The Pannonian Avars (//; also known as the Obri in chronicles of Rus, the Abaroi or Varchonitai (Varchonites) or Pseudo-Avars in Byzantine sources) were an alliance of several groups of Eurasian nomads of unknown origins.
They are probably best known for their invasions and destruction in the Avar-Byzantine wars from 568 to 626.
The name Pannonian Avars (after the area in which they eventually settled) is used to distinguish them from the Avars of the Caucasus, a separate people with whom the Pannonian Avars may or may not have been linked.
Although the name Avar first appeared in the mid-5th century, the Pannonian Avars entered the historical scene in the mid-6th century, on the Pontic-Caspian steppe as a people who wished to escape the rule of the Gokturks.
Avars and Pseudo-Avars
The earliest clear reference to the Avar ethnonym comes from Priscus the Rhetor (died after 472 AD). Priscus recounts that, c. 463, the ?aragurs, Onogurs and Ogurs were attacked by the Sabirs, who had been attacked by the Avars. In turn, the Avars had been driven off by people fleeing "man-eating griffins" coming from "the ocean" (Priscus Fr 40). Whilst Priscus' accounts provide some information about the ethno-political situation in the Don-Kuban-Volga region after the demise of the Huns, no unequivocal conclusions can be reached. Denis Sinor has argued that whoever the "Avars" referred to by Priscus were, they differed from the Avars who appear a century later, during the time of Justinian (who reigned from 527 to 565).
The next author to discuss the Avars, Menander Protector, appeared during the 6th century, and wrote of Gokturk embassies to Constantinople in 565 and 568 AD. The Turks appeared angry at the Byzantines for having made an alliance with the Avars, whom the Turks saw as their subjects and slaves. Turxanthos, a Turk prince, calls the Avars "Varchonites" and "escaped slaves of the Turks", who numbered "about 20 thousand" (Menander Fr 43).
Many more, but somewhat confusing, details come from Theophylact Simocatta, who wrote c. 629, describing the final two decades of the 6th century. In particular, he claims to quote a triumph letter from the Turk lord Tamgan:
According to the interpretation of Dobrovits and Nechaeva, the Turks insisted that the Avars were only pseudo-Avars, so as to boast that they were the only formidable power in the Eurasian steppe. The Gokturks claimed that the "real Avars" remained loyal subjects of the Turks, farther east.
Furthermore, Dobrovits has questioned the authenticity of Theophylact's account. As such, they[who?] have argued that Theophylact borrowed information from Menander's accounts of Byzantine-Turk negotiations to meet political needs of his time ? i.e., to castigate and deride the Avars during a time of strained political relations between the Byzantines and Avars (coinciding with Emperor Maurice's north Balkan campaigns). By calling the Avars "Turkish slaves" and "pseudo-Avars", Theophylact undermined their political legitimacy.
Uar, Rouran and other Central Asian peoples
According to some scholars the Pannonian Avars originated from a confederation formed in the Aral Sea region, by the Uar, also known as the Var or Warr (who were probably a Uralic people) and the X?n or Xionites (also known as the Chionitae, Chunni, Hunni, Yun and similar names); the Xionites were maybe Iranian or Turkic-speaking or both. A third tribe affiliated previously to the Uar and Xionites, the Hephthalites, had remained in Central and South Asia. In some transliterations, the term Varis rendered Hua, which is an alternate Chinese term for the Hephthalites. (While one of the cities most significant to the Hephthalites was Walwalij or Varvaliz, this may also be an Iranian term for "upper fortress".) The Pannonian Avars were also known by names including Uarkhon or Varchonites - which may have been portmanteau words combining Var and Chunni.
The 18th-century historian Joseph de Guignes postulates a link between the Avars of European history with the proto-Mongolian Rouran (Ju-juan) of Inner Asia based on a coincidence between Tardan Khan's letter to Constantinople and events recorded in Chinese sources, notably the Wei-shi and Pei-shi. Chinese sources state that Bumin Qaghan (T'u-men khan), founder of the Turkic Khaganate, defeated the Rouran, some of whom fled and joined the Western Wei. Later - according to another Chinese source - Muqan Qaghan (Mu-han khan), Bumin's successor, defeated the Hephthalites (Chinese name: I-ta) as well as the Turkic Tiele (Tieh-le). Superficially these victories over the Tiele, Rouran and Hephthalites echo a narrative in the Theophylact, boasting of Tardan's victories over the Hephthalites, Avars and Oghurs. However, the two series of events are not synonymous: the events of the latter took place during Tardan's rule, c. 580-599, whilst Chinese sources referring to the Turk defeat of the Rouran and other Central Asian peoples occurred 50 years earlier, at the founding of the Turk khanate by Bumen. It is for this reason that the linguist Janos Harmatta rejects the identification of the Avars with the Rouran. According to Edwin G. Pulleyblank, the name Avar is the same as the prestigious name Wuhuan in the Chinese sources.
Steppe empire dynamics and ethnogenesis
Contemporary scholars are less inclined to view the tribal groupings mentioned in historical texts as monolithic and long-lived 'nations', but were rather volatile and fluid political formations whose dynamic depended on the sedentary civilizations they bordered as well as internal power struggles within the barbarian lands.
Such views are mirrored by Csanad Balint. "The ethnogenesis of early medieval peoples of steppe origin cannot be conceived in a single linear fashion due to their great and constant mobility", with no ethnogenetic "point zero", theoretical "proto-people" or proto-language.
Moreover, Avar identity was strongly linked to Avar political institutions. Groups who rebelled or fled from the Avar realm could never be called "Avars", but were rather termed "Bulgars". Similarly, with the final demise of Avar power in the early 9th century, Avar identity disappeared almost instantaneously.
A genetic analysis in the year 2018 about ancient Avar ruling-class individuals showed a predominantly East-Asian Mongoloid origin.
The research suggests that the Avars were not a homogenous group but a federation of different tribes. Several individuals are genetically related to modern Central Asian and Siberian groups, namely, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Yakuts and Yenisseians. On the other hand there were also several individuals that are closest to modern Han Chinese and Japanese people. One analysed member is closest to modern Armenians and inhabitants of the Caucasus. The analysis concludes that the Rouran theory can not be ruled out and suggests that the origin of the Avars is much more complex than previously thought.
In contemporary art, Avars were sometimes depicted as mounted archers, riding backwards on their horses.
According to mid-20th Century physical anthropologists such as Pal Liptak, human remains from the early Avar (7th century) period had mostly "Europoid" features, while grave goods indicated cultural links to the Eurasian steppe.
Cemeteries dated to the late Avar period (8th century) included many human remains with physical features typical of East Asian people or Eurasians (i.e., people with both East Asian and European ancestry).Remains with East Asian or Eurasian features were found in about one third of the Avar graves from the 8th Century. According to Liptak, 79% of the population of the Danube-Tisza region during the Avar period showed Europoid characteristics. (Liptak used racial terms later deprecated or regarded as obsolete, such as "Mongoloid" for North East Asian and "Turanid" for individuals of mixed ancestry.)
Social and tribal structure
The Pannonian 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 lived 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. There also appeared to have existed semi-independent "client" (predominantly Slavic) tribes which served strategic roles, such as engaging in diversionary attacks and guarding the Avars' western borders abutting the Frankish Empire.
Initially, the Avars and their subjects lived separately, except for Slavic and Germanic women who married Avar men. Eventually, the Germanic and Slavic peoples were included in the Avaric social order and culture, itself Persian-Byzantine in fashion. 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. 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". 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.
The language or languages spoken by the Avars are unknown. Classical philologist Samuel Szadeczky-Kardoss states that most of the Avar words used in contemporaneous Latin or Greek texts appear to have their origins in possibly Mongolian or Turkic languages. Other theories propose a Tungusic origin. According to Szadeczky-Kardoss, many of the titles and ranks used by the Pannonian Avars were also used by the Turks, Proto-Bulgars, Uighurs and/or Mongols, including khagan (or kagan), khan, kapkhan, tudun, tarkhan, and khatun. There is also evidence, however, that ruling and subject clans spoke a variety of languages. Proposals by scholars include Caucasian, Iranian, Tungusic, Hungarian and Turkic. A few scholars speculated that Proto-Slavic became the lingua franca of the Avar Khaganate. Historian Gyula Laszlo has suggested that the late 9th century Pannonian Avars spoke a variety of Old Hungarian, thereby forming an Avar-Hungarian continuity with then-newly arrived Hungarians.
Gyula Laszlo's Avar-Hungarian continuity theory
Gyula Laszlo, a Hungarian archaeologist, suggests that late Avars, arriving to the khaganate in 670 in great numbers, lived through the time between the destruction and plunder of the Avar state by the Franks during 791-795 and the arrival of the Magyars in 895. Laszlo points out that the settlements of the Hungarians (Magyars) complemented, rather than replaced, those of the Avars. Avars remained on the plough fields, good for agriculture, while Hungarians took the river banks and river flats, suitable for pasturage. He also notes that while the Hungarian graveyards consist of 40?50 graves on average, those of the Avars contain 600?1000. According to these findings, the Avars not only survived the end of the Avar polity but lived in great masses and far outnumbered the Hungarian conquerors of Arpad. He also shows that Hungarians occupied only the centre of the Carpathian basin, but Avars lived in a larger territory. Looking at those territories where only the Avars lived, one only finds Hungarian geographical names, not Slavic or Turkic as would be expected interspersed among them. This is further evidence for the Avar-Hungarian continuity. Names of the Hungarian tribes, chieftains and the words used for the leaders, etc., suggest that at least the leaders of the Hungarian conquerors were Turkic speaking. However, Hungarian is not a Turkic language, rather Finno-Ugric, and so they must have been assimilated by the Avars that outnumbered them and the genetics of today's modern Hungarians is no different than that of neighboring West Slavs as well as western Ukrainians. Laszlo's Avar-Hungarian continuity theory also states that the modern Hungarian language descends from that spoken by the Avars rather than the conquering Magyars. Laszlo's research does suggest, at the very least, that it is likely that any remaining Avars in the Carpathian Basin who resisted Slavic assimilation were absorbed by the invading Magyars and lost their identity.
source : Wikipedia
Avars in AD 627
Avars in AD 1000
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