Anty fight with the Avar rider. Drawing by the author
In this article, continuing the cycle on the early military stories Slavs, we will focus on the protective weapons and clothing of the soldiers of the VI-VIII centuries.
Shield: the history of the term
The origin of this name is debated by specialists. Researchers are very careful in identifying the origin of this word. We have four versions.
The first is related to the "Celtic theory". It was put forward at the beginning of the twentieth century. Its essence is as follows. The Venets were a Celtic tribe that migrated to Powisle, here they conquered the Proto-Slavs. And the word "shield", or Czech "štit", thus, goes back to the Celtic sceitos (Shakhmatov A.A.).
Indeed, we have similar analogies. The Romans borrowed from the Celts both the name and the actual shield of a large size - dash or phirea (θυρεος) from the word door (θυρа). From now on we will use the term "dash" in this work.
The next version is a borrowing from the Latin language of the word scutum, but then the Slavic shield would have to sound like * scut or * skyt (Brand RF).
Another version is the borrowing of the Gothic skildus (modern Schild) (Brand RF).
Finally, the hypothesis, according to which the term could be completely Slavic, "only accidentally similar to the Latin and Germanic" names (Brand RF, M. Fasmer).
The researcher Brand R.F. at first inclined towards the Gothic version, but later, in lectures on Slavic philology, he did not mention it.
In the XXI century. ideas were put forward to correct pre-existing theories.
The "Latin version" was updated and substantiated. It was clarified that scutum (scutum - square shield) was borrowed during the period of existence of "late (vulgar) Latin" (Viach. Vs. Ivanov).
This is the term used by the researcher.
Another original version suggests that the Slavs had two names for the shield in the XNUMXth century. One, borrowed from the Celtic-Roman language, meant a shield with an umbilicus, and it has survived to this day. Another proper Slavic:
“Most likely, the word * abig was used by the Slavs in the XNUMXth century. to designate, first of all, their own (and not Celtic-Roman) shields, distinguished by the absence of an umbilicus and great weight. "
It should be borne in mind that since the time of the La Tène archaeological culture (from La Teng at Lake Neuchâtel in Switzerland), within which the Proto-Slavs could supposedly recognize this term, the shape and size of the shield changed.
In the Roman army, the name scutum (scutum) during the III-IV century. n. e. passed from a cylindrical shield to an oval one. And in the VI century. this word was applied to round and oval shields.
The conclusion about the two names of the early Slavic shields leads us to the following reasoning. First of all, the fact that the Slavs in the VI century. had a separate name for their shields, associated with their principled appearance, which distinguished them from the Roman-Celtic shields with an umbilicus.
In this case, it turns out that since the time of Proto-Slavic-Celtic contacts, the borrowed Celtic word "shield" should have become a generic name for shields or lost, the existence of two names is hardly possible, especially within the framework of the tribal system and in conditions when the Proto-Slavs and early Slavs did not have any variety in weapons. Simply put, in the language of this period there was no place for superfluous names unrelated to the most important functions of management.
Let us repeat: there is nothing to say that for a long time the Slavs, who lived in huge spaces, retained two names for shields.
The same can be said about the arrival of the name of the shield from "late (vulgar) Latin" (Viach. Vs. Ivanov).
This borrowing was theoretically possible, since even in the VI century. in the Byzantine army exclusively Latin terms were used, in contrast to literature, where Greek already dominated. Mauritius Stratigus uses the Greek version of the Latin term scutarius (σκουτάρια).
But here new questions arise: how did this name spread from the Slavs in contact with the Romans to those who did not have such contacts, and the word "shield" is in all Slavic languages.
We think that the arguments of the researchers who have substantiated that the word "shield" of Slavic origin are relevant to similar names in other languages, this opinion also has mental and material justifications. Since, according to extremely rare sources, the shield was used by the Proto-Slavs already in the XNUMXst century. n. e. (M. Fasmer).
Slavic shield from Byzantine authors
Now let's move on to the problem of fixing the Slavic "shield" among the Byzantine writers. In historiography, due to the fact that in the sources there are two completely contradictory messages about the Slavic shields of the XNUMXth century. (small and cumbersome), there are discussions: what kind of shield did the early Slavs have?
On the one hand, there is a message from Procopius of Caesarea that
“The majority go to the enemies on foot, having shields (small shields) (άσπίδια)”.
The term άσπίδια is traditionally translated as "small shield".
On the other hand, the author of the Strategikon, perhaps in the first half, and possibly at the end of the XNUMXth century, reports on the hard-to-bear Slavic shields - σκουτάρια.
The confusion here is also due to the fact that the writers of this period used the Greek and Latin names on equal terms. In order to make the text especially attractive, outdated terms were used.
If the "small shield" appears only in the work of Procopius, then the "large shield" has some "roots" in antiquity. Tacitus wrote that the Wends in the XNUMXst century. there were scuta gestant - shields, as an option, "large shields".
In the "Miracles of Dmitry Thessaloniki" (CHDS), it is reported about the shields (άσπίδων), from which the Slavs built a defense, instead of the palisade around Thessalonica in 597.
In Procopius of Caesarea, who defined the Slavic shield as άσπίδια, the main name for the shield was aspis (ασπίς). For the huge shields of the Persian infantry and the huge siege shields of the Goths, he uses the term dash - θυρεον - θυρεούς.
Therefore, the question arises why, having used ασπίς (shield, our counting) 53 times, he calls the Slavic shield άσπίδια. Without using other ancient names for the small shield: λαισηια πτεροεντα (winged) or πέλτη (pelta).
A contemporary of Procopius, John Lead, who was engaged in systematization, including military names, explained the term aspis (ἀσπίδος) as a scutum, opposing it to a much larger shield: dash (θυρεος) or klipeus (clipeus).
Non-inventory Slavic burials do not make it possible to talk about the appearance of the Early Slavic shields, however, as well as about other weapons and start a dispute about the size as if to a dead end (Polyakov A.S.).
What are the opinions or reasons for eliminating this contradiction?
First, the version that the translation of the term Кσπίδια by Procopius of Caesarea as “small shield” is incorrect.
Traditionally, as we noted, άσπίδια, including in explanatory dictionaries, it is translated as "small shield".
The translation did not take into account the writing style of Procopius of Caesarea, who used archaic ancient Greek terms:
"... through άσπίδια καί ακόντια" shields and darts ", trying, on the one hand, to maintain some correspondence with military terms in terms of suffixes, on the other hand, continuing to attize."
The researcher concludes:
“… In the late antique era in the military environment, the suffix -ιόν lost its diminutive meaning, for example: άκόντιον, σκουτάριον. Therefore, Procopius' άσπίδιον simply means "shield" ασπίς. "
Other researchers explain the difference in the size of the shields by the evolution from the small shield of Procopius of Caesarea to the large shield of Mauritius (B. Zasterova).
Still others believe that different sizes of shields correspond to different tribes (Nefyodkin A.K.).
The question remains open also because we do not have archaeological data on the shields. But the neighbors of the Slavs could have some influence on their weapons.
In order to draw these parallels, we will briefly consider the shields of the peoples who interacted with the Slavs during this period.
Romei. Byzantine shields of the 1,07th-1,18th centuries have not survived to us, but we have many of their identical images, as well as earlier specimens of shields (0,92rd century). Such a shield was oval, slightly curved, 0,97-12 cm long, 15-8 cm wide. They were made from 12-1 wooden planks XNUMX-XNUMX mm thick. The thickness of the shield was XNUMX cm. Poplar was used as a material. The shields could be covered with skin on both sides, or they could not be covered. They were painted, and depending on the status of the warrior, either regimental insignia were applied to them, or they had individual drawings (Bannikov A.V.).
But Anonymous VI century. suggested that the shield should be about 120-130 cm in size. This size was the length of the classic rectangular scutum of the period of the empire (121 cm long and 75 cm wide).
I wrote in more detail about the Roman shields in articles on "VO" dedicated to the Byzantine army of the XNUMXth century.
I repeat, the Roman shields of the XNUMXth-XNUMXth centuries that have come down to us. no, only iconography and descriptions in written sources. In contrast to the "barbarian" shields, the remains of which were found in numerous graves of Germanic tribes, including the neighbors of the Slavs. Of course, among these finds, the key is a convex metal protection for the hand - an umbo. We believe that among the finds of umbons there are undoubtedly Roman specimens that fell to the German either as a result of trade, or as trophies, or they were made by captive craftsmen.
Umbon with bronze decoration. Nocera Umbra. Lombard Grave No. 1. VI century Photo by the author
The Germans. What was the German shield of mass production, can be seen on the example of the shield of the Franks of the XNUMXth century, described by Agathius of Mirine:
“… In another place, the broken shields were recovered so that they were usable again, and the preparations went on successfully. For the armament of this people is simple and does not need numerous artisans, but, I think, what is needed can be easily prepared by anyone, if something is broken. "
Based on the data of archeology, it can be argued that the shield of the Germans of the VI-VIII centuries. had an extremely simple design. It was absolutely flat, with a cutout for a fist, which was covered with a umbilicus, to which a handle or a handle was attached from the back, most often by means of through rivets.
The shields of the Lombards differed from the shields of other Germanic tribes (Franks, Alemans, Bavars) and were convex, not flat, so this made it possible to use the original fastening of the handles that copied the convexity of the shields (necropolis of Noser Umbra, grave 24). The umbon was installed by riveting through the surface of the shield.
A handle (or rivets in the area of the umbil) was attached to the hole under the umbo, sometimes also at the edge of the shield or with the help of ends abutting against the edge of the shield.
The Lombards used hemispherical shields, which we often find on the Roman images of this period: in the Iliad manuscript of the XNUMXth century, kept in Milan, on the mosaic from the Great Palace of Constantinople, the church in Heaven, the church near Kissufim in Jordan, etc.
Umbons and fastening shields from the graves of the Lombards. Castel Trozino
Shields and contacts
The Lombards were neighbors of the Slavs for quite a long time, later the Slavs even participated in the war with the Lombards against the Romans, and then they themselves fought in northern Italy against the Lombards.
The Gepids, "mad with the sword," occupied the territory on the left bank of the Danube, covering the whole of Dacia, and beyond the Danube also the cities of Sirmium and Singidun. They were the enemy neighbors of the Lombards in the area.
After the latter left for Italy, including in order to protect themselves from violent new neighbors - the Avars, the Slavic tribes lived with the Gepids in the same territory, took part with them in campaigns, independently, and later as tributaries of the Avars (after 568), and were familiar with their weapons (Bistritski P.).
From the written data it is known that after the defeat in 512 the Heruls lived on the borders of the Romans as federates, then moved to the Gepids, archaeologists show the presence of Herul settlements on the territory of modern Serbia under the Danube. And the Slavs could come into contact with this ethnos, using swords and shields (I. Bugarski, V. Ivanishevich).
Thus, we see that the Slavs, starting from the period of their settlement on the Danube border, were in close contact with the Germanic ethnic groups, and if there were technological barriers in the field of borrowing swords, then there were fewer of them on the shields, although everything rested on the level of blacksmithing (about him - in the article on swords) when creating an umbon.
Nevertheless, today it is difficult to understand how the Slavic shield was similar in design to that of its German neighbors or differed from it.
Umbons of Germanic tribes: Alamans, Franks, Bavars. Photo by the author
Did the Slavic shields have an umbon?
Some researchers write that the shield of the Slavs, who began to raid the Roman borders at the beginning of the XNUMXth century, was without a boom, based on the fact that a "bulky" shield is a shield without a boom. What contradicts our knowledge about shields: the scutums of the end of the republic, the beginning of the empire were also massive, but they had an umbon (Nefyodkin A.K., Shuvalov P.V.).
The reasoning that a shield with an umbilicus and an attachment was used as in combat with the use of a throwing weapons, and in hand-to-hand combat, quite rightly, the absence of a pommel and shackle indicates that the shield was not used in foot combat, it is also permissible, but these conclusions cannot be applied to Slavic weapons, since we do not have data sources: even by With javelins, we have an extremely weak and controversial archaeological base (Nefyodkin A.K.).
At the same time, Shuvalov believes that the absence of an umbon does not prevent the Slavic shield-bearers, standing in the first row, from using it in the ranks.
By this we do not want to say that the shields of the early Slavs had umbons, I just would like to emphasize that there is no information about this in the sources.
Considering the fact that the Slavs (some tribes) were quite successfully able to master the construction of siege equipment, it is worth thinking that the creation of shields of a more advanced design should not have caused difficulties.
Today, more questions are connected with the umbo, which cannot be identified among the Slavs, because we do not have archaeological finds.
As for the difference in the size of the shields, it can be explained not by the evolution from small to large, which contradicts the sources on the Slavic shields, but, possibly, by the ethnic characteristics of individual tribes or clans.
Large sturdy shields
We can assume that we are observing evolution not in size, but in general, in the development from very weak weapons, possibly shields, as Jordan writes about, to large shields, taking into account the influence of the neighbors of the Germans and the Roman army.
In the end, the shield of the Slavs fell under the name of the large infantry shield of the Byzantines, naturally, with a certain ethnic coloration. It is not for nothing that Vasileus Leo VI The Wise Shield of the Oplites and Slavs designates the already known term dash: thyura or tureus. His work was based on the "Strategicon" of Mauritius, and he, as can be assumed, to bring more clarity during the writing of his strategy in the XNUMXth century, designated the Slavic shields with the term dash, that is, "large shield". Since Mauritius wrote that the Slavic shield is strong, but difficult to bear.
It seems to us that the author of the "Strategicon" pointed to the fortress not by chance: despite the fact that the Slavs carried out ambush attacks, it was the arrows that posed a significant threat to them, as indicated by Mauritius in his recommendations to the stratiots. And a skillful shooter, about which, for example, Agathius of Mirinei writes, could pierce both shield and armor with an arrow, which was done by Goth Aligern, who killed the Byzantine taxiarch Palladius with a shot from the walls of Qom.
And one more addition about the "fortress" of the shield from the same Agathius. Oddly enough, this case happened with a descendant of a Slav in the Roman army. Leontius, son of ant and taxiarch (centurion) Dabragez,
"Slipped in some puddle, fell and rolled down, breaking the shield (ασπίς)."
Of course, this is just an example of the difference between "not very strong" and "strong" but "difficult to bear" shields.
Do not lose sight of the fact that an important requirement for weapons has always been to reduce weight while maintaining or improving technical characteristics. Therefore, for the author of "Strategikon", who knows a more technological Roman shield, the device of which we wrote above, the shield of the Slavs seemed cumbersome.
In the ChDS it is reported that “they [the Slavs. - E. V.] was the interweaving of closed shields with each other. " Therefore, we can confidently say that the Slavs used large shields as a “wall” against arrows. Obviously, it is easiest to use in such a situation strong and large, and not small shields.
Thus, taking into account the scarce data of the sources, it can be assumed that in the XNUMXth-XNUMXth centuries the Slavs used a strong large shield, the size of which may have varied. For the most part, these were primitive shields of their own production within the clan community, most likely, as "simple" as the shields of the Franks described by Agathius of Myrene. Their severity and intolerance can be explained by the low level of technology, when, perhaps, whole boards were used for the manufacture. The most important, as it seems to us, was protection from throwing weapons, which provided a strong, difficult-to-bear shield, a primitive one, which was not a pity to throw in case of a necessary retreat.
The Slavs, like all peoples, used trophy shields and adopted technologies, where possible and where their level of production allowed.
When considering this type of weapon, like other weapons, one should take into account the factor of the general low material culture of the Slavic tribes of this period. The tribes located on the borders of Byzantium differed in material terms from the tribes far from these lands (Mavrodin V.V.).
Clothing and protection of the Slavs
To begin with, we present in two different translations a well-known passage from Procopius of Caesarea about the attire of a Slav. A message that sometimes raises great doubts. The first, "chaste" translation:
"Others do not wear tunics or raincoats, but only trousers, pulled up by a wide belt at the hips, and in this form they go to fight the enemies."
The second is made in an attempt to convey the description more clearly:
“Some, however, do not have [on themselves] either a tunic or a [coarse] cloak, but having fitted only pants [anaxirids. - E.V.], covering the shameful units, and enter into battle with the enemies. "
(Ivanov S.A., Gindin L.A., Tsymbursky L.V.)
After analyzing historiography (opinions about this clothing are very different: a loincloth, rolled-up pants) and translations of this passage into different languages, the translator of the text suggests that the Slavs before the battle dressed in anaxirids (άναξυριδες), a kind of leggings:
"The essence of the phrase is how we think that the Slavs wear only anaxirids for battle, and not that their only preparation is to pull up their pants."
There is another opinion, its essence lies in the fact that the ports of the Slavs appeared later, and the described robes were
"Leggings (wide leggings), tucked up so as to only slightly cover the male dignity of the Slavic warrior."
The meaning of this garment remains a mystery.
But in Procopius of Caesarea, anaxirids were synonymous with pants, in the Secret History, describing the Hunnic fashion in Constantinople, he pointed to “wide pants” - anaxirids, which were worn by the capital's fashionistas.
It seems that after all, the Slavs did not wear some kind of leggings-leggings, which were worn before the battle and slightly covered their manhood, but pants, consisting of two trousers, which were supported by a belt so as not to fall off, that is, they covered the "shameful places" ...
We have archaeological data from Egypt on the "gaiters" of the Roman warriors, and they reach the knees or slightly higher, the Lombards wore white gaiters that were worn up to the knees.
It can only be hypothetically assumed that the trousers could be very wide, as we see in the national costume of the Croats and Slovenes that has come down to us.
Let's look at two more important aspects.
Many reenactors have doubts that the Slavs who lived in the northern regions, and indeed in the Balkans, always walked with a "naked torso". But the author of the Stratigikon wrote:
"They are numerous and hardy, easily endure heat and cold, and rain, and nakedness of the body, and lack of food."
The seasoned secretary of the commander Belisarius, just like his contemporaries, who described events and ethnic groups, emphasized more vivid details and differences: the Avars have braids, the Heruls fight without armor, the Lombards are unusually aggressive, even by the standards of the Early Middle Ages. And in the case of the Slav warrior, Procopius is talking about "other" or "some", special warriors who did not wear chitons. A chiton or tunic is the outerwear used during this period. Thus, he reports only about some men who fought in the Slavic army. It is difficult to say how many such soldiers were.
But in the ranks of "barbarians" such an appearance was not uncommon. Of course, it surprised the Roman authors, but, I repeat, it was common for Indo-European tribes of the tribal system. Polybius also reported about naked Celtic warriors in the battle of Telamon, Cannes, etc.
Procopius of Caesarea described the Heruls with whom he was in battles more than once:
"... to make it easier to fight, or to show that they despise the wounds inflicted by the enemies, they went into battle naked, covering only shameful places."
His younger contemporary, Agathius of Myrenees, depicts the Franks:
"With bare chest and back, they only wear pants, linen or leather."
We see that the participation of half-naked soldiers in the battle is a fairly common place, and not a specificity of the Slavs alone.
A warrior in this form sought both to frighten enemies, to amaze them with his appearance, and to emphasize his valor, "fierce courage and unbridled military strength."
Such warriors also fought among the tribesmen dressed in "tunics". There is an opinion about such fighters that they were members of military "werewolf" brotherhoods (Alekseev S.V.).
What we think is insufficiently substantiated and does not correspond to the stage of development of Slavic society of the XNUMXth-XNUMXth centuries, see previous articles on "VO".
However, we do not know anything else about the appearance of the Slavic warrior. The Byzantine authors (except for the controversial point discussed above) do not distinguish them in any way, therefore, it can be assumed that they wore the same homespun long shirts, had outerwear made of coarse fabrics or skins. It seems that this clothing, due to the conservatism of the clan and postnatal system, has changed little over the centuries and has come down to us from Ancient Rus.
Goths, Lombards, Franks, Saxons had some peculiarities in their clothes. Of course, the Slavic dress also had differences, and the Chronicle of Fredegar tells us about this in the XNUMXth century, but what was the specifics, in the ornaments on the linings on clothes, belts, we can only guess: the first Slavic king Samo, his entourage, everything were dressed in Slavic clothes, which for some unknown reason differed from the clothes of the Franks.
As for protective equipment, we do not know anything about it among the early Slavs. They could use protective weapons obtained from both nomads and Romans. Voi, who ended up in military service in Byzantium, in case of entry into the catalog, of course, were supplied with Roman equipment.
The question remains open: were the Slavs in protective armor on boats in the Golden Horn Bay during the siege of Constantinople in 626, or were there only Avars and other nomads in it, and there were Slavs, Bulgarians, and other barbarians on the boats?
Avars, who preferred to fight in the second line, sent forward those who did not feel sorry for their "slaves": Slavs, Bulgars and Gepids. After the defeat in the Golden Horn, the kagan in a rage ordered to beat all those who survived, so there are doubts that the boats were "plated" -avars, they, most likely, remained on horseback in front of the Charisian gate and the gate of St. Romanus. It can be assumed that the Slavs could have been defensively armed in this battle. Armor, or rather, laminar armor plates used by nomads, were found at the Slavic settlement in Khotomel. The main finds of elements of chain mail and armor belong to the territory of the Antes.
Even taking into account the lack of inventory of the Slavic burials and the highest value of such equipment, which, most likely, continued to be used after the death of the owner, it must be noted that this evidence is extremely small.
Trophy protection, perhaps, went to the leaders and the best warriors. The same can be said for helmets. But during the siege of Thessaloniki in the 60s of the XNUMXth century. the Slavs act as oplites, and they may have had protective gear. But these are just assumptions.
The overwhelming majority of Slavic warriors fought without protective weapons, defending themselves exclusively with shields and using natural and artificial shelters.
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To be continued ...