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King of the Antes [A]
Reign late 4th century
Issue eight sons
Died c. 380
Religion Slavic
Occupation Early Slavic ruler

Bozh[A] (fl. c. 380) was the first Slavic ruler known in history; he was the king of the Antes (rex Antorum), an early Slavic people that lived in parts of present day Ukraine and Russia. In the preceding years, the Ostrogoths under Ermanaric had conquered a large number of tribes in Central Europe (see Oium), including the Antes. Some years after the Ostrogothic defeat by the invading Huns, a king named Vinitharius, Ermanaric's great-nephew, marched against the Antes of Bozh and defeated them. Vinitharius condemned Bozh and his sons, and seventy of his nobles, to crucifixion in order to terrorize the Antes. These conflicts constitute the only pre-6th century contacts between Germanics and Slavs documented in written sources.



Byzantine historian Jordanes wrote in his De origine actibusque Getarum (written in 550 or 551[1]) that King Ermanaric (fl. 370s) of the Greuthungi (a Gothic tribe, most likely the same as the later Ostrogoths), member of the Amali dynasty, managed to subdue a large number of tribes in Europe (Cassiodorus called him "ruler of all nations of Scythia and Germania"), and he is said to have lastly subjugated the Wends (Slavs).[2] Jordanes noted that the Gothic tribes regularly made raids into Slavic territory.[2]

Jordanes mentioned three tribes of the same origin, that constituted the Slavs: Wends (West Slavs), Antes (East Slavs) and Sklaveni (South Slavs), and stated that the Antes were the bravest and strongest among these.[3][1] The Antes received a strong ruling power and military organization over time from the Gothic influence.[4] Procopius maintained that the Antes "are not ruled by one man, but they have lived from old under a democracy".[1] They inhabited the area between the Dniester and Dnieper,[4] most likely in the region extending from the Vistula to the Danube mouth and eastwards to the Don.[3] The tribal union of the Antes probably included some neighbouring West Slavic tribes.[4] The Antes seem to have attempted to form their own state in the frontiers of – or even within – the Gothic state, judging by Jordanes' naming Bozh as "king".[5]

Story of Bozh[edit]

The Huns, accompanied by the Alani whom they had just conquered, invaded Ermanaric's territories.[6] Ermanaric, who feared devastation, took his own life.[6] In the years following Ermanaric's death, there was a war between the section of the Ostrogoths who remained under Hun rule, and the Antes.[2][7] Jordanes recounts that Ermanaric's great-nephew, Vinitharius, who disliked being under Hun rule, withdrew his forces and marched against the Antes in order to defeat them and to show his courage.[7] This took place in the last quarter of the 4th century,[8] possibly around 380.[3] Bozh had organized an alliance to defend the Antes,[3] and managed to defeat Vinitharius in their first encounters, however, Vinitharius fought valiantly and managed to capture and crucify Bozh, together with his sons and 70 of his chiefs (primates).[8][9] Vinitharius left their bodies hanging in order to induce fear to those who had surrendered.[9]


Afterwards, the Alans (according to contemporary Marcellinus, though Jordanes said it was Huns) rushed to rescue their kin, with a decisive battle fought against the Ostrogoths at the river Erak (now called Tylihul), in which the Ostrogoths were defeated and pushed west.[10] The Ostrogoths eventually reached the lower Danube shores.[10]


These conflicts constitute the only pre-6th century contacts between Germanics and Slavs documented in written sources.[11]

Florin Curta, a historian researching Medieval Eastern Europe, argues that this section of Jordanes account, regarding Bozh and Vinitharius, possibly originated in the oral Gothic tradition, given the narrative pattern of the story.[12] Jordanes uses the spelling Anti instead of Antes, suggesting a Greek source.[12]

Some historians have tried to identify him with Bus mentioned from the Tale of Igor's Campaign,[13] in which boyars tell Sviatoslav I of Kiev of "Gothic maidens [...] singing about the time of Bus",[14] but Hrushevsky has deemed this as not very credible.[13]


  1. ^ Jordanes mentions him as regemque eorum Boz nomine.[8] His name in Late Latin was written Boz, rendered in Slavic: Bož (Бож, Божь), transliterated as Bozh. It is derived from the Slavic word bog - "God" (interpreted as "God's").[15] According to Hrushevsky his given name was "perhaps Bozh-ko, Bozhydar, Bohdan".[13] His title, rex Antorum, translates to "King of the Antes".[8][15][2]


  1. ^ a b c Curta 2001, p. 39
  2. ^ a b c d Maenchen-Helfen 1973, pp. 24–25
  3. ^ a b c d Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain 1962, p. 35
  4. ^ a b c Smal-Stocki, Roman (1950). Slavs and Teutons: the oldest Germanic-Slavic relations. Bruce. p. 67. 
  5. ^ Fouracre, Paul and McKitterick, Rosamond (2005). The New Cambridge Medieval History, Volume 1. Cambridge University Press. p. 530. ISBN 9780521362917. 
  6. ^ a b Ammianus Marcellinus. Thayer, ed. Res Gestae XXXI 3. 
  7. ^ a b Hrushevsky 1997, p. 124
  8. ^ a b c d Hrushevsky 1997, pp. 134, 281
  9. ^ a b Geary 2010, pp. 101–102
  10. ^ a b George Vernadsky (1959). The Origins of Russia. Clarendon Press. p. 72. 
  11. ^ Instytut Zachodni (1988). Polish Western affairs 29. Instytut Zachodni. p. 174. 
  12. ^ a b Curta 2001, p. 41
  13. ^ a b c Hrushevsky 1997, p. 134
  14. ^ An Anthology Of Russian Literature From Earliest Writings To Modern Fiction: Introduction To A Culture. M.E. Sharpe. 2005. p. 15. 
  15. ^ a b "The Journal of Indo-European studies" 13. 1985. p. 204. 



Further reading[edit]

  • Rozov, V. (1929). "Boz, rex Antorum". Byzantinoslavica 1 (in Russian). 
  • Zupanič, Niko (1961). "Boz rex Antorum. A Historical and Ethnographical Contribution to the First Political Act of the Slavs in History". Situla, iv (Ljubljana): 91–122. 

External links[edit]

Regnal titles
First King of the Antes
late 4th century
Title next held by