Avar Belt Mount

Avar Belt Mount

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Avar Belt Mount - History

If you want to get acquainted with Somogy county,you may look it up in an encyclopedia, play with geographical parameters, tlry economic indices and series of statistics still you will not be able to tell that you know Somogy county. Each square meter of the 6036 m2 between the Balaton and the Drdva hides some surprise which we can only understand if we know its history as well. From time to time we have to open the 'treasury' of the county so that we can adapt ourselves to its present through reciting the almost forgotten history. We hare been preserving many things in this 'treasury'. Old documents, caned stone saturated with sweat, rusty swords, flags of glorious days, shepherd's wood carvings from the everyday life, tales about witches, legends about highwaymen, lamenting songs, dances of lads showing off with their strength and skill. First we only take pleasure in them, later perhaps also think of their message. When we have done this we may be able to understand everyday life and holidays in Somogy. One of the county festives, the County Day is an event when >vc recall our past. We organized it on 6th January, 1996 for the first time with the intent to create a tradition, to have an exact date every year when we can together search the secrets of our past, cite its relics and seek the possible ways of future. This day we commemorate the important historical event when King II. Uldszlo first among the counties bestowed a letter patent to Somogy.

The conferment document is closed, by the King's order, in the following way:

,,In faith and testimony thereof, in the interest of its strength and eternal validity we issued the present document strengthened with out hanging secret seal which we use as king of Hungary. Dated in Buda, on the Twelfth Day in the thousand and four hundred-eighty-eighth year of our Lord, in the eighth year of our Hungarian etc. royalty, in the twenty-seventh year of our Bohemian royalty."

500 years have passed since then. On our jubilee celebration we open again the door of the 'treasury'. Real treasures, golden jewels came to light to our pleasure and to remember our ancestors. To remember those who loved on this piece of land called now Somogy since the legacy of the people who once lived here contributed to wealth of our county. We would like to present this underground richness in the archaeological exhibition to be opened on the County Day and through the publication issued on this occasion. An unparalleled rich Avar cemetery can be found in our county at Zamardi from where this rare rich archaeological material came. It is due to the value rescuing and value creating activity and financial support of the National Cultural Fund, that the Centre of Museums in Somogy county can exhibit the restored museum values from the find material counting several thousand items. The original pieces in the exhibition have turned so beautiful in careful hands that it is almost unbelievable, still it is true: the objects, implements and jewels exhibited here had been hidden in the earth of Somogy county for more than a thousand years.

We can wonder at the folding iron stools with ancient gleam from the Migration Period which are unique pieces in the world and we have the right to say that the 'treasury' of Somogy county is really rich.

We place these pieces, too, on the table among our values as a symbolic greeting of the day.

On the front cover The shield of the county


BY JOSA of SOM, steward of Temes and Peter of BWTHKA, steward of Somogy IN


(Vellum with painted shield and trace of hanging seal)

The original document is kept in the ARCHIVES OF SOMOGY COUNTY (inv.no.91.)

Gilded bronze belt mount with precious stone inlay, fashioned in the 2nd German animal style

On the back cover Gold earrings front the 7th century

Silver cross with embossed rim

The excavation was set up from the material of the Centre of Museums in Somogy County on the request of die General Assembly of Somogy County.

Financial supporters: Ministry of Culture and Education

National Cultural Fund General Assembly of Somogy County

Organizers: Edith Bardos archaeologist Ferenc Matucza exhibition designer Jozsef Laszlo

The excavation photos were made by Edith Bardos

Graphical design: Laszlo Homydk, graphic artist

Catalogue editor: Ferenc Matucza

Scientific advisor: Dr. Istvdn Bona

General editor: dr. Istvdn Szabolcs, director of the Centre of Museum of Somogy County

Edited in 1000 copies in the Piispok and Co. Press

The East-Transdanubian type cemeteries formed in the eastern part of the earlier Pannonia at the end of the 6th, the beginning of the 7th century. (Budakalasz, Csakbereny, Kolked-Feketekapu, Kornye, Zamardi etc.) These Avar cemeteries are richer than usual in the western part of the Avar kaganate. They contain a great number of German type objects, many can be assigned to Byzantine and there are objects from Italy as well. A characteristic find unit is composed of productions decorated with the 2nd German animal style. The Avar cemetery at Zamardi on the southern bank of the Balaton excels from all of them.

The first graves of the cemetery were found in 1972. Kornel Bakay unearthed 34 graves and published their material. The Centre of the Museums in Somogy county has been carrying out excavations for one and a half decade since 1980. The consultant of the excavations is professor Istvan Bona (Eotvos Lorant University). The site is located on the southern bank of Lake Balaton, facing the Tihany peninsula, no more than 12 Ions from the Roman Tricciana (Sagvar).

The measurements of the cemetery are very large, it occupies a great ellipse (app.400 m x 200 m). Up to now, 2365 graves have been unearthed over a surface of 25.000 m2. The estimated number of burials is about the double of the unearthed one. The remaining graves are protected by private vineyards, orchards and the vineyard of the cooperative.

A great ,,dross field" can be found east of the cemetery which has been known since the 50's There used to be iron furnaces here over a surface of 200m x 150 m. Rescue excavations unearthed remains of furnaces and settlements. Archaeomagnetic analyses dated the furnaces to the 8th century. About one and a half lcm south of the cemetery, another cemetery from the Conquest Period was disturbed by ploughing in the 70's.

100 % oi the excavated graves in the Avar cemetery had been robbed but what was left by the grave robbers shows a miraculous richness and variability. The constitution and quality of the find material designate a community of high social level. The finds mirror the material culture of Europe in the 7th century. The rich Byzantine ornaments, the folding iron stools of Italy, western type belt mounts, glass wares, bronze dish and bronze jug, pieces of costume from the land of the Merovings, etc.

German type objects are frequent in the earlier part of the cemetery. Bone combs, German type clasps, inlaid iron belt mounts, sometimes forked fishing harpoons, shield knob and finally objects decorated with the Avarized variety of the 2nd German animal style.

There is a great variety of belt mounts with Byzantine ornamentation: belt mounts with dot and line or ,,drop" motives, depiction of a human face on the mounts, Byzantine type buckles and various Christian motives. It is a question if the variety of the find material reflects also an ethnic variety.

The Avars believed in life after death. They prepared their dead to the long journey in an appropriate manner, that is according to the position, the rank they held in the community. They adorned the dead with a decorative belt and laid the weapons and tools beside the body. The decorative belt is a symbol of rank among the equestrian people of the steppes. Several belt types were used in the early Avar period. In the graves of the Avar cemetery at Zamardi, we could find Byzantine type belts, those with Merovingian construction and the griffon and tendril belts of the Late Avar period. Besides, there are representatives of the silver inlaid iron belt sets used in West Europe, the Italo-Langobard bronze belt mounts with large spheres and belt decorations with analogues also in Italy.

The Avars often supplied the dead with food and drink for the journey to the other world. Clay vessels were placed to the head and the feet of the dead. Only about one tenth of the graves contained vessels: probably the spreading of Christianism pushed back this pagan custom. A generally used vessel type of the period was the wooden bucket. The decorated ones were covered with bronze sheet bands with embossed rim or bronze sheets decorated with griffon and tendril figures.

The fact that nearly 100 warriors were buried together with their horses attests to the wealth of the community at Zamardi. The burial rite with horses is the same both at early burials and at later ones. The warrior was lain in a W-E directed pit. His harnessed horse was placed to the feet of the dead in the same direotion but into another pit. The skeleton of the horse is found as it fell, with the harness in its place. We can often find the bit in its mouth, the decoration of the bridle and the breaching over the skeleton and the spear, which caused its death, beside the skull. The important equipments of the Avar attack, the stirrups are found on the two sides of the skeleton. The saddle was also put into the grave but we can only find it if it was covered with bone or metal plaiting. The early harness decoration was made of thin silver sheet filled with lead in the inside.

Richly gilded bronze harness decoration was found in the graves with horse burial from the 7th c, although they rarely stayed in their original place due to grave robbers. These graves sometimes also contain rod terminals made of bone.

The early stirrups have a vaulted footing with pulled up long or looped ears. In the 8th century, the stirrups with straight footing become accepted together with cast bronze, often gilded bridle rose and the caparison that decorated the head of the horse.

The most important weapon was the bow. In the graves, we find its bone plating. The iron arrowheads were kept in a quiver which was often decorated with carved bone plates. The quiver belt was decorated with silver-sheet rosette shaped mounts with cast lead in them. Their equipment also contained the bone disentagler which was used to bend the bow. Beside the bow they also used spears and swords.

The contemporary sources tell that the equipment and war tactic of the Avar warriors also served as an example for the Byzantine Empire: „. their equestrian spear should be furnished with a leather strap in its middle and with a flag similarly to that of the Avars they should have swords and their neck protector will be worn outside similarly to the Avars and with series of wool bands in the inside. It is necessary that the horses, first of all the horses of the leaders and the elite warriors. should be furnished with breast shields made of iron or felt or their breasts and necks should be covered similarly to the Avars' especially of those who stand in the fighting line of the battle field. Two iron stirrups must be attached to the saddle. " (Mauricius).

The Byzantine Empire paid annual tax to the Avars, which by time mounted to 100.000 gold coins, for keeping the peace. Most of these coins were melted in the Avar Empire. Sources tell, and The graves attest to the same, that the Avars relished in pomp and splendour. Some of their gold jewels were Byzantine make. Several graves contained Byzantine gold coins placed into the grave as dead obulus but since grave robbers did a good job, only one grave held a gold solidus and another one could be located (we could observe the negative print of the coin in the corrosion of the ironing of the coffin). Grave 1392. contained the gold coin of 20 siliquis ofHeraclius and Heraclius Constantinus (minted between 620 and 625).

The Avars' relish in splendour is reflected in the costume of the women. Their gold jewels mirror the fashion of the period: - gold earrings with big spheres and uplifted sphere pendant with granulated decoration are frequent in the female graves from the 7th century. Gold jewels can also be found in male burials as some segment shaped gold lockring and small gold rings decorated with granulation.

The strings of colored beads were important elements of the female costume. The variegated strings of beads testify a highly developed aesthetic taste. The bulbous, eyed beads of the early period are masterpieces of applied art. Later, the strings of beads change in shape, in colors, and also in raw material. Following the biconical beads of the 7th century, the sliced paste beads, the melon seed shaped paste beads and those with flowing decoration become dominant. A frequently occurring element of costume is the torques made of bronze wire, often with a small cylindrical holder on it, the so-called 'bulla'. Various objects were often worn round the neck as amulets e.g. a pierced Roman coin hanging from a necklace or a brass dolphin attached to a leather strip or a Roman bronze fibula worn on the left side hanging from a leather strap.

Armrings are less frequent in Early Avar graves, although they became more frequent in the Late Avar period. We can find closed sheet armrings with articulated structure. Their nicest representatives are the armrings in graves 517-518, decorated with the 2nd German serrated animal style. The same shape is later decorated with pounced ornament. With the population of griffon and tendril ornament the cast bronze armrings with pounced decoration and open terminals were mass products. The characteristic requisites of the female burials were the iron keys, the bone needle-cases (sometimes also made of iron or bronze), spindie whorls and two-handled iron cutting instruments. Cast bronze rattlers can also be found in the graves of women and girls, often displaying the depiction of a human face. The earrings in female burials became larger and larger, the gold is substituted by silver and later bronze, still imitating the shapes of the early pieces. The two earrings are sometimes connected with a small bronze chain. Uplifted dodecahedral bronze earrings with pendants are frequently met in the cemetery at Zamardi. They are carefully made goldsmith works of Byzantine character, decorated with segments and granulation.

Perhaps the most important and beautiful find group of the cemetery is composed of finds decorated with the 2nd German serrated animal style. The Avars borrowed this ornament from a style favoured by the Germans and decorated the depictions with so-called 'serration 'which made them Avar.

The classic and up to now nicest products of the Avarized animal ornamentation are the Jankovich golds. The objects in the Zamardi cemetery made in the same style are close in the quality to the standard of these goldsmith's products made of pure gold. Up to now, about 100 graves contained finds decorated with the 2nd German serrated animal style. The decoration of German origin can be found on belt sets, horse harness decorations and female jewels as arm-rings, finger-rings, also on shoe strap terminals and the leather strip mounts of caskets, etc.

The German animal style can also be found in the Avar cemetery of Zamardi without serration. These and other products made by German craftsmen must have served as prototypes for the Avar craftsmen or goldsmiths who worked for the Avars. At the same time, the prototypes of serration can be observed on belt mounts of Byzantine type and belt mounts with geometric plaited ornaments in the early graves.

Serration itself was very important for the Avars as it is clearly demonstrated by the large strap terminal in grave No. 1280. with precious stone inlay and niello ornamentation made of gilded silver.The lower part of the belt mount is decorated with the classical 2nd style which was not made by an Avar craftsman. The upper articulated mount must have been injured and the substitution was already made in Avar style with serration (the closest analogue of the original belt mount is the finds of the Arnegiindis grave in St. Denis).

Finds decorated with the 2nd style can be divided into the items of the Avar and the other than Avar costume, and it means more than simple ornamentation (e.g. belt structure, the strapping of wooden caskets, the shapes of the strap terminals, the character of female costume).

The compositions, the seemingly complicated depictions of the 2nd German serrated animal style can always be reduced, in the course of the analysis, into a single basic plait pattern, the rest is adapted to this pattern (design by Laszlo Hornyak, graphic artist). The Avar type animal ornamentation is built on the Mediterranean plait decoration which became incorporated into the Avar and the Langobard art.

A local, more barbaric variety of this artistic style was born in the first half of the 7th c, which might as well be called 'the Zamardi school'.

The flourishing period of the style can be dated from the end of the 6th c. to the last third of the 7th century and it survived in a 'deteriorated' variety after 670-680. The new fashion appearing at the end of the 7th century, the engraved and pounced plaited ornament displays traces of contacts, probably the same craftsmen worked for the new customers. Serration survived in a modified manner on the plaits in the shape of a herringbone pattern. The animal shapes disappear, although the 8-shape motive characteristic of the 2nd German serrated animal style appears on the small strap terminals is decorated with pounced patterns instead of serration.

The folding iron stools of the cemetery refer to Italy under Byzantine rule or influence. Inlaid iron stools have been unearthed so far in five graves of the cemetery (grave Nos. 121, 565, 1049, 2000 and 2030). The whole number of analogues of the type does not amount to more than ten in the whole Europe (England, France, Hungary, Italy). So rarity lends the chairs extra value.

The surfaces of the hammered iron stools were decorated with silver, bronze and brass inlays. The motives reflect the bliss of the past Antiquity. They were probably made in Late Antique workshops of the 6tth-7th centuries and were mostly found in the graves of the 'barbarian' peoples of the Migration Period.

Similarly to the cast bronze dishes, the folding iron stools were found in the area of the Byzantine cultural circle: Breny 1 piece, Annecy 1 piece in France, the island of Sardis 2 pieces, 6 pieces in the Langobard cemetery of Nocera Umbra in Italy and 1 piece in England. (The item from Ticino, also in Italy, was made in the 8th-9th centuries, while the stool kept in the Victoria and Albert Museum came from the llth-12th. centuries).

Only two cemeteries of the Migration Period within the Carpathian Basin yielded inlaid iron stools, Kolked-Feketekapu (excavated by Attila Kiss, Hungarian National Museum, 2 pp.) and Zamdrdi.

The surfaces of the hammered iron stools are decorated with late Antique motives, meander, swastika, herring-bone pattern, tendril with leaves, wavy lines, hounds etc. On two stools from Zamardi, crosses also appears. Comparing the published stools from Kolked-Feketekapu and those from Zamardi, we can deduce that they came from the same workshop and some pieces were probably made by the same craftsman.

The contemporary sources tell us about contacts between Italy and the Avar Empire. The Avars and the Langobards together defeated the Gepids in 567. The Langobards left Pannonia for Italy with the promise of eternal peace. According to the documents, varied political and economic contact existed from the beginning between the two powers. Beside the economic contact, the Avar-Langobard relations were multidimensional. We know that shipwrights arrived to the Avar kagan from Italy. The 2nd serrated German animal style indicates a deeper contact, a longer residence: Langobard goldsmiths worked for Avar customers. We should also count with Germans who fled to the Avars and lived with them. The contemporary sources mention thousands of captives carried off after sieges and wars and settled by the victorious kagan within his Empire. The place where they were settled was always in Panonia that is, west of the Danube.

It is also in Pannonia where Kuber and his people arrived after 670/680.

It has been accepted that new population waves arrived from the East in the Avar Empire around 670/680.

After the death of Kuvrat, Bulgarian khan, onogur Bulgars fleeing from the Kazars settled in the Carpathian Basin together -with other populational groups who had joined them. Their leader was Kuber, Kuvrat's fourth son. The borders of the Avar Empire also changed. New cemeteries, new customs, new art began. How is this reflected in the cemetery at Zamardi? The same order is kept in the cemetery, there seems to have been no break in the life of the community. The direction of the graves somewhat changes along the axis, they are more aligned with North. The bottom of the grave pit is deeper at the feet and the head. The horses are buried in the same way in a separate pit but the harness changes. The stirrups have straight footing, the bow bones are broader and the mouthpiece appears. The joining of the forehead and face straps is covered with cast and richly gilt bronze phaleras. The head of the horse is decorated with caparison. The belt mounts are made of silver, gilt silver of bronze sheets, their surfaces are decorated with plait motives often inlaid with precious stones. The graves of women contain byzantine type earrings, torques decorated with so-called hullas. The characteristic find of the female graves is the so-called cast bronze decorative disc both with plait and griffon and tendril motives. The burial cross made of a sheet is also a frequent grave good. They are usually cut from silver or bronze sheet, decorated with embossing and the terminals are widening. They are placed into the two ends of the grave to the head and the feet.

These Christian symbols can be related to the dead. They are not simply objects but represent a phenomenon, a custom as well.

The early Avars had met various Christian teachings (Manicheus, Nestorian teachings) before arriving in the Carpathian Basin, and after their settlement Arianism might also have influenced them, still, they were fundamentally pagans and they remained so. This is testified by the unearthed cemeteries and documents of the Antiquity about the Avars. The contemporary sources characterize them as nomadic, barbarian, pagan, godless. Very little is known about the religious life of the early Avars of the Bajan period.

Tire, water, and sword are important elements of the pagan oath. Bajan's oath of Avar customs cites an ancient tradition, the cult of the sword. Before the siege of Sirmium, Bajan „. immediately drew his sword and swore according to the Avar cuss: he put a curse on himself and the whole of Avar people if he planned to build the bridge tnrer the Sava from manipulation against the Romans. He should die of sword together with the whole of the Avar people, the heaven and god who nrsides in the heaven should send fire on them. "

A Late hagiographic piece, the Vita Sancti Pancratii, from the turn of the 8th and 9th centuries cites their relation to pagan forces. Bajan's second battle with Sigibert Frank king was around 566 and 567 about which we can read: ,,When it came to the battle, they, being accustomed to magic practices, showed them various ghostly shapes and overcame them by far."

The Miracula Sancti Demetrii, telling about the siege of Thessalonike describes the Avars as wild and bloodthirsty people who ,,do not know the only true god". The Kagan, according to the Byzantine chronicle writer, speaks about his own gods and the god of the Christians. The Vita Sanctii Pancratii writes about them: ,,We are Avar people and worship the depictions of all types of crawling and four-legged creatures as gods. At the same time, we offer sacrifice to the fire, the water and the sword." Theophylactus's story about Simocatta Bookolabrus proves that the Avars had shamans.

According to the descriptions by Theophanes and Nicephorus patriarch ICuvrat's fourth son crossed the Danube ,,and resides in Pannonia which is now under Avar rule and he is a subordinate to these local people. According to Theophanes' description ,,he became a subordinate to the Kagan of the Avars and stayed there together with his army".

According to the Miracula Sancti Demetrii from the end of the 7th century, a Bulgarian prince, Kuber, became a subordinate to the Avar kagan in the second half of the 670's, he was his lieutenant, then leaving the kaganate left for the area of Thessalonike. The equestrian in Madara, an inscription engraved in a rock at about 705 tells about a son of Kuvrat, who is a historical personality in the region of Thessaloniki. Due to research made by Samu Szadeczky-ICardoss it seems certain that the various sources tell about the same person, ICuvrat's fourth son, Kuber.

The kagan is said to have settled hundred thousands of captives beyond Sirmiensis in Pannonia, on the left side of the Danube. They lived mixed with Avars and Bulgarians. Their children kept their Christian religion. Later, they were liberated and the kagan regarded them an independent people. He elected Kuber their leader.

Kuvrat, Kuber's father was Christian, and probably educated his sons in this belief regarding his Byzantinofil character. The great princely burials dated from the time of Kuvrat's burial (Maloje Pereshchepino, Kelegeiskie hutora, Zachepilovka, Glodos) are rich in Byzantine jewels and contain Byzantine crosses.

In 678, we meet the new Avar leaders at Emperor Constantine IV.'s court to greet him on the occasion of his victory over the Arabs.

Around 687, the English Church listed the Avars among the people to be christianized. Saint Rupert, according to a late revised biography, wanted to christianize the Avars as early as the 690's. (According the Samu Szadeczky-Kardoss this is a later and intentional addition). The crosses in the Avar cemetery at Zamardi testify-that there used to exist communities in Pannonia affected by christianizm, similarly as we have to consider the survival of Roman relict population in Pannonia on the other side of the Balaton, the Chistian, late Antique population of the Keszthely culture.

Charles the Great initiated his war against the Avars in 791 under the sign of the cross.

The characteristic finds of the burials at the end of the 7th, and in the 8th centuries are the already mentioned cast bronze filigreed decorative disks. They are usually found in female burials, sometime with men too, as strap dividers. The female dressing can be characterized with unmounted belts held together with iron or bronze buckles. The large strap terminal made of sheet is found nearly between the two ankles. The disks hanged from a leather suspended from the belt. They were worn on the left side, sometimes 2, 3 or 4 of them. We can often find an iron key, an iron knife, a spindle whorl or a needle-case beside them. Their jewels contained large sized, uplifted spheroid and dodecahedral silver and bronze earrings with pendants which are carefully executed Byzantine type works. Their execution is very similar to the basket-shaped earrings of the Keszthely culture. The two handled iron cutting tool is also frequently met in graves, it must have served some land of kitchen purpose.

The disks can have geometric, plant, animal and human shaped decoration. Those decorated with plant motives are highly stylised, the characteristic elements are the achantus and the palmette of the Byzantine art. The animal shapes often dis-pLay griffons, snakes or birds. The most beautiful pieces are the ones decorated with the tree of life, which also goes back to Byzantine prototypes. One piece has been found with human depiction, it is a disk decorated with a riding man.

Regarding their function, they could have been decorative disks, strap dividers or looped pendants. It can be supposed only in a few cases that they really decorated the pouch. The straps with which they were suspended from the belt were often decorated with rectangular cast or sheet mounts.

West of the Carpathian Basin, in Bajuvar, Aleman or Frank regions, bronze disks were common parts of the dressing. West of us, this fashion flourished in the 7th century. The same arrived at the Avars at the end of the 7th and the first half of the 8th centuries. The decorative disks of the Avar cemeteries at Tiszafiired and Zamardi are astonishingly similar. The disk as an elements of the costume can be found East of us as well in the Caucasus.

As we have already mentioned, the burial crosses are frequent in the graves with disks. The position of the vessels in the graves is nearly totally pushed back by the application of Christian symbols. The population at the end of the 7th century-showed a great affinity to Christian teachings. The Christian symbol goes well with the pagan beliefs. The disks, which played protective role and served to avert the evil forces can be found in the graves together with the cross. The joint application of the symbols of two different spheres of beliefs is a good example to the syncretism characteristic of the period.

The cemetery was continuously used after the 670/680's, no break can be observed. (Most of the burials unearthed so far come from this period). The burial of the population with griffon and tendril decoration can be found in coherent groups or scattered among other graves in the E and W ends of the cemetery. They are represented by rich graves with horse burial, gilt bronze belt mounts with griffon and tendril ornament. The horses are buried with cast gilt silver phaleras and stirrups with straight footing. The head of the horses was decorated with caparison and filigreed nose ornaments cut from sheet.

In one of the separately placed Late Avar group of graves of the cemetery, the cast bronze mounts show the winged crowned lions of the Nagyszentmiklos treasure, those depicted on jugs 2. and 7., which suggests a dating of production of the treasure in the Late Avar period.

The northern and southern fragments of the cemetery have not yet been unearthed. One third of the excavated material is restored. The metal material from about 600 graves has been restored by Mrs. Lajos Vdmosi since 1980. The 5 inlaid iron stools were restored by Peter Horvdth, which was allowed by a fund of 1.700.000 Ft from the National Cultural Fund. It is due to this support that we can present the five inlaid iron stools and some of the finds decorated with the 2nd German animal style. The ceramic material of the cemetery-was restored by Klara Marton and Agnes Nagy. The wooden casket was reconstructed by Katalin Bruder, Hungarian National Museum.

The restoration, drawing, photo documentation of the find material and the analysis of the bone material cannot be carried out without external financial support. The excavator would like to launch a public foundation to rescue the huge find material from destruction and to carry out the tasks necessary for the analysis.

The excavations between 1980 and 1997 were financed with 1,2 million Fts by the Center of Museums in Somogy county and 8 million Fts by the General Assembly of Zamdrdi. The unearthed part of the cemetery will hopefully survive owing to the overall archaeological protection.

List of figures:

1-2. Gold 20 siliquia solidus of Heraclius and Heraclius Constantine (obverse and reverse sides)

3. A pair of large sherical gold ear rings with granulated decoration

4. Gold earrings "with spherical pendant gold earring

5. Silver inlaid cast bronze jug

8. Early Avar grey ceramics

9. Folding iron stool decorated with brass inlay

10-11-12. Decorative patterns on the folding iron stools.

13. Early Avar stirrups and spear

14. Gilded bronze bridle mounts during excavation

15. Horse burial from the 7th c.

16. Reconstruction of a wooden casket decorated with gilded silver mounts displaying human face depiction

18. Early Avar string of beads

19-20-21. Gilded silver and bronze large strap ends decorated with the 2nd German animal style

22. Gilded bronze belt buckle decorated with the 2nd German serrated animal style

23. Silver shoe strap terminals

24. Small strap terminal made of pressed bronze sheet decorated with the 2nd German animal style

25. Analytical design of a depiction in the 2nd German animal style (Laszlo Hornyak, graphic artist)

26. Engraved and pounced gilded silver large strap terminal with plait ornament

27. Pressed silver sheet large strap terminal with plait ornament

28. Silver earring with granulated decoration and uplifted pendant

29. Bronze earring with uplifted dodecahedral pendant

30. Gilded bronze belt mount with griffon motive

31.-32.-33. Gilded bronze bridle roses

34. Bronze decorative disc "with akhantus leaves

35. Bronze mounts of a discoid strapping

36. Bronze decorative disc with the depiction of the tree of life

37. Bronze decorative disc with plant ornament

38. Bronze decorative disc with the figure of a rider

39. Decorative disc with stylized animal fight

40. Decorative disk with swastika built of snakes

41 -42.-43. Filigreed large strap terminals with Late Avar griffon and tendril motives

Bayan I and the Eastern Empire

Sculpture of Bayan I / Creative Commons

Bayan I first enters history with the migration of the Avars to the region of the Pontic Grass Steppe (an area corresponding to modern-day Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan) from Central Asia after the fall of the Rouran Empire. They were pursued by their enemies the Gokturks, who had toppled the supremacy of the Rourans in Mongolia and, as refugees, they were seeking a secure homeland they could settle and then defend. The historian Erik Hildinger describes Bayan’s initial rise to power following the Avar’s migration: “Shortly thereafter, in 565, Bayan ascended the Avar throne as Kaghan, or Great Khan. The Avars were the first to use this term, which would persist thereafter among the steppe peoples. Bayan was the greatest of their leaders” (76).

The historian H.H. Howorth states how, “The Avars were at this time led by a chief whom, if we knew more of, we should probably compare with Attila and Genghis Khan. His name was Bayan” (732). Bayan I is the first recorded king of the Avars and, like Attila, was the leader who unified and empowered his people. He raised the Avars from a band of refugees fleeing their oppressor to the dominant people of the region of Pannonia.

Regarding the origin of the Avars and their flight to the west, historian Peter Heather writes:

[The Avars] were the next major wave of originally nomadic horse warriors, after the Huns, to sweep off the Great Eurasian Steppe and build an empire in central Europe. Thankfully, we know rather more about them than about the Huns. The Avars spoke a Turkic language and had previously starred as the dominant force behind a major nomadic confederation on the fringes of China. In the earlier sixth century they had lost this position to a rival force, the so-called Western Turks [Gokturks], and arrived on the outskirts of Europe as political refugees, announcing themselves with an embassy that appeared at Justinian’s court in 558 (401).

Although, as Heather claims, “we know more about [the Avars] than about the Huns”, we know considerably less about Bayan I than Attila. After leading his people to the west, he almost immediately made contact with the emperor of the Eastern (or Byzantine) Empire. Justinian I (482-565 CE) agreed to hire them to fight against other tribes in the region as mercenaries and sent them on their way. The Avars ruthlessly massacred the enemies of Justinian I and expected that their relationship with the empire would continue but, should it not, tried to find a region they could settle in.

Although they were now employed by the powerful Byzantine Empire, they still needed their own homeland where they could feel secure from the pursuing Turks. Bayan I tried to lead his people south of the Danube River but was prevented by the Romans. He then led the Avars north but encountered resistance from the Franks under their king Sigebert I. They continued as nomads in the service of Rome until the death of Justinian in 565 CE. His successor, Justin II (c. 520-578 CE), canceled their contract and, when the Avar embassy asked for permission to cross the southern Danube, it was denied. They again sought to break through to the north but were repelled by Sigebert’s army. Bayan I then turned his attention to Pannonia or, according to other sources, was invited to go there by Justin II to displace the Gepids.

Avar Khanate

The Byzantine emperor directed them to the Carpathian Basin, and, according to the literary sources, their envoys wearing long braids and caftans were gaped at by the people of Constantinople in AD Took several tries, maybe 20 khayanate. In the s, Samothe ruler of the first historically known Slavic polity known as Samo’s Tribal Union or Samo’s realm, increased his authority over lands to the north and west of the Khaganate at the expense of the Avars, ruling until his death in Barbarian kingdoms established around the Migration Period.

The characteristic costume of their women includes earrings with basket-shaped pendants, disc brooches with Early Christian motifs, and dress-pins.

Archaeological traces of these groups romani can be clearly observed until the end of the 5 th century in the cemeteries and settlements, and in the abandoned, formerly Roman towns and fortresses that they used together with the Germanic population.

This Caucasian War raged untilwhen the Avar Khanate was abolished and the Avar District was instituted instead. The rise of the Shamkhalate of Kazi-Kumukh following the disintegration of the Golden Horde in the 15th century was at once a symptom and a cause of the khans’ diminished influence during the 15th and 16th centuries. During the Late Avar period most of the dress accessories are made of bronze with one of more distinctive form being belt fittings, decorated with griffins and interlace.

Elaborate belt mount 7th c. But let no one think that we are distorting the history of these times because he supposes that the Avars are those barbarians neighbouring on Europe and Pannoniaand that their arrival was prior to the times of the emperor Maurice.

Avar Khaganate : eu4

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The integrating strength of the highly centralized Avar society is shown by the fact that the material and perhaps also the spiritual culture of the Germanic, Romanised, Byzantine and Slavic khagxnate living under Avar rule, changed within a century.

Content that breaks the spirit of these rules may be removed at moderator discretion. The 18th-century historian Joseph de Guignes postulates a link between the Avars of European history with the proto-Mongolian Rouran Ju-juan of Inner Asia based on a coincidence between Tardan Khan’s letter to Constantinople and events recorded in Chinese sources, notably the Wei-shi and Pei-shi.

Pannonian Avars – Wikipedia

An Introduction[in: Encyclopedia of European Peoples. Names of the Hungarian tribes, chieftains and the words used for the leaders, etc.

The Avar Khaganate was the first entity to unite under one rule the different regions of the Carpathian Basin: In keeping with their social status, graves of the warriors buried with their horse and weapons were given a central place in the cemeteries of the Great Hungarian Plain and Transdanubia eastern and western Hungary. From that time on, immigration of Slavic groups is likely to have taken place.


At the time of the Battle of Crete (Operation Mercury), German Fallschirmjäger (parachute infantry) were equipped with the same assortment of small arms as the Heer, carrying only 9×19mm Parabellum chambered pistols and hand grenades on them during parachute jumps, with 9×19mm Parabellum submachine guns, 7.92×57mm Mauser chambered rifles and crew-served weapons stored separately in containers that were dropped from the wing of the exit craft. The German RZ parachute harness, with one single riser and two straps attached to the body, making the paratrooper land on his hands and knees in a forward roll, did not allow heavier equipment such as rifles and machine guns to be safely carried during jumps. At Crete, long-range rifle and machine gun fire from dug-in Commonwealth defenders inflicted heavy casualties on the outgunned German paratroopers in the early stages of battle as they attempted to retrieve their support weapons from containers scattered all over the battlefield. [11] These combat experiences demonstrated the need for a rifle that could be carried by the paratrooper during a drop.

The classifications of the development and production Ausführungen (types) are as follows:

  • Type A - First design
  • Type B - Revised model prototype
  • Type C - "LC-6" prototype
  • Type D - First Fallschirmjägergewehr acceptance trials
  • Type E - First production Fallschirmjägergewehr (sometimes called the Modell I ("Type I")
  • Type F - First stamped receiver Fallschirmjägergewehr (sometimes called the Modell II ("Type II")
  • Type G - Final production model Fallschirmjägergewehr (sometimes called the Modell III ("Type III")

Development Edit

In 1941, the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) requested a selective-fire hand-held weapon for the paratroopers Senior Staff Air Secretary Ossenbach at the GL/C Erprobungsstelle-6 (GL/C E-6—the Luftwaffe Weapons Development Branch at Tarnewitz near Wismar) was approached informally to develop this special new weapon. [11] The Reich Air Ministry (Reichsluftfahrtministerium or RLM) sought to develop a universal shoulder-fired automatic rifle that could replace the bolt-action rifle, submachine gun, and light machine gun in the air assault role. [8] The proposed weapon would also simplify logistics and provide greater firepower to the individual paratrooper.

The RLM attempted to initiate a formal weapons development program through the Heereswaffenamt (the HWaA, or Army Ordnance Department)—responsible for German small arms development—but conflicting priorities and friction with the Army (the HWaA dismissed the undertaking as unrealistic and offered their G 41(W) semi-automatic rifle instead) led to an independent development by the Luftwaffe. Plans were laid out to form a central authority for the new program at the Luftwaffe's Erprobungstelle coastal testing station at Tarnewitz. The engineers on staff had acquired considerable expertise developing lightweight automatic weapons, having successfully converted the MG 15 aircraft machine gun to a ground configuration. [12] However, due to the high casualties sustained by the paratroopers during Operation Mercury, Hitler changed his mind about the usefulness of airborne assaults and the plans were terminated. [12] Nevertheless, Luftwaffe Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring privately ordered the continuation of the project. [12]

The RLM went directly to German industry with its plans—the so-called LC-6 specification issued 14 December 1941 mentioned amongst others that the weapon should not exceed 1,000 mm (39.4 in) in length, should not be significantly heavier than the Karabiner 98k bolt action standard service rifle, should be able to fire single shots from a closed bolt, provide fully automatic fire from an open bolt, feed from detachable 10- or 20-round magazines and be able to mount a bayonet and fire rifle grenades. Despite the introduction of the 7.92×33mm Kurz intermediate cartridge promoted by the Heer (developed for the promising MP 43 assault rifle), the Luftwaffe favored the long-range potential of the 7.92×57mm Mauser full-power rifle cartridge and this chambering was one of the main design prerequisites. [8]

Prototypes Edit

Six manufacturers were solicited for prototype designs: Gustloff-Werke, Mauser, Johannes Großfuß Metall- und Lackierwarenfabrik, C.G. Hänel, Rheinmetall-Borsig and Heinrich Krieghoff Waffenfabrik. [8] [12] Several contracts were awarded but only a few prototypes are known to have been submitted. Mauser offered a version of the MG 81 (rejected due to excessive weight and its belt-fed operation) [13] while Krieghoff presented a rising-block prototype, which too was quickly dropped. A design credited to Rheinmetall-Borsig's Louis Stange of Sömmerda who had previously worked on the MG 34 proved satisfactory and underwent military trials conducted by the GL/C E-6 test station at Tarnewitz in mid-1942. [8] This early prototype, known under the factory designation Gerät 450 ("device 450") or Ausführung "A" ("type A"), was intended to be a pure sheet metal design, using pressed steel in the construction of the receiver, buttstock and corrugated handguard. The proposed system of operation was modeled on that used in World War I Lewis light machine gun, with a gas-operated turning bolt action geared to a spiral (clock-type) recoil spring. [14] The type "A" was never produced beyond model form, but the basic design layout was retained for further development. [15]

With the basic characteristics of the LC-6 accepted, a series of modifications followed. The revised Ausführung "B" replaced the sheet metal handguard with a resin-impregnated fiber type that provided protection against heat and a better grip when wet. [15]

These tests exposed several shortcomings, addressed by Stange in April 1942 with the LC-6/II prototype. The prototype was then submitted to a series of endurance tests led by the HWA and further modified to increase functional reliability and durability, resulting in the final LC-6/III prototype variant that was ultimately accepted into production as the FG 42. Fifty rifles were fabricated by Rheinmetall-Borsig for evaluation purposes by the end of 1942.

A pre-series batch of 50 rifles was produced in early 1943 and 6 examples were sent to GL/C E-6 for additional testing. Almost identical to the LC-6/III, these guns differ from later models by using a smooth sheet metal buttstock and an experimental muzzle brake. The weapons experienced serious malfunctions: one rifle suffered a catastrophic failure after firing only 2,100 rounds, a soldier was injured when attempting to fire a rifle grenade and the pressed metal buttstock would deform after launching a small number of rifle grenades.

Production Edit

Several other improvements were made before being authorized for large-scale production. The original Rheinmetall design used chrome-nickel steel heavily in many essential components, a strategic alloy in short supply. When the Luftwaffe was finally given permission to produce 3,000 rifles for combat trials, the material specifications were changed to accommodate the use of manganese steel as a substitute. [8] The Heinrich Krieghoff company of Suhl (authors of the previous unsuccessful LC-6 tender) was contracted to manufacture the FG 42 in limited quantity as Rheinmetall did not have the capacity to bring the FG 42 into serial production.

The weapon system underwent continuous development. Its expedited development, remedial changes to the original design and ever-changing Luftwaffe requirements resulted in a myriad of variants. [8] Post-war literature typically identifies three versions, however the Germans did not give them separate designations the Modell I, Modell II and Modell III were never officially referenced and period documents simply refer to the weapon as the 'Fallschirmjägergewehr 42' or "FG 42", and the reference was always made to the latest production model. [16]

First operational use Edit

The weapon saw first operational use during the Gran Sasso raid (Unternehmen Eiche) in September 1943 when German paratroopers and Waffen-SS commandos rescued Italian dictator Benito Mussolini from his captors – 200 well-equipped Carabinieri guards. However, during the whole airborne operation (which was personally ordered by Hitler) not a single shot was fired.

Deployment Edit

After approximately 2,000 FG 42s had been produced by Krieghoff, supplies of the manganese steel from which the receivers were forged were diverted to other needs this meant a redesign was required to use stamped sheet metal in its place. Field reports that the lightweight rifle was not sturdy enough to handle full-power rifle ammunition in cyclic mode made Krieghoff engineers design the Type G. Improvements were: relocating the bipod from the front of the handguard to the muzzle to reduce shot dispersion changing the pistol grip angle to near vertical enlarging the handguard and changing the stock from stamped steel to wood to minimize overheating, adding weight to the bolt and lengthen its travel to reduce the cyclic rate of fire. Also a four position gas regulator was fitted, the bolt and recoil spring were changed to wound wire, a case deflector was fitted and the muzzle brake and the bayonet mount was changed. These changes, particularly the pistol grip change and the bipod relocation, are clearly visible on late-model FG 42s. Production models also had a simple flip-out spike bayonet under the barrel hidden by the bipod. In the later version the bayonet was shortened from around 10 inches (250 mm) to around 6 inches (150 mm). There were never enough FG 42s to arm most Fallschirmjäger as originally intended, however most were employed in the western front following the events of D-Day, with the particular use of FG-42 during the Battle of Carentan and the Falaise Pocket (nearly a quarter of all FG-42 produced were in the hands of the 2nd Parachute Division).

General configuration/layout Edit

The FG 42 was a select-fire air-cooled weapon and one of the first to incorporate the "straight-line" recoil configuration. This layout, combined with the side magazine, placed both the center of gravity and the position of the shoulder stock nearly in line with the longitudinal axis of the bore, a feature increasing controllability during burst or automatic fire. [16] The operating system was derived from that used in the successful Lewis light machine gun with a gas piston-actuated rotating bolt locking mechanism. [16]

This system used pressurized exhaust gases from the bore and channeled them through a port drilled in the barrel into a gas cylinder located under the barrel. The rapid build-up of propellant gases imparted rearward pressure on a long-stroke piston, driving it backwards, while an extension of the bolt carrier interacted with a helical camming slot machined into the bolt carrier, converting this linear movement into an angular velocity and forcing the bolt into a rotary motion, clearing the locking nuts and unlocking it near the end of the bolt carrier's travel. The weapon was locked into battery by two lugs on the bolt head which recessed into appropriate cavities machined into the receiver walls. Owing to its main intended use by paratroopers, the rear sight (which necessarily was rather high due to the straight stock design) was a flip-up construction. [7] The iron sight line had a 530 mm (20.9 in) sight radius and consisted of an open-pointed-post-type front sight, and a diopter-type rear sight. It was graduated for 7.92×57mm Mauser cartridges from 100 to 1,200 m (109 to 1,312 yd) in 100 m (109 yd) increments. On later models the post front sight was hooded to reduce glare under unfavourable light conditions and add protection for the post. [17]

The top of the receiver of the FG 42 was specifically machined with a long dovetail type base designed to accept telescopic sight mounts. The scope mount featured locking lever(s) that allowed quick installation and removal of a telescopic sight depending on the specific combat scenario general combat or in a limited sniping role. The telescopic sights used on the FG 42 were the ZFG42 or ZF4. [7]

Receiver specifics and magazine feeding Edit

The receiver was a sophisticated, machined alloy forging with the magazine housing placed on the left-hand side and the ejection port on the right. Whilst not a true bullpup rifle design the seemingly awkward placement of the magazine housing (horizontally to the side rather than directly beneath the receiver) allowed the bolt mechanism to extend into the buttstock assembly, effectively reducing the overall length of the weapon as the magazine well did not interfere with the location of the pistol grip. The pistol grip was integrated into the trigger group assembly, a separate housing containing the trigger mechanism and fire control components, and was formed from pressed sheet metal during fabrication from two separate halves and then welded together. [16]

The rifle fed from either a 10- or 20-round detachable box magazine or standard 5-round stripper clips into an empty magazine in the gun. [18] The empty weight of the 100 mm (3.9 in) long 10-round magazine is 185 g (6.5 oz) and of the 150 mm (5.9 in) long 20-round magazine 290 g (10 oz). [7]

Firing Edit

The FG 42 fired in semi-automatic mode from a closed bolt, accomplished by delaying the release of the firing pin (mounted on the bolt carrier and released by the front sear notch) until after the trigger had been pressed the short lock time, and little movement in the action during firing translated into greater single-shot accuracy. [16] When operating in the automatic mode, the sear mechanism was designed to fire from an open bolt by simultaneously releasing both the bolt and bolt carrier and with this mode selected, the bolt would remain open between bursts to provide maximum cooling. [16] This had the advantage of preventing a phenomenon known as "cook off" where the heat of repeated rounds being fired caused a chambered round to overheat and prematurely ignite the powder or primer. The rotating fire selector switch was situated in the trigger group, above the pistol grip on the right side. The charge lever also served as the safety, [16] disabling the sear mechanism when engaged.

Testing Edit

The FG 42 was intended to fill a niche in Nazi Germany's arsenal and was produced only in small numbers. It was somewhat well received by paratroopers when tested, but it did have its drawbacks. The FG 42 had a 20-round, or sometimes 10 round, magazine that was mounted on the left side of the rifle. Though a side-mounted magazine was common in submachine guns of the time, the larger magazine with heavier ammunition of a full-powered rifle tended to unbalance the weapon. In addition controllable bursts were difficult. This made full-automatic fire only marginally useful. The FG 42 used a fairly sophisticated muzzle device that did help with recoil and muzzle flash, but made blast and noise much greater than on other similar weapons. The US M14 rifle had similar problems, and attempts were made to upgrade that rifle the same way with an in-line stock and muzzle device.

The American M41 Johnson LMG has many parallels with the contemporary FG 42. Both had in-line stocks, fed from the left side, and both fired from the open bolt in automatic mode and closed bolt in semi-automatic mode. Despite these similarities, there is no evidence that either weapon had any effect on the design of the other. As they were both seeking to solve similar problems, it is reasonable to expect that each weapon's respective engineers approached these problems similarly but independently, unaware of the developments of their counterparts.

It is not easy to determine the significance of the FG 42 in terms of weapons history. With a slightly longer barrel and belt-feeding the weapon would have been an excellent light machine gun. Its designer Louis Stange knew that, he also built a prototype with belt feed. [17]

Some features, such as the details of the gas-operated bolt selection process, were studied by US Army engineers after the war. These, along with some aspects of the MG 42 general-purpose machine gun, are commonly reported to have been incorporated in the similarly troubled M60 general-purpose machine gun. The last known derivatives of the FG 42 were the Swiss Sturmgewehr 52 and M60 machine gun. [10]


The term Caucasus is derived from Caucas (Georgian: კავკასოსი Kawḳasosi) the son of the Biblical Togarmah and legendary forefather of Nakh peoples. [ citation needed ] According to Leonti Mroveli, the 11th-century Georgian chronicler, the word Caucasian is derived from the Vainakh ancestor Kavkas. [9] "The Vainakhs are the ancient natives of the Caucasus. It is noteworthy, that according to the genealogical table drawn up by Leonti Mroveli, the legendary forefather of the Vainakhs was "Kavkas", hence the name Kavkasians, one of the ethnicons met in the ancient Georgian written sources, signifying the ancestors of the Chechens and Ingush. As appears from the above, the Vainakhs, at least by name, are presented as the most "Caucasian" people of all the Caucasians (Caucasus - Kavkas - Kavkasians) in the Georgian historical tradition." [10] [11]

The term Caucasus is not only used for the mountains themselves but also includes Ciscaucasia (which is part of the Russian Federation) and Transcaucasia. [12] According to Alexander Mikaberidze, Transcaucasia is a "Russo-centric" term. [13]

Pliny the Elder's Natural History (77–79 AD) derives the name of the Caucasus from Scythian kroy-khasis ("ice-shining, white with snow"). [14] German linguist Paul Kretschmer notes that the Latvian word Kruvesis also means "ice". [15] [16]

In the Tale of Past Years (1113 AD), it is stated that Old East Slavic Кавкасийскыѣ горы (Kavkasijskyě gory) came from Ancient Greek Καύκασος (Kaúkasos later Greek pronunciation Káfkasos)), [17] which, according to M. A. Yuyukin, is a compound word that can be interpreted as the "Seagull's Mountain" (καύ-: καύαξ, καύηξ, ηκος ο, κήξ, κηϋξ "a kind of seagull" + the reconstructed *κάσος η "mountain" or "rock" richly attested both in place and personal names). [18]

According to German philologists Otto Schrader and Alfons A. Nehring, the Ancient Greek word Καύκασος (Kaukasos) is connected to Gothic Hauhs ("high") as well as Lithuanian Kaũkas ("hillock") and Kaukarà ("hill, top"). [17] [19] British linguist Adrian Room points out that Kau- also means "mountain" in Pelasgian. [20]

The Transcaucasus region and Dagestan were the furthest points of Parthian and later Sasanian expansions, with areas to the north of the Greater Caucasus range practically impregnable. The mythological Mount Qaf, the world's highest mountain that ancient Iranian lore shrouded in mystery, was said to be situated in this region. The region is also one of the candidates for the location of Airyanem Vaejah, the apparent homeland of the Iranians of Zoroaster. In Middle Persian sources of the Sasanian era, the Caucasus range was referred to as Kaf Kof. [21] The term resurfaced in Iranian tradition later on in a variant form when Ferdowsi, in his Shahnameh, referred to the Caucasus mountains as Kōh-i Kāf. [21] "Most of the modern names of the Caucasus originate from the Greek Kaukasos (Lat., Caucasus) and the Middle Persian Kaf Kof". [21]

"The earliest etymon" of the name Caucasus comes from Kaz-kaz, the Hittite designation of the "inhabitants of the southern coast of the Black Sea". [21]

It was also noted that in Nakh Ков гас (Kov gas) means "gateway to steppe". [22]

Endonyms and exonyms Edit

The modern name for the region is usually similar in many languages, and is generally between Kavkaz and Kawkaz.

    : Кавказ Kavkaz : Къаукъаз/с Kʺaukʺaz/s : القوقاز ‎ al-Qawqāz : Կովկաս Kovkas : Кавказ Kawkaz : Qafqaz : Кавказ Kawkaz : კავკასია K'avk'asia : Kaukasien : Καύκασος Káfkasos : Кавказ Kawkaz : Кавказ Kavkaz : Къавкъаз Qawqaz : Qefqasya/Qefqas ‎ : Ккавкказ Kkawkkaz : Къавкъаз K'awk'az : კავკაცია K'avk'acia : Кавказ Kavkaz : قفقاز ‎ Qafqāz : Кавказ Kavkaz : Qawqaz Kavkaz : Kafkas/Kafkasya : Кавказ Kavkaz

The North Caucasus region is known as the Ciscaucasus, whereas the South Caucasus region is commonly known as the Transcaucasus.

The Ciscaucasus contains most of the Greater Caucasus mountain range. It consists of Southern Russia, mainly the North Caucasian Federal District's autonomous republics, and the northernmost parts of Georgia and Azerbaijan. The Ciscaucasus lies between the Black Sea to its west, the Caspian Sea to its east, and borders the Southern Federal District to its north. The two Federal Districts are collectively referred to as "Southern Russia".

The Transcaucasus borders the Greater Caucasus range and Southern Russia to its north, the Black Sea and Turkey to its west, the Caspian Sea to its east, and Iran to its south. It contains the Lesser Caucasus mountain range and surrounding lowlands. All of Armenia, Azerbaijan (excluding the northernmost parts) and Georgia (excluding the northernmost parts) are in the South Caucasus.

The watershed along the Greater Caucasus range is generally perceived to be the dividing line between Europe and Southwest Asia. The highest peak in the Caucasus is Mount Elbrus (5,642 meters) located in western Ciscaucasus, and is considered as the highest point in Europe.

The Caucasus is one of the most linguistically and culturally diverse regions on Earth. [ citation needed ] The nation states that comprise the Caucasus today are the post-Soviet states Georgia (including Adjara and Abkhazia), Azerbaijan (including Nakhchivan), Armenia, and the Russian Federation. The Russian divisions include Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia, North Ossetia–Alania , Kabardino–Balkaria , Karachay–Cherkessia , Adygea, Krasnodar Krai and Stavropol Krai, in clockwise order.

Three territories in the region claim independence but are recognized as such by only a handful of entities: Artsakh , Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Abkhazia and South Ossetia are largely recognized by the world community as part of Georgia, [23] [24] and Artsakh as part of Azerbaijan.

General statistics of South Caucasian states Edit

The region has many different languages and language families. There are more than 50 ethnic groups living in the region. [26] No fewer than three language families are unique to the area. In addition, Indo-European languages, such as East Slavic, Armenian and Ossetian, and Turkic languages, such as Azerbaijani, Kumyk language and Karachay–Balkar, are spoken in the area. Russian is used as a lingua franca most notably in the North Caucasus.

The peoples of the northern and southern Caucasus mostly are Shia Muslims, Sunni Muslims, Eastern Orthodox Christians or Armenian Christians.

Located on the peripheries of Turkey, Iran, and Russia, the region has been an arena for political, military, religious, and cultural rivalries and expansionism for centuries. Throughout its history, the Caucasus was usually incorporated into the Iranian world. [27] [28] At the beginning of the 19th century, the Russian Empire conquered the territory from Qajar Iran. [27]

Prehistory Edit

The territory of the Caucasus region was inhabited by Homo erectus since the Paleolithic Era. In 1991, early human (that is, hominin) fossils dating back 1.8 million years were found at the Dmanisi archaeological site in Georgia. Scientists now classify the assemblage of fossil skeletons as the subspecies Homo erectus georgicus. [ citation needed ]

The site yields the earliest unequivocal evidence for the presence of early humans outside the African continent [29] and the Dmanisi skulls are the five oldest hominins ever found outside Africa.

Antiquity Edit

Kura–Araxes culture from about 4000 BC until about 2000 BC enveloped a vast area approximately 1,000 km by 500 km, and mostly encompassed, on modern-day territories, the Southern Caucasus (except western Georgia), northwestern Iran, the northeastern Caucasus, eastern Turkey, and as far as Syria.

Under Ashurbanipal (669–627 BC), the boundaries of the Assyrian Empire reached as far as the Caucasus Mountains. Later ancient kingdoms of the region included Armenia, Albania, Colchis and Iberia, among others. These kingdoms were later incorporated into various Iranian empires, including Media, the Achaemenid Empire, Parthia, and the Sassanid Empire, who would altogether rule the Caucasus for many hundreds of years. In 95–55 BC, under the reign of Armenian king Tigranes the Great, the Kingdom of Armenia included Kingdom of Armenia, vassals Iberia, Albania, Parthia, Atropatene, Mesopotamia, Cappadocia, Cilicia, Syria, Nabataean kingdom, and Judea. By the time of the first century BC, Zoroastrianism had become the dominant religion of the region however, the region would go through two other religious transformations. Owing to the strong rivalry between Persia and Rome, and later Byzantium. The Romans first arrived in the region in the 1st century BC with the annexation of the kingdom of Colchis, which was later turned into the province of Lazicum. [30] The next 600 years was marked by a conflict between Rome and Sassanid Empire for the control of the region. In western Georgia the eastern Roman rule lasted until the Middle Ages. [31]

Middle Ages Edit

As the Arsacid dynasty of Armenia (an eponymous branch of the Arsacid dynasty of Parthia) was the first nation to adopt Christianity as state religion (in 301 AD), and Caucasian Albania and Georgia had become Christian entities, Christianity began to overtake Zoroastrianism and pagan beliefs. With the Muslim conquest of Persia, large parts of the region came under the rule of the Arabs, and Islam penetrated into the region. [32]

In the 10th century, the Alans (proto-Ossetians) [33] founded the Kingdom of Alania, that flourished in the Northern Caucasus, roughly in the location of latter-day Circassia and modern North Ossetia–Alania, until its destruction by the Mongol invasion in 1238–39.

During the Middle Ages Bagratid Armenia, Kingdom of Tashir-Dzoraget, Kingdom of Syunik and Principality of Khachen organized local Armenian population facing multiple threats after the fall of antique Kingdom of Armenia. Caucasian Albania maintained close ties with Armenia and the Church of Caucasian Albania shared same Christian dogmas with the Armenian Apostolic Church and had a tradition of their Catholicos being ordained through the Patriarch of Armenia. [34]

In the 12th century, the Georgian king David the Builder drove the Muslims out from Caucasus and made the Kingdom of Georgia a strong regional power. In 1194–1204 Georgian Queen Tamar's armies crushed new Seljuk Turkish invasions from the south-east and south and launched several successful campaigns into Seljuk Turkish-controlled Southern Armenia. The Georgian Kingdom continued military campaigns in the Caucasus region. As a result of her military campaigns and the temporary fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1204, Georgia became the strongest Christian state in the whole Near East area, encompassing most of the Caucasus stretching from Northern Iran and Northeastern Turkey to the North Caucasus.

The Caucasus region was conquered by the Ottomans, Mongols, local kingdoms and khanates, as well as, once again, Iran.

Etchmiadzin Cathedral in Armenia, original building completed in 303 AD, a religious centre of Armenia. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Svetitskhoveli Cathedral in Georgia, original building completed in the 4th century. It was a religious centre of monarchical Georgia. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Clebration of Ashura, (Persian:Shakhsey-Vakhsey),19th century

Modern period Edit

Up to and including the early 19th century, the Southern Caucasus and southern Dagestan all formed part of the Persian Empire. In 1813 and 1828 by the Treaty of Gulistan and the Treaty of Turkmenchay respectively, the Persians were forced to irrevocably cede the Southern Caucasus and Dagestan to Imperial Russia. [35] In the ensuing years after these gains, the Russians took the remaining part of the Southern Caucasus, comprising western Georgia, through several wars from the Ottoman Empire. [36] [37]

In the second half of the 19th century, the Russian Empire also conquered the Northern Caucasus. In the aftermath of the Caucasian Wars, an ethnic cleansing of Circassians was performed by Russia in which the indigenous peoples of this region, mostly Circassians, were expelled from their homeland and forced to move primarily to the Ottoman Empire. [38] [39]

Having killed and deported most of Armenians of Western Armenia during the Armenian genocide, the Turks intended to eliminate the Armenian population of Eastern Armenia. [40] During the 1920 Turkish–Armenian War, 60,000 to 98,000 Armenian civilians were estimated to have been killed by the Turkish army. [41]

In the 1940s, around 480,000 Chechens and Ingush, 120,000 Karachay–Balkars and Meskhetian Turks, thousands of Kalmyks, and 200,000 Kurds in Nakchivan and Caucasus Germans were deported en masse to Central Asia and Siberia. About a quarter of them died. [42]

The Southern Caucasus region was unified as a single political entity twice – during the Russian Civil War (Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic) from 9 April 1918 to 26 May 1918, and under the Soviet rule (Transcaucasian SFSR) from 12 March 1922 to 5 December 1936. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia became independent nations.

The region has been subject to various territorial disputes since the collapse of the Soviet Union, leading to the First Nagorno-Karabakh War (1988–1994), the East Prigorodny Conflict (1989–1991), the War in Abkhazia (1992–93), the First Chechen War (1994–1996), the Second Chechen War (1999–2009), and the 2008 South Ossetia War.

Mythology Edit

In Greek mythology, the Caucasus, or Kaukasos, was one of the pillars supporting the world. [43] After presenting man with the gift of fire, Prometheus (or Amirani in the Georgian version) was chained there by Zeus, to have his liver eaten daily by an eagle as punishment for defying Zeus' wish to keep the "secret of fire" from humans.

In Persian mythology, the Caucasus might be associated with the mythic Mount Qaf which is believed to surround the known world. It is the battlefield of Saoshyant and the nest of the Simurgh. [ citation needed ]

The Roman poet Ovid placed the Caucasus in Scythia and depicted it as a cold and stony mountain which was the abode of personified hunger. The Greek hero Jason sailed to the west coast of the Caucasus in pursuit of the Golden Fleece, and there met Medea, a daughter of King Aeëtes of Colchis.

The Caucasus has a rich folklore tradition. [44] This tradition has been preserved orally—necessitated by the fact that for most of the languages involved there was no alphabet until the early twentieth century—and only began to be written down in the late nineteenth century. [45] One important tradition is that of the Nart sagas, which tell stories of a race of ancient heroes called the Narts. These sagas include such figures as Satanaya, the mother of the Narts, Sosruquo a shape changer and trickster, Tlepsh a blacksmith god, and Batradz, a mighty hero. [44] The folklore of the Caucasus shows ancient Iranian Zoroastrian influence, involve battles with ancient Goths, Huns and Khazars, and contain many connections with ancient Indian, Norse Scandinavian, and Greek cultures. [46]

Links with Greek mythology Edit

Caucasian folklore contains many links with the myths of the ancient Greeks. There are resemblances between the mother goddess Satanaya and the Greek goddess of love Aphrodite. [47] The story of how the trickster Nart Sosruquo, became invulnerable parallels that of the Greek hero Achilles. [48] The ancient Greek Amazons may be connected to a Caucasian "warrior Forest-Mother, Amaz-an". [49]

Caucasian legends include stories involving giants similar to Homer's Polyphemus story. [50] In these stories, the giant is almost always a shepherd, [51] and he is variously a one-eyed rock-throwing cannibal, who lives in a cave (the exit of which is often blocked by a stone), kills the hero's companions, is blinded by a hot stake, and whose flock of animals is stolen by the hero and his men, all motifs which (along with still others) are also found in the Polyphemus story. [52] In one example from Georgia, two brothers, who are being held prisoner by a giant one-eyed shepherd called "One-eye", take a spit, heat it up, stab it into the giant's eye, and escape. [53]

There are also links with the ancient Greek myth of Prometheus. [54] Many legends, widespread in the Caucasus, contain motifs shared with the Prometheus story. [55] These motifs include: a giant hero, his conflict with God or gods, the stealing of fire and giving it to men, being chained, and being tormented by a bird who pecks at his liver (or heart). [56] The Adyge/Circassian Nart Nasran, [57] the Georgian Amirani, [58] the Chechen Pkharmat, [59] and the Abkhazian Abrskil, [60] are examples of such Prometheus-like figures.

The Caucasus is an area of great ecological importance. The region is included in the list of 34 world biodiversity hotspots. [61] [62] It harbors some 6400 species of higher plants, 1600 of which are endemic to the region. [63] Its wildlife includes Persian leopards, brown bears, wolves, bison, marals, golden eagles and hooded crows. Among invertebrates, some 1000 spider species are recorded in the Caucasus. [64] [65] Most of arthropod biodiversity is concentrated on Great and Lesser Caucasus ranges. [65]

The region has a high level of endemism and a number of relict animals and plants, the fact reflecting presence of refugial forests, which survived the Ice Age in the Caucasus Mountains. The Caucasus forest refugium is the largest throughout the Western Asian (near Eastern) region. [66] [67] The area has multiple representatives of disjunct relict groups of plants with the closest relatives in Eastern Asia, southern Europe, and even North America. [68] [69] [70] Over 70 species of forest snails of the region are endemic. [71] Some relict species of vertebrates are Caucasian parsley frog, Caucasian salamander, Robert's snow vole, and Caucasian grouse, and there are almost entirely endemic groups of animals such as lizards of genus Darevskia. In general, species composition of this refugium is quite distinct and differs from that of the other Western Eurasian refugia. [67]

The natural landscape is one of mixed forest, with substantial areas of rocky ground above the treeline. The Caucasus Mountains are also noted for a dog breed, the Caucasian Shepherd Dog (Rus. Kavkazskaya Ovcharka, Geo. Nagazi). Vincent Evans noted that minke whales have been recorded from the Black Sea. [72] [73] [74]

Krasnaya Polyana is a popular centre of mountain skiing and a snowboard venue.
The 2015 European Games is the first in the history of the European Games to be held in Azerbaijan.

Mountain-skiing complexes include:

The Azerbaijan Grand Prix (motor racing) venue was the first in the history of Formula One to be held in Azerbaijan. The Rugby World Cup U20 (rugby) was in Georgia 2017. In 2017 U-19 Europe Championship (Football) was held in Georgia.

Warrior Grave Influenced by the Romans

Experts from the Vinkovci City Museum examined one of the burials, and they found the nearly complete remains of an adult male, who was almost certainly once a warrior. Also found with the skeletal remains was a bronze belt buckle that came from the period 600-800 AD when this part of Croatia was part of the Pannonian Avar Empire. The graves were found “near the site of the Roman city of Cibalae,” according to Archaeology.org.

Anita Rapan-Papeša, an archaeologist who worked on the project told Archaeology News Network that “so far, no Avar graves have been found in the Vinkovci area, although it is known that the Avars resided in the area.” The individual was buried in a cist grave, that is a grave that is lined with stone slabs and topped with a dome of stone, and this was a surprise.

The cist Avar warrior grave unearthed in Croatia. ( Ivan Bosancic )

Rapan-Papeša, who is an authority on the Middle Ages stated that “when we observed the walled grave, it turns out that Avars saw how Romans were buried so they made their own copies of Roman graves,” according to Croatia Week . This would show that the Pannonian Avars were influenced by Roman cultural practices.


Avars, nomad people of Asian stock, in 568 &ndash 796 the main political organism in the Carpathian Basin, possibly with influence over much of Central Europe (Figs. 1, 2). The general view is that Avars originated from the Far East where they were known as the Rouran some researchers propose to derive A. from Central Asia and identify them as a component of the Hephthalite confederation. What is certain is that Avar arrival in Europe was triggered by the rising military power of the Turkic Khaganate whose ruler regarded them as his runaway subjects.

Established in the northern foothills of the Caucasus in 557/558 the Avars sent, using the Alans as intermediaries, an embassy to Constantinople. After obtaining many gifts they at first pursued a policy consistent with the interests of the Byzantine Empire but quite soon started to act on their own accord and expanded the range of their invasions as far as the Lower Danube. Here they clashed with e.g., the Antae, identified with the &rarrSlavs . In 562 and 566/567 the Avars waged war on the &rarrFranks presumably at the instigation of the Byzantines. It is likely that during these campaigns they passed through the territory of today&rsquos Poland. The fact that in 566/567 the Avars agreed to withdraw to their seats e.g., in return for provisions supplied by the Franks (as recorded by the Byzantine historian Menander Protector, Fragment 11, p. 126-129), is often regarded as proof that Central Europe (Poland included) was not depopulated during this period.

Nevertheless the main aim of Bayan, the Avar Khagan, was to establish themselves in the Carpathian Basin then settled by the Germanic &rarrLangobards (Pannonia) and &rarrGepids (Transylvania). In 567 the Avars, allied with the Langobards, crushed the Gepids soon afterwards the Langobards, led by Alboin, left their abodes and made for Italy. This event, described in detail by Paul the Deacon and dated by him to 1 April 568 (Historia Langobardorum, II.6-7, p. 75-76), is traditionally recognized as the final development of the Migration Period in Central Europe. There is no denying that the departure of the &rarrLangobards was synonymous with the removal of the last large &rarrGermanic Tribes from Central Europe but archaeological research documents the presence in the region of a Germanic population even after 568, e.g., the Gepids on the territory of the Avar Khaganate (Fig. 6).

After occupying the Middle Danube basin the A. started heavy raids on the Balkan provinces of the Byzantine Empire in which a key development was capturing the important military outpost at Sirmium (now Sremska Mitrovica) close to the confluence of the Sava with the Danube. In 586 Avars and &rarrSlavs besieged Salonica. The apogee of the Avar Khaganate was in the first quarter of the 7th c., when the Avars raided as far as the western Balkans and were paid tribute of 200,000 solidi &rarrSolidus a year (Fig. 3). In summer of 626 Avar forces, their Slav allies, and Persians laid siege to Constantinople. The failure of this attack on the capital city of the Byzantine Empire had serious impact on Avar prestige. It is possible that the rise at this time of Samo&rsquos kingdom in Bohemia had something to do with the weakening of central power of the Avar.

In 791-796 the Avar Khaganate was crushed by the armies of Charlemagne.

A major role in Avar studies is played by archaeological research, currently more than 60,000 burials have been identified on the former territory of the Khaganate &ndash many of them very richly furnished. Avar archaeology distinguishes the Early (until ca. 650), Middle (until the end of 7th c.) and Late Avar periods (8th c.). The majority of Avar burials are datable to the second half of 7th and 8th c. the dating of the earliest phase of A. settlement (especially until 600 AD) continues to pose serious problems as no burials are known from this period, only pits containing cremated elements of warrior&rsquos equipment (German Opfergrubenfund). Inhumations in which next to numerous grave goods the burial is accompanied by a horse enter the record after 600 AD. During the Early and the Middle Avar period the grave goods are mostly made of gold or silver (see Fig. 4). The great tribute payments which passed to the lands on the Middle Danube made possible the manufacture of superb ornaments. During the Late Avar period most of the dress accessories are made of bronze with one of more distinctive form being belt fittings, decorated with griffins and interlace.

An extremely interesting phenomenon of the Early Avar period is Keszthely culture &ndash a small enclave of a Roman Christian population lingering in late 6th and during the first half of 7th c. on Lake Balaton (see Fig. 5).

Traditionally the appearance of the Avars in Central Europe in 568 has been regarded as one of the reasons for the breakdown of long-distance trade exchange. Thanks to archaeological research we know that the Avar Khaganate was not ethnically an (Asian) monolith. A vast quantity of goods brought to the lands on the Middle Danube found their way also to &rarrSlavs neighbours of the Avar.

Avar finds from the territory of today&rsquos Poland are not very numerous nevertheless some researchers have suggested that 8th century strongholds of southern Poland may have been raised in response to Avar threat. Avar objects definitely are a key tool in dating Slav culture &rarrSlavs of the 6th-8th cc. It is quite likely that the Polish word for giant &ndash olbrzym &ndash comes from the Slav name of the Avars (Obrzy), and that żupan (župan) &ndash medieval dignitary - is also of Avar origin.

Literature: W. Szymański, E. Dąbrowska, Awarzy, Węgrzy, Wrocław 1979, p. 7-131 W. Pohl, Die Awaren. Ein Steppenvolk in Mitteleuropa 567-822 n. Chr., München 1988 Cs. Bálint, Die Archäologie der Steppe: Steppenvölker zwischen Volga und Donau vom 6. bis zum 10 Jh., Wien 1989, esp. p. 145-192 A. Kiss, Das awarenzeitliche Gräberfeld in Kölked-Feketekapu B, Budapest 2001 F. Daim, Avars and Avar Archaeology. An Introduction, [in:] H. W. Goetz, J. Jarnut, W. Pohl (eds.), Regna and Gentes. The Relationship Between Late Antique and Early Medieval Peoples and Kingdoms in the Transformation of the Roman World, Leiden-Boston 2003, p. 463-570 J. Poleski, Awarische Funde in Polen. Zur Frage der Gestaltung von Kulturzonen bei den Westslawen in der zweiten Hälfte des 7. Jhrs .&ndash Anfang des 10. Jhrs., Acta Archaeologica Carpathica, 44 (2009), p. 97-136 O. Heinrich-Tamáska (ed.), Keszthely-Fenékpuszta im Kontext spätantiker Kontinuitätsforschung zwischen Noricum und Moesia, Budapest-Leipzig-Keszthely-Rahden/West. 2011 O. Heinrich-Tamáska, Zeichen von Herrschaft und Identität?, [in:] M. Hardt, O. Heinrich-Tamáska (ed.), Macht des Goldes, Gold der Macht: Herrschafts- und Jenseitsrepräsentation zwischen Antike und Frühmittelalter im mittleren Donauraum, Weinstadt 2013 M. Mączyńska, Światło z popiołu. Wędrówki ludów w Europie w IV i V w., Warszawa 2013, p. 272-282.

Written sources: Pauli Historia Langobardorum, G. Waitz (ed.), Monumenta Germaniae Historica. Scriptores rerum Langobardicum et Italicarum seac. VI-IX, Hannover 1878 The History of Menander the Guardsman, R. C. Blockley (ed.), Arca. Classical and Medieval Texts, Papers and Monographs, 17, Liverpool 1985 Paweł Diakon, Historia Longobardów, [in:] Paweł Diakon, Historia rzymska. Historia Longobardów, I. Lewandowski (ed.), Warszawa 1995, p. 197-329.

Figs. 4-6 by kind permission of O. Heinrich-Tamáska (GWZO, Lepzig).

Fig. 1. Avar Khaganate in Central Europe around the year 600 AD according to W. Pohl (1988, map 2), drawing I. Jordan. a – b – Byzantine Empire c – conjectured extent of the Avar Khaganate d – areas under Avar influence.

Fig. 2. Avar Khaganate w Central Europe around 700 AD according to O. Heinrich-Tamáska (ed.), 2011, pp. 653-702, Pl. II. a – extent of Avar occupation.

Fig. 3. Amount of tribute paid to the Avars by the Byzantine Empire according to W. Pohl (1988, p. 501) drawing I. Jordan.

Fig. 4. Zamárdi-Rétiföldek, Hungary, grave no. 1280. Elaborate belt mount (7th c.) in the Animal Style (Tierstil II), a variant characteristic for the Avars Kaposvár, Rippl Rónai Múzeum, 93.16.1 photo.: K. Balla.

Fig. 5. Keszthely-Fenékpuszta, Hungary, Horreum, grave 14. Disc brooch with the image of the cross and Christ (over the cross) between two angels, early 7th c. Balatoni Mus. Keszthely, 60.14.3 Photo. J. Bicskei.

Fig. 6. Kölked-Feketekapu B, Hungary, grave no. B 85 (female burial). Belt buckle, gilded bronze decorated with niello. The figure at centre is presumably the Germanic god Tyr according to A. Kiss, Das awarenzeitliche Gräberfeld in Kölked-Feketekapu B, Bu


Written sources Edit

Byzantine authors were the first to record these events. [5] The earliest work is Emperor Leo the Wise's Tactics, finished around 904, which recounts the Bulgarian-Byzantine war of 894–896, a military conflict directly preceding the Hungarians' departure from the Pontic steppes. [6] Nearly contemporary narration [5] can be read in the Continuation of the Chronicle by George the Monk. [7] However, De Administrando Imperio ("On Governing the Empire") provides the most detailed account. [8] It was compiled under the auspices of Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus in 951 or 952. [9]

Works written by clergymen in the successor states of the Carolingian Empire narrate events closely connected to the conquest. [5] The Annals of Fulda which ends in 901 is the earliest among them. [10] A letter from Archbishop Theotmar of Salzburg to Pope John IX in 900 also refers to the conquering Hungarians, but it is often regarded as a fake. [11] Abbot Regino of Prüm who compiled his World Chronicle around 908 [12] sums up his knowledge on the Hungarians in a sole entry under the year 889. [11] Another valuable source is Bishop Liutprand of Cremona's Antapodosis ("Retribution") from around 960. [13] [14] Aventinus, a 16th-century historian provides information not known from other works, [15] which suggests that he used now-lost sources. [15] [16] However, his reliability is suspect. [17]

An Old Church Slavonic compilation of Lives of saints preserved an eyewitness account on the Bulgarian-Byzantine war of 894–896. [18] [19] The first [20] Life of Saint Naum, written around 924, contains nearly contemporary information on the fall of Moravia caused by Hungarian invasions, although its earliest extant copy is from the 15th century. [19] Similarly late manuscripts (the oldest of which was written in the 14th century) offer the text of the Russian Primary Chronicle, a historical work completed in 1113. [21] It provides information based on earlier Byzantine and Moravian [22] sources. [21]

The Hungarians themselves initially preserved the memory of the major events in "the form of folk songs and ballads" (C. A. Macartney). [23] The earliest local chronicle was compiled in the late 11th century. [24] It exists now in more than one variant, its original version several times extended and rewritten during the Middle Ages. [25] [26] For instance, the 14th-century Illuminated Chronicle contains texts from the 11th-century chronicle. [25] [27]

An anonymous author's Gesta Hungarorum ("Deeds of the Hungarians"), written before 1200, [28] is the earliest extant local chronicle. [27] [29] However, this "most misleading" example "of all the early Hungarian texts" (C. A. Macartney) contains much information that cannot be confirmed based on contemporaneous sources. [30] Around 1283 Simon of Kéza, a priest at the Hungarian royal court wrote the next surviving chronicle. [27] He claims that the Hungarians were closely related to the Huns, earlier conquerors of the Carpathian Basin. [31] Accordingly, in his narration, the Hungarian invasion is in fact a second conquest of the same territory by the same people. [27]

Archaeology Edit

Graves of the first generations of the conquering Hungarians were identified in the Carpathian Basin, but fewer than ten definitely Hungarian cemeteries have been unearthed in the Pontic steppes. [32] Most Hungarian cemeteries include 25 or 30 inhumation graves, but isolated burials were common. [33] [34] Adult males (and sometimes women and children) [35] were buried together with either parts of their horses or with harness and other objects symbolizing a horse. [36] [37] The graves also yielded decorated silver belts, sabretaches furnished with metal plates, pear-shaped stirrups and other metal works. [38] Many of these objects had close analogues in the contemporaneous multiethnic "Saltovo-Mayaki culture" [35] of the Pontic steppes. [39] Most cemeteries from the turn of the 9th and 10th centuries are concentrated in the Upper Tisza region and in the plains along the rivers Rába and Vág, for instance, at Tarcal, Tiszabezdéd, Naszvad (Nesvady, Slovakia) and Gyömöre, [40] but early small cemeteries were also unearthed at Kolozsvár (Cluj-Napoca), Marosgombás (Gâmbaș) and other Transylvanian sites. [41]

The Continuation of the Chronicle by George the Monk contains the earliest certain [42] reference to the Hungarians. [43] It states that Hungarian warriors intervened in a conflict between the Byzantine Empire and the Bulgarians on the latter's behalf in the Lower Danube region in 836 or 837. [44] The first known Hungarian raid in Central Europe was recorded in the Annals of St. Bertin. [45] It writes of "enemies, called Hungarians, hitherto unknown" [46] who ravaged King Louis the German's realm in 862. [45] Vajay, Victor Spinei and other historians argue that Rastislav of Moravia, at war with Louis the German, hired Hungarians to invade East Francia. [45] [47] Archbishop Theotmar of Salzburg clearly states in his letter of around 900 that the Moravians often allied with the Hungarians against the Germans. [47]

For many years [the Moravians] have in fact perpetrated the very crime of which they have only once falsely accused us. They themselves have taken in a large number of Hungarians and have shaved their own heads according to their heathen customs and they have sent them against our Christians, overcoming them, leading some away as captives, killing others, while still others, imprisoned, perished of hunger and thirst.

Porphyrogenitus mentions that the Hungarians dwelled in a territory that they called "Atelkouzou" until their invasion across the Carpathians. [49] [50] [51] He adds that it was located in the territory where the rivers Barouch, Koubou, Troullos, Broutos and Seretos [52] run. [53] [54] Although the identification of the first two rivers with the Dnieper and the Southern Bug is not unanimously accepted, the last three names without doubt refer to the rivers Dniester, Prut and Siret. [54] In the wider region, at Subotsi on the river Adiamka, three graves (one of them belonging to a male buried with the skull and legs of his horse) are attributed to pre-conquest Hungarians. [54] However, these tombs may date to the 10th century. [55]

The Hungarians were organized into seven tribes that formed a confederation. [56] Constantine Porphyrogenitus mentions this number. [57] Anonymous seems to have preserved the Hungarian "Hetumoger" ("Seven Hungarians") denomination of the tribal confederation, although he writes of "seven leading persons" [58] jointly bearing this name instead of a political organization. [57]

The Hetumoger confederation was strengthened by the arrival of the Kabars, [56] who (according to Constantine) joined the Hungarians following their unsuccessful riot against the Khazar Khaganate. [59] The Hungarians and the Kabars are mentioned in the longer version of the Annals of Salzburg, [60] which relates that the Hungarians fought around Vienna, while the Kabars fought nearby at Culmite in 881. [61] Madgearu proposes that Kavar groups were already settled in the Tisza plain within the Carpathian Basin around 881, which may have given rise to the anachronistic reference to Cumans in the Gesta Hungarorum at the time of the Hungarian conquest. [62]

The Hetumoger confederation was under a dual leadership, according to Ibn Rusta and Gardizi (two Muslim scholars from the 10th and 11th centuries, respectively, whose geographical books preserved texts from an earlier work written by Abu Abdallah al-Jayhani from Bukhara). [63] [64] [65] The Hungarians' nominal or sacred leader was styled kende, while their military commander bore the title gyula. [64] [66] The same authors add that the gyula commanded an army of 20,000 horsemen, [67] but the reliability of this number is uncertain. [68]

Regino of Prüm and other contemporary authors portray the 9th-century Hungarians as nomadic warriors. [69] Emperor Leo the Wise underlines the importance of horses to their military tactics. [70] Analysis of horse skulls found in Hungarian warriors graves has not revealed any significant difference between these horses and Western breeds. [71] Regino of Prüm states that the Hungarians knew "nothing about fighting hand-to-hand in formation or taking besieged cities", [72] but he underlines their archery skills. [73] Remains indicate that composite bows were the Hungarians' most important weapons. [74] In addition, slightly curved sabres were unearthed in many warrior tombs from the period. [75] Regino of Prüm noted the Hungarians' preference for deceptions such as apparent retreat in battle. [73] Contemporaneous writers also recounted their viciousness, represented by the slaughter of adult males in settlement raids. [36]

[The Hungarians] are armed with swords, body armor, bows and lances. Thus, in battles most of them bear double arms, carrying the lances high on their shoulders and holding the bows in their hands. They make use of both as need requires, but when pursued they use their bows to great advantage. Not only do they wear armor themselves, but the horses of their illustrious men are covered in front with iron or quilted material. They devote a great deal of attention and training to archery on horse-back. A huge herd of horses, ponies and mares, follows them, to provide both food and milk and, at the same time, to give the impression of a multitude.

People Edit

Based on the extant Hungarian chronicles, it is clear that more than one (occasionally extended) list existed of the peoples inhabiting the Carpathian Basin at the time of the Hungarian landtaking. [77] Anonymous, for instance, first writes of the "Slavs, Bulgarians, Vlachs and the shepherds of the Romans" [78] as inhabiting the territory, [79] [80] but later he refers to "a people called Kozar" [81] and to the Székelys. [77] Similarly, Simon of Kéza first lists the "Slavs, Greeks, Germans, Moravians and Vlachs", [82] [83] but later adds that the Székelys also lived in the territory. [84] According to C. A. Macartney, those lists were based on multiple sources and do not document the real ethnic conditions of the Carpathian Basin around 900. [85] According to Ioan-Aurel Pop, Simon of Kéza listed the peoples who inhabited the lands that the Hungarian conquered and the nearby territories. [86]

The Hungarians adopted the ancient (Celtic, Dacian or Germanic) names of the longest rivers in the Carpathian Basin from a Slavic-speaking population. [87] For instance, the Hungarian names of the rivers Danube (Duna), Dráva, Garam, Maros, Olt, Száva, Tisza and Vág were borrowed from Slavs. [87] [88] The Hungarians also adopted a great number of hydronyms of Slavic origin, including Balaton ("swamp"), Beszterce ("swift river"), Túr ("aurochs' stream") and Zagyva ("sooty river"). [87] [89] [90] Place names of Slavic origin abound across the Carpathian Basin. [91] For instance, Csongrád ("black fortress"), Nógrád ("new fortress"), Visegrád ("citadel") and other early medieval fortresses bore a Slavic name, while the name of Keszthely preserved the Latin word for fortress (castellum) with Slavic mediation. [91] [92]

Besides the Slavs, the presence of a German-speaking population can be demonstrated based on toponyms. [93] For instance, the Hungarians adopted the Germanized form of the name of the river Vulka (whose name is of Slavic origin) and the document known as the Conversion of the Bavarians and the Carantanians from around 870 lists Germanic place names in Pannonia, including Salapiugin ("bend of the Zala") and Mosaburc ("fortress in the marshes"). [94] Finally, the name of the Barca, Barót and other rivers could be either Turkic [90] or Slavic. [95]

According to Béla Miklós Szőke's theory, the detailed description of the Magyars by western contemporary sources and the immediate Hungarian intervention in local wars suggest that the Hungarians had already lived on the eastern territories of the Carpathian Basin since the middle of the 9th century. [96] [97] Regarding the right location of early Hungarian settlements, the Arabic geographer al-Jayhani (only snippets of his work survived in other Muslim authors' papers) [98] in the 870s placed the Hungarians between Don and Danube rivers. [96] Szőke identifies al-Jayhani's Danube with the middle Danube region, as opposed to the previously assumed lower Danube region, because following al-Jayhani's description the Christian Moravians were the western neighbors of the Magyars. [96]

Borderland of empires Edit

The Carpathian Basin was controlled from the 560s by the Avars, [99] a Turkic-speaking people. [100] Upon their arrival in the region, they imposed their authority over the Gepids who had dominated the territories east of the river Tisza. [101] However, the Gepids survived up until the second half of the 9th century, according to a reference in the Conversion of the Bavarians and the Carantanians to their groups dwelling in Lower Pannonia around 870. [93]

The Avars initially were nomadic horsemen, but both large cemeteries used by three or four generations and a growing number of settlements attest to their adoption of a sedentary (non-nomadic) way of life from the 8th century. [102] [103] The Avars' power was destroyed between 791 and 795 by Charlemagne, [104] who occupied Transdanubia and attached it to his empire. [105] Archaeological investigation of early medieval rural settlements at Balatonmagyaród, Nemeskér and other places in Transdanubia demonstrate that their main features did not change with the fall of the Avar Khaganate. [106] New settlements appeared in the former borderlands with cemeteries characterized by objects with clear analogues in contemporary Bavaria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Moravia and other faraway territories. [106] A manor defended by timber walls (similar to noble courts of other parts of the Carolingian Empire) was unearthed at Zalaszabar. [106]

Avar groups who remained under the rule of their khagan were frequently attacked by Slav warriors. [107] Therefore, the khagan asked Charlemagne to let his people settle in the region between Szombathely and Petronell in Pannonia. [108] His petition was accepted in 805. [108] The Conversion of the Bavarians and the Carantanians lists the Avars among the peoples under the ecclesiastic jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Salzburg around 870. [109] According to Pohl, it "simply proved impossible to keep up an Avar identity after Avar institutions and the high claims of their tradition had failed." [110] The growing number of archaeological evidence in Transdanubia also presumes Avar population in the Carpathian Basin at the eve of the 10th century. [111] Archaeological findings suggesting that there is a substantial late Avar presence on the Great Hungarian Plain, however it is difficult to determine their proper chronology. [111]

A charter issued in 860 by King Louis the German for the Mattsee Abbey may well attest that the Onogurs (another people of Turkic origin) were also present in the territory. [112] The charter refers to the "Marches of the Wangars" (marcha uuangariourum) situated in the westernmost regions of the Carpathian Basin. [113] The Wangar denomination seems to reflect the Slavic form of the Onogurs' ethnonym. [112]

The territories attached to the Frankish Empire were initially governed by royal officers and local chieftains. [114] A Slavic prince named Pribina received large estates along the river Zala around 840. [115] He promoted the colonization of his lands, [116] and also erected Mosaburg, a fortress in the marshes. [115] Initially defended by timber walls, this "castle complex" [117] (András Róna-Tas) became an administrative center. It was strengthened by drystone walls at the end of the century. Four churches surrounded by cemeteries were unearthed in and around the settlement. At least one of them continued to be used up to the 11th century. [118]

Pribina died fighting the Moravians in 861, and his son, Kocel inherited his estates. [119] The latter was succeeded around 876 by Arnulf, a natural son of Carloman, king of East Francia. [120] Under his rule, Moravian troops interved into the conflict known as the "Wilhelminer War" and "laid waste from the Raab eastward", between 882 and 884, according to the Annals of Fulda. [121] [122]

Moravia emerged in the 820s [123] under its first known ruler, Mojmir I. [115] His successor, Rastislav, developed Moravia's military strength. He promoted the proselytizing activities of the Byzantine brothers, Constantine and Methodius in an attempt to seek independence from East Francia. [115] [124] Moravia reached its "peak of importance" under Svatopluk I [125] (870–894) who expanded its frontiers in all directions. [126]

Moravia's core territory is located in the regions on the northern Morava river, in the territory of present-day Czech Republic and Slovakia. [127] However, Constantine Porphyrogenitus places "great Moravia, the unbaptized" [128] somewhere in the regions beyond Belgrade and Sirmium (Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia). [129] His report supported further theories on Moravia's location. [130] For instance, Kristó and Senga propose the existence of two Moravias (one in the north and other one in the south), [131] while Boba, Bowlus and Eggers argue that Moravia's core territory is in the region of the southern Morava river, in present-day Serbia. [132] The existence of a southern Moravian realm is not supported by artifacts, while strongholds unearthed at Mikulcice, Pohansko and other areas to the north of the Middle Danube point at the existence of a power center in those regions. [133]

In addition to East Francia and Moravia, the first Bulgarian Empire was the third power deeply involved in the Carpathian Basin in the 9th century. [134] A late 10th-century Byzantine lexicon known as Suda adds that Krum of Bulgaria attacked the Avars from the southeast around 803. [135] The Royal Frankish Annals narrates that the Abodrites inhabiting "Dacia on the Danube" [136] (most probably along the lower courses of the river Tisza) sought the assistance of the Franks against the Bulgars in 824. [137] Bulgarian troops also invaded Pannonia, "expelled the Slavic chieftains and appointed Bulgar governors instead" [138] in 827. [139] [140] An inscription at Provadia refers to a Bulgarian military leader named Onegavonais drowning in the Tisza around the same time. [141] The emerging power of Moravia brought about a rapprochement between Bulgaria and East Francia in the 860s. [142] For instance, King Arnulf of East Francia sent an embassy to the Bulgarians in 892 in order "to renew the former peace and to ask that they should not sell salt to the Moravians". [143] The latter request suggests that the route from the salt mines of the Eastern Carpathians to Moravia was controlled around that time by the Bulgarians. [144] [145]

The anonymous author of the Gesta Hungarorum, instead of Svatopluk I of Moravia and other rulers known from contemporary sources, writes of personalities and polities that are not mentioned by chroniclers working at the end of the 9th century. [146] For instance, he refers to Menumorut residing in the castle of Bihar (Biharia, Romania), to Zobor "duke of Nitra by the grace of the Duke of the Czechs", [147] and to Gelou "a certain Vlach" [148] ruling over Transylvania. [146] According to historian Ryszard Grzesik, the reference to Gelou and his Vlachs evidences that the Vlachs had already settled in Transylvania by the time the Gesta was completed, while the stories about Zobor and Menumorut preserved the memory of the Hungarians' fight against the Moravians. [149] Translating Menumorut's name as "Great Moravian", Grzesik associates him with Svatopluk I and refutes the report of Menumorut's rule in Bihar. [150] Early medieval fortresses were unearthed at Bihar and other places east of the Tisza, but none of them definitively date to the 9th century. [151] For instance, in the case of Doboka (Dăbâca), two pairs of bell-shaped pendants with analogues in sites in Austria, Bulgaria and Poland have been unearthed, but Florin Curta dates them to the 9th century, while Alexandru Madgearu to the period between 975 and 1050. [152] [153]

Prelude (892–c. 895) Edit

Three main theories attempt to explain the reasons for the "Hungarian land-taking". [154] One argues that it was an intended military operation, prearranged following previous raids, with the express purpose of occupying a new homeland. [154] This view (represented, for instance, by Bakay and Padányi) mainly follows the narration of Anonymous and later Hungarian chronicles. [155] The opposite view maintains that a joint attack by the Pechenegs and the Bulgarians forced the Hungarians' hand. [156] Kristó, Tóth and the theory's other followers refer to the unanimous testimony provided by the Annals of Fulda, Regino of Prüm and Porphyrogenitus on the connection between the Hungarians' conflict with the Bulgar-Pecheneg coalition and their withdrawal from the Pontic steppes. [157] [158] An intermediate theory proposes that the Hungarians had for decades been considering a westward move when the Bulgarian-Pecheneg attack accelerated their decision to leave the Pontic steppes. [159] For instance Róna-Tas argues, "[the] fact that, despite a series of unfortunate events, the Magyars managed to keep their heads above water goes to show that they were indeed ready to move on" when the Pechenegs attacked them. [160]

In fact, following a break of eleven years, the Hungarians returned to the Carpathian Basin in 892. [59] They came to assist Arnulf of East Francia against Svatopluk I of Moravia. [59] [161] Widukind of Corvey and Liutprand of Cremona condemned the Frankish monarch for destroying the defense lines built along the empire's borders, because this also enabled the Hungarians to attack East Francia within a decade. [162]

Meanwhile Arnulf (…) could not overcome Sviatopolk, duke of the Moravians (…) and – alas! – having dismantled those very well fortified barriers which (…) are called "closures" by the populace. Arnulf summoned to his aid the nation of the Hungarians, greedy, rash, ignorant of almighty God but well versed in every crime, avid only for murder and plunder (…).

A late source, [17] Aventinus adds that Kurszán (Cusala), "king of the Hungarians" stipulated that his people would only fight the Moravians if they received the lands they were to occupy. [161] Accordingly, Aventinus continues, the Hungarians took possession of "both Dacias on this side and beyond" the Tisza east of the rivers Danube and Garam already in 893. [161] Indeed, the Hungarian chronicles unanimously state that the Székelys had already been present in the Carpathian Basin when the Hungarians moved in. [164] Kristó argues that Aventinus and the Hungarian historical tradition together point at an early occupation of the eastern territories of the Carpathian Basin by auxiliary troops of the Hungarian tribal confederation. [164]

The Annals of Fulda narrates under the year 894 that the Hungarians crossed the Danube into Pannonia where they "killed men and old women outright and carried off the young women alone with them like cattle to satisfy their lusts and reduced the whole" province "to desert". [165] [166] Although the annalist writes of this Hungarian attack after the passage narrating Svatopluk I's death, [165] Györffy, Kristó, [167] Róna-Tas [168] and other historians suppose that the Hungarians invaded Pannonia in alliance with the Moravian monarch. [169] They argue that the "Legend of the White Horse" in the Hungarian chronicles preserved the memory of a treaty the Hungarians concluded with Svatopluk I according to pagan customs. [170] The legend narrates that the Hungarians purchased their future homeland in the Carpathian Basin from Svatopluk for a white horse harnessed with gilded saddle and reins. [167]

Then [Kusid] came to the leader of the region who reigned after Attila and whose name was Zuatapolug, and saluted him in the name of his people [. ]. On hearing this, Zuatapolug rejoiced greatly, for he thought that they were peasant people who would come and till his land and so he dismissed the messenger graciously. [. ] Then by a common resolve [the Hungarians] despatched the same messenger again to the said leader and sent to him for his land a big horse with a golden saddle adorned with the gold of Arabia and a golden bridle. Seeing it, the leader rejoiced all the more, thinking that they were sending gifts of homage in return for land. When therefore the messenger asked of him land, grass and water, he replied with a smile, "In return for the gift let them have as much as they desire." [. ] Then [the Hungarians] sent another messenger to the leader and this was the message which he delivered: "Arpad and his people say to you that you may no longer stay upon the land which they bought of you, for with the horse they bought your earth, with the bridle the grass, and with the saddle the water. And you, in your need and avarice, made to them a grant of land, grass and water." When this message was delivered to the leader, he said with a smile: "Let them kill the horse with a wooden mallet, and throw the bridle on the field, and throw the golden saddle into the water of the Danube." To which the messenger replied: "And what loss will that be to them, lord? If you kill the horse, you will give food for their dogs if you throw the bridle on the field, their men will find the gold of the bridle when they mow the hay if you throw the saddle into the Danube, their fishermen will lay out the gold of the saddle upon the bank and carry it home. If they have earth, grass and water, they have all."

Ismail Ibn Ahmed, the emir of Khorasan raided "the land of the Turks" [172] (the Karluks) in 893. Later he caused a new movement of peoples who one by one invaded the lands of their western neighbors in the Eurasian steppes. [173] [174] Al-Masudi clearly connected the westward movement of the Pechenegs and the Hungarians to previous fights between the Karluks, Ouzes and Kimeks. [175] Porphyrogenitus writes of a joint attack by the Khazars and Ouzes that compelled the Pechenegs to cross the Volga River sometime between 893 and 902 [176] (most probably around 894). [174]

Originally, the Pechenegs had their dwelling on the river [Volga] and likewise on the river [Ural] (…). But fifty years ago the so-called Uzes made common cause with the Chazars and joined battle with the Pechenegs and prevailed over them and expelled them from their country (…).

The relationship between Bulgaria and the Byzantine Empire sharpened in 894, because Emperor Leo the Wise forced the Bulgarian merchants to leave Constantinople and settle in Thessaloniki. [178] Subsequently, Tzar Simeon I of Bulgaria invaded Byzantine territories [179] and defeated a small imperial troop. [180] The Byzantines approached the Hungarians to hire them to fight the Bulgarians. [179] Nicetas Sclerus, the Byzantine envoy, concluded a treaty with their leaders, Árpád and Kurszán (Kusan) [181] and Byzantine ships transferred Hungarian warriors across the Lower Danube. [179] The Hungarians invaded Bulgaria, forced Tzar Simeon to flee to the fortress of Dristra (now Silistra, Bulgaria) and plundered Preslav. [180] An interpolation in Porphyrogenitus's work states that the Hungarians had a prince named "Liountikas, son of Arpad" [128] at that time, which suggests that he was the commander of the army, but he might have been mentioned in the war context by chance. [182]

Simultaneously with the Hungarian attack from the north, the Byzantines invaded Bulgaria from the south. Tzar Simeon sent envoys to the Byzantine Empire to propose a truce. At the same time, he sent an embassy to the Pechenegs to incite them against the Hungarians. [180] He succeeded and the Pechenegs broke into Hungarian territories from the east, forcing the Hungarian warriors to withdraw from Bulgaria. [183] The Bulgarians, according to Constantine Porphyrogenitus, attacked and routed the Hungarians. [179] [184]

The Pechenegs destroyed the Hungarians' dwelling places. [179] Those who survived the double attack left the Pontic steppes and crossed the Carpathians in search of a new homeland. [179] The memory of the destruction brought by the Pechenegs seems to have been preserved by the Hungarians. [185] The Hungarian name of the Pechenegs (besenyő) corresponds to the old Hungarian word for eagle (bese). Thus the 14th-century Hungarian chronicles' story of eagles compelling the Hungarians' ancestors to cross the Carpathians most probably refers to the Pechenegs' attack. [185]

The Hungarians were (…) driven from their home (…) by a neighboring people called the Petchenegs, because they were superior to them in strength and number and because (…) their own country was not sufficient to accommodate their swelling numbers. After they had been forced to flee by the violence of the Petchenegs, they said goodbye to their homeland and set out to look for lands where they could live and establish settlements.

[At] the invitation of Leo, the Christ-loving and glorious emperor [the Hungarians] crossed over and fought Symeon and totally defeated him, (…) and they went back to their own county. (…) But after Symeon (…) sent to the Pechenegs and made an agreement with them to attack and destroy [the Hungarians] And when [the latter] had gone off on a military expedition, the Pechenegs with Symeon came against [them] and completely destroyed their families and miserably expelled thence [those] who were guarding their country. When [the Hungarians] came back and found their country thus desolate and utterly ruined, they settled in the land where they live today (…).

Passing through the kingdom of the Bessi and the Cumani Albi and Susdalia and the city named Kyo, they crossed the mountains and came into a region where they saw innumerable eagles and because of the eagles they could not stay in that place, for the eagles came down from the trees like flies and devoured both their herds and their horses. For God intended that they should go down more quickly into Hungary. During three months they made their descent from the mountains, and they came to the boundaries of the kingdom of Hungary, that is to Erdelw [. ].

First phase (c. 895–899) Edit

The date of the Hungarian invasion varies according to the source. [188] The earliest date (677) is preserved in the 14th-century versions of the "Hungarian Chronicle", while Anonymous supplies the latest date (902). [189] Contemporaneous sources suggest that the invasion followed the 894 Bulgarian-Byzantine war. [190] The route taken across the Carpathians is also contested. [191] [2] Anonymous and Simon of Kéza have the invading Hungarians crossing the northeastern passes, while the Illuminated Chronicle writes of their arrival in Transylvania. [192]

Regino of Prüm states that the Hungarians "roamed the wildernesses of the Pannonians and the Avars and sought their daily food by hunting and fishing" [72] following their arrival in the Carpathian Basin. [13] Their advance towards the Danube seems to have stimulated Arnulf who was crowned emperor to entrust Braslav (the ruler of the region between the rivers Drava and Sava) [193] with the defense of all Pannonia in 896. [194] In 897 or 898 a civil war broke out between Mojmir II and Svatopluk II (two sons of the late Moravian ruler, Svatopluk I), in which Emperor Arnulf also intervened. [195] [196] [197] There is no mention of the Hungarians' activities in those years. [198]

The next event recorded in connection with the Hungarians is their raid against Italy in 899 and 900. [199] The letter of Archbishop Theotmar of Salzburg and his suffragans suggests that Emperor Arnulf incited them to attack King Berengar I of Italy. [200] They routed the Italian troops on 2 September at the river Brenta [201] and plundered the region of Vercelli and Modena in the winter, [202] but the doge of Venice, Pietro Tribuno, defeated them at Venice on 29 June 900. [200] They returned from Italy when they learned of the death of Emperor Arnulf at the end of 899. [203]

According to Anonymous, the Hungarians fought with Menumorut before conquering Gelou's Transylvania. [204] [205] Subsequently, the Hungarians turned against Salan, [206] the ruler of the central territories, according to this narrative. [207] In contrast with Anonymous, Simon of Kéza writes of the Hungarians' fight with Svatopluk following their arrival. [2] According to the Illuminated Chronicle, the Hungarians "remained quietly in Erdelw and rested their herds" [208] there after their crossing because of an attack by eagles. [2]

The Hungarian chronicles preserved two separate lists of the Hungarians' leaders at the time of the Conquest. [209] Anonymous knows of Álmos, Előd, Künd, Ónd, Tas, Huba and Tétény, [210] while Simon of Kéza and the Illuminated Chronicle list Árpád, Szabolcs, Gyula, Örs, Künd, Lél and Vérbulcsú. [209] [211] Contemporaneous or nearly contemporaneous sources make mention of Álmos (Constantine Porphyrogenitus), of Árpád (Continuation of the Chronicle by George the Monk and Constantine Porphyrogenitus), of Liountikas (Constantine Porphyrogenitus) and of Kurszán (Continuation of the Chronicle by George the Monk). [212]

According to the Illuminated Chronicle, Álmos, Árpád's father "could not enter Pannonia, for he was killed in Erdelw". [208] [2] The episode implies that Álmos was the kende, the sacred ruler of the Hungarians, at the time of their destruction by the Pechenegs, which caused his sacrifice. [213] If his death was in fact the consequence of a ritual murder, his fate was similar to the Khazar khagans who were executed, according to Ibn Fadlan and al-Masudi, in case of disasters affecting their whole people. [2]

Second phase (900–902) Edit

The emperor's death released the Hungarians from their alliance with East Francia. [202] On their way back from Italy they expanded their rule over Pannonia. [214] Furthermore, according to Liutprand of Cremona, the Hungarians "claimed for themselves the nation of the Moravians, which King Arnulf had subdued with the aid of their might" [215] at the coronation of Arnulf's son, Louis the Child in 900. [216] The Annals of Grado relates that the Hungarians defeated the Moravians after their withdrawal from Italy. [217] Thereafter the Hungarians and the Moravians made an alliance and jointly invaded Bavaria, according to Aventinus. [218] However, the contemporary Annals of Fulda only refers to Hungarians reaching the river Enns. [219]

One of the Hungarian contingents crossed the Danube and plundered the territories on the river's north bank, but Luitpold, Margrave of Bavaria gathered troops and routed them between Passau and Krems an der Donau [220] on 20 November 900. [218] He had a strong fortress erected against them on the Enns. [221] Nevertheless, the Hungarians became the masters of the Carpathian Basin by the occupation of Pannonia. [218] The Russian Primary Chronicle may also reflect the memory of this event when relating how the Hungarians expelled the "Volokhi" or "Volkhi" who had earlier subjugated the Slavs' homeland in Pannonia, according to scholars who identify the Volokhi and Volkhi as Franks. [216] [222] Other historians associate them either with the Vlachs (Romanians), [223] or with the ancient Romans. [224] [222]

Over a long period the Slavs settled beside the Danube, where the Hungarian and Bulgarian lands now lie. From among these Slavs, parties scattered throughout the country and were known by appropriate names, according to the places where they settled. (. ) [T]he [Volkhi] [225] attacked the Danubian Slavs, settled among them, and did them violence. The Magyars passed by Kiev over the hill now called Hungarian and on arriving at the Dnieper, they pitched camp. They were nomads like the Polovcians. Coming out of the east, they struggled across the great mountains and began to fight against the neighboring [Volokhi] [226] and Slavs. For the Slavs had settled there first, but the [Volokhi] [226] had seized the territory of the Slavs. The Magyars subsequently expelled the [Volkhi], [226] took their land and settled among the Slavs, whom they reduced to submission. From that time the territory was called Hungarian.

King Louis the Child held a meeting at Regensburg in 901 to introduce further measures against the Hungarians. [221] Moravian envoys proposed peace between Moravia and East Francia, because the Hungarians had in the meantime plundered their country. [221] A Hungarian army invading Carinthia was defeated [228] in April and Aventinus describes a defeat of the Hungarians by Margrave Luitpold at the river Fischa in the same year. [229]

Consolidation (902–907) Edit

The date when Moravia ceased to exist is uncertain, because there is no clear evidence either on the "existence of Moravia as a state" after 902 (Spinei) or on its fall. [214] A short note in the Annales Alamannici refers to a "war with the Hungarians in Moravia" in 902, during which the "land (patria) succumbed", but this text is ambiguous. [230] Alternatively, the so-called Raffelstetten Customs Regulations mentions the "markets of the Moravians" around 905. [196] The Life of Saint Naum relates that the Hungarians occupied Moravia, adding that the Moravians who "were not captured by the Hungarians, ran to the Bulgars". Constantine Porphyrogenitus also connects the fall of Moravia to its occupation by the Hungarians. [20] The destruction of the early medieval urban centers and fortresses at Szepestamásfalva (Spišské Tomášovce), Dévény and other places in modern Slovakia is dated to the period around 900. [231]

After the death of (. ) [Svatopluk I, his sons] remained at peace for a year and then strife and rebellion fell upon them and they made a civil war against one another and the [Hungarians] came and utterly ruined them and possessed their country, in which even now [the Hungarians] live. And those of the folk who were left were scattered and fled for refuge to the adjacent nations, to the Bulgarians and [Hungarians] and Croats and to the rest of the nations.

According to Anonymous, who does not write of Moravia, the Hungarians invaded the region of Nyitra (Nitra, Slovakia) and defeated and killed Zobor, the local Czech ruler, on Mount Zobor near his seat. [233] Thereafter, as Anonymous continues, the Hungarians first occupied Pannonia from the "Romans" and next battled with Glad and his army composed of Bulgarians, Romanians and Pechenegs from Banat. [80] Glad ceded few towns from his duchy. [234] Finally, Anonymous writes of a treaty between the Hungarians and Menumorut, [206] stipulating that the local ruler's daughter was to be given in marriage to Árpád's son, Zolta. [235] Macartney [236] argues that Anonymous's narration of both Menumorut and of Glad is basically a transcription of a much later report of the early 11th-century Achtum, Glad's alleged descendant. [237] In contrast, for instance, Madgearu maintains that Galad, Kladova, Gladeš and other place names recorded in Banat in the 14th century and 16th century attest to the memory of a local ruler named Glad. [238]

[The Hungarians] reached the region of Bega and stayed there for two weeks while they conquered all the inhabitants of that land from the Mures to the Timis River and they received their sons as hostages. Then, moving the army on, they came to the Timis River and encamped beside the ford of Foeni and when they sought to cross the Timis's flow, there came to oppose them Glad, (. ) the prince of that country, with a great army of horsemen and foot soldiers, supported by Cumans, Bulgarians and Vlachs. (. ) God with His grace went before the Hungarians, He gave them a great victory and their enemies fell before them as bundles of hay before reapers. In that battle two dukes of the Cumans and three kneses of the Bulgarians were slain and Glad, their duke escaped in flight but all his army, melting like wax before flame, was destroyed at the point of the sword. (. ) Prince Glad, having fled, as we said above, for fear of the Hungarians, entered the castle of Kovin. (. ) [He] sent to seek peace with [the Hungarians] and of his own will delivered up the castle with diverse gifts.

An important event following the conquest of the Carpathian Basin, the Bavarians' murder of Kurszán, was recorded by the longer version of the Annals of Saint Gall, the Annales Alamannici and the Annals of Einsiedeln. [240] The first places the event in 902, while the others date it to 904. [240] [241] The three chronicles unanimously state that the Bavarians invited the Hungarian leader to a dinner on the pretext of negotiating a peace treaty and treacherously assassinated him. [242] Kristó and other Hungarian historians argue that the dual leadership over the Hungarians ended with Kurszán's death. [243] [244]

The Hungarians invaded Italy using the so-called "Route of the Hungarians" (Strada Ungarorum) leading from Pannonia to Lombardy in 904. [245] They arrived as King Berengar I's allies [241] against his rival, King Louis of Provance. The Hungarians devastated the territories occupied earlier by King Louis along the river Po, which ensured Berengar's victory. The victorious monarch allowed the Hungarians to pillage all the towns that had earlier accepted his opponent's rule, [245] and agreed to pay a yearly tribute of about 375 kilograms (827 lb) of silver. [241]

The longer version of the Annals of Saint Gall reports that Archbishop Theotmar of Salzburg fell, along with Bishops Uto of Freising and Zachary of Säben, in a "disastrous battle" fought against the Hungarians at Brezalauspurc on 4 July 907. [246] Other contemporary sources [ clarification needed ] add that Margrave Luitpold of Bavaria and 19 Bavarian counts [241] also died in the battle. [246] Most historians (including Engel, [201] Makkai, [247] and Spinei) identify Brezalauspurc with Pressburg (Bratislava, Slovakia), but some researchers (for instance Boba and Bowlus) argue that it can refer to Mosaburg, Braslav's fortress on the Zala in Pannonia. [248] [249] The Hungarians' victory hindered any attempts of eastward expansion by East Francia for the following decades [248] and opened the way for the Hungarians to freely plunder vast territories of that kingdom. [201]

The Hungarians settled in the lowlands of the Carpathian Basin along the rivers Danube, Tisza and their tributaries, [250] where they could continue their semi-nomadic lifestyle. [251] As an immediate consequence, their arrival "drove a non-Slavic wedge between the West Slavs and South Slavs" (Fine). [183] Fine argues that the Hungarians' departure from the western regions of the Pontic steppes weakened their former allies, the Khazars, which contributed to the collapse of the Khazar Empire. [183]

Some decades after the Hungarian conquest, a new synthesis of earlier cultures, the "Bijelo Brdo culture" spread in all over the Carpathian Basin, with its characteristic jewellery, including S-shaped earrings. [252] [253] The lack of archaeological finds connected to horses in "Bijelo Brdo" graves is another feature of these cemeteries. [254] The earliest "Bijelo Brdo" assemblages are dated via unearthed coins to the rule of Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus in the middle of the 10th century. [255] Early cemeteries of the culture were unearthed, for instance, at Beremend and Csongrád in Hungary, at Dévény (Devín) and Zsitvabesenyő (Bešenov) in Slovakia, at Gyulavarsánd (Varşand) and Várfalva (Moldoveneşti) in Romania and at Vukovár (Vukovar) and Gorbonok (Kloštar Podravski) in Croatia. [256]

Hungarian society experienced fundamental changes in many fields (including animal husbandry, agriculture and religion) in the centuries following the "Land-taking". These changes are reflected in the significant number of terms borrowed from local Slavs. [258] [259] About 20% of the Hungarian vocabulary is of Slavic origin, [254] including the Hungarian words for sheep-pen (akol), yoke (iga) and horseshoe (patkó). [257] Similarly, the Hungarian name of vegetables, fruits and other cultivated plants, as well as many Hungarian terms connected to agriculture are Slavic loanwords, including káposzta ("cabbage"), szilva ("plum"), zab ("oats"), széna ("hay") and kasza ("scythe"). [257] [259] [260]

The Hungarians left wide marches (the so-called gyepű) in the borderlands of their new homeland uninhabited for defensive purposes. [261] In this easternmost territory of the Carpathian Basin, the earliest graves attributed to Hungarian warriors—for instance, at Szék (Sic), Torda (Turda) and Vízakna (Ocna Sibiului)—are concentrated around the Transylvanian salt mines in the valley of the rivers Kis-Szamos (Someșul Mic) and Maros (Mureş). [262] All the same, warriors were also stationed in outposts east of the Carpathians, as suggested by 10th-century graves unearthed at Krylos, Przemyśl, Sudova Vyshnia, Grozeşti, Probota and at Tei. [263] The Hungarians' fear of their eastern neighbors, the Pechenegs, is demonstrated by Porphyrogenitus's report on the failure of a Byzantine envoy to persuade them to attack the Pechenegs. [264] The Hungarians clearly stated that they could not fight against the Pechenegs, because "their people are numerous and they are the devil's brats". [264] [265]

Instead of attacking the Pechenegs and the Bulgarians in the east, the Hungarians made several raids in Western Europe. [247] For instance, they plundered Thuringia and Saxony in 908, Bavaria and Swabia in 909 and 910 and Swabia, Lorraine and West Francia in 912. [248] Although a Byzantine hagiography of Saint George refers to a joint attack of Pechenegs, "Moesians" and Hungarians against the Byzantine Empire in 917, its reliability is not established. [266] The Hungarians seem to have raided the Byzantine Empire for the first time in 943. [267] However, their defeat in the battle of Lechfeld in 955 "put an end to the raids in the West" (Kontler), while they stopped plundering the Byzantines following their defeat in the battle of Arkadiopolis in 970. [268]

The Hungarian leaders decided that their traditional lifestyle, partly based on plundering raids against sedentary peoples, could not be continued. [123] The defeats at the Lechfeld and Arkadiopolis accelerated the Hungarians' adoption of a sedentary way of life. [268] This process culminated in the coronation of the head of the Hungarians, Stephen the first king of Hungary in 1000 and 1001. [269]

The most famous perpetuation of the events is the Arrival of the Hungarians or Feszty Panorama which is a large cyclorama (a circular panoramic painting) by Hungarian painter Árpád Feszty and his assistants. It was completed in 1894 for the 1000th anniversary of the event. [270] Since the 1100th anniversary of the event in 1995, the painting has been displayed in the Ópusztaszer National Heritage Park, Hungary. Mihály Munkácsy also depicted the event under the name of Conquest for the Hungarian Parliament Building in 1893. [ citation needed ]

A genetic study published in PLOS One in October 2018 examined the mtDNA of individuals from 10th-century graves associated with the Hungarian conquerors of the Basin. The majority of their maternal lineages were traced back to the Potapovka, Srubnaya and Poltavka cultures of the Pontic-Caspian steppe, while one-third of their maternal lineages could be traced back to Inner Asia, probably being derived from Asian Scythians and the Xiongnu (Asian Huns). The mtDNA of the conquerors was found to be most closely related to the Onoğur-Bulgar ancestors of the Volga Tatars. The conquerors did not display significant genetic relations to Finno-Ugric peoples. The evidence implied that the conquerors did not contribute significantly to the gene pool of modern Hungarians. [271]

A genetic study published in Scientific Reports in November 2019 examined the remains of 29 Hungarian conquerors of the Carpathian Basin. The majority of them carried Y-DNA of west Eurasian origin. They carried a higher amount of west Eurasian paternal ancestry than west Eurasian maternal ancestry. Among modern populations, their paternal ancestry was the most similar to Bashkirs. Haplogrup I2a1a2b was observed among several conquerors of particularly high rank. This haplogroup is of European origin and is today particularly common among South Slavs. A wide variety of phenotypes were observed, with several individuals having blond hair and blue eyes. The study also analyzed three Hunnic samples from the Carpathian Basin in the 5th century, and these displayed genetic similarities to the conquerors. The Hungarian conquerors appeared to be a recently assembled heterogenous group incorporating both European, Asian and Eurasian elements. [272]

A genetic study published in the Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences in January 2020 examined the remains of 19 male Hungarian conquerors. These conquerors were found to be carriers of a diverse set of haplogroups, and displayed genetic links to both Turkic peoples, Finno-Ugric peoples and Slavs. About one-third of them carried types of haplogroup N3a, which is common among most Finno-Ugric peoples but rare among modern Hungarians. This evidence suggested that the conquerors were of Ugric descent and spoke an Ugric language. [273]

A genetic study published in the European Journal of Human Genetics in July 2020 examined the skeletal remains of Árpád dynasty descendant and King Béla III of Hungary and unknown Árpád member named as "II/52" / "HU52" from the Royal Basilica of Székesfehérvár. It was established that the male lineage of the Árpáds belonged to the Y-haplogroup R1a subclade R-Z2125 > R-Z2123 > R-Y2632 > R-Y2633 > R-SUR51. The subclade was also found in nearest contemporary matches of 48 Bashkirs from the Burzyansky and Abzelilovsky districts of the Republic of Bashkortostan in the Volga-Ural region, and 1 individual from the region of Vojvodina, Serbia. The Árpád members and one individual from Serbia share additional private SNPs making a novel subclade R-SUR51 > R-ARP, and as the mentioned individual has additional private SNPs it branches from the medieval Árpáds forming R-ARP > R-UVD. Based on the data of the distribution, appearance and coalescence estimation of R-Y2633 the dynasty traces ancient origin near Northern Afghanistan about 4500 years ago, with a separation date of R-ARP from the closest kin Bashkirs from the Volga-Ural region to 2000 years ago, while the individual from Serbia (R-UVD) descends from the Árpáds about 900 years ago. As also the separation of haplogroup N-B539 between the Hungarians and Bashkirs is estimated to have occurred 2000 years ago, it implies that the ancestors of Hungarians having Finno-Ugric and Turkic ancestry left the Volga Ural region about 2000 years ago and started a migration that eventually culminated in the settlement in the Carpathian Basin. [274]

The Avars: From Mongolia to the Pontic Steppe

The Avars were a confederation of heterogeneous people consisting of Rouran, Hephthalites, and Turkic-Oghuric races who migrated to the region of the Pontic Grass Steppe (an area corresponding to modern-day Ukraine.

By Dr. Joshua J. Mark / 12.17.2014
Professor of Philosophy
Marist College

The Avars were a confederation of heterogeneous (diverse or varied) people consisting of Rouran, Hephthalites, and Turkic-Oghuric races who migrated to the region of the Pontic Grass Steppe (an area corresponding to modern-day Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan) from Central Asia after the fall of the Asiatic Rouran Empire in 552 CE. They are considered by many historians to be the successors of the Huns in their way of life and, especially, mounted warfare. They settled in the Huns’ former territory and almost instantly set upon a course of conquest. After they were hired by the Byzantine Empire to subdue other tribes, their king Bayan I (reigned 562/565-602 CE) allied with the Lombards under Alboin (reigned 560-572 CE) to defeat the Gepids of Pannonia and then took over the region, forcing the Lombards to migrate to Italy.

The Avars eventually succeeded in establishing the Avar Khaganate, which encompassed a territory corresponding roughly to modern-day Austria, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Bulgaria down to and including parts of Turkey. The departure of the Lombards for Italy in 568 CE removed another hostile people from Pannonia, enabling Bayan I to expand his territories with relative ease and found the empire which lasted until 796 CE, when the Avars were conquered by the Franks under Charlemagne.


The precise origin of the Avars (like that of the Huns) is debated, but many historians, such as Christoph Baumer, link them with the Rouran Khaganate of Mongolia, north of China. The Rouran Khaganate was overthrown by the Gokturks in 552 CE, and the people, led by the Xianbei Mongolians, fled west to escape their rule. This claim seems the most likely but is not accepted by all scholars. The Ju-Juan tribe of Mongolia allied themselves with the White Huns against the people known as the Toba (who were Turkish) in numerous engagements and established themselves as an empire in the Mongolian region c. 394 CE. This empire became known as the Rouran Khaganate, which fell to the Gokturks in 552 CE, shortly before the Avars appear in the Steppe c. 557 CE, and so Baumer, and those who agree with him, appear to be correct.

The first mention of the Avars in Roman history comes from Priscus of Panium in 463 CE, who mentions the Avars in connection with a tribe known as the Sabirs who appear to be a sub-set of the Huns. Priscus is one of the primary sources on the Huns (he met and dined with Attila in 448/449 CE while on a diplomatic mission) and took note of their activities following the death of Attila in 453 CE. The Hunnic Empire which Attila established was in the process of disintegrating at this time (c. 463 CE), beginning with the Hun defeat by Ardaric of the Gepids in 454 CE at the Battle of Nedao.

Following Nedao, other nations that had been subjugated by the Huns rose against them, and the Hunnic Empire was dismantled by 469 CE. Whether the Avars mentioned by Priscus are the same coalition as those who fled Mongolia in 552 CE is debated. Many of the so-called “barbarian” tribes mentioned by Roman writers (the Alemanni, for example) changed in ethnic make-up from the time they are first mentioned to their later references. Most likely, as historians such as Peter Heather and Denis Sinor claim, the latter Avars were a different group of the same name. The earlier Avars appear to be an established confederacy of the region, while the later Avars were refugees from Central Asia fleeing the Gokturks who, it seems, pursued them.


Regarding their origin and flight west, Heather writes:

[The Avars] were the next major wave of originally nomadic horse warriors, after the Huns, to sweep off the Great Eurasian Steppe and build an empire in central Europe. Thankfully, we know rather more about them than about the Huns. The Avars spoke a Turkic language and had previously starred as the dominant force behind a major nomadic confederation on the fringes of China. In the earlier sixth century they had lost this position to a rival force, the so-called Western Turks [Gokturks], and arrived on the outskirts of Europe as political refugees, announcing themselves with an embassy that appeared at Justinian’s court in 558 (401).

Justinian I (482-565 CE) received the embassy and agreed to hire them to fight against other troublesome tribes. The Avars performed their duties admirably and expected continued payment from the empire. They wanted their own homeland to settle where they could feel secure from the pursuing Turks. The king of the Avars, Bayan I, tried to lead his people south of the Danube River but was prevented by the Romans. He then led the Avars north but encountered resistance from the Franks under their king Sigebert I. They continued as nomads in the service of Rome until the death of Justinian in 565 CE. His successor, Justin II (c. 520-578 CE), canceled their contract and, when the Avar embassy asked for permission to cross the southern Danube, it was denied. They again sought to break through to the north but were repelled by Sigebert I’s army. Bayan I then turned his attention to Pannonia or, according to other sources, was invited to go there by Justin II to displace the Gepids.

The Lombards under Alboin were already in Pannonia in conflict with the Gepids who controlled most of the region. As with the Avars, sources conflict on whether the Lombards migrated to Pannonia on their own or were invited by the empire to drive out the Gepids. Bayan I wanted to take the capital city of Sirmium but did not know the region and needed the help of those more familiar with it. He allied himself with Alboin and the Lombards and, in 567 CE, the two armies joined to crush the Gepids between them. Bayan I negotiated the terms of the alliance with Alboin before they went into battle: if they should win, the Avars would be given the Gepid lands, wealth, and people as slaves, and the Lombards would be allowed to live in peace. Why Alboin agreed to this unequal agreement is unknown, but it is clear that he did. As with the Huns and their policies toward other nations, it is possible that Bayan I threatened Alboin with conquest if he did not comply with Avar interests.

The armies met in battle some distance from Sirmium and the Gepids, under their king Cunimund, were defeated. Sources differ on what happened in the aftermath: according to some accounts, Bayan I killed Cunimund and had his skull turned into a wine cup – which he then presented to Alboin as a comrade in arms while, according others, Alboin killed Cunimund and made his skull into a cup which he then wore on his belt.

The armies marched on Sirmium but the Gepids had already called for help from the Eastern Empire, agreeing to surrender the city to them by the time Bayan I and Alboin reached Sirmium, it was heavily defended and they were driven back. Since they had not prepared themselves for an extended siege, the armies withdrew.


Although Sirmium remained untaken, the Avars now controlled most of Pannonia and the Lombards found that the deal they had brokered earlier was an unfortunate one for them. Alboin tried to form an alliance with the Gepids against the Avars by marrying Cunimund’s daughter Rosamund whom he had taken after the battle. It was now too late, though, as the Avars were simply too powerful to contest. In 568 CE, Alboin led his people out of Pannonia to Italy where, in 572 CE, he would be assassinated in a plot hatched by his wife to avenge her father.

The Avars under Bayan I then set about building their empire on the plains of Pannonia. That there seems to have been a core “Avar” ethnicity among the larger Avar confederation is seen in some of Bayan I’s military decisions and decrees. The historian Denis Sinor writes:

The ethnic composition of the Avar state was not homogeneous. Bayan was followed by 10,000 Kutrighur warrior subjects already at the time of the conquest of the Gepids. In 568 he sent them to invade Dalmatia, arguing that casualties they may suffer while fighting against the Byzantines would not hurt the Avars themselves (222).

Under Bayan I’s leadership, the Avars expanded across Pannonia in every direction and, through conquest, enlarged their empire. A number of Slavic people had followed the Avars into Pannonia, and these were now subjects of Avar rule and seemed to be treated with the same lack of regard accorded the Kutrighur soldiers Sinor mentions. Bayan I oversaw the selection of the Avar base of operations in their new homeland and may have chosen it for its association with the Huns. Historian Erik Hildinger comments on this, writing:

The Avars established their headquarters near Attila’s old capital of a hundred years before and fortified it. It was known as The Ring. Now well established in Pannonia, Bayan fought the Franks of Sigebert again and defeated them in 570. A dozen years later Bayan attacked Byzantine territory and seized the city of Sirmium on the Sava River. He followed this with further campaigns against the Byzantines, the Avars taking Singidunum (Belgrade) and ravaging Moesia until they were defeated near Adrianople in 587. To the Byzantines, it must have seemed like a reprise of the Hunnic aggression of the fifth century (76).


With Sirmium now taken, and operating efficiently from The Ring, Bayan I continued his conquests. Christoph Baumer writes how Bayan I drove his armies into the Balkans and demanded tribute from the Eastern Empire for peace and then, “together with the beaten Slavs, whom they abused as a kind of ‘cannon fodder’, they invaded Greece in the 580’s” (Volume II, 208). They operated in warfare with tactics similar to those used by the Huns a century before. Like the Huns, the Avars were expert horsemen. Baumer notes that, “The iron stirrup came to Europe only with the invading Avars in the second half of the sixth century.” The stirrup “enabled riding in a squatting or almost standing position, which improved the rider’s mobility, but also increased the impact of an attacking cavalry” (Volume I, 86). The stirrup greatly enhanced the already formidable Avar cavalry and made them the most feared and invincible mounted military force since the Huns. Baumer writes:

In his famous military handbook Strategikon, the Byzantine emperor Maurice (reigned 582-602) aptly described the battle style of the Avars, whom he compared to the Huns, as follows: `they prefer battles fought at long range, ambushes, encircling their adversaries, simulated retreats and sudden returns, and wedge-shaped formations…When they make their enemies take to flight, they are not content, as the Persians and the Romans, and other peoples, with pursuing them a reasonable distance and plundering their goods, but they do not let up at all until they have achieved the complete destruction of their enemies…If the battle turns out well, do not be hasty in pursuing the enemy or behave carelessly. For this nation [the steppe nomads] does not, as other do, give up the struggle when worsened in the first battle. But until their strength gives out, they try all sorts of ways to assail their enemies (Volume I, 265-267).

Justin II had begun a war against the Sassanids in 572 CE and, with imperial forces drawn to the east, Bayan I invaded further into Byzantine territories. He demanded higher and even higher tribute and defeated the imperial armies sent against him. It was not until 592 CE, with the conclusion of the empire’s war with the Sassanids, that the emperor Maurice was able to send an army of adequate force against Bayan I. The Avars were driven from the Balkans and back into Pannonia by the imperial troops under the general Priscus, almost to their capital. The Avars would most likely have been destroyed en masse were it not for the insurrection in Constantinople known as Phocas’ Rebellion in 602 CE.

Maurice refused to allow the army to stand down and ordered them to winter in the Balkans in case the Avars should mount an unexpected attack. The soldiers rebelled and, according to the historian Theophanes (c. 760-818 CE), chose the centurion Phocas (547-610 CE) as their leader:

The soldiers put Phocas at their head, and marched on Constantinople, where he was speedily crowned, and Maurice with his five sons executed. This was on the 27th of November, 602. The usurpation of Phocas was followed by an attack on the empire, both east and west, by the Persians on the one hand and the Avars on the other. But two years later the Khagan [King of the Avars] was induced to make peace by an increased annual stipend (451).

At this same time (602 CE), a plague broke out in the Balkans and swept across the surrounding regions. It is likely that Bayan I was one of the many victims of the disease. The historian H.H. Howorth, esq, writing in the Journal of Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, notes:

We do not read again of Bayan, and it would appear that he died about this time, perhaps from the pestilence already named. It is not impossible that it was that pestilence, and the loss of their great leader, which made it possible for Priscus to win his victories so easily…The Avars never again recovered the vast power which they exercised under Bayan, who must be classed among the most successful of generals and the most powerful of rulers (777).

Bayan I was succeeded by his son (whose name is not known) who attempted to carry on his father’s empire. In 626 CE he led a campaign against Constantinople, allied with the Sassanids, in a land and sea attack. The formidable defenses of the Theodosian Walls (built under the reign of Theodosius II, 408-450) repelled the land attack, while the Byzantine fleet defeated the naval assault, sinking many of the Avar ships. The campaign was a complete failure and the surviving Avars returned home to Pannonia.


The emperor at this time was Heraclius (reigned 610-641 CE), who immediately stopped the payments to the Avars. Baumer notes that, “this deprived the Avar Khaganate, whose tribes and clans depended on regular distribution of goods, of their economic basis” (Volume II, 208). When Bayan’s son died in 630 CE, the Bulgars of the region rose in revolt and civil war broke out between the Avars and the Bulgars. The Bulgars appealed to the Eastern Empire for assistance but they were too busy fighting off an attack by the Arabs to help, so the Bulgars pressed on by themselves. Although the Avars won this struggle, the conflict was costly and the power of the Avars declined. Baumer writes:

Archaeological research shows that Avar material culture changed after 630, for in male graves the number of weapons as burial objects declined considerably. The economy of the Avar Empire ceased to be based on wars and raids, being gradually replaced by agriculture the former horse warriors exchanged lance and armour for the plough and now lived in houses with saddleback roofs which were dug into the ground (Volume II, 209).

Peter Heather notes that, “just like the Huns, the Avars lacked the governmental capacity to rule their large number of subject groups directly, operating instead through a series of intermediate leaders drawn in part from those subject groups” (608). This system of government worked well as long as Bayan I ruled but, without him, led to disunity. When Charlemagne of the Franks rose to power in 768 CE, the Avars were in no position to challenge him. Charlemagne conquered the neighboring Lombards in 774 CE and then moved on the Avars but had to halt his campaign to deal with a revolt by the Saxons. Instead of taking advantage of this reprieve to strengthen their defenses and mobilize, the Avars fought among themselves and the conflict finally broke into open civil war in 794 CE in which the leaders of both factions were killed. The subordinate authority left in charge offered the remnants of the Avar Empire to Charlemagne, who accepted, but then attacked anyway in 795 CE, taking The Ring easily and carrying off the hoarde of Avar treasure. The empire officially ended in 796 CE with the official surrender and, after that date, the Avars were ruled by the Franks. The Avars revolted in 799 CE but were crushed by the Franks by 802/803 CE and, afterwards, merged with other people.

Their legacy, however, was to forever change the ethnic make up of the regions they had conquered. Peter Heather writes:

There is every reason to suppose that [the Avar Empire’s system of government] had the political effect of cementing the social power of chosen subordinates, further pushing at least their Slavic subjects in the direction of political consolidation [and to] both prompt and enable a wider Slavic diaspora, as some Slavic groups moved further afield to escape the burden of Avar domination. Large-scale Slavic settlement in the former east Roman Balkans – as opposed to mere raiding – only became possible when the Avar Empire (in combination with the Persian and then Arab conquests) destroyed Constantinople’s military superiority in the region (608).

Like the Huns, to whom they are often compared, the Avars radically changed the world they inhabited. They not only displaced large numbers of people (such as the Lombards and the Slavs) but broke the political and military power of the latter half of the Roman Empire. They were among the fiercest mounted warriors in history but, as Howorth phrases it, they were also “herdsman and freebooters, and doubtless were dependent on their neighbors and slaves for their handicrafts, except perhaps that of sword-making” (810). Even their swords were linked to the Huns in that “`Hunnic swords’ are referred to by the Frank chroniclers, by which perhaps Damascened blades are meant, such as those found in large numbers in a boat at Nydam in Denmark, apparently dating from this period” (Howorth, 810). The legacy of the Avars is still recognized in the present day in the populations of the lands they conquered. They are so often compared with the Huns for good reason: through their military campaigns, they significantly altered the demographics of the regions they raided, uprooting and displacing large numbers of people who then established their cultures elsewhere.

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