On the Earliest Slavic Names

We present here some of the earliest Slavic names (as the title suggests) along with their sources.  Since these names appear both in the description of Slavs and in the description of the Antes we mention both groups of names under separate sections.

The Slavs 

Ardagastus – (source: Theophylact Simocatta’s History) – first known “Sclavene” chieftain known to conduct raids into Byzanthine territory.  He was engaged by Comentiolus at Adrianople/Ansinon and retreated with the Byzantines freeing a lot of their prisoners.  Later forced to flee another Byzantine general – Priscus – on an “unsaddled mare;” then when that mare was caught by the “Romans” (i.e., Byzantines) he fled on foot; but then fell on a tree stump only to escape in the last minute across a river.  Meanwhile, his Slavs were taken as captives to Byzantium in “wooden fetters”.

Feild dives into the mud after he won the Bareback event during the Calgary Stampede Rodeo in Calgary

Ardagastus after being left by his “unsaddled mare”

Musocius – (source: Theophylact Simocatta’s History) – another Sclavene leader (“rex”) who sent out a scouting party that was caught by the Byzantines by reason of a betrayal by a certain Gepid.  The Gepid first helped the Byzantine Alexander to catch the scouting party then was enticed by Priscus to draw Musocius into a trap which he did claiming that he wanted to get boats to help those left from Ardagastus’ party who had been trapped on the other side of some river (Paspirius? presumably a tributary of the Danube).  Musocius fell for this and sent one hundred fifty boats and thirty oarsmen came to the other side of the river.  At which point the Gepid went back to Priscus and brought a force back with him led by the same Alexander.  They caught the Slavs unawares (sleeping and/or drunk) took their ships and crossed the river with a much larger force.  There it seems they found Musocius (actually it’s not clear whether Musocius had crossed first or just sent the ships) who was sleeping/drunk (apparently as a result of funeral festivities or commemorations for his just passed away brother).


Musocius seemed ok after a few drinks but some in the Slav camp were beginning to worry

The Romans (i.e., Byzantines) were victorious but then they started drinking and the Slavs, apparently, got back on their feet and attacked them – the Byzantines would have lost but for one Gentzon who carried the day – the next day the officers of the watch were impaled by Priscus’ command and some of the other soldiers “severely flogged”.  It is unclear whether Musocius himself survived.  As we’ve already noted here, Musocius’ name is reminiscent of the name Mieszko from a few hundred years later.

Peiragastus – (source: Theophylact Simocatta’s History) – leader of a Sclavene raiding party.  Apparently he was letting his horses rest at a river crossing and came upon a patrol of Byzantine soldiers capturing them in the process (they were asleep as they had been riding all day and were preparing for night scouting duties – apparently with no sentries).  Then his force was camouflaged at the river bank and when the main body of the Byzantines began to cross the Slavs were able from their hiding places to kill a thousand of them.  When the Byzantines realized what was happening they attacked all at once and with arrows from their rafts driving the Slavs away from the river.  Peiragastus himself was killed by an arrow and his troops then surrounded and partly slaughtered but the Byzantines, lacking horses, were unable to pursue.


Peiragastus – the Last Stand (seeing as sitting down was no longer an option)

(So the end tally Theophylact Simocatta is: Ardagast – escaped; Musocius – may have escaped; Peiragastus – terminated).

Dauritas/Daurentius – (source: Menander the Guardsman, The History of [the same]; this is a work that now exists only in the collections De Legationibus and De Sententiis from the 10th century) – Apparently, he had “insulted” the Avar khan Baian by refusing to become the Avar’s tributary.  Specifically, Dauritas and his fellow chiefs reply to the Avars’ envoy was “What man has been born what man is warmed by the rays of the sun who shall make our might his subject?  Others do not conquer our land, we conquer theirs.  And so it shall always be for us, as long as there are wars and weapons.”  The Avars boasted likewise and then came the usual “abuse and insults” as well as a “shouting match.”  The Avar envoys miscalculated in the short run (and for those specific envoys the short run was all they had it turns out) and the Slavs “unable to restrain their rage” slew the envoys.


Slavs “unable to contain their rage” (Dauritas in the front  seems particularly unable to do so)

In the long run (about the year 578) this proved to be a bit of a mistake as the ever scheming Byzantines via the emperor Tiberius II started chatting up Baian and convinced him to attack the Slavs as part of the Byzantine strategy of divide and conquer (in fairness the Slavs have been raiding the Byzantine lands and, in fact, part of the Avars desire to get at the Slavs was to get their hands on the gold that the Slavs had apparently stolen from the Byzantines).  The Avar envoys requested boats from Tiberius to cross the Danube from Pannonia to Scythia Minor in order to attack the Slavs.  Although Tiberius was apparently suspicious that the Avars really wanted to get at the Byzantine city of Sirmium, he ultimately did agree and ordered the governor of Illyricum, John to assist the Avars.  About sixty thousand (!?) “armored horsemen” were transported into Byzantine territory (including Baian himself) who crossed Illlyricum, crossed Scythia and prepared to recross the Danube (?).  Once on the other side Baian “immediately fired the villages of the Slavs and laid waste their fields, driving and carrying off everything, since none of the barbarians there dared to face him, but took refuge in the thick undergrowth of the woods.”  It is not clear what happened to Daurentias and his “fellow chiefs”.

The Antes

Boz – (source: Jordanes, Getica) – the story of Boz has its own entry here.

Dabragezas – (source: Agathias of Myrina, Histories) – this was the name of an Antian officer in the service of the Byzantines – apparently in command of the Byzantine fleet in the Crimea.  Another officer  by the name of Leontios may have been his son (it is thought).  Be that as it may, since Leontios is a Greek name, we do not separately create rubric for Leontios. This was circa 582. (note that Slavs and Antae were in the service of the Byzantines as well as fighting them – for example, in 537 most of the about 1,600 horsemen sent to relieve Belisarius’ campaign against the Ostrogoths in Italy were Slavs and Antae as per Procopius).


The famous 1594 edition of Agathias Scholasticus Myrinaeus by Buonaventura Vulcanus

Mezamer/Idariz/Kelagast  – (source: Menander the Guardsman, The History of [the same]) – the Avars had been pillaging and ravaging (not necessarily in that order) the lands of the Antae (circa 582) forcing the latter to send an embassy to the Avars appointing as the main ambassador one Mezamer, the son of Idariz and brother of Kelagast so as to ransom some of the Antae who had been taken captive by the Avars.


Mezamer arrived for the negotiations so full of hope

But Mezamer was a “loudmouth braggart and when he came to the Avars he spoke arrogantly and very rashly.”  There was at the Avar court a Kutrigur (apparently the Gepids and Kutrigurs have noxious effects on the Slavs and Antae respectively) who noted to the Khagan who suggested that Mezamer was the most powerful of the Antae and that, therefore, killing him would make the Antae fold with fear.  The Avars did take up this helpful suggestion and thereafter were able to ravage the land of the Antae “even more than before, carrying off prisoners and plunder without respite.”

[Chilbudius] – (source: Procopius, Gothic Wars) – this one is not certain; Chilbudius was a magister in charge of Thrace who launched attacks against the barbarians north of the Danube but fell in one of his expeditions.  Apparently, an Antian prisoner of the Slavs either had the same name (which might be interesting for our purposes) or pretended to have the same name (which would be less interesting) and, therefore, claimed to be the same person as the magister who was thought dead.  Specifically, when the Antes bought back the man from the Slavs (yes, they were known to fight one another too), the buyers were approached by a Byzantine prisoner of theirs (i.e., of the Antes) who convinced them that they had the real deal here or at least that they ought to be able to get some cash for the pretender.  In any event, at some point the Antes figured out that this was not the “true” Chilbudius and the bought back Antae (Ant?) fessed up (supposedly) but the Antes went ahead with the plan anyway and sent him to Constantinople (apparently as part of a plan to convince the Emperor Justinian to have Chilbudius govern them at Turris, a city that Justinian wanted to give to the Antae in exchange for their protecting the imperial frontier from the Huns).


The (2nd) outing of the false Chilbudius – the Byzantines saw right through him

However, the whole thing was revealed when the Chilbudius or not Chilbudius was taken prisoner by a Byzantine named Narses who saw through the ruse or whatever else this was – our head is spinning and so should yours about now.  The year was [circa] 545.

Shaettner Rickover & Borg Corporation – Copyright ©2014, All Rights Reserved

December 30, 2014

6 thoughts on “On the Earliest Slavic Names

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