Slavs on the Danube in the VI century.
How did the Slavs appear on the Danube?
Antes, subordinate to the Huns, entered into their "union." They were forced, voluntarily or forcibly, to participate in the campaigns of the Huns, although there is no direct mention of this in the sources. But there is indirect evidence: Priscus, the author of the fifth century, reported that his embassy to the ruler of the Huns of Atilla was treated to a drink named after the Slavic word honey, and Jordan wrote about Attila’s funeral that “they (barbarians”) celebrate on his barrow "Strava."
"Strava" is an outdated word, but found in almost all Slavic languages, meaning sharing food, eating, eating, funeral commemoration, the analogue of it is "trizny". The presence of such words, found in the vocabulary of the “Huns," may indicate the presence of the Slavs in the army of the Huns.
After the death of Attila in 453, a state association based on the power of the Huns disintegrated:
Associations like the Huns are called “nomadic empires,” usually they exist for a short time, unless sedentary states are captured and the dominant nomadic ethnic group lands on the ground, for example, as was the case with Turks, Bulgarian-Turks, or Hungarians. (Klyashtorny S.G.)
For the Ants - Slavic tribes and clans who were at an early stage of tribal organization, the process of involving them in early state associations, at first ready, and then the Huns, had a positive value, as they, relatively speaking, had an “acquaintance” with other institutions of power .
Already in the IV century, the Ants had a single leader and elders, representatives of tribes. The defeat carried out by the Huns to the population of the forest-steppe zone of Eastern Europe, and the subsequent defeat of the Ants from the Goths, caused a regression, which was reflected in the material culture of the Slavs. (Rybakov B.A.)
High-quality pottery earthenware disappears from everyday life, jewelry and blacksmithing decay, tools and household goods are not produced in workshops, but at home, which affects their quality. (Sedov V.V.)
This whole situation caused a degradation of social structures: the Antes, the unification of which began during the Boz period, appear at that time as separate tribes or clans, called “Slavins” a little later in the Balkans.
Social degradation may partially explain the regression that is observed in the new emerging archaeological cultures associated with the Slavs, compared with the Chernyakhov culture.
The Slavs, relatively speaking, divided in the 5th-6th centuries, on the eve of and during the migration to the south, into the sklaven (western branch), Ants (eastern branch) and Venets (northern branch). Jordan wrote about the situation with the resettlement of the Slavs in the VI century:
Ants lived between the Dniester and the Dnieper (Middle Dnieper and Left Bank). Sklavins lived on the territory of central Europe, the Carpathians, modern Bohemia, Volhynia and the upper reaches of the Povisliya, the upper Dnieper, to the Kiev region. Venets - between the Oder and the Vistula, in Belarus and at the source of the Dnieper.
Archaeologically, this corresponds to: Penkovskaya culture - Antam, Prague-Korchak - Sklamen, Kolochino, Sukov-Dzedzitsky and Tushemlin cultures - to Venets.
Of course, there are different opinions about these cultures. There are no special questions regarding ants and slaves. But the correspondence to venets - Kolochinsky, and even more so Sukov-Dzedzitsky archaeological culture raises many questions.
Moreover, many researchers do not see the connection between the cultures of Pshevor and Chernyakhov’s mentioned in previous articles that are clearly defined as Slavic, Penkovsky and Prague-Korchakov’s cultures:
Perhaps this conclusion is the answer to the question. The Hun defeat and withdrawal is ready to the south, gave impetus to regression, overcoming of which was achieved after a serious period of time for one part of the Slavs, and moving to the Roman border - for the other part.
Although, on the other hand, we have continuity in housing and even in dishes (Pastoral settlement) with the Chernyakhov archaeological culture. (Sedov V.V.)
Do not overlook the arguments of ethnographers:
From the point of view of the study and subsequent interpretation of archaeological sources, it seems that this issue will be open for a long time.
But written sources give us a lot of material on stories Slavs in the VI century.
The southward movement or the migration wave of the Slavs, in the wake of many Germanic peoples, to the borders of the East Roman Empire began after 453, after the death of Attila and the internecine war of the tribes that were part of the Hunnic union.
On the Danube border
At the very end of the fifth century. the proto-Bulgarians destroyed the forty-thousand-strong commissar army of Illyric, and other parts from here were transferred to the eastern border, which was more dangerous for the empire. Several wars that occurred at the beginning of the VI century, completely exposed the northern border on the Danube.
The traditional divide-and-conquer policy didn’t help the Romans to attract the Gepids, the victors of the Huns, and the Eruls who occupied the lands around the city of Singidon (now Belgrade, Serbia) to protect the Danube border.
On the path beaten by the Germans and the Huns, Slavic tribes began to approach the borders of Byzantium. Their invasion of 517 had a devastating effect on the Romance population of the western part of the Balkan Peninsula. They robbed Macedonia, the first and second, Old Epirus, and reached Thermopylae.
One part of the Slavs moved to the Danube from the Ants region, the other from central Europe and the Carpathians. Procopius of Caesarea emphasized that the customs, religion and laws of the Ants and the Slavs are exactly the same.
On the left bank of the Danube, they settled along the borders of the provinces of Scythia (Antes), Lower Moesia, Dacia and Upper Moesia (sklavins). To the west of the Slavs, beyond the Danube, in Pannonia on the Sava River, the bend of the Danube and the lower Tisza, there were gepids. Nearby, in the “Dacia coastal”, were the Heruls, and later here, in the former Roman province of Norik (part of the modern territory of Austria and Slovenia), the Lombards migrated.
Ethnic monolithicity was alien to these territories, the Slavs settled in large numbers on lands controlled by Germanic tribes, and the remnants of the Thracians, Sarmatians and other Iranian-speaking nomads lived here, as well as various groups of the Turkic nomadic population. According to the Greek, Procopius is “bestial tribes”.
The citizens of Byzantium also lived here, on the lands of which newcomers from the north and east began to settle.
The subsequent history of the Slavs who settled in the Danube was associated with both Byzantium and the nomadic tribes who raided the territory of the empire.
The Slavs were at an early stage of the communal-clan formation, when spontaneous collectivism was the basis of society, this is what Prokopius of Caesarea writes about this: “these tribes, Slavs and Antes, are not controlled by one person, but since ancient times have been living in democracy (democracy), and therefore their happiness and unhappiness in life is considered a common affair. ”
He points out that the Slavs have the same laws and worship the supreme god of lightning:
The god of lightning or Perun - appears here as the supreme deity, but not yet the god of war. The mistake is to identify it, relying on the material of Ancient Russia, exclusively with the retinue god. (Rybakov B.A.)
Perun, like Zeus, had different "functions", equated to different periods of the formation of society. From the god personifying lightning, through the god - controlling thunder and lightning, to the god of the period of formation of "military democracy" - the god of war. (Losev A.F.)
From the moment the Slavs appeared on the Danube, their endless invasions into the borders of Byzantium began: "... barbarians, Huns, Antes and Slavs, often making such transitions, caused irreparable harm to the Romans."
Byzantine historians record only the largest invasions, not paying attention to minor clashes: “Although now,” says Jordan’s contemporary contemporary of the Slavs, “according to our sins, they are rampant everywhere.” And Procopius of Caesarea in his revealing pamphlet on Emperor Justinian I directly wrote that the Ants and the Slavs, though together with the Huns, had plundered all of Europe to the ground.
In 527, a large army of Ants crossed the Danube and met with the troops of Master Herman, a relative of Emperor Justinian I. The Romance troops completely destroyed the Ants, and the glory of the formidable warrior German thundered throughout the barbaric world of Transdanubia. This victory gave Justinian the opportunity to add to his title “Antsky”.
However, in the 30 years, the Ants actively invaded the territory of Thrace. In response to the increasing attacks of the Slavs, Vasileus Justinian entrusted his squire Hilbudiy with the defense of the Danube border near the capital. It is believed that Hilbudiy was a kind of ant. (Vernadsky G.V.)
He, holding the high post of master of the army of Thrace, over the course of three years completed several successful punitive operations across the Danube, thereby securing the province of Thrace.
At the same time, an attempt was made to attract the Slavs to border protection, an unsuccessful attempt, due to the lack of leaders among the Ants with whom it would be possible to agree. This fact indicates that the Ants did not yet have a tribal union, and "each clan" lived independently. Which, incidentally, did not prevent them from acting together in the event of a military threat. So Khilbudiy, recklessly crossing the Danube with a small detachment, was forced to engage in an open battle with superior ant forces and died in this battle. Since that time, the border has again become available for invasion, moreover, the Slavs begin to settle in the province of Scythia, at the mouth of the Danube.
At the same time, the raids of the nomads continue, and in 540 the Huns reach the outskirts of Byzantium and take the Chersonesus of Thrace by storm. Here it was the first time that nomads took a large imperial city. In the same period, clashes between sklavins and antes took place, the latter were defeated. Emperor Justinian suggested that the Antam take protection of the border in the area of the abandoned city of Turris, built by the Troyan on the left bank of the Danube. Some researchers suggest that the agreement did not take place, while others believe that, on the contrary, Byzantium thereby secured itself for a while: the Huns and Antes did not go on campaigns for several years. At the same time, in Italy, the commander Belisarius has a whole arithmetic of antes (300 warriors) who successfully fight against the Goths.
But the attacks of the Sklavins intensified: in 547 they invaded Illyrik and reached the city of Dirrachia on the Adriatic Sea (modern Durres, Albania). The master of troops in Illyria, having here 15 of thousands of soldiers assembled for Italy, did not dare to repulse the enemies. Two years later, in 549, there was a new invasion of the Slavs by the forces of only three thousand people: part of them went to Illyria, and part to the capital.
The commander-in-chief of all the empire's forces in the area, the master of Thrace and Illyria, entered into battle with one of the Slavic detachments and was defeated, his army, superior in number to the Slavs, fled.
The Slavs were opposed by candidate Asbad, an officer of the bodyguard unit of the emperor. He commanded a detachment of personnel (catalog) riders from the city of Tsurul (Chorlu - East Thrace, Turkey), excellent riders, but the Slavs took them to flight, and they cut belts from the back of Asbad and burned him at the stake. After that they began to devastate Thrace and Illyria, committing all kinds of atrocities, torture and violence. In Thrace, they stormed the coastal city of Toper. 15 thousand men were killed in it, and children and women were taken into slavery. With seized property, prisoners, bulls and small cattle, the soldiers returned unhindered across the Danube.
In 550, the Slavs moved to Thessalonica, but upon learning that in Sardik (modern Sofia, Bulgaria) the legendary commander German was gathering troops for Italy, they turned to Dalmatia to winter there. Herman did not pursue them. The Slavs, already having a collision with him, decided not to tempt fate. Soon, Herman died suddenly, and the Slavs began their campaign again. There were rumors, as Procopius of Caesarea wrote, that they were bribed by the Italian king Gothil Totil.
To those units of the Slavs that wintered in Dalmatia, new ones joined that crossed the Danube, and by all means they began to devastate the province of Europe near Constantinople itself. The threat of the capital forced to gather significant forces of the Romans, who were led by a number of Byzantine commanders, under the command of the palace eunuch Scholastic. The troops met in Thrace near Adrianople, five days from the capital. The Slavs decided to take an open battle with the Byzantine army, but in order to lull the vigilance of the enemy, they were not in a hurry to fight while the ranks of the Romans were growing discontent with the indecision of the commanders: stratiot soldiers reproached them for cowardice and unwillingness to start the battle. And the commanders, fearing rebellion, were forced to yield.
The army of the Slavs was located on a hill and the Romans were forced to strike up, which exhausted them. After which the Slavs went on the offensive and completely defeated the enemy army, capturing even the banner of one of the commanders - Constantian. After which they freely robbed the rich countryside of Astika (modern district of Plovdiv, Bulgaria). On the way back, one of their detachments was attacked by the Byzantines, who saved a lot of people from slavery, and also returned the banner of Constantian, but despite this, the bulk of the Slavs returned for the Danube with prey.
Slaves of the Slavs in the VI - VII centuries.
Numerous evidence of Byzantine authors inform us that the sklavins and antes, in the course of their raids and campaigns on the Byzantine empire, were enriched not only with prey, but also with slaves. Procopius of Caesarea writes that more than twenty myriads of Romans perished and were enslaved, that is, 200 000 people.
And Menander reports that Boyan, who fought with the Slavs, returned many myriads of prisoners from slavery. Among the Slavs, only foreigners became slaves, tribesmen could not be slaves: prisoners of war were the main source of slaves. So, once, during the war between the sklavins and the Ants, the sklavin took into slavery a certain youth of Hilbudiy, after the establishment of peace, he was bought by the ant, having learned that he was his fellow tribe.
The captured prisoners were not the property of individual soldiers or leaders, but of the whole tribe, already on the lands of the Slavs, they were divided by lot between clans. So, the ant who bought the young man Hilbudia, whose name was the same as that of the missing commander of the Romans, tried to return him for ransom to Constantinople, but his fellow tribesmen found out about this, decided that this was the business of the whole people, and demanded to resolve the issue with a pseudo commander to the benefit of all.
The captured women and children adapted within the framework of family groups, and the men were enslaved for a certain, exact time, after which they were offered a choice: either pay off and go home, or remain on the rights of free and friends. Thus, the former slave became a full member of society, he could have property, get married, especially take part in military enterprises. Adult slaves compensated for the loss of warriors and participated in battles along with free ones. Researchers define this stage as "primitive slavery." (Froyanov I.Ya.)
Along with the looting, the most important “source of income” for the Slavs was the return of prisoners for ransom, especially since the Byzantine state paid special attention to this, allocating significant amounts.
To be continued ...
Sources and literature:
Jordan. On the origin and deed of the Getae. Translation E.Ch. Skrzhinsky. SPb., 1997.
Procopius of Caesarea War with the Goths / Translation S.P. Kondratiev. T.I. M., 1996.
Mauritius Strategicon / Translation and commentary by V.V. Kuchma. St. Petersburg., 2003.
Kulakovsky Yu. History of Byzantium (395-518 gg.) St. Petersburg, 2003.
Lovmyansky G. Religion of the Slavs and its decline (VI-XII). Translation M.V. Kovalkova. SPb., 2003.
Rybakov B. A. Paganism of Ancient Russia. M., 1988.
Sedov V.V. Slavs. Old Russian people. Historical and archaeological research. M., 2005.
Froyanov I.Ya. Slavery and tribute to the Eastern Slavs (VI - X centuries.). SPb., 1996.
Khazanov A. M. Decomposition of the primitive communal system and the emergence of a class society // Primitive Society. The main problems of development. / Ans. Ed. A.I. Pershits. M., 1975.
Schukin M. B. Birth of the Slavs. STRATUM: STRUCTURES AND DISASTERS. Collection of symbolic Indo-European history. SPb., 1997.
Subscribe and stay up to date with the latest news and the most important events of the day.