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Saturday, August 20, 2022

The Great Migration and Early Slavic History

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Among the migratory peoples of the early middle ages, due to the schism of power in Europe and the harsh winters forcing the need to seek out warmer climates and fertile lands were the Slavs. Hailing from the Eastern European forests, steppes and mountains, these tribes had unified and had begun to migrate toward Central Europe and the Balkans. In their passing, had integrated the nomadic Iranian people of the Scythians, Sarmatians, Alans and later the Greek populations that had lived under the outer extensions of the Byzantine Empire.

According to historical records from the Byzantine historians, Slavic society was of the traditional “barbaric” rule, the strongest and most cunning were chieftains and leaders, leading the raids and pillages of fast hit-and-run tactics on the empires lands, whilst their villages were governed over by elders, wise and experienced men who had wintered hardships in life, teaching guidance to the newer generations. Yet their goal was noted as not being only of raiding, rather they would cause trouble and disruption to the land, paving the way for their people to settle the lands once any opposition was thwarted, they simply integrated the rest of the folk into their tribes, thus merging their cultures and intertwining the peoples.

Led by chieftains, or anyone managing to inspire folk toward his cause, warfare by the Slavs was defined as that of raiders. Seeking the probe the weak spots of their opponents or simply to pester and draw attention of a bigger force, allowing others to cause mischief freely, they are noted for their usage of light infantry and shock troops only. Dipping in and out of enemy territory, nagging their opponents and forcing them to respond, was the usual and well noted tactics used by the marauding warbands of the migrating peoples. Clad mostly in fur and leather, using mere tools as weapons, they were a nuisance at first, trouble later. As they had integrated peoples along their way, adopting their fighting style, weapons, armor and warfare, became known as a large and diverse fighting force that had started to prey on cities, rather than robbing trade routes, pillaging villages or simply diverting a bigger force. Of note how much the warbands had become troubles that could not be ignored was that they started resembling armies of all sorts of soldiers, cavalry, even siege engines, that they had at times besieged Constantinople.

Worshiping nature, having cults dedicated toward certain elements, practicing shamanism and eventually having created a mythology with a similar pantheon of gods among the tribes, their tradition, and way of life stemmed from the tales and prophecies of their gods, spoken eagerly and with great length by their elders, shamans and pellars alike. The Byzantine Empire had started to worry about the constant stream of raiding and besiegement from the Slavs and sought a way to calm them. Issuing a decree toward two scholars, later becoming saints, the brothers Cyril and Methodius were ordered to educate the Slavic population, and with the newly created Glagolitic alphabet that was intertwined with Orthodox Christian teaching and gospel had succeeded in uniting the Slavic tribes into a mutually spoken tongue and spreading the teaching of the church, it would be known as Old Church Slavonic.

With the eventual end of the Byzantine Empire, the Slavs managed to form kingdoms becoming the vanguard against the encroaching Muslims of the Middle East, hordes of the Mongols, and later down the line in history, they would be the enders of the converting of Europe to Islam. Today they are defined for where they settled. Eastern Slavs in the modern day are Russians, Belarusians and Ukrainians. West Slavs are Poles, Czechs and Slovaks. And lastly the Souths Slavs are Slovenes, Croatians, Bosnians, Serbs, Montenegrins, Bulgarians and Macedonians. Even today they are very much like their ancestors, squabbling over petty reasons as which alcoholic beverage is strongest, whose language is hardest to learn, who owns who or is better than who according to historical territorial disputes, but still united in unity under one thing they all love: Arguing and fighting each other.

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