Comments to the table
After Indo-Aryan Singhalese people came on Ceylon, the island was constantly suffering endless wars between newcomers and the Tamil population. By the way, Tamils are not aborigines on Ceylon, they came here from South India, and gradually pushed the autochthonic tribes aside to the center of the island. At first Singhals managed to gain victory, but then their offensive strength began to decrease, and Tamil dynasties regained power over Ceylon. The island could never be unified by any of the clans.
The situation seems even more complex if we consider that South India at that time (5-9 centuries) was stricken by the same type of ethnic conflicts - the dynasties of Pallava and Cholukya fought with each other for several centuries without any obvious success. From time to time they sent expeditions to Ceylon and occupied the island.
The mixture of nations which began in the Early Middle Ages in South India and Ceylon was the starting point for hostilities on the island which exist even today.
Fifty years after the fall of Rome in 476, Justinian, the Emperor of Byzantium, came to the throne with the aspiration for rebuilding the Empire of Rome which used to be the world supreme power for more than 500 years. The situation in Europe fitted well Justinian's ambitions, as the barbarian kingdoms fought with each other and were weak enough for the Byzantine force. Theodorius the Great of Ostrogoths died in 526, and his descendants could not divide his domain.
In several years Justinian managed to concentrate all the power in his own hands and to suppress local magnates. This allowed the Empire to look back to Europe. Being well aware oh his poor war skills, Justinian raised a strong army and decided to appoint his best commander Velisarius as its leader. In 532 Justinian concluded peace with his old enemy Persians, and already next year Velisarius departed from Constantinople. In late 533, his army landed in Carthago, at that time the capital of the Kingdom of Vandals. The Byzantine army immediately defeated the Vandals, and in 534 the Kingdom was destroyed, Gelimer, the king of Vandals, was brought to Constantinople, and lands occupied by Velisarius joined the Empire - Africa, Corse, Sardinia.
In 535 Velisarius went to Italy, where at that time Ostrogoths and Langobards fought with each other. Italian lands were almost empty, fields abandoned, cities destroyed. In 536 the Byzantine entered Rome and Ravenna, the two Italian capital cities.
That was Hispania's turn now. By 552, when another Byzantine leader Narcess finished the history of Ostrogoths in Italy, the Empire was restored: it conquered back Italy, Sicily, Sardinia, Corse, North Africa and Southern Spain. In 555 in Constantinople the triumph was celebrated in honour of the New Roman Empire, Narcess was murdered during it.
That meant much for Europe - several major Germanic tribes disappeared
from the map of the continent (like Vandals and Ostrogoths), and another
period of the barbarian kingdoms began. European rulers realized that only
strong and unified states can resist the aggression of the Empire.
In 537, when Velisarius was busy slaughtering Goths in Italy, his army received replenishments, which, as Procopius of Caesaria claims, consisted of Hunns and Slavs. This means that already in 537 the Byzantine Empire used Slavic immigrants as mercenaries in its army.
In 548, again according to Procopius, a great army of Slavs crossed the Danube and plundered vast lands in Illyria, reaching Epidaurus in Albania. Byzantine forces followed the invaders everywhere but did not dare to fight it, because Slavs were too numerous. In 550 Slavs decided to spend winter within the Empire's borders for the first time. After that, no one could stop the process of Slavic settlement on the Balkan peninsula.
Manuscripts unanimously agree to the fact that the Slavic army was incredibly cruel: they killed peasants, burned villages, pillaged towns. That does not really correspond to the descriptions of the Slavic character found in Tacitus's works and works by Greek authors written several centuries before. This makes us suppose that the Slavs actually were accompanied by remnants of nomadic steppe nations which had lived in Europe before. This supposition is surely true for the period after 560, when Avars joined Slavs in their invasions to the Empire.
Since 530 and till the end of the 6th century Slavic tribes spread over the Balkan provinces of the Byzantine Empire. In 582 they first tried to capture Thessaloniki and settled around it. After 602, when emperor Mauricius died, the Danube fortification system was crushed, and waves of Slavic migrations became uncontrolled. In 617 Slavs occupied Greece and besieged Constantinople. Only in the early 9th century they stopped their movement and settled down where they now live as Bulgarians, Macedonians, Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. In 805 Byzantine forces managed to regain back the Peloponnese. By that year the Slavic community was already divided into three branches: Southern, Western, Eastern, each having their own language.
Altaic tribes of Turks, headed by kagan Bumyn, moved from Mongolia and Altai to the west and soon founded their Kaganate in Central Asian steppes - another vast nomadic power which from time to time appeared here in the Middle Ages. Turks pushed Avars to Europe, crushed the alliance of Ephtalites, and soon appeared in Northern Iran. The Sasanide Empire of Persia failed to defend its Central Asian provinces, and their rich trade cities were destroyed.
Remains of Indo-European population of Central Asia, Iranian Scythians, Sarmatians, Alans, had to be eliminated or to retreat from the steppes. The only place where they managed to survive was the North Caucasus, where Ossetians remain until now. As for the steppe region, it was occupied by Turkish tribes, and this decided the fate of Asia: it became Turkish for centuries. Tatars, Kazakhs, Kypchaks and Pechenegs, all Asian powers which left their traces in history, were Turkish by origin.
Meanwhile, by 565 the Turkish Kaganate spread to the Danube in the west
and to China in the east. They successfully fought the Byzantine and Persians.
But again the power of nomadic tribes was like a flash of light: having
no economy, they could not exist for too long. After Bumyn's death, his
children divided the Kaganate into two parts - Eastern and Western, and
in 582 the realm was broken into small principalities. Central Asia settled
down for a bit, waiting for another conqueror.
It is common knowledge that Avars played a vital role in the history of Eastern Europe. In 555, this nation of mixed Mongol and Turkish origin was forced to migrate south from the steppers to the North Caucasus. However, lands here were not suitable for cattle breeding, so Avars directed west, passed the Black Sea region and came to the Danube. At that time they evidently followed another branch of the Turkish family: Bulgars, their enemies. Bulgars, who invaded Byzantium together with Slavs in the beginning of the 6th century, also came from the Volga steppes. In such circumstances, Justinian of Byzantium decided to attract Avars in order to destroy the power of the Bulgaro-Slavic hordes.
In 560, all the territory occupied by Eastern Slavs, appeared conquered by Avars, who used Slavs as slaves. Russian manuscripts preserved a rather negative attitude towards Avars and their kagan Bayan. In 562 Avars became a superpower of Europe. They occupied Pannonia, a favourite base of all nomads in the Middle Ages, and made raids to Germany and Frankish Kingdom from here. Though they were defeated in Regensburg by Franks, in 567 they made an alliance with Langobards, crushed the Kingdom of Gepides and conquered Transylvania.
In 591 Avars reached the Aegean Sea. But again, nomadic people quickly lost their language and traditional way of life, adjusted to the civilized values of Byzantium. Those of Avars who chose to live among Slavs were soon assimilated, and the rest of them just dissolved in Eastern Europe. Emperor Mauricius managed to crush the offensive impulse of Avars, in 626 they failed to capture Constantinople, and then the Kaganate broke into pieces. Avars were mentioned for the last time in 796, when Charles the Great of Franks destroyed what was left from the Avar power in Pannonia.
Between 350 and 1650 Europe was invaded by Turkish tribes for more than
20 times: Hunns, Avars, Bulgars, Khazars, Pechenegs, Kypchaks, Mongolo-Tatars,
Ottoman Turks. Still, nowadays Turkish people live only in several spots
in Europe, and there is no Turkish countries on the map of the continent.
An East Germanic tribe of Langobards in the first centuries AD occupied lands of the former Roman provinces of Noricum and Rhaetia. It was apparently too weak comparing to such Teutonic monsters as Goths and Burgunds to conquer lands on valleys, so they had to survive in the Alps. Only after Wisigoths went away to Spain, and Ostrogoths were defeated by the Byzantine, Langobards acquired a chance to move down to the valley of the Padus in Italy.
In 560 their king Alboin concluded an alliance with the Kagane of Avars: together they crushed the Kingdom of Gepides in Pannonia and divided the lands. At the same time, enjoying the death of Justinian, Langobards conquered half of Italy and proclaimed a kingdom in Ravenna. The Roman Pope, who was at the time a rather strong figure on the political stage, was calling for Byzantine troops in vain. Then he turned to the Franks who was gaining power in Gaul. And though Langobards were soon converted to Christianity, still the opposition of Franks and Langobards was a characteristic sign of the following centuries.
In the 7th century, the kingdom was broken into a number of feudal states, one of them was called Lombardy, the name received from Langobards. The kingdom continued to exist formally until 774, when the army of Charles the Great finally captured Pavia and released the Pope from the rule of Langobards. Nothing but a place name - Lombardy - left from this powerful tribe. During the Langobard era, the Italian language was actively forming on the basis of the Popular Latin dialects of Italy. It is necessary to mention that none of the numerous Teutonic tribes which occupied Italy in the Middle Ages left a more or less significant trace in the language of the country. But as Italy was long divided into a lot of regional states, various dialects appeared. Even nowadays linguists study the question whether Veneto, Sicilian and other speech are dialects of Italian or separate languages. Sardinia, early liberated from Teutons, preserved its own language.
Samo, a Moravian Slav or a Frankish merchant (sources differ), founded a principality in Bohemia, and soon expanded it to the lands of other Slavic tribes. This union of Slavs, which previously never formed states and lived in tribal communities. In the last centuries BC and especially in the 1-3rd centuries AD Slavic expansion to the west, east and south made them one of the most powerful nation in Eastern Europe.
The Avar conquest of Central Europe hastened the process of self-determination of Slavs. In 623, an uprising of the tribe of Moravans against Avars was led by Samo. In 627 he was elected a prince (knez) at a popular gathering. And armed force risen by Samo began to liberate Slavic lands from the rule of Avars, who was at time suffering the defeat at Constantinople (626).
In 631 Dagobert, a king of Franks, attempted to crush Samo's power: Slavs robbed Frankish trade caravans going to the east. Langobards and Alemanns, allies of Dagobert, joined the invasion, which was stopped the same year near Wogastiburg in Bohemia. Dagobert's army was defeated after three days of fighting. After that, Samo continued to expand his boundaries to Silesia, Pannonia, and Lusatia. The capital of Samo's state was Vyshgorod in Moravia.
Samo died in 658 without leaving a heir, and his kingdom was dissolved.
It signified the first step towards the unification of Slavic dialects
into national languages.
Rome and Parthia; Rome and Persia; Byzantium and Persia - these are the stages of this long-term conflict which never ceased in ancient times in the Near East. The objects the greatest empires tried to divide were the same through centuries - Armenia, Syria, Mesopotamia.
In 623 Byzantine was devastated by Slavic invasions to the Balkans and by civil wars in Constantinople. Persia, the Sasanide Empire, was weakened by regional separatism and dynastic factions. Nevertheless, both powers decided to start a new war - their last one, actually.
The Byzantine army soon invaded Media and captured the Persian capital Tabriz. Then the imperator turned to Southern Persia, but Sasanides managed to conclude an alliance with Avars, who attacked Byzantium from Europe. That was Persia's turn now to celebrate victory. In 626 Avars and Persians laid siege to Constantinople. In a ten-day battle, Byzantine fleet eliminated the joint force of allies, and after an alliance with Khazars was formed in 627, Byzantium regained initiative. The peace was concluded in 628, with Constantinople's victory. The following year, Byzantium lost everything it gained from this war: this time forever. But this is another story.
The importance of this last war between Byzantine and Persian empires
for geographical distribution of languages is that the border of Iran was
fixed in the west, and millions of Iranian people, mainly Kurdish, remained
living on the lands ruled by Byzantium, later Turkey.
Avars changed Asia for Eastern Europe, and vast Asian Steppes again needed an empire. In 627, Byzantine manuscripts first mention Khazars, a Turkish tribe which foundedtheir domain in the Lower Volga region. Khazars were at that time Byzantine allies against Persia, but soon this alliance was broken, and according to the steppe tradition, Khazars began their raids to Byzantine lands and towns.
In the 7th century their Kaganate expanded to the Black Sea and the Lower Dniepr. Here they mixed quickly with the remains of the Iranian population, Scythian and Sarmatian people. Moreover, in the Lower Dniepr region Khazars established contacts with the Slavic population. There is a theory that Kiev, the first capital of Russia, was founded and developed by Khazars, at least having a Khazar governor, as Slavs paid tribute to them. We do not know whether this is true, but in any case Khazars played vital role in the life of South Russia in the 7-9th centuries.
The other sphere of interest of Khazars was the Caucasus. After Arabs conquered Southern Caucasus countries, both powers began endless wars. In 722 Khazars began an offensive and conquered Armenia and Azerbadjan. In 731 they reached Mesopotamia - using an old way established by Scythians long before. Unlike other nomadic nations, Khazars did not accept Islam, but - surprisingly - were converted into Judaism.
The age of Khazars in Asia ended with the rise of Russia. Oleg, a prince
of Novgorod, in 882 conquered Novgorod, and the Kaganate moved to the East.
In 969, another prince Sviatoslav finally captured Itil (or Belaya Vezha),
the Khazarian capital. No linguistic and practically no archaeological
trace of this nation remained on earth. One more steppe monster was eliminated
- but again not the last.
That was like a thunderbolt, which changed drastically the appearance of Asia, Africa and Europe: the Arabic era began. In 622, Muhammad called his followers to jihad, a sacred war against infidels, that is, against the whole world. Arabic military force, numerous and extremely aggressive, was a real danger for weakening empires of the East.
In 629, they launched the first invasion to Syria and Palestine, and captured Jerusalem. Then they went further to Persia and destroyed the famous Sasanide Empire in just two years. In
It took about a century to stop the Arabic wave of conquest. In 718, they were driven off the Byzantine Empire. In 732, they were crushed at Poitiers by Franks. In 751, the Chinese army stopped their movement to the east near the river Talas in Central Asia. By that time, the Khaliphate, as the Arab state was called, occupied lands of Middle and Near East, North Africa, Spain, Sicily and Southern Italy in Europe.
Arabs actually never forced people on occupied lands to take up their language or to accept Islam. Their policy was just to establish higher taxes for those who does not speak Arabic or does not go to the mosque. That is why poor people all over Asia quickly began to learn Arabic. In Africa and in the Near East, aboriginal languages (like Berber, Egyptian, Aramaic) were similar to Arabic, and therefore these countries were assimilated rather quickly. Indo-European regions (Persia, India, Armenia, Spain and Italy were more difficult to assimilate: they preserved their speech, though enriching it with a lot of arabisms - nowadays existing in a great number in Spanish, Portuguese, Italian. The only land which Arabs managed to convert into their tongue was the island of Malta.
The Arabic language remained that of upper society and literature works in Asia. Numerous Persian, Caucasian and Central Asian books created in the Middle Ages were written in Arabic. The language also influenced the scripts of Asian countries.
Slavs appeared in Bulgaria in the 6th century. They settled here and gradually pushed the Greek population of this land (the former Roman province of Moesia) to the south. Cities acquired their new Slavic names, and the Greek element completely disappeared.
The second element which composed the Bulgarian nation was Turkish by origin. Proto-Bulgars, a Turkish tribe, came from the Greater Volga to the Balkans shortly after Avars. Some of them remained in the Volga region which was known as Volga Bulgaria up to the 13th century. In the 7th century a group of Proto-Bulgars led by their kagan Asparukh reached the mouth of the Danube and settled on the southern bank of the river. We cannot say for sure if Slavic tribes were conquered by Proto-Bulgars. The fact is just that the Bulgarian kagan became official head of this alliance of Slavic and Proto-Bulgarian tribes. They made raids to Byzantium together and organized common defense from Avars.
In 680, Emperor Constantine IV of Byzantium began an invasion to Bulgaria in order to prevent Bulgars from plundering Byzantine lands. But the war was not successful for him, and the following year he had to conclude a treaty with the kagan. In 681, the treaty was signed, in which Byzantium recognized Bulgaria as an equal party. In Bulgaria, this date is considered the beginning of the first Bulgarian state.
In the following two centuries the territory of Bulgaria rose very quickly. In 830 the kingdom included lands of Serbia, Thrace, Macedonia and Albania, mainly populated also by South Slavic people. By that time Proto-Bulgars were assimilated by the Slavs, and the Bulgarian language has preserved just a few words from their Turkish tongue (the word "Bulgaria" is one of them). Kagans already had Slavic names: Malomir, Presijan, Krum, and were often called "knez" (Slavic 'prince'). Byzantium was involved in exhausting wars with Arabs and could not resist the expansion of the Slavic kingdom.
The highest point of the kingdom was the period of Simeon the Great who ruled in 893-927, after his father Boris adopted Christianity in 865. The kingdom reached the Adriatic Sea in the west and Constantinople in the east. Simeon died just while preparing to lay siege to the capital of Byzantium. After his death, the kingdom was declining for more than a century, and finally was conquered by the Empire in 1018.
The Kingdom of Bulgaria was quite important for the whole history of Slavic languages. Cyril and Methodius invented here their famous Cyrillic script which allowed us to read ancient Slavic manuscripts. The Old Church Slavonic language, the most ancient written language of the Slavic group, is in fact a variety of Old Bulgarian.
Two first centuries of Anglo-Saxon presence in Britain were filled by constant aggression against Celtic tribes. At first only lands of Kent were conquered by Hengist and Horsa, the first Anglo-Saxon leaders, but already in 615 in the battle at Chester Ethelfrit, king of Mercia, defeated Celts and reached the Irish Sea. Gradually Celts had to retreat to Wales and Cornwall.
Another invaders came to Scotalnd in the 6th century: Scots from Ireland, another Celtic nation, eliminated Picts, the aboriginal population of the British Isles, and occupied Scotland. This became the first stumbling point for Anglo-Saxons. Several battles between Northuimbia, their northmost kingdom, and Scots allowed Anglo-Saxons to advance a bit, but in 685 in a decisive battle at Dunnihen Mossa Scots regained victory and pushed the invaders back. Oswi, king of Northumbria, was killed in the battle, and Scotland remained independent.
After that the island settled down a little, fixing ethnic borders: Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, England. With slight changes, those language borders have preserved in Britain util today. But the supremacy of the English was evident: their lands were much more fertile and more populated, their cities produced more goods, their territory was wider than the Celtic countries.
In the beginning of the 8th century small units of pirates which called themselves vikings, began raiding regions of Northern Europe. At first they conquered lands in south-western Finland and the Baltic shore of Pomerania (Pomorje in Slavic). Not only the passion for wars and adventures made Vikings sail over Europe: lands of southern Sweden, Denmark and Norway were poor and could not feed enough people who grew very fast. Personal courage, offensive tactics and small quick ships made Vikings practically invincible for aborigines.
In 789, Vikings appeared near Dorchester in Britain. This was only a reconaissance raid, which was followed by another attack in 793 - invaders plundered the shores of Northumbria and the island of Lindis Farne. The first known Viking raid to Scotland was described in 794, to Ireland - in 795.
By the time Arabian hordes conquered North Africa Spain was still under the rule of Wisigoths. However, they were already assimilated by Romance population of the country, their kings were Christian and carried Christian Romance-like names. The kingdom was declining slowly, shaken by domestic feudal wars and economic crisis. This all made it easy for mobile Arab units to conquer the country.
In 711, the first Islamic army crossed the Gibraltar and appeared in Europe. Medieval sources mention some count Julian who concluded an alliance with Arabs against king Roderic. The following year, the Wisigothic army was eliminated near the river Barbat. In a few days Toledo, the capital of Wisigoths, was captured. Soon all Spain except its northern mountainous regions populated by Asturians and Basques were conquered by Arabs.
But the very moment of the conquest meant the beginning of the new process which is called Reconquista in Spanish history - reconquering lands back. In 718, in the north, in mountains of Asturia, a Wisigothic prince named Pelayo founded a new kingdom - the Kingdom of Asturia. From his base in the city of Cangas de Onis, he made raids to the south and finally manged to expand his rule to Galicia in 750. The Reconquista continued for seven centuries, until the last ship took the last Muslims (or Maurs) from Spain back to Africa in 1492. But Spanish and Portuguese languages preserved several significant Arabic traces.
He became king together with his brother Carlomane, but the latter died soon, and Charles became the only ruler of the huge Frankish Empire. Feudalism did not yet divide the country into numerous domains, and Charles easily suppressed domestic uprisings. Having a strong army and a weak economy, based only on agriculture (cities meant nothing for the country, and Charles did not even have a capital), Franks used everything they possessed on war. In 771, Charles promised to help the Pope against Langobards, who terrorized Rome. Weak Langobardian principalities could not resist the might of Franks, and after a decisive battle in 774 Charles proclaimed himself King of Langobards, and the latter were completely moved away from the European stage.
During the following 25 years of ruling Charles the Great turned the kingdom into the Empire. He occupied half of Italy, all Germany, suppressed Saxons, repelled Danish raids and destroyed the Avar Kaganate in Pannonia. He managed to move in Spain and capture Barcelona from Arabs. After several successful wars with Byzantium on the Adriatic he was crowned as Emperor of the West, the title admitted by the Byzantine Emperor.
Charles the Great became the first mediaeval European who succeeded in conquering Europe. But the most significant of his achievements was the christianization of European nations. More an more people accepted Christianity, which meant much for their languages too: they acquired the Latin script, their tongues borrowed a number of words from Latin and Greek through religious books, etc.
In 814, Charles died, and his kingdom was divided into three equal parts
for his three children.
The Arab Khaliphate which ruled over all the Middle East since the 7th century became weaker and could not defend its borders. After a sevetre revolt, Persia broke apart from the Khaliphate, and a new dynasty came into power - Takhirides.
It was the first Iranian dynasty ruling over Persia since the epoch of the Sasanides. Though Islam strongly influenced the country and the population - the majority of Persian and Kurdish people were converted - Arabs did not have enough time to assimilate Persians. The Iranian population was very numerous and did not mix with the invaders. This is why the languages of Persia remained the same, though modern Persian, Kurdish, and other tongues of Iran use much of the Arabic vocabulary - especially in religious and cultural sphere. Practically all literary works of the Middle Ages were written in Arabic. The ancient Pahlavic and Parsic, scripts used in Iran before Arabs came, were replaced by the Arabic alphabet.
And nevertheless we can say in general that the Arab conquest and rule did not change the linguistic situation in the region. After Takhirides which did not play any important role in the history of Iran, no more Arabic dynasties ruled in the country.
'This very year', as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle always begins, Egbert, king of Wessex, fought with Vikings and managed to unify all England. Actually a half of the island at that time was occupied by Viking forces, so Egbert just managed to conquer what had left in Britain. Only the invasion of Vikings in 793 helped Anglo-Saxons to get their common king: for over four centuries they could never form a "united kingdom". This or that kingdom of all 8 Anglo-Saxon realms sometimes gained supremacy over the rest of them - as Mercia did in the 7th century or Northumbria in the 8th century - but that did not last for long. When Vikings invaded the country, Northumbria was the first to suffer from their attack, later it was East England. Wessex lay distant from the battlefield, so it was allowed to develop very fast. Soon Kent and Mercia were conquered, and then all England was divided between Egbert, king of all Angles, Saxons and Jutes, and Vikings from Denmark, who established the so called Danelaw, the region under the rule of the Danes.
The unification of England meant much also for the Anglo-Saxon language: the dialectal difficulties begin to disappear, and the common literature form of the language was forming. Naturally, as the centripetal forces were concentrated in Wessex, the dialect of Wessex was adopted as the most common form of the language. This can also be explained by the high level of education in Wessex and its largest cities: London and Winchester.
After Egbert's death, his vassals again tried to regain their independence. Albert the Great, the son of Egbert, had to create "duchies" for lords of Northumbria and Mercia. But after he won the decisive battle with the Danes in 878, England surrounded to Wessex.
Since the epoch of Samo's kingdom in Moravia (623) local West Slavic tribes became Christian and turned their tribal way of life into a number of small principalities. The idea of a strong realm was very popular, especially in Bohemia and Moravia, which were civilized much more than other Slavs in Poland, Slovakia and Lusatia. Numerous cities involved in manufacturing and peasants working on fertile lands required a powerful state to defend them from the expansion of the Frankish Empire.
In 830, a Moravian prince named Mojmir conquered the neighbouring Nitra principality and proclaimed the kingdom of Great Moravia. Mojmir was a Christian, unlike the majority of local aristocracy, and that is why he was interested in calling missionaries either from Rome or Constantinople. Two parties of supporters began struggling, and in 846 Mojmir was replaced by his nephew Rostislav who supported the Catholic church. However, the war against the Holy Roman Empire caused Rostislav to turn for help to Byzantium. In 863 Cyril and Methodius arrived in Moravia (863) and established several episcopacies which were to obey to the Byzantine patriarch. The Pope watched attentively the situation in Moravia and permanently asked German feudals to eliminate Byzantine influence in Slavic lands. After severe struggle, in 870 Rostislav was murdered, and his relative Sviatopolk restored Catholicism. After Sviatopolk's death the kingdom was again divided into several principalities, the majority of them accepted sovereignity of the Holy Empire.
Still, this kingdom was important for Western Slavs who understood that a strong state is the only thing which can defend their independence from Germany. In 895, the center of Slavic political activities moved to Praha, the capital of Bohemia.
The Treaty of Verdain was one of the corner-stones in the European politics of the Middle Ages. In 843, descendants of Charles the Great divided his enormous empire into three major parts, after realizing that it was impossible to have three kings in one kingdom. It was decided to divide the country by three border lines from the north to the south. After that, the East Frankish Empire was soon called simply France, the West Frankish Empire became Germany, the territory between them, including the Netherlands in the north, Burgundy in the center and Northern Italy in the south, was called Lotharingia, or Lorraine in French, as its first king was Lothar. For many centuries these borders have defined the most significant countries of Western Europe: France, Germany, and Italy. Certainly, Lotharingia was too unnatural on the map of Europe and it seemed very hard to defend such a state, so its northern parts became subject to fierce struggle between France and Germany. These lands, often called Low Countries, Pays Bas or Niederlanden remained an apple of discord for Europe even in the 20th century.
In Verdain, the text of the treaty was composed in two languages: German
(Old High German) and Old French - the first official recognition of two
different tongues within the Frankish empire. The very Frankish language,
a dialect of Old High German spoken in France, no longer existed. France,
Germany and Italy appeared in Europe.
Gaelic tribes appeared in Scotland from Ireland around the 5th century AD. The tribe of Scots seems to have been the most aggressive part of Irish warriors: horrors of Scottish conquest of Pictish lands became legendary. Kenneth Mac Alpin, the first known king of Scots, created a strong kingdom in northern Britain and successfully repelled Viking attacks.
Picts by that time were already much more civilizaed than in Roman times. They used the Ogham writing system, developed cities and formed small kingdoms. Leaders of Scots gradually pushed Picts far to the north during two centuries, and Kenneth was the first who managed to conquer all the country. The kingdom founded by him was called Alban; modern Scots consider it the beginning of the Scottish history.
Picts and Basques were the last nations in Europe survived from the ancient, pre-Indo-European epoch. Iberians, Etruscans, Eteo-Cretans, Pelasgians, Aquitanes, Picenes and many other tribes which we know only from Roman or Greek manuscripts, were assimilated by Indo-European newcomers and disappeared; their languages remained unknown. The Pictish language left several inscriptions in Ogham, but they cannot be deciphered.
Different theories exist about the origin of the state in Russia. In the 19th century, the most widespread of them was the "Norman Theory" basing on an ancient Russian manuscript which witnessed that in 862, Slavs from northern Russia called for Scandinavian princes to govern the country. "Our land is vast, but there is no order in it. Come to us and rule us" - were the words of Slavic ambassadors. Three princes from Vikings, Rurik, Sineus and Truvor, came to the country and became its co-rulers: Rurik, the eldest brother, in Novgorod, other two brothers in Smolensk and Belozero.
Another point of view defends the evidence of princes in Novgorod even prior to Rurik. We cannot deny that Vikings played vital role in the early history of Russia, but obviously they were always mercenaries in the prince's army, but not rulers. There was no Viking invasion to Russia, so maybe Viking nobles were just regents for nominal Slavic princes.
In 882, Oleg, a relative of Rurik's son prince Igor, aiming at establishment of trade ways to Byzantium, captured Kiev, at that time an outpost of the Khazar Kaganate, and became ruler of all Russia. Soon most of the tribes of the Dniepr valley, cities of northern Russia and modern Ukraine joined the new country which became the largest in Europe and one of the first Slavic kingdoms. The population of Kiev Russia consisted of Eastern Slavs, Finnish tribes (in modern Moscow area), Baltic relics along the Upper Dniepr and nomadic nations like Khazars. Moreover, its political elite included a lot of Vikings: when in 907 Oleg signed a treaty with Constantinople, commanders of his army who also signed it almost all had northern names. But the official language of the country remained Slavic, more exactly Old Russian which was later divided into Russian, Belorussian and Ukrainian.
Brothers Cyril and Methodius from Constantinople were invited to the throne of Bulgarian king Boris to convert Bulgarian Slavs into Christianity. Nowadays there is much unclear in the whole story about how Cyril invented his famous Cyrillic alphabet. The first problem is that we are not sure if Slavs ever had writing before. The only mention of it in a Bulgarian manuscript is that "Slavs wrote and told fortunes by lines and curvings". Some of such strange symbols were really found on pots in Russia and Eastern Europe. Some linguists even find Cyrillic elements in it.
The first writing system which Slavs accepted, however, was Glagolitic, obviously invented by Cyril. It looks unlike the Greek alphabet, but reminds symbols of Ethiopian or Armenian scripts. The script matched practically all specific Russian sounds, which made it easy to spread among the nation. King Boris also accepted Christianity, and the first Slavic language which had a written form was born in Bulgaria. It was used mainly for writing the Bible and other religious texts, that is why the language was preserved well and exists nowadays in Russian Orthodox church, known as Old Church Slavonic. This is the most ancient of all Slavic languages, and it contains a lot of archaic traits which later disappeared.
The Cyrillic script looks much like one of variants of the Greek alphabet, and current research shows that it was secondary, invented maybe by Methodius' students somewhere in West Bulgaria or Macedonia. As the majority of literate Slavs knew Greek well, Cyrillic seemed to them much easier to learn than Glagolitic, that is why soon Cyrillic spread to Kiev Russia, Serbia and Moravia. Glagolitic was used mainly in Croatia and Bulgaria until the 12th century.
Sailors in Greece and later in Rome were sure there was some land north from Britain. This land was called Thula, and ancient geographers were sure it was populated by some dragons or giants, as usual. Since those ancient times, little had changed to 870. In the 9th century, an Anglo-Saxon author in his "Description of Britain" confessed that Thula lies not far north, but no one dared to reach it.
Vikings did. Norwegian sailors were not the first human beings which stepped on the island - Irish monks lived here even before, from the 6th century (but few of them returned back, and that is why the island remained unknown to the rest of the humanity). Though it is rather large, Iceland's 95% of land is occupied by glaciers or clinker fields originated from the number of volcanoes. This is why even no animals live in Iceland. People can survive only on the shores, fishing and hunting whales.
Norwegians founded several small and quiet colonies here, and most of them exist even today, with their population not much more than originally. Colonists established democratic communities with the only government - alting, the Council of Elders. In the following centuries, Norway and Denmark subjugated Iceland, but as the island had little strategic importance nobody really cared about it, and for ages Iceland lives quietly, distant from European processes. Even the language of Vikings remained practically the same: modern people of Iceland can easily read Old Scandinavian sagas. Bearing in mind that the Germanic group is rather progressive among other Indo-European branches, Icelandic is one of the most archaic ones in the group.
Another horde from the step - again not the last one - first achieved South Russia and tried to capture Kiev, and after two decades of migrations arrived along the Danube valley in Pannonia. At that time the country was devastated by previous invaders and was practically empty: Slavic, Vlach and Teutonic tribes had their rare settlements here. Hungarians, being a nomadic nation, had never thought of taking up agriculture. They established their base in Estergom, a Pannonian fortress, and started raids on neighbouring lands.
The next century became the era of Hungarian plunders all over Europe. People on the continent had just settled down after the horrors of Germanic migrations, but another enemy emerged from Asia. European kingdoms tried to pacify Hungarians in two ways: arms and Christianity. Numerous missionaries were sent to preach among nomads, though the majority of them were simply killed.
In the beginning of the 10th century, Hungarians invaded Northern Italy, then Germany, they even managed to cross Southern France and to reach Spain: European borders at that time existed only de jure. Conquerors never settled on the lands which they plundered: they just took gold, harvest and goods and went away to Pannonia. In 907, Liutpold, count of Ostmark, attempted to invade Pannonia, but was killed, and his army was totally eliminated.
Only in 955, at the river Lech in South Germany, German Emperor Heinrich finally defeated the nucleus of the Hungarian army. Along with that, people in Pannonia borrowed agricultural skills from aborigines, and that made Hungary more quiet. Besides, Christianity also began to influence aristocracy. In 999, Hungarian leader Andrey accepted the new religion, and the Pope granted him the title of King.
Hungarians appeared the only nomadic nation of the Middle Ages which
remained to live in Central Europe and is still vital. The Hungarian language
is a pretty strange piece of the Uralic language family in the very center
of Indo-European Europe. The only thing Europeans managed to do with the
language is to loan a great number of words: they are mainly Germanic,
Latin or Slavic.
Greeks never knew much about the countries north to the Black Sea. Their numerous colonies on the northern shores of the sea established trade contacts with Scythians, tribes of the Northern Caucasus and obviously with Slavs as well, but still were absolutely ignorant about the geography of the region. Since Herodotus' time not much had changed in Greek knowledge about Russia and its inhabitants. That is why Byzantines were astonished when saw a great number of small Russian ships near Constantinople in 860. The first raid was repelled successfully; in 907, Oleg, the prince of Kiev Russia, decided to take another attempt: his main goal was to achieve trade benefits for Russian merchants coming to the Empire.
Byzantium was weak enough to lose the battle, and when Russian ships began the siege of the city, the Emperor signed a new trade treaty with Kiev Russia. The next raid, however, took place four years later, in 911, again led by Oleg. The treaty was revised, and new benefits for Russian traders were included.
The only thing which the weak Empire could do with Russians was to convert wild barbarians into Christianity. When it happened finally in 988, raids to Constantinople stopped, and two countries soon became allies. The relations with Byzantium became the first diplomatic contact of Kiev Russia with the civilized world; soon the country became a generally acknowledged member of the Christian European community.
Since 907, the Russian language borrowed hundreds of Greek words, mainly from the religious sphere. The process went especially fast after Christianity was adopted. Christian books were not written in Russian, a special language was used which used Cyril and Methodius to make their Slavic Bible: Old Church Slavonic. Though it was very similar to Old Russian, some significant differences are still noticeable: for example, the word 'to give birth' in modern Russian exists in two varieties - rozhat' (from Old Russian) and rozhdat' (from Old Church Slavonic); the latter is usually abstract in meaning: 'to give birth to an idea', for instance.
Each nation has its national peculiarities. Normanns, or Vikings, were fond of sailing around Europe and devastating nearby towns. Since monasteries appeared in England, France, Germany and Ireland, Vikings liked to attack them as well. Actually this vast expansion of northern warriors from Denmark, Norway and Sweden was caused by severe climate and poor opportunity to feed numerous people. So Vikings sought better lands and settled there, often eliminating the original population.
In the 9th century, Normanns pressed the Kingdom of Franks: Charles the Great managed to repel their aggression, but his descendants appeared too weak to do the same, and gradually Normanns settled in Frisia, Belgium and then in northern France. They laid siege to Paris twice, and after that Charles the Fat, king of France, had no choice but to permit Normanns to settle on French lands. In 911, a treaty was signed, and one of Norman princes, Rollo (Robert after accepting Christianity), became Duke of Normandy, a new realm founded in northern France. Officially Robert was vassal to the French king, but actually he was independent.
As it often happens, wild invaders were quickly assimilated by civilized
peasants, and Normanns took up French and became Catholics. Their language,
a dialect of Northern French with significant Germanic substratum, was
brought to England in 1066.
Some sort of a kingdom appeared in Masovia, a region of Poland, around the beginning of the 10th century, but it became known to civilized Europe only in 963 when Meszko, prince of Poland, signed a peace treaty with Gero, count of Elbmark. According to this document, as manuscripts say, Meszko accepted sovereignty of the German emperor and promised to convert his country into Christianity. Meszko himself took up the new religion in 966.
Slavic tribes of Poles and Masovians were unified around the town of Gnezno which became the first capital of Poland. Poland developed very fast - its borders were relatively quiet: the country was surrounded by weak tribes of Prussians and Polabian Slavs. Germany did not bother Polish kings too much - German emperors were busy solving problems within the very Empire.
Poland of the 10th century was unlike modern Poland - it did not have
access to the Baltic sea, its center was situated in modern Silesia and
Masovia. In the 11th century Poland became a notable power of Eastern Europe:
Polish king Boleslav conquered Kiev and successfully raided Bohemia. The
Slavic dialects of Masovia spread among other tribes forming the Polish
language, though all written documents were written in Latin at that time.
In 1000, the Gnezno archepiscopacy was founded.
At the very end of the first millennium AD Europeans at last managed to discover everything around Europe. Ancient Phoenicians and Greeks sailed to the Baltic Sea to trade amber, knew the whereabouts of Scotland and Ireland, even heard of Iceland ("Thula island"). After the fall of Rome in 476, classical knowledge was almost absolutely forgotten, and works by ancient authors were never read until the Renaissance. Strabo in the 1st century AD did not doubt that the Earth is a ball, but in the Middle Ages the humanity had to be proving it during another thousand years, until Copernicus in 1443 stated the same.
Greenland, however, was never known by Europeans, and people first landed here in 982, led by Norwegian Vikings exiled from their motherland. It seems that in the 10th century the climate in Greenland was much milder and warmer than now, so Vikings even did not see any ice land from their ships. The country was called Greenland, and the first settlements were set up on its southern shores.
The only things which could be brought from Greenland were whale meat
and bones. In the last decade of the 1st millennium Vikings decided to
sail further to the west to seek better lands (see 1000).
Prince Vladimir of Kiev Russia gained the throne in 980 with the wish to make East Slavic tribes integrate with Kiev. Arms were not enough to make the state quiet and united, so Vladimir thought of creating a universal religion for all Russians. Out of all deities of Slavic paganism Vladimir chose four or five and ordered his people to worship only them. The god of war and thunder, Perun, was proclaimed chief among the gods. This reform caused unrest in several major cities in the north, especially in Novgorod, but Vladimir quickly suppressed the rebellion. And still, paganism could not survive together with new feudal system of the state.
High priests from both Byzantine and Rome, the Patriarch and the Pope, were interested in converting Russia into Christianity. Though the Christian church was not divided into Catholic and Orthodox yet, there was a kind of rivalry between the two bosses: they both directed missionaries to Russia. A legend says that Vladimir met with ambassadors from Constantinople, Rome, Baghdad, and Khazar Kaganate: they all suggested him their religions - Christianity, Islam or Judaism respectively. Vladimir thought for a while and chose the first one - Islam seemed too strict to him, because Muslim customs include abstinence from drinking alcohols.
We doubt this legend is true. The decision to accept Christianity was taken in 988 near Korsun, a Byzantine town in South Russia. Vladimir sieged it with his army and gave a promise to take up Christianity if he captured the fortress. Both things happened.
Soon after that Vladimir started to spread his new god among Russian with the same severity as he had done it before spreading paganism. Novgorod was in unrest once again, and the prince had to slaughter another thousand of people to make it loyal. The population of Kiev was christianized very quickly, due to numerous missionaries in the city.
In the 10th century, Christianity was quickly spreading all over Europe.
The age of feudalism and the dogmas of Christianity fitted each other quite
well: military leaders of barbarian tribes became kings and wanted the
ancient tribal democracy to be forgotten. Moravia, Poland, Hungary, Russia,
Croatia became Christian kingdoms. By the end of the century, only Baltic
lands - Prussia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Polabian Slavs preserved
their ancient religion.
After the power of Arabs was exhausted in Persia and Middle East, Turkish tribes regained initiative. In 999, one of local princes in North-Eastern Persia Seldjuk helped some king to conquer his neighbour and as a reward received a small piece of land for a principality. The tribe led by him was extremely aggressive and therefore infamous throughout Central Asia.
After his death, Seldjuk Turks never stopped: they did not have agricultural or manufacturing skills and lived on cattle-breeding which made them migrating to and fro. In the beginning of the new millennium, in 1000-1010, Seldjuks started their journey to the West.
This event, though minor in the history of the 10th century, had very serious consequences further. Seldjuks will come to Asia Minor, crush the Byzantine Empire and three centuries later will give birth to Osman, the first of the Ottoman Empire, the dominating power of the Near East, North Africa and South-Eastern Europe for centuries. During the epoch of Crusades Europeans made all possible effort to weaken the Byzantine Empire - later they had to suffer the results - not only Palestine and Syria, but all Asia Minor and half of Eastern Europe were brought under Islamic supremacy. Ottoman Turks eliminated Byzantine Christians, assimilated Greeks in Asia Minor, colonized Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, Romania and Albania for more than four centuries, twice they reached Vienna. The Ottoman dominance led to religious wars in the Balkans which do not stop even today: Bosnians and Albanians accepted Islam while Serbians remained Orthodox Christians.
This will happen further in our Indo-European Chronology. But this all
began in 999.
Eric the Red, a chieftain exiled from Iceland, dared to make a journey to the west from Greenland and discovered new land which he called Winland - probably because of plenty of wild vineyards which grew on the island he discovered. He founded the first settlement here around 1000 and intended to create a new colony of Vikings. Soon several ships arrived here with settlers who established trade contacts with aborigines. This is how America was discovered for the first time in European history.
In Europe itself, the news did not cause any effect. Vikings did not communicate with the Christian world, and obviously most countries did not ever heard of this discovery. Those who heard, however, did not pay much attention: Europe was occupied by its own internal problems, it did not have extra population to colonize new lands, and moreover nobody in Europe was interested in distant discoveries. Even medieval geography was too poor to value the discovery of a new continent. Vikings themselves did not know it was really a continent.
In about 50 years, Viking settlements were set up on the shores of the Newfoundland and Labrador. Their ships sailed to the Hudson and maybe even reached the Lakes. But this epoch of colonization did not last for too long: Scandinavian people abandoned migrations and took up agriculture on the lands they managed to conquer: in England, Scotland, Iceland, Normandy, etc. Their call for travel was exhausted, and less and less ships went to distant Winland for furs and wood. Gradually all Viking colonies became empty. Northern travellers did not even leave memory about their journeys, and Europeans discovered their traces in America only in the 20th century.
America, found at the edge of the 1st and 2nd millennia, was forgotten
- to be discovered once again five centuries later.
(To be continued.)