, and glosses, but his data are always primarily concerned with Gothic affairs.

We must also keep in mind the relative chronology of major events in Gothic history, which Jordanes sets up (§ 38):

a) Preparatory migration from Skandza to Gothiskandza;

b) The migration to the Ukrainian Mesopotamia (Oium);

c) The shift to the commercially important region around the Azov Sea (iuxta Paludum Meotidem), which he called the «first habitat» of the Goths;

d) Moesia [I and II], Thracia, and Dacia as the «second habitat» of the Goths (grouping together the classical Getae and the early medieval Ostrogoths, 433–471);

e) The «third habitat» of the Ostrogoths (the empire of Hermanarich, d. 375, and his successors until 433), placed again in the Ukrainian Mesopotamia between the Dniester and the Dnieper.


Jordanes did not follow Ptolemy who had replaced Herodotus’ concept of Scythia with the «modern» one of Sarmacia. He kept the name Scythia, but, like Strabo (63 B.C.E.–23 C.E.)[50] and Pliny the Younger (23–79),[51] extended its western frontiers as far as Germania.[52]

Jordanes’ treatment of the frontier of Scythia is extremely important for resolving the issue we are concerned with. Therefore, our analysis must be scrupulous. Let me repeat that Jordanes gave two sets of orientations, one from the southern perspective and the other from the northern perspective.

I. The western frontier of Scythia, i.e., the frontier between Scythia and Germania:

A. In the south:

a) the «birthplace» of the Ister river (ubi Ister oritur amnis, § 30). Accepting the views of Pliny,[53] who regarded Illyricum as the place where the river Danubius ended and the river Ister began, Jordanes pinpointed the birthplace of the Ister at the confluence of the Danube with the Tisza (north) and the Sava (south). Three important Roman frontier cities were located there: Sirmium (Mitrovica), Singidunum (Belgrade), and Novae (Euscia).[54]

b) Stagnus Morsianus (§ 30), which Jordanes elsewhere calls Lacus Mursianus (§ 35), is surely the Neusiedler Lake in Austria;[55] Jordanes chose it, because it was a clear marker of the northwestern end of the Roman province of Pannonia.

B. In the north: the delta of the Vistula River (§ 30).

II. The eastern frontier. Scythia extended eastward to the land of the Seres (China) and its northernmost boundary was the Ocean (Oceanus, § 31).

A. From the southern perspective, from east to west:

a) Persia, Albania, Hiberia (Iberia, Caucasian Georgia).

b) Pontus (Black Sea) and Ister (Danube, § 32).

B. From the northern perspective:

a) Caspian Sea (Mare Caspium), which Jordanes, following Eratosthenes, describes as being shaped like a mushroom (§ 30).[56]

b) The lands of the (historical) Hunni, the Albani, and the Seres (from west to east; § 30).

Jordanes’ Scythia was divided by the Riphaean Mountains (a mythical range he took over from Eratosthenes, Ptolemy, and other ancient authorities)[57] into European and Asian parts; the frontier was the river Tanais (Don), emptying into the Maeotis (§ 32).

In the European part of Scythia, where the Goths lived, there were the rivers Tiras, Danaster (both names for the Dniester), Vagosola (probably the Boh),[58] and Danaper (the Dnieper),[59] as well as the Taurus Moutains (on the Crimea), which the author—this time—clearly differentiates from the Anatolian range of similar name (§ 30). Whereas the name Danaster for old Tiras was first introduced by Ammianus Marcellinus (ca. 330–393),[60] Jordanes is to be credited with the first use of Danaper/Dnieper, the «local» name for the ancient Boristhenus (quem accolae Danaprum vocant, § 44). The name Vagosola is a hapax and remains enigmatic.

Maeotis, the Azov Sea—so important in Jordanes’ vision of Gothic history—is mentioned several times, usually in connection with the Thanais (Don), Bosporus (Kerch Strait), Caucasian Mountains, and the Araxes River in Transcaucasia (§§ 30, 32, 44, etc).

To stress the importance of Gothic Scythia, Jordanes inserted a list of Greek colonies of the polis type on the northern shores of the Black Sea. Some were real (Olbia, Cherson, Theodosia, Myrmician) and some fictional (Boristhenide, Callipolida, Careon); he also mistakenly included the famous Anatolian trade center of Trebizond here (§ 32).


10) Anthropological description of Scythia (§ § 33–37).

This material is presented along the same lines as the geographical description and must be analyzed in reference to it.

Jordanes again began with the western frontier from the southern perspective. The first people he named were naturally the Germanic Gepidae (§ 33) who from about 269 until after his own time (567) lived in Dacia (Pannonia). He described their habitat as being where the river Tisia (Tisza) embraces the land from the north and west, the river Tausis (Olut/Aluta) from the east, and the river Ister from the south (§ 33). Dacia is presented as having the shape of a crown, enveloped by the Alps (Carpathians: § 34).

In recent times, from Jordanes’ point of view, i.e., during the first decades of the sixth century, another race had emerged—the Sclaveni. Their habitat he described as a territory between the city of Novietunum and the lake of Mursia. The latter, as I said above, has been identified as the Neusiedler Lake. The context shows that Novietunum cannot be the same as Novodunum/-Noviodunum on the lower Danube, near modern Isaccea/Isakča, as Elena Č. Skržinskaja has pointed out.[61] The territory Jordanes describes is at the source of the Ister/Danube, not its mouth. But neither can Novietunum be equated with Noviodunum (modern Dernovo) on the Sava River near Ljubljana, as Skržinskaja would have it. Emona (Ljubljana) was not located in any of the three Roman Danube frontier provinces—Moesia (which he mentions first), Thracia and Dacia—connected with the history of the Goths, termed by Jordanes the «second Gothic habitat» and indeed the historical home of the Ostrogoths between 433 and 471.[62] Since Jordanes was concerned precisely with the Gothic past, he had no reason to use Emona as a point of orientation. Moesia (= Pannonia) was where his immediate ancestors came from, and, as I have said, it was in this province that the three Roman centers on the Danube limes were situated: Sirmium, Singidunum, and Novae. Therefore, we must look for a town in Moesia that could have been a suitable reference point. The easternmost Moesian stronghold (established, no doubt, to hold the frontier) was Novae (also called Euscia; today the village of Golubac),[63] which Jordanes mentioned elsewhere (§ 101). I stressed above that Jordanes often used two or more variants of a geographic name. Novae can be interpreted as the Latin abbreviation of the original Celtic name, and tunum is a Germanic variant of the Celtic dunom ‘city.’ I suggest, then, that Jordanes's Novietunum is none other than Novae. This would explain why Jordanes gave as the second point of orientation Lake Neusiedler, near the city of Carnuntum (not far from Vienna). Carnuntum was the northernmost and westernmost city of the Ostrogothic habitat in Moesia (Pannonia), just as Novae was the city lying furthest east and south in that habitat. It is hard to find a better way to define the extent of the southwestern border of that province than by giving these two points of orientation.

The original and, therefore, very precious information provided by Jordanes was that the territory of Moesia, once the habitat of the Getae and then the Goths, was now under the control of the Sclaveni; Sclaveni a civitate Novietunense et laco qui appellatur Mursiano. To this, he made two additions, since he associated the classical Venedae (= his Venethae) with the Sclaveni and Antes of his time. One insertion relates to the habitat of the Antes: usque ad Danastrum (cf. Antes. . . a Danastro extenduntur § 35), and the second insertion connects the information on the Sclaveni with that on the Venethae: in boream Viscla (cf. ab ortu Vistulae. . . Venetharum natio. . . consedit § 34).

Jordanes associated the classical Venedae with Vinid-, the Gothic designation for the Latin/Byzantine Sklavin-, on the same «linguistic» grounds that he identified the Goths with the Getae: simple similarity in sound.[64] On the other hand, he included the group he called Venethae = Vinid- in his introductory section for good reason: it was part of the Gothic tradition, where the great ruler Hermanarich (§ 119) had dealings with the Venethae. We assume, then, that Jordanes in this case is not speaking of his own time, but is merely putting together information from his heterogeneous sources. We cannot trust his remarks about the Venethae (= classical Venedae). Further, Jordanes had learned about the populous band of the Venedae from classical sources, especially Ptolemy, who connected them with the Vistula River, even giving the Gulf of Danzig the designation κόλπος Οὐενεδικός. Tacitus wrote that the Venedi’s «plundering forays take them over all that wooded and mountainous country» (§ 46).[65] It was apparently on that basis that Jordanes gave his description of the habitat of the Venethae: hi paludes silvasque pro civitatibus habent (§ 35). Jordanes here is not providing contemporary, sixth-century, data, but a rehash of material from older sources.

The word Vinid- is of Old Germanic origin; it is related to Old Norse vinr-, which had the meaning (established by Jost Trier) «der Genosse im Ring» (‘comrade in the ring [of the warriors’]).[66] But, there was still another reason why Jordanes identified Venetae (= classical Venedae) with the Germanic term Vinid-. Like the Goths, who took over the former habitat of the Getae, the Vinid-, of his time lived on the territory of the ancient Venedae. Jordanes’ data on the Vinid- (~ Vindi) are original and extremely important.

He tells us that the Vidivarii (this word has correctly been recognized as Vindivarii) live «on the shores of the ocean (Baltic Sea) where the waters of the Vistula river stream through three throats.» They are not an ethnic unit, but people «congregated from different bands (or races)» (ex diversis nationibus adgregati, § 36). It is certain that in Jordanes’ Vi[n]divarii we are dealing with a form of a name which Jordanes incorrectly took to be a supposed illustration of the original name of the people concerned: Vindi = Sclavi, plus the Latin word varii, meaning ‘different.’

It is fortunate that Jordanes provides another form of this name: Viuidarii, gens Viuidaria (§ 96, which specialists have also corrected to Vinidarii). The second element in the name, -varii > -arii, stands for the Germanic *vari-ōs ‘defender.’[67] The term *vinid-[v]ari-ōs, therefore, should be translated as «defender of the comrades in the [warriors’] ring» (or possibly: «inhabitant of the ring»).[68] The remaining information that Jordanes furnishes corroborates this proposed etymology. He writes:

«The same Gepidae were bursting with envy as long as they lived in the region of Spesis (Spesis provincia, unidentified hapax)[69] on the island surrounded by spits of the Vistula, which in their own language they called Gepedoios (Germ. ojos «island»). Now, I was told, this island is inhabited by the kind (gens) *Vinid-ari, since the [Gepidae] left (ca. 250) for better lands.

It is well known that the *Vinidarii [are those] who had congregated together from different bands [or races] (ex diversis nationïbus) as if to one refuge and had formed one kind (in unum asylum collecti sunt et gentem fecisse noscuntur, § 96)».[70]


This definition of the Vinid-ari- is of profound importance for European history. Jordanes was in large part a compiler, and he patched together facts or statements from many different sources with no regard at all for the times and places these sources were written. Yet, when he reports about groups and events for which he has contemporary information, he seems to have been accurate and, therefore, we can trust his statements.

During his lifetime, an institution that would subsequently have worldwide importance was in the process of formation. In Germanic, it was called Vinid-, in the Byzantine cultural sphere Σκλαβην-/Sclavīn-, and (later) in the Islamic world aṣ-Ṣaqlab. From Jordanes, we can deduce that these terms were originally neither ethnic nor linguistic in meaning, but organizational. What was involved was a new kind of military organization, but one similar to groups which repeatedly were formed in the course of the rise of steppe or sea paces. Paesants from different hamlets, often diverse in ethnic origin but always similar in parochial outlook, after having spent some time together in a refuge—like the Vinidarii—and having undergone military training, developed into a band of professional warriors using the same lingua franca.

Let us recall two other equivalent terms used by Jordanes: the phrases vagina nationum and officina gentium, i.e., ‘the vagina of bands,’ and the ‘factory of tribes’ (§ 25). These are revealing metaphors, surely, meaning the whole system of attracting raw recruits, gathering them into a training ground whose location was, for the observers in the sedentary empires, mysterious or even fantastic, and then se[n]ding out terrifying masses of trained soldiers in sudden and devastating attacks against distant territories. Even from Jordanes’ data, it is evident that Scandinavia was not the original home (Urheimat) of the Goths. Berig had assembled his people there to train them for his planned military campaigns on the European continent. Both Scandinavia and the Vistula delta—like Mongolia earlier and later, and like the Zaporogian Sič in the sixteenth-seventeenth centuries—were training centers for the transformation of peasants (or pasturalists, or even fishermen) from the surrounding territories into a class of professional warriors.

This is, then, another instance of a phenomenon which kept repeating in Eurasian history. The non-historical pastoralists or peasants beyond the limes of the existing historical empires (Rome, Iran, China), who had no experience with the larger world, and whose parochial interests, therefore, did not in any way predispose them to larger political bodies, were more often than not forced into undergoing a period of training that absorbed them into one larger body. This process, which usually lasted over successive generations for at least one century, created an upper class among the trainees that was cognizant of larger political bodies. That class became ready to take part in strengthening a pax and in forging the parochial dialects into a standard medium of communication for the entire pax. Linguae francae developed that embraced diverse linguistic entities into a «common language,» whether based on Turkic or Slavic (or other) materials. Upon the demise of the pax, it was possible for several full-fledged «daughter languages» to emerge. This involves a concept of language development often ignored by those who take too literally the model of the genealogical tree of language, as it was elaborated during the age of Romanticism. Rather than seeing only branches that continually sprout new branches, we are saying that a lingua franca which has evolved in order to serve large areas itself becomes a new and fairly uniform «tree» that then slowly puts forth new branches.

I spent four decades studying all twenty-two living Turkic languages, along with all the extinct forms that are known, with the aim of uncovering a Proto-Turkic stage (or perhaps more than one). I could not escape the conclusion that the oldest reconstructable common Turkic is the stage which directly preceded the oldest Turkic written texts, about 550–650, that is to say the time when the Turkic pax with its lingua franca, essentially free of dialectal diversities, was created.

My friend and colleague, Horace G. Lunt, has recently told me that he has had essentially the same experience with Slavic material. The oldest reconstructable Slavic differs so little from attested Old Church Slavonic, whose normalized form can be put in the ninth century, that OCS itself must be considered a dialect form of Common Slavic, and a dialect-free stage could be envisaged for as late as 750–800.

Historians have generally used linguistic abstractions, such as the notion of Common Slavic, for their own purposes, without trying to discover what objective reality was behind them. We need to try rather to study concrete peoples in concrete situations, insofar as this is possible. It is my conviction that only a method of historical sociolinguistics, such as we are suggesting here, can produce valid answers to our valid questions.


Let us turn to another equation made by Jordanes in his introduction (§ 35). He presents the Antes as the same, apparently meaning the same society, as the Sclaveni, although they are stronger than the Sclaveni. There are two points to be considered before we turn to the etymology of this name. The first is the minor but perhaps significant fact that Jordanes has the plural form Antes[71] (Antium), which is unexpected as an equivalent of the Greek Ἄνται (sg. Ἄντης) of all other sources.[72] The second is that this group appears and disappears during the brief span between 535 and 602 in Procopius, Menander, Agathias, Pseudo-Mauricius, Theophylact Simocattes and Theophanes;[73] it is only Jordanes that mentions Antes outside this period. He brings them up in connection with the Ostrogoths at the end of the fourth century. In a passage explicitly derived from old sources (and perhaps we may assume here the Gothic songs Jordanes mentions in his introduction), Jordanes relates how the resistance of the Antes was crushed by the Gothic king Vinitharius (fl. about 400). He captured Boz, «rex» of the Antes, and crucified him along with his sons and seventy nobles (primates, § 247). At that time, namely during the «third habitat,» the Goths lived super limbum Ponti, «above an arm of the Pontic Sea,» that is, in the curve north of the Black Sea, between the Dniester and Dnieper rivers (§ 82), called the Lukomorie in sources from Kievan Rus’.[74] Hence, Jordanes never actually defines the current habitat of the Antes in his own time, but merely recounts at second-hand tales about the glorious past of the Goths. A reasonable hypothesis is that the Antes/Antai, like the Vinid- (who, as we already know, merged in Jordanes’ mind with the Venedae of classical times) were present in the Gothic oral traditions. The Vinid- were linked with the great Ostrogothic king Hermanarich (d. 375) who, having overpowered the Heruli, forced them and the Baltic Aesti to submit to his rule (§ 119).[75]

As for the other historians, speaking of near-contemporary events of the sixth century, their statements are remarkably vague. In Pseudo-Mauricius, Σκλάβοι and Ἄνται are always linked, in that order, while Procopius has Σκλαβηνοί and Ἄνται four times, but Ἄνται and Σκλαβηνοί three times, though does mention the Ἄνται alone in two extensive passages. In fact, it appears that this name had no precise meaning to the sixth-century historians.

This analysis shows clearly that §§ 35–36 do not contain precious information about the topography of the putative three branches of the Slavs, contrary to the belief of many scholars. Rather, apart from the current location of the Sclaveni in Jordanes’ former homeland, Pannonian Moesia (a civitate Novietunense et laco qui appellatur Mursiano, § 35) and the information on the non-Slavic Vistula Vinidarii, all the data are only various insertions the compiler took from different sources, whether classical writings or oral traditions, of the Goths themselves. Jordanes put the Vinid-, Sclaveni and Antes together not on the basis of ethnic or linguistic criteria, but because all three terms refer to institutions of military colonists on frontier territories. Although these findings may dismay Slavists, it will help historians understand the process of nation-building in medieval Europe and Asia.[76]



It was not only the Ostrogoths who possessed the institution of Vinid-. They are also attested among the Franks, the ephemeral realm of the Frankish merchant Samo, and the Lombards (Langobards).

The Frankish Vinidi occur explicitly in the «Chronicle» of Pseudo-Fredegar Continuatus under the years 747–748.[77] But, there is good reason to suppose that the Vinidi were already employed by Sigibert as early as 562–565 (see sect. V. 1). They must have been stationed both along the Frankish-Bavarian frontier (the Main, Regnitz and Baunach rivers, i.e., Franconia) and in the frontier territory between the Saale and Elbe rivers (i.e., Thuringia). The latter supposition is corroborated by King Alfred the Great, who in his updated, Anglo-Saxon version of Paul Orosius’ work (ca. 890–899) clearly locates the Vinidi there: Wineda lond, þe mon hœtt Sysyle ‘The Vinidi-land, called Sysyle.’[78] The word Sysyle is also of importance, for it is doubtless a term used by the Heruli, relatives of the early Norsemen (cf. ON sýsla) and means «stewardship; district, bailiwick, prefecture.»[79] This means that the Franks used an Old Norse designation for the territory where the Frankish Vinidi were stationed. Apparently, it was mostly Heruli, or other «Scandinavians» who were recruited for service as Vinidi.[80]

Historical toponymy supplies further proof that military colonies existed along the two Frankish limites of Franconia and Thuringia. Medieval documents from these territories have provided 139 toponyms containing the name Vinid-, 88 in Franconia and 51 in Thuringia.[81] The oldest documentation for Franconia (the Main-Radenz limes) goes back to the eighth century (741: Moinuuinida et Radanzuinida, i.e., «the Winidi of the Main [river] and the Winidi of the Radenz [river]»).[82] Thuringian Winidi names first appear in documents from 874; curiously enough the name is again Moinuuinida.[83]

The names show three subdivisions: a) German personal name + winid-, e.g., Walubrameswinida (908); b) German appellative or river c) -name + -winid, e.g., Abswinden (1281), Moinuuinida; c) simplex form, e.g., Winden.

Hans Jacob’s studies of field-names (Flurnamen) and abandoned settlements (Wüstungen)[84] in historical documents and oral history have shown a relation between the so-called «Slavic» place-names and the system of the burghs, which was evolving during the eighth century.

Jordanes’ data in §§ 118–119, where he is dealing with the Ostrogoth Hermanarich’s establishment of an empire (Reichsgründung) in the fourth century, seem to indicate that the military organisation of the Winidi type (or Venethae) were a creation of the Heruli. This «merkwürdiges Volk» (to quote Ernst Schwartz)[85] of East Germanic origin dominated Eastern Europe between 267 and about 350, as the «nomads of the sea» of the epoch; their first activity was on the periphery of the Bosporus kingdom. This fact could explain the presence of the «Old Norse» elements (e.g., sýsla) in the language of the Thuringian Vinidi, as I mentioned above. The Ostrogoths took over the system, since the Venethi are named by Jordanes among those who were «obedient to Hermanarich’s command» (§ 120).


Later, during the first half of the sixth century, the institution of the frontiermen Vinidi was introduced to Central Europe by the Salian Franks who, after their great victories in Gaul, had entered on the path of state-building within the Roman-Christian cultural patterns.

Vinidi in the realm of Samo occur in the «Chronicle» by Pseudo-Fredegar II over a period of ten years (623–633). This source contains the phrase Sclaui coinomento Winidi,[86] i.e., «the Slavi [possibly already slavophone] known as [professional warriors of the] Winidi [type].» The terminology shows that in Burgundy in about 660,[87] the place and date of the work’s composition, the existence of disciplined warriors called Vinidi who (possibly) used Slavic as a lingua franca was already well known.

From the context of the Samo story in the same source, we see that the terms Vinidi and Sclavi were originally oppositional rather than substitutional. The befulci or the «cannon fodder» type warriors of the Avars were called Sclavi, and in addition, the Sclavi still paid tribute to the Avars (p. 40), but the Avars wintered with the Eclaui, slept with the wives of the Sclavi.

The revolutionary warriors called Winidi made the Frankish merchant Samo their king, and he subsequently married twelve wives from among their kind (ex genere Winidorum, p. 40); this very likely means that these Winidi had twelve units. The Winidi of Samo killed and robbed the Frankish merchants in 630 (p. 56); the army (exercitus) of the Winiti had entered Thuringia in 631 (p. 62), and in 632 (p. 63). The army of King Dagobert (d. 641) set out against the Winidi (p. 57). Dagobert’s allies, the duke of the Alamans and the Lombards, entered the territory of the Sclavi and took many Sclavi prisoner (p. 57). Dagobert’s envoy Sicharius, in order to gain admittance to Samo’s presence, had to dress as a Sclauus (p. 56). But, the most resolute Venedi had taken refuge in a stronghold with the (traditional) Germanic name of Wogastisburc (p. 57). In 631, the Austrasians bravely defended their frontier and the Frankish kingdom against Winedus (p. 63).

It is still common among scholars to substitute automatically the ethnic concept of Slavs every time the name Vinid- appears in any kind of source (as here in Pseudo-Fredegar’s text, Winedi and similar spellings), but this practice makes it impossible to understand the early medieval context properly.[88]

The existence of a Lombardian Marca Vinedorum in the Italian Abruzzi Moutains (Duchy of Beneventum) is obvious from a comparison of two sources. While Pseudo-Fredegar II designates the Lombardian leader who gave refuge to the Bulgarian commander Alciocus/Alzeco as the Dux Winedorum,[89] the Lombardian historian Paul the Deacon (d. 799) styles the same person as duke of Beneventum.[90]


The professional warriors who in the Byzantine cultural sphere were called Ἄνται = syr. Anṭi-y-ū = Lat. Antes (~ *Anti), as documented above in fn. 73, appear within the system of the paxes of the Ostrogoths, the Proto-Bulgars, and the Avars.

As already noted, Jordanes calls them braver than the Sclaveni: Antes vero, qui sunt eorum fortissimi (§ 35). The whole context we have established allows us to interpret this to mean that they were elite troops. The conflict between them and the Gothic king Vinitharius, and the king’s terrible vengeance, indicates that they aspired to independence and did not submit easily (§ 247).[91]


Jordanes calls the pre-Gothic lords of the Ukrainian Mesopotamia (Gothic Oium), i.e., the territory between the Dniester and Dnieper rivers, sometimes Spali (§ 28)[92] and sometimes Antes (§ 35), but he never refers to them as Halani (Alans), despite the well-known fact[93] that a Latin contemporary, Ammianus Marcellinus (ca. 330–400) writes clearly about the war between the Gothi Greuthungi and the Halani.[94] One must suppose that one of Jordanes’ sources, probably Gothic oral tradition, gave him reason for doing so.

The earliest occurence of the name Alan in the west is in «Thyestes,» a tragedy by Seneca (4 B.C.E.–65 C.E.).[95] At approximately the same time, Hou Han-shu (chap. 118, fol. 13r°) states that the name Yen-ts'ai (= Greek Ἄορσοι < āvrs-)[96] had been changed into A-lan (Alan).[97]

Neither term is an ethnic or linguistic indicator; both surely are professional designations. The Alans were a special type of cavalrymen who used Eastern Iranian as a lingua franca. Ammianus Marcellinus writes:[98]

«Thus the Halani [Alans]... are divided between the two parts of the earth [i.e., Europe and Asia], but although widely separated from each other and roaming over vast tracts, as nomads do, yet in the course of history they have united under one name, and are, for short, all called Halani because of the similarity in their customs, their savage mode of life, and their weapons... the young men grow up in the habit of riding from their earliest boyhood and regard it as contemptible to go on foot; and by various forms of training they are all skilled warriors... They do not know the meaning of slavery, since all are of noble blood.»

From data provided by Lucian (ca. 125–190), it has been assumed that the Alans «were engaged in a practice that modern anthropologists would classify as ritual adoption.»[99] The remarkable career of the Alans both in Constantinople and in Western Europe (Italy, Switzerland, France, Spain) has recently been studied by Bernard S. Bachrach.[100]

The discrepancy in names—Halani in Ammianus Marcellinus, but Antes in Jordanes—is easily explained. The Antiochian Ammianus, residing in Rome, used the generic term known to everybody in the empire. The Gotho-Alan Jordanes, knowing from his people’s tradition the precise designation for the particular type of Alans he was describing, used the word he considered correct.

Thus, we take it that the Antes/Antai were the frontiersmen of the Alans, the warriors whose duty it was to have contact with the Alans’ neighbors. This type of force was probably created by the Alans during the fourth century, as a response to the imperial ambitions of Hermanarich. As subsequent groups came into Eastern Europe—the Huns in 375, and later their successors, the Utiġur-Quturġur-Bulgars—they adopted this type of Alanic warriors for their own aims, and therefore, the sources provide information about the Antai used by the newcomers.

Procopius (d. ca. 562) surely had in mind the Hunnic Antai when he located them in the frontier zone of the Maeotis (Sea of Azov) and Tanais (Don) regions to the north of the Hunnic Οὐτίγουροι.[101]

The Antai of the Proto-Bulgars were said by Procopius to be living on the Danube limes close to the [Pannonian Proto-] Bulgarian Σκλαβηνοί «at the time Justinian I [527–565] took over the Roman Empire» (vol. 6, p. 216). The Chilbudius episode in the year 546 is especially instructive concerning the mode of action of the Bulgarian Antai.[102] The Proto-Bulgarian Antai also occur in the «History» of Menander Protector (d. after 582) in the context of the story of Mezamiros.[103] All these instances show how jealously they guarded their freedom of action and how easily conflicts between them and the Sclaveni arose.

Emperor Justinian I established a special relationship with the Antai, who often supported him in his many wars. He made Anticus[104] a part of his official titulature, and in 545 he «expressed the desire that they should all settle in an [abandoned] ancient city, Turris by name, situated to the north of the river Ister [Danube].»[105] From 545 to 602, the Antai usually cooperated with the Romans, but in about 560, the Avars began to assume the hegemony over Eastern Europe and to demand loyalty from the Antai. The tragedy of these warriors—who had striven for independence, especially in 602, and to change their masters (in this case, from the Avars to the Byzantines)—is presented in the seventh-century «History» of Theophylact Simocattes,[106] and repeated in the «Chronicle» of Theophanes (760–818).[107] These events of 602 mark the last time this group is named; at this point, the Antai just disappear from history.


The word Antai is, as Max Vasmer has shown,[108] of Iranian origin; the ending -tä is a typical plural suffix in the language of the Alans (and modern Ossetians). The root is the Iranian word anta = Sanskrit anta- ‘frontier; end.’ In developing this etymology further, one should note, beside the derivative in Iranian *ant-ya ‘frontier-man, Ukrainian [in the original meaning of the word],’ that Ossetian shows two parallel forms for *antya, one with /nt/ and the other with the geminate */tt/ > /dd/ : ändä and äddä ‘behind.’ These forms and the Syriac spelling anṭi-y-ū (where /ū/ is the plural suffix functionally equal to the Alanian /tä/), suggests that the Greek Antai /antä/ goes back to *antya-tä, which developed into *anttä[109] and then was simplified by degemination. This change suggests that the Byzantines first received the name either via the Proto-Bulgars or from the Turks; both linguistic groups tend to avoid geminates.

The term Antai, not unlike Winid-, appears to be a designation for frontierman, but most probably one using an Eastern Iranian lingua franca. Possibly, the word was the creation of the Alans, and therefore, Jordanes equated the Antes with the Spali/*Alani (§ 28).



Of the three kinds of professional warriors mentioned by Jordanes (ca. 551), only two were connected with concrete Gothic tradition: Venethae (= Vinidi) with the Gothic king Hermanarich (d. ca. 374: § 119), and the Antes with king Vinitharius (d. ca. 400: § 247). No specific deeds with regard to the Sclaveni are ascribed to any Gothic ruler. The Sclaveni appear in Jordanes’ catalogue of the kinds of professional warriors known to him (at the end of § 119) as an obvious addition made to glorify his hero Hermanarich.

From this, we can deduce that the Sclaveni were a post-Gothic institution, that is, after 400, since no Sclaveni of Attila were known either to the eyewitness, the Byzantine diplomat Priscus who visited Attila in 448, or to the Gothic traditions used by Jordanes. Thus, the Sclaveni must have developed after Attila’s death in 453.


Let me emphasize that this event marked a turning point in the history of the European part of the Eurasian steppe. Up to that time, the nomadic charismatic clans could always count on the cooperation of the nomad[ic] Germanic kings and their retinues (comitatus).

In the last two decades of the fifth century, the two most important Germanic tribal units, the Ostrogoths and the Franks, settled in Italy and Gaul, and became occupied—especially the Franks—with establishing their own sedentary states, in cooperation with the former Roman ruling class.

It was exactly at this time that the Hunnic establishment was recovering from the consequences of Attila’s death and beginning to reconstitute themselves as Bulgars (Proto-Bulgars) with two component parts, Utiġurs and Quturġurs.

Since the Germanic tribes, and also the Alans, were being attracted by either the Goths in Italy or the Franks in Gaul, it was necessary for the new pax-builders in the steppe to create military units on an entirely new basis. These new warriors appear under the name of  Σκλάβοι/Σκλαβηνοί. It is remarkable that all Proto-Bulgarian branches had their own Sklavin-/(a)qlab. Thus, when the Hunnic Quturġurs raided Thracia and Constantinople in 559, their Sklavin- took active part.[110] A new analysis of the data of Ibn Khurdādhbeh (ca. 840–880) has shown that Kobrat, the creator of the Azov (Bosporus) Magna Bulgaria (d. ca. 660), was referred to by the Sasanian bureaucracy as ruler over the Ṣaqlab/Sklavin-.[111]

The account of Ibn Faḍlān, the envoy of the Caliph of Baghdad to the king of the Volga Bulgars in 922, also called this ruler malik aṣ-Ṣaqāliba.[112]

The Sklavin- of the Pannonian Proto-Bulgars, who attacked the Byzantine Danube limes from the time of Justinian I, are well known from the «History» of Procopius and other contemporary Byzantine authors. The Kouber story (fl. 676–678) in the fifth miracle of St. Demetrius shows that even this Bulgarian ruler, who was under Avar suzereinty, also had his own Σκλάβοι/warriors.[113] It would take us too far afield to deal here with the role of the Sklavin in the First Danube Bulgarian empire created by Asparuch (679), or with the circumstances which conditioned the decision of Tsar Simeon (893–927) to take over the Slavic rite with Slavonic as the sacred language.

The Sklavin frontier warriors are also attested to in the Khazar pax, the successor state to Great Bulgaria. On the authority of the Arabic reports about the famous expedition of Marwān b. Muḥammad into the interior of Khazaria in 737 (especially in the work by Ibn A̒tham al-Kūfī),[114] the Khazarian Ṣaqāliba (plural of ṣaqlab) were stationed on the Middle Volga frontier,[115] near the confluence of the Bol’šoj Irgiz and the Volga. It seems that during the ninth century, the new Khazar regime, headed by a majordomo (bäg/ixšēd), had replaced the Ṣaqāliba with another group of professional warriors, the standing army called al-Arsiya, who were Muslims recruited from among the Khwārizmians. This we learn from the account by al-Mas̒ūdī (ca. 940).[116]


The anonymous Miracula S. Demetrii (= Mir II; compiled ca. 675–685)[117] gives a list of five bands (ἔϑνος) of the Sklavins who attacked Thessalonica in 614.[118] Many scholars have labored in vain to establish Slavic etymologies of these putative «Slavic tribal names.»[119] If the Sklavin troops were created by the Proto-Bulgars sometime during the last decades of the fifth century, as I assume, the self-designations of these bands should reflect the Ponto-Caspian milieu of the time, which was Hunno-(Eastern) Iranian. Let us, therefore, check to see whether the hypothesis holds. Here are the names:[120]


Four seem to have a suffix /it/, spelled -ητ- or -ιτ-, while the fifth may be seen as without suffix.

There is a suffix /it/ that is very familiar to Altaists. Indeed, it occurs in the name of the Hunnic Avars: Varxun- it (see n. 30, above).

Compare Ἐϕϑαλῖτ-αι, «Hephthalites,» derived from the name of their leader Efthal.[121] This seems to be a parallel to a later stage in the linguistic history of this territory, namely the self-designations of groups of Ukrainian Cossacks that were based on the names of their leaders. There were two patterns. The first took the stem of the leader’s name, sometimes removing a final suffix, and added a suffix denoting «adherent of»: e.g., Mazepa: Mazep-yn-ciLisowski: Lisov-čyk-y (Lat. Lissov-ian-i).[122] The second was simply the name of the leader, e.g.,  Barabaš «Left-bank Cossacks,» (after 1667) from the name of Colonel Barabaš (fl. 1647–1648).[123]

Detaching the it-suffix, let us look at the four bases Baioun-, Belegez-, Berz- and Drougoub-.

Baioun. Here we can read u or ū < *-aġu-,[124] plus the nominative singular suffix /n/. This is then the equivalent of a well-known Old Turkic word, which occurs with the majestic plural suffix /t/ (because of the meaning): bayagu-t «rich-merchant» (the standard translation of Sanskrit śreṣṭ̣hī). Therefore, we posit *bayūn < *baya-ġun.[125]

Belegez is a reasonable transcription of Hunnic bel-egeč, where *bēl means «five,» and *egeč is comparable to Old Turkic äkäč «(elder) sister of the clan,»[126] and Old Mongolian egeči «elder sister.»[127] The surname bel-egeč reminds one of Beševliev, the surname of the leading Bulgarian specialist in the field of Proto-Bulgarian inscriptions: beš-evli is Ottoman Turkish and means «(having) five wives.»

Berz- is doubtless the front variant of the name of a Khazaro-Bulgarian charismatic clan Barč-[128] it can be taken as an incorrectly reconstructed form from ΒερζιλBarč il > Bärčil, and finally Bärč. The band leader was apparently a member of the Barč clan.

Drougouw-. This word has three distinct Hunnic (Hunno-Bulgarian) features: first, initial d-, as against Old Turkic t-;[129] second, metathesis of the vowel, producing a consonant-cluster in initial position, *dur- > dru-;[130] and third, the development of the final g into –w.[131] The root is the verb *dur- (OTurkic tur-, but Ottoman dur-) «stand,» both in the sense of «stand upright»[132] and «stand still» */ġuġ/ is the suffix of nomen usus. This, then, is a surname *Druġuw (equivalent to Turkic turġuġ, turquġ), signifying «he who usually stands still.» Kāšġarī, the eleventh-century Turkic philologist explains the name (in Arabic) thus: «shyness (shame, diffidence) about something; one says ol mändän turquġ = (Arabic) ṣāra minnī ḥayīyan li-fi̒l badā minhū «he is ashamed before me over a matter that arose concerning him.»[133] The surname *Druguw was probably used jocularly, as an antonym, for a very forceful person (in the manner common among the Zaporogian Cossaks later).

The fifth name, Sagudat-, with no suffix, is of Eastern Iranian origin: *sāka-dāt «gift of the stag»—the stag was the totem of the Scythians.[134] The etymon *śāka, in Ossetian sag, is rendered in the Bactrian inscriptions as CΑΓΓΟ, CΑΓΟ; in the middle of the fourth century, there was a Scythian people on the Danube called Saga-dares *sāga-dār «stag [totem] possessor.»[135] Old Persian dāta is Middle Persian, e.g., Pahlavi, d’t.[136]

Conclusion: the five names preserved in Mir II are not «Slavic tribal names,» but self-designations of Proto-Bulgarian Sklavin bands; accordingly, they have clear Hunnic or Iranian etymologies.


Since all attempts to find an etymology of the term Sklavin-/Slav-, on native ground have failed, one is tempted to look elsewhere.[137] Proto-Bulgarian seems the most promising spot. There, we find a common Hunno-Turkic word saqla-, ‘to watch over, guard, protect.’[138] The noun derived from it by the suffix */GU/ is attested in Kazan-Tatar (Muslim progeny of the Volga Bulgars) and in Karaim (modern Qipčaq-Polovcian), where the suffix became /-w/. In these languages, the noun saqla-w means ‘guard, watch; guarding’ in the senses of actor, profession, place, or action.[139] As early as Proto-Bulgarian, the suffix */GU/ had become /w/: e.g., κολο-β-ρ (< *qola-ġu-r) ‘leader.’[140] Further, in Proto-Bulgarian, stress moved from the root syllable to the suffix, and the root vowel then reduced, e.g., *dawl-an > dwan ’hare,’ *tovirəm > tvirəm «the ninth.»[141] Therefore, one can assume that in Proto-Bulgarian the old *saqla-ġu would develop as *saqla-w and later as sqlaw-. Proto-Bulgarian also had a collective suffix /-in/, used especially to designate peoples: e.g., Volga Bulgarian Bulgar-in, «the Bulgars,» Sowar-in «the Sowars.»[142]

Thus, our conclusion is that there was a Proto-Bulgarian word saqlaw > sqlaw with the plural form *sqlaw-in and two meanings: 1) «guard, watch, guarding»; 2) «trained slave.» The Arabs, who were engaged in the slave trade, (see below), adopted the singular form as (a)qlab, meaning «trained slave,» while the Byzantines, who were interested in contacts with the collective of the sqlawin on their limes, adopted it as sklavin, adding a plural desinence: Σκλαβην-οί. In Slavic, the suffix was modified to the collective plural -ěn-e, denoting a social group, correlated with the singulative suffix -in-, while the impermissible initial cluster *skl was reduced to sl.


The first appearance of the name of the Sklavin is connected with the story about the re-emigration of the Heruli from the Danube region to Scandinavia in 512.

Procopius, recording this event some years later (ca. 546–550; vol. 3, p. 414) says: «These men, led by many of the royal blood (italics mine, OP), traversed through all the band (ethnos) of the Sklavins consecutively, and after next crossing a large tract of barren country, they came to the Varni, as they are called. After these, they passed by the people of the Dani.»

The exact dwelling-place of these Sclavins of Procopius’ has continually puzzled scholars. Many locations have been proposed, among them Bohemia, the Moravian Gate, Little Poland, and Silesia.[143] Yet, all these suggestions rest on two unproven hypotheses: that the temporary habitat of the Heruli was north of the Pannonian part of the Danube; and that the Heruli migrated by land.

But, the Heruli were no strangers in Eastern Europe. Until about 350, they were masters there and were known as the maritime power of the epoch. They had both Azov and the Black Sea under their control.[144] One may, therefore, conjecture that they travelled back home to Scandinavia by boat, being under the leadership—as Procopius clearly states—of «many of the royal blood,» who surely knew the geography of that part of the world well. Procopius (vol. 3, p. 414) characterizes their temporary Danube settlement (before 512) as «the extremity of the world» (that is, of the Roman Empire), which at that time was the Danube/Ister frontier in Scythia Minor, or Dobrudja. I submit, therefore, that the Heruli began their voyage by river from the mouth of the Dniester, reaching the Vistula by way of the San, proceded from the Upper Vistula via the Warthe to the Upper Oder, then by the Spree and Havel to the Elbe, thus arriving in the territory of the Varni of Mecklenburg.

If my hypothesis is correct, then the Heruli met the Sklavins at least during their voyage up the Dniester. We expect Sklavins in this region to account for the periodical raids, chiefly against the nearby provinces of Moesia and Thracia, reported in Byzantine sources for the first half of the sixth century.


This leads to the next question: what was distinctive about the Sklavin troops? The manual of military tactics by Pseudo-Mauricius, «Artis militaris libri duodecim» (ca. 600), devotes its eleventh book to techniques of dealing with foreign troops. Four categories are distinguished:[145]

1. Persians;
2. Scythians: Avars and Turks;
3. Franks and Lombards;
4. Σκλάβοι and Ἄνται.

The anonymous author has organized his material to deal with two types of warfare, psychological and physical. This accounts for many of the pieces of information about ethnic groups and their «character» that are assembled in this special eleventh book. Since the author was well-read, he makes use of topoi. But, he makes distinctions we must pay attention to. Thus, he states that, contrary to Persian (and Byzantine) practice, the Scythians do not maintain the fixed battle order (the classical three wings), and that Frankish troops are organized not on the basis of professional military rank, but in terms of tribal retainers with no bonds of discipline. The Sklavs, he tells us, had exceptional skills in swimming and diving. They had hardly any cavalry, but operated in guerilla fashion with surprise attacks, especially in marshy or mountainous regions. Their archers and javelin-throwers, posted in inaccessible positions, could harass the Byzantine army from a distance.

Several sources stress that the Sklavs/Sklavins were specialists in the buiding of boats. Thus, Theophylact Simocattes writes that around 595 the kagan of the Avars ordered the Sklavins to build ships to enable his army to cross the Danube.[146] He also informs us, in a much-discussed passage, that some Sklavini (Σκλαυηνοί) lived (which we can surely interpret as «were stationed») «on the extreme shores of the Western Ocean,»[147] that is, the Baltic Sea.

The anonymously transmitted «Miracles of Saint Demetrius» (Mir II, ca 675–685) we mentioned above credits the Sklavins (Σκλαβίνοι) of 614 with three maritime skills: first, they «invented» the techniques for constructing onestrake ships (τὸ μονόξυλον or «single-straker»); second, they could make ships of this type that could be navigated on the sea; and third, they developed a security system for their ships during battle, using covers made of wooden boards and skins.[148]

One is reminded of chapter 9 of De administrando imperio, where Constantine Prophyro-genitus states that the Sklavs (Σκλάβοι) from different Σκλαβηνίαι («Slavic regions») «cut the single-strakers on their mountains in time of winter,» and in spring, they come down to Kiev to «sell them to the Rus’ (Rhos).»[149] In a different region, Paul the Deacon (d. ca. 799) writes in his «History of the Lombards» that in about 641 «the Sclavi came with a great number of ships and set up their camp not far from the city of Siponto» on the Gulf of Manfredonia, Italy.[150] It is apparently because of the river skills of the Sklavins that they are associated with other river-dwellers in a very strange passage of Pseudo-Caesarius (ca. 530–558), οἱ Σκλαβηνοὶ καὶ Φυσωνῖται, οἱ καὶ Δανούβιοι προσαγορευόμενοι, in Slavonic: Slověne i Thisonitěn’ě eže i Dunavene naričjut’ se.[151] Since Theophylactus Simocattes (p. 247) also stresses their skill in fighting from fortifications made from wagons (compare the Wagenburg defense used by Žižka in the Hussite wars), the answer to the question we asked above is now obvious: the unique characteristic of the Sklavin troops is that they were amphibious units, trained for guerilla warfare both on water–especially rivers–and on land. To put it in American terminology, they were the marines of the epoch.


But why did the Bulgars, nomads of the steppe, need amphibious troops? The answer lies in the whole strategic system of the time. It was Archibald R. Lewis, in discussing a number of basic changes which had occurred during the fourth and fifth centuries, who stressed that the most important change, curiously overlooked by maritime historians, was «the sudden rise of a minor Greek city, Byzantium, to the status of a great metropolis following its choice as capital by the Emperor Constantine» (330–351).[152] Whereas Rome was essentially land-oriented, the unique location of Constantinople, as Byzantium was now styled, required it to be [the] «mistress of the sea.»[153] The political and economic power of the Byzantine Empire was based on, and depended on, domination of the seas. The nomads—[in] our case the Bulgars and later the Avars—whose activity was oriented toward Byzantium had to adapt their tactics to this fundamental difference. Sudden attacks by mounted archers, so effective in the offensives of Attila and his predecessors, were no longer sufficient.


Kobrat, the founder of Magna Bulgaria (ca. 630–665), chose for his capital the former center of the maritime Bosporus kingdom, the port city of Phanagoria, located on the Kerch Straits.[154] His ambitions for the Bulgars required the creation of a new type of troops, amphibious bands. The rise of the sedentary Frankish and Langobard realms deprived the nomads of the possibility of acquiring well-trained Germanic comrades-in-arms, as we mentioned above. The solution was to arrange a system of special training for slaves, whether captured or purchased. The training of slaves for various important functions was already practiced by the itinerant merchants of Central Asia; it was a question now of special military training. This resulted in the Sklav/ Sklavin, first introduced by the (Proto-)Bulgars and later advanced by the Avars.[155]

As a result, in both the Proto-Bulgar pax and the Khazar pax, still another type of Sklavin had emerged: the professionally trained slaves. In antiquity, the principal slave markets were the islands of Chios (in the Greek period) and Delos (in the Roman period). After the official proclamation of Christianity in Rome (313), the center of the slave trade seems to have shifted to the north, to the centers in the Bosporus kingdom.[156] The trade was probably taken over by the Proto-Bulgars and later by the Turkic Qipčaqs; the latter became the source of the mamlūk type of military slaves, who much later (1250–1517) were to flourish in Egypt and Syria.[157]

All this suggests that «slave,» the second meaning of the Arabic ṣaqlab and a word common to all western European languages[158] has the same origin.

In any event, Ḥasdai ben Šafrūṭ, the Umayyad Spanish minister, in his letter to King Joseph of Khazaria, designated the German King Otto I as melek Aškenaz ve melek ha-gebalim šehem al ṣeqláb,[159] i.e., «king of the Germans and king of the [area beyond] the mountains, i.e., of the ṣeqlab.» Thus, he ascribed to Otto I the title which had heretofore been reserved for the kings of the Bulgars.


The term sklavin of the Byzantine cultural sphere between the sixth and ninth centuries was very tightly connected with the Avar pax. In contemporary testimonies, whenever the Sklavins appear, the Avars are almost invariably also referred to, though sometimes indirectly, usually as their masters.

The term sklavin, then, I contend, did not have an ethnic or linguistic entity as its referent, but was classificatory, designating in the first instance barbaric professional frontier warriors. No single common Slavic nation existed, nor can we assume a feeling of one Slavic ethnic commonality.[160] Instead, the sources show that the term ἡ Σκλαβηνία/ Σκλαυηνία (sing.) or αἱ Σκλαβηνίαι/Σκλαβινίαι/Σκλαυινίαι (pl.) had the meaning «any regions occupied by the Sklavin,» that is, a stronghold, whether small or large in area, of the frontier military colony type.[161] The first author to use the term Σκλαυηνία was Theophylact Simocattes (fl. 610–641) referring to barbarians’ strong-holds on the left bank of the Danube.[162] The institution was known throughout the entire province of Lower Pannonia. Several scholars (e.g., G. Ostrogorsky, F. Dvornik, S. Antoljak, I. Boba) have established that Sklavinias also existed in the following lands:[163]

1) Transylvania;
2) Thrace with Moesia (Scriptor Incertus, De Leone Armenio);
3) Macedonia (Theophanes);
4) Dalmatia, including Caruntania (Sclavenia in Latin documents of 871);
5) Peloponnesus (eighth/early ninth century; Σκλαβηνία);
6) Rus’ (Constantine Porphyrogenitus: αἱ λοιπαὶ Σκλαβηνίαι ’the rest of the Sklavinias’).[164]

We do not have specific or detailed descriptions of the Sklavinia type of military colony. One thing is clear, however: each Sklavinia had its own leadership, headed by a župan (Avar title) or ἔξαρχος or ἄρχων (Byzantine titles).[165]

The Sklavinias were united in larger units called γένος or γενεά or gens ’gens, tribe,’ in the same way as the nomadic oq/oġur = oġəz. Thus, the Danube Bulgars of Asparuch, having settled in Moesia II around 679, subjugated there the so-called «seven tribes of the Sklavini» (τῶν ...  Σκλαυινῶν ἐϑνῶν τὰς λεγομένας ἑππὰ γενεάς = septem generationum Sklavinorum).[166]

The Miracula St. Demetrii (Mir II, ca. 685) enumerates five bands of heathen Sklavin that participated in the siege of Salonika in 614.[167] The Armenian writer Pseudo-Mowsēs Khorenac’i (probably eighth century) mentions that in Thrace there lived «25 sklauayin gentes[168]

Unlike the steppe Oġur = Oġəz, whose economy was pastoralist, the Sklavinia type of military colony subsisted by agriculture.[169]

Like their steppe counterparts, however, these colonies strove, whenever circumstances permitted, to become independent of their imperial suzerains, whether they were Avars, Bulgars, or Byzantines.



When the charismatic clan of a steppe pax retained its charisma among the ruling elites but was forced to abandon its habitat, it would try to restore itself on another territory. Two patterns are observable. In the first, the ruling elites persuaded their partners and forced their chattel to accompany them. In the second, they sought new partners and chattel from among local peoples.

A classic example of the first pattern were the originally Proto-Mongolian Säbirs (the ancestors of the Hungarians), who, when they left their Ob-Irtysh habitat in Siberia around 460, took with them several leading tribes of their confederation as well as their chattel, the cousins of the modern Mansi (Voguls) and Khanti (Ostjaks). In the course of its history, this pax changed its charismatic clans with their official languages (Majġar, Lebed, Arpad, Anjou, Habsburg) and its name (Säbir, Turks, Onnoġurs, etc.) several times. The speech of its chattel was to have a remarkable course of development: in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, due to the impact of German Romanticism, it became the Hungarian national language.[170]

The (Pseudo-)Avars had arrived in the Maeotis-North Caucasus region as fugitives. The Byzantine sources give their number as twenty thousand (two tümäns),[171] and say that the vigorous young adventurers immediately caught the attention of the neighboring peoples.

The Avars brought with them the vision of a pax, and they immediately began to try to establish it. They required the usual six elements for the formation of a pax:

1) moneylenders,
2) new partners,
3) new territory,
4) military forces,
5) chattel,
6) provisions.

Thanks to the unusual sagacity of their leader (Kagan Bayan, ca. 558–582), they succeeded in securing all six within a decade (558–568). Evidently, the Iranian merchants of the «Alan» confederacy, who immediately recognized that the future pax would hold great opportunities for them, provided the Avars with funds while they were still in the North Caucasus. Proof of this is that the Avars requested and received assistance from the «king» of the Alans in establishing contacts with Byzantium.[172] Subsequently, all territories important for commercial strategy, including the Danube limes, the Elbe frontier with the Franks, and the Baltic coast, immediately came under the control of the Iranian establishments, called in the sources Serbs, Croats, Obotriti  and Vilti.[173]

The first to join the Avars as partners were the Hunnic Onnoġurs and Quturġurs, and, a little later, the Tarniax.[174] Soon they forced into the confederacy other Hunnic groups, the Utiġurs and the Proto-Mongolian Ζαβενδέρ = Zäben-der (= Säbir), who previously had ordinarily cooperated with Byzantium.[175]

To organize a military force, the Avars needed the military and administrative specialists obtainable from sedentary states. At that time, this meant Byzantium and the Frankish empire. Bayan, the new charismatic leader, chose to look to the Franks. His first attack on the Frankish frontier was defeated, in 562.[176] Three years later, however, he won a great victory over the Frankish king Sigibert and, to judge from the data in both Frankish and Byzantine sources, he accomplished his objectives in 565.[177]

The treaty between Sigibert and Bayan that ensued was mediated by Sigibert’s brother-in-law, Alboin, the new king of the Lombards and a determined foe of the Gepidae, who at that time lived in Pannonia. For his help in destroying the Gepidae, Bayan demanded and received from Alboin one tenth of the Lombardian livestock, half of their Gepidian booty, and the habitat of the Gepidae, Pannonia, for the Avars to settle in.[178]

Having accomplished all this, Bayan set to work on the three last items on his agenda—obtaining and training specialists, and establishing a standing military force.

Unfortunately, the existing sources do not touch directly upon these extremely important matters. They do, however, contain information which allows us to construct the following hypothesis.

Bayan wanted to station frontier warriors of Proto-Bulgarian, Antai and Sklavin type along the Byzantine limes. By this time, he had already obtained military instructors of the Winidi class from the Frankish frontier. He still needed expendable soldiers for an army, a problem he solved by systematic capture of the local peasantry, ancestors of the future Slovenes, Czechs, Poles, and Sorbs. We can assume that he co-opted peoples whose descendants even today use the name «Avar» (obr, etc.) with the meaning «giant.»[179] The Winidi, as this new force was called, under the influence of the more developed Germanic lingua franca used by their military instructors, had considerable impact on the Slavophone masses (see below).

The terminology of the Samo passage in Pseudo-Fredegar’s «History» strengthens our hypothesis. As we saw above in section III.2., a close analysis reveals an opposition between the leaders, called Winidi, and the masses, called Sclavi.


Gradually, a Slavic lingua franca developed in the military camps of the Avar pax, a language more sophisticated than the «hamlet idioms» and capable of conveying military orders, recording bureaucratic reports, and expressing ideas in the emerging, if limited, cultural life of the pax.

This wholly contemporary common Slavic language was stabilized by the end of the eighth century, and even later borrowings from one area to another would be adapted to the local dialect variants. Thus, the word for ‘king’ among Catholic Slavs was taken from «Common Slavic» *karl-, derived from the name of the destroyer of the Avar Pax, Charlemagne (d. 814), becoming kralj in Croatian, král in Czech and Slovak, król in Polish and then korol’ in East Slavic, where the word referred to western rulers, or eastern rulers crowned by the pope.[180]

By that time, the first essential stratum of «Common Slavic» cultural borrowings is already in place. From Germanic, for example, we see such words as kŭnędzĭ ‘prince,’ *pŭlkŭ ‘[military] unit: band,’ mečĭ ‘sword,’ *šlěmŭ ‘helmet,’ brŭnja ‘coat of mail,’ brady ‘war-ax,’ sedŭlo ‘saddle,’ *oldiji ‘boat,’ greb- in the sense of ‘paddle, row’ (possibly also *jękorĭ ‘anchor’), likŭ ‘triumphal dance,’ istŭba ‘[heated]room,’ xlěvŭ ‘cattle-shed,’ tynŭ ‘stockade,’ kladędzĭ ‘well,’ plugŭ ‘plow,’ osĭlŭ ‘ass,’ skotŭ ‘cattle: money,’ gobino ‘riches,’ kupiti ‘to buy,’ pěnędzĭ ‘coin,’ lixva ‘interest, profit,’ mytarĭ ‘tax-gatherer,’ stĭklo ‘glass,’ bljudo ‘plate,’ kotĭlŭ ‘cauldron,’ [vŭ-]kusiti ‘to taste,’ pila ‘file,’ duma ‘thought,’ xo̢do̢gŭ ‘artistic,’ lěčiti ‘to cure.’ The name of the frontier (limes) itself, ‘Danube,’ Dunaj, is apparently derived from a Germanic form, *Dunāwios. It was very likely borrowed as late as the Avar period, approximately 550–650; in any case, the very early date of 400–250 B.C.E. suggested by Max Vasmer is implausible.[181]

Concurrently, a uniform material culture of «lower upper classes» was developing (as archeological finds have demonstrated) which adopted Avar metal art, primarily the Keszthely metal culture. As Helmut Preidel has shown, artifacts of this Avar metal culture became a status symbol among all non-Avar peoples of the pax.[182]

The bearers of this refined culture—the new military and administrative elites of non-Avar origin—separated themselves from the «lower classes» (smerdi peasants’)[183] and adopted designations and titles of Germanic or Oriental origin that survived the Avar catastrophe. Thus, we find edlinger and casenz in Carinthia, vitez and župan in Sorbia (Saxony), and szlachta in Poland.[184]

The forcible destruction of parochial kinship ties and the amalgamation of disparate primitive elements into professional units which had a larger group culture, were turbulent experiences that left an indelible mark on popular tradition. Witnesses to this are the stories about Avar oppression preserved in Pseudo-Fredegar[185] and the Povèst’ vremennyx lět.[186]

After the demise of the Avar Pax (ca. 796), several successor states emerged in which the Slavic-speaking, Avar-trained charismatic clans (of both Slavic and non-Slavic origin, especially Iranian) of Serbs and Croats were all-powerful. This process was documented in part by Constantine Porphyrogenitus in «De administrando imperio» (ca. 948).[187]

Later, after Christianization, the local charismatic clans, now the ruling classes, regarded it as incumbent upon them to abandon their Avar past in favor of their alleged true peasant and Slavic origin. There is good documentation about this development in Slavonia,[188] Bohemia,[189] and Poland.[190]


The Avar Pax, which existed throughout Central Europe for some two and a half centuries (558–796), left an indelible mark on European development. During that time, the local peasants, disparate in language, with horizons not reaching beyond their own hamlets, were uprooted and brought together into larger communities in military colonies on the Danube frontier, thereby setting the stage for the development of a common Slavic language, which would be capable of serving as a means of communication for a larger territory.

Speakers of this new lingua franca now began to appropriate the professional term Sklavin (of non-Slavic origin) as a self-designation, with the result that it created the illusion that an ethnic consciousness had existed long ago in remote Proto-Slavic periods.

The old tradition (especially that of the Pověst’ vremennyx lět)[191] about the origin of the Slavs along the Danube should not be understood in the Romantic sense of an Ur-Heimat or original home from which the Slavic ethnic tribes migrated in different directions. Instead, it refers to the period of Avar military colonies along the Danube frontier, where untutored parochial peasants were trained, were formed into larger communities, and worked out a more capacious and sophisticated lingua franca.

The puzzle of rapid Slavic «colonization» along the great Central and East European rivers during the 6th to 9th century can now be regarded as solved: as the «marines» of their time, the Sklavins (the future Slavs) were trained to move swiftly along the rivers, the only local highways of the epoch.

The activity on the Avar-Byzantine and the Avar-Frankish frontiers was, indeed, a requisite stage for the future development of the Slavic cultures and nations.


A select bibliography of recent archeological (and some historical) publications on the Avars.


AA = Acta Archaeologica. Budapest.
AH = Archaeologia Hungarica. Budapest.
Arch Ért = Archaeologiai Értesítő. Budapest.
ASCF = Archaeologica Slovaca. Catalogi/Fontes. Bratislava.
FAH = Fontes Archaeologici Hungaricae. Budapest.
SlAr = Slovenská Archeológia. Bratislava.
Stud Zv = Študijné Zvesti Archeologichého ústavu Slovenskej Akadémie vied. Nitra.
WA = Wiadomošci Archeologiczne. Warsaw.


Bakay, Kornél, «Az avarkor időrendjéről. Újabb avar temetők a Balaton környékén [On the chronology of the Avar period. The recent-Avar period cemeteries in the Balaton region],» Somogyi Múzeumok Közleményei 1 (1973) 5–86.

Bóna, István, VII. századi avar települések és Árpád-kori magyar falu Dunaújvárosban [7th-century Avar settlements and an Arpad-period Hungarian village in Dunaújváros], Budapest 1973.

Budinský-Krička, Vojtech, «Pohrebisko z neskorej doby avarskej v Žitavskej Tôni,» SlAr 4 (1956) 5–93.

Čilinská, Zlata, Slawisch-awarisches Gräberfeld in Nové Zámky, ASGF 7, 1966.

Frühmittelalterliches Gräberfeld in Želovce, ASC 5, 1973.

Eisner, Jan, Devínska Nová Ves. Slovanské pohrebiště, Bratislava 1952.

Fettich, Nándor, Das awarenzeitliche Gräberfeld von Pilismarót-Basaharc, Studia Archaeologica 3, Budapest, 1965.

Garam, Éva; Kovrig, Ilona L.; Szabó, J. Gy.; and Török, Gy., Avar finds in the Hungarian National Museum (Cemetaries of the Avar period, 567–829, in Hungary, vol. 1), Budapest 1975.

Garam, Éva, Das awarenzeitliche Gräberfeld von Kisköre, FAH, Budapest 1979.

Kiss, Attila, Avar cemeteries in county Baranya (Cemeteries of the Avar period, 567–829, in Hungary, vol. 2), Budapest 1977.

Kovrig, Ilona L., Das awarenzeitliche Gräberfeld von Alattyán, AH 40, 1963.

Kraskovská, L’udmila, Slovansko-avarské pohrebisko pri Záhorskej Bystrici. Bratislava, ASF 1 1972.

Lippert, Andreas, Das awarenzeitliche Gräberfeld von Zwölfaxing in Niederösterreich, Prähistorische Forschungen 7, Horn-Wien 1969.

Salamon, Ágnes and Erdélyi, István, Das völkerwanderungszeitliche Gräberfeld von Környe, Stud. Arch. 5, Budapest 1971.

Šós Ágnes Cs., «Das frühawarenzeitliche Gräberfeld von Oroszlány,» Folia Archaeologica 10, Budapest 1958, 105–124.

Točik, Anton, Slawisch-awarisches Gräberfeld in Holiare, ASC 1, 1968.

Slawisch-awarisches Gräberfeld in Štúrovo, ASC 2, 1968.

Tóth, Elvira H., «Preliminary account of the Avar princely find at Kunbabony,» Cumania 1. Archeologia, Kecskemét 1972, 143–168.



Daim, Falko, Die Awaren in Niederösterreich, St.-Pölten-Vienna 1977.

Kollautz, Arnulf, «Awaren, Franken und Slawen in Karantanien und Niederpan-nonien und die frankische und byzantinische Mission,» Carinthia I 156, Klagenfurt 1966, 232–292.

Mitschka-Märheim, Herbert, «Die Zeit der Awaren und Slawen,» Landeskunde des Burgenlandes, Vienna 1951, pp. 235–244.


Preidel, Herbert, «Die Awarischen Bodenfunde aus Böhmen und ihre Bedeutung,» IPEK 18, Berlin 1949–1956, 7–17.


Cankova, Genoveva, «Nasilenieto na Iztočnata rimska imperija i varvarite prez epoxata na varvarskite našestvija,» Istoričeski Pregled 8, Sofia 1951/1952, 143–165.

Erdélyi, István, «Das Altungartum und die Bulgaren in Osteuropa,» Turkic-Bulgarian-Hungarian Relations (VIth–XIth centuries), Budapest 1981, 137–151.

Fehér, Géza, «Avarovizantijskie snošenija i osnovanie bolgarskoj derzavy,» AA (1955) 55–59.

Vŭzharova, Živka, Slavjanski i slavjanobulgarski selišča v bŭlgarskite zemi ot kraja na VI–XI vek, Sofia 1965.

Slavjani i prabŭlgarite po danni na nekropolite ot VI–XI v. na teritorijata na Bŭlgarija, Sofia 1976.


Pallas, D. I., Τὰ ἀρχαιολογικὰ τεκμηρία τῆς καϑόδου τῶν βαρβάρων εἰς Ἑλλάδα, Hellēniká 14, Athens 1955, 87–105.

Zeiss, H., «Avarenfunde in Korinth?» Serta Hoffilleriana, Zagreb 1940, pp. 95–99.


Bóna, István, «Ein Vierteljahrhundert der Völkerwanderungszeitforschung in Un-garn (1945–1969),» AA 23 (1971), 283–334.

Csallány, Dezső, «Neue Ergebnisse der awarenzeitlichen Forschungen in Ostun-garn,» Štud Zv 16 (1968), 59–70.

Kovrig, Ilona, «Contribution au problème de l'occupation de la Hongrie par les Avars,» AA 6 (1955), 163–192.

— «Megjegyzések a Keszthely-kultúra kérdéséhez [Remarks on the question of the Keszthely culture],» Arch Ért 85 (1958), 66–74.

Sós, Ágnes Cs., «Zur Problematik der Awarenzeit in der neueren ungarischen arch-äologischen Forschung,» Berichte über den II. Internationalen Kongress für slawische Archäologie. Berlin 1970, vol. 2, (East-) Berlin 1973, 85–102.

Szőke, Béla Miklós, «Zur Awarenzeitlichen Siedlungsgeschichte des Körös-Gebietes in Südost-Ungarn,» AA 32 (1980), 181–203.

Tomka, Péter, «Le problème de la survivance des Avars dans la littérature arch-éologique hongroise,» Acta Orientalia 24, Budapest 1971, 217–252.

(Old) Moravia

Poulík, Josef, «Kultura moravských slovanů a Avaři,» Slavia Antiqua 1, Poznan 1948, 325–348.

Szőe, Béla, «Über die Beziehungen Moraviens zu dem Donaugebiet in der Späta-warenzeit,» Studia Slavica 6, Budapest 1961, 75–112.


Jamka, Roman, «Zagadnienie początków Krakowa,» Prace Archeologiczne 4, Cracow 1962, 133–155.

Rajewski, Z. A., «Zabytki awarskie z Biskupina w pow. Żnińskim,» WA 16 (1948), 341–347.

— «Problem Awarów na północ od łuku karpacko-sudeckiego,» WA 39 (1975), 481–485.

Szydłowski, Jerzy, «Zabytki awarskie ze Šląska,» Z przeszłošci Šląska, Wrocław 1960, pp. 43–44.

— «Awarowie a początki państwa polskiego,» Z Otchłani Wieków 26, Wroctaw 1960, 11–14.

Szymański, Wojciech, «Uwagi w kwestii zabytków awarskich znalezionych na terenie Polski,» Archeologia Polski 7, Warsaw 1962, 283–314.

— «Rzecz o Awarach,» Z Otchłani Wieków 29 (1963), 36–45.


Horedt, Kurt, «Avarii în Transilvania,» Studii şi Cercetări de Istorie Veche 7, Bucharest 1956, 393–406.

— «Das Awarenproblem in Rumänien,» Štud Zv 16 (1968), 103–120.


Beranová, Magdalena «Beitrag zu einigen Besonderheiten auf den slawisch-awar-ischen Gräberfeldern in der Slowakei,» Archeologické Rozhledy 19:2, Prague 1967, 186–193.

Bialeková, Darina, «Zur Frage der grauen Keramik aus Gräberfeldern der Awaren-zeit im Karpathenbecken,» Sl Ar 16 (1968), 205–227.

— «Zur Frage der gelben Keramik aus der Zeit des zweiten awarischen Kaganates im Karpatenbecken,» Štud Zv 16, 1968, 21–33.

Čilinská, Zlata, «W kwestii pobytu Awarów w Karpatach Slowackich,» Acta Arch-aeologica Carpatica 4, Cracow 1963, 159–175.

Klanica, Zdeněk, «Vorgrossmährische Siedlung in Mikulčice und ihre Beziehungen zum Karpatenbecken,» Štud Zv 16 (1968), 121–134.


Smilenko, Alla, «Pam'jatky typu Mala Pereščepyna,» in Arxeolohija Ukrajins'koji SSR, vol. 3, ed. V. J. Dovženok, Kiev 1975, pp. 159–161.

Slovjany ta jix susidy v stepovomu Podniprov'ji (IX-XIII st.), Kiev 1975.

Kollautz, Arntjlf, «Awaren, Langobarden und Slawen in Noricum und Istrien,» Carinthia I 155, Klagenfurt 1965, 619–645.

Kovačević, Jovan, «Avari i zlato,» Starinar 13/14, Belgrade 1963, 125–135.

Vinski, Zdenko, «O nalazima 6. i 7. stoljeća u Jugoslaviji s posebnim obzirom na arheološku ostavštinu iz vremena prvog avarskog kaganata,» Opuscula Archaeologica 3, Zagreb 1958, 13–67.

Époque préhistorique et protohistorique en Yugoslavie. Recherches et résultats, Belgrade 1971.


Alföldi, Andbeas, «Zur historischen Bestimmung der Awarenfunde,» Eurasia Septentrionalis Antiqua 9, Helsinki 1934, 297–307.

Ambroz, A. K., «Problemy rannesrednevekovoj xronologii Vostočnoj Evropy,» Sovetskaja Arxeologija, 1971:2, 110–123.

— «Stremena i sedla rannego srednevekov'ja kak xronologičeskij pokazatel’,» Sovetskaja Arxeologija, 1973:4, 81–98.

Bartucz, L., «Adatok a magyarországi avarok ethnikai és demographiai jelentőségéhez [Contributions on the ethnic and demographic significance of the Hungarian Avars],» Acta Anthropologica 1:1–2, Szeged 1950, 1–24.

Bóna, István, The dawn of the Dark Ages. The Gepids and Lombards in the Carpathian Basin, Budapest 1976.

— «Uber einen archäologischen Beweis des lombardisch-slawisch-awarischen Zusammenlebens,» Štud Zv 16 (1968), 35–45.

— «Studien zum frühawarischen Reitergrab von Szegvár,» AA 32 (1980), 31–45.

Csallány, Dezső, «A X.sz-i avar továbbélés problémája [The problem of the survival of the Avars into the 10th c.],» Szabolcs-Szatmári Szemle (1956), 34–48.

— «Az avar törzszervezet [The Avar tribal system],» Nyiregházi Jósa András Múzeum Évkönyve 8/9 (1965/1966), Budapest 1967, pp. 34–54.

Čilinská, Zlata, «Bestattungsritus im VI.-VIII. Jahrhundert in der Südslowakei,» Štud Zv 16 (1968), 47–58.

— «Zur Frage des zweiten awarischen Kaganats,» Sl Ar 15:2 (1967), 447–454.

Dekan, Ján, «Herkunft und Ethnizität der gegossenen Bronzeindustrie des VIII. Jahrhunderts,» Sl Ar 20:1 (1972), 317-452.

Eisner, Jan, «Pour dater la civilization ’avare’,» Byzantinoslavica 5, Prague 1947–1948, 45–54.

Erdélyi, István, «Forschungen auf Awarzeitlichen Siedlungen,» Ier Congrès International d'Archéologie Slave [Warsaw 1965], Wroclaw 1970, pp. 163–171.

Avar művészet [Avar Art], Budapest 1966.

— «Isčeznuvšie narody, Avary,» Priroda, Moscow 1982, no. 11, 50–58.

Fettich, Nándor, «Symbolischer Gürtel aus der Awarenzeit (Fund von Bilisics),» A Móra Ferenc Múzeum Évkönyve, Szeged 1963, pp. 61–89.

Garam Éva, «Adatok a középavar kor és az avar fejedelmi sírok régészeti és történeti kérdéseihez [Contributions on the archeological and historical problems of the middle Avar period and the Avar princely tombs],» Folia Archaeologica 27, Budapest 1976, 129–147.

Gerevich, László, ed., Les questions fondamentales du peuplement du Bassin des Carpathes du VIIIe-Xe sc., Budapest 1972.

[Contributions by D. Bialeková, I. Bóna, M. Comşa, Z. Čilinská, I. Erdélyi, N. Fettich, Gy. László, S. Nagy, Gy. Rosner, S. Szádeczky-Kardoss, Z. Szekély, E. Simonova, P. Tomka, Gy. Török, and others].

Justová, Jarmila, «Poznámky k západni hranici Avarie,» Casopis Národního Musea 134, Prague 1965, 155–162.

Kollautz, Arnulf, «Die Ausbreitung der Awaren auf der Balkanhalbinsel und die Kriegszüge gegen die Byzantiner,» Štud Zv 16 (1968), 135–164.

László, Gyula, Études archéologiques sur l'histoire de la société des Avars, Budapest 1955.

Steppenvölker und germanische Kunst der V ölkerwanderungszeit, Wien 1971.

— (with Heinrich Beck), «Awaren,» Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde, 2d ed., vol. 1, Berlin 1973, 527–534.

Lipták, P., «Awaren und Magyaren im Donau-Theiss-Zwischenstromgebiet (Zur Anthropologie des VII.-VIII. Jahrhunderts),» AA 8 (1957), 199–268.

Nagy, T., «Studia Avarica. I. Sur l'itineraire de la conquête avare,» Arch Ért 7–9 (1946–1948), 202–207.

Stein Frauke, «Awarisch-Merowingische Beziehungen. Ein Beitrag zur absoluten Chronologie der awarenzeitlichen Funde,» Štud Zv 16 (1968), 233–244.

Szádeczky-Kardoss, Samuel, «Kuvrát fiának, Kubernek a története és az avarkori régészeti leletanyag [History of Kuber, son of Kubrat, and the archeological find from the Avar period],» Antik Tanulmányok 15, Budapest 1968, 84–87.

— «Über die Wandlungen der Ostgrenze der awarischen Machtsphäre,» Researches in Altaic Languages, ed. Louis Ligeti, Budapest 1975, 267–274.

Szatmári, S. B., «Das spätawarische Fundmaterial der Randgebiete,» A Móra Ferenc Múzeum Évkönyve 2, Szeged 1969, 163–174.

Tóth, Elvira H., «Frühawarenzeitlicher Fund in Kecskemét, Sallaistrasse,» AA 32, 1980, 117–152.

Tóth, Tibor, «Észak-Dunántúl avarkori népességének embertani problémái [Anthropological problems of the population to the north of Trans-Danubia during the Avar period],» Arrabona 9, Györ 1967, 55–65.

— «Ob udel'nom vese mongoloidnyx èlementov v naselenii avarskogo kaganata,» in Tot, T. A. and Firštejn, B. V, Antropologičeskie dannye k voprosu o velikom pereselenii narodov. Avary I sarmaty, Leningrad 1970, pp. 5–68.

Trbuhović, Leposava, «Prilog proučavanju stranih etničkih elemenata u avarskim nekropolama,» Starinar 30, Belgrade 1979, 123–129.

Wenger, Sándor, «Déldunatúl avarkori népességének embertani problemai [On anthropological problems of Avar-period populations in southern Transdanubia],» Anthropologica Hungarica 13, Budapest 1974, 5–86.

Werner, Joachim, «Zum Stand der Forschung über die archäologische Hinterlassenschaft der Awaren,» Štud Zv 16 (1968), 279–286.

Young, Bailey K., «Funeral archeology and Avar culture: old excavations yield serial data,» Journal of Field Archaeology 5, Boston 1978, 471–477.


Avenarius, Alexander, «Zur Problematik der awarisch-slawischen Beziehungen an der unteren Donau im 6.–7. Jahrhundert,» Studia Historica Slovaca 7, Bratislava 1974, 11–37.

Dekan, Ján, «Zur archäologischen Problematik der awarisch-slawischen Beziehungen,» Štud Zv 16 (1968), 71–95.

— «Vývoj a stav archeologickych výskumov doby predvel'ko-moravskej,» Sl Ar 19 (1971), 559–580.

Dekan, J. and Poulík, Josef, Vel'ka Morava. Doba a umenie, Bratislava 1976.

Fritze, Wolfgang H., «Zur Bedeutung der Awaren für die slawische Ausdehnungsbewegung im frühen Mittelalter,» Id., Frühzeit zwischen Ostsee und Donau, Berlin 1982, 47–99, 434–436.

Hensel, Witold, «Devínska Nová-Ves Kultur oder awarisch-slawische, bezw. slawisch-awarische Kultur,» Sl Ar 18 (1970), 65–67.

Poulík, Josef, Mikulčice. Sídlo a pevnost knížat velkomoravských, Prague 1975.

Sós, Ágnes, «Archäologische Angaben zur Frage der Frühperiode des awarisch-slawischen Zusammenlebens,» Štud Zv 16 (1968), 221–231.

Zástèrová, Bohumila, «Beitrag zur Diskussion über den Charakter der Beziehungen zwischen Slawen und Awaren,» Actes du XIIe Congrès Internationáí d'études Byzantines, vol. 2, Belrade 1964, 241–247.

(*) I should like to express my sincerest thanks to my friend Professor Horace G. Lunt for helpful critical remarks and substantial editorial aid.

[1] For example, J. Peisker, «The Expansion of the Slavs,» Cambridge Medieval History, vol. 2, Cambridge 1913, pp. 418–458; Arnold J. Toynbee, A Study of History (Oxford Univ. Press), vol. 2 (1963), pp. 317–319, vol. 3 (1962), p. 22. See now Wolfgang Fritze, Frühzeit zwischen Ostsee und Donau, Berlin 1982, 47–99.
[2] For bibliography on the Avars, see: Gyula Moravcsik, Byzantinoturcica, vol. 1, 2nd ed. Berlin 1958, pp. 70–76; Denis Sinor, Introduction à l’étude de l’Eurasie Centrale, Wiesbaden 1963, pp. 231–232, 265–267; Arnulf Kollautz, Bibliographie der historischen und archäologischen Veröffentlichungen zur Awarenzeit Mitteleuropas und des Fernen Ostens, Klagenfurt 1965, 25 pp. (unreliable); Aleksander Avenarius, Die Awaren in Europa, Amsterdam–Bratislava 1974, pp. 269–283; and Wojciech Szymański, in W. Szymański and Elżbieta Dabrowska, Awarzy. Węgrzy, Wrocław 1979, pp. 123–138. Cf. Samuel Szádeczky-Kardoss, Ein Versuch zur Sammlung und chronologischen Anordnung der griechischen Quellen der Awarenzeit nebst einer Auswahl von anderssprachigen Quellen, Szeged 1972, and the improved Hungarian version, «Az avar történelem forrásai [Sources for Avar history],» Archaeologiai Értesitő 105 (1978) 78–90; 106 (1979) 94–111, 231–243; 107 (1980) 86–97, 201–213. See also the Appendix at the end of this paper.
[3] Archeological research to about 1954 is conveniently listed in the standard work by Desző Csalylány, Archäologische Denkmäler der Awarenzeit in Mitteleuropa. Schrifttum und Fundorte, Budapest 1956, 244 pp., 1 map. In my Appendix below, I update his bibliography (pp. 17–63), but I repeat the pre-1954 items, which are basic for the history of the Avars.
[4] See the sound criticism by the German archeologist Helmut Preidel in his «Awaren und Slawen,» Südostforschungen 11, Munich 1952, 33–45.
[5] Bone artifacts with short (ritual?) runiform signs have been found in certain Avar-period graves in Hungary (e.g. Jánoshida, kom. Szolnok; Szentes-Felsőcsordajárás, kom. Csongrád). Although the provenance of the script has not yet been determined with any certainty, some scholars speak of «Avar runes»; cf. Jovan Kovačević, Avarski kaganat, Belgrade 1977, p. 12. See also J. Vásáry, «Runiform signs on objects of the Avar period (6th–9th cc. A.D.),» Acta Orientalia 25, Budapest 1972, 335–347.
[6] Most famous and also historically important are the T'u-chüe (Türküt) Turkic imperial runic inscriptions from the Orkhon valley (Mongolia; first half of the eighth century). They are given with English translations (not always reliable) by Talât Tekin in his A Grammar of Orkhon Turkic, Bloomington, Ind. 1968, pp. 231–295.
[7] Three more or less reliable attempts to place the Avars in universal history have been published recently, but they are limited by a Europe-centered attitude. One, by a Slovak historian with some Byzantino-logical background, Alexander Avenarius, was cited in note 2, above. The second, by a leading Serbian archeologist, Jovan Kovačević, Avarski kaganat (Belgrade 1977), gives an even-handed presentation of all known basic archeological facts, but since it lacks footnotes, a non-specialist reader may have difficulty in evaluating it. The best of the three, however, is the short but well documented overview by Wojciech Szymański, cited in note 2, above.
[8] See William Samolin, «Some notes on the Avar problem,» Central Asiatic Journal, 3, The Hague 1957–58, 62–65, esp. 62.
[9] The basic works are: Bernhard Karlgren, Analytic Dictionary of Chinese and Sino-Japanese, Paris 1923; Id., Grammata Serica Recensa, Stockholm 1957; W. A. C. H. Dobson, Late Archaic Chinese, Toronto 1959; Id., Early Archaic Chinese, Toronto 1962; Edwin G. Pulleyblank, «The consonantal system of Old Chinese,» Asia Major 9:1, London 1961, 58–144; 9:2 (1963) 106–165; Id., «An interpretation of the vowel systems of Old Chinese and Written Burmese,» Asia Major 10:2 (1963) 200–221; Id., «Late Middle Chinese,» Asia Major 15 (1970) 197–239; 16 (1971) 121–168; Sergej Evgenievič Jaxontov, Drevnekitajskij jazyk, Moscow 1965.
[10] For details, see O. Pritsak, Studies in Medieval Eurasian History, London 1981, study no. VI, pp. 157–163. E. G. Pulleyblank was the first to show that Wu-huan is the equivalent of Avar, in Asia Major 9:1 (1963) 259.
[11] See Louis Ligeti, «Le Tabgatch un dialecte de la langue Sien-pi,» Mongolian Studies, Budapest 1970, 265–308. Cf. Peter Olbricht, «Uchida’s Prolegomena zu einer Geschichte der Jou-jan,» Ural-Altaische Jahrbücher 26, Wiesbaden 1954, 90–100.
[12] Source data are given by A. Kollautz and Hisayuki Miyakawa, Geschichte und Kultur eines völker-wanderungszeitlichen Nomadenvolkes: Die Jou-jan der Mongolei und die Awaren in Mitteleuropa, vol. 2, Klagenfurt 1970, pp. 114–121.
[13] See the clear statement of Theophylact Simocattes (fl. 610–641), ed. Hans Wilhelm Haussig, Byzantion 23, Bruxelles 1954, 283–284.
[15] On the contrast between sedentary and nomadic empires, see O. Pritsak, The Origin of Rus', vol. 1, Cambridge, Mass. 1981, pp. 10–20. The Tängri (Täŋri) religion is discussed there on pp. 14, 18, 73–82. The concept of the inner and outer territories is elaborated in O. Pritsak, «Where was Constantine’s Inner Rus'?», Okeanos = Harvard Ukrainian Studies (abbrev. HUS) 7 (1983).
[16] By «professional,» I mean that they had training and probably some experience, along with charisma, and, therefore, were known as people with special expertise. To take an analogy from recent history, the newly-independent Balkan nations of the nineteenth century, after experimenting with local rulers, looked to known «charismatic clans»—the families of Saxe-Coburg, Oldenburg, Hohenzollern, and the like—to come with retinues of professional administrators, to organize the new states of Bulgaria, Greece, Rumania, and Albania.
[17] The Chinese sources uniformly connect the A-shi-na, the charismatic clan of the T’u-chüe/Turks with the city-oasis of Turfan (Kao-ch'ang), see Chou-shu, chap. 50, fol. 1, and Sui-shu, chap. 84, fol. 1.
[18] See sect. II. 8 of this paper.
[19] See the recent study by Daniel Pipes, Slave Soldiers and Islam, New Haven and London 1981.
[20] Sergej G. Kljaštornyj and Vladimir A. Livšic, «Sogdian inscription of Bugut revisited,» Acta Orientalia 26, Budapest 1972, 69–102.
[21] See Louis Bazin, «La litterature épigraphique turque ancienne,» Philologiae Turcicae Fundamenta, vol. 1 Wiesbaden 1964, pp. 192–211.
[22] For Latin, we know that a few traits later characteristic of individual languages existed fairly early, and we must assume this to be true also of Turkic; what is important is that the major structure and the most important details appear to be shared in all areas. As for Greek, the initial establishment of the koiné, the lingua franca of the Hellenistic age and the ancestor of modern Greek, was accomplished during the hundred years after the death of Alexander of Macedon. For a good account, see Karl Brugmann and Eduard Schwyzer, Griechische Grammatik, Munich 1953, pp. 116 ff., and Albert Debrunner, Geschichte der griechischen Sprache, vol. 2, Berlin 1954.
[23] T. Tekin, Grammar, see fn. 6 above, pp. 232 (IS12) and 233 (IE14).
[24] The Byzantine data on these groups are conveniently listed by Gyula Moravcsik in Byzantinoturcica, 2nd ed., 2 vols., Berlin 1958, sub voce.
[25] Cf. E. G. Pulleyblank, «A Sogdian colony in Inner Mongolia,» T'oung Pao 41, Leiden 1952, 317–356.
[26] τὰς λεγομένας ἑππὰ γενεάς, Theophanes (d. 818), «Chronographia,» ed. Igor' Sergeevič Čičurov, Vizantijshie istoričeskie sočinenija: «Xronografija» Feofana, «Brevarij» Nikifora, Moscow 1980, p. 37. On the term γενεά ‘1. gens; 2. Generatio,’ see Čičurov’s commentary, pp. 120–121 (fn. 300). See also Wincenty Swoboda, «Siedem plemion,» Słownik starożytności słowiańskich, vol. 5, (Warsaw 1975), pp. 157–158, with bibliography, and the study by Ivan Dujčev cited in fn. 166.
[27] See the monograph on Yüe-pan in Pei-shi, ch. 97, fol. 15–16.
[28] According to Karlgren’s Analytic Dictionary (henceforth AD, cf. fn. 9), the old pronunciation of the signs nos. 1138–690 was ḭwät-puân, i.e., *örpän.
[29] I cite the Orkhon inscriptions (I = Kül Tigin, A.D. 731; II = Bilgä Qagan, A.D. 732) according to the «Finnish atlas»: Inscriptions de l’Orkhon, Helsingfors 1892.
[30] See Theophylact Simocattes, as quoted in fn. 13. Menander Protector (scr. 583–585) uses Οὐαρχονῖται, to refer to them (ed. L. Dindorf, HGL, vol. 2 [Leipzig, 1871], pp. 86–87), a form containing the suffix /it/. On the Hunnic form *vär < *ör, see O. Pritsak, «Ein hunnisches Wort,» Zeitschrift der Deutchen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, 104, Wiesbaden 1954, 124–135.
[31] On this clan, see O. Pritsak, «The Khazar kingdom’s conversion to Judaism,» HUS 2 (1978) 261.
[32] See Theophylact Simocattes, as in fn. 13. For Chinese Hsien-pi as equivalent to Byz. Σαβιρ-/Σαβηρ- see O. Pritsak, «From the Säbirs to the Hungarians,» Hungaro-Turcica. Studies in honour of Julius Németh, Budapest 1976, pp. 28–30.
[33] See Menander Protector, «Excerpta» (ca. 584), ed. Ludwig Dindorf, Historici Graeci minores, vol. 2, Leipzig 1871, p. 4.
[34] John’s three-volume Ecclesiastical History is said to have covered events from 44 to 584, but only the last volume, starting in 575, has survived. See Nina Viktorovna Pigulevskaja, Sirijskie istočniki po istorii narodov SSSR, Moscow-Leningrad 1941.
[35] For the moment, I am excepting an episode involving the Gothic Heruli in an area outside the Byzantine sphere, which scholars date to about 512, see vol. 3, p. 414 of the Loeb Classical Library edition of Procopius by H. B. Dewing (Cambridge, Mass. 1924 [reprint 1968]), but will return to it below in section IV.5.
[36] One passage in the History says that the Antai first crossed the Ister (Danube) and arrived in the vicinity of Naissus (Niš) during the reign of Justinian I (518–527), ed. Dewing, vol. 5, p. 38.
[37] History, ed. Dewing, vol. 4, p. 262; hereafter this edition will be cited simply by volume and page-number.
[38] History, vol. 3, p. 252; Anecdota, vol. 6, pp. 216, 268.
[39] Romana, ed. Theodor Mommsen, MGH AA, vol. 5:1, Berlin 1882, p. 338.
[40] These passages are to be found on pages 136 and 150 of the edition by Elena Česlavovna Skržinskaja, Iordan. O proisxoždenii i dejanijax getov, Moscow 1960. Note that Jordanes, in dealing with non-Romans, uses terms denoting three levels of organization, though he is not always consistent (see Skržinskaja’s commentary, p. 254, note 313, and p. 256, note 316): populus, gens, and natio. The highest unit I translate as «people,» the intermediate is «tribe» or «kind,» and the smallest group is then «band,» although the term seems strange in view of other uses of natio by other writers and in other ages. Yet, this translation is also justified for ἔϑνος in Procopius and some other Greek writers, as will become apparent in subsequent sections of this discussion.
[41] For a typical example, see the authoritative 1954 textbook Przegląd i charakterystyka języków słowiańskich, by T. Lehr-Splawinski, W. Kubaszkiewicz, and F. Slawski, three of the most important Polish Slavists in our century, pp. 19–20.
[42] Herodotus, Historiae, IV.95.1–3. According to classical authors, Zalmoxis was the god of the Getae, not merely a human.
[43] See Henryk Łowmiański, «Scytia,» Słownik starožytności słowiańskich, vol. 5, Warsaw 1975, p. 115. (This encyclopedia will henceforth be cited as SSS).
[44] Friedrich Westberg, Zur Wanderung der Langobarden (Zapiski Imp. Akademii Nauk, 8 ser., vol. 6:5; St. Peterburg 1904), p. 11; C. Diculescu, Die Gepiden, Leipzig 1922, p. 73.
[45] As suggested by H. Łowmiański, SSS, 5 (1975), pp. 354–355.
[46] Mela, Chorogr. II. 7 is taken from Herodotus, IV. 17.
[47] Concerning the identification Alani = Spali, see Francis Dvornik, The making of Central and Eastern Europe, London 1949, pp. 279–280, and H. Łowmiański, «Spalowie,» SSS, 5 (1975), pp. 354–355.
[48] See Procopius, History, vol. 3, pp. 404, 406.
[49] On these polemics, see Pritsak, The Origin of Rus', vol. 1, p. 527.
[50] Ed. Müller-Dübner, VII.21.
[51] See Łowmiański, «Scytia,» SSS, 5 (1975), p. 115.
[52] See Julia Zabłocka, «Germania,» SSS 2:1 (1964), p. 97.
[53] Natural History, III.79; cf. also III.150. See also Skržinskaja’s commentary on p. 199.
[54] On these cities, see Limes u Jugoslavii I. Zbornik radova sa simpozijuma o limesu 1960 god, Belgrade 1961; Miroslava Mirković, Rimski gradovi na Dunavu u Gornoj Meziji, Belgrade 1968; Franjo Barišić, «Vizantijski Singidunum,» Zbornik radova, knj. XLIV, Vizantološki institut, knj. 3, Belgrade 1955, 1–14; Božidar Ferjančić, Sirmium u doba Vizantije, Sremska Mitrovica 1969; Sirmium. Archeologic investigations in Syrmian Pannonia, 3 vols., Belgrade 1971–1973.
[55] This identification was first proposed by František Vitazoslav Sasinek (1830–1914), Czech medievalist, in Sbornik musea slovenskej společnosti, Prague 1896, 15, and later, independently, by Friedrich Westberg (1864–1920), a historian from Riga, «Anten,» in Zur Wanderung der Langobarden (cf. note 44 above), pp. 12–14. On the history of this discussion, see E. Č. Skržinskaja, «O sklavenax i antax, o Mursianskom ozere i gorode Novietune,» Vizantijskij Vremennik, Moscow 1957, pp. 3–20, esp. 5–18.
[56] See Skržinskaja's commentary on p. 201.
[57] On the Riphaean mountains, see Aleksajstder Krawczuk, SSS, vol. 2:1 (1964), pp. 146–147.
[58] Jordanes uses Hypanis, the classical designation for the Boh, but in connection with a fictional Black Sea Greek colony: Hypannis (oppidum [§ 46]), mentioned along with another alleged Black Sea city, Callipolida [§ 32]. Both «cities» appear solely because Jordanes misunderstood a passage in the work of Pomponius Mela, (Chorogr. II.1.6 and II.7). See also Skržinskaja’s commentary, notes 145–146, pp. 226–227.
[59] Jordanes also preserved the post-Attilan Hunnic name for the Dnieper: Var (= vär) (§ 174). On this name, see my article, quoted in fn. 30 above.
[60] Rerum gestarum, ed. John C. Rolfe, vol. 3 (Loeb Classical Library, Cambridge, Mass. 1939 [repr. 1958]), p. 396).
[61] Iordan, pp. 213–218. See also «Novietunum,» in SSS, 3:2 (1968), p. 418.
[62] See Ernst Schwarz, Germanische Stammeskunde, Heidelberg 1956 p. 90 and map on p. 84.
[63] See F. Barišić, Vizantijski Singidunum (1955), p. 11, fn. 44, and M. Mirković, Rimski gradovi (1968), pp. 103–107. 
[64] Since virtually all later Germanic sources use the terms Veneti, Venedi, Wenden, Winden, and the like to refer to neighboring Slavs, scholars assume (wrongly) that this equation was also used already by the Goths.
[65] Tacitus on Britain and Germany, tr. H. Mattingly (Penguin Books, Maryland reprint 1965), p. 139.
[66] «Zaun und Mannring,» Beiträge zur Geschichte der deutschen Sprache und Literatur 66, Halle a.S. 1924, 232–264. esp. 251. See also Jan de Vries, Altnordisches etymologisches Wörterbuch, Leiden 1943, pp. 666, s.v. vinr, p. 665, s.v. vindr 2.
[67] Adolf Bach, Die deutschen Personennamen, 2nd ed., vol. 1 (Deutsche Namenkunde I, 1) Heidelberg 1952, pp. 190–193.
[68] This designation became the name of an Ostrogothic king ca. 400; Vinitharius (*Vinidvariōs).
[69] See Skržinskaja's commentary, note 311, p. 254. Concerning the migration of the Gepidae, see E. Schwarz, Germanische Stammeskunde (1956), map on p. 101.
[70] Gerard Labuda devoted a special study to the problem of Vidivarii and Vindivarii: «Vidivarii Jordanesa,» Fragmenty dziejów słowiańszczyzny zachodniej, vol. 1, Poznan 1960, pp. 96–109. In general, I agree with his results. 
[72] The Byzantine Greeks put this foreign name into the normal class with singular in -ης and plural in -αι, like στρατιώτης : στρατιῶται. The singular Ἄντης is attested once in Procopius (vol. 4, p. 268) and once in Agathias (ed. L. Dindorf, HGM, p. 275), while the plural Ἄνται is universal in Greek. Jordanes, who was heavily dependent on written sources, as we have seen, apparently found the singular Ἄντης in a Greek text (Agathias?) and took it over.
[73] Here is a complete list of all occurrence of the name Antai: Procopius, vol. 3, p. 252; vol. 4, pp. 262, 264, 268, 270, 272, 342, 344, 350; vol. 5, pp. 38, 84; vol. 6, pp. 132, 216, 268; Menander, ed. Dindorf (cf. fn. 30 above), pp. 5–6; Agathias, ed. Dindorf in HGM, vol. 2, p. 275; Pseudo-Mauricius, ed. H. Mihăescu, Mauricius. Arta militară, Bucharest 1970, pp. 40, 262, 276, 286, 342; Theophylact Simocattes, Historiae, ed. Carl de Boor/Peter Wirth, Stuttgart 1972, p. 293; Theophanes, ed. Čičurov (cf. fn. 26 above), p. 34.
Though the first two books of the history by the Syrian John of Ephesus (d. 586) were lost (cf. fn. 34 above), scholars believe that certain passages have survived in the later Syrian compilations by Michael the Syrian (d. 1199) and Barhebraeus (d. 1286). The passages containing the name Anṭiyū (for Greek Ἄνται) have been treated recently by the Semitist Ruth Stiehl (in Franz Altheim, Geschichte der Hunnen, vols. 1–2 [Berlin 1959–60]). The name occurs in Michael, vol. 1, p. 88, and in Barhebraeus, vol. 2, p. 29 (cf. Michael’s Chronicon, ed. P. Bedjan [Paris 1980], p. 90).
[74] In the «Hypatian Chronicle» s.a. 1193, the Right Bank Polovcians are called Lukomor'skie («s Polovci s Loukomor'skimi»), Polnoe Sobranie russkix letopisej, vol. 2, 2nd ed. by Aleksej Aleksandrovič Šaxmatov (St. Peterburg 1908), col. 675.
[76] Parenthetically, let us complete Jordanes’ catalogue of the people of Scythia. He named as living in the northern portion, but south of the Aesti, a pastoralist people called Acatziri, whom he knew about from Priscus (d. ca. 472 [«Fragmenta,» ed. Dindorf, HGM, vol. 1, Leipzig 1870, pp. 298–99, 306, 310, 341, 346]). The Hunnic Bulgars he placed supra mare Ponticum, (which seems to be the same area he assigned to the Antes in § 35) in the curve of the Black Sea; their recent raids (550–551) on Byzantine lands (across the Danube limes, also described by Procopius (vol. 5, pp. 234, 236, 238, 240, 242) are termed «punishment for sins» by Jordanes (§ 37). The catalogue of nomadic peoples is enlarged by three «Hunnic» peoples, again taken from Agathias (Historiae, HGM, vol. 2, p. 365) and Priscus («Fragmenta,» HGM, vol. 1, p. 341) and, possibly, from Gothic tradition: the Altziagiri, (var. Vltinzures § 272), Saviri, and the commercially active Hunuguri (§ 37).
[77] The Fourth Book of the Chronicle of Fredegar with its Continuations, ed. John Michael Walxace-Hadrill, London 1960, p. 101.
[78] Quoted in Pritsak, The Origin of Rus', vol. 1, p. 687.
[79] See Max Vasmer, «Wikingisches bei den Westslaven,» in Schriften zur slavischen Altertumskunde und Namenkunde, vol. 2, Berlin 1971, p. 806. See also Paul Johansen, «Der altnordische Name Ösels als verfassungsgeschichtliches Problem,» Festschrift Karl Harff, Innsbruck 1950, pp. 95–100, and Adolf Stender-Petersen, «Zur Geschichte des altslavischen *vitęgŭ,» Zeitschrift für slavische Philologie, 4, Leipzig 1927, 44–59.
[81] Among investigators who have discovered these toponyms are Ernst Eichler, Rudolf Fischer, Hans Jacob, Erhard Müller, Horst Naumann, Ernst Schwarz, and Hans Walther. In 1965, German and Polish scholars established a special yearbook, Onomastica Slavogermanica, published alternately in Berlin and Wrocław (Breslau).
Unless otherwise noted, the data quoted below are taken from Horst Naumann, «Mischnamen in Nordostbayern and angrenzenden Gebieten,» Slavische Namenforschung, Berlin 1963, pp. 88–94.
[82] Formulae Merovingici et Karolini aevi, ed. Kahl Zeumer, Hannover 1886 (= MHH, Leges, Sect. V), no. 40, p. 318.
[83] There was close cooperation between the two groups of the Winidi. See Ernst Schwarz, «Die elb-germanische Grundlage des Ostfrankischen,» Jahrbuch für fränkische Landesforschung 15 (1955), pp. 31–67.
[84] The military colonists usually settled in freshly cleared fields and abandoned settlements.
[85] Germanische Volkskunde, Heidelberg 1956, p. 104.
[86] Pseudo-Fredegar, Chronicle, ed. Wallace-Hadrill, p. 39, «in Sclauos coinomento Winedos.» Hereafter, this edition will be cited only by page-number.
Just recently Heinrich Kunstmann proposed Slavic etymologies for both the name Samo and the castle Wogastiburc in three articles: «Was besagt der Name Samo, und wo liegt Wogastiburg?», Die Welt der Slaven, 24 (1979) 1–21; «Die Pontius-Pilatus-Sage von Hausen-Forschheim und Wogastiburg,» WdS 24 (1979), 225–247; «Samo, Dervanus und der Slovenenfürst Wallucus,» WdS 25 (1980) 171–177.
[88] Kunstmann’s notion that Samo was not a Frankish name (against the testimony of the sources which know very well the Galloromance name Samon, Sammo, etc; see G. Labuda, Pierwsze państwo słowiahskie. Państwo Samona [Poznan 1949], pp. 119–124), but a Slavic samŭ, an elliptic form for samodĭržĭcĭ (autokrator) is completely impossible historically, just as it would be out of the question to assume that a pre-Columbian American Indian would understand and appreciate the problems of Italian Humanism and Renaissance.
Kunstmann’s etymology of Wogastisburc as Slavic vŭ gosti burc «Im Kaufmanns-Hospiz an der Burg» (WdS 24.14) is utterly unacceptable.
As for the location of Wogastiburc, two main contenders still hold the field, but significantly enough, both places are in Franconia. One, defended by Rudolf Grünwald, is the former Celtic «oppidum» of Wugastesrode near Staffelstein on the Main («Wogastiburc,» Vznik a počátky Slovanů 2 [Prague 1952] 99–120). The opposing view is presented by Hans Jacob, taking Samo’s «burc» to be Burk near Forchheim on the Regnitz river («War Burk das historische Wogastiburc, und wo lag das Oppidum Berleich WdS 25 (1980), 39–67; see also Jacob’s «Das Allodium Wugastesrode,» Forschungen und Fortschritte 37, Berlin 1963, 44–45).
The concept that Samo’s activities constituted the «first Slavic state» should be abandoned, the sooner the better. The Slavs of the first half of the seventh century were not yet sufficiently advanced to be capable of establishing their own statehood. I submit, however, that it is entirely plausible to interpret this episode as cooperation between the Frankish merchant Samo and the Germanic-speaking frontiersmen against the Frankish king.
[90] Pauli Historia Langobardorum, ed. Georg Waitz, Hannover 1878 (= MGH SS, no. 48), p. 154.
[91] In this connection, see the provocative article by Bohdan Strumins'kyj, «Were the Antes Eastern Slavs?», Eucharisterion 2 = HUS 4 (1979–80) 786–796.
[92] Josef Markwart (Untersuchungen zur Geschichte von Eran, part 1 [Göttingen 1896], p. 37) suggested that Jordanes took the name Spali from Pliny (Nat. hist. VI.7.22). Procopius uses instead the form Sporoi, and he clearly connects them with the Antai. He writes, «In fact, the Σκλαβηνοί and Ἄνται actually had a single name in the remote past, for they were both called Σπόρους (= Spori) in olden times» (vol. 4, p. 272). New literature and discussions in Skržinskaja's commentary on Jordanes (note 70, p. 194) and two articles by Henryk Łowmiański in SSS 5 (1975), «Spalowie» (pp. 354–355) and «Sporowie» (p. 366).
Note that in Russian manuscripts as early as the 1073 Izbornik of Svjatoslav, the word ispolinǔ ‘gigas, giant’ occurs, cf. Max Vasmer, Russ. etym. Wörterbuch, vol. 1, p. 489.
[93] For a recent discussion see Łowmiański in SSS 5, p. 355.
[94] Rerum gestarum, ed. John C. Rolfe (Loeb Classical Library, Cambridge, Mass., repr. 1958), vol. 3, p. 396.
[95] Tragoediae, ed. R. Peiper and G. Richter, Leipzig 1902, ll. 627 ff.
[96] See the discussion by E. G. Pulleyblank in Asia Major 9/2 (1963) 220.
[97] Curiously enough, Ptolemy (100–178) has a composite form of the name where both elements are present: Ἀλαναορσοι (Geographia, ed. C. Müller and C. Fischer, 2nd ed. [Paris 1901], VI.14, 9).
[98] Rerum gestarum, ed. J. C. Rolfe, vol. 3, pp. 390, 392, 394.
[99] George Vernadsky, The Origins of Russia, Oxford 1959, pp. 13–16.
[100] A History of the Alans in the West, Minneapolis 1973.
[101] Procopius, vol. 5, p. 84.
[102] Procopius, vol. 4, pp. 262, 264, 268, 270, 272, 274.
[103] Menander Protector, ed. Dindorf, HGM, vol. 2, pp. 5–6.
[104] Codex Justinianus in Corpus iuris civilis, ed. P. Krueger, vol. 2, 9th ed. (Berlin, 1915), p. 3.
[105] Procopius, vol. 4, p. 272.
[106] Historiae, ed. de Boor/Wirth, p. 293.
[107] «Chronography,» ed. Čičurov, p. 34.
[108] Russisches etymologisches Wörterbuch, s.v. vjatiči, and a letter of February 1, 1958, published by Franz Altheim in his Geschichte der Hunnen, vol. 1, Berlin 1959, pp. 71, 76, 94.
[109] Vasilij Ivanovič Abaev, Istoriko-ètimologičeskij slovar' osetinskogo jazyka, vol. 1, Moscow-Leningrad 1958, pp. 104–105.
[110] Agathias (d. 582), ed. Dindorf, HGM, vol. 2, pp. 366–388, calls the attackers simply Quturġurs, but another contemporary, John Malalas (d. ca. 678) distinguishes «Huns» (i.e., Quturġurs) and the Sklavin, Chronographia, ed. Dindorf, Bonn 1831, p. 490, as does the later compiler Theophanes (ed. Čičurov, p. 52).
[111] The information has survived in Arabic translation as malik aṣ-Ṣaqāliba. See Pritsak, The Origin of Rus’, vol. 1, pp. 61–62.
[112] See the text of his «Risāla,» ed. Andrij Kovalivs’kyj, Kniga Axmeda ibn-Fadlana o ego putešestvii na Volgu v 921–922 gg., Xarkiv 1956, p. 346, and the excursus by A. Zeki Validi Togan, «Anhang über ‘Ṣaqāliba’,» in his Ibn Faḍlān’s Reisebericht, Leipzig 1939, pp. 295–331. Among the members of the Abbassid mission to the Volga–Bulgars was a certain Bārs aṣ-Ṣaqlabī, i.e., a Volga-Bulgar by the name of Bars (Turkic ‘leopard,’ frequently used as a personal name), see the facsimile in Kovaliv’skyj’s ed., p. 344.
[113] Ed. Lemerle, vol. 1, pp. 229–234; for the date, see vol. 2, p. 161.
[114] Ed. A. Z. V. Togan, in Ibn Faḍlān’s Reisebericht, pp. 296–298.
[115] Mixail Ilarionovič Artamonov, Istorija xazar, Leningrad 1962, pp. 223–224.
[116] Norman Golb and O. Pritsak, Khazarian Hebrew documents of the tenth century, Ithaca, N.Y. 1982, pp. 51–52, 141, 150.
[117] On the date, see Paul Lemerle, Les plus anciens récueils des miracles de Saint Démétrius et la pénétration des Slaves dans les Balkans, vol. 2, Paris 1981, pp. 142–144, 187–189.
[118] I accept Lemerle’s dating, vol. 2, pp. 91–92.
[119] See Franjo Barišić, Čuda Dimitrija Solunskog kao istoriski izvori, Belgrade 1953.
[120] Mir II, ed. Lemerle, vol. 1 (1979), pp. 175, 214, 229.
[121] See Gyula Moravcsik, Byzantinoturcica, vol. 2, Berlin 1958, pp. 127–128.
[122] See George Gajecki and Alexander Baran, The Cossacks in the Thirty Years War, vol. 1, Rome 1969, p. 111. Cf. also O. Pritsak, «Das erste türkisch-ukrainische Bündniss (1648)», Oriens 6, Leiden 1953, 295.
[123] Oleksander Ohloblyn, «Virši smolens’koho šljaxtyča N. Poplons’koho r. 1691 na čest’ Perekops’koho beja,» Studiji z Krymu, ed. Ahatanhel Keyms’kyj, Kiev 1930, p. 37.
[124] O. Pritsak, Die Bulgarische Fürstenliste, Wiesbaden 1955, p. 73.
[125] See the data in Sir Gerard Clauson, An etymological dictionary of prethirteenth century Turkish, Oxford 1972, p. 385.
[126] See Besim Atalay’s 1941 Ankara facsimile edition of the Arabic dictionary made about 1070 by the famous Turkic philologist Maḥmūd al-Kāšġarī, Divanü lûgat-it-türk, Ankara 1941, p. 38.
[127] «Secret History of the Mongols»: Erich Haenisch, Wörterbuch zu Mangḥol un niuca tobca’an (Yüan-ch’ao pi-shi), Leipzig 1939, p. 42.
[128] On the Barč (< Warāč/Warāz), see Pritsak, «The Khazar kingdom’s conversion to Judaism,» HUS 2 (1978) 261–262.
[129] Pritsak, Bg. Fürstenliste, p. 88.
[130] Pritsak, «The proto-bulgarian military inventory inscriptions,» Studia Turco-Hungarica, Budapest 1981, pp. 43–44, 58.
[131] András Róna-Tas, «A Volga bulgarian inscription from 1304,» Acta Orientalia, 30, Budapest 1976, 159–161.
[132] Clauson, Etym. dict. (fn. 125 above), p. 539.
[133] Facsimile edition by Atalay (cf. fn. 126 above), p. 232..
[134] See the data in V. I. Abaev, Osetinskij jazyk i fol’klor 1, Moscow-Leningrad 1949, pp. 179–180; Id., Istoriko-ètimologičeskij slovar’ osetinskogo jazyka, vol. 3, Leningrad 1979, pp. 11–16. One may add the name of the Pečeneg castle on the southern side of the Dniester River Σακᾰκάται, in «De administrando imperio» (ca. 948), by Constantine Porphyrogenitus; see Pritsak, The Pečenegs, Lisse 1976, p. 19, fn. 74.
[135] /dār/ is from -dāra «holder, keeper,» see Ilya Gershevich, A Grammar of Manichaean Sogdian, Oxford 1961, p. 173, § 1135.
[136] Johann August Vullers, Lexicon Persico-Latinum, vol. 1 (repr. Graz 1962), p. 779. See also Ferdinand Justi, Iranisches Namenbuch (repr. Hildesheim 1963), p. 491.
[137] For bibliography, see Leszek Moszyński’s (unsatisfying) essay, «Czy Słowianie to rzeczywiście nomen originis»? Z polskich studiów slawistycz nych. Seria V, Warsaw 1978, 499–507. Tuomo Pekkanen («L’origine degli Slavi e il loro nome nella letteratura greco-latina,» Quaderni Urbinati, N. 11, 1971, pp. 51–64) suggests Slavic slab- ‘weak’ (implausible), and Georg Kobth («Zur Etymologie des Wortes ‘Slavus’ (Sklave),» Glotta 48 [Göttingen 1970], 145–153), starting from the meaning «slave,» posits a linguistically and sociologically unlikely derivation from Greek σκύλον «Kriegsbeute.»
[138] See the data in Clauson, Etym. dict., pp. 803, 810, and Martti Räsänen, Versuch eines etymologischen Wörterbuchs der Türksprachen, Helsinki 1969, pp. 395–396. The verb is of denominal origin (saq). Kāšġarī (ca. 1070) explains the meaning of the etymon saq as follows: «saq saq» an exclamation (ḥarf) used by a sentry (al-ḥāris) in the army to order alertness (al-tayaqquẓ) to protect castles, forts, or horses from the hands of the enemy; one says saqsaq «be alert (ayqāẓ)»; hence one calls «an intelligent, (alert) man (al-faṭinu’l-mutayyaqiẓ)» saq är [är «man»], facsimile ed. by Atalay, pp. 167–168.
[139] Kazan-Tatar saqla-u «Bewahren, Behüten» (Wilhelm Radloff, Versuch eines Wörterbuches der Türk-Dialecte, vol. 4, [repr. Hague 1960], col. 252); Karaim Troki saqla-w «die Wache,» ibid. col. 254; Karaim Luc’k saqlaw «die Wache» (Aleksander Mardkowicz, Słownik karaimski [Luc’k 1935], p. 55); cf. Karaimsko-russko-pol’skij slovar’, Nikolaj Aleksandrovič Baskakov et al., eds., Moscow 1974, p. 461: saqlaw «1. oxrana, straz; 2. Xranenie.» See also Chaghatai saqlau «die Kriegsgeisel,» Radloff, Wb., col. 252.
Concerning the deverbal nominal suffix /GU/, which has three meanings, 1) actor; 2) abstracts; 3) instruments: see Annemarie von Gabain, Alttürkische Grammatik, 2nd ed., Leipzig 1950, pp. 71–72; Ananiasz Zajączkowski, Sufiksy imienne i czasownikowe w języku zachodniokaraimskim, Cracow 1932, pp. 66–68; Èrvand Vladimirovič Sevortjan, Affiksy imennogo slovoobrazovanija v azerbajdžanskom jazyke, Moscow 1966, pp. 227–232.
[140] See also the Volga Bulgarian inscription from 1307: belü «sepulchral monument» < *bälgü; cf. Old Turkic bälgü; see also A. Róna-Tas, Acta Orientalia 30 (1976) 159.
[141] Pritsak, Bulgarische Fürstenliste, pp. 46, 56–58.
[142] See Pritsak, «Tschuwaschische Pluralsuffixe,» Studia AltaicaFestschrift für Nikolaus Poppe, Wiesbaden 1957, pp. 148–49.
[143] See Łowmiański, Początki Polski, vol. 2, pp. 303–310.
[144] See V. F. Gajdukevič, Bosporskoe carstvo, Moscow-Leningrad 1949, pp. 448, 462, 469.
[145] Ed. H. Mihăescu, Mauricius. Arta milităra, Bucharest 1970, pp. 262–291. See also the special commentary by Bohumila Zástěrová, Les Avares et les Slaves dans la Tactique de Maurice, Prague 1971.
[146] Theophylact, Historiae, ed. de Boor/Wirth, pp. 225–226.
[147] Historiae, p. 223. See the analysis by Gerard Labuda, Fragmenty dziejów Słowiańszczyzny zachodniej, vol. 1, Poznan 1960, pp. 109–122.
[148] Ed. Lemerle, vol. 1, pp. 175–176.
[149] Ed. Moravcsik (Eng. trans. R. J. H. Jenkins), pp. 56, 58.
[150] Pauli Historia Langobardorum, ed. Georg Heinrich Pertz, Hannover 1878, p. 170.
[151] Ivan Dujčev, «Le témoignage du Pseudo-Césaire sur les Slaves,» Slavia Antiqua 4, Poznan-Wroclaw 1954, 193–209. See also his edition of the Slavonic translation, «Iz dialozite na Psevdo-Kesarij» in Estestvoznanieto v srednovekovna Balgarija, Sofia 1954, p. 322.
[152] «Mediterranean maritime commerce, A.D. 300–1100. Shipping and trade,» repr. in A. Lewis, The sea and medieval civilization, London 1978, no. XII, p. 3.
[153] To use the apt label of F. van Doornink; see his «Byzantium, mistress of the sea, 330–641,» in A history of seafaring based on underwater archeology, ed. G. F. Bass, London 1972.
[154] See Svetlana Aleksandrovna Pletneva, Xazary, Moscow 1976, pp. 21–22.
[155] The military slave system has recently been analyzed by Daniel Pipes, Slave soldiers and Islam, New Haven 1981. It seems to me that he overemphasizes the connection between Islam and military slavery.
[156] Sir G. MacNunn, Slavery through the ages, London 1938; Charles Verlinden, Wo, wann und warum gab es einen Grosshandel mit Sklaven während des Mittelalters?, Köln 1970; Thomas Wiedemann, Greek and Roman slavery, Baltimore 1981.
[157] David Ayalon, «Preliminary remarks on the Mamlūk military institution in Islam,» in V. J. Parry and M. E. Yapp, eds., War, technology and Society in the Middle East, London 1975, pp. 44–58. In the time of the Ottoman Pax, Kaffa (Kefe) on the Crimea was again the preeminent slave market.
[158] The Arabic word ṣaqlabṣiqlab with the meaning «slave» was already well established in the Islamic Abbasid East in the first half of the ninth century, see Pritsak, «An Arabic text on the trade route of the corporation of ar-Rūs in the second half of the ninth century,» Folia Orientalia 12, Cracow 1970, 231–257. This meaning of the word did not apparently become common in the Islamic Umayyad West (Spain) until the first half of the tenth century. Two important recent studies include earlier bibliography: Ch. Verlinden, «L’origine de Sklavus = Esclave,» Archivum Latinitatis Medii Aevi. Bulletin Du Gange 17, Brusselles 1943, 97–128; Henry and Renée Kahane, «Notes on the history of sclavus,» Studi in onore di Ettore Lo Gatto e Giovanni Maver, Rome 1962, pp. 345–360. Cf. also T. Pekkanen and G. Korth, cited in note 137 above.
[159] Ed. Pavel Konstantinovič Kokovcov, Evrejsko-xazarskaja perepiska v X veke, Leningrad 1932, p. 14.
[160] Leszek Moszyński’s paper, cited in fn. 137 above, gives the gratifying assurance that even in Poland, the bastion of Slavic scholarly patriotism, a sober perspective is possible. He states clearly that the term Slověne was never used as a self-designation by any «Proto-Slavic» tribe.
[161] See Stjepan Antoljax, «Unsere ‘Sklavinien’,» Actes du XIIe Congrès international d’études byzantines. Beograd-Ohrid, vol. 2, Belgrade 1964, pp. 9–13.
[162] Historiae, ed. de Boor/Wirth, p. 293.
[163] See Georgij Ostrogorsky’s commentary in Vizantijski izvori za istoriju naroda Jugoslavije, vol. 1, Belgrade 1955, pp. 125, 177, 222, 226, 230, 235–236; Francis Dvornik’s commentary in Constantine Porphyrogenitus, De Administrando Imperio, vol. 2, London 1962, 35, 185; S. Antoljak, «Unsere ‘Sklavinien’» (see fn. 161); Imre Boba, Moravia’s history reconsidered, The Hague 1971, pp. 3–5, 14–19.
[164] De administrando imperio, ed. Moravcsik, p. 56.
[165] Miko Barada, «Hrvatska diaspora i Avari,» Starohrvatska prosvjeta, 3 ser., vol. 2, Zagreb 1952, 7–17; Łowmiański, Początki Polski, vol. 2, pp. 394, 398.
[166] Theophanes, ed. Čičurov, p. 37. See also Ivan Dujčev, «Les sept tribus slaves de la Mésie,» repr. in Dujčev, Medioevo Bizantino-Slavo, vol. 1, Rome 1965, pp. 57–65.
[167] Ed. Lemerle, vol. 1, p. 175. The word ἔϑνος is used here in the meaning of ἐϑνικός «heathen,» while the opposite substitution occurs on p. 228, l. 7: μετὰ Βουλγάρων καὶ Άβάρων καὶ τῶν λοιπῶν ἐϑνικῶν = ἀπό τε τῶν Δρουγουβιτῶν .... Βερζητῶν καὶ λοιπῶν ἐϑνῶν p. 175, l. 6.
[168] Armjanskaja geografija VII veka po r. X. pripisyvajuščajasja Moiseju Xorenskomu, ed. K. P. Patkanov, St. Peterburg 1877, pp. 9–10, Armenian text.
[169] See, e.g., Menander Protector (scr. ca. 584), ed. Dindorf, HGM, vol. 1, p. 99 (fragm. 48); s.a. 678.
[170] See Pritsak, «From the Säbirs to the Hungarians,» Hungaro-Turcica. Studies in honour of Julius Németh, Budapest 1976, pp. 17–30.
[171] Menander Protector, ed. Dindorf, p. 48 (fragm. 18; a.a. 668).
[172] Menander Protector, p. 4 (fragm. 4; s.a. 558).
[173] Details in vol. 5 of my The Origin of Rus’ (in preparation).
[174] Theophylact Simocattes, ed. de Boor/Wirth, p. 260.
[175] Menander, pp. 62–65 (fragm. 28; s.a. 568); Theophylact Simocattes, p. 260.
[176] Gregory of Tours, Historiarum libri X, ed. Beuno Krusch and Rudolf Buchner, Berlin 1961, p. 224; Book 4, ch. 2–3.
[177] Gregory of Tours, Historiarum, pp. 232–234 (Book 4, ch. 29); Menander Protector, p. 56 (fragm. 23 s.a. 568); Paul the Deacon, Historia langobardorum, ed. Pertz, pp. 92–93 (Book 2, ch. 10).
[178] Menander Protector, pp. 57–58 (fragm. 25, s.a. 568); Paul the Deacon, p. 89 (Book 2, ch. 7).
[179] Upper Sorbian hobr, Czech obr, Slovene obər, Slovak obor, and, with a historical singulative suffix (cf. OR obĭrinŭ), Old Polish obrzym, further distorted to modern olbrzym. Cf. Bohumila Zástěrová, «Avaři a Dulebové v svědectví Povesti Vremennych Let,» Vznik a počátky slovanů 3, Prague 1960, 15–37.
[180] The word apparently contains a *j, *karl-j-, very likely a possessive formant, and therefore, had the meaning of «Karl’s [local] man, representative, governor»; see H. G. Lunt, «OCS ‘*kralj’?» Orbis Scriptus. Dmitrij Tschižewskij zum 70. Geburtstag, Munich 1966, pp. 383–490.
[181] My list is based on Vasmer’s «Urheimat der Slaven» [1926], repr. in his Schriften zur slavischen Altertumskunde und Namenkunde, ed. Herbert Brauer, vol. 1, Berlin 1971, pp. 38–42, with some additions and corrections kindly supplied by H. G. Lunt.
[182] See his paper «Awaren und Slawen,» cited above in footnote 4.
[183] On this group, see Juliusz Bardach, «Smerdowie,» SSS, vol. 5, pp. 312–316.
[184] See P. Lessiak, «Edling-Kasaze», Carinthia I 103 (1913) 81–94; Ljudmil Hauptmann, «Politische Umwälzungen unter den Slowenen vom Ende des 6. bis zur Mitte des 9. Jh.,» Mitteilungen des Instituts für österreichische Geschichtsforschung 36, Vienna, 1915 230–287; Id., «Die Herkunft der Kärntner Edlin-ge,» Vierteljahrschrift für Social- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte 21, Stuttgart 1928, pp. 245–279; Josef Peisker, «Die älteren Bezeichnungen der Slawen zu Turkotataren und Germanen und ihre sozialgeschichtliche Bedeutung,» in Vierteljahrschrift f. Soc. u. Wirtschaftsges. 3 (1905) 187–360, 465–533; Adolf Stender-Petersen, «La conquète danoise de la Samlande et Vitingi prusiens,» repr. in his Varangica, Aarhus 1953, pp. 43–63; Zygmunt Wojciechowski, «La condition des nobles et le problème de la féodalité en Pologne de moyen-âge,» Revue Historique de Droit Français et Étranger, 4 ser. 15, Paris 1936, 651–700, 16 (1937) 20–76; Id., «Powstanie szlachectwa w Polsce,» Miesiecznik Heraldyczny 12 (1936) 97–110.
[185] The Fourth Book of the Chronicle of Fredegar, ed. J. M. Wallace-Hadrill, London 1960, p. 40.
[186] Ed. D. S. Lixačev, vol. 1, Moscow-Leningrad 1950, p. 14. Cf. Zástěrová, «Avari a Dulebové,» cited in fn. 179 above.
[187] Ed. Moravcsik, vol. 1 (1949), ch. 29–36 (pp. 122–165) and Francis Dvornik’s commentary, vol. 2 (1962), pp. 93–142. See also Relja Novakovic, Odakle su Srbi došli na Balkansko poluostrvo, Belgrade 1978, and Bogo Grafenauer, «Prilog kritici izveštaja Konstantine Porfirogenita o doseljenju Hrvata,» Historiski zbornik 5, Zagreb 1952, 1–56.
[188] K. Rauch, «Die Kärntner Herzogseinsetzung nach allemanischen Handschriften,» Abhandlungen zur Rechts- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte. Festschrift für Adolf Zycha, Weimar 1941, pp. 185–188; Johannis abbatis Victoriensis, Liber certum historiarum, ed. Fedor Schmeidler (Hannover), vol. 1 (1909), Book 1, ch. 13, vol. 2 (1910), Book 6, ch. 6.
[189] Cosmae Pragensis Chronica Boemorum, ed. Bertold Bretholz and Wilhelm Weinberger, MGHSS n.s., Hannover 1923, Book I, chapters 4–8.
[190] Anonima tzw. Galla. Kronika czyli dzieje książąt i wladców polskich, ed. Karol Maleczyński, Monumenta Poloniae Historica, ser. 2, vol. 2, Cracow 1952, Book 1, ch. 2.
[191] Ed. Lixačev, vol. 1, p. 11.

Discussion with Pritsak on his lecture

Verlinden: I should then start with a question about what you said about the chronology of the first appearance of the Slavs in Proto-Bulgar. I think—perhaps I didn’t grasp exactly what you meant since you had such an enormous quantity of material to develop—I think that you said that the first appearance of Slavs is from the 5th or 6th century. Is that correct or not?

Pritsak: Our first information about the Bulgarian Slavs comes from about the middle of the sixth century along the Danube (Byzantine sources), but as far as the Slavs at the Kuban-Fanagoria region are concerned, our data belong to the time of Kobrad, which is the first half of the seventh century.

Verlinden: But bookform is, when it is written, in Arabic, isn’t it?

Pritsak: The data on the Fanagoria Slavic slaves are written in an Arabic source, but they were based on the information contained in the Sassanian materials. The Arabic author in question is Ibn Khurdädhbeh, himself of Iranian origin.

Verlinden: That may be true, but for instance, if you look at the facts in South-Western Europe, in Spain, where there are mentions of imported slaves, you find this only from the 10th century onwards, not before that. So, there is a problem of chronology in all this matter. I don’t exactly realize how you can postulate trades in slaves from the extreme Eastern part of Europe to the West in the periods you say.

Pritsak: Excuse me, here I would like to stress the fact that the word ṣaqlab/pl. ṣaqāliba had two meanings. The first meaning was «frontier-warriors,» and this meaning we know from the Danube limes and from some other territories, as discussed in my paper.

The second meaning was «trained slaves,» «slaves trained to rule (especially the nomadic pax),» as the Mameluks later did. We know about them during an earlier period from the Islamic sources dealing with the Islamic East. As far as the Islamic West is concerned, you are right, the data are only from the tenth century on. But if we take, for instance, the sources dealing with the military campaign by Marwan b. Muḥammad against the Khazars from 737 (Ibn Actham al-Kūfī, al-Balādhurī, Ibn al-Athīr and other authors), they tell us about the saqāliba as «trained slaves,» and then, of course, follow the data about the saqāliba river, the main trade route of the region, i.e., the Don and Volga, which were at that time regarded as one river (because there was a system of portages, not far from the Stalingrad/Volgograd of today). The river is called nahr aṣ-ṣaqāliba, meaning not «the river of the Slavs,» but the highway for the slave-trade. And there are many other data concerning this second meaning of the word ṣaqāliba «slaves.» But the word ṣaqāliba «slaves» was well noted in the Umayyad realm, while as far as the West is concerned, the information we have is from the tenth century, as you correctly mentioned.

One may add that in the letter of Hasdāi b. Šafrūṭ to King Joseph of Khazaria (also tenth century), Otto, the German Emperor is called melek ṣeqlab, because he also had that very important commodity—slaves (Hebrew ṣeqlab = Arab ṣaqlab, pl. ṣaqāliba).

Verlinden: In Western sources from the Merovingian period, I mean hagiographic sources, there are mentions of groups of slaves that are conducted by merchants coming from the East, but always with no other terminology than the classical one.

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