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Vlachs, Gepids, Avars and Byzantium

The Kingdom of the Gepids in Dacia

In the Battle of Mauriacum (formerly referred to in error as Catalaunum), 'also present, at the head of an immense army of Gepids, was Ardaric, the most famous king, who, thanks to his loyalty to Attila, could participate in the latter's councils. Attila, who possessed sharp judgement, preferred him to the other vassal kings; Ardaric had earned renown for his loyalty and sound counsel'.[9]9. 'eratque et Gepidarum agmini innumerabili rex ille famosissimus Ardaricus, qui ob nimiam suam fidelitatem erga Attila eius consiliis intererat. Nam perpendens Attila sagacitate sua, super ceteros regulos diligebat; Ardaricus fide et consilio clarus' (Jordanes, Getica, 199). Jordanes drew for this characterization from Cassiodorus' Gothic history, which was based in turn on data furnished by Priskos, who lived at the time of these events; to be sure, the Goths' historiographers had clumsily interpolated that the Ostrogothic King Valamir was also Attila's most 'preferred' vassal. 

There is no doubt that, in 451, Ardaric — together with his Gepids — already stood 'at the Lord's right hand'. Their rise stemmed from their very defeat. The Huns had defeated and killed the royal family, whose authority had been shared with the tribal chiefs' council, as well as the most of the nobility, but they allowed ordinary Gepids to remain on their land in the valleys of the Upper Tisza, Bodrog, Ér, Kraszna, and Szamos in Transylvania. When the Huns' centre of power shifted to the Hungarian Plain, the Gepids were left as the sole significant compact group within the Hun sphere east of the Danube. With no other potential allies in the vicinity, the dominant Huns soon came to rely economically, politically, and militarily on the Gepids. The new king imposed on the Gepids, Ardaric, did not become the 'chief administrator' of a clan-based society, or the 'chairman' of the tribal chiefs' council, but a ruler whose power over his people was as absolute as that exercised by Attila over the notables and general population of his empire. This unlimited power was based neither on election nor on ascendance; it was simply {1-186.} bestowed upon Ardaric — and upon other vassal monarchs — by Attila and his Huns. The clever Ardaric was one of those who turned this power to their own people's advantage, a fact confirmed by the Gepidic finds from the Hun period.

When Attila died unexpectedly in 453, Ardaric and his army, which had gained experience in the campaigns against the two Roman empires, showed themselves to be masters of the situation. Ardaric saw his power imperilled by Attila's sons, who vied for the succession and fought for shares of the father's domain. Ardaric was the only vassal with the means to challenge Attila's son Ellák, and he drew in his wake the Svebs and the Rugians from the upper reaches of the Danube, as well as Edika's Skiris. The struggle was waged mainly by the 'furious sword-wielding Gepids (ense furens Gepida), and in the battle by the Nedao River, in 455, it was 'Ardaric's sword' (Ardarici gladius) that earned a decisive victory.

Following their victory, 'the Gepids forcibly occupied the Huns' land and conquered the entire Dacian territory. From this position of strength, they issued a demand to the Eastern Roman empire for no more than a friendly pact (of alliance), peace, and an annuity'.[10]10. 'Nam Gepidi Hunnorum sibi sedes viribus vindicantes totius Daciae fines velut victores potiti nihil aliud a Romano imperio, nisi pacem et annua solemnia, ut strenui viri, amica pactione postulaverunt' (Jordanes, Getica, 264); since the event was relevant to Eastern Rome, Jordanes probably drew the information from Priskos. The demands were granted, and, apart from two troubled decades in the middle of the 6th century, the Gepids served as external allies of the Eastern Roman empire.

Thus Dacia came under Gepidic domination as early as 455, and not, as archaeologists once believed thanks to a superficial assessment of their finds, many decades later. This is clearly demonstrated not only by the account drawn from Priskos but also by the archaeological finds.  Yet the original written sources are unambiguous: the Gepids' military domination extended along the Lower Danube to the mouth of the Olt, and therefore it must have encompassed all of the former provinces of Dacia, including Dacia Inferior.

According both to historical {1-187.} records and to Hun archaeological finds, Oltenia had been a 'Hun settlement area'. The account based on data from the contemporary Cassiodorus clearly defines the Gepidic borders in the first third of the 6th century: 'Scythia prima ab occidente gens residet Gepidarum, que magnis opinatisque ambitur fluminibus. Nam Tisia per aquilonem eius chorumque discurrit; ab africo vero magnus ipse Danubius, et ab eoo Flutausis secat, ...intorsis illis Dacia est, ad coronae speciem arduis Alpibus emunita'.[11]11. Jordanes, Getica, 33. In other words, the Gepidic people live in a region west of Scythia Minor (Dobrudja), bordered by great and famous rivers, in the north by the Tisza, in the south by the great Danube itself, and in the east by the Olt ... that flows into the Danube. Beyond these, protected by the high Alps, lies 'Dacia' which in this formulation does not coincide with the territory enclosed by the Gepids' political frontiers. The same boundaries are noted by the contemporary Jordanes: 'Daciam ... quam nunc Gepidarum populi possidere noscuntur, quae patria in conspectu Moesiae sita trans Danubium coronae montium cinguntur ... haec Gotia, quam Daciam appelatur maiorem, quae nunc, ut diximus, Gepidia dicitur ... a meridiae Danubii terminabant'.[12]12. Jordanes, Getica, 74. Thus the Gepids' present-day country lies opposite Moesia, on the other side of the Danube. The country whose name was once Dacia, and later Gotia, is now called Gepidia and is bordered in the south by the Danube.

The Gepids must have exercised firm control over the borderline formed by the Danube between the Tisza and the Olt in order to be able to wage a successful war in 539 in the Lower Danubian region. Allied against Byzantium with the Frankish King Theudepert, the Gepids crossed the Danube and (while their allies attacked the Byzantines in Italy) won a bloody and devastating victory over the Byzantine army of magister militum Calluc, killing the latter in the process. They thereupon occupied 'almost all the Dacian towns'. This refers to the Eastern Roman 'Dacia ripensis', which stretched along the right bank of the Danube from the Iron {1-188.} Gates to the mouth of the Olt; but the Moesian Singidunum (Belgrade and its surroundings) also came under Gepidic rule. This was the occasion when, for the first time, the Gepids acquired a sizeable 'enslaved Roman population'. Over some ten years, the Gepids would facilitate the movement of Slavs across the Lower Danube, and in 550 they helped the Kutrigurs to attack Thrace. The Gepids surrendered former Roman territories south of the Danube only after being defeated by a Byzantine-Langobardic alliance in 551.

Dacia Inferior (Wallachia, Oltenia) was a military border zone, and in keeping with their settlement pattern, few if any Gepids made their homes in this region. However, the fact that only a bare trace has been found of the Gepids' passage (a 6th-century stamped potsherd, at Şimnic near Craiova) owes more to the insufficiency or bias of archaeological research. Jewels, weapons, and vessels of the Gepidic occupiers have been discovered on both sides of the Lower Danube, at Orsova (a grave containing fibulae) and other sites, including Singidunum, Viminacium, Ratiaria, and Augustae.  The Gepidic 'Olt limes' was broken through in the early 560s by the Slavs or, at the latest, in 567–58 by the Avars.

Apahida necropolis

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Apahida Necropolis is an archeological site in Apahida, Romania. Two tombs were discovered, and it is believed there existed a third one. One of the tombs was discovered in 1889 and its artifacts are in Budapest. The other was discovered in 1968 and its artifacts are now in the National Museum of Romanian History. One of the tombs belongs to a gepid king called Omharus.



by Coriolan Horaţiu OPREANU

Bibliografie / Figura 1 / Figura 2



In this article is discussed the historical importance of the 5 th century AD, as a turning moment between the Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages in Europe. At the same time, the study of the barbarian elite represents a fascinating and an important historical source to the social and political history.

The 5 th century is a moment of cultural connections across Europe. The author talks about the cultural contacts between Western Europe and Central and Eastern Europe. The best-known royal tomb archaeologically identified in the West is the famous tomb of Childeric, king of the Franks, who died in AD 481, or 482. The inventory of the grave demonstrated the existence of a diplomatic agreement between Childeric and the Roman Emperor at Constantinople. Childeric was dressed as a Frankish king, but as a Roman general, as well. It is a characteristic of the late 4 th-5 th centuries AD, when barbarians were accepted in great number in the Roman army, many of them becoming important leaders in the Roman army.

2000 km further, to the east, at Apahida in Transylvania, a similar, but a richer grave was found in the 19 th century. Its’ inventory, compared to Childeric’s, made historians considering it as a royal tomb. The golden crossbow brooch (fig. 1/2), the golden seal-ring, the golden “name”-ring (fig. 2) and a third golden ring having four enameled Christian crosses, all obviously worked in the imperial workshops at Constantinople, make the author talk of a diplomatic agreement with the emperor at Constantinople. The golden crossbow brooch at Tournai (fig. 1/1) and that at Apahida (fig. 60/2) belong to the same typological category (Keller 6, or Tóth B7b) (fig. 1/3-5). Their production started around the middle of the 5 th century. That means the tomb at Apahida was contemporary to that of Childeric.

On the “name” ring at Apahida, the author offers a new interpretation (fig. 2). He considers the name of the king was Omahar, written on the first row of the inscription (Omahar(i)= “which belongs to Omahar”). On the second row must be a title, as v(ir) g(loriossus) used in the 5 th-6 th centuries for the highest level of the illustres.

On the seal-ring the author read Omacar, in Latin.

Finally the third ring, having four Christian crosses, is considered to be connected to the baptism of the king from Apahida. The author uses as analogy the well-known ceremony at Tours when Clovis was baptized and he got also the “consular ornaments”. So, the baptism was in tight relation with political agreements of the Byzantine Empire with the barbarians.

The conclusion of the study is that along the periphery of the former Roman Western Empire, from Gaul and Germany to Transylvania, the barbarian elite’s tombs are drawing the map of the new barbarian kingdoms. They existed not only in Western Europe, but also in Central and Eastern Europe. Transylvania with the important political centers at Şimleul Silvaniei and Apahida, belonged in the 5 th century to the new political horizon of Europe.

That is demonstrated by the same attitude of the Byzantine Empire to centers as Tournai and Apahida, situated at 2000 km distance one to another. (454 - 567)

Gepidia (454 - 567)

The Gepids first appeared in the Carpathian region in the aftermath of the 3rd century convulsions.[11] In 291, they tried in vain to chase out the Goths from the former province Dacia; afterwards, they settled in the area bordered by the rivers Tisa, Someş and Crasna.[6] Settlement sites suggest that the single farmstead or hamlet was widespread; in the Transylvanian hills, earlier hilltop fortifications were occasionally reoccupied by Gepid groups.[15]

Early in the 5th century, the Gepids were subjugated by the Ostrogoths, and in the following decades their warriors were increasingly drawn into service with the Huns.[15] After Attila’s death the great rebellion of the Germanic peoples was led and inspired by the Gepid king Ardaric.[13] After their victory, the Gepids took over part of the former Dacia province[15] where they controlled the salt mine district.[16]

Emperor Justinian I (527-565)

To secure the Danube frontier in the western Balkans, Emperor Justinian I (527-565) relied on three rival groups (Gepids, Lombards, and Heruls), and imperial political influence was maintained by preventing any one confederacy from establishing a clear domination.[12] Justinian I also built or renewed more than 600 forts in the Balkans.[17]

In 567, the Avars and Lombards combined to destroy the Gepid kingdom that by now, had been centered on Sirmium (today in Serbia), and the lands occupied by the Gepids passed under Avar control.[12] However, at least, some splinters of the Gepid people survived this shock[15], and they also seem to remain in possession of the salt mines in Transylvania until around 630.[16]

 Gepidic Kings in Transylvania

If high-ranking military men settled their families in a ring around Napoca, it was because after the Szilágysomlyó period, Gepidic rulers had chosen to base themselves on the site of that ancient town. They dwelt within the city walls, probably in a restored building, just as the Alamanic and, later, the Baiuvaric princes had done at Castra Regina (Regensburg). However, they buried their dead not in Napoca, but on the site of the present-day village of Apahida, on the terrace of the Kis-Szamos; and they conducted funerals in secrecy. What remains the most important Gepidic grave was discovered in 1889; the coffin, with iron clamps, was in a despoiled state. Most of what is known about the grave was established in the original assessment. The grave yielded a finely-wrought, late-antique Byzantine gold fibula with bulb- shaped button and filigreed decoration; it was virtually identical to the one found in the tomb of the Frankish King Childeric I (who died in 481 or 482).

 It can be concluded that these were presents from the Eastern Roman imperial court to barbarian princes who were regarded as being of roughly equal rank. However, the princely grave at Apahida also yielded two elaborate silver jugs,



 Photo of silver jar at:

a type of Eastern Roman present that was absent from Childeric's grave.



Photo at:


Yet another object in the grave, a solid gold bracelet, was one of the distinctive badges of Germanic royal families from the 3rd–5th centuries {1-199.} onwards. The true status of the occupant was indicated most conclusively by a find that remains unique to this day: six large gold pendants, decorated with boar heads. Since these objects subsequently disappeared, it is impossible to determine how they might have been worn. The original report on the find compared the pendants with the hanging ornaments on the votive crowns of the Visigothic King Reccesvinthus; alternatively, the pendants might have ornamented large fibulae or glass vessels. A cloisonné gold buckle and gold handles from the prince's cups



 Photo at:


 reflect the 'international' style of the 5th century, but they are clearly products of same Gepidic goldsmith's workshop where certain other finds had been crafted, notably the buckles

and cup handles in the 2nd grave at Apahida, some of the treasure jewels in Szamosfalva, the birdshaped cloisonné ring found at Nagyszentmiklós-Keresztúr-puszta, and the ring, adorned with a bull's head, that was unearthed at Brassó (Brasov) or at Kolozsvár (Cluj). There can be little doubt about the date of the grave. Close replicas of the ornamental fibula have been found in Italy, and coins as well other accompanying objects date these around 490; the replica in Childeric's grave was interred in 481–82. The first grave at Apahida therefore dates from the period between 454 and 500.

The name and the rank of the grave occupant can be deduced from three gold rings. The engraving on one of them, a large cross formed by four small, symmetrical crosses, indicate the owner's Christian faith. Constantinople must have been aware of this affiliation, for the ornamental fibulae that had been sent as a gift bore a plate clearly engraved with a long cross; among similar gold fibulae, only one, found in Rome, bears such a cross. On the second ring, the name OMHARIVS — with the letter R and I linked — appears under a small cross. The third, a signet ring, bears a cross and, in what may be Greek mirror writing, the name OMARIVS or AVD-OMARIVS, which corresponds to that on the second ring. Written sources make no mention of a Gepidic historical personage {1-200.} bearing this name. The second half of the name may well be derived from the Gothic word harjaz (meaning 'Heer', or army). Since the monogram could also be read as Audomharius, an authentic East Germanic name is revealed: Audomharjaz — (Aud) Omharius in latinized form, meaning 'lord of the army' or 'saviour of the army'. Such a name could have been assumed by only one Gepidic king (cf. the names Ardaric, 'king of the lands', or Gunderith/Gunderiks, 'king of the warriors'). The conclusion, that the ring's owner was a king, is reinforced by the names of the Frankish king Chlotharius (Lothar) and the Alamanic king Hariobaudes; the former signifies 'glory of the army', and the latter 'destroyer of armies'.

All this was made considerably more problematical by the discovery in 1968 of a second princely grave at Apahida, some 500 meters away from the first. Once again, the west-east oriented grave had been despoiled along the upper half of the corpse. It yielded a cloisonné buckle, somewhat larger than the one in the first grave, but otherwise identical, as well as a glass goblet with gold hoop, and a cloisonné cup handle; thus the two burials couldn't have been far apart in time. The rich finds in the second grave gave a clue to what might have been stolen from the first one. The prince's sword sling — for he wore a sword, and probably, so had the occupant of the first grave — was covered with cloisonné gold plates. On his belt, the prince had worn a purse of cloisonné gold, of which only the cover plate remained. The only identical purse to be discovered was in the world-famous ship grave of Readwald (deceased 625), King of East Anglia, at Sutton


Hoo; a somewhat similar gold-covered purse was found in Childeric's grave. An iron-bound wooden trunk next to the body contained three sets of harnesses, including a saddle adorned with superb cloisonné and gold eagles, bridles covered with rosettes and eagle head patterns, and gilded bits of Hun inspiration. The yield from the second grave was much richer than from the first, but that is no guarantee that the {1-201.} deceased had been of more exalted rank; the grave held neither insignia to indicate his status, nor personalia (such as rings) that might have identified him. Since neither grave was discovered intact, prudence must be exercised in considering the question of missing objects.

In 1979, a large cloisonné gold clasp was found at a secondary location between the first and second graves. To be sure, the clasp might have been originally in one of those despoiled graves, perhaps the second. On the other hand, the attire of contemporary princes usually included only one large cloisonné buckle, and a similar if

lighter clasp was found in each of the two graves. On balance, there are grounds for suspecting that a third princely grave had been present at Apahida before it was despoiled without trace.

Discovered in 1963 on the northern bank of the Kis-Szamos, halfway between ancient Napoca and the princely graves of Apahida, the find treasure of Cluj Kolozsvár-Szamosfalva offers both complications and a possible explanation. The treasure lay in a vessel buried a few centimetres deep. The finders cut up some of the jewellery, and held back many items; what remained amounted to 'merely' 617 grams of gold. The outstanding piece is a splendid gold necklace holding a large gold ornamental disc. This brooch-like disc bears clear Christian signs: the obverse is decorated with a cloisonné, symmetrical cross, and a similar cross is engraved on the reverse. Another necklace was made of gold beads, of the same type found in the rich Gepidic woman's grave at Gáva and in the second princely grave at Apahida. The buckles with oval plates and frames are similar to the three buckles from Apahida, and also found were fragments of at least two solid bracelets, with expanded ends, similar to the gold bracelets found in the second grave at Apahida. The gold rings also found at Kolozsvár-Szamosfalva match those from the 'queen's' grave of Bakodpuszta (probably of members of the Skirian King Edika's family, buried prior to 470), in the so-called Olbia treasure, which included a large ornamental {1-202.} disc, hanging on a gold chain, similar to the one discovered at Szamosfalva); they also match rings found in a more modest Alamanic noblewoman's grave dating from the second half or the end of the 5th century. Another important item in the treasure is an ancient gold ring decorated with a gem.

There are countless parallels in the finds at Apahida and Szamosfalva, and all of them confirm that the precious objects represent an opulent 'international' style which had evolved in the Hun period and continued to flourish — thanks to an ample supply of gold — until the end of the century. This grandeur is more or less typical of all the barbarian rulers and aristocrats of the period, but it is most characteristic of the Gepidic kings, who had defeated the Huns and appropriated most of their treasures.

The 'riddle' of Apahida and Szamosfalva can be solved. Among European princely graves dating from the half century following the Hun period, only that of the Frankish King Childeric is comparable to the one at Apahida, and the comparison is eloquent. No comparable Gepidic traces have been found outside Transylvania, nor any other Gepidic royal graves. Like the great Hun kings, or the Frankish, Ostrogothic, and Alamanic kings of the times, the Gepidic kings did not reside in a permanent 'capital' but had several residences, or regiae. The summer and the winter regiae of the Gepidic kings evidently lay far apart, one somewhere in the plain stretching along the Tisza, the other in the mountains and valleys of Transylvania. The connection between the regiae, the palatia, and the royal burial grounds remains unclear. For instance, Childeric I, at the moment of his death, was no longer king of the Frankish foederati around Turnacum, but the king of Gallia-Belgica. Yet he was buried — in secrecy and isolation — in the land of his youth, far beyond the walls of the late Roman town, on the other side of the river. Similarly, the regia of Napoca was undoubtedly only one of the royal courts, with the kings' burial places nearby. A gold ornament discovered at Palánk, in the southern {1-203.} part of Temes county, was decorated with garnet cloisonné, set into partitions that cover the entire surface — a type that as far as is known was exclusive to the costume of Gepidic princes after the Hun period; it is similar to ornaments, shaped like violins or fish, that were found at Apahida, and thus indicates that, in the second half of the 5th century, Gepid princes had one of their residences near the mouth of the Krassó River.

The princely richness of the finds at Apahida, the royal insignia, and the probable date of internment all evoke the possibility that the graves are those of the Ardarikings. This suspicion would be confirmed if it turned out that more recently discovered gold buckle — similar to the cloisonné gold buckles in the first two graves — did not come from those graves but, instead, was the misplaced remnant of a third royal grave at Apahida that otherwise had been totally devastated. The Gepidic kings were buried at Apahida between 470 and 500; and written sources name two kings in that period, Ardaric, who founded his empire in 455 and evidently reigned for some time afterwards, and Gunderith, who reigned around 500. Conceivably, (Aud)Omharius, the occupant of the first grave, is in fact one of these kings; but it is more likely that the name belongs to a Gepidic monarch, not mentioned in written sources, who reigned some time between Ardaric and Gunderith. The establishment of a new dynasty by Elemund could well have driven a fleeing Ardariking to conceal his family jewels at Szamosfalva. By the beginning of the 6th century, the regia of Napoca as well as surrounding manor houses stood abandoned, and this could hardly have come about without some forceful intervention.


 Rings, Seal with Cross and bracelet

Near Cluj-Napoca, in a well known antic site, very recent,  a seal with a cross was found in a gepidic tomb. This is related to the Getic logo on antic coins.  This supports the statement of Jordanes that Gots and Gets are the same kin (rulers). This also suggests that a better model for the incoming of Gepids in Transylvania is reconsidering the hypothesis by Gibbon on historical Odin: a better fit is given by the king Duras of Dacia which left the kingdom of Dacia to Decebalus in 87AD.

The need for the guess of an east germanic tribe to explain historical events is eliminated. Only rulers, feuds and wars, but no "migration" as incoming data. The direction is two-wards.

The global interpretation of the data in the National Museum of History of Transylvania along with the pictures on the Trajan's column supports the interpretation that the religion of the Dacians (and threfore Gets) was Mithraic.

1. Getas Basileis
1a. Sarmizegetusa. More at










From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia;

The Roman empire under Hadrian (ruled 117-38), showing the location of the Gepidae East Germanic tribe, then inhabiting the region around the mouth of the Visula (Vistula) river, Poland

The Gepids (Latin: Gepida; Old English: Gifð; possibly Proto-Germanic: *Gibiðaz, "giver"[1] or gepanta, see below) were an East Germanic Gothic tribe most famous in history for defeating the Huns after the death of Attila. The state of the Gepids was commonly known as Gepidia[2] or Kingdom of the Gepids, whose territory is composed of parts of modern day Romania, Hungary and Serbia.


The Gepids were first mentioned around 260 AD, when they participated with the Goths in an invasion in Dacia, where they were settled in Jordanes' time, the mid 6th century. Their early origins are reported in Jordanes' Origins and Deeds of the Goths, where he claims that their name derives from their later and slower migration from Scandinavia:

You surely remember that in the beginning I said the Goths went forth from the bosom of the island of Scandza with Berig, their king, sailing in only three ships toward the hither shore of Ocean, namely to Gothiscandza. One of these three ships proved to be slower than the others, as is usually the case, and thus is said to have given the tribe their name, for in their language gepanta means slow.. (xvii.94-95)[3]

File:Origins A.png


Southeastern Europe, c. 550 AD, showing the Gepid Kingdom and its neighbors.

The first settlement of the Gepids were at the mouth of the Vistula River, which runs south to north from the Polish Carpathian mountains.

These Gepidae were then smitten by envy while they dwelt in the province of Spesis on an island surrounded by the shallow waters of the Vistula. This island they called, in the speech of their fathers, Gepedoios (perhaps Gibið-aujos, meaning "Gepid waterlands" [1]); but it is now inhabited by the race of the Vividarii, since the Gepidae themselves have moved to better lands.

Their first named king, Fastida, stirred up his quiet people to enlarge their boundaries by war and overwhelmed the Burgundians, almost annihilating them in the 4th century, then fruitlessly demanded of the Goths a portion of their territory, a demand which the Goths successfully repulsed in battle. Like the Goths, the Gepids were converted to Arian Christianity.

Then in 375 they had to submit to the Huns along with their Ostrogoth overlords, becoming the favored Hun vassals. Under their king, Ardaric, Gepid warriors joined Attila the Hun's forces in the Battle of Chalons (the "Catalaunian fields") in Gaul (451). On the eve of the main encounter between allied hordes, the Gepids and Franks met each other, the latter fighting for the Romans and the former for the Huns, and seem to have fought one another to a standstill, with 15,000 dead reported by Jordanes, the main source for the events.

Such loyalties were personal bonds among kings, and after Attila's death of a drunken nosebleed in 453, the Gepids and other people allied to defeat Attila's horde of would-be successors, who were dividing up the subjugated peoples like cattle, and led by Ardaric, they broke the Hunnic power in the Battle at the River Nedao in 454:

...a most remarkable spectacle, where one might see the Goths fighting with pikes, the Gepidae raging with the sword, the Rugii breaking off the spears in their own wounds, the Suevi fighting on foot, the Huns with bows, the Alani drawing up a battle-line of heavy-armed and the Heruli of light-armed warriors. (Jordanes, l.259)

After the victory they finally won a place to settle in the Carpathian Mountains.

The Gepidae by their own might won for themselves the territory of the Huns and ruled as victors over the extent of all Dacia, demanding of the Roman Empire nothing more than peace and an annual gift as a pledge of their friendly alliance. This the Emperor freely granted at the time, and to this day that race receives its customary gifts from the Roman Emperor. (Jordanes, l.262)

Not long after the battle at the Nedao the old rivalry between the Gepids and the Ostrogoths spurred up again and they were driven out of their homeland in 504 by Theodoric the Great.

They reached the zenith of their power after 537, settling in the rich area around Belgrade. For a short time, the city of Sirmium was the center of the Gepid State and the king Cunimund minted golden coins in it.[4][dead link] In 546 the Byzantine Empire allied themselves with the Lombards to expel the Gepids from this region. In 552 the Gepids suffered a disastrous defeat from Alboin in the Battle of Asfeld and were finally conquered by the Lombards in 567.

Alboin had a drinking-cup made from the skull of Cunimund, which occasioned his death later in Italy, at the hands of an assassin sent by Rosamund, Cunimond's daughter.[5]

Many Gepids followed Alboin to Italy (see Paulus Diaconus), but many remained. In 630, Theophylact Simocatta reported that the Byzantine Army entered the territory of the Avars and attacked a Gepid feast, capturing 30,000 Gepids (they met no Avars). Recent excavation by the Tisza River at Szolnok brought up a Gepid nobleman from an Avar period grave who was also wearing Turkic-Avar pieces next to the traditional Germanic clothes in which he was buried.

Archeological sites in Romania

In Vlaha, Cluj County, Romania, a necropolis was discovered in August 2004 with 202 identified tombs dated to the 6th century AD. 85% of the discovered tombs were robbed in the same period. The remaining artifacts are ceramics, bronze articles and an armory. Also in Romania, at Miercurea Sibiului, there is another necropolis with rich artifacts. Other necropolis in Romania are:

Kings of the Gepids



  1. ^ a b Yeat, Theedrich (tr.). "Jordanes in Latin and English". Retrieved on 2008-03-03. 
  2. ^ Jordanes, Getica, XII.74: Haec Gotia, quam Daciam appellavere maiores, quae nunc ut diximus Gepidia dicitur ("This Gothia, which our ancestors called Dacia, we now call Gepidia.").
  3. ^ "Jordane's Origins and Deeds of the Goths". Northvegr. 2007. Retrieved on 2008-03-03. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ The episode is told in Procopius, in Paulus Diaconus and in Andreas Agnellus

 External links

Gepidic Burial Grounds

Burial grounds reflect the true extent and significance of Gepidic settlement in Transylvania. The large number and varying size of the settlements and graveyards on the Hungarian Great Plain — the Gepids' 'motherland' — point to a distinction between two types: substantial villages, with large graveyards, and farmsteads or manorial estates that consisted of a few houses and had small burial grounds. Traces of as many as four or five of the latter type have been found on the outskirts of some present-day villages on the Hungarian Plain.

The graves discovered at Érkeserű, Csomaköz, and Székudvar are typical of homestead burial grounds on the eastern Hungarian Plain, while the grave (complete with weapons) on Mogila hill at Óbesenyő is probably that of the master of the manor. At Nagyvárad, on the site of the one-time Guttman brick factory, the scattered and despoiled graves must have belonged to an exceptionally rich manor house; the finds, stretching over a long period of time, include the graves of a man, of several rich women, and of a few poor servants. The manor house dated back to the middle third of the 5th century. The three or four earliest graves yielded a jewelled ornament from a dagger hilt of the Hun era, a gold bracelet with expanded ends, a cloisonné earring with a disc-shaped decoration, a solid silver bracelet, and a jewelled clasp. A woman's grave, dating from the last third of the century, included a metallic mirror {1-210.} with radial ornaments on the reverse, late-antique gold beads, and a fibula whose end had been broken in the funeral ritual — this East German custom died out with the advent of the Merovingian culture. A pair of cast silver fibulae represents the transition from the 5th to the early 6th century, when elegant funerals still prevailed, complete with cloisonné fibulae. A gold pendant, decorated with precious stones and granules, was yielded either by one of these graves or by a grave at Biharudvari (now Sárrétudvari); this crescent-shaped jewel, of the 'Gáva type', links the most recent nobiliary graves of the Upper Tisza region to those, mostly of a later date, at Nagyvárad. The Nagyvárad graveyard also yielded two gold-framed, disc-shaped fibulae; 4th-century Roman silver coins were set in the frames, and a praying figure with raised arms (orans) was scratched on the worn reverse of one of the coins. This is one of the few material traces of Gepidic Christianity. The latest finds at Nagyvárad are jewels from a rich woman's grave that dates from the middle third of the 6th century: a gold fibula, with filigreed decoration (made by soldering thin gold wire) representing a quadruped, another fibula covered with filigree work and precious stones, and the gold brocade hem of a garment's collar. These clothes and jewels were made in Frankish Gaul, and their owner was probably a Frankish noblewoman who had come to this remote land when the Gepids and the Franks formed an alliance in 539.

In the Maros valley, homestead graveyards have been discovered at Marosvásárhely near the county hall, at Maroscsapó, Mezőceked-Hosszúmező, and Felvég; and by the Kis-Szamos at Nagyiklód-Malomhíd (burial site C). The site at Magyarkapus-Kenderáj is more difficult to assess, for the rows of graves indicate the presence of a sizeable burial ground that has yet to be fully uncovered. The twenty graves recently uncovered at Mező(Szász-) erked also appear to belong to a large burial ground, as do those at Marosveresmart-Bethlen-csűröskert and the 43 graves (whose early origin is indicated by an earring with a solid polyhedric button) at {1-211.} Betlenszentmiklós, near the Kis-Küküllő. Nor can the ten graves discovered at Csapószentgyörgy, in the vicinity of the eleven 'houses' noted previously, add up to the entire graveyard of the village; they date from both early (deformed skulls) and late interments (a pair of fibulae with circular punched decoration, a drawing knife, and arrowheads).

The graveyard — only partially uncovered — of the best-known site, at Malomfalva-Hula, is representative of the Merovingian culture in Transylvania. Its use coincided with the lifespan of the nearby village: from the turn of the 6th century (earrings with solid polyhedric buttons) to around 567, when the Gepids ceased to rule over Transylvania. The costumes, rites, and material culture revealed by the graveyard match so closely those of the Tisza region that it might as well have been discovered on the outskirts of Szentes. Only the 'leader' of the local community, a warrior with a sword and shield, was equipped in a 'Transylvanian style'. His shield boss is locally made, possibly by the smith who was buried in the nearby village of Mezőbánd. A bird-shaped fibula, crafted in a Rhenish workshop, is a rarity, for genuine Frankish-Merovingian ornaments seldom came into the Gepids' possession; no other jewel of this type has come to light in Gepidia.

The social status of the people buried at Malomfalva is as difficult to determine as that of the occupants of most of the Gepidic burial grounds on the Hungarian Plain. Of its 83 graves, 23 had been despoiled and devastated; moreover, 22 others held children, and the Gepids seldom placed significant burial objects into children's graves. What is left does not give a clear picture of the structure and costume of the upper social strata. The provision of food and drink for the afterlife does not appear to have been a general custom at Malomfalva, for only three graves yielded vessels. Most of the similar burial grounds on the Hungarian Plain belonged to Arian Christian communities.

{1-212.} More recently, sections of burial grounds, consisting mainly of despoiled graves, have been discovered in Beszterce-Naszód county (Beszterce-Csiger, Galacfalva-Vermek). On the evidence of a deformed skull, vessels with smoothed and stamped ornaments, and a bronze buckle with a shielded tongue, it has been estimated that the 31 graves date from before 568. The two graveyards yielded a variety of fine ceramics, including pear-shaped vessels; they are decorated in a distinctive, punched style that had been previously found only in the Tisza region. The graves also held spear-heads, arrowheads (three-edged, laurel-leaf shaped, and barbed), and iron wool-shears.

The third burial ground at Baráthely belongs to a different type. Its origins lie in the period of Gepidic rule (a bronze coin of Justinian I was found in grave no. 190), and, as noted earlier, most of the jewels (e.g., a fibula with circular punched ornaments, and Gepidic as well as Byzantine belt buckles), vessels (e.g., a pot with spout, and mugs with smoothed and stamped decoration), and weapons (double-edged swords, spears, and arrowheads) found in the close to 300 graves are typically Gepidic. Nevertheless, the age and character of the graveyard place it in the later, 'Mezőbánd' category.

With its 178 graves, the burial ground at Mezőbánd-Felhágó-dűlő remains the biggest Gepidic find in Transylvania. Since all the graves, except for that of a poor domestic servant, were found despoiled and devastated, it is difficult to date the cemetery. Its origins probably date back to around 550, towards the end of the Gepidic era. In contrast to the graveyard at Malomfalva, over one third of the graves contained vessels, but there were no animal bones to indicate meat dishes. This suggests that the burial ground served a partly pagan, partly Christian community. The larger part of the Marosnagylak site, which holds 125 graves, also belongs to the late, 'Mezőbánd' type of graveyard.

{1-213.} In many places, the existence of a 6th-century Gepidic burial ground is merely suggested by the discovery of one or two graves (Maroscsapó, Somkerék-Hágó, Mezőakna, Apanagyfalu-Csorba-híd [where a fine vessel with stamped decoration was found along with a spear-head], Segesvár-Baierndorf, and Oláhgorbó-Lányfalu). The few graves discovered near Rozsos, between Baráthely and Ecel, are noteworthy for a fine jug with handles, a smoothed cup, and an ornamented fine-tooth bone comb. In other places, graves are merely evoked by finds of what appear to be burial objects, such as intact vessels (at Vasasszentgotthárd, Mezőköbölkút, Gyulatelke, Nagyernye, Erdőszentgyörgy, Nagyenyed, Marosvásárhely, Dés-Szamos-híd [with widely-spaced punched decoration], Dedrádszéplak, Maroskarna, Gyulafehérvár, Beszterce, and Szamosújvár-Szamos-part [typical, fine vessels with stamped and smoothed decoration]) or an intact double-row, fine-tooth comb (Tompaháza). A large ornamental clasp, decorated with an eagle head, has been unearthed at Szamosjenő, and another of the same type at Maroscsapó. These quintessentially Gepidic ornaments were products of Transylvanian goldsmiths, and only distantly related to the 'eagle clasps' crafted at a workshop in the Tisza region. Other finds that may be considered grave objects include oval bronze clasps of the type work by Gepids in the 6th century (Nagyvárad-Szalka terrace, Szilágysomlyó, Torda, Szászkeresztúr, and Kraszna), a double-edged sword (Décsfalva), a spear-head (Bábolna Hill). The arrowheads found at Vingárd, Gyertyános, and — with a quiver — at Csáklya may have come from a grave or, like at Betlenszentmiklós, from a settlement.


Barbarian Jewellery and Roman Gold - The Szilágysomlyo Treasure,The Treasure from Simleul Silvaniei at Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna

 text and images at:

In 1797 and, almost a century later, in 1889 two treasures were unearthed on the same plot of land in what was then Hungarian Szilágysomlyo (now Simleul Silvaniei, Romania). Today, they are housed in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna (formerly the Imperial Collection) and the Hungarian National Museum in Budapest respectively. Today, it is almost universally accepted that both treasures originally belonged together. Both were part of one ensemble, which had been buried in two separate though proximate places and had later been accidentally discovered at two different times. Almost a century after the discovery of the second treasure both will now be on show together for the first time first in Vienna and then in Budapest.
Two shepherd boys picking plums discovered the first treasure by chance on 3rd August 1797. It consists of a series of 17 medallions (three of which are now lost) each with a hook and some framed, a unique gold chain with 52 pendant amulets, as well as 24 gold foil rings, a disk shaped pendant, a ring, the fragment of a bracelet, and a pendant in the shape of a human figure. The second treasure, found on 20th April 1889 by a day-labourer planting potatoes, consists of a magnificent onyx fibula, ten precious pairs of fibulae decorated with gold and jewels, a swearing-in ring and three gold bowls.(Bowl,Germanic,Early 5th century AD,Budapest, Magyar Nemzeti Múzeum) 
In all, there are 73 magnificent gold and silver objects, weighing a total of 8 kilograms (about 16 pounds). They testify to the relations between the Romans and the eastern Teutons during the 4th and 5th century AD.
The treasures of Szilágysomlyo richly illustrate the mixture of "barbarian and Roman elements and thus mirror the political situation in the Carpathian basin during the period between AD 290 and 433 to 445. In the oldest objects from both treasures, dating from the 4th century such as the Roman medallions (minted between AD 290 and 378) or the imperial or onyx fibula Roman elements dominate. But the Roman medallions were set or imitated by Teutonic goldsmiths. The ornate fibulae were mainly produced in workshops organised by Romans and geared towards the requirements of the Teutonic aristocracy; they are characterised by Teutonic elements. Both the ornate fibulae of the second treasure and the medallions and the gold chain of the first treasure are first-class examples of the high quality of artistic craftsmanship found during late antiquity: the onyx fibula and the largest extant antique gold medallion clearly illustrate the superlative quality.
Magnificent jewellery comprising gold and precious stones played an important role in the representation of social groups during the period of the late Roman and the early Byzantine Empire. In order to express social status and rank, imperial laws restricted the use of precious metal jewellery and certain precious stones. The Byzantines continued the tradition of presenting barbarian generals and rulers of neighbouring small states with rich gifts documenting their allegiance to the empire. (Medallion of Valens,Germanic,Around 375-378 AD,KHM, Münzkabinett).

As archaeological finds the treasures of Szilágysomlyo complement written sources and are particularly suited to illustrate the behaviour and aspirations to rank of barbarian generals. The signs of wear noticeable on all objects prove that they were in use until they were buried. Apparently the owners wore their impressive treasures until the end, thus documenting to everyone their power, rank, wealth and close connection with the Roman Empire probably considered the superior culture. Judging by the weight of the finds one can assume that the treasures of Szilágysomlyo were assembled over a period of about 150 years by an eastern Teutonic, possibly Gepdian, royal dynasty. They were probably buried during the 2nd quarter of the 5th century, an action presumably prompted by an exceptional political event.
The treasures of Szilágysomlyo are prime archaeological sources helping to throw light on the early period of the Migration. They consist not only of magnificent jewels, undoubtedly among the most precious objects from that period whose exclusive character cannot be surpassed. Their important value as a historical source makes a thorough research of the objects seem particularly rewarding. Thus, the catalogue accompanying the exhibition  contain not only detailed descriptions of the objects but also the newest results of scholarly research on the gold treasures of Szilágysomlyo.

Onyx Brooch,Late Antique,Late 4th century AD,Budapest, Magyar Nemzeti Múzeum

 Barbarian Jewellery and Roman Gold
The Szilágysomlyo Treasure
A special exhibition organised by the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna in collaboration with the Magyar Nemzeti Múzeum Budapest
Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna
Special Exhibition Hall
A-1010 Vienna, Maria-Theresien-Platz
March 2 May 2, 1999








File:Tezaurul Sannicolau Mare 3.jpg 


The Avar Khaganate (567-797/803)

The Avar Khaganate around 600

The Avars were excellent soldiers and horsemen and were tightly organized with their ruler, called a khagan.[19] After 568, the Avar Khaganate quickly subjugated almost all communities in East Europe;[20] a vast array of subject peoples (various Slavic and Bulgar tribes, and the remnants of the Huns) was below the Avars.[19]

Early Avar society was based on procuring prestige goods from the Byzantine Empire and food supplies from small economic units, in the form of either direct production from family lands or tribute from subjugated population groups.[17] More often than not, the Avars chose to move the entire population of a conquered city or territory in the middle of the Khaganate.[17]

Steppe Warrior (Bulgar, Khazar or Avar) with prisoner

The Slavs appear as important partners of the Avars: the ecological niche of the steppelike Great Hungarian Plain was controlled by the nomads, and it was surrounded by a zone of Slavic settlements.[20] The Avar Khaganate was an Avaro-Slavic commonwealth politically dominated by the nomads, but economically reliant on the subjugated agriculturists.[20] The empire also underwent gradual Slavicization in the course of the 6th-8th centuries.[20] It seems very likely that the Slav language was one of the main languages spoken as a lingua franca in at least part of the communication community that was the Avar Khaganate.[18]

The Slavs’ assimilation by the Proto-Romanians may have already started by the 8th century on the territories of modern Romania.[10] On the other hand, linguistic studies imply that the Proto-Romanians were not in close contact with Slavic-speaking populations before the 10th century.[3]

In Transylvania, the Avar cemeteries cluster around the salt mines which suggest that the Avars controlled the salt mine district.[16] The salt production implies the existence of a subject sedentary population, most probably Slavs and Romanians.[16] The involvement of the Slavs in salt extraction and trade is documented by several Romanian words and place-names of Slav origin, such as ocnă (salt mine) and Slănic.[16] The chronology of spurs excavated in Transylvania suggests the existence of cavalry troops of Slavs, and perhaps Romanians in Avar service[16] (the internally hooked spurs were found in western Slavdom in a broad zone from the river Elbe to the Bug and as far as the Danube).[18]

Assemblages of the Late Avar period (c. 700 - c. 800) are clearly distinguished from those of earlier periods; there are very few signs of nomadic life in the 8th century material culture of the Avar Khaganate and the sites suggest an advanced degree of sedentization.[17]

The Avar confederacy disintegrated rapidly as a result of internal conflicts and its defeats at the hand of Charlemagne’s commanders in the 790s.[12] Having lost their western territories to the Franks, the Avars became at war with Krum, the ruler of Bulgaria, who defeated them.[19]



Eurasian Avars

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Bulgar warrior with captive.[1]
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.[2] 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.

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.[3] Such a case has been seen repeatedly for many nomadic confederacies.

According to the research of historian András Róna-Tas[4], 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[5]. Recently some scholars have proposed that they were an Iranic-speaking group[6]. 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.[7]

Central Asia c. 500 AD, 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 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[8]. 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[9] and K. Czeglèdy in 1983[10] and his own methodological objections[11]: "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."[12] 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.[8][13] Modern research shows[14] 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 [15]. Slavic was likely used as a lingua franca within the khaganate amongst the disparate peoples[16][17]. Anthropological research has revealed few skeletons with Mongoloid-type features, although there was continuing cultural influence from the Eurasian nomadic steppe.  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[18]. By their arrival into the Balkans, the Avars were a heterogeneous group of c. 20,000 horsemen[8]. 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[19]. 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[20]. 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.[21] 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,[22] 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.[23]

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[24]. 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 [24]. 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”[25]. 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.[24]

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.

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, 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[24].


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."[26]. 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[27]. 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,[28][29][30] 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.[31][32]


  • 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. ^ 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.
  3. ^ name="Pohl"
  4. ^ Hungarians and Europe in the Middle Ages. CEU press
  5. ^ name="Iranica">K.H. Menges, "Altaic people", Encyclopaedia Iranica, v, p. 908-912, Online Edition ([
  6. ^ 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."
  7. ^ E. H. Parker: A Thousand Years of the Tartars, ISBN 0710307462; ISBN 978-0710307460
  8. ^ a b c Curta
  9. ^ H. W. Haussig, "Theophylakts Exkurs über die skythischen Völker", Byzantion, 23 (1953) pp 275-436.
  10. ^ K. Czeglédy, "From East to West", Archivum Eurasiae Medii Aevi, 3 (1983) pp 25-126.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ 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).
  13. ^ The early Medieval Balkans. John Fine Jr
  14. ^ 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
  15. ^ The Early Slavs, P M Barford
  16. ^ Barford
  17. ^ The Making of the Slavs. Florin Curta
  18. ^ Pohl
  19. ^ History of Transylvania, Volume I. László Makkai, András Mócsy. Columbia University Press. 2001
  20. ^ Florin Curta. The Making of the Slavs
  21. ^ Pohl 1998:18.
  22. ^ Walter Pohl, Die Awaren (Munich) 2.ed.2002., page 158.
  23. ^ Walter Pohl, Die Awaren (Munich) 1.ed.1988.
  24. ^ a b c d History of Transylvania
  25. ^ The New Cambridge Medieval History. Paul Fouracre
  26. ^ Pohl 1998:19.
  27. ^ The early medieval Balkans. John Fine, Jr
  28. ^ Price, Glanville. Encyclopedia of the Languages of Europe (2000) p 68.
  29. ^ Marcantonio, Angela. The Uralic Language Family (2002) p 24.
  30. ^ Róna-Tas, András. Hungarians and Europe in the Early Middle Ages (1999) p 116.
  31. ^ E. J. The Languages of the World (2002) p 127.
  32. ^ For references on the classification of Turkic Avar, see the main article on Oghur languages.


 File:Buta ul.png

Lands ruled by Buta-ul

Buta-ul ("the son of Buta", also spelled Butaul) was an Avar noble who ruled the Banat and Bačka regions in the 8th century.


Buta-ul buried a large treasure in northern Banat, near the present day village of Nakovo in Serbia) and the town of Sânnicolau Mare in Romania. The treasure was excavated in 1799, and today it is kept in the Vienna cultural-historical museum. While it was originally believed to belong to Atilla the Hun, research shows that it is Avar in origin.

The treasure contains an inscription which identifies its owner: "The great župan Buta-ul, ruler of two Getian lands, Targorska and Eciska, and across the Tisa".

The "great župan" (rendering veliki župan) is a traditional Slavic ruler's title, while "Getian land" was a designation for present day Banat. The land "across the Tisa" is obviously present day Bačka.

The Bulgarian domination on Banat seems to be confirmed by the treasure discovered in 1799 at Sannicolau Mare ,Timiş county Romania


Romanian interpretation (Romanian only)


Paul Lazăr Tonciulescu - "De la Țara Luanei la Ieud", Editura Miracol, București, 1998


Capitolul III. „Manuscrisul de la Ieud; considerațiuni noi privind vechimea scrisului în

Capitolul II. „Inscripția de pe vasul nr. 21 de la Sânnicolau Mare, cel mai vechi document epigrafic în limba română”

În acest capitol autorul prezintă ipoteza sa cu privire la inscripția de pe vasul nr. 21 din tezaurul descoperit în 1799 la Sânnicolau Mare

Inscripția de pe vasul cu nr. 21 se citește, după părerea autorului, astfel: "+BUILA ZOAPAN TECI DIRETOIRI BUTAUL ZOAPAN TARGORI ITZIRI TAICI". Analizând cuvânt cu cuvânt, a ajuns la următoarele concluzii:

  • BUILA și BUTAUL: Sunt plasate înainte de zoapan și, deci, nu sunt nume comune, ci niște antroponime. Aceasta, deoarece sensul inscripției, luată în ansmablu, se referă la drepturile unor persoane conducătoare de obști.
  • ZOAPAN: Acest cuvânt trebuie citit fonetic. Astfel, zoapanzupan, jupan. Deci zoapan corespunde cuvântului românesc zupan, atestat documentar încă din secolul al X-lea ("...omnibus Zupanis..." și "jupan Dumitru").
  • TECI și TAICI: Corespunde bănățeanului tăce, toate, căci inscripția va fi fost realizată chiar în Banat.
  • DIRETOIRI: Dreptuiri sau drepturi (vezi Direptate).
  • TARGORI: „Nu poate deriva dintr-un tardiv slav trugu, deoarece avem atestarea documentară a pre-existenței cuvântului etrusc terg, „târg”, păstrat în românescul terg, de unde a apărut toponimul Tergoviște > Târgoviște. Aici autorul face o paranteză și relevă că, de altfel, cuvântul terg nu este singurul existent și în română și în etruscă, alte câteva fiind moștenite „încă din perioada când etruscii locuiau în Munții Apuseni, înainte de deplasarea lor spre Albania și apoi în Italia.
  • ITZIRI: Adică iviri, cu alte cuvinte "apariții de scurtă durată sau intrări ale unor străini în târguri". Acest cuvânt reprezenta "vama târgurilor" care, în Evul Mediu, se plătea conducătorilor obștii de către cei care intrau cu mărfuri în târguri, astfel cum menționează multe documente ungurești, printre care și diploma din 1211 a regelui Andrei al II-lea, prin care acesta cedează cavalerilor teutoni vama târgurilor din Țara Bârsei: "...Pe lângă târgurile libere, le-am lasat în întregime dările târgurilor din acea țară...".

Deci "Jupan Buila [are] toate drepturile, jupan Butaul [are dreptul de] ițiri [în] toate târgurile".

În concluzia autorului, „inscripția de pe vasul nr. 21 din tezaurul de la Sânnicolau Mare prezintă numele a doi români din secolul al IX-lea sau poate chiar din secolele anterioare, precum și drepturile pe care aceștia le aveau în calitate de conducători. Cronologic, existența lor este confirmată de menționarea zupanilor/jupanilor în documentele citate, precum și de faptul că ne aflăm într-o perioadă în care ungurii de-abia ajunseseră în Pannonia și nu-și începuseră expansiunea dominației politice la est de Dunăre și Tisa. Ca atare, vama târgurilor încă mai aparținea conducătorilor români de tipul zoapanilor.”

În continuare, Tonciulescu spune că inscripția este un document în limba română arhaică și consemnează un act de recunoaștere a puterii politice și militare din partea obștilor unui conducător feudal local, conducător din neamul căruia, după cum va afirma mai târziu Anonymus, se va naște Ahtum, ucis în cetatea sa de la Cenad.