The role of the Slavs within the Byzantine empire, 500-1018

Michael David Graebner






Byzantine Europe was the same in form, but different in texture from Byzantine Asia. Aside from being invaded and fought over from Roman times to Turkish conquest by many peoples, Byzantine Europe holds the dubious distinction of being a major feuding ground for scholars. This second front has tended to treat Byzantium lightly, preferring to wage acrimonious campaigns over racial survival and the pros and cons of classical culture as it is carried by the bloodstream. [1] These thoughts would have left an Athenian such as Isocrates wondering, but the debate about classical culture, as carried in the bloodstream, remains yet a hotly contested point in this 'modern" era. [2]


One of the more serious casualties of nationalist passions in the battle of the pens has been discussion about the Slavs in Byzantine Europe. [3] As it is obvious that Slavs invaded and settled as far south as the Peloponnesus, and as it is equally obvious that Byzantines survived this invasion, and since genocide was abhorrent to both — a mixture of these two peoples is an obvious





conclusion to draw. [4] The culture which Byzantium possessed, and which was transmitted by other than genetic means, did, eventually, Byzantinize many areas in Europe. [5] This, however, did not fully envelop the Slavs of Byzantine Europe, so that during the era 600-1018, many Slavs retained their ethnic identity in several imperial areas. [6]


It is accurate to say that the process of Byzantinization found its limits among the Slavs in imperial Europe. The reasons for such a limitation helps to indicate what was necessary for assimilation to take place and that was, more precisely, the true nature of Byzantinization. Historical developments, vis-à-vis the Slavs within imperial boundaries, are complex, and partially explained by the coming of another non-Slavic people, the Bulgars, onto the Balkan Peninsula. [7] Without the presence of this force in the East-Balkan lands, assimilation certainly would have progressed more quickly and spread much farther. But, due to unique features in Bulgar culture, efforts among the Slavs were hampered and geographically limited. [8]


Byzantium might claim theoretical rule over many Slavic groups, including the Serbian tribes to the North, [9] but in reality control was confined to those areas where imperial administration was actually present. Bulgar advances curtailed effective control. The Bulgars achieved with time what no other nomadic invader of the Balkan peninsula had: an independent cultural synthesis capable of being an alternative to Byzantium. [10] The unique





relationship developed between Bulgar and Slav was not easily attained but its steady progress proved a constant hindrance to imperial hopes for the Byzantinization of all Balkan Slavs. [11] Scholars, who, in their search for racial purity, overlook the Bulgars, fail to understand an important factor in the history of the medieval Balkans.


Had the Bulgars been merely another nomadic tribe from the steppes, Byzantium might have eventually assimilated all the Slavs on the peninsula. This did not occur. The Bulgars did not just raid, leaving devastation behind — forming a great confederation one day and collapsing the next. [12] They formed something far more durable. For reasons not yet known, the Bulgars memorialized themselves with monuments and inscriptions. [13] While the historical and cultural background of their inscriptions and monuments is still debated, they, in essence, gave the Bulgars a permanence of presence not possessed by any other invader. [14] The expedition of Constantine IV and his illness which demoralized the imperial armies at a crucial moment brought about in 681 Byzantium's recognition of a Bulgar State north of the Balkan mountains. [15]


A map of imperial holdings in Europe at this time, excluding Italy and Sicily, would have shown great disparity between imperial claims and imperial realities. [16] The worst of the southward Slavic invasions was over. [17] Slavs were to be found virtually everywhere in the Balkan Peninsula and in Greece. [18] Scattered among this Slavic population





were strong pockets of imperial communities which had survived the invasions. [19] It is possible that these communities were more numerous to the south, at least sufficiently numerous to support the imperial claim. [20]


Byzantium, in 681, held many key cities, such as Thessalonica, Corinth, Monemvasia, and Patras, and the fleet, when present, had after the defeat of the Arabs in 678, full control of the Aegean. [21] With the survival of an indigenous population and proper military-administrative support, Byzantium stood in a good position. The single most important city and the center of imperial reunification of the peninsula under Byzantine rule was Thessalonica. [22] Lands in the region of Thessalonica were, however, heavily populated with Slavs. [23] This problem was complicated further by Bulgar designs on the city. [24] Without Thessalonica any imperial plan for other areas in Greece and the Peloponnesus was impossible.


The situation in the second half of the seventh and first quarter of the eighth centuries was critical for Byzantine Thessalonica. The city itself was attacked and threatened numerous times by Slavs, sometimes in alliance with Bulgars. [25] Not since the Dorian invasion of the first millennium B.C. had the whole of Greece faced a change of entire ethnographic and cultural complexion. [26] Fortresses such as Patras and Monemvasia could hold out, but they were distant and isolated. [27] Without Thessalonica as a connecting link, their fate was sealed. If a renewed





order was to come to the Old Byzantine areas of Europe, it would have to emanate from Thessalonica.


A decisive moment came when Constans II balanced his failure against the Arabs with a successful campaign against the Slavs in 657. [28] This campaign established a precedent for future policy. Constans II did not drive the Slavs out from around Thessalonica, he merely subjugated them to imperial authority and administration. [29] The Slavs, who were removed from the area around Thessalonica, were transferred elsewhere within the empire. [30] The Slavs left around Thessalonica remained semi-autonomous and not completely isolated from the long chain of Slavic tribes which, totally free of Byzantium, extended up and down the peninsula. [31] Constans II had merely done what was absolutely necessary and done it with economy. He removed the possibility of an immediate Slavic seizure of Thessalonica, but not the entire Slavic population. This was the first time any imperial city in Europe, aside from Constantinople itself, had received such imperial attention.


Constans II's conguest reduced the Slavs in the vicinity of Thessalonica to tributaries of the empire. [32] Although there is a definite problem in the dating of the Kouver episode in the Miracula St. Demetrii, this episode, now generally accepted as occurring in the last quarter of the seventh century, mentions that in the region of Thessalonica Slavs could be commanded to supply imperial needs. [33] Evidence strongly points to Constans II as the





initiator of this control. [34] Exactly thirty-one years later imperial control in this region was amplified by Justinian II. [35] Justinian II not only strengthened Thessalonica as a Byzantine center, but also cleared the Strymon region of Slavic interference and thereby created a connecting link between imperial Thrace and Thessalonica. [36]


Further elucidation of Justinian II's campaign of 688 may be seen when the complexities of Bulgar-Slav-Byzantine relationships are examined. The tripartite nature of this relationship remains a key to understanding imperial policy in this region, and perhaps for much of the Balkan Peninsula. [37] Justinian II, like his predecessor Constans II, permitted Slavic settlements within imperial borders. [38] His military activities were concerned less with Slavic problems (which were already partially solved) than with a serious Bulgar threat to Thessalonica and its environs. [39] The existence of a Bulgar State to the north, even if not desired, was tolerable, but Bulgar control of the region of Thessalonica and imperial Macedonia was out of the question. [40]


As imperial population was still sparse in this region, Justinian II dared not create a vacuum into which Bulgar power could move. Thus, his policy focused itself upon expulsion of the Bulgars, acceptance of the Slavs, and the transporting of potential Slavic leadership into Byzantine Asia Minor. [41] The Slavic population which remained was then drawn into the Byzantine sphere of influence. It





was eminently important that these Slavs be kept from potential unity with the Bulgars. Imperial-military administration worked diligently to create a set of conditions which, while allowing Slavs to remain on imperial lands, kept them isolated from Bulgar influences. [42] In Eastern Macedonia and in Greece they succeeded admirably. Slavs would cause trouble, but primarily as Slavs and not as Bulgar agents. [43]


The Bulgars, who migrated south, were occupying a power vacuum. A large portion of the Balkan Peninsula lay open to whoever could dominate the numerous Slavic tribes which had settled there. As imperial energies were not equal to the task of retaking the whole of the peninsula, much of the East, Thrace, and parts of Moesia fell, almost by default, under the Bulgar influence. [44] Unlike their predecessors, the Bulgars seem to have developed a close rapport with the Slavs very early in their domination of the East Balkans. [45] This, coupled with the permanence of inscriptions and monuments, points toward the early stages of cultural synthesis with the Slavs. [46] It was also a direct threat to Byzantium. [47]


Byzantium, ironically, was in the same basic position as the Bulgars with reference to the Slavic population of the peninsula. While imperial population survived, it was, in the seventh century, not large enough to dominate Slavic tribes by numbers alone. [48] This was exactly the case with Bulgar-Slav relations. Although Bulgar population





was in a definite minority in ratio to Slavic, the Bulgars, like the Byzantines, were capable of domination by means other than sheer force of numbers. [49] In both cases the Slavs represented the important statistical entity. So it was that the Slav in the Balkans remained to enhance the strength of the two real powers: Bulgar and Byzantine. [50] Bulgar interference in Macedonia, especially near Thessalonica, resulted in Justinian IIʹs campaign. The Slavs were allowed to remain, but the Bulgars were driven out. During the remainder of the seventh century, imperial statecraft was able, by treaty or by force, to keep the Bulgars from further penetration into Macedonia. [51] Aside from the Chronicles of Theophanes and Nicephorus, the battered inscriptions at Madara relate, from the Bulgar point of view, the activities and treaties of the "emperor with the cut off nose" with Khan Tervel. [52] Included in these inscriptions is a much-debated passage concerning Thessalonica and environs. [53] All that can be clearly said is that sometime before 707 Justinian made a treaty with Khan Tervel, but some kind of disagreement arose over Thessalonica with a possible relative of Tervel's. In any case, Thessalonica and the surrounding area remained Byzantine.


While the Slavs of Thessalonica and Eastern Macedonia continued to stand outside of the Bulgar orbit, they were not entirely subservient to Byzantine rule. During the era of Tiberlus-Apsimar, there was a rebellion in this region. [54] It was quickly put down but independent Slavic





activities continued. Piracy seems to have been a long-term problem. Slavic piracy was on a small enough scale not to be a serious threat to the imperial navy, but constant enough to reduce the population of such islands as Imbros seriously. [55] It was only with the coming of Constantine V that this problem was brought under a semblance of control. [56]


Constantine V made possible what was to follow in Greece. In 758 he waged a quick but decisive campaign against the Slavic regions of Macedonia subjugating the area. [57] This accomplished, he then turned his attention to the real danger, Bulgaria. [58] By his campaign of 758 he had effectively isolated the Slavs of Macedonia from any influence except that of Byzantium. Byzantine influence upon the Slavs of Greece and the Balkan Peninsula grew very strong during his reign. So powerful was this influence that the emperor could strip the Bulgar State of close to a quarter of a million of its inhabitants, as he did in 762. [59] Farther south he was able to reduce Slavic piracy and regained 2,500 captives from Imbros, Samothrace, and Tanedos. [60] His savage campaigns against the Bulgars assured their non-interference in Macedonia. [61] The Byzantine population of Thessalonica had gained time to build up strength and envelop at least part of the Slavic population of the area.


While Constantine V's death brought an end to the struggle with Bulgaria, it did not put an end to the





imperial initiative in Macedonia and Greece. Untroubled by her Bulgar neighbors to the north, the empress Irene was able to send an army under Staurikios, then Logothete of the Drome, to reduce the Slavs of the Thessalonica region. [62] The campaign, however, went much farther than this. Imperial troops passed through Thessalonica, and, in this campaign of 783/84, penetrated into Greece and the Peloponnesus. [63] Byzantium had returned in force. Whatever the racial composition of Greece, it was no longer after 783/84 of serious importance, since culturally it would now be increasingly Byzantine in character. Yet, there remained problems.


Thessalonica and environs had for a century and a quarter (657-783) been the focus of at least four major Byzantine military expeditions. [64] While these expeditions radiated farther and farther from Thessalonica, it still remains a question why so many were necessary, unless Byzantium was continually uncertain of its control over the region. Imperial uncertainty may be explained by Nicephorus I's actions of 810. In that year Nicephorus I transplanted a significant population to the Sklavinias region of Macedonia. [65] It thus appears obvious that before this time the Slavic population was in such a ratio to the Byzantine inhabitants of the region that Byzantium was unable to consolidate the control brought by each military expedition. [66] Byzantinization needed a sizable Byzantine population to assimilate a foreign body such as the Slavs.





Until the reign of Nicephorus I, such an opportunity was missing. [67]


From then on, in spite of the flight of some of the people settled by Nicephorus I, there is mention only of minor Slavic troubles, never requiring the kind of force necessary before 810. From the testimony of John Cameniates a little less than a century later (904), Slavs, although till enjoying some autonomy, were, nevertheless, loyal to the empire and fought bravely against Leo of Tripoly in 903. [68] The only other evidence of trouble among the Slavs in the region of Thessalonica comes from Liutprand of Cremona. [69] There, as Marin Drinov first noted, [70] such a Macedonian-Slavic uprising (in about 926) was at least partially the work of Byzantium's most dangerous and able Bulgarian opponent, Tsar Simeon (893-927). [71] The Macedonian region beyond Thessalonica had become, by the ninth century, not only a border area between Byzantium and Bulgaria, but a zone of cultural transition.


Security in this northern zone around Thessalonica assured, by 810, development which worked to the advantage of Byzantium in Greece and in the Peloponnesus. While isolation of the Slavs of Greece was assured by Nicephorus I's transfer of population [72] and by the military achievements of Staurikios, the Slavs of Greece, especially in the Peloponnesus, remained autonomous. [73] In spite of the formation of the Themes of Hellas and the Peloponnesus, [74] they constituted a chronic problem to imperial authorities





throughout the Middle Byzantine Era. [75] The Themes of Hellas and the Peloponnesus contained autonomous Slavic tribes when these areas were organized as Themes, and would continue to contain autonomous Slavs throughout the next several centuries. [76] It is instructive to assess the effects of these Slavs upon their Byzantine neighbors in order to understand both the survival of Slavic autonomy d the limits of Byzantinization.


At first glance, by 810, conditions in Hellas and the Peloponnesus would have appeared felicitous for quick and total absorption of the Slavic population. Byzantium had virtually unchallenged military control on both land sea, a significantly large population of its own, and an imperial administration in control. [77] Such a picture is, however, somewhat illusory. The Slavs also were numerous and occupied inaccessible areas, many of which did not offer economic advantages to Byzantium. [78] As Slavic economy was self-sufficient from the outset, inter-penetration remained minimal. [79] Thus, large population, inaccessibility, and primitive self-sufficiency combined to create a long lasting Slavic autonomy. For a good part of the eighth and ninth centuries, this independence was accompanied by Slavic piracy and brigandage. [80] While imperial armies might reduce the leading tribes to tributary status, only overwhelming numbers of Byzantine population could control and finally end Slavic autonomy and its concomitant problems.





Once Slavs situated in the vicinity of such cities Patras were reduced to becoming tributaries, they would most likely be subjected to slow but sure Byzantinization. [81] Whatever tribal aristocracy existed among the Slavs of Greece, i.e., the Veligezites, Milingi, and Ezeriti, they had but one direction to go — toward Byzantinization and assimilation. The intrigue of Akamir is but an early example of Slavic entry into Byzantine politics and life. Akamir, who unsuccessfully plotted in 799 to raise a son of Constantine V as heir to the throne in place of Irene, merely reflected a more general trend against the reign of Irene. [82] This is an example of a chieftain of the Velzitian Slavs working to involve himself more deeply in imperial politics, not for Slavic autonomy. His aspirations were to be followed by many other Slavic chieftains. Separated from Bulgaria, Slavic aristocracy, fragmented as it was, found it most advantageous to participate in Byzantinization.


This is not hard to see in the later case of Nicetas Rentakios, a land magnate of the Peloponnesus. Contantine VII's remark about the ethnic purity of Rentakios' family indicates several developments within the Slavic-Byzantine areas of Greece. [83] Nicetas Rentakios' extreme misplaced pride in his "pure" Hellenic lineage shows that Byzantinization had sufficiently progressed, at least among the Slavs, for the claim of Hellenic lineage to emerge. In short, there then existed enough Slavs who had





become so Byzantinized that only a careful tracing of ancestry would reveal Slavonic background. [84] Moreover, this supports a preference for such a background in Slav-Byzantine areas.


The advantages of being a Byzantine aristocrat instead of being a Slavic nobleman may be seen in the case of Nicetas Rentakios. Aside from wealth and a prominent political position within the local imperial administration, Nicetas gained contact with Constantinople. His association with the court of Byzantium yielded surprising results. Nicetas' daughter married into the imperial family. His granddaughter's marriage to Tsar Peter of Bulgaria as a Byzantine princess becomes, then, aside from the irony of its dual Slavic quality, an instructive example of total Byzantinization. [85]


In spite of the benefits which accompanied such assimilation, evidence clearly shows that many Slavs remained unassimilated. Toponymy, combined with written documents, indicates long-term dominant Slavic settlements in Greece. [86] By the tenth century dents were being made and assimilation, though incomplete, was taking place. It is likely that the Slavic pirates who were such a vexation to St. Gregory the Decapolite in the ninth century [87] were losing ground, for it is known that the Peloponnesus by the time of Basil I had a sizable contingent of Mardites. Closely associated with Byzantine naval prowess, this people had probably been placed there to check piracy. [88]





Military force, however, is not the real key to understanding the slow pace of Byzantinization in Greece.


Possibly the most important factor in imperial Europe, along with the Slavic-Byzantine population ratio, was cultural. The Russian monastic historian of the nineteenth century, I. Sokolov, accurately pointed out how important the end of the second iconoclast controversy had been for the spread of Byzantine monasticism. [89] The resolution of the iconoclast controversy released monastic energies from the bitter internecine struggle which had split Eastern Christianity for over a century. It was the monk, more than any other individual in the empire, who was the transmitter of Byzantine culture in its most popular form. [90] While monasticism of a most zealous variety had strong foundations in Bithynia and other areas of Asia Minor, the great monastic centers in Byzantine Europe were yet to come. [91] Without this cultural force Byzantinization remained fragmentary at best.


To be sure, commerce, imperial administration, and Byzantine wealth had all brought limited interaction between Byzantine and Slav in Greece, but motivation to search out and touch every aspect of life was still lacking. Eastern monasticism, however, heeding the tenets of St. Basil and the scriptural injunction to go and preach to all nations, [92] was an ideal vehicle to transform Slavic life in Europe. Imperial administration cared only that affairs were peaceful and that tribute was paid. [93] Imperial commerce met





mainly in the markets on market days, awaiting trade. The lure of position and wealth touched only those Slavic chieftains who were closest to such wealth and position. The monk, in contrast, was sincerely interested in seeking out and caring for all of his fellows from birth to death. [94] With the monk came the alphabet and the rich traditions of Orthodoxy, traditions proven effective in previous struggles with paganism. Until near the end of the ninth century, monks, due to the pressures of the iconoclast struggle, were in short supply in Byzantine Europe. [95] The tenth century was further troubled by warfare between Byzantium and Bulgaria which seriously upset the stability of areas to the north of the Peloponnesus. Monks present in these regions could not establish themselves thoroughly, as their compatriots had in the East. There are cases where monks were forced to flee due to the warfare, and thereby failed to maintain continuity, a force important in the Byzantinization of foreigners. [96] What was needed was not a few isolated individuals, but a strong foundation such as was to be found at Olympos in Bithynia or in Constantinople.


The slowness of Byzantinization in Greece and the Peloponnesus is closely tied with the slowness of monastic development in these areas. It was not that monks were totally absent, it was that they did not muster sufficient strength during the ninth and tenth centuries to hasten and make more complete the process of Byzantinization. In addition to the Slavs, the Peloponnesus held other peoples not





yet converted. Indeed, until the reign of Basil I, there were still pagans of the Classic Greek variety along with Jews to keep the monk busy. [97] To the north, the conversion of Bulgaria and the developing literary school at Preslav provided a tempting vista which drew away the most talented monks in Byzantine-Slavic work. [98] Thus the Peloponnesus and Greece remained rather as an afterthought than as a front line of monastic activity.


Again it is Thessalonica and its vicinity which was to receive the major attention of the empire. The key was the north, Thessalonica, and by means of Thessalonica, the Slavic world. [99] The ninth and tenth centuries were to witness the growth of the greatest and most influential monastic center of Orthodoxy, Mt. Athos. [100] Near Thessalonica and the main arteries of trade, Mt. Athos was the European counterpart of Olympos in Bithynia, but with one important difference. In the ninth century a final line was drawn between the Slavic world and the Byzantine one. The monastic foundation in Bithynia, while aware of many alphabets and languages, used the Greek language almost exclusively. Athos did not. [101] The development of Slavic letters in the ninth century gave a permanence to Slavic culture. Slavs, thanks to Byzantium, now possessed an alphabet.


In a sense the Byzantine gift of Constantine and Methodius curtailed the scope of Byzantinization. The conversion of Bulgaria under Tsar Boris I drew Bulgaria into





the cultural orbit of Byzantium. However, the development of the Slavic alphabet and its use at the Bulgarian court removed Bulgaria forever from the final step of Byzantinization: the adoption of Byzantine Greek as the native language. [102] Byzantine culture, as transmitted by the great monastic centers of the Byzantine-Slavic world, Mt. Athos, Ohrid, and Preslav, was now permanently established in most of the Balkan Peninsula. [103] Total Byzantinization was limited by the vicissitudes of political and military fortune to only those areas under the full control of Byzantium and where there was a considerable Greek-speaking element. Macedonia, a politically disputed area, remained Byzantine in culture, but not completely Greek in language. [104]


The tenth century marks a crucial era with regard to the Byzantinization or non-Byzantinization of the Slavs under imperial rule. Had Bulgaria remained the great northern neighbor centered around Pliska-Preslav, north of the Balkan mountain range (Stara Planina), developments in Macedonia and Greece might have taken a different course. [105] Such was not the case. Constantine and Methodius' students, having been driven out of Moravia, moved south and founded a center of letters at Ohrid in Macedonia. [106] The ramifications of this development upon both the Slavic and the Byzantine world were to be deep and long lasting.


For the Slavic world it meant that the work started





by Constantine and Methodius would endure, but the immediate results of the mission to Moravia soon disappeared, swallowed up by the Germanic move eastward and enforced latinization. [107] At Ohrid and at Preslav, under the then powerful arm of the Bulgarian Tsars, the actual and permanent conversion of the Slavs to Orthodoxy commenced. [108] This was not particularly dangerous to Byzantine interests, but the foundation of a Slavic center so far south, at Ohrid, was indeed a threat, especially in the hands of the Bulgarian Tsar. As Tsar Simeon was to show by his campaign which reached as far as the Peloponnesus in 920, such a southern center of Slavic independence backed by a strong Bulgarian monarch could effectively cancel out all the progress towards Byzantinization that had been made in Greece and around Thessalonica. [109]


Imperial gains in Greece had been hard won but were yet incomplete. Slavs still remained throughout Greece, but properly isolated, they would eventually Byzantinize. Since Greece and especially the Peloponnesus were backwaters of the empire, not much imperial energy was expended in these areas. [110] All these factors combined to create a dangerous set of conditions should Bulgaria choose again to resume hostilities with Byzantium in Macedonia. More or less peaceful conditions followed the death of Tsar Simeon in 927. [111] These years of peace were followed by a weakening of the Bulgarian State in the north due to the Russian invasion of 969 and John Tzimiskes' successful





resolution of the Russian problem at Durostorum (972). [112] The result was to give Byzantium a certain preeminence in the northern part of Bulgaria. This had serious consequences for the South Balkans, especially Macedonia.


What Byzantium had accomplished was not to destroy the Bulgarian State, but to draw its core closer to the nerve center of imperial Europe, namely Thessalonica. It had in effect created a more immediate threat to Byzantinization, particularly in Greece. Centered in the Prespa-Ohrid region, the kingdom of the Comitopuli was well situated and equipped to strike at the vital regions of European Byzantium. [113] This is precisely what took place during the long and deadly war between Basil II and Samuel. Beginning in 976, Samuel moved south attacking Larissa without success. [114] The campaign of Samuel included a march (996) into the Peloponnesus and activities against Thessalonica. [115] To meet such a threat Byzantium poured in such great resources that the state Samuel had set out to build was totally destroyed by 1018. [116] It was the destruction of Samuel's state which insured the Byzantinization of the Greek and Peloponnesian Slavs. There now no Slavic power to which they could turn.


Byzantine relations with the Slavs within its European borders previous to the conquest of Bulgaria indicates the limitations which Byzantium suffered in the administration of its territory. Slavs were never completely assimilated into Byzantium. [117] In the case of





Byzantine Greece and the Peloponnesus, it was, at least until well after 1018, a case of too little too late. The Peloponnesus and Greece remained secondary areas to an empire based in Asia Minor. The empire paid as little attention as possible to this region simply because more pressing problems were constantly at hand. Slavs were numerous enough to make quick assimilation impossible in many regions. Extra imperial population was needed. [118] Yet, population was not the only factor missing or in short supply. The bitter iconoclast struggle robbed the area of monastic attention until well into the tenth century. It is possibly the monk, more than any other factor, who made Byzantinization complete.


Once imperial reconquest of Greece was completed in the eighth century, the Slavs themselves were accepted by the empire. At worst, they were a nuisance; at best, they kept the land productive and occupied. [119] In the area around Thessalonica, their occupation under Byzantine suzerainty prevented a vacuum into which some more hostile power might come, i.e., the Bulgars. Whatever troubles existed between Slav and Byzantine, they were local in character. In Greece, Byzantinization took place not so such by coercion as by Slavic willingness. To move up the cultural ladder meant precisely just that — Byzantinization. That this was incomplete by 1018 shows only a lack of fanaticism on both sides. Constantine VII might ridicule Nicetas Rentakios' specious claim to true Hellenic lineage,





but that made him no less acceptable as a land magnate or as a relative of the imperial family through marriage. If Byzantium, during its middle era, had failings, extreme racism was not one of them.


Unfortunately for history, the debate on Greece during the Middle Ages is just that. [120] Neither the Slavs, nor the Romaioi, as the citizens of Byzantium were known, practiced genocide. The classification of human culture as transmitted by racial blood type belongs only to the darkest days which this century has known. No Byzantine or Slav would have been so barbaric. Culture existed in Greece as it did throughout the empire. The Romaioi, as true bearers of Classical learning, Christian religion and Roman Law, compelled no one to accept them immediately. [121] It was not necessary. Perhaps this, more than any other factor, has evaded the historian familiar with more absolutist regimes. Athens, much to the classicist's despair, was no longer the city of Pericles. During the era 700-1018, it was a provincial city, perhaps less glittering, but still offering its Slavic neighbors a bright and rewarding culture. [122]


Tribute was levied upon the Slavs of Greece, but their freedom to exist there was not threatened. [123] Byzantium gave at least what it received in the way of trade, education, and general public welfare. One can hardly cite the attempted elimination of Slavic pirates as an example of mindless tyranny. The Slavs during their





invasion of Greece did not slaughter all the original inhabitants, nor did the original inhabitants, strengthened by imperial armies, kill off or drive out the Slavs. Byzantinization, total Byzantinization, occurred leaving only place names as evidence that Slavs had settled there as Slavs. [124] By 1018 much of this had taken place.


The total Byzantinization of foreign peoples, and indeed Byzantium itself, found its limits among the Slavs of the Balkans. To a good extent this was the empire's own doing. It was enough for regions outside imperial control to receive its culture. This was perhaps Byzantium's finest act. By giving the Slavs their alphabet and much of its culture, Byzantium allowed a limitation to be placed upon itself. It permitted the Slavs outside of its borders, both before and after 1018, to remain Slavs. [125] Lest that be taken lightly, it is instructive to compare Byzantium's Slavic policy with that of Medieval Germany's treatment of the Slavs. [126] Whether within its borders and finally Byzantinized, or outside of its borders and converted, the Slav exposed to Byzantium received the same gift — civilization. That, after all, was the lifeblood of the empire. It remains now to examine what traces the Slavs left in their union with the empire.








1. Fallmerayer, Geschichte des Halbinsel Morea, I, ii-iv and xiii, was the first to assert this curious notion, that blood played a part in the transmission of Hellenic culture. Lack of Hellenic blood meant lack of Hellenic culture.


2. Falmerayer's assertions on the extinction of the Greek race were refuted by Hopf, Geschichte Griechenlands, pp. 34-53. Hopf, nonetheless, remained under the influence of classicism, and treated Byzantium as a secondary phenomenon. Perhaps the most level-headed discussion of this question in its original form was that of Vasiliev, "Slavjane v Gretsii," pp. 404-438, 618-670. The whole controversy was revived by R. J. H. Jenkins, Byzantium and Byzantinism (Cincinnati: University of Cincinnati = Lectures in memory of Louise Taft Semple, delivered November 5 and 6, 1962, published 1963), pp. 1-43. Jenkins again posits that dilution of Hellenic blood was a dilution of Hellenic culture.


3. The focus of the discussion has tended to be upon the existence or non-existence of Slavs in Greece, or conversely, the existence or non-existence of Greeks in Greece. Only in the era following the Second World War has any attempt been made to create a more general picture. The most objective in this regard is P. Charanis, "Observations on the History of Greece during the Early Middle Ages," Balkan Studies, XI/1 (1970), 1-34.


4. The best evidence of this is provided by toponymy. The existence of Slavic toponyms in areas which have been Greek in language and culture for centuries proves this to be the case. For more on this, see M. Vasmer, Die Slaven in Griechenland, pp. 11-19.


5. Bon, Le Peloponnèse, pp. 27-70.


6. Dölger, "Ein Fall," p. 28, and Georgacas, "The Medieval Names Melingi and Ezeritae," pp. 301-333.


7. Moravcsik, Byzantinoturcica, I, 108-119.


8. Zlatarski, Istorija, I/1, 176-257.


9. G. Ostrogorsky, "Die Byzantinische Staatenhierarchie," Seminarium Kondokovianum, VIII (1936), 41-62, in Serbo-Croatian, Subranie Delo, V (Belgrade: Prosveta, 1970), 238-262.





10. Tupkova-Zaimova. Našestvija, p. 110.


11. Zlatarski, Istorija2, I/1, 376-447.


12. Cf. the Huns and the Avars. See Moravcsik, Byzantinoturcica, I, 57-65 (Huns) and 70-76 (Avars).


13. Beševliev, Die Protobulgarischen Inschriften, pp. 89-92.


14. Ibid., pp. 86-87.


15. Theophanes, Chronographia, 356:18-359:21, especially 359:3-21. Also see Zlatarski, Istorija2, pp. 195205.


16. G. Ostrogorsky, "The Byzantine Emperor and the Hierarchical World Order," The Slavonic and East European Review. XXXV, No. 84 (December, 1956), 1-14, = Subranie Delo, V, 263-277.


17. Niederle, Slovanské Starožitnosti, II/2, 400-446, and Zlatarski, "Naseljevanje Slovena," pp. 82-100, = Izbrani Proizvedenija, I, 32-51.


18. Vasmer, Die Slaven, pp. 20-173; P. Charanis, "On the Question of Slavonic Settlement in Greece During the Middle Ages," Byzantinoslavica, X (1949), 254-258; and Niederle, Slovanské Starožitnosti, II/2, 421-446.


19. Charanis, "The Chronicle of Monemvasia," pp. 141-166; and Lemerle, "La Chronique improprement," pp. 5-49.


20. On the actual establishment of Thematic units in Europe, see Constantine Porphyrogenitus, De Thematibus, pp. 114-183; Charanis, "Observations," pp. 1-11.


21. Chranis, "The Demography," pp. 13-18.


22. P. Charanis, "Kouver, the Chronology of His Activties and Their Ethnic Effects on the Regions Around Thessalonica," Balkan Studies, XI/2 (1970) , 229-247.


23. V. Tupkova-Zaimova, "Sur quelques aspects de la colonization slave en Macédoine et en Grèce," Etudes Balkaniques, I (1964), 111-123; Evert-Kappesowa, "Slowianie pod Tesalonika," pp. 179-196; Charanis, "Observations," pp. 11-13, is doubtlessly correct in his location of the Sclavinias in Macedonia and Thrace. For the closest to Thessalonica, see p. 12, n. 45. Also see Vasmer, Die Slaven, pp. 176-178 and 202-204; Niederle, Slovanské Starožitnosti, II/2, 421-429.





24. Important in this regard is the Proto-Bulgarian inscription at Madara (Beševliev, Inschriften, pp. 95-111, inscription 1C), which refers to Bulgar activities in the south.


25. The most important instance of this in the late seventh century is the attack by Kouver (Charanis, "Kouver," pp. 229-235).


26. Zlatarski, "Naseljvanje," p. 50.


27. Tupkova-Zaimova, Našestvia, pp. 106-107.


28. Theophanes, Chronographia, 347:6-7.


29. Charanis, "Kouver," p. 238, rightly concludes that Constans II was the emperor responsible for these Slavs' subjugation. Thessalonica was the farthest limit of Constans II's campaign (Theophanes, Chronographia, 347: 6). Charanis ("On the Capture of Corinth by the Onogurs and Its Recapture by the Byzantines," Speculum, XXVII/3 [1952], 343-350) is, therefore, correct in his criticism of K. Setton's theory that Constans II reached Corinth.


30. Most likely to Asia Minor as Theophanes, Chronographia, 348:16-20, would seem to indicate.


31. Tupkova-Zaimova, "Quelques aspects," pp. 117-122.


32. Theophanes, Chronographia, 347:6-7; Charanis, Observations, pp. 11-13.


33. Charanis, "Kouver," pp. 229-235.


34. Ibid., p. 238; Barišić, Čuda, pp. 126-136. Both Barišić and Charanis date the Kouver episode during the reign of Constantine IV. On the basis of this, it is best to assume that Constans II placed the Dragovites under the imperial control portrayed by this episode.


35. Theophanes, Chronographia, 364:9-15.


36. Zlatarski, Istorija2, I/1, 219.


37. This interplay between Byzantium, Bulgar and Slav was first clearly enunciated by Zlatarski, "Obrazuvane," Izbrani Proizvedenija, I, 313-358. A more recent attempt to clarify this relationship is that by D. Angelov, La formation de la nationalite bulgare," Etudes Balkaniques, IV (1969), 14-37.


38. Ostrogorsky, History3, p. 117.





39. Theophanes, Chronographia, 364:9-11.


40. Zlatarski, Istorija2, I/1, 261-268.


41. This, perhaps, explains the Bulgar elements among these Slavs, i.e., the Voiladi and Nevoulos. For the relation of the Voiladi to the colonization of 688, see Vryonis, "St. Ioannicius," pp. 245-246. On the possible Bulgar origin of the name Nevoulos, see Beševliev, "Les inscriptions," pp. 228-229.


42. Zlatarski, Istorija2, I/1, 273-275.


43. The Slavic troubles mentioned by Liutprand of Cremona, Antapodosis, pp. 306:52 to 307:16, may have been Bulgar inspired. See Zlatarski, Istorija2, I/2, 490, for this support of this contention.


44. Zlatarski, Istorija2, I/1, 195-205, and I. Dujčev, "Obedinenieto na slavjanskite plemena v Mizia prez VII vek," Bulgarsko Srednovekovie, pp. 70-86.


45. Dujčev, "Nai-ranni vruzki," ibid., pp. 87-103.


46. Beševliev, Inschriften, pp. 37-49.


47. Such as the region around Thessalonica as Justinian II's campaign indicates.


48. Charanis, "Nicephorus I," pp. 75-92, was the first to point out the importance of population size in this regard.


49. Zlatarski, Istorija2, I/1, 264-266, and Burmov, "Kum vuprosa," Izbrani proizvedenija, I, 137-160.


50. Zlatarski, "Obrazuvane," pp. 313-321, and Charanis, "On the Question," pp. 254-258.


51. Zlatarski, Istorija2, pp. 218-220.


52. Beševliev, Inschriften, pp. 57-58 and 95-111.


53. Ibid., pp. 102-111.


54. Michael le Syrien, Chronique, p. 473.


55. Nicephorus, Brevarium, 76:22-29.


56. Ibid.


57. Theophanes, Chronographia, 430:21-22.





58. Zlatarski, Istorija2, I/1, 266-308.


59. Nicephorus, Brevarium, 68:27-69:2.


60. Ibid., 76:22-29.


61. Beševliev, "Die Feldzüge," pp. 5-17.


62. Theophanes, Chronographia, 456:25-457:1.


63. Ibid., 457:2-6.


64. I.e., the campaigns of Constans II (657), Justinian II (688) , Constantine V (758) , and Staurikios for Irene (783).


65. Theophanes, Chronographia, 486:10-13. Also see Charanis, "Nicephorus I," pp. 75-92, and "Observations," pp. 12-13.


66. Charanis, "Transfer of Population," p. 151, and "Nicephorus I," pp. 77-86, allows the Sclavinias region to include the Peloponnesus and Greece, but admits ("Observations," p. 13, n. 49) that, regarding the Peloponnesus, this is inference only. The juxtaposition of Theophanes account with that of the Chronicle of Monemvasia is misleading as regards the Sclavinias. Nicephorus I may have performed both transfers co-terminously, as his interest was Byzantine Europe. Sclavinia, or as Willibald mentions it "Sclavonia" (Vasmer, Die Slaven, p. 173) , seems to refer to an isolated region. Charanis' suggestion ("Graecia in Isidore of Seville," B. Z., LXIV (1971), 23) that this be taken literally is, by far, the best suggestion. "Sclavinias" as mentioned by Theophanes gives the impression of any Slavic settlements over a large area of Macedonia and Thrace. Although not absolutely verifiable, two inferences can be made from the information at hand. One, Sclavonia refers to a definite region in the Peloponnesus, cut off from contact with the Slavs of the north. Two, Sclavinias refers to a far less circumscribed, and in places, contiguous body of Slavic settlements in Macedonia and Thrace. Theophanes uses "Sclavinias" only to refer to these same regions. Stauricios' expedition (Theophanes, Chronographia, 456:25-457:1) was not against the "Sclavinias," but to the south-Hellas and the Peloponnesus.


67. Charanis, "Nicephorus I," pp. 83-06.


68. Cameniates, De Expugnatione, 20:74 and 80, 20:6 and 25:63.


69. Luitprand, Antapodosis, 306:52 to 307:16.





70. Drinov, "Južnye slavjane i Vizantija v X veke, Sučinenija, I, 402.


71. Zlatarski, Istorija2, I/2, 489-494.


72. Bon, Le Péloponnèse byzantin, pp. 27-70.


73. Charanis, "On the Question," pp. 257-258.


74. Constantine Porphyrogenitus, De Thematibus, pp. 89-91 and 170-174.


75. Bury, Eastern Roman Empire, pp. 375-381.


76. Bon, Le Péloponnèse byzantin, pp. 177-179.


77. Charanis, "Nicephorus I," pp. 84-86, and "Observations," pp. 11-34.


78. This was well stated by J. Karayannopulos, "Zur Frage der Slavenansiedlungen auf dem Peloponnes," Revue des Etudes Sud-Est Européenes, IX/3 (1971), 448.


79. Mauricius, Arta Militara, pp. 276-291, and Cankova-Petkova, "Materialnata kultura," pp. 338-344.


80. Dvornik, La Vie, pp. 29-40 and 51:24.


81. Leonis imperatoris, Tactica, M.P.G., 107, cap. 18, col. 968, par. 101. This is translated into English by Toynbee, Constantine Porphyrogenitus, p. 98.


82. Theophanes, Chronographia, 473:32 to 474:10.


83. Constantine Porphyrogenitus, De Thematibus, p. 91:40 (Pertusi).


84. J. B. Bury, "Γαρασδοειδής," English Historical Review, VI (1891), 151.


85. Zlatarski, Istorija2, I/2, 501-503.


86. Vasmer, "Die Slaven," pp. 11-19, and Dölger, "Ein Fall," pp. 1-28.


87. Dvornik, La Vie, pp. 29-30 and 51:24.


88. Bon, Le Péloponnèse byzantin, pp. 75-76.


89. Sokolov, Sostojanie monašestva, pp. 150ff.


90. Charanis, "The Monk," pp. 63-84,





91. K. Lake, The Early Days of Monasticism on Mount Athos (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1909), pp. 1-18.


92. Mathew 28:19-20.


93. Tupkova-Zaimova, "Quelques aspects," pp. 117-123.


94. Constantelos, Byzantine Philanthropy, pp. 88-110.


95. Individual monks and even monasteries existed in Greece as the sources testify, but the existence of Hellenic paganism until the time of Basil I indicates that monasticism was far from being an omnipresent phenomenon — see Constantine Porphyrogenitus, De Administrando Imperio, cap. 50, lines 71-82.


96. Bulgarian incursions and their disruptive effect upon monastic life is widely attested to by hagiography. The activities of Symeon and Samuel, both Christians, may have been intentional in the disruption of Byzantine monasticism in these areas and was possibly part of a more general policy of hindering or halting the progress of Byzantinization. Symeon's invasion (Zlatarski, Istorija2, I/2, 395-396; Ostrogorsky, History3, p. 264, n. 1) forced St. Lucas Iunior to move to the Peloponnesus (M.P.G., 111, col. 449). Likewise Maria Iunior (A.A.S.S., Nov. IV, 700-701) was adversely affected by Symeon's invasion (Zlatarski, Istorija2, I/2, 419). The life of St. Nikon Metanoeites (Lambros, Neos Ellenomnemon, III [1906], 174-175 and 177-178; Zlatarski, Istorija2, pp. 810-816) records the disruption brought by Samuel. Bulgar invasions are also noted in the lives of Euphrosyna Iunior (A.A.S.S., Nov. III, 874) and Blasius Amorionensis (A.A.S.S., Nov. IV, 660-662) . Charanis ("The Demography," p. 16) also notes the ill effects of Bulgarian military action in the Peloponnesus as witnessed by the Vita of St. Peter of Atroa. Taken together these sources are a tremendous aid to understanding of the problems Byzantinization in the Balkans.


97. Constantine Porphyrogenitus, De Administrando, cap. 50, lines 71-82; "Vios to Nikonos to Metanoeite, pp. 165-166; N. A. Vees, "Vie de saint Theoclète," Revue Byzantine = Vizantijskoe obozrenie, suppl. to vol. II (Jurjev, 1916), pp. 37:71ff.


98. V. Gjuzelev, Kniaz Boris Purvi (Sofia: Nauka i Iskustvo, 1969), pp. 324-444.


99. L. Brehier, "Salonique et la civilization byzantine, = Journal des Savants, XVII (1919), 249-259 end 295-311.





100. Lake, Monasticism, pp. 1-14, and P. Lemerle, "La vie ancienne de saint Athanase l'Athonite composée au début du XIe siècle par Athanase de Lavra," = Le Millenaire du Mont Athos 963-1963, I (Chevetogne: Editions de Chevetogne [Belgique], 1963), 59-100.


101. Dujčev, "Le Mont Athos et les Slavs au moyen âge," ibid., I, 121-143.


102. Gjuzelev, Knjaz Boris, pp. 178-373.


103. I. Dujčev, "Relations entre les Slaves méridionaux et Byzance aux Xe-XIIe siècles," Cahiers de Civilization Médiévale, IX/4 (Octobre-Decembre, 1966), 549-556.


104. Zlatarski, Istorija2, I/2, 60-61, 327-329, and 801-802.


105. Ibid., I/1, 444-447.


106. Georgiev, Razcvetut, pp. 160-169.


107. Dvornik, Byzantine Missions Among the Slavs (New Brunswick, N. J. : Rutgers University Press, 1970), pp. 192-229.


108. Zlatarski, Istorija2, I/2, 210-279.


109. Ibid., pp. 395-397.


110. Even during the reign of Constantine Porphyrogenitus, the Themes of Hellas and the Peloponnesus did not rate as even fourth-class Themes — cf. Constantine Porphyrogenitus, De Cerimonii Aulis, II, cap. 50, 696-697 (Bonn). Also see H. Gelzer, "Die Genesis der Byzantinischen Themenverfassung," Abhandlung der Königliche Sächsischen Gesellschaft des Wissenschafts, Phil. Hist. Kl., 18, nr. 5 (Leipzig, 1899), pp. 114-126.


111. Zlatarski, Istorija2, I/2, 495-517.


112. Ibid., pp. 574-602.


113. Ibid., pp. 603-614.


114. Ibid., pp. 627-628.


115. Ibid., pp. 660-666.


116. Ibid., pp. 725-745.


117. Charanis, "On the Question," pp. 254-258.





118. I.e., the motivation for Nicephorus I's resettlement of imperial population in the Sklavinias — Theophanes, Chronographia, 486:10-13.


119. Constantine Porphyrogenitus, De Administrando, cap. 50, lines 1-70.


120. This is well stated by Sp. Vryonis in his introduction to P. Charanis', Studies in the Demography of the Byzantine Empire (London: Variorum Reprints, 1972), n.p.


121. Witness the rich traditions of dialogue to be found in Byzantine ecclesiastical literature. This is well exemplified by the life of Constantine-Cyrill himself. See Kliment Ohridski, Subrani Sučinenija, pp. 91-103, 122-134, and 143-153.


122. Ferdinand Gregorovius, Geschichte der Stadt Athen im Mittlealter, I (2aufl.; Stuttgart: J. G. Cotta, 1884), 76-166.


123. I.e., in Patras — Constantine Porphyrogenitus, De Administrando, cap. 49, lines 1-75.


124. Vasmer, Die Slaven, pp. 20-163 and 174-229.


125. Zlatarski, Istorija2, II, 1-41, and more recently G. G. Litaverin, Bolgarija i Vizantiia v XI-XII vv. (Moscow: Akademii Nauk, 1960), pp. 249-375.


126. A nice summary of German treatment of the Slavs is to be found in Caroline M. Riley, "The Emperor Henry III," The Cambridge Medieval History, III (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 304-306.


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