Slavs and Avars in the VI century
In addition to them, the borders of the empire in the north were threatened by German "kingdoms" and the Huns. The divide-and-rule imperial policy contributed to the weakening of these peoples, which the Byzantine diplomats pitted against each other.
Kuturgurs, a Hun tribe, along with the Slavs crossed the Danube on ice, passing through the provinces of Scythia and Moesia, in 558, headed by Khan Zabergan. Part of the troops with Zabergan moved to the capital, part to Greece, part tried to bypass the ground fortifications at Chersonesus of Thrace by sea on rafts.
But the Antes, who were in alliance with the empire from 554, tried to clash with the Kuturgurs and devastated the land of the sklavins, but, apparently, unsuccessfully, after them the Utiligurs of Sandilkha entered the battle.
Avars in Europe
At the end of the 50's, Avars appeared in the Black Sea steppes. The origin of the Avars can only be speculated. Like other nomadic peoples before and after them, on the way from the east, they underwent constant ethnic changes, including the vanquished and joined.
Avars, or mods of the Old Russian annals, were the Ural-Altai Turkic tribe. The Zhuzhans (Avars) dominated Northern China, the Mongolian steppes and Altai, subjugating the Hun tribes from East Turkestan, including the Turks themselves, the Ashin tribe.
Hence the horror experienced by the Hunnic tribes of Eastern Europe upon learning of the invasion of the Avars in the European steppes. But military happiness in the steppes is changeable, and, as Protector Menander wrote, during the war with the Ashin Turks and the Chinese, the Juan Juan or Rurana (Avars) were defeated in the 551 and 554 years, the Turks left the subjugation of the Jujan Juan and created their first Khaganate . Most of the Avars were forced to resettle in China and Korea, and a smaller part of the scattered tribes that were part of the Avar Union moved to the West.
In 568, the ambassadors of the Turkic Kaganate arrived in Constantinople, who told Emperor Justin II details about the Avars. This story reached us in "Stories»Theophylact Simocatta. The tribes of Huar and Hunni, who were once part of the Avar Union, fled from the Turks to the west. As the ruler of the Turks boastfully declared:
In the steppes of the Caucasus, they met the Hun tribes, who took them for an Avar, and rendered them corresponding honors. These tribes decided to take on the formidable name of the Avars. Such a transfer of names is found more than once in the history of nomadic tribes. They chose a ruler who received the title of kagan. Then they arrived at the Alans and thanks to them sent the first embassy to Constantinople, which arrived at the emperor Justinian in 558. Soon they were joined by the Tarniah and Kotzagir tribes who fled from the Turks in the number of 10 000 warriors. Altogether there were 20 of thousands of them; it was most likely about warriors, not counting women and children. In the middle of the VI century. this tribal union became an ally of Byzantium. The Avars, joining the warlike tribes of the steppes of Eastern Europe, destroyed and drove out the rebellious, so they ended up in the Carpathian region, the Subunavia and the Balkans. Here they intensify, waging ongoing wars with neighbors.
Attempts by the Byzantines to place them further away from the capital region in the province of Second Panonia were unsuccessful, the nomads of Khan Bayan tried to occupy land on the border of the provinces of Upper Moesia and Dacia.
Gepids were in alliance with the Sklaves. We know that the exiled candidate for the throne of the Lombards, Ildigis in 549 fled to the Sklaves, and then to the Gepids, for some time he fought with the Romans in Italy and had an army of Lombards, Gepids and Sklav, to the latter he eventually went to live.
The defeat of the gepids by the Lombards and their allies by the Avars and the withdrawal of the Lombards to Italy from the dangerous allies left one on one with the Avars. The latter conquered and subjugated all the "barbarians" in this region.
But if Justinian the Great conducted a conciliatory policy towards newcomers, endowing their endless embassies with gold, then the militant Justin II who came to power stopped this approach, thereby unleashing an endless war with the equestrian neighbors.
What contributed to their military success?
Avars were a people-army. Despite the fact that they were at the same stage of development with their neighbors in Eastern Europe, their military-technological advantage provided them with dominance over them. Avars are a people-army, united by a common struggle, first with the Turks, and then with other nomadic peoples on their way to Europe. The unconditional autocratic power of the khakan or kagan ensured firm and unquestioning discipline in this ethnic entity, in contrast, for example, from their tributaries, Slavs, who did not have tight control. Although they had the advice of the elders and the nobility, sometimes protesting the kagan.
All of them were magnificent riders: archaeological material suggests that regardless of social status, all nomads had iron stirrups and a bit, which helped to use the impact power of long spears. Protecting their horses with “armor” made of felt provided them with superiority over other competitor riders.
The presence of the stirrups that they brought to Europe helped the riders alternately use either a bow or a spear, fastened with a belt behind his back.
The low level of material culture also contributed to the desire to win and to possess wealth, the Avars who arrived in Europe did not even have metal plates on their belts and jigs, but used a horn. Out of the horn was their laminar armor (zaba).
A retrospective method shows that members of the dominant tribe, the tribe of conquerors, did not engage in physical labor, slaves and dependent nomads watched the cattle, slaves and women did the housework. "Leisure" made it possible for riders to constantly maintain "form" through training and hunting. All this made the Avar horseman dashing and fearless rider with Spartan discipline and education. “The Avars,” wrote Mauritius Stratig, “are extremely vicious, dodgy, and very experienced in wars."
To ensure long transitions in the war, the Avars drove a huge number of cattle with them, which increased their maneuverability. And there is no contradiction here. Large flocks or herds burden the movement of the horse army, but in the steppe, where it is extremely difficult to get food, the nomad riders needed such help to reach the territory where they could be fed. Moreover, speed with this movement is not required.
Unlike other nomads, they fought in formation rather than lava, located in separate units or measures (moira), as their construction was determined by Mauritius Stratig in the Byzantine manner. Separate detachments were created on the basis of individual clans or tribes, which contributed to the cohesion of the detachment. The Avars were the first to throw subordinate peoples into the battle, be it the Huns, Slavs, or Germans. They put their tributaries of the Slavs, called befulci, in front of the camp and forced to fight, if the victory was on the side of the Slavs, they proceeded to beat the losers and robbed their camp, if not, they forced the Slavs to fight more actively. In the battle for Constantinople, the Slavs escaped from the Romans, believing that they were probably traitors, the Avars simply killed. Kagan Bayan sent tributaries of the Kuturgurs in the amount of ten thousand horsemen to ruin Dalmatia.
When the Avars themselves entered the battle, they led him to the complete defeat of all the forces of the opponents, not content with just breaking the first line. It is worth adding the psychological factor of warfare - the appearance of the nomads of the Avars hit opponents, although there was no difference in clothing.
The first Slavic tribes that fell into submission to the Avars after the Huns were Slavs. Structurally, the relationship between the Avars and Slavs was built in different ways. Somewhere Slavs and Avars lived together, somewhere Slavic tributaries were ruled by their leaders.
The conquerors subjected the Slavs to all violence, it was a real Avar yoke. Legendary news of the Russian annals says: when a noble arr (accident) was about to go somewhere, he harnessed three or four Slavic women to the cart. Fredegest writes that every year the Avars went to winter in the places of resettlement of the Slavs, they took wives and daughters of the Slavs and used them, and at the end of the wintering the Slavs had to pay tribute to them. When in 592, during the siege of Sirmia, the kagan ordered the Slavs to build single-wood boats for the crossing, they worked at all costs under pain of punishment. In the war, the Avars set ahead, as we wrote above, the army of the Slavs and forced them to fight.
And what was the relationship between Avars and Ants?
Avars and Ants
At the same time, the Avars were unable to conquer the Ants. The Ants were numerous tribes, and their material level and military knowledge were at a fairly high level, so dealing with them was not so simple.
In the 50 years, the Avars strengthened their power by fighting the Utigurs and Kuturgurs (Kutriguts), Gepids, and in alliance with the Lombards, they carried out extermination campaigns against the Ants, possibly passing all their lands to the Dniester. In 560, the Ants sent an embassy led by Mezamer or Mezimir (Μεζαμηρος), the son of one of the Antian princes or leaders of Idariz, brother of Kelagast, in order to redeem prisoners and talk about peace. The translator of the Avar Hagan, Kutrigur, experiencing a personal dislike of the Slavs, interpreted the arrogant speeches of the ambassadors as a threat to the war, and the Avars, neglecting the customs, killed the ambassadors, starting a new campaign against the Antes.
A little later, Khan Bayan sent to another Ant leader, Dobrat (Δαυρέντιος), or Davrit (Δαυρίτας), an embassy demanding humility and paying tributes. Davrit and the other Ants leaders arrogantly answered the ambassadors:
This belligerent response was perfectly in the tradition of the time. A quarrel arose between the leaders of the Ants and the ambassadors, the ambassadors were killed. As a result, a war began, which most likely went with varying success, because Menander Protector informs us that the kagan (khan) Bayan suffered a lot from the Slavs. What did not stop their ambassadors in 565 from boasting in Constantinople that they had pacified the barbarians and that they did not attack Thrace.
1. Sword. Coonagot. VI - beg. VII centuries
2. Sword. Kunbabon. VI - beg. VII centuries
3. Sword. Segvar-Shopoldon. VI - beg. VII centuries
4. Sword. Kelked-Feketekapu. VI - beg. VII centuries
5. Sheath. Hungarian National Museum. VI - beg. VII centuries
Kagan tried to win back the situation with the Ants in 577, when a huge army of Slavs out of a hundred thousand warriors, taking advantage of the war of the Roman Empire in the east, crossed the Danube and devastated Thrace, Macedonia and Thessaly.
The Slavs plundered the whole territory, devastated Thrace and captured the herds of royal horses, gold and silver.
Given the named number, it must be assumed that the entire capable male population went on a campaign, which the empire simply had no strength to withstand. The Romans turned to Khan Bayan, and he, having received gifts, decided to take advantage of the situation. The Avar army consisted of horsemen (Ιππέων), Menander indicates the number in 60 thousand (which causes great doubt). At first, the Byzantines crossed the Danube in the area of present-day Sremska Mitrovica, the soldiers crossed on foot through Illyria and were again transported by Romance ships across the Danube in the area of Grotsk.
Kagan began to rob the defenseless population, since it was believed that the Slavs, who had long fought with Byzantium, accumulated huge wealth. Most likely, after these events, the antes become tributary dependent on the kaganate for some time.
Nevertheless, the difficulties with the crossing enabled the Ants to provide effective resistance, for example, in 580 the Avar ambassadors demanded that they be allowed to make a permanent crossing at Sirmia (Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia) in order to be able to collect the promised tribute from the Slavs, but the emperor Tiberius did not allowed, realizing that, having no military power in the Balkans, Byzantium, if there is a bridge over the Sava River, will also become the prey of nomads.
By the way, on the way back, the ambassadors were killed by the Slavs.
Slavs on the borders of the empire at the end of the VI century
But already in 581, the Slavs invaded Illyrik and Thrace, and two years later, under pressure from the nomads, they not only raided Byzantium, but moved to its borders, the first settlers settled in Macedonia and Thessaly, and even Greece, what outraged John of Ephesus who informed him.
At the same time, the military activity of the Avars on the borders of the empire is growing, their tributaries of the Slavs go on a campaign both independently and by order of the kagan. There is no doubt that many Sklavin tribes came under the supreme authority of the Avars. During the siege of Sirmia (Sremska-Mitrovica) and Singidon (Belgrade), the Slavs built odnodrevki boats to ferry the khan’s troops, they hurried up, afraid of anger, most of the infantry besieging these cities were also Slavs.
In 585, there was an invasion of the Slavs, or Ants, who reached the Long Walls, that is, almost under Constantinople.
They were opposed by the scribon Comenziol, a warrior from the squadron-scribonaria squadron. It was his debut as a military leader, he won the river Ergin (Ergen, the left tributary of the Maritsa). Having received the position of a present or master of millilitum presentis (commander of the entire expeditionary army), he waged an even more decisive battle with the Slavic invasions. In the vicinity of Adrianople, he met with the army of the Slavic prince Ardagast. Who is Ardagast, little is known, perhaps his name comes from the Slavic god Radegast. The following year, Comenziol himself went on a campaign against the Slavs, but it is not known how it ended, because at the same time the Avar invasion of Thrace began.
In 586, the kagan, together with the sklavins, set out on a campaign to Constantinople, the Romans called for help from the Antes, who devastated the lands of the sklavins.
In 593, the stratilates of the East of Priscus opposed the Slavs living on the Danube. Events took place in the area of the modern river Ialovica, the left tributary of the Danube (Romania). The army crossed near Dorostol (Silistr, Bulgaria), and in the battle the soldiers defeat the Slavic leader Ardagast.
Prisc sent big booty to the capital, but a detachment of Slavs attacked him. The Slavs switched to guerrilla tactics and constantly counterattacked, those who were captured were courageous, tortured. As Feofilakt Simokatta writes, “the barbarians, having fallen into near-death madness, seemed to rejoice in torment, as if someone else's body was suffering from scourges.” But to the aid of the Romans came a deserter-gepid, who lived in Slavic land. He proposed to deceive another "ricks" of the Slavs, Musokiy (Μουσοκιος). According to the sign of hepatitis, the Romans attacked the drunken soldiers of Musokia at night.
We see that various Slavic tribes participate in the attacks on Byzantium, led by leaders such as Musoky or Ardagast (Piragast), sometimes they raid together, often on their own.
The winners also made a feast and were again attacked by the Slavs, barely repelled their attack. On the way back, the crossing of the Danube, Prisca was blocked by the Khan Avar, who, looking for a cause for a clash, accused the Romans of assaulting his subjects and ordered large hordes of Slavs to cross the Danube. Most likely, we are not talking about the fact that the Slavs of Musoky or Ardagast obeyed the Avars, but the desire of the Hagan to consider all Slavs as their subjects, especially since it was a good reason to profit. Priscus gave him five thousand captured Slavs, and under such conditions he returned to the capital.
But the fighting did not stop, the Slavs were such a serious threat that the Emperor of Mauritius, contrary to custom, to withdraw the army to the "winter apartments" began to keep it on the border within the "barbarians". He wanted to force the armies on the Danube to live on self-sufficiency, while he reduced the salaries of soldiers. He appointed his brother Peter, the commander in Odysse (Varna, Bulgaria), who led the fight against variable success. The Slavs ravaged the capital of Lower Moesia, Markianopol (Devnya village, Bulgaria), but on the way back they were attacked by Peter, while his trip beyond the Danube was unsuccessful. Prisk, who replaced him, went on a campaign against the Slavs in 598, but was forced to conduct military operations against the Avars who besieged Singidon (Belgrade) and plundered Dalmatia. The empire tried in some way, by force or gifts, to reconcile the Slavs, since the Avar Khaganate became its main opponent here. The fight against them was the main business of the state.
After the battle with the Avars at the mouth of the Yantra River, the right tributary of the Danube, in April 598, which was extremely unsuccessful for the Romans, a peace treaty was concluded between the Hagan and Byzantium in the city of Drieper (Karishtyran) in Thrace, the parties to the agreement confirmed that the border between them was Danube, but the treaty allowed the Romans to pass the Danube against the Slavs. Obviously, not all Slavic tribes fell into tributary dependence on the Avars.
But when the Bavars came out against the Alpine Slavs living in the upper reaches of the Drava River, the kagan defended tributaries and completely defeated the enemy.
And in 592, the Avars asked the Byzantines to help them cross the Danube in order to punish the Slavs, most likely the Ants, who refused to pay tribute.
Meanwhile, Vasilevs Mauritius, who did not even pay the ransom for full (the kagan executed 12 thousand prisoners), refused to pay tribute to the Avars, tore off the contract and sent the army on a campaign on the kagan, this campaign was sent to the heart of a nomadic state, the middle reaches of the Danube in Pannonia .
For almost fifty years of the VI century, the Avars strengthened their power over the territories of the Danube, destroying some peoples, subjugating and making tributaries of others. Some Slavs came under their dominance, some were tributaries, and another part fought with them with varying success. In an ever-changing political environment, yesterday’s enemies became allies, and vice versa.
But was there a symbiosis of Avars with the Slavs? I think that it is necessary to say here: no. The exchange existed, the influence of fashion or weapons - yes, but there is no need to talk about symbiosis. This situation can be described as coexistence, where the key element of interaction was the “tormenting” by the Avars of the Slavs who fell under their heels, as well as representatives of other ethnic groups, less numerous than the Slavs.
Arrogance and ethno-chauvinism are characteristic of ethnic groups, which are key in such formations as Kaganate Avar. A view of the world through the prism of simple social concepts: ruler, slave and enemy. At the same time, the slave did not have the shade that under classical slavery, under this term were all dependent: from prisoners to tributaries. The peak of power of such associations at the same time becomes the moment of sunset. This happened with the Avars. About this - in the sequel.
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