The term Sclaveni (Greek: Σκλάβήνοι - Sklábēnoi, Σκλαύηνοι - Sklaúenoi, or Σκλάβίνοι - Sklabinoi, Latin: Sclaueni, Sclavi, Sclauini, or Sthlaueni - Sklaveni) was used to describe all Slavic peoples that the Byzantine Empire came into contact with, and especially the South Slavs in the Balkans.
The Byzantines broadly grouped the numerous Slav tribes living in proximity with the Eastern Roman Empire into two groups: the Sklavenoi and the Antes. The Late Roman historians, Jordanes and Procopius both locate the Sklavenoi in the lower Danube (modern Wallachia and Moldavia), although Sklavi subsequently in Latin sources in connection to events in Lombard Italy. Whilst there were many Sklaveni, the Antes were a specific ethicon who had a foedus with the Byzantine Empire, and were probably located in Scythia Minor.
The derived Greek term Sklavinia(i) (Greek: Σκλαβινίαι, Latin: SCLAVINIAE) was used for the Slav settlements (area, territory) which were initially out of Byzantine control and independent. The term may be interpreted as "Slav lands" in Byzantium.
It can also be seen in the light of the Ostrogothic Kingdom of Italy and Pannonia collapsing 545, due to the incessant warfare by the Byzantine generals Belisaurius and then Narses, after which many Goths are said to have migrated north whence they had come (Jordanes), which would be Reidgotaland (Pontic Steppe) and Oium (Pripyat & middle Dnepr) and GothiScandzas (lower Vistula). Assuming the returning Goths brought back an advanced culture and thus became the nobility where they went, we can infer that 'Sc' is derived from 'Scandz' meaning Gord/Burgwall (cmpr: Scandinavia) and 'Lev' meaning 'Law/Nation' (cmpr: Danelaw) and 'veni' meaning 'foederati' (cmpr: Venedhi, Tervini). Thus devolved, 'Sclaveni' is to be understood as 'Adherents to the Burg Law'
However, by 800, the term also referred specifically to Slavic mobile military colonists who settled as allies within the territories of the Byzantine Empire. Slavic military settlements appeared in the Peloponnese, Asia Minor, and Italy. The Byzantines also referred to the Avar military elite as Sclaveni. These elites re-established their power-base under either Frankish or Byzantine rule in Pannonia and Moravia.
The Sklavenoi plunder Thrace in 545.
Daurentius (fl. 577–579) is the first Slavic chieftain to be recorded by name, by the Byzantine historian Menander Protector, who reported that the Avar khagan Bayan I sent an embassy, asking Daurentius and his Slavs to accept Avar suzerainty and pay tribute, because the Avars knew that the Slavs had amassed great wealth after repeatedly plundering the Byzantine Balkan provinces. Daurentius reportedly retorted that "Others do not conquer our land, we conquer theirs [...] so it shall always be for us", and had the envoys slain. Bayan then campaigned (in 578) against Daurentius' people, with aid from the Byzantines, and set fire to many of their settlements, although this did not stop the Slavic raids deep into the Byzantine Empire.
In 577 some 100,000 Slavs poured into Thrace and Illyricum, pillaging cities and settling down. By the 580s, as the Slav communities on the Danube became larger and more organised, and as the Avars exerted their influence, raids became larger and resulted in permanent settlement. In 586 AD, as many as 100,000 Slav warriors raided Thessaloniki. By 581, many Slavic tribes had settled the land around Thessaloniki, though never taking the city itself, creating a Macedonian Sclavinia. As John of Ephesus tells us in 581: "the accursed people of the Slavs set out and plundered all of Greece, the regions surrounding Thessalonica, and Thrace, taking many towns and castles, laying waste, burning, pillaging, and seizing the whole country." However, John exaggerated the intensity of the Slavic incursions since he was influenced by his confinement in Constantinople from 571 up until 579. Moreover, he perceived the Slavs as God's instrument for punishing the persecutors of the Monophysites. By 586, they managed to raid the western Peloponnese, Attica, Epirus, leaving only the east part of Peloponnese, which was mountainous and inaccessible. The final attempt to restore the northern border was from 591 to 605, when the end of conflicts with Persia allowed Emperor Maurice to transfer units to the north. However he was deposed after a military revolt in 602, and the Danubian frontier collapsed one and a half decades later (Main article: Maurice's Balkan campaigns).
In 785, Constantine VI conquers the Sclaviniae of Macedonia ('Sclavenias penes Macedoniam').
Tribes in the Early Middle Ages
- Slavic tribes on the territory of the modern Republic of Macedonia: Berziti
- Slavic tribes on the territory of modern Greece: Strymonites, Drugubites, Belegezites, Ezeritai and Melingoi.
- Slavic tribes on the territory of modern Serbia: Branicevci, Timochani and White Serbs.
- Slavic tribes on the territory of modern Croatia: Sokci, Guduscani, Lendians and White Croats.
- Slavic tribes on the territory of modern Bulgaria: Seven Slavic tribes, Drugubites, Strymonites, Smolyani and Severians.
Sklaveni and Antae in the 6th century
- Hupchick 2004, p.[page needed]
- Procopius VII. 14 22-30. And in consequence of this very fact they hold a great amount of land; for they alone inhabit the greatest part of the northern bank of the Ister (the Greeks called the lower Danube Ister, whilst the middle Danube was usually called Danuvius
- Jordanes Getica 35 "The abode of the Sclaveni extends from th city of Noviodunum .. to the Danaster
- Encyclopedia of European Peoples. Waldman, Mason, Library of Congress, 2006. Sklaveni, p 700
- One can judge the status of Slavonic territories, after they were reconquered by Byzantium from the report of Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenit in De administrando imperio ed. by Gy. Moravcsik and R. J. H. Jenkins, Budapest (1949 ), 50, 1-180, p .232. The Morean Sclavinians were described as 'independent' and 'autonomous and self-ruling'
- Ив. Дуйчев, ‘Славяни и първобългари’, Известия на Института за българска история, Vols 1, 2 (1951), pp. 197 et seq
- "Slavs." Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. Volume 3, pp. 1916-1919.
- Rastko: doc. 13047
- Curta (2001), pp. 47, 91
- Curta (2001), pp. 91–92, 315
- "History of the Later Roman Empire from Arcadius to Irene", I[page needed]
- Cambridge Medieval Encyclopedia, Volume II.
- Curta, Florin. The Making of the Slavs. Cambridge University Press, 2001, p. 48. "Beginning in 571, John spent eight years in prison. Most of Book VI, if not the entire third part of the History, was written during this period of confinement...John was no doubt influenced by the pessimistic atmosphere at Constantinople in the 580s to overstate the intensity of Slavic ravaging."
- Curta, Florin. The Making of the Slavs. Cambridge University Press, 2001, p. 48. "On the other hand, God was on their side, for in John's eyes, they were God's instrument for punishing the persecutors of the Monophysites. This may also explain why John insists that, beginning with 581 (just ten years after Justin II started persecuting the Monophysites), the Slavs began occupying Roman territory..."
- Stratos (1975), p. 165
- Stratos (1975), p. 234
- Curta, Florin (2001), The Making of the Slavs - History and Archaeology of the Lower Danube Region, c. 500–700, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-80202-4
- Fine, John Van Antwerp (1991). The Early Medieval Balkans: A Critical Survey from the Sixth to the Late Twelfth Century. Michigan: The University of Michigan Press. ISBN 0-472-08149-7.
- Andreas Nikolaou Stratos, "Byzantium in the seventh century, Vol. 3", (1975)
- Hupchick, Dennis P. The Balkans: From Constantinople to Communism Palgrave Macmillan, 2004. ISBN 1-4039-6417-3