Attila’s “strava” was not going so well
[first half of 5th century]
“And what more? Valia (to repeat what we have said) had but little success against the Gauls, but when he died the more fortunate and prosperous Theodorid succeeded to the throne. He was a man of the greatest moderation and notable for vigor of mind and body. In the consulship of Theodosius and Festus the Romans broke the truce and took up arms against him in Gaul, with the Huns as their auxiliaries. For a band of the Gallic Allies, led by Count Gaina, had aroused the Romans by throwing Constantinople into a panic. Now at that time the Patrician Aetius was in command of the army. He was of the bravest Moesian stock, the son of Gaudentius and born in the city of Durostorum. He was a man fitted to endure the toils of war, born expressly to serve the Roman state; and by inflicting crushing defeats he had compelled the proud Suavi and barbarous Franks to submit to Roman sway.”
Comment: It is not clear which Suavi these were but we mention them here just in case they might have been Danubian Suavi. The famous patrician Aetius who galvanized Rome and its allies against the Huns, lived between 391 and 454 A.D. This story should have come after the story presented below in Chapter 48.
Comment: There follows in Chapter 44, the story of the Suavi of Galicia and Lusitania (i.e., in Portugal/Spain) with Riciarius their king fighting Theodorid of the Visigoths – and losing and having appointed over them, Theodoric’s retainer Agrivulf (“born of the stock of the Varni, far below the nobility of Gothic blood”) who then betrayed the Visigoths and was beheaded as a result – in Visigoths’ great mercy, the Suavi were then nevertheless allowed to choose one of their own people as ruler – choosing Rimismund. We mention this for completeness although the story obviously pertains to events in the Iberian Peninsula and does not directly have anything to do with the Danube Suavi.
[turn of the 5th century]
“And later, after the death of Vinitharius, Hunimund ruled them, the son of Hermanaric, a mighty king of yore; a man fierce in war and of famous personal beauty, who afterwards fought successfully against the race of the Suavi. And when he died, his son Thorismud succeeded him, in the very bloom of youth. In the second year of his rule he moved an army against the Gepidae and won a great victory over them, but is said to have been killed by falling from his horse. When he was dead, the Ostrogoths mourned for him so deeply that for forty years no other king succeeded in his place, and during all this time they had ever on their lips the tale of his memory. Now as time went on, Valamir grew to man’s estate. He was the son of Thorismud’s cousin Vandalarius.
Comment: It is interesting that the preceding text comes right after the story of Boz and Vinitharius who “to show his courage” made war against the country of the Antes. See here. Thus, Vinitharius defeated the Antes and Hunimund the son of Hermanaric fought against the race of the Suavi.
This must have happened in the late 4th, perhaps early 5th century – whether this was what drove the Suavi or some of them West with the Vandals and Alans is uncertain. Chronologically, the story of Vinitharius and Hunimund should have come before Chapter 34’s story about the Suavi of Spain and Portugal.
[Battle of Nedao (454 A.D.)]
“…They took up arms against the destruction that menaced all and joined battle with the Huns in Pannonia, near a river called Nedao. There an encounter took place between the various nations Attila had held under his sway. Kingdoms with their peoples were divided, and out of one body were made many members not responding to a common impulse. Being- deprived of their head, they madly strove against each other. They never found their equals ranged against them without harming each other by wounds mutually given. And so the bravest nations tore themselves to pieces. For then, I think, must have occurred a most remarkable spectacle, where one might see the Goths fighting with pikes, the Gepidae raging with the sword, the Rugi breaking off the spears in their own wounds, the Suavi fighting on foot [or “fighting with slings”], the Huns with bows, the Alani drawing up a battle-line of heavy-armed and the Heruli of light-armed warriors.“
Nedao – Suavi on the Left, Heruli on the Right – Ardaric of the Gepids in the middle (Tacitus called Scandinavia the “vagina of nations”)
Comment: After the Battle of the Catalaunian Fields (451 A.D.) [yes, Cat-alauni-an – having something to do with Alans?] and subsequent battles of Attila, the Hunnnic chieftain was driven back to, probably, Pannonia and then died (in 453 A.D.) after a party in the hands of his new bride. Thereafter, after a proper strava (whether that is a Slavic word is debatable and debated), Attila was buried and the Huns and Goths fought against a coalition of Gepids, Rugi, Heruli, Alani and Suavi in Pannonia at the so-called Battle of the River Nedao in 454 A.D. The passage above describes that. The Huns and Goths lost and had to search for other places to live. The Huns fled eastwards, the Goths, at least initially into Pannonia. Even though the following does not have any descriptions of the Suavi we quote this here because it sets up nicely the situation of the various temporary kingdoms that arose in the post-Atyllic world after the Battle of Nedao and before the next two big events: the Gothic march against Odoacer that would create the Ostrogothic Kingdom at Ravenna and the invasion by the Lombards. This is what Jordanes has to say:
“But the Gepidae by their own might won for themselves the territory of the Huns and ruled as victors over the extent of all Dacia, demanding of the Roman Empire nothing more than peace and an annual gift as a pledge of their friendly alliance. This the Emperor freely granted at the time, and to this day that race receives its customary gifts from the Roman Emperor.”
“Now when the Goths saw the Gepidae defending for themselves the territory of the Huns and the people of the Huns dwelling again in their ancient abodes, they preferred to ask for lands from the Roman Empire, rather than invade the lands of others with danger to themselves. So they received Pannonia, which stretches in a long plain, being bounded on the east by Upper Moesia, on the south by Dalmatia, on the west by Noricum and on the north by the Danube. This land is adorned with many cities, the first of which is Sirmium (Sremska Mitrovica) and the last Vindobona (Vienna).”
“But the Sauromatae, whom we call Sarmatians, and the Cemandri and certain of the Huns dwelt in Castra Martis [Kula, in northwestern Bulgaria], a city given them in the region of Illyricum. Of this race was Blivila, Duke of Pentapolis, and his brother Froila and also Bessa, a Patrician in our time. The Sciri, moreover, and the Sadagarii and certain of the Alani with their leader, Candac by name, received Scythia Minor and Lower Moesia. Paria, the father of my father Alanoviiamuth (that is to say, my grandfather), was secretary to this Candac as long as he lived. To his sister’s son Gunthigis, also called Baza [compare with Boz?], the Master of the Soldiery, who was the son of Andag the son of Andela, who was descended from the stock of the Amali, I also, Jordanes, although an unlearned man before my conversion, was secretary. The Rugi, however, and some other races asked that they might inhabit Bizye [in European Turkey] and Arcadiopolis [same].”
“Hernac, the younger son of Attila, with his followers, chose a home in the most distant part of Lesser Scythia. Emnetzur and Ultzindur, kinsmen of his, won Oescus and Utus and Almus in Dacia on the bank of the Danube, and many of the Huns, then swarming everywhere, betook themselves into Romania, and from them the Sacromontisi and the Fossatisii of this day are said to be descended.”
[about 470 A.D.]
“When the tribe of the Huns was at last subdued by the Goths, Hunimund, chief of the Suavi, who was crossing over to plunder Dalmatia, carried off some cattle of the Goths which were straying over the plains; for Dalmatia was near Suavia and not far distant from the territory of Pannonia, especially that part where the Goths were then staying. So then, as Hunimund was returning with the Suavi to his own country, after he had devastated Dalmatia, Thiudimer the brother of Valamir, king of the Goths, kept watch on their line of march. Not that he grieved so much over the loss of his cattle, but he feared that if the Suavi obtained this plunder with impunity, they would proceed to greater license.”
“So in the dead of night, while they were asleep, he made an unexpected attack upon them, near Lake Pelso [the Balaton]. Here he so completely crushed them that he took captive and sent into slavery under the Goths even Hunimund, their king, and all of his army who had escaped the sword. Yet as he was a great lover of mercy, he granted pardon after taking vengeance and became reconciled to the Suavi. He adopted as his son the same man whom he had taken captive, and sent him back with his followers into Suavia.”
“But Hunimund was unmindful of his adopted father’s kindness. After some time he brought forth a plot he had contrived and aroused the tribe of the Sciri, who then dwelt above the Danube and abode peaceably with the Goths. So the Sciri broke off their alliance with them, took up arms, joined themselves to Hunimund and went out to attack the race of the Goths. Thus war came upon the Goths who were expecting no evil, because they relied upon both of their neighbors as friends. Constrained by necessity they took up arms and avenged themselves and their injuries by recourse to battle. In this battle, as King Valamir rode on his horse before the line to encourage his men, the horse was wounded and fell, overthrowing its rider. Valamir was quickly pierced by his enemies’ spears and slain. Thereupon the Goths proceeded to exact vengeance for the death of their king, as well as for the injury done them by the rebels. They fought in such wise that there remained of all the race of the Sciri only a few who bore the name, and they with disgrace. Thus were all destroyed.”
Comment: The above is confusing in that Dalmatia was not near Suavia raising the question of whether the Suavi were coming from somewhere else, e.g., Savia on the River Sava. A similar issue regarding the location of Suavia comes up in Paul the Deacon’s History of the Lombards (and indeed in the Origin of the Lombards).
Some have suggested that Jordanes was confusing Suavian lands in northern Pannonia with Pannonia Savia. Alternatively, it may be that Pannonia Savia was also referred to as Suavia at the time and that the Suavians lived there at the time. See for example Cassiodorus’ Variae (12, 7) and elsewhere. Whether those Suavians were Swabians, however, is another matter. The fact that a country occupied in the 6th/7th century by Slavs is occupied by the Suavi at the end of the 5the century is suggestive. In fact, Cassiodorus refers to the invaders of Venetia as Suevi coming, apparently, out of Pannonia Savia in the year A.D. 536. Modern dogma is that the Slavs settled Pannonia after the Avars migrated in 567 A.D. (see below on Drnovo)
The above map shows the administrative division of the area from the 4th century. Nevertheless it is instructive. Notice the ancient Roman town of Serbinum (appears in Ptolemy’s Geography) suggesting that the Serbs at least may well have been in Europe (perhaps together with the Iazyges) way before the Huns and Avars. Not to mention the town of Serbinum is actually on the Sava River.
And speaking of towns we have another confirmation of where the “Suavi” were in Procopius as cited in a recent blog post here. We reproduce that quote:
“But above them [the Veneti] are the Siscii and Suavi (not those who are subjects of the Franks, but another group), who inhabit the interior. And beyond these are settled the Carnii and Norici. On the right of these dwell the Dacians and Pannonians”
Intermission from Jordanes to Talk About Marshy Logic
Now, what town is just north of Serbinum? Yes, Siscia. Suggesting that the Suavi would be just up the river (as per Procopius) and what town lies there up the river? Yes, Noviodunum (really Neviodunum, today’s Drnovo in Slovenia). So perhaps this is the Noviodunum of Jordanes where Slavs (but now, we’re pretty certain, referred to as Suavi, lived all the way to Lake Musianus (or Mursianus)? Let’s bring up Jordanes again:
“(Near their left ridge [it appears he is talking about the Carpathians], which inclines toward the north, and beginning at the source of the Vistula, the populous race of the Venethi dwell, occupying a great expanses of land. Though their names are now dispersed amid various clans and places, yet they are chiefly called the Sclaveni and Antes. The abode of the Sclaveni extends from the city of Noviodunum and the lake called Mursianus to the Danaster, and northward as far as the Vistula.”
Thus, we would have the following areas of possible settlement depending on which Noviodunum we use and which Lake Musianus/Mursianus you use. We’ve already had one proposition here but here are some other ones:
– Isaccea, Romania (Castra Noviodunum, Roman Province of Moesia);
– Drnovo, Slovenia (Neviodunum);
BTW some people reject the Drnovo hypothesis because, as per them, there should have been no Slavs in the area until after the Avars came into Pannonia about 567 A.D. but this is just about the most circular reasoning you can get since the problem at hand is obviously where the Slavs were at the beginning of the 6th century. If one were to follow this result-driven logic, nothing would suffice and an ancient author placing a Slav in the middle of the Colosseum during Nero’s reign would be shown to have (A) meant a [Greek] or (B) meant not Rome but [Pinsk] or (C) meant not Nero but [Victor Emmanuel II] or (D) been [drunk]. And after all that would only have been one Slav, and we all know no theory can be right about Slavs unless you can show that at least [seven] were present at a given time and place.
(And, of course, we know from Procopius that already about 512 A.D. they were north of the Heruli – meaning probably in Poland, southeastern Germany and, perhaps, Bohemia. We’ve recently come across a lovely map that, apparently to avoid this result, has the Heruli migrate from Moravia to Denmark not straight up but first south (some Heruli did go southeast to the Gepids/Byzantines but not these) then via Moldavia, then along the Black Sea coast, then along the Carpathians, via southern Poland and then onto Germany and Denmark – this resembles the way Ptolemy’s geocentric theory with its dozens of orbital circles needed to sustain it – but, hey, it is theoretically possible – however unlikely – that Ptolemy will ultimately be proven right whereas Copernicus will be shown wrong).
– marshes in Northern Romania at Buzau Siret Dunare;
– marshes in Southern Moldavia around Galati;
– Drava- Danube marshes – hypothesis of F. Taube from 1778 (seems rather a random choice);
(BTW what’s up with all these marshes where everyone wants to put Slavs? They leave the Pripet Marshes only to end up in more marshes? Why leave then? Is there no better real estate in the world? Jordanes says swamps and forests – brother can you spare a Gambreta?)
– Lake Constance – see our prior post on this;
We should say that some people have tried to put together a Lake Musianus that is in Dabube delta with the Noviodunum that is Isaccea resulting in a grotesquely thin triangle. But Slavs, like Zeno’s paradox just refuse to be squished like that.
The above illustrates the River Vistula and the locations of each of Lake Musianus/Mursianus and the city of Noviodunum. The lake options are in blue and the two city options are in red.
There is an interesting (though this does not readily square with Procopius and Jordanes) possibility might be the Lake Constance to Drnovo option.
There is also the possibility of the Slovenian Drnovo location and the Danube delta.
The maximum stretch would be from Lake Constance to the Danube delta and this probably reflects closest the situation in the 7th century (except for the Avars in the middle) and also a lake would actually be a lake not some marshlands.
So perhaps (at least some of) the Slavs are a mix of the Suevi and Serbs from the Savia/Suavia area? And the rest are Suavi or, in the north at the Vistula, a Suavi/Veneti mix?
Back to Jordanes
Comment: What happened to Hunimund is uncertain although a Hunimund does appear as a attacked of the town of Batavia (today’s Pasau) in the Vita Severini by Eugippius (22):
“Mox igitur eo discedente Hunumundus paucis barbaris comitatus oppidum, ut sanctus praedixerat, Batavis invasit ac, paene cunctis mansoribus in messe detentis, quadraginta viros oppidi, qui ad custodiam remanserant, interemit. Presbyterum quoque illum, qui tam sacrilega contra famulum Christi in baptisterio fuerat elocutus, ad eundem locum confugientem insequentes barbari peremerunt. Frustra enim illuc offenso Deo veritatis inimicus accessit, ubi tam impudenter excesserat.”
Elsewhere, Hunimundus, Humimundus or Hodemundus.
Curiously an Alemannic leader may have been in the same area at that time (Gibuldus = Gebavult?) (19):
“Batavis appellatur oppidum inter utraque flumina, Aenum videlicet atque Danuvium, constitutum, ubi beatus Severinus cellulam paucis monachis solito more fundaverat, eo quod ipse illuc saepius rogatus a civibus adveniret, maxime propter Alamannorum incursus assiduos, quorum rex Gibuldus summa eum reverentia diligebat.”
The etymology of Hunimund is uncertain and may precede the Hunnic invasion though may nevertheless have something to do with the Huns.
(Did we mention that Severin was a Norican and, of course, as per Nestor, the Slavs came from Noricum 🙂 )
[about 470 A.D.]
“The kings [of the Suavi], Hunimund and Alaric, fearing the destruction that had come upon the Sciri, next made war upon the Goths, relying upon the aid of the Sarmatians, who had come to them as auxiliaries with their kings Beuca and Babai. They summoned the last remnants of the Sciri, with Edica and Hunuulf, their chieftains, thinking they would fight the more desperately to avenge themselves. They had on their side the Gepidae also, as well as no small reenforcements from the race of the Rugi and from others gathered here and there. Thus they brought together a great host at the river Bolia in Pannonia and encamped there. Now when Valamir was dead, the Goths fled to Thiudimer, his brother. Although he had long ruled along with his brothers, yet he took the insignia of his increased authority and summoned his younger brother Vidimer and shared with him the cares of war, resorting to arms under compulsion.”
“A battle was fought and the party of the Goths was found to be so much the stronger that the plain was drenched in the blood of their fallen foes andlooked like a crimson sea. Weapons and corpses, piled up like hills, covered the plain for more than ten miles. When the Goths saw this, they rejoiced with joy imspeakable, because by this great slaughter of their foes they had avenged the blood of Valamir their king and the injury done themselves. But those of the innumerable and motley throng of the foe who were able to escape, though they got away, nevertheless came to their own land with difficulty and without glory.”
Comment: Once again we see the Suavi allied with the Sarmatians.
[about 470 A.D.]
“After a certain time, when the wintry cold was at hand, the river Danube was frozen over as usual. For a river like this freezes so hard that it will support like a solid rock an army of foot-soldiers and wagons and sledges and whatsoever vehicles there may be – nor is there need of skiffs and boats. So when Thiudimer, king of the Goths, saw that it was frozen, he led his army across the Danube and appeared unexpectedly to the Suavi from the rear. Now this country of the Suavi has on the east the Baiovari, on the west the Franks, on the south the Burgundians and on the north the Thuringians. With the Suavi there were present the Alamanni, then their confederates, who also ruled the Alpine heights, whence several streams flow into the Danube, pouring in with a great rushing sound. Into a place thus fortified King Thiudimer led his army in the winter-time and conquered, plundered and almost subdued the race of the Suavi as well as the Alamanni, who were mutually banded together.”
“Thence he returned as victor to his own home in Pannonia and joyfully received his son Theodoric, once given as hostage to Constantinople and now sent back by the Emperor Leo with great gifts. Now Theodoric had reached man’s estate, for he was eighteen years of age and his boyhood was ended. So he summoned certain of his father’s adherents and took to himself from the people his friends and retainers — almost six thousand men. With these he crossed the Danube, without his father’s knowledge, and marched against Babai, king of the Sarmatians, who had just won a victory over Camundus, a general of the Romans, and was ruling with insolent pride. Theodoric came upon him and slew him, and taking as booty his slaves and treasure, returned victorious to his father. Next he invaded the city of Singidunum, which the Sarmatians themselves had seized, and did not return it to the Romans, but reduced it to his own sway.”
Comment: This Suavia actually makes sense as the Swabia of today – assuming, that is, the Baiovari were then in Bavaria already.
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