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Avar warrior with captive.[1]

The European Avars, or Ancient Avars, were a highly organized and powerful medieval confederation of a mixed ethnic background. They were ruled by a khagan, who was surrounded by a tight-knit retinue of nomad warriors, an organization characteristic of Turko-Mongol groups. Although the name Avar first appeared in the mid fifth century, the Avars of Europe enter the historical scene in the mid sixth century C.E., when they established a pax spanning considerable areas of Central and Eastern Europe. Avar rule persisted over much of the Pannonian Plain up to the early 9th century.

Contents

Origins

The origin of the European Avars is unclear. Information about origins is derived primarily from the works of Byzantine historians Menander Protector and Theophylact Simocatta. The confusion is compounded by the fact that many clans carried a particular name because they believed it to be prestigious, or it was attributed to them by outsiders describing their common characteristics, believed place of origin or reputation. Such a case has been seen repeatedly for many nomadic confederacies.

According to the research of historian András Róna-Tas[2], the ethnic Avars formed in central Asia in the classical age through a fusion of several tribal elements. Róna-Tas suggests that Turkic Oghurs migrated to the Kazakh steppe, possibly moving south to inhabit the lands vacated by the Huns. Here they interacted with a body of Indo-European-speaking Iranians, forming the Xionites (Hunas). Sometime during the 460s, they were subordinated by the Mongolic Rouran. The Rouran imposed their own rulers, referred to as Uar, at the head of the confederacy. Being a highly cultured people, the Oghurs rose to prominence within the tribal confederacy.

The 6th century historian Menander Protector noted that the language of the Avars (which he called Ouarkhonitai "Vakonites") was the same as (possibly meaning similar to) that of the Huns. If language is an indicator of origin, this supports the theory that they might have been an Oghuric Turkic people[3]. Recently some scholars have proposed that they were an Iranic-speaking group[4]. The discovery of Mongolic skulls in Avar graves has prompted some scholars to suggest that the European Avars' ruling core was Mongolic, although this has been disputed by others.[5]

Central Asia c. 500 CE, showing possible homelands of the Avars

Early in the sixth century, the confederacy was conquered by the Göktürk empire (the Göktürks were previously yet another vassal tribal element under Rouran supremacy). In his History of the World, Theophylact Simocatta noted that the Göktürks "enslaved the Ohgur tribe, which was one of the most powerful...and was accomplished in the art of war." One body of people, perhaps wishing to evade Göktürk rule, escaped and migrated to the northern Caucasus region c. 555 CE. According to Simocatta, their new neighbours believed them to be the true Avars. They established diplomatic contact with the Byzantines, and the other nomadic tribes of the steppes lavished them with gifts. However, the Göktürks later persuaded the Byzantines that these nomads were not the real Avars, but were instead a group of "fugitive Scythians" who had fled from the Göktürks and stolen the prestigious name of Avar[6]. Hence they have subsequently been called pseudo-Avars.

For all the theories, historian Walter Pohl asserted in 1998, instancing the detailed attempts made by H. W. Haussig in 1953[7] and K. Czeglèdy in 1983[8] and his own methodological objections[9]: "It is pointless to ask who exactly the forefathers of the European Avars were. We only know that they carried an ancient, very prestigious name (our first hints to it date back to the times of Herodotus); and we may assume that they were a very mixed group of warriors who wanted to escape domination by the Göktürks."[10] If the Avars were ever a distinct ethnic group, that distinction does not seem to have survived their centuries in Europe. Being an 'Avar' seems to have meant being part of the Avar state (in a similar way that being 'Roman' ceased to have any ethnic meaning). What is certain, by the time they arrived in Europe, the Avars were a heterogeneous, polyethnic people.[6][11] Modern research shows[12] that each of the large confederations of steppe warriors (such as the Scythians, Huns, Bulgars, Avars, Khazars, Cumans, Mongols, etc.) were not ethnically homogeneous, but rather unions of multiple ethnicities.

Whatever the origin of the initial group of nomadic warriors, the Avars rapidly intermixed with the Slavic population on the lower Danube basin and Pannonian Plain [13]. Slavic was likely used as a lingua franca within the khaganate amongst the disparate peoples[14][15]. Anthropological research has revealed few skeletons with Mongoloid-type features, although there was continuing cultural influence from the Eurasian nomadic steppe.

History

Arrival in Europe

The Avars arrived in the northern region of Caucasia in 557; they sent an embassy to Constantinople, marking their first contact with the Byzantine Empire. In exchange for gold, they agreed to subjugate the "unruly gentes" on behalf of the Byzantines. They defeated and incorporated the various nomadic tribes - Kutrigur Bulgars, Onogur/Utigur Bulgars, Sabir, Antes, etc. and, and by 562 controlled the vast steppes of Ukraine and the lower Danube basin[16]. By their arrival into the Balkans, the Avars were a heterogeneous group of c. 20,000 horsemen[6]. Having been bought off by the Eastern Emperor Justinian I, they pushed north into Germany (as Attila the Hun had done a century before), eventually reaching as far north as the Baltic. However, further expansion into Germania was halted by Frankish opposition and the harsh conditions of western Europe.

Seeking rich pastoral lands, they initially demanded land south of the Danube River (in present-day Bulgaria), but this was denied them by the Byzantines, who used their contacts with the Göktürks as a threat against Avar aggression. They thus turned their attention to the Carpathian plain and the natural defenses it afforded[17]. However, the Carpathian basin was then occupied by the Gepids. In 567, the Avars signed an alliance with the Lombards, who were the enemies of the Gepids, and together they destroyed much of the Gepid Kingdom. The Avars then 'persuaded' the Lombards to move into northern Italy, an invasion that marked the last Germanic mass movement in the Migration Period.

Continuing their successful policy of turning the various barbarians against each other, the Byzantines convinced the Avars to attack the Sclavenes in Scythia Minor - for their land was rich with booty and had never been conquered before[18]. After "devastating" much of the Sclavenes' land, the Avars returned to Pannonia, but not before many of the khagan's subjects deserted to the Byzantine Emperor. By 600 AD, the Avars had established a nomadic empire stretching from modern-day Austria in the west to the Pontic steppes in the east, ruling over a multitude of peoples.

Map showing the location of Avar Khaganate, c. 600 AD.

The Early Avar Period (580-670)

Like Attila before him, by about 580 the Avar Khagan, Bayan, established supremacy over practically all Slavic, Hunno-Bulgar, and Germanic tribes.[19] When the Eastern Roman Empire was unable to pay subsidies or hire Avar mercenaries, the Avars raided Rome's Balkan communities. According to Menander, to sack Dalmatia in 568, Bayan commanded 10,000 Kutrigur Bulgar, effectively cutting Byzantium's land link with North Italy and the West. By 582, the Avars had captured Sirmium, an important fort in the former Roman province of Pannonia. When the Byzantines refused to increase the stipend amount requested by Bayans's son and successor Bayan II (from 584), the Avars proceeded to capture Singidunum and Viminacium. However, during Maurice's Balkan campaigns in the 590s, Avars experienced setbacks. Being defeated in their homeland, some Avars defected to the Byzantines in 602,[20] but Emperor Maurice decided against returning home as was customary. He maintained his army camp beyond the Danube throughout the winter, which caused the army to revolt (602). This gave the Avars a desperately needed respite. The ensuing civil war prompted a Persian invasion and after 615 gave the Avars a free hand in the undefended Balkans. They attempted an invasion of northern Italy in 610. Payments in gold and goods reached the record sum of 200,000 solidi shortly before 626.[21]

In 626, the joint Avar and Sassanid Persian siege of Constantinople failed. Following this defeat, the Avars' prestige and power declined. The Byzantines document a battle between the Avars and their Slav clients in 629. In the 630s, Samo increased his authority over lands to the north and west of the khanate, at the expense of the Avars, becoming "King of the Wends". At about the same time, the Great Khan Kubrat (Kurt), of the Dulo clan, led a successful uprising to end Avar authority over the Pannonian Plain, establishing what the Byzantines used to call Old Great Bulgaria. The civil war, possibly a succession struggle in Onoguria, between the joint Avar/Kutrigur Bulgar parties and Kubrat's Utigur Bulgar forces raged from 631-632. The power of the Kutrigur Bulgars was smashed and the Avars came under the control of "Patria Onoguria" ("the homeland of Onogurs"). ChroniclersTemplate:Fredegarius recorded that 9,000 Bulgars sought asylum and fled to Bavaria, only to be slaughtered by King Dagobert I of the Franks. However, an element in Onoguria remained and came to be known as Cozariks (still noted in Transylvania even as late as the time of Menumorut). Following Kubrat's death, they would vie for control again. One group on the eastern side of Onoguria migrated north up the volga where they established their own state of Great Bolgary. Any remaining from Transylvania to Ukraine from this point on were assimilated by the Khazars. Nevertheless, Avars would manage to come out of the other side of the 7th century struggles on top yet again the Hrpt clan inheriting the rule shifted control of Onoguria from Balt-Avar to Bács in 677 in the face of Khazar expansion.

Social and tribal structure

The Carpathian basin was the centre of the Avar power base. The Avars re-settled captives from the peripheries of their empire to more central regions. Avar material culture is found south to Macedonia. However, to the east of the Carpathians, there are next to no Avar archaeological finds, suggesting that they were mainly in the western Balkans. Scholars propose that a highly structured and hierarchical Avar society existed, having complex interactions with other 'barbarian' groups. The khagan was the paramount figure, surrounded by a minority of nomadic aristocracy.

A few exceptionally rich burials have been uncovered, confirming that power was limited to the khagan and a close-knit class of 'elite warriors'. In addition to hoards of gold coins that accompanied the burials, the men were often buried with symbols of rank, such as decorated belts, weapons, stirrups resembling those found in central Asia, as well as their horse. The Avar army was composed from numerous other groups - Slavic, Gepidic and Bulgar military units - who did the bulk of the fighting for little reward. There also appeared to have existed semi-independent "client", predominantly Slavic, tribes which served strategic roles, such as engaging in diversory attacks and guarding the Avars' western borders abutting the Frankish Empire. Yet other tribes were equals and allies of the Avars, such as Khan Zabergan's Kutrigur Bulgars and Ardagastus' Slavs, which often conducted autonomous offensives into Byzantine land.

Initially, the Avars and their subjects lived separately, except for Slavic and Germanic women who were married to Avar men. Eventually, the Germanic and Slavic peoples were included in the Avaric social order and culture, which itself was Persian- Byzantine in fashion[22]. Scholars have identified a fused, Avar-Slavic culture, characterized by ornaments such as half moon-shaped earrings, Byzantine-styled buckles, beads, and bracelets with horn-shaped ends [22]. Paul Fouracre notes, “[T]here appears in the seventh century a mixed Slavic-Avar material culture, interpreted as peaceful and harmonious relationships between Avar warriors and Slavic peasants. It is thought possible that at least some of the leaders of the Slavic tribes could have become part of the Avar aristocracy”[23]. Apart from the assimilated Gepids, a few graves of west Germanic (Carolingian) peoples have been found in the Avar lands. They perhaps served as mercenaries.[22]

Middle (670-720) and Late (720-800) Avar Periods

The Great Khan Kubrat, the ruler of Great Old Bulgaria, died in 665 and was succeeded, in what is present-day Ukraine, by Batbayan. By 670, the Khazars had shattered the unity of the Onogur Bulgar confederation, causing the Utigurs to leave Ukraine and migrate west. The Viennese chronicle states 677 as the year when the "Hungar"/(Onogur) ethnicon established itself decisively in Pannonia. This new ethnic element (marked by hair clips for pigtails; curved, single-edged sabres; broad, symmetrical bows) marks the middle Avar-Bulgar period (670-720 AD). One group of Onogurs, led by Khan Kuber, after defeating the Avars in Sirmium, moved south and settled in the present-day region of Macedonia. Another group of Onogur/Utigur Bulgars, led by Khan Asparukh (the father of Tervel), had already settled permanently in the Balkans (c. 679-681). Although the Avar empire had diminished to half its original size, they consolidated their rule over the central parts of the mid-Danubian basin, and extended their sphere of influence west to the Viennese Basin. With the death of Samo, some Slavic tribes again fell under Avar rule. New regional centers appeared, such as those near Ozora and Igaz (county Fehér/Hungary). This strengthened the Avars' power base, although most of the Balkans now lay in the hands of Slavic tribes, since neither the Avars nor Byzantines were able to reassert control.

Late Avar period

In the early 8th century, a new archaeological culture appeared in the Carpathian basin: the so called "griffin and tendril" culture. Although some earlier scholars (such as the “double conquest” theory of archaeologist Gyula László) have attempted to attribute it to the arrival of new settlers (such as early Magyars), there is no evidence for a new wave of immigration from the steppes after 700 AD. Instead, Hungarian archaeologists Laszló Makkai and András Móczy attribute this to an internal evolution of Avar culture, resulting from the integration of the Bulgar émigrés from the previous generation (i.e. 670s): "the material culture — art, clothing, equipment, weapons — of the late Avar/Bulgar period evolved autonomously from these new foundations". Many regions that had once been important centres of Avar Empire had lost their significance, whilst new ones arose. Whilst Avaric material culture found over much of the northern Balkans might indicate an existing Avar presence, it probably more accurately represents the presence of independent Slavs who had adopted Avaric customs[22].

Collapse

The gradual decline of Avar power was brought to a rapid crash within the space of a decade. A series of Frankish campaigns in the 790s led by Charlemagne ended with their conquest of the Avar realm, taking most of Pannonia up to the Tisza River. The song "De Pippine regis Victoria Avarica" celebrating the defeat of the Avars at the hands of Pepin of Italy in 796 survives. The Franks baptised many Avars and integrated them into the Frankish Empire (...(sc. Avaros) autem, qui obediebant fidei et baptismum sunt consecuti...). In 804, the First Bulgarian Empire conquered the southeastern Avar lands- Transylvania and south-eastern Pannonia to the Middle Danube River. Many Avars became subjects of the Bulgar Empire. The Franks turned the Avar lands under their control into a military march. The eastern half of this March was then granted to the Slavic Prince Pribina, who established the Balaton principality in 840 AD. The western part of Awarenmark continued to exist until 871, when it was integrated into the Carantanian and Eastern marches.

After the fall of the Avar Empire, the name Avar, and the self-identified constructed ethnicity it carried, disappeared within a single generation. An Avar presence in Pannonia is still certain in 871 but thereafter the name is no longer used by chroniclers: "It simply proved impossible to keep up an Avar identity after Avar institutions and the high claims of their tradition had failed."[24]. The Avars had already been fusing with the more numerous Slavs for generations. In turn, they came under the rule of external polities – that of the Franks, the Bulgar Khanate and Great Moravia[25]. Isolated pockets of Avars in Transylvania and eastern Pannonia escaped assimilation, and might have been the “Huns” encountered by the invading Magyars in the 9th century. Annales Iuvavenses maximi mention the 881 battle of the mysterious "Cowari" in Kollmitz, and the Avars of Tiszántúl and Crisana were still bilingual when the Hungarians arrived in 895. Their hypothetical descendants, the Székely (who apparently preserved the Avar Dragon Totem well into the 15th century), were relocated to Transylvania in the 12th century. In contrast to Transylvania, the descendants of those who had considered themselves "Avars" in the 8th century (i.e., part of the Avar polity, even if actually of Slavic or Germanic background) in the central Pannonian Plain were absorbed by the invading Magyars to form the new nation of Hungary.

Language of the Eurasian Avars

The extinct language of the Eurasian Avars is now classified as belonging to the Oghur-Turkic subgroup,[26][27][28] and the language itself is referred to as Turkic Avar in order to distinguish it from the North-Caucasian Avar spoken by the modern Caucasian Avars.[29][30]

References

  • Fine, Jr, John V.A (1991). The early Medieval Balkans; A critical survery from the sixth to the late twelfth century. The University of Michigan Press. ISBN 0-472-08149-7.  

Bruno Genito, Madaras, Laszlo (eds.) (2005) "Archaeological Remains of a Steppe people in the Hungarian Great Plain: The Avarian Cemetery at Öcsöd 59. Final Reports. Naples". ISSN = 1824-6117

Sources and notes

  1. ^ The image is based on reconstruction by Norman J. Finkelshteyn of an image from an 8th-century ewer found at Nagyszentmiklos in Transylvania (original at [1]). some scholars regard the image as that of a Khazar warrior.
  2. ^ Hungarians and Europe in the Middle Ages. CEU press
  3. ^ K.H. Menges, "Altaic people", Encyclopaedia Iranica, v, p. 908-912, Online Edition ([http://www.iranica.com/newsite/search/searchpdf.isc?
  4. ^ Florin Curta. The Slavic Lingua Franca. Quotation: "There is very little evidence that speakers of Slavic had any significant contact with Turkic. As a consequence, and since the latest stratum of loan words in Common Slavic is Iranian in origin, Johanna Nicols advanced the theory that the Avars spoke Iranian, not Turkic."
  5. ^ E. H. Parker: A Thousand Years of the Tartars, ISBN 0710307462; ISBN 978-0710307460
  6. ^ a b c Curta
  7. ^ H. W. Haussig, "Theophylakts Exkurs über die skythischen Völker", Byzantion, 23 (1953) pp 275-436.
  8. ^ K. Czeglédy, "From East to West", Archivum Eurasiae Medii Aevi, 3 (1983) pp 25-126.
  9. ^ in Die Awaren (1988) and in "Verlaufsformen der Ethnogenese: Awaren und Bulgaren," Typen der Ethnogenese, ed. H. Wolfram and W. Pohl, vol. I, (1990) pp. 113-24.
  10. ^ Walter Pohl, "Conceptions of Ethnicity in Early Medieval Studies", Debating the Middle Ages: Issues and Readings, ed. Lester K. Little and Barbara H. Rosenwein, (Blackwell), 1998, pp 13-24) p. 18 (On-line text).
  11. ^ The early Medieval Balkans. John Fine Jr
  12. ^ Walter Pohl (1999), "Huns" in Late Antiquity, editor Peter Brown, p.501-502 .. further references to F.H Bauml and M. Birnbaum, eds., Attila: The Man and His Image (1993). Peter Heather, "The Huns and the End of the Roman Empire in Western Europe," English Historical Review 90 (1995):4-41. Peter Heather, The Fall of the Roman Empire (2005). Otto Maenchen-Helfen, The World of the Huns (1973). E. de la Vaissière, "Huns et Xiongnu", Central Asiatic Journal, 2005-1 pp. 3-26
  13. ^ The Early Slavs, P M Barford
  14. ^ Barford
  15. ^ The Making of the Slavs. Florin Curta
  16. ^ Pohl
  17. ^ History of Transylvania, Volume I. László Makkai, András Mócsy. Columbia University Press. 2001
  18. ^ Florin Curta. The Making of the Slavs
  19. ^ Pohl 1998:18.
  20. ^ Walter Pohl, Die Awaren (Munich) 2.ed.2002., page 158.
  21. ^ Walter Pohl, Die Awaren (Munich) 1.ed.1988.
  22. ^ a b c d History of Transylvania
  23. ^ The New Cambridge Medieval History. Paul Fouracre
  24. ^ Pohl 1998:19.
  25. ^ The early medieval Balkans. John Fine, Jr
  26. ^ Price, Glanville. Encyclopedia of the Languages of Europe (2000) p 68.
  27. ^ Marcantonio, Angela. The Uralic Language Family (2002) p 24.
  28. ^ Róna-Tas, András. Hungarians and Europe in the Early Middle Ages (1999) p 116.
  29. ^ E. J. The Languages of the World (2002) p 127.
  30. ^ For references on the classification of Turkic Avar, see the main article on Oghur languages.

See also


The Caucasian Avars are a modern people of Caucasus, mainly of Dagestan.

The Eurasian Avars, sometimes referred to as the European Avars, or Ancient Avars, were a highly organized and powerful confederation of a mixed ethnic background, thought to be closely related to Bulgars, Khazars and other Oghur Turkic peoples of the time. They were ruled by a khagan, who was surrounded by a tight-knit retinue of nomad warriors, an organization characteristic of Turkic groups. They first appeared in the late 4th century as the Rouran on the northern borders of China, where they maintained their power for two centuries.[1] They appeared in Central and Eastern Europe in the 6th century, where Avar rule persisted over much of the Pannonian Plain up to the early 9th century.They are also found in north India as ahirs.

Contents

Origins

The origin of the European Avars is unclear. Information about origins is derived primarily from the works of Byzantine historians Menander Protector and Theophylact Simocatta. The confusion is compounded by the fact that many clans carried a particular name because they believed it to be prestigious, or it was attributed to them by outsiders describing their common characteristics, believed place of origin or reputation.[2] Such a case has been seen repeatedly for many nomadic confederacies.

According to the research of historian András Róna-Tas[3], the ethnic Avars formed in central Asia in the classical age through a fusion of several tribal elements. Róna-Tas suggests that Turkic Oghurs migrated to the Kazakh steppe, possibly moving south to inhabit the lands vacated by the Huns. Here they interacted with a body of Indo-European-speaking Iranians, forming the Xionites (Hunas). Sometime during the 460s, they were subordinated by the Mongolic Rouran. The Rouran imposed their own rulers, referred to as Uar, at the head of the confederacy. Being a highly cultured people, the Oghurs rose to prominence within the tribal confederacy.

The 6th century historian Menander Protector noted that the language of the Avars (which he called Ouarkhonitai "Vakonites") was the same as (possibly meaning similar to) that of the Huns. If language is an indicator of origin, this supports the theory that they might have been an Oghuric Turkic people[4]. Recently some scholars have proposed that they were an Iranic-speaking group[5]. The connection with the Rouran has prompted some scholars to suggest that the European Avars' ruling core was Mongolic, although this has been disputed by others.[6]

Early in the sixth century, the confederacy was conquered by the Göktürk empire (the Göktürks were previously yet another vassal tribal element under Rouran supremacy). In his History of the World, Theophylact Simocatta noted that the Göktürks "enslaved the Ohgur tribe, which was one of the most powerful...and was accomplished in the art of war." One body of people, perhaps wishing to evade Göktürk rule, escaped and migrated to the northern Caucasus region c. 555 AD. According to Simocatta, their new neighbours believed them to be the true Avars. They established diplomatic contact with the Byzantines, and the other nomadic tribes of the steppes lavished them with gifts. However, the Göktürks later persuaded the Byzantines that these nomads were not the real Avars, but were instead a group of "fugitive Scythians" who had fled from the Göktürks and stolen the prestigious name of Avar[7]. Hence they have subsequently been called pseudo-Avars.

For all the theories, historian Walter Pohl asserted in 1998, instancing the detailed attempts made by H. W. Haussig in 1953[8] and K. Czeglèdy in 1983[9] and his own methodological objections[10]: "It is pointless to ask who exactly the forefathers of the European Avars were. We only know that they carried an ancient, very prestigious name (our first hints to it date back to the times of Herodotus); and we may assume that they were a very mixed group of warriors who wanted to escape domination by the Göktürks."[11] If the Avars were ever a distinct ethnic group, that distinction does not seem to have survived their centuries in Europe. Being an 'Avar' seems to have meant being part of the Avar state (in a similar way that being 'Roman' ceased to have any ethnic meaning). What is certain, by the time they arrived in Europe, the Avars were a heterogeneous, polyethnic people.[7][12] Modern research shows[13] that each of the large confederations of steppe warriors (such as the Scythians, Xiongnu, Huns, Bulgars, Avars, Khazars, Cumans, Mongols, etc.) were not ethnically homogeneous, but rather unions of multiple ethnicities.

Whatever the origin of the initial group of nomadic warriors, the Avars rapidly intermixed with the Slavic population on the lower Danube basin and Pannonian Plain [14]. Slavic was likely used as a lingua franca within the khaganate amongst the disparate peoples[15][16]. Anthropological research has revealed few skeletons with Mongoloid-type features, although there was continuing cultural influence from the Eurasian nomadic steppe.

History

Arrival in Europe

The Avars arrived in the northern region of Caucasia in 557; they sent an embassy to Constantinople, marking their first contact with the Byzantine Empire. In exchange for gold, they agreed to subjugate the "unruly gentes" on behalf of the Byzantines. They defeated and incorporated the various nomadic tribes - Kutrigur Bulgars, Onogur/Utigur Bulgars, Sabir Bulgars, Antes, etc. and, and by 562 controlled the vast steppes of Ukraine and the lower Danube basin[17]. By their arrival into the Balkans, the Avars were a heterogeneous group of c. 20,000 horsemen[7]. Having been bought off by the Eastern Emperor Justinian I, they pushed north into Germany (as Attila the Hun had done a century before), eventually reaching as far north as the Baltic. However, further expansion into Germania was halted by Frankish opposition and the harsh conditions of western Europe.

Seeking rich pastoral lands, they initially demanded land south of the Danube River (in present-day Bulgaria), but this was denied them by the Byzantines, who used their contacts with the Göktürks as a threat against Avar aggression. They thus turned their attention to the Carpathian plain and the natural defenses it afforded[18]. However, the Carpathian basin was then occupied by the Gepids. In 567, the Avars signed an alliance with the Lombards, who were the enemies of the Gepids, and together they destroyed much of the Gepid Kingdom. The Avars then 'persuaded' the Lombards to move into northern Italy, an invasion that marked the last Germanic mass movement in the Migration Period.

Continuing their successful policy of turning the various barbarians against each other, the Byzantines convinced the Avars to attack the Sclavenes in Scythia Minor - for their land was rich with booty and had never been conquered before[19]. After "devastating" much of the Sclavenes' land, the Avars returned to Pannonia, but not before many of the khagan's subjects deserted to the Byzantine Emperor. By 600 AD, the Avars had established a nomadic empire stretching from modern-day Austria in the west to the Pontic steppes in the east, ruling over a multitude of peoples.

The Early Avar Period (580-670)

Like Attila before him, by about 580 the Avar Khagan, Bayan, established supremacy over practically all Slavic, Hunno-Bulgar, and Germanic tribes.[20] When the Eastern Roman Empire was unable to pay subsidies or hire Avar mercenaries, the Avars raided Rome's Balkan communities. According to Menander, to sack Dalmatia in 568, Bayan commanded 10,000 Kutrigur Bulgar, effectively cutting Byzantium's land link with North Italy and the West. By 582, the Avars had captured Sirmium, an important fort in the former Roman province of Pannonia. When the Byzantines refused to increase the stipend amount requested by Bayans's son and successor Bayan II (from 584), the Avars proceeded to capture Singidunum and Viminacium. However, during Maurice’s Balkan campaigns in the 590s, Avars experienced setbacks. Being defeated in their homeland, some Avars defected to the Byzantines in 602,[21] but Emperor Maurice decided against returning home as was customary. He maintained his army camp beyond the Danube throughout the winter, which caused the army to revolt (602). This gave the Avars a desperately needed respite. The ensuing civil war prompted a Persian invasion and after 615 gave the Avars a free hand in the undefended Balkans. They attempted an invasion of northern Italy in 610. Payments in gold and goods reached the record sum of 200,000 solidi shortly before 626.[22]

In 626, the joint Avar and Persian siege of Constantinople failed. Following this defeat, the Avars' prestige and power declined. The Byzantines document a battle between the Avars and their Slav clients in 629. Constantine Porphyrogenitus, Byzantine emperor in the 10th century, writes that seven Croat tribes had been hired as mercenaries to help in war against Avars. Shortly after this, the Croats and Serbs took over rule in Dalmatia/ Illyria. In the 630s, Samo increased his authority over lands to the north and west of the khanate, at the expense of the Avars, becoming ‘’King of the Wends’’. Around 630, the Great Khan Kubrat (Kurt), of the Dulo clan of the Utigur and Onogur Bulgars, led a successful uprising from "Patria Onoguria" ("the homeland of Onogurs"), to end Avar authority over the Pannonian Plain, establishing what the Byzantines used to call Old Great Bulgaria. In 631-32, there was a civil war, possibly a succession struggle, between the joint Avar/Kutrigur Bulgar parties and Kubrat's Utigur Bulgar forces. The Kutrigur Bulgar party lost, and chroniclers recorded that 9,000 Kutrigur Bulgars sought asylum and fled to Bavaria, only to be slaughtered by King Dagobert. However a significant number of Cozrigurs must have remained in Pannonia (Transylvania in particular), as they were noted in the time of Menumorut.

Social and tribal structure

The Carpathian basin was the centre of the Avar power base. The Avars re-settled captives from the peripheries of their empire to more central regions. Avar material culture is found south to Macedonia. However, to the east of the Carpathians, there are next to no Avar archaeological finds, suggesting that they were mainly in the western Balkans. Scholars propose that a highly structured and hierarchical Avar society existed, having complex interactions with other 'barbarian' groups. The khagan was the paramount figure, surrounded by a minority of nomadic aristocracy.

A few exceptionally rich burials have been uncovered, confirming that power was limited to the khagan and a close-knit class of 'elite warriors'. In addition to hoards of gold coins that accompanied the burials, the men were often buried with symbols of rank, such as decorated belts, weapons, stirrups resembling those found in central Asia, as well as their horse. The Avar army was composed from numerous other groups - Slavic, Gepidic and Bulgar military units - who did the bulk of the fighting for little reward. There also appeared to have existed semi-independent 'client', predominantly Slavic, tribes which served strategic roles, such as engaging in diversory attacks and guarding the Avars' western borders abutting Frankia. Yet other tribes were equals and allies of the Avars, such as Khan Zabergan's Kutrigur Bulgars and Ardagastus' Slavs, which often conducted autonomous offensives into Byzantine land.

Initially, the Avars and their subjects lived separately, except for Slavic and Germanic women who were married to Avar men. Eventually, the Germanic and Slavic peoples were included in the Avaric social order and culture, which itself was Persian- Byzantine in fashion[23]. Scholars have identified a fused, Avar-Slavic culture, characterized by ornaments such as half moon-shaped earrings, Byzantine-styled buckles, beads, and bracelets with horn-shaped ends [23]. Paul Fouracre notes, “[T]here appears in the seventh century a mixed Slavic-Avar material culture, interpreted as peaceful and harmonious relationships between Avar warriors and Slavic peasants. It is thought possible that at least some of the leaders of the Slavic tribes could have become part of the Avar aristocracy”[24]. Apart from the assimilated Gepids, a few graves of west Germanic (Carolingian) peoples have been found in the Avar lands. They perhaps served as mercenaries.[23]

Middle (670-720) and Late (720-800) Avar Periods

The Great Khan Kubrat, the ruler of Great Old Bulgaria, died in 665 and was succeeded, in what is present-day Ukraine, by his eldest son Batbayan (Bayan). By 670, the Khazars had shattered the unity of the Onogur Bulgar confederation, causing the Utigur Bulgars to leave Ukraine and migrate west. The Viennese chronicle states 677 as the year when the "Hungar"/(Onogur) ethnicon established itself decisively in Pannonia. This new ethnic element (marked by hair clips for pigtails; curved, single-edged sabres; broad, symmetrical bows) marks the middle Avar-Bulgar period (670-720 AD). One group of Onogur Bulgars, led by Khan Kuber, ("one of the Bulgar Khan Tervel's uncles"), after defeating the Avars in Srem, moved south and settled in the present-day region of Macedonia. Another group of Onogur/Utigur Bulgars, led by Khan Asparuh (the father of Khan Tervel), had already settled permanently in the Balkans (c. 679-681). Although the Avars’ empire had diminished to half its original size, they consolidated rule over the central "Hungar"/(Onogur) lands, mid-Danubian basin, and extended their sphere of influence west to the Viennese Basin. With the death of Samo, some Slavic tribes again fell under Avar rule. New regional centers appeared, such as those near Ozora and Igaz (county Fehér/Hungary). This strengthened the Avars' power base, although most of the Balkans now lay in the hands of Slavic tribes, since neither the Avars nor Byzantines were able to reassert control.

In the early 8th century, a new archaeological culture appeared in the Carpathian basin: the so called "griffin and tendril" culture. Although some earlier scholars (such as the “double conquest” theory of archaeologist Gyula László) have attempted to attribute it to the arrival of new settlers (such as early Magyars), there is no evidence for a new wave of immigration from the steppes after 700 AD. Instead, Laszló Makkai and András Móczy attribute this to an internal evolution of Avar culture, resulting from the integration of the Bulgar émigrés from the previous generation (i.e. 670s): “’’the material culture — art, clothing, equipment, weapons — of the late Avar/Bulgar period evolved autonomously from these new foundations’’”. Many regions that had once been important centres of Avar Empire had lost their significance, whilst new ones arose. Whilst Avaric material culture found over much of the northern Balkans might indicate an existing Avar presence, it probably more accurately represents the presence of independent Slavs who had adopted Avaric customs[23].

Collapse

The gradual decline of Avar power was brought to a rapid crash within the space of a decade. A series of Frankish campaigns in the 790s led by Charlemagne ended with their conquest of the Avar realm, taking most of Pannonia up to the Tisza River. The song "De Pippine regis Victoria Avarica" celebrating the defeat of the Avars at the hands of Pepin of Italy in 796 survives. The Franks baptised many Avars and integrated them into the Frankish Empire (...(sc. Avaros) autem, qui obediebant fidei et baptismum sunt consecuti...). In 804, the Bulgarian Empire (Khanate) conquered the southeastern Avar lands- Transylvania and south-eastern Pannonia to the Middle Danube River. Many Avars became subjects of the Bulgar Khanate. The Franks turned the Avar lands under their control into a military march. The eastern half of this March was then granted to the Slavic Prince Pribina, who established the Balaton principality in 840 AD. The western part of Awarenmark continued to exist until 871, when it was integrated into the Carantanian and Eastern marches.

After the fall of the Avar Empire, the name Avar, and the self-identified constructed ethnicity it carried, disappeared within a single generation. An Avar presence in Pannonia is still certain in 871 but thereafter the name is no longer used by chroniclers: "It simply proved impossible to keep up an Avar identity after Avar institutions and the high claims of their tradition had failed."[25]. The Avars had already been fusing with the more numerous Slavs for generations. In turn, they came under the rule of external polities – that of the Franks, the Bulgar Khanate and Great Moravia[26]. Isolated pockets of Avars in Transylvania and eastern Pannonia escaped assimilation, and might have been the “Huns” encountered[citation needed] by the invading Magyars in the 10th century. The Avars of Tiszántúl and Crisana were still bilingual when the Hungarians arrived in 895. Their hypothetical descendants, the Székely (who apparently preserved the Avar Dragon Totem well into the 15th century[citation needed]), were relocated to Transylvania in the 12th century. In contrast to Transylvania, the descendants of those who had considered themselves "Avars" in the 700s (i.e., part of the Avar polity, even if actually of Slavic or Germanic background) in the central Pannonian Plain were absorbed by the invading Magyars to form the new nation of Hungary.

Language of the Eurasian Avars

The extinct language of the Eurasian Avars is now classified as belonging to the Oghur-Turkic subgroup,[27][28][29] and the language itself is referred to as Turkic Avar in order to distinguish it from the North-Caucasian Avar spoken by the modern Caucasian Avars.[30][31]

References

  • Fine, Jr, John V.A (1991). The early Medieval Balkans; A critical survery from the sixth to the late twelfth century. The University of Michigan Press. ISBN 0-472-08149-7. 

Bruno Genito, Madaras, Laszlo (eds.) (2005) "Archaeological Remains of a Steppe people in the Hungarian Great Plain: The Avarian Cemetery at Öcsöd 59. Final Reports. Naples". ISSN = 1824-6117

Sources and notes

  1. ^ Christopher I. Beckwith, Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the Present (Princeton University Press, 2009: ISBN 978-0-691-13589-2), p. 103 ff., 406 ff.
  2. ^ name="Pohl"
  3. ^ Hungarians and Europe in the Middle Ages. CEU press
  4. ^ name="Iranica">K.H. Menges, "Altaic people", Encyclopaedia Iranica, v, p. 908-912, Online Edition ([http://www.iranica.com/newsite/search/searchpdf.isc?
  5. ^ Florin Curta. The Slavic Lingua Franca. Quotation: "There is very little evidence that speakers of Slavic had any significant contact with Turkic. As a consequence, and since the latest stratum of loan words in Common Slavic is Iranian in origin, Johanna Nicols advanced the theory that the Avars spoke Iranian, not Turkic."
  6. ^ E. H. Parker: A Thousand Years of the Tartars, ISBN 0710307462; ISBN 978-0710307460
  7. ^ a b c Curta
  8. ^ H. W. Haussig, "Theophylakts Exkurs über die skythischen Völker", Byzantion, 23 (1953) pp 275-436.
  9. ^ K. Czeglédy, "From East to West", Archivum Eurasiae Medii Aevi, 3 (1983) pp 25-126.
  10. ^ in Die Awaren (1988) and in "Verlaufsformen der Ethnogenese: Awaren und Bulgaren," Typen der Ethnogenese, ed. H. Wolfram and W. Pohl, vol. I, (1990) pp. 113-24.
  11. ^ Walter Pohl, "Conceptions of Ethnicity in Early Medieval Studies", Debating the Middle Ages: Issues and Readings, ed. Lester K. Little and Barbara H. Rosenwein, (Blackwell), 1998, pp 13-24) p. 18 (On-line text).
  12. ^ The early Medieval Balkans. John Fine Jr
  13. ^ Walter Pohl (1999), "Huns" in Late Antiquity, editor Peter Brown, p.501-502 .. further references to F.H Bauml and M. Birnbaum, eds., Attila: The Man and His Image (1993). Peter Heather, "The Huns and the End of the Roman Empire in Western Europe," English Historical Review 90 (1995):4-41. Peter Heather, The Fall of the Roman Empire (2005). Otto Maenchen-Helfen, The World of the Huns (1973). E. de la Vaissière, "Huns et Xiongnu", Central Asiatic Journal, 2005-1 pp. 3-26
  14. ^ The Early Slavs, P M Barford
  15. ^ Barford
  16. ^ The Making of the Slavs. Florin Curta
  17. ^ Pohl
  18. ^ History of Transylvania, Volume I. László Makkai, András Mócsy. Columbia University Press. 2001
  19. ^ Florin Curta. The Making of the Slavs
  20. ^ Pohl 1998:18.
  21. ^ Walter Pohl, Die Awaren (Munich) 2.ed.2002., page 158.
  22. ^ Walter Pohl, Die Awaren (Munich) 1.ed.1988.
  23. ^ a b c d History of Transylvania
  24. ^ The New Cambridge Medieval History. Paul Fouracre
  25. ^ Pohl 1998:19.
  26. ^ The early medieval Balkans. John Fine, Jr
  27. ^ Price, Glanville. Encyclopedia of the Languages of Europe (2000) p 68.
  28. ^ Marcantonio, Angela. The Uralic Language Family (2002) p 24.
  29. ^ Róna-Tas, András. Hungarians and Europe in the Early Middle Ages (1999) p 116.
  30. ^ E. J. The Languages of the World (2002) p 127.
  31. ^ For references on the classification of Turkic Avar, see the main article on Oghur languages.

See also


Simple English

The Avars were a powerful Turkic group. They were lead by a leader, called a Khagan. They could be found in Central and Eastern Europe during the 6th century.








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