Category Archives: Byzantine Slavs

The Abbreviator of Strabo

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The so-called abbreviator (or, if you will, epitomizer) of Strabo, writing between 670 and 680, created, as the name suggests, an abbreviated copy of Strabo’s “Geography”. In doing so, he also added his own comments where he saw fit.  It is possible too that the comments came from several authors. A number of those comments appear of relevance to Slavic history.  The book numbers below refer to the books of the “Geography”. The manuscript itself comes from the end of the ninth century.

Book 7.47

“The Scythian Slavs now hold all Epirus and almost all of Greece, together with the Peloponnesus and Macedonia.”

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March 9, 2018

Miracles of Saint Demetrius – Book II

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I. Of the Building of Ships by the Drugoviti, Sagudati, Velegeziti and Others

And so this happened, as they say, during the bishopric of John, may he rest in peace. The nation of the Slavs gathered in a large multitude comprised of the peoples of the Drugoviti [Δρο[υ]γο[υ]βῖται/Δραγοβῖται], Sagudati [Σαγουδάται], Velegeziti [Βελεγεζίται], Vaiuniti [Βαϊουνίται], Verziti [Βερζηται] and others. They were the first to discover a way to build a boat hollowed out of a single trunk. Having so prepared themselves to sail on the seas, they plundered all of Thessally, and the Greek islands of the Cyclades, the entire Achaja and the mainland, a large portion of Illyricum and part of Asia. Most of the towns and provinces they made uninhabited  and they desired to attack the by us afore-mentioned city, beloved of Christ and to plunder it much as they [plundered] the others. On this matter they were of a single mind and having constructed a great number of boats made of a single trunk, they set up camp near the sea; the rest of the swarm besieged the city guarded by God from all sides: the East, the North and the West. They had with them their families as well as their belongings for they planned to settle in the city after its taking…

Hagios Demetrios in the city of Thessaloniki saw Slav action

…The entire nation of the Slavs arrayed themselves for battle so as to make a surprise assault on the walls in unison. Those who stayed by the boats planed to cover the same with bars and hides so as to protect their rowers against stones tossed from the city walls or the blows of the javelin throwers. It is said that the first became leery/afraid by reason of the martyr [that is Saint Demetrius] who did not permit them to come close to the city but instead caused them to have to anchor themselves in that bay which from the ancient times has been called Kellarion and it was there that they pondered how best to effect their goals…

Three days passed in this manner and the Slavic boats sailed at a distance of two miles from the walls and each day assiduously looked for east to take places with the aim of plundering those. On the fourth day, with a great roar, the entire nation attacked the city from all sides: some threw stones using engines they had prepared, others had guided siege towers right up to the walls trying to take and plunder them, others set fires before the gates, yet others hurled projectiles onto the walls like hail. One could then see this strange and wondrous host of weaponry for as a storm cloud cloaks sundays so was did they thicken the air with their arrows and stone missiles.  In this great assault the barbarians, ready to sail and prepared to [finally] attack closed in in their boats on places scouted out earlier: some approached the tower on the western part of the church steps where a small wicket exists, others to the places where no wall stood but rather a palisade defended access as well as a construct built out of hidden beams that were commonly called [tulons?]. These latter attacks believed that they will be able to get into the city that way for they were ignorant of these types of defenses and the former thought that they will be able to break through the wicket gate and through that entrance make it into the city.

Meanwhile, again by reason of the martyr’s intercession, a great disarray arose among the afore-mentioned boats and so it happened that they started running into each other and some even keeled over hurling their occupants into the water.  And so it happened that the one who was submerged would try to save himself by grabbing onto another boat and in doing so would cause those in it to themselves fall into the sea. Finally, the rowers from the remaining boats would use their swords to cut of the hands of those who came close and they would smite each other on the head with swords and wound each other with their javelins and each, occupied in an attempt to rescue his own life, became the enemy of his companion. And those who managed to reach the camouflaged wooden defense contraption fell there into snares and their boats, moving in a great momentum, halted near the shore and it was impossible for them   to yank them free from there. Then the brave citizens of the city headed down while others reinforced the wicket gate through which the enemies intended to enter the city. And so the work of the fighting and Victorious [martyr] was complete.

It was then possible to behold a sea stained red with the barbarian blood of and to hearken back to the drowning of the Egyptians [in the Red Sea]. And presently was the mercy of the Lord revealed. At two in the morning though at first all was still, there suddenly came a calm wind which scattered those barbarians’ boats that were unable to withdraw, some eastwards while others to the West. The sea surrendered many barbarian corpses tossing them onto the shore and underneath the walls. And finally, the guards of the coast issued onto the walls and showed  the barbarians remaining on land the cut off heads of their compatriots. Those boatmen who survived told tales of the great ruin inflicted upon them through the agency of the Victorious [Demetrius] by God. Having achieved nothing, they left in great distress and shame, leaving behind them numerous constructs and much booty…

And the most wondrous and worthy of remembrance of all was that Chatzon, the leader of the Slavs, in accordance with his custom asked an oracle whether he would enter our city guarded by God. And he was given an answer in the affirmative but it was not revealed to him how he would make his entrance. Yet by reason of the answer delivered to him he believed that the augury was favorable, he boldly proceeded on with his plan. But He who turns the seasons and foils enemy arrows delivered him as a prisoner to the citizens of the city through the above mentioned gate.  Some of those who were people of rank and dignity in the city hid him in a house for profits and for unworthy reasons. But even in this case, Holy Providence of the Victorious martyr did not tarry. He kindled courage in some women who then brought him out from the house where he had remained hidden. Dragged through the city he was stoned to death. And thus he found a death commensurate with his evil plans.

II. Of the War Against the Khagan

After the already mentioned large-scale assault by the Slavs, that is by Chatzon and the just and easily achieved ruin that befell them through the intercession of the Victorious, war against us brought them humiliation. They also suffered a significant loss when prisoners taken by them fled to our city, protected by God, and were freed thanks to their guide and redeemer and our protector, Demetrius.  They had reasons to be troubled not just because they lost their captives but also because the latter fled having taken with them a part of the plunder taken by them [the Slavs] during their pillaging. In their great distress they decided, having collected many gifts, to send them via their messengers to the khan of the Avars with the enticement of a promise of great sums of money that they and already looted and those yet to be captured in our city in our city – as they assured him – should he lend them his help. They said that it will be easy for them to take this city, that was as if already meant by fate for him, unable to defend itself as it sat alone among the cities and provinces which had already been made desolate by them. For it is said that it lies in the middle of all this devastation and accepts all those fleeing from the Danube, from Pannonia, Dacia and Dardania, and all the other cities and provinces, and they all gather to it.

The aforesaid khagan of the Avars eagerly trying to fulfill their wish, gathered at his side all the barbarian tribes controlled by him, together with all the Slavs, Bulgars and other peoples all in an innumerable multitude and after the passage of two years he readied an army to battle our city protected by the martyr. He ordered to arm elite riders and to send them with great haste, for he did not know when he would arrive at the city with his army. And these riders captured and, in some cases, even killed those residents who found themselves outside [of the city gates when the riders attacked]. After some time the khagan himself arrived together with his warriors who were bringing various machines and war contraptions in order to destroy our fatherland. With this plan and so armed, did the barbarians immediately set out. About the fifth hour their cavalry iron-clad charged from all sides. Because the inhabitants had not foreseen this, those that had at that time been out in the fields tending to the harvest were killed and yet others were taken captive; Many animal flocks were also taken as, too, much of the harvest tools.

[remainder to come]

III. Of Earthquakes and the Fire at the Temple

In those days when earthquakes constantly threatened the city, many of its buildings collapsed and the gates remained wide open, when the majority of the citizens, defenseless, dispersed themselves outside of the city and when no one had the courage to come back home, the tribe of the Slavs which had been living nearby which had, when the walls were still standing and the citizens hadn’t scattered, aimed to conquer the city, now had neither the courage to come near to it nor to try to ransack it…

It was then when the miracles sent by God through the device of our savior (Saint Demetrius) were being praised in song, the aforementioned Slavs, sitting nearby us,triumphantly heraldde our deliverance . They said that right after the first great earthquake which some of them survived, , they with their own eyes saw, as they say ,that the air for many hours was filled with the dust of the earth being rent asunder. After ascending he hills surrounding the city, they saw that it had fallen inter ruin in its entirety. Believing that all the citizens had perished, they took up pick axes and other tools to clean the earth, or, some of them  they they started without any equipment,  coming to dig up and take the belongings of the citizens [of Thessalonica]. And they started with this goal in mind but when they came close by, it then seemed to them as if the walls were still standing everywhere and the city remained untouched as before and they beheld guards on the city ramparts as also outside [the gates]. Fearfully they retreated then having achieved nothing…

IV. Of the Hunger Caused by Perbundos and Of the Unending Siege

When the Slavs, the oft-mentioned neighbors of the God-protected city maintained peace [with us], the then prefect of the city, for reasons unknown, in his reports to the emperor spread rumors against the duke of the Rhynchines, by the name of Perbundos, accusing him of insidiously preparing to move against our city. The emperor, being true to the Lord, sent a letter to the prefect with orders to take this duke captive by whatever means necessary and to deliver [the duke] to him. When the letter reached the prefect, Perbundos was immediately captured in the city and sent, bound, to the emperor, in accordance with the orders in the letter.

When the entire nation of the Slavs, learned of this occurrence, the Rhynchines and the Strymones decided to ask the emperor not to put Perbundos to death but to forgive his guilt. They pleaded too that [the emperor] should free him and sent him back to them. In this matter a high-level embassy was sent to the emperor; and because he was at the time getting ready for war against the Agarenni, it was decided with the envoys that Perbundos would be freed after [said], war.

[He] sent them back with that promise and then ordered that [Perbundosj be freed and that he be provided with transportation [back] and care at all times [during the journey]. Thanks to the aforementioned envoys and the barbarians’ embassy that were taken there [?], [having received] this promise, all the Slavs abandoned their foolhardy course of action [against the city].

[remainder to come]

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January 26, 2018

All the Slavs of the Miracles of Saint Demetrius – Book I

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The Miracles of Saint Demetrius come in two books.  The first one was written by Archbishop of John (the second) of Thessalonica sometime in the early 600s.  It is a collection of, what appear to be sermons, amongst which there is a description of a siege of Thessalonica undertaken by a Slavic army.  Since John describes himself as walking the battlements during the siege and since he was archbishop of the city during 603-610 and again during 617-626, the siege presumably took place at that time.  The second book of miracles was written by someone else towards the end of the seventh century.  The primary scholarly edition of both of these books was that of Paul Lemerle (Les plus anciens recueils des miracles de saint Démétrius et la pénétration des Slaves dans les Balkans – which also contains a French translation).  We begin with the first book.  Its “Slavic” passages are contained in Chapter 12, 13 and 14 (there are fifteen total “miracles”/chapters).

Chapter 12
Of the Fire of the Ciborium and the Surprise Attack by the Slavs

[At night during the celebrations of Saint Demetrius’ day, barbarians set fire to the basilica’s ciborium and everyone was called to arms]

“All the people having heard this call, rushed to their houses and armed went to man the walls.  From there they glanced in the plain in front of the sanctuary of the Holy Matron, a throng of barbarians, albeit not too large, estimated at about five thousand, but of great strength for the all were selected and battle-hardened warriors.  They would not have assaulted this city great city were they not possessed of greater might and bravery than those [denizens of the city] who had never defeated them [the barbarians].”

“It was with the coming of the dawn that the townsfolk spotted the enemy from the walls, raised a cry and many of them ran down and through the open gates stepped outside.  Aided by Christ and the Victorious Demetrius] they joined battle with the enemies who, full of battle rage, had by then already breached the sanctuary of the three holy martyrs: Chiona, Irene and Agappa, which sanctuary, as you know, was found in the vicinity of the town walls.  The sides continued in battle throughout most of the day and the hosts of Demetrius, with great risk, once chased the enemy, then gave way to it, because, as is told, the enemy brought out the elite flower of the entire Slav tribe.  Eventually, thanks to the martyr’s [Demetrius’] aid, on that day the barbarians were driven out and retreated in smaller numbers than they arrived with.  In this way ended this unexpected and wild assault.”

Chapter 13
Of the Siege of the City by the Avaro-Slavs

“It is said, that the then ruler of the Avars decided to send emissaries regarding a certain matter to Maurice who was, with God’s choice, then wielding the scepter of the Byzantines. But since his requests did not bring desired results, he fell into an uncontrollable rage, feeling that he must not refrain from causing great harm to the one who so casually listened to his demands, pondering in what manner he could cause him [Maurice] the greatest harm and concocting the most terrible things, which then, however, came to pass.  He realized that the God-honored capital of the Thessalonicans stood out from amongst all cities of Thrace and Illyricum by reason of its diverse riches and pious, wise and most humble people; that is, to put it simply, he knew that the above-mentioned city was dear to the Emperor’s heart for it shines everywhere with its accolades; so that if suddenly it found itself in some kind of danger, the Byzantine Empire would suffer for it.”

“So he called to his side the entire wild tribe of the Slavs – this nation was subordinate to him at that time – and joining with them barbarians from other tribes, ordered them all to set out against Thessalonica.  This was the greatest host that had been seen in our day.  Some estimated it at over one hundred thousand armed men, others at a little bit less, and others yet at much more.  Since the exact truth could not be ascertained due to the countless numbers [of the enemy], the people looked to the eyewitnesses [to guess the numbers of the enemy]… We heard of rivers and streams by  which these armies stopped, about all the country which they traversed and which, as in [writing] of the prophet [Joel] ‘were put out to waste.’  This numerous army was ordered to cross the lands at such a pace that we did not become aware of its arrival until the immediately prior day.”

“This [news] was relayed to us on Sunday, the 22nd of September.  While the denizens of the city were pondering whether the enemy would take the city after four days or later and for this reason the city guard were not adequately prepared, that very same night [they] silently approached the city walls.  It was then that the praiseworthy martyr, Demetrius, aided [the city] for the first time, confusing them during that night so that they spent many hours about the fortress of the praiseworthy Matron martyr, thinking that they had arrived at the city itself.  When it finally dawned and they realized that the city is nearby, they set out for it in unison, roaring like lions.  Thereafter, they attached siege ladders to the walls which ladders they had brought with them, ready to ascend them….”

[Demetrius appears under the guise of a Thessalonican soldier and defeats the barbarians climbing the siege ladders]

“…All the barbarians, who were present there in great numbers, filled with terrible dread, instantly moved away from the walls; that night there were few sentries on the walls and [many] had headed home for it was believed that the throng of barbarians would not appear until a few days from then.”

“When day finally came, these wild animals tightly surrounded the city walls so that even a bird could not fly away beyond the gates, nor enter the city from the outside.  They girded the city from the endings of the eastern wall reaching the sea to the western wall, like a deadly wreath and not a scarp of land was to be seen by virtue of the [density of the] barbarians.  In lieu of the ground, the grass and the trees all that could be seen were the heads of the enemy, one behind the other, all angry and threatening us with death by tomorrow.  And it was strange that on that day not only did they surround the city as if [they were] the sands but also many of them took up spots in the suburbs and fields surrounding the city [proper], destroying everything, consuming and pommeling all, and all that was left trampling with their feet, just as the beast did in Daniel’s vision.  They did not even need to build a stockade around the city or any trenches; rather, their shields formed an impassable palisade  one after the other and a stockade was made of their bodies tightly woven together like a fisherman’s net.”

Chapter 14
About the Recitalist Actor After the Siege by the Avaro-Slavs 

“Many of them, having lost hope of a quick victory in the next few days, went to the city masters and confessed through a translator [as follows]:  “The leader of the Avars sent us having received exact reports from many people [spies] that the city had only a few militiamen, for it had only recently been touched by a plague, and he assured us that we would take it the very next day. But when we arrived we saw many soldiers, who exceeded our armies in numbers and in bravery.  From that moment we stopped believing in our victory and decided instead to seek safety with you.”

“But that only happened later.  Instead on that day [when the Slavs arrived] when they found themselves at the walls, they busied themselves with provisions, prisoners and booty which they carried with them.  But all the grains and other crops (which agricultural produce, even if harvested in prior years, it was customary at that time to keep outside [of the city]) stolen by them would only last them through that day [and] till morning on the day following.  And thereafter, they ate fruits, tree branches and tree roots as well as all manner of vegetables, then grass, wild herbs and the so-called thistle plant – until, eventually, they were devouring dirt and they were hungry still for the Earth did not, as it is written, did not withstand their onrush.”

“In the evening of the first day they gathered brushwood and set up campfires around the city… Then, by this terrible fire there issued from them an even more terrible cry, of which it is said in the prophesies that the ‘Earth shook and the the heaven sent down rain.'”

“Throughout the whole night we heard around us much rumble and on the next morrow we saw that they set up siege engines, iron battering rams, huge stone throwers and the so-called turtle shields which they along with the stone throwers covered with hard leather.  Then, they covered them with the skins of freshly killed cattle and camels so as to protect them from fire and hot tar [of the defenders].  And in this matter they came closer to the city walls and starting on the third day they began to gather on the other side [of the city walls] stones which in their size were reminiscent of mountain boulders and their bowmen were issuing hails of arrows so that no one from the city could stick themselves out or to look outside.* They attached [protective] lids/covers on the other side of the walls while they used rods and war axes ceaselessly trying to break through the [wall] foundations….”

* note: presumably while the stone gatherers were picking them up at the outside of the city walls.

“We have said already that during the first and second day of the siege, the enemy was gathering provisions and getting ready all kinds of terrible machines against the city.  Between the third and the seventh day (for the blessed martyr did not suffer the siege to last longer) they brought to the city walls siege towers, battering rams, stone throwing catapults and wooden mantlets.  First they brought out a battering ram with a head of iron and set it in front of Cassandra’s gate but when they saw a grappling iron hanging over the gate that’d been put up there by the citizens, though it was small and harmless as a child’s toy, they were filled with dread and they spurned their great contraption – I speak of the ram – and burning it down as well as other similar ones and not having achieved their goals, they departed for the day to their tents…”

“Later, under cover of leather covers they tried, like vicious snakes, to destroy the ramparts, they say with axes and wooden poles.  And perhaps they would have achieved their desired goal, had not Providence shone down upon the inhabitants, armed their hearts with bravery and sent them out beyond the walls so as to terrify those, who shielded by the covers had almost manage to destroy all [ramparts].  For it had been [until then] not possible to toss anything at those protected below hidden by the walls so that they remained unseen from above.  Thus, armed men, filled with God-ignited fervor, came in front of the gate using a lowered so-called gangway, that had been damaged earlier.  When they approached the exterior walls, they caused panic among the enemies.  Filled with unspeakable fear, they left all their gear with which they had intended to destroy the exterior walls and escaped; this, even though the men who came out to the did not wield anything other than spears and shields…”

“When the enemy, by reason of a single divine decree escaped, leaving behind mantlets, poles, and pickaxes, no one gave chase after them; [and] on the next day they used stone throwers.These were rectangular, set on broad platforms, with their ends set with sharp tips on which sat broad cylinders covered at the ends with iron; to these there were nailed beams as in a palisade.  At the back they had suspended projectiles and in the front strong ropes, which, when pulled downwards, rumbled as they lifted the catapults. Those, in turn, when lifted high, tossed giant, massive stones, such that neither the ground nor city houses could withstand their fall.   Three sides of these rectangular stone throwers were secured with beams [designed] so that projectiles tossed from the walls would not injure those who were pulling on the [catapult ropes] inside [the contraption].  And if one of them were hit by [our] fire projectiles and burned down together with the beams, the [barbarians inside] were sent escaping together with their equipment.  The next day, they again brought these stone throwers, protected, as we said, with new skins and beams, and setting [the stone throwers] very close to the city walls, they tossed at us heaps of stones…”

[only one projectile hit the walls and on the very same day the barbarians departed to their camp]

“There came Sunday, the seventh and last day of the siege when [our] enemies were resting after the exhaustion of the preceding days.  They wanted to force a life and death battle on the very next day, aiming to surround the walls tightly from all sides and thereupon to frighten the battlement guards with a sudden onrush so as to cause them to abandon the walls so that none of them watching from the top could [see what was going on in front of the gates] and could not come out and try to undertake any effort to help the others futilely fighting [in front of the gates?], upon their [the enemy’s] appearance.  When they were talking among themselves – of which we were made aware by their deserters – all our [men] were terribly frightened awaiting for the assault planned for the next day.  Surprisingly though, that very day, around eight in the evening, all of the barbarians escaped as one man with a great cry onto a [nearby] hill, having abandoned [their] tents with their supplies.  They had been so frightened that some were running away unarmed and without clothes.  They spent the next three hours or so in the nearby hills, seeing that of which we learned only later [the figure of Saint Demetrius].  Finally, at the setting of the sun they returned to their tents, though by order of the triumphant [Christ], now robbing [and fighting] each other so that there were many wounded and some had even fallen.”

“When that night had passed in a great calm, quite different from the prior [night], then at dawn a rather large number of the enemy appeared at the gates, though from that uncounted multitude there remained not one [man].  The inhabitants, suspecting [some new] trick and treachery, neither opened the gates nor accepted any enemy deserters.  However, many of them loudly professed that all the enemies had quietly escaped during the night so that [finally] about five o’clock in the morning they were let in.  The [inhabitants immediately] queried them and demanded that [the men that had been let in] honestly reveal the enemies’ intentions and they confessed why they had escaped [to the city]: ‘We escaped to you so as not to starve but also knowing that you have won [this] war.  We realized that you had been hiding your armies in the city up until now and that only yesterday about eight did you have them issue forth against us in all their numbers at all the gates and so then you saw us escape into the hills.  When in the evening we found out then that the same army had come out of the gates, we abandoned [the hills].  The others argued amongst themselves robbing one another and when they eventually settled down then they [decided to and] escaped quietly throughout the night.  For they said that at dawn [your] armies would once again set out against them.  Thus, those others escaped while we remained behind.'”

[there follows here the explanation as to the nature of the mysterious army as also thanksgiving prayers]

“The inhabitants sent out riders and discovered that the enemies did in fact escape and that during the night they covered a great distance, fleeing in such terror and fear that they dropped/left behind them [their] clothes, equipment, animals and people.”

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September 5, 2017

Ausserordentlich Viele Koinkidinks

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Speaking of Grimm, it is unfortunate that his Deutsche Mythologie has not been translated into a Slavic language (as far as we know).  There are lots of interesting tidbits throughout that book…

For example:

Most adults are aware that light travels faster than sound.  The difference is actually quite significant.  The speed of light is about 186,000 miles per second whereas sound will travel only 1,125 feet in that same second.  It is for this reason that when you see lightning, you then expect to hear thunder.  In fact, you can calculate how far lightning struck from you merely by counting the number of seconds that pass when you hear the thunder sound that follows it.

What does that have to do with Grimm and Slavs?

Well, there is an interesting passage in Procopius that says something like:

“For they believe that one God, the maker of lightning, is alone lord of all things, and they sacrifice to him cattle and all other victims…”

For years, it was assumed that this was a reference to the Russian Perun.*  And yet, as we know the Polish Piorun, the East Slav Perun or Lithuanian Perkunas refer to thunder not lightning.  Is the same God the maker of lightning?

* note: the cattle reference suggested Veles to some but, to the extent that there even was any Veles, it seems odd to sacrifice “cattle” to the alleged “cattle god”. Veles can, on the other hand, be another name for Piorun.

We might say yes if we look at expressions such as “Jasny piorun”, “jasny grom” and others…  And yet these expressions seem like conflations of two independent atmospheric phenomena.

The distinction of these two phenomena is hinted at in the 8th century work of Cosmography of Aethicus Ister where we learn that:

“Naxos and Melos and these islands are islands of the Cyclades, and the very round Isle of Melon as well, which is ver fertile; Jason, Pluto or Paron, and Pharius were born there.”

Naxon et Melos et ipsae insolae Cicladum insolaque Melon rotundissima adeo et fertilis, ubi Iason et Plutonem uel Paronem et Pharium editos.  

Here Paron is equated with Pluto but “Iason” remains separate.

So what does this have to do with Grimm, again?

Well, we’ve previously noted the strange fact that Odin simply means “one” in Russian/Ukrainian (Polish jeden – eden?).

Did Grimm know that?  He was a competent anthropologist, well-learned in Teutonic, Gallic and Slavic beliefs.

And so right at the beginning of the very first edition of his book, he mentions some Slavic Gods.

Among those, looking for similarities and differences between Slavic and Germanic Gods, he notices a God from the Slavic region of Krain (Italian Carniola) in today’s Slovenia (mentioned in a local dictionary).  That God’s name is Torik or Tork.  Grimm looks at the name and expresses his belief that this (war!) God has nothing to do with either the Germanic Tyr nor Thor.

So far so good…

But Grimm then provides an explanation of the Slavic God’s name, the implication of which he does not appear to grasp.

“There is an extraordinary great overlap in Germanic and Slavic superstitions”

He says that the Slavic God’s name simply comes from vtorik, that is the “other” or “second”.  He says this is because the Slavic Torik was a war God and the name was a simple translation of the  name Mars.  Mars or Martis was and is Tuesday (incidentally, Tyr’s day) which was the second day of the Slavic week.  So the Slavs started to call their Mars by using their translated name of the “second” day of the week which day was dedicated to the god Mars.

This may or may not be true, of course.

A much more interesting question, however, is why is Thor called Thor or Tyr called Tyr?

And here is the real brain twister.  How is it that two Germanic Gods’ names Odin and his “son” Thor correspond to Slavic numerals of one and two.  Note also that vtori can mean the returning, repeated.

And why is Odin called Odin, again?  What is the Germanic etymology here?

Moreover, is not the God of Lightning, the “first” God?  You see lightening first before you hear the corresponding thunder.  Lighting is, well, bright.  Brightness corresponds to the name of the God Jasion (the Polish Jaś), the God of the “year” or Jahr or spring (Slavic v-esna or v-iosna) also the God of agriculture rebirth (notice the adventure with Demeter – Dea – meter – the Mother Goddess but also the Earth Goddess).

First, comes Jasion (“lightning”) and then comes Peron (“thunder”).

“Father” and “Son”.

Odin and Vtor

Odin and Thor.

Was then Zeus Thor who struck his father Jasion in an act of not simply “divine punishment” but usurpation?

Incidentally, Jasion is also mentioned in Sacra Moraviae Historia  where He is referred to as “Chasson/sive Jassen”.

It is also noteworthy that “Chasson” was the name of one of the Slavic leaders in Book 2 of the Miracles of Saint Demetrius.

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July 22, 2017

Miscellaneous Raiding Activity

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Finished sometime between 640 and 724 (see below), the “Miscellaneous Chronicle up to the year 724” (that is Chronicon miscellaneous ad annum domino 724 pertinens) contains a single mention of Slavs (the “blessed men” could be monks killed by the invaders):

“AG 934 [AD 623]  The Slavs invaded Crete and the other islands.  There some blessed men of Quenneshre were taken captive and some twenty of them were killed.”

Typical Slav raid on Crete

The above is from the Andrew Palmer translation.

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June 18, 2017

Evagrius and the Avars

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Evagrius Scholasticus (Greek: Εὐάγριος Σχολαστικός) was a Syrian scholar and intellectual living in the 6th century AD, and an aide to the patriarch Gregory of Antioch.  His one surviving work, Ecclesiastical History (Ἐκκλησιαστικὴ Ἱστορία), comprises a six-volume collection concerning the Church’s history from the First Council of Ephesus (A.D. 431) to Maurice’s reign during his life.

Although Evagrius does not mention Slavs, people have suspected that he included Slavs among at least some of the Avars that he does mention.  (Others have even thought that he means Slavs when he says Avars – at least in some instances).  Overall what can probably be said is that some Slavs partook of the invasions of Greece along with the Avars (as mentioned in the Chronicle of Monemvasia or the Miracles of Saint Demetrius) and so mention of Evagrius’ History is appropriate.  For good measure, given the confusion of the times, we throw in pieces that also mention Scythians (note that the Avars are also referred to as “Scythians” as in their trek west after having been beaten by the “Turks” – Book 5) or Massagetae.

The translation is rather ancient itself – by Walford from 1846.

Book 1, Chapter 17

During those times arose the celebrated war of Attila, king of the Scythians: the history of which has been written with great care and distinguished ability by Priscus the rhetorician, who details, in a very elegant narrative, his attacks on the eastern and western parts of the empire, how many and important cities he reduced, and the series of his achievements until he was removed from the world.

It was also in the reign of Theodosius that an extraordinary earthquake occurred, which threw all former ones into the shade, and extended, so to speak, over the whole world. Such was its violence, that many of the towers in different parts of the imperial city were overthrown, and the long wall, as it is termed, of the Chersonese, was laid in ruins; the earth opened and swallowed up many villages; and innumerable other calamities happened both by land and sea. Several fountains became dry, and, on the other hand, large bodies of water were formed on the surface, where none existed before: entire trees were torn up by the roots and hurled aloft, and mountains were suddenly formed by the accumulation of masses thrown up. The sea also cast up dead fish; many islands were submerged; and, again, ships were seen stranded by the retreat of the waters. At the same time Bithynia, the Hellespont, and cither Phrygia, suffered severely. This calamity prevailed for a considerable time, though the violence with which it commenced, did not continue, but abated by degrees until it entirely ceased.

Book 2, Chapter 14

About the same time, when the Scythian war was gathering against the Eastern Romans, an earthquake visited Thrace, the Hellespont, Ionia, and the islands called Cyclades; so severe as to cause a universal overthrow in Cnidus and Cos. Priscus also records the occurrence of excessive rains about Constantinople and Bithynia, which descended like torrents for three or four days; when hills were swept down to the plains, and villages carried away by the deluge: islands also were formed in the lake Boane, not far from Nicomedia, by the masses of rubbish brought down by the waters. This evil, however, was subsequent to the former.

Book 3, Chapter 2

In such a manner, then, had Zeno, from the commencement of his reign, depraved his course of life: while, however, his subjects, both in the East and the West, were greatly distressed; in the one quarter, by the general devastations of the Scenite barbarians; and in Thrace, by the inroads of the Huns, formerly known by the name of Massagetae, who crossed the Ister without opposition: while Zeno himself, in barbarian fashion, was making violent seizure on whatever escaped them.

Book 3, Chapter 25

Theodoric also, a Scythian, raised an insurrection, and having collected his forces in Thrace, marched against Zeno. After ravaging every place in his march as far as the mouth of the Pontus, he was near taking the imperial city, when some of his most intimate companions were secretly induced to enter into a plot against his life. When, however, he had learnt the disaffection of his followers, he commenced a retreat, and was very soon afterwards numbered with the departed, by a kind of death which I will mention, and which happened thus. A spear, with its thong prepared for immediate use, had been suspended before his tent in barbaric fashion. He had ordered a horse to be brought to him for the purpose of exercise, and being in the habit of not having any one to assist him in mounting, vaulted into his seat. The horse, a mettlesome and ungovernable animal, reared before Theodoric was fairly mounted, so that, in the contest, neither daring to rein back the horse, lest it should come down upon him, nor yet having gained a firm seat, he was whirled round in all directions, and dashed against the point of the spear, which thus struck him obliquely, and wounded his side. He was then conveyed to his couch, and after surviving a few days, died of the wound.

Book 3, Chapter 35

It will not be inconsistent, if, in accordance with the promise which I originally made, I insert in my narrative the other circumstances worthy of mention which occurred in the time of Anastasius.

Longinus, the kinsman of Zeno, on his arrival at his native country, as has been already detailed, openly commences war against the emperor: and after a numerous army had been raised from different quarters, in which Conon, formerly bishop of Apamea in Syria, was also present, who, as being an Isaurian, aided the Isaurians, an end was put to the war by the utter destruction of the Isaurian troops of Longinus. The heads of Longinus and Theodore were sent to the imperial city by John the Scythian; which the emperor displayed on poles at the place called Sycae, opposite Constantinople, an agreeable spectacle to the Byzantines, who had been hardly treated by Zeno and the Isaurians. The other Longinus, surnamed of Selinus, the main stay of the insurgent faction, and Indes, are sent alive to Anastasius by John, surnamed Hunchback ; a circumstance which especially gladdened the emperor and the Byzantines, by the display of the prisoners led in triumph along the streets and the hippodrome, with iron chains about their necks and hands. Thenceforward, also, the payment called Isaurica accrued to the imperial treasury, being gold previously paid to the Barbarians annually, to the amount of five thousand pounds.

Book 5, Chapter 1

In this manner did Justinian depart to the lowest region of retribution, after having filled every place with confusion and tumults, and having received at the close of his life the reward of his actions. His nephew Justin succeeds to the purple; having previously held the office of guardian of the palace, styled in the Latin language Curopalata. No one, except those who were immediately about his person, was aware of the demise of Justinian or the declaration of Justin, until the latter made his appearance in the hippodrome, by way of formally assuming the stated functions of royalty. Confining himself to this simple proceeding, he then returned to the palace.

His first edict was one dismissing the bishops to their respective sees, wherever they might be assembled, with a provision that they should maintain what was already established in religion, and abstain from novelties in matters of faith. This proceeding was to his honour. In his mode of life, however, he was dissolute, utterly abandoned to luxury and inordinate pleasures: and to such a degree was he inflamed with desire for the property of others, as to convert every thing into a means of unlawful gain; standing in no awe of the Deity even in the case of bishoprics, but making them a matter of public sale to any purchasers that offered. Possessed, as he was, alike by the vices of audacity and cowardice, he in the first place sends for his kinsman Justin, a man universally famous for military skill and his other distinctions, who was at that time stationed upon the Danube, and engaged in preventing the Avars from crossing that river.

These were one of those Scythian tribes who live in wagons, and inhabit the plains beyond the Caucasus. Having been worsted by their neighbours, the Turks, they had migrated in a mass to the Bosphorus; and, having subsequently left the shores of the Euxine—- where were many barbarian tribes, and where also cities, castles, and some harbours had been located by the Romans, being either settlements of veterans, or colonies sent out by the emperors—-they were pursuing their march, in continual conflict with the barbarians whom they encountered, until they reached the bank of the Danube; and thence they sent an embassy to Justinian.

From this quarter Justin was summoned, as having a claim to the fulfilment of the terms of the agreement between himself and the emperor. For, since both of them had been possessed of equal dignity, and the succession to the empire was in suspense between both, they had agreed, after much dispute, that whichever of the two should become possessed of the sovereignty, should confer the second place on the other; so that while ranking beneath the emperor, he should still take precedence of all others.

Book 5, Chapter 11

On being informed of these events, Justin, in whose mind no sober and considerate thoughts found place after so much inflation and pride, and who did not bear what had befallen him with resignation suited to a human being, falls into a state of frenzy, and becomes unconscious of all subsequent transactions.

Tiberius assumes the direction of affairs, a Thracian by birth, but holding the first place in the court of Justin. He had previously been sent out against the Avars by the emperor, who had raised a very large army for the purpose; and he would inevitably have been made prisoner, since his troops would not even face the barbarians, had not divine Providence unexpectedly delivered him, and preserved him for succession to the Roman ‘sovereignty; which, through the inconsiderate measures of Justin, was in danger of falling to ruin, together with the entire commonwealth, and of passing from such a height of power into the hands of barbarians.


Tiberius, accordingly, applying to a rightful purpose the wealth which had been amassed by improper means, made the necessary preparations for war. So numerous was the army of brave men, raised among the Transalpine nations, the Massagetae, and other Scythian tribes, by a choice levy in the countries on the Rhine, and on this side of the Alps, as well as in Paeonia, Mysia, Illyria, and Isauria, that he completed squadrons of excellent cavalry, to the amount of nearly one hundred and fifty thousand men, and repulsed Chosroes, who, immediately after the capture of Daras, had advanced in the course of the summer against Armenia, and was thence directing his movements upon Caesarea, which was the seat of government of Cappadocia and the capital of the cities in that quarter. In such contempt did Chosroes hold the Roman power, that, when the Caesar had sent an embassy to him, he did not deign to admit the ambassadors to an audience, but bid them follow him to Caesarea; at which place he said he would take the embassy into his consideration. When, however, he saw the Roman army in the front of him, under the command of Justinian, the brother of that Justin who had been miserably put to death by the Emperor Justin, in complete equipment, with the trumpets sending forth martial sounds, the standards uplifted for conflict, and the soldiery eager for slaughter, breathing forth fury, and at the same time maintaining perfect order, and, besides, so numerous and noble a body of cavalry as no monarch had ever imagined, he drew a deep groan, with many adjurations, at the unforeseen and unexpected sight, and was reluctant to begin the engagement. But while he is lingering and whiling away the time, and making a mere feint of fighting, Kurs, the Scythian, who was in command of the right wing, advances upon him; and since the Persians were unable to stand his charge, and were in a very signal manner abandoning their ground, he made an extensive slaughter of his opponents. He also attacks the rear, where both Chosroes and the whole army had placed their baggage, and captures all the royal stores and the entire baggage, under the very eyes of Chosroes; who endured the sight, deeming self-imposed constraint more tolerable than the onset of Kurs. The latter, having together with his troops made himself master of a great amount of money and spoil, and carrying off the beasts of burden with their loads, among which was the sacred fire of Chosroes to which divine honours were paid, makes a circuit of the Persian camp, singing songs of victory, and rejoins, about nightfall, his own army, who had already broken up from their position, without a commencement of battle on the part of either Chosroes or themselves, beyond a few slight skirmishes or single combats, such as usually take place.

Chosroes, having lighted many fires, made preparations for a night assault; and since the Romans had formed two camps, he attacks the division which lay northward, at the dead of night. On their giving way under this sudden and unexpected onset, he advances upon the neighbouring town of Melitene, which was undefended and deserted by its inhabitants, and having fired the whole place, prepared to cross the Euphrates. At the approach, however, of the united forces of the Romans, in alarm for his own safety, he mounted an elephant, and crossed alone; while great numbers of his army found a grave in the waters of the river : on learning whose fate he retreated.

Having paid this extreme penalty for his insolence towards the Roman power, Chosroes retires with the survivors to the eastern parts, in which quarter the terms of the truce had provided that no one should attack him. Nevertheless Justinian made an irruption into the Persian territory with his entire force, and passed the whole winter there, without any molestation. He withdrew about the summer solstice, without having sustained any loss whatever, and passed the summer near the border, surrounded by prosperity and glory.

Book 5, Chapter 20

He also engaged Tamchosroes and Adaarmanes, the principal Persian commanders, who had advanced against him with a considerable force: but the nature, manner, and place of these transactions I leave others to record, or shall perhaps myself make them the subject of a distinct work, since my present one professes to treat of matters of a very different kind. Tamchosroes, however, falls in battle, not by the bravery of the Roman soldiery, but merely through the piety and faith of their commander: and Adaarmanes, being worsted in the fight and having lost many of his men, flies with precipitation, and this too, although Alamundarus, the commander of the Scenite barbarians, played the traitor in declining to cross the Euphrates and support Maurice against the Scenites of the opposite party. For this people are invincible by any other than themselves, on account of the fleetness of their horses : when hemmed in, they cannot be captured; and they outstrip their enemies in retreat. Theodoric too, commander of the Scythian troops, did not so much as venture within range of the missiles, but fled with all his people.

Book 5, Chapter 24

By the aid of God, an account of the affairs of the Church, presenting a fair survey of the whole, has been preserved for us in what has been recorded by Eusebius Pamphili down to the time of Constantine, and thence forward as far as Theodosius the younger, by Theodoret, Sozomen, and Socrates, and in the matters which have been selected for my present work.

Primitive and profane history has been also preserved in a continuous narrative by those who have been zealous at the task; Moses being the first to compose history, as has been clearly shewn by those who have collected whatever bears upon the subject, in writing a true account of events from the beginning of the world, derived from what he learned in converse with God on Mount Sinai. Then follow the accounts which those who after him prepared the way for our religion have stored up in sacred scriptures. Josephus also composed an extensive history, in every way valuable. All the stories, whether fabulous or true, relating to the contests of the Greeks and ancient barbarians, both among themselves and against each other, and whatever else had been achieved since the period at which they record the first existence of mankind, have been written by Charax, Theopompus, Ephorus, and others too numerous to mention. The transactions of the Romans, embracing the history of the whole world and whatever else took place either with respect to their intestine divisions or their proceedings towards other nations, have been treated of by Dionysius of Halicarnassus, who has brought down his account from the times of what are called the Aborigines, to those of Pyrrhus of Epirus. The history is then taken up by Polybius of Megalopolis, who brings it down to the capture of Carthage. All these materials Appian has portioned out by a clear arrangement, separately grouping each series of transactions, though occurring at intervals of time. What events occurred subsequent to the before-mentioned periods, have been treated by Diodorus Siculus, as far as the time of Julius Caesar, and by Dion Cassius, who continued his account as far as Antoninus of Emesa. In a similar work of Herodian, the account extends as far as the death of Maximus; and in that of Nicostratus, the sophist of Trapezus, from Philip, the successor of Gordian, to Odenatus of Palmyra, and the ignominious expedition of Valerian against the Persians. Dexippus has also written at great length on the same subject, commencing with the Scythian wars, and terminating with the reign of Claudius, the successor of Gallierius: and he also included the military transactions of the Carpi and other barbarian tribes, in Greece, Thrace,and Ionia. Eusebius too, commencing from Octavian, Trajan, and Marcus, brought his account down to the death of Carus. The history of the same times has been partially written both by Arrian and Asinius Quadratus: that of the succeeding period by Zosimus, as far as Honorius and Arcadius: and events subsequent to their reign by Priscus the Rhetorician, and others. The whole of this range of history has been excellently epitomised by Eustathius of Epiphania, in two volumes, one extending to the capture of Troy, the other to the twelfth year of the reign of Anastasius. The occurrences subsequent to that period have been written by Procopius the rhetorician as far as the time of Justinian ; and the account has been thenceforward continued by Agathias the rhetorician, and John, my fellow-citizen and kinsman, as far as the flight of Chosroes the younger to the Romans, and his restoration to his kingdom: on which occasion Maurice was by no means tardy in his operations, but royally entertained the fugitive, and with the utmost speed restored him to his kingdom, at great cost and with numerous forces. These writers, however, have not yet published their history. With respect to these events, I also will detail in the sequel such matters as are suitable, with the favour of the higher power.

Book 6, Chapter 3
[AD 589]

Maurice sent out as commander of the forces of the East, first, John, a Scythian, who, after experiencing some reverses, with some alternations of success, achieved nothing worthy of mention; afterwards, Philippicus, who was allied to him by having married one of his two sisters. Having crossed the border and laid waste all before him, he amassed great booty, and killed many of the nobles of Nisibis and the other cities situated within the Tigris. He also gave battle to the Persians, and, after a severe conflict, attended with the loss of many distinguished men on the side of the enemy, he made numerous prisoners, and dismissed unharmed a battalion, which had retreated to an eminence and was fairly in his power, under a promise that they would urge their sovereign to send immediate proposals for peace. He also completed other measures during the continuance of his command, namely, in withdrawing his troops from superfluities and things tending to luxury, and in reducing them to discipline and subordination: the representation of which transactions must be fixed by writers, past or present, according as they may be or have been circumstanced with respect to hearsay or opinion— writers whose narrative, stumbling and limping through ignorance, or rendered affected by partiality, or blinded by antipathy, misses the mark of truth.

Book 6, Chapter 10
[A.D. 590]

Accordingly, the emperor remunerates the troops with largesses of money; and, withdrawing Germanus and others, brings them to trial. They were all condemned to death: but the emperor would not permit any infliction whatever; on the contrary, he bestowed rewards on them.

During the course of these transactions, the Avars twice made an inroad as far as the Long Wall, and captured Anchialus, Singidunum, and many towns and fortresses throughout the whole of Greece, enslaving the inhabitants, and laying every thing waste with fire and sword; in consequence of the greater part of the forces being engaged in the East. Accordingly, the emperor sends Andrew, the first of the imperial guards, on an attempt to induce the troops to receive their former officers.

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April 17, 2017

The Slavs of the Chronicle of Monemvasia

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Although we wanted to relate only the “Slavic” passages of the Chronicle of Monemvasia, the size of the Chronicle lent itself to a translation of it in toto so we went that way so as to, in addition to the Slav references, give more of the context.

The chronicle is extant in the following manuscripts:

  • Turin Codex (Codex Taurinensis Rev. 336)
  • Koutloumousion Codex (Codex Kutlumus 220/3293)
  • Iveron Codex (Codex Iviron 329 (aka Athous 4449))
  • Rome Codex (Codex Collegio greco (Rome))

A portion of the chronicle is very similar to the Scholion of Arethas of Caesarea which we discussed here which led to some suggesting that Arethas was the author.  The dating of the Chronicle is also uncertain with general “agreement” putting it at about the year 1000 A.D. give or take a few hundred years (earliest about 800 to latest in the 1500s – see below for detail).

The Chronicle was first published in print by Joseph Pasinus (Giuseppe Passini) in 1749.  This publication was based on the Turin Codex from the Royal Library of Turin.  It remained largely ignored until the Slavophobe Jacob Philip Fallmerayer cited it as evidence for the proposition that the Greeks had been exterminated by various invaders such that the denizens of 19th century Greece were not really Greeks (the next argument that followed naturally and that Fallmerayer’s theories helped usher, was that the “original” Greeks were not, therefore, like the current Greeks but rather were “Arians” of the Nordic type best represented by the Germans and associated northern peoples, of course).

That Fallmerayer himself looked more, ahem, swarthy than your typical Slav and came from a provincial backwater of Germany (Tyrol which soon became part of the Hapsburg lands) foreshadowed another provincial man’s backwater and personal complexes.  Though Falmerayer did manage to graffiti the Great Temple of Ramses II with the inscription of his name (as did others), thankfully the  overall damage he wrought was less significant than that caused by another confused denizen of the podunk Austrian borderland. (For Falmerayer’s views see Fragmente aus dem Orient, 2nd edition, edited by Georg Thomas published in Stuttgart in 1877).

In any event, with the world’s attention now focused (a bit) on this entire question, the Greek historian (and later a rather inept prime minister) Spirydon Lambros (also Lampros) in 1884 published a new edition of the Chronicle featuring three manuscripts – the two “new” ones that Lambros located came from two separate monasteries on Mount Athos (Koutloumousion and Iveron).  Another edition came out in 1909 in Athens and was produced by Nikos Athanasiou Bees.  Finally, in 1912 Lambros printed another version – this one based on yet another manuscript from the Collegio Greco in Rome.

The most striking feature of these manuscripts is that the Iveron Codex covers the earliest time, the Turin and Koutloumousion Codices also cover events from 1083 through 1350 or so whereas the Rome Codex contains only the additional information from the Turin and Koutloumousion Codices with no overlap with the Iveron Codex.  (Consequently, the Rome Codex is almost a different chronicle is of little relevance for our purposes here).  There is also some information in the Iveron that is not present in the Turin and Koutloumousion Codices.

More modern English language scholarship on the Chronicle comes from historian Peter (Panagiotis) Charanis’ article “The Chronicle of Monemvasia and the Question of the Slavonic Settlements in Greece” (Dumbarton Oaks Papers, volume 5. 1950) (available for free on JSTOR) and some follow up work from him and most recently (?) from Stanisław Turlej’s 2001 study .  Much of the information in this post is courtesy of Charanis’ article. (Separately, Paul Lemerle published a partial French translation of the Chronicle in 1963 and in 1979 an Italian version of the Chronicle was published by the Bulgarian historian Ivan Duičev and there have been a few additional articles/books discussing the work in other contexts).

Charanis’ view is that the Chronicle (as well as the Scholion of Arethas) is based on a now lost chronicle that was put together between 805 (the year of the rebuilding of Patras and its elevation to a metropolitan see) and 932 (year of the Scholium).  That lost chronicle itself was, according to Charanis, based on the writings of Menander, Evagrius, Theophyllact Simocatta and some other lost source.  Although Charanis’ article is most lucid, the introduction of this intervening chronicle seems unnecessary.  Instead, it is also possible that the writer of the Chronicle of Monemvasia (and the Scholion) used the above named sources directly.

Interestingly, the 19th century controversy raised by Fallmerayer about the nature of the present day Greeks (i.e., they are all Slavs or other assorted invaders) led to another controversy with a response by some Greek scholars denying any Slavic invasion of Greece proper (the references to Hellas being invaded in Evagrius, Menander being explained as made to the Byzantine Empire’s lands in the Balkans but not Greece itself.  For those scholars the Chronocle was, of course, very inconvenient.  Current scholarship seems to have settled on a more balanced view seeing an actual Slav settlement – but not in all of Greece or even all of the Peloponnesus (Fallmerayer who brought up the Chronicle in the first place seems to have missed this point) – while also pointing to a Greek (and other) resettlement of the area.

Charanis also brings up the fact that Max Vasmer in his 1941 study of Slav settlement in Greece tallied Slavic toponyms in the area showing the following numbers: Corinth 24, Argolis 18, Achaia 95, Elis 35, Triphylia 44, Arcadia 94, Missenia 43, Laconia 81.  Oddly Vasmer did not mention the Chronicle of Monemvasia or the Scholion of Arethas.  Hopefully, he was not trying to fit his data to the report of the Chronicle (Die Slaven in Griechenland (Abhandlungen der Presussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Jahrgang 1941) Philosophisch-historische Klasse, number 12, Berlin 1941).  Here is a map of Peloponnesus from Vasmer’s book (color scheme is ours):

Charanis claims that Vasmer’s study supports the Chronicle’s position that the Avars/Slavs primarily occupied western Peloponnesus.

(Of course, there is another question that is not on any mainstream scholar’s radar and that is the question of the possibility of Slavic settlements in the Peloponnesus prior to the events described in the Chronicle of Monemvasia. For example, if one were to view S-parta as a compound along the same lines as S-labi that would suggest a “Parthian” origin of the inhabitants (ironically, given the Battle of Thermopylae) – compare, Mount Parthenion whose name suggests that Sparta may be a compound.  For that matter, if you were interested in our Elbe <?> Laba post, compare ακρωτήρι, the Greek for “cape” with “Cape Arkona” (Cape Cape?).  Or compare Krak with Krk island off of Croatia but better yet with Kerkyra off or Epirus with the Karkisa (Carians) called KRK by the Phoenicians and krka by the Persians.  To top it off the Carians seem to have either defeated or (as per Herodotus) been the Leleges who now moved to Laconia and whose King – Lelex – whose great-granddaughter was Sparta who would, in turn, marry Lacedaemon 🙂 ).

In any event, here is the Chronicle of Monemvasia as per, mostly, the Iveron Codex.


“In the 6064th year from the Creation of the world, which was the 32th [actually 31st] year of the reign of Justinian the Great [557 A.D.], there came to Constantinople envoys of strange people, the so-called Avars.  Having never seen such a people, the whole city rushed to see them.  Their jackets were made of long hair, tied with ribbons and twisted.  The rest of their clothing was similar to the clothing worn by other Huns.”

“As Evagrius says in the fifth book of his Ecclesiastical History, they were a nomadic people from the lands beyond the Caucasus mountains and inhabited the plains beyond [these mountains].  Having suffered badly at the hands of the Turks, they escaped these neighbors of theirs, abandoned their land, crossed the Black Sea coast and reached the Bosphorus.  Moving on from there, they crossed the lands of many peoples, fought barbarians they met, until they came to the banks of the Danube [and] then sent messengers to Justinian and asked to be welcomed [within the Empire].  Having been graciously welcomed by the Emperor, they received from his permission to settle in the region of Moesia, in the city of Dorostolon which is now called Dristra[1].  [And] so from poor they became rich and they spread over a very wide space.  Showing themselves forgetful [of the graciousness of Justinian] and ungrateful, they began to subjugate the Byzantines, they took the inhabitants of Thracia and Macedonia as slaves [and] even attacked the capital [Constantinople] and ruthlessly devastated its surroundings.  They also occupied Sirmium[2] [in 581/582 A.D.], an illustrious city in Europe which – being now in Bulgaria, is called Strem [‘Strjamos’] – had earlier been under the control of the Gepids, [to/by?] whom it was given [by/to?] the Emperor Justin[3].  It was for this reason [occupation of Sirmium by the Avars] that the Byzantines concluded a humiliating treaty with them [the Avars], promising to pay them an annual tribute of eighty thousand gold solidi.  On this condition the Avars promised to keep the peace.”[4]

“When in the year 6,000 [582 A.D.] Maurice received the scepter, the Avars sent envoys to him demanding that the eighty gold pieces they were receiving from the Byzantines be increased by another twenty thousand.  The emperor who loved peace agreed to this as well.  But even this agreement did not last more than two years.  [Every] time their master, the khagan, came up with another pretext so as to find a reason for war and demanded excessive things, so as to [be able to] get out of the agreements whenever some of his [new] demands were not fulfilled.  So he, finding the Thracian city of Singidunum [Belgrade] defenseless, he occupied it and, also, Augusta and Viminacium [Stari Kostolac] – a large island on the Danube.  He also conquered Anchialos [Pomorie, Bulgaria] which today is called Messina in Macedonia[5], and he also subdued many other cities that were in Illyria.  Pillaging all he came up on the outskirts of Byzantium [Constantinople] and even threatened to destroy the Great Wall.  Some of them [the Avars] crossed the Strait of Abydos [Hellespont], looted the lands of Asia [meaning today’s Turkey] and then turned back again [towards Constantinople].  The emperor sent envoys to the khagan, the patrician Elpidius and Comentiolus [probably 584 A.D.], agreeing to increase the stipend [tribute].  On these conditions the barbarian agreed to keep the peace.   [But] left alone for a short time, he [then] broke the agreements and undertook a terrible war against the Scythian province [Scythia Minor] and Moesia and destroyed many fortresses.”

“During [yet] another invasion they [the Avars] occupied all of Thessaly,[6] all of Greece, Old Epirus, the Attica and [the island of] Euboea.” 

“Impetuously pushing forth also in the Peloponessus, they took it by force of arms.  Scattering and destroying the noble population and the Greek [noble and Hellenic nations?], they themselves settled in this territory.”

“Those who managed to escape their murderous hands were dispersed into one region or into another.  [The people of] the city of Patras moved to the region of Rhegium in Calabria, the inhabitants of Argos to the island called Orobe, the Corinthians moved to the island called Aegina.  At that time even the Laconians [Lacedaemonians] abandoned their homeland and some of them sailed to the island of Sicily and some still remain there [living] at a place called Demena[7] and preserving the Laconian dialect and changing their name to the Demenites rather than Lacedaemonites.  Others though, having found a place inaccessible by the sea coast, built a strong city [there] and called it Monemvasia as there was only one way for those arriving.  They settled in this city along with their bishop. The shepherds and farmers moved into the rough areas surrounding [this place] and came to be ultimately called Tsakoniae.”

“The Avars having occupied and settled in this way the Peloponnesus, remained there for two hundred and eighteen years, without being subject to the Emperor of the Byzantines nor to any other [ruler], that is from the year 6,096 [587 A.D.] from the Creation of the world – which was the eighth year of the reign of Maurice – until the year 6313 [805 A.D.] – which was the fourth year of the reign of Nicephoros the Elder whose son was Staurakios[8].

“Because only the eastern part of the Peloponnesus, from Corinth up to Malea remained – due to its rough and inaccessible nature – free from the Slavic people and to that area [there continued to be] sent by the Emperor of the Byzantines a governor [strategus] of Peloponnesus.  One of these governors, a native of Lesser Armenia, [a member] of the so-called Skleros [Skleroi] family, went to battle the people of the Slavs, reduced them in battle with his arms and completely annihilated them [and] then he permitted the original inhabitants to get back their homes.  Upon hearing of this, the aforementioned Emperor Nicephoros, full of joy, immediately ordered that the cities in that region be rebuilt and all the churches [too] that the barbarians had destroyed and that these barbarians be converted to Christianity.  He informed the Patras exiles – at the place where they fled to – of his order reestablishing them in their ancient seat together with their bishop who at the time was Athanasius [and] gave the city of Patras – which until then was an archbishopric – metropolitan rights.”

“And he rebuilt from bottom up their city and their holy churches of God when Tarasios was still Patriarch [Patriarch of Constantinople 784 – 806].   He built the foundations well as the city of Lacedaemon and placed there a diverse population [of] Caferoe [Cabaroe/ Cabeiroe/Kibyraeotae?], Thrakesioe [Thracians/Thracesians?], Armenians and others, gathered from various places and cities and also established [the city] as [the seat of] of a bishopric and arranged that it be under the jurisdiction of the metropolis of Patras,  to which he also assigned two other bishoprics, Modon and Koron [Methoni and Koroni both in Messenia].  By reason of this the barbarians having been with the help and by the grace of God catechized, were [then] baptized and joined the Christian faith, for the glory and grace of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and ever, Amen.”

[1] note: modern day Silistra in northeastern Bulgaria]
[2] note: modern Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia]
[3] note: probably the reference is to the Gepids returning Sirmium to Justin II in 567 A.D. when the Gepids were being crushed by Lombards and Avars and offered to give up Sirmium for Byzantine help.  The Byzantines did in fact regain Sirmium at that point]
[4] note: Sirmium fell during the reign of Tiberius II Constantine who possibly agreed to pay three years’ worth of the 80,000 tribute to have the inhabitants spared.  Shortly afterwards he died and Maurice became the emperor]
[5] note: Anchialos is different from Messina – this is a chronicler error.  The Avars took Anchialos in 584 A.D.]
[6] note: ditto Book II of the Miracles of Saint Demetrius – to come]
[7] note: probably in northeastern Sicily – refered to in ninth and tenth century documents]
[8] note: both victims of the 811 Battle of Pliska against Krum who encased Nicephorus’s skull in silver, and used it as a cup for wine-drinking]

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April 10, 2017

The Slawinia of Vita Willibaldi

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According to the composer of his Vita, Hugeburc of Heidenheim (!), Bishop Willibald of Eichstätt (700 – 787) went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in the year 722.  During his journey he passed through the Peloponnese reaching the city of Monemvasia in the land of Slavinia (“….venerunt ultra mare Adria ad urbem Manamfasiam in Slawinia terrae.”)  Slavic presence in the Peloponnese is attested in numerous sources (such as the Scholium of Arethas of Caesaria, the Chronicle of Monemvasia, the much later Chronicle of Morea).  Here we present Hugeburc’s Vita Willibaldi (translation by C. H. Talbot).

As a point of further interest both Willibald (born in Wessex) and Hugeburc were Anglo-Saxons. Also Hugeburc (also Hygeburg or Huneberc) was a nun at the Abbey of Heidenheim.  She wrote the Vita at some point between 767 and 778.

“…So after the solemnities of Easter Sunday were over this restless fighter set off on his journey with two companions.  On their way they came to a town east of Terracina [Fondi] and stayed there two days.  Then, leaving it behind, they reached Gaeta, which stands at the edge of the sea. At this point they went on board a ship and crossed over the sea to Naples, where they left the ship in which they had sailed and stayed for two weeks. These cities belong to the Romans: they are in the territory of Benevento, but owe allegiance to the Romans.  And at once, as is usual when the mercy of God is at work, their fondest hopes were fulfilled, for they chanced upon a ship that had come from Egypt, so they embarked on it and set sail for a town called Reggio in Calabria. At this place they stayed two days; then they departed and betook themselves to the island of Sicily, that is to say, to Catania, where the body of St. Agatha, the virgin, rests.  Mount Etna is there.  Whenever the volcanic fire erupts there and begins to spread and threaten the whole region the people of the city take the body of St. Agatha and place it in front of the oncoming fiames and they stop immediately.  They stayed there three weeks. Thence they sailed for Syracuse, a city in the same country.  Sailing from Syracuse, they crossed the Adriatic and reached the city of Monembasia [Monemvasia], in the land of Slawinia, and from there they sailed to Chios, leaving Corinth on the port side.  Sailing on from there, they passed Samos and sped on towards Asia, to the city of Ephesus, which stands about a mile from the sea.  Then they went on foot to the spot where the Seven Sleepers lie at rest.  From there they walked to the tomb of St. John, the Evangelist, which is situated in a beautiful spot near Ephesus, and thence two miles farther on along the sea coast to a great city called Phygela, where they stayed a day.  At this place they begged some bread and went to a fountain in the middle of the city, and, sitting on the edge of it, they dipped their bread in the water and so ate. They pursued their journey on foot along the sea shore to the town of Hierapolis, which stands on a high mountain; and thence they went to a place called Patara, where they remained until the bitter and icy winter had passed.  Afterwards they sailed from there and reached a city called Miletus, which was formerly threatened with destruction from the waters.  At this place there were two solitaries living on ” stylites “, that is, colurnns built up and strengthened by a great stone wall of immense height, to protect them from the water. Thence they crossed over by sea to Mount Chelidonium and traversed the whole of it.  At this point they suffered very much from hunger, because the country was wild and desolate, and they grew so weak through lack of food that they feared their last day had come.  But the Almighty Shepherd of His people deigned to provide food for His poor servants.  Sailing from there, they reached the island of Cyprus, which lies between the Greeks and the Saracens, and went to the city of Pamphos, where they stayed three weeks. It was then Eastertime, a year after their setting out.  Thence they went to Constantia, where the body of St. Epiphanius rests, and they remained there until after the feast of St. John the Baptist…”

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January 29, 2017

George of Pisidia’s Slavs

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George Pisidia (Γεώργιος Πισίδης, (of Pisida in Latin) aka The Pisidian) was a Byzantine deacon and poet, born in… Pisidia.  He flourished during the 7th century AD.

From his poems we learn he was a Pisidian by birth, and a friend of Patriarch Sergius I of Constantinople and the Emperor Heraclius.  His earliest work, in three cantos, is De expeditione Heraclii imperatoris contra Persas, libri tres on Heraclius’ campaign against the Persians in 622.  His second work was Avarica (or Bellum Avaricum), an account of the Avar attack on Constantinople in 626.  Then came the Heraclias (or De extremo Chosroae Persarum regis excidio), a general survey of the exploits of Emperor Heraclius both at home and abroad down to the final overthrow of the Persian Chosroes in 627.  Some of his works may have been used by Theophanes the Confessor as a basis for his Chronographia.

Of interest to us, both the Avarica and the Heraclias contain some very early references to the Slavs (referring to them as Sthlawos).

(or Bellum Avaricum)
written in 626

“Truly a tempest of our enemies came at us like the sea’s countless waves, throwing the sands of different barbarian tribes; For that summer an ominous wind sent forth onto our heads from all of Thrace a terrible snowstorm from many clouds gathered…”

“…Not one of these struggles was easy, as [they] all spattered [among us], [first] coming [as each was] from a variety of different causes intertwined together.  For the Slavs with the Huns and the Scythian* with the Bulgar, and from the other side a Medes** also with the Scythian conspiring, [each] different from one another in language and blood, yet though far from one another, from afar coming together, they raised one sword against us, demanding that we should fatuously take their deceit for steadfast fidelity…”

* Huns and Scythians meaning Avars.
** Medes meaning Persians.

“…And the barbarian [i.e., the Avar khagan] put his hordes of Slavs together with Bulgars onto ships, for he had canoes hallowed from tree trunks, and added a sea battle to that on land…”

(or De extremo Chosroae Persarum regis excidio)
written circa 627-629

“…And from beyond, from Thrace, clouds gathered again bringing us the thunder of war; and from one side the Scythian Charybdis silently went about marauding, and from the other, the Slavs like wolves ran out to sting us on land and sea.  The sea waves mixed with their blood after the battle seemed red to the eye, so much that this sight seemed like Perseus’ Gorgon [Medusa] terrible, and the whole world plunged in the depths…”

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January 5, 2017

Liutprand of Cremona

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Here are some mentions of Slavs  (and we included mentions of Bulgarians and Macedonians since at this time they were mostly Slavicized) by Liutprand of Cremona (in a translation by Paolo Squatriti – there is also an older Scott version which we did not use; we have used one excerpt from Henderson’s even older translation).  Liutprand (circa 920 – 972) was a diplomat and bishop of Cremona.  He was likely of Lombard origin (he was probably named after the 8th century Lombard king Liutprand).  In 931 or so he entered the service of Hugh of Aries (who kept court at Pavia) (this is the “King Hugh”).  Later he worked for Berengar II who sent him to the court of Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos (both his father and stepfather had also been diplomats/ambassadors in Constantinople).  It is possible that Liutprand was the source of some of the information set out by Porphyrogennetos in his De Administrando Imperio.

Returning to Italy, he began to work for Berengar’s rival Otto I.  He became Bishop of Cremona in 962.  In 963 he was sent to Pope John XII at the beginning of the quarrel between the Pope and the Emperor Otto I over papal allegiance to Berengar’s son Adelbert. Liutprand attended the Roman conclave of bishops that deposed Pope John XII on November 6, 963 and wrote the only connected narrative of those events.

in 968 Liutprand was again sent to Constantinople, this time to the court of Nicephorus Phocas, to demand the hand of Anna Porphyrogenita, daughter of the former emperor Romanus II, for the future Emperor Otto II.  The possible marriage was part of a wider negotiation between Otto I and Nicephorus.  Liutprand’s reception at Constantinople was humiliating and his embassy ultimately futile after the subject of Otto’s claim to the title of Roman Emperor caused friction.

His works include:

  • Retribution (Antapodosis),
  • King Otto (Historia Ottonis),
  • Embassy or Report of the Mission to Constantinople to Nicephorus Phocas (Relatio de legatione Constantinopolitana ad Nicephorum Phocam),
  • Paschal Homily (Homilia paschalis)and
  • some minor works.

Liutprand’s works display a modern sense of humour (for example, in Retribution V (23) where he describes the scene of the deposed brothers Stephen and Constantine arriving at a monastery at Prote to be mockingly welcomed by their father Romanos, whom they had themselves earlier deposed and sent there – we do not present that here but suggest reading the whole thing).

Embassy (23) also contains an interesting reference to a ritual of the Slavs, seemingly of a religious nature.

Retribution I (5)

“In that same period, Leo  Porphyrogennetos, son of the emperor Basil, father of that Constantine who up until now happily lives and reigns, ruled the empire of the Constantinopolitan city.  The strong warrior Symeon* governed the Bulgarians, a Christian but deeply hostile towards his Greek neighbors.  The Hungarian people, whose savagery almost all nations have experienced, and who, with God showing mercy, terrified by the power of the most holy and unconquered king OTTO, now does not dare even to whisper, as we will relate at greater length, at that time was unknown to all of us.  For they were separated from us by certain very troublesome barriers, which the common people call ‘closures,’ so that they did not have the possibility of leaving for either the southern or the western regions.  At the same time, once Charles surnamed ‘the Bald’ had died, Arnulf, a very powerful king, ruled the Bavarians, Swabians, Teutonic Franks, Lotharingians, and brave Saxons; against him Sviatopolk, duke of the Moravians fought back in a manly way.  The commanders Berengar and Wido were in conflict over the Italian kingdom.  Formosus, the bishop of the city of Porto, was the head of the Roman see and universal pope.  But now we shall explain as briefly as we can what happened under each one of these rulers.”

* Simeon I of Bulgaria was tsar between 893 and 927.

Retribution I (8)

“The august emperor Basil [this is Basil I the Macedonian], his forefather,* was born into a humble family in Macedonia and went down to Constantinople under the yoke of τῆς πτοχεῖας – which is poverty – so as to serve a certain abbot.  Therefore, the emperor Michael who ruled at that time [Michael III], when he went to pray at that monastery where Basil served, saw him endowed with shapeliness that stood out from all others and quickly called the abbot so that he would give him that boy; taking him into the palcem he gave him the office of chamberlain.  And them after a little while he was given so much power that he was called ‘the other emperor’ by everyone.”


* The “his” refers to Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos.  Basil may have been a Slav.

Retribution I (11)

“But now it will not disturb this booklet to insert two things, worthy of memory and laughter, which the son of this Basil, the aforementioned august emperor Leo, did.  The Constantinopolitan city, which formerly was called Byzantium and now New Rome, is located amidst very savage nations.  Indeed it has to its north the Hungarians, the Pizaceni, the Khazars, the Rus, whom we call Normans but another name, and the Bulgarians, all very close by; to the east lies Baghdad; between the east and the south the inhabitants of Egypt and Babylonia; to the south there is Africa and that island called Crete, very close to and dangerous for Constantinople [because then it was held by the Saracens].  Other nations that are in the same region, that is, the Armenians, Persians, Chaldeans, and Avasgi, serve Constantinople.  The inhabitants of this city surpass all these people in wealth as they do also in wisdom…”

Retribution I (13)

“Meanwhile Arnulf, the strongest king of the nations living below the star Arcturis, could not overcome Sviatopolk, duke of the Moravians, whom we mentioned above, with the latter fighting back in a manly way; and – alas! – having dismantled those very well fortified barriers which we said earlier are called ‘closures’ 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; if indeed it can be called ‘aid’, since a little later, with him dying, it proved to be grave peril, and even the occasion of ruin, for his people alongside the other nations living in the south and west.”

“What happened?  Sviatopolk was conquered, subjugated, made tributary; but that was not all.  O blind lust of King Arnulf for power! O unhappy of all Europe! How much widowhood for women, childlessness for fathers, corruption of virgins, enslavement of priest and peoples of God , how much devastation of churches, desolation of rural districts does blind ambition bring!… [continues complaining]…But let us get back to the issue.  After having conquered Sviatopolk, duke of the Moravians, once he  obtained peace, Arnulf oversaw his realm; meanwhile the Hungarians, having observed the outcome and contemplated the region, spun evil schemes in their hearts, as becomes apparent when events unfolded.”

Retribution II (6)

“…After a few years had elapsed, since there was no one in the eastern or southern lands who could resist the Hungarians (for they had made the nations of the Bulgarians and the Greek tributary), lest there might be anything still unknown to them, they assailed the nations who are seen to live under the southern and western skies [climes].  Having gathered an immense, numberless army, they sought out Italy…”

Retribution II (28)

“The king aspired to say man y more things like this when a messenger announced that the sly Hungarians were in Merseburg, a castle set at the border of the Saxons, Thuringians, and Slavs. The messenger also added that they had taken captive no small number of children and women, and had made an immense massacre of men; and they had said that they would leave no one surviving older than the age of ten, since in this way they could create no small ferro among the Saxons.  Yet the king, as he was steady in spirit, was not frightened by such news, but increasingly exhorted his men, saying that they must fight for their fatherland and die nobly.”

Retribution II (3)

“With hardly amy delay battle began, and frequently there was heard the holy and plaintive cry “Κύριε, ελέησον” from the Christians’ side, and from their side the devilish and dirty ‘Hui, hui.'”

Retribution III (21)

“Once Hugh was ordained king, like a prudent man he began to send his messengers everywhere throughout all lands and to seek friendship of many kings and princes, especially the very famous King Henry, who, as we said above, ruled over the Bavarians, Swabians, Lotharingians, Franks, and Saxons.  This Henry also subjugated the countless Slavic people and made it tributary to himself; also, he was the first who subjugated the Danes and compelled them to serve him, and through this he made his name renewed among many nations.”

Retribution III (24)

“At last he [Liutprand’s father on a mission from King Hugh] was welcomed with great honors by the same emperor [Romanos]; nor was this so much because of the novelty of the thing or the grandiosity of the gifts as it was because, when my aforementioned father reached Thessalonica, certain Slavs, who were rebels against the emperor Romanos and were depopulating his land, fell upon him; but truly it happened by the mercy of God that two of their leaders were taken alive after many had been killed.  When he presented the prisoners to the emperor, the latter was filled with great glee and, my father, having received a great gift from him, returned happy to King Hugh, who had sent him there…”

Retribution III (27)

“Meanwhile what had been done by Romanos was announced to the domestic Phocas, who was at that time fighting the Bulgarians and who himself ardently desired to be made father of the emperor, and who was jus then obtaining a triumph over the enemy.  He immediately became dejected in spirit and afflicted by great anguish, and he cast down the sign of victory with which he was chasing his enemies, turned his back, and made his men take flight.  The Bulgarians then restored their spirits through Symeon‘s exhortation, and those who at first, with Mars contrary to them, had fled, now, with the war god turned favorable, did the chasing; and such a great massacre of Achaeans took place that the field was seen to be full of bones for a long time afterwards.”

Retribution III (28)

“With all possible haste the aforementioned Phocas, the domestic, returned to Constatntinople and wanted to enter the palace, and he strove to become ‘father of the emperor’ by force if not by craft.  But since, as Horace says, ‘force, deprived of wise counsel, collapses under its own weight,’ and ‘the gods advance a tempered force,’ he was captured by Romanos and deprived of both eyes.  No small force of Bulgarians arose, and doubly paid back the Greeks through a depopulating raid.”

Retribution III (29)

“And they used to say Symeon was half-Greek, on account of the fact that since his boyhood he had learned the rhetoric of Demosthenes and the logic of Aristotle in Byzantium.  Afterwards, however, having abandoned his studies of the arts, as they relate, he put on the habit of holy living.  Truly, deceived by his lust for power, a little later he passed from the placid quiet of the monastery to the tempest of this world, and preferred to follow Julian the Apostate rather than the most blessed Peter, the heavenly kingdom’s doorkeeper.  He has two sons, one named Baianus. and the other, who is still alive and powerfully leads the Bulgarians, by the name of Peter.  They report that Baianus learned magic, so that you could see him quickly transform himself from man to wolf or any other beast.”

Retribution III (32)

[this largely repeats the Macedonian origin story of Basil I from Retribution I (8)]

Retribution III (38)

“At that same time the Bulgarian Symeon began vigorously to afflict the Argives. Romanos having given the daughter of his son Christopher as a wife for Symeon’s son Peter, who is still alive, restrained him from the rampage he had launched, and allied him to himself with a treaty.  Whence the girl was called Irini, by a changed name, because through her a very solid peace was established between Bulgarians and Greeks.”

Romanos and Simeon

Retribution V (2)

“At that time, as you well know yourselves, the sun underwent a great eclipse, terrifying for all… at the third hour of the sixth day, the very same day when your King And ar-Rhaman was defeated in battle by Radamir,* the most Christian king of Galicia…”

* We have included Radamir of Galicia here by reason of his name.  Radomir would clearly have been Slavic.

Retribution V (15)

“A certain people is established within the northern region, which the Greeks call Ρουσιος from the nature of their bodies, and we instead call ‘Northemen’ from the location of their country.  Indeed, in the German language nord means ‘north’ and man means ‘people,’ whence we might call the Norsemen the ‘men of the north.’  The king of this nation was called Igor, who having collected a thousand and more ships, came to Constantinople.  When Emperor Romanos heard this, since he had sent his navy against the Saracens and to guard the islands, he began to bubble over with thoughts.  And when he had passed not a few sleepless nights in his thinking and Igor had brutalized everything close to the sea, it was announced to Romanos that there were 15 half-sunk warships, which the people had abandoned on account of their age.  When he heard this the emperor ordered τοῦς kαλαφατάς that is, the shipbuilders, to come to him, and to them he said: ‘Starting without delays, prepare the warships that are left; but place the contraption from which fire is shot not just on the bow, but also on the stern and in addition on both sides of each ship.’ Thus, once the ships were refurbished according to his directive, he stationed very clever men on them and ordered that they steer toward King Igor.  When at last they cast off, when King Igor saw them floating on the sea, he ordered that his army take the crews alive and not kill them.  At last the merciful and mercy-giving Lord, who wanted not just to protect those who worshiped him, adored him, and prayed to him, but also to honor them with a victory, suddenly turned the sea calm by stilling the winds – for it would have been a nuisance to the Greeks to have contrary winds, on account of having to shoot the fire.  Thus, placed in the midst of the Rus, they cast their fire all around.  As soon as the Rus observed this, they cast themselves quickly from their ships into the sea, and chose to be submerged by the waves rather than be burned by the fire.  Others, however, burdened by breastplates and helmets, sought out the bottom of the sea, never to be seen again while several, swimming between the waves of the sea, were burned, and on that day no one escaped who did not free himself by fleeing to the shore.  For the ships of the Rus pass even where the water is very shallow, on account of their smallness; this the warships of the Greeks cannot do because of their deep keels;  on account of this fact, Igor, freed with many of his men by flight to the shore, afterwards in the enormous confusion returned to his country.  Having obtained victory, the Greeks returned happy to Constantinople, leading off many live captives; Romanos ordered all the prisoners beheaded in the presence of the messenger of King Hugh, that is, of my stepfather.”

Retribution V (22)

“…Diavolinus replied to him [Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos]*: ‘It is not hidden from you that the Macedonians are as devoted to you as they are tough in combat; send for them and stuff your own rooms with them, leaving Stephen and Constantine ignorant of it.  And when the designated day for the dinner arrives and the moment comes for the ceremony of seating, at the giving of the signal, that is when the shield is struck as I said before, while their bands of armed men will not be able to protect them, let your men suddenly and quickly sally forth and capture the brothers as easily as unexpedcedly, and with their hair shaven as the custom is, pack the off to love wisdom at the nearby monastery, to which they sent their own father, meanings your father-in-law.   Indeed, the rectitude of divine justice, whose retribution did not scare them off from sinning against their father, and which prevented you from offending, will abet your endeavor.’  That this took place exactly in this manner by God’s judgment not just Europe, but nowadays both Africa and Asia declare, too.  Indeed, not he designated day, when the brothers Stephen and Constantine invited the other Constantine to dinner after counterfeigint peace, and when a tumult broke out over the ceremony of seating, and when the spied was struck as we said the Macedonians unexpectedly sallied forth and, as soon as they captured them, packed of the two brothers Stephen and Constantine with shaved heads to the nearby island to love wisdom, the same one to which they had sent their father.”

* Emperor Romanos remained in power until 944, when he was deposed by his sons, the co-emperors Stephen and Constantine. Romanos spent the last years of his life in exile on the Island of Prote as a monk and died on June 15, 948.  With the help of his wife, Constantine VII succeeded in removing his brothers-in-law.  It is not clear whether these Macedonians were Slavs, Greeks or someone else.

King Otto (6)

“To this the emperor replied:

‘…As to Bishop Leo and Cardinal Deacon John, who were unfaithful to the pope, whom he access us of welcoming, in this peril we neither saw nor welcomed them.  With the lord pope directing them to leave for Constantinople to cause us trouble, they were captured at Capua, accodunrg to what we heard.  With them, we heard, were captured also Saleccus, a Bulgarian by birth, by education a Hungarian, a very close associate of the lord pope, and Zacheus, an evil man, ignorant of divine and profane letters, who was recently consecrated bishop by the lord pope and sent to the Hungarians to preach that they should attack us.  WE would never have believed anyone who said the pope did these things, except that there were letters worthy of trust, sealed with lead and bearing his inscribed name on them.'”

Embassy (16)

“To them I said: ‘Even you are not unaware that my lord has mightier Slavic peoples under him that the king of the Bulgarians, Peter, who led off in marriage the daughter of the emperor Christopher!’ ‘But Christopher,’ they said, ‘was not born in the purple.'”

Embassy (19)

“…On that feast day I was quite sick, but nevertheless he [the emperor’s brother] ordered me and the messengers of the Bulgarians, who had arrived true day before, to meet him at the Church of the Holy Apostles.  When, after wordiness of the chants and of there celebration of the masses, we were invited to table, he placed the messenger of the Bulgarians, shorn in the Hungarian style, girt with a bronze chain, and – as my mind suggested to me- not yet baptized, at the furthest end of the table (which was long and narrow) but closer than me to himself, obviously as an insult to you, my august lords.  For you I underwent contempt, for you I was disdained, for you I was scorned; but I give thanks to the Lord Jesus Christ, whom you serve with your whole spirit, that I was considered worthy to suffer insults in your name.  Truly, my lords, I left that table considering the insult not to me, but to you.  As I sought to leave, indignant, Leo, the chief of staff and brother of the emperor, and the first secretary, Simon, followed behind me, howling: ‘When Peter the emperor of the Bulgarians led off Christopher’s daughter as spouse, symphonies, that is accords, were written and sealed with oaths, so that we would give precedence to, give honor and favor to the Bulgarians’ apostles, that is, the messengers, above the apostles of all the other nations.  That apostle of the Bulgarians, though he is, as you say (and it is true), shorn, unwashed, and girt with a bronze chain, nevertheless is a noble, and we judge it unpropitious to give precedence over him to a bishop, especially one of the Franks.  And since we perceive you bear this without dignity, we will not allow you to return to your hostel now as you think, but will force you to savor food with the slaves of the emperor in a certain cheap inn.'”

Embassy (20)

“To them I answered nothing because of a boundless pain within my heart; but I did what they had ordered, considering dishonorable a table where precedence is given to a Bulgarian messenger over not me, that is, Bishop Liudprand, but over one of your messengers.  But the holy emperor alleviated my pain with a great gift, sending me from his most refined foods a fat goat, one of which he himself had eaten, totally overloaded with garlic, onion, leeks, drowned in fish sauce, which I wish could appear on your own table, my lords, so that, whatever delectables you did not believe fitting for a holy emperor, at least, after having  seen these ones, you might believe it.”

Embassy (21)

“When eight days had passed, once the Bulgarians had gone, thinking I would esteem his table highly, he invited me, still quite sick, to eat with him in the same place.  The patriarch was there, along with many bishops…”

Embassy (23)

“He ordered me to rush to him in the palace in the afternoon of that same day, though I was weak and beside myself to the point that women I met in the street who earlier with wondering minds called out, ‘Mana! Mana!’ now, pitying my pitiful; condition, beating their breasts with their fists, would say, ‘Ταπεινέ και ταλαὶπωρε!’ May what I prayed for, with my hands outstretched to the heavens, both for Nicephoros as he approached, and for you, who were absent, come true!  Still I want you to believe me that he induced me to no small laughter, sitting as he was, quite tiny on a quite big, impatient, and unbridled horse.  My mind pictured to itself that kind of doll your Slavs tie onto the young horse they send out unbridled to follow the lead of its mother.”

Puppam ipsum mens sibi depinxit mea, quam Sclavi* vestri equino colligantes pullo, matrem praecedentem sequi effrenate dimittunt

* Schlavi being the Latin-Italian hybrid version.  Note that the Henderson translation has this as: ‘My mind pictured to itself one of those dolls which your Slavonians tie on to a foal, allowing it then to follow its mother without a rein.’  No actual manuscript of this exists (last editors that  saw one were Baroni & Canisius whose edition came out in 1600)

Embassy (29)

“But let us return to the matter at hand.  At this dinner he ordered to be read aloud the homily of the blessed John Chrysostom on the Acts of the Apostles, something he had not done before/  After the end of this reading, when I asked for license to return to you, nodding with his head that it would be done, he ordered me to be taken back by my persecutor to my fellow citizens and roommates, the lions.  When this was done, I was not again received by him until the thirteenth day before the calends of August, but iI was carefully guarded lest I might benefit from the speech of anyone who could tell me of his deeds.  Meanwhile he ordered Grimizo, Adalbert’s messenger, to come to him, whom he ordered to return with his naval expedition.  There were twenty-dour warships, tow ships of the Rus,* two Gallic shops; I do not know if he sent more that I did not see.  The strength of your soldiers, my lords, august emperors, does not need to be encouraged by the impotence of enemies, which it has often proved against those peoples, even the least of which [peoples], and the ones weakest by comparison with the others, cast the Greek power down and made it tributary: for just as I would not frighten you if I spoke of the Greeks as very strong people, similar to Alexander of Macedon, so I will not egg you on if I tell of their impotence, which is very real.  I want you to believe me – and I know you will believe me – that forty of your men could kill off all that army of theirs, if a moat and walls did not prevent it…”

* Possibly of the Varangian guard.

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December 23, 2016