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Boz (king)

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King of the Antes
Reignlate 4th century
Diedc. 380
Issueeight sons

Boz (died c. 380) was the king of the Antes, an early Slavic people that lived in parts of present-day Ukraine. His story is mentioned by Jordanes in the Getica (550–551); 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 Boz and defeated them. Vinitharius condemned Boz, 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 (or "Getica", 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] He also stated that the Antes' rule was hereditary,[4] while Procopius maintained that the Sklaveni and Antes "are not ruled by one man, but they have lived from old under a democracy".[5] According to Ukrainian scholar Roman Smal-Stocki (1893–1969), the Antes received a strong ruling power and military organization over time from the Gothic influence.[6] They inhabited the area between the Dniester and Dnieper,[6] most likely in the region extending from the Vistula to the Danube mouth and eastwards to the Don.[7] The tribal union of the Antes probably included some neighbouring West Slavic tribes.[6] 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 Boz as "king".[8]

Story of Boz[edit]

Approximate location of the Ostrogoths, Antes, Huns and Alans in c. 380.

The Huns, accompanied by the Alani whom they had just conquered, invaded Ermanaric's territories.[9] Ermanaric, who feared devastation, took his own life.[9] 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.[10]

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.[11] This took place in the last quarter of the 4th century,[12] possibly around 380.[7] Boz, the king of the Antes (rex Antorum), had organized an alliance to defend the Antes,[7] and managed to defeat Vinitharius in their first encounters, however, Vinitharius fought valiantly and managed to capture and crucify Boz, together with his sons and 70 of his chiefs (primates).[12][13] Vinitharius left their bodies hanging to induce fear in those who had surrendered.[13] These conflicts constitute the only pre-6th century contacts between Germanics and Slavs documented in written sources.[14]


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.[15] The Ostrogoths eventually reached the lower Danube shores.[15]


Historian Florin Curta believes that Jordanes' account regarding Boz and Vinitharius possibly originated in the Gothic oral tradition, given the narrative pattern of the story.[16] He views of Boz as "quasi-legendary", as he is the only Slavic leader mentioned by Jordanes, while no leader is mentioned by Procopius.[17]

Some historians have tried to identify Boz with Bus mentioned in the Tale of Igor's Campaign,[18] in which boyars tell Sviatoslav I of Kiev (r. 945–972) of "Gothic maidens ... singing about the time of Bus",[19] but this has been refuted.[20] The first to connect the two was O. Ohonovskyj in 1876. He was later supported by S. Rospond.[21]

Jordanes wrote his name in Late Latin as Boz ("Boz nomine"), though several manuscripts of the Getica use Box or Booz.[22] There are various theories in etymological studies regarding the name.

The name has been rendered in the Slavic languages as Bož (Бож, Божь; transliterated as Bozh). One theory is that it derives from the Slavic word bog, "God", interpreted as "God's",[23] "Godly".[24] Polish linguist Stanisław Urbańczyk (1909–2000) mentioned *Božь (divine), *Vo(d)žь (chief), and *Bosь (barefooted) as possibilites.[25] Polish papyrologist Adam Łukaszewicz [pl] noted that "chief" was a possibility as it corresponded to the circumstances.[24] Polish linguist Stanisław Rospond (1906–1982) concluded that Bos, "barefooted", was his name, and that the other etymologies put forward by Urbańczyk were less probable; he supported this by connecting Boz with Bus (Боусь) of The Tale of Igor's Campaign, as Omeljan Ohonovskyj [ru] (1833–1894) had first done in 1876.[25] Ukrainian scholar Mykhailo Hrushevsky (1866–1934) speculated that his name was "perhaps Bozhko, Bozhydar, Bohdan".[18] Ukrainian historian Bohdan Struminsky stressed that as the first palatalizations (gь > žь, etc.) had not yet occurred in Slavic at the time of Boz, *Božь was unconvincing and *Vo(d)žь "even less acceptable". Although supporting the connection with Bus, he assumed that it was Gothic, as *Bōs, found in similar variants as West Gothic Bōsō, of uncertain date, "probably meaning 'Sorcerer'", and Anglo-Saxon Bōsa, from the 7th century.[21] Others have theorized an Iranian etymology (Bwzrmyhr or Burzmipuhr).[26] German historian F. Altheim (1898–1976) treated the Hunnic name Bozos as derived from buxs, a short form of Iranian bagabuxsa.[24]

His title, rex Antorum, translates to "King of the Antes".[27] Ukrainian historian Mykola Andrusiak [uk] (1902–1985) assumed, as Jordanes used rex for both Germanic rulers and the ruler of the Antes, that the Eastern Slavs had adopted "*kuning-" from the Goths and Slavicized it into "kǔnędzǐ" (knyaz), translated by Jordanes as "rex".[28]


  1. ^ Curta 2001, p. 39.
  2. ^ a b Maenchen-Helfen 1973, pp. 24–25.
  3. ^ Curta 2001, p. 39; AUGB 1962, p. 35
  4. ^ Chirovsky 1976, p. 85.
  5. ^ Curta 2001, p. 115.
  6. ^ a b c Smal-Stocki 1950, p. 67.
  7. ^ a b c AUGB 1962, p. 35.
  8. ^ Kobylinski 2005, p. 530.
  9. ^ a b Ammianus Marcellinus. "3". In Thayer, Bill (ed.). Book XXXI. Loeb Classical Library edition. 3. Translated by J. C. Rolfe.
  10. ^ Maenchen-Helfen 1973, pp. 24–25; Hrushevsky 1997, p. 124
  11. ^ Hrushevsky 1997, p. 124.
  12. ^ a b Hrushevsky 1997, pp. 134, 281
  13. ^ a b Geary 2010, pp. 101–102
  14. ^ Instytut Zachodni (1988). Polish Western affairs. 29. Instytut Zachodni. p. 174.
  15. ^ a b George Vernadsky (1959). The Origins of Russia. Clarendon Press. p. 72.
  16. ^ Curta 2001, p. 41.
  17. ^ Curta 2001, pp. 117–118.
  18. ^ a b Hrushevsky 1997, p. 134.
  19. ^ Anonymous (2005) [1996]. "The Tale of Igor". In Rzhevsky, Nicholas (ed.). An Anthology Of Russian Literature From Earliest Writings To Modern Fiction: Introduction To A Culture. M.E. Sharpe. p. 15.
  20. ^ Maenchen-Helfen 1973, pp. 24–25; Hrushevsky 1997, p. 134; Zupanič 1961, pp. 121–122
  21. ^ a b Struminskyj 1980, p. 789.
  22. ^ Bartłomiej Szymon Szmoniewski (January 2010). "The Antes: Eastern 'Brothers' of the Sclavenes?". Neglected Barbarians, pp. 53–82. doi:10.1484/M.SEM-EB.3.5085. ISBN 978-2-503-53125-0. All efforts to etymologize King Boz's name assume that that (Boz) was truly his name. However, several manuscripts of Jordanes's Getica give slightly different spellings (box or even booz), which leaves room for many other possible interpretations. ...
  23. ^ JIES 1985, p. 204.
  24. ^ a b c Lukaszewicz 1998, p. 130.
  25. ^ a b Struminskyj 1980, p. 788–789.
  26. ^ Maenchen-Helfen 1973, p. 25.
  27. ^ Maenchen-Helfen 1973, p. 25; Hrushevsky 1997, pp. 134, 281; JIES 1985, p. 204
  28. ^ Andrusiak, Mykola (1955), "Kings of Kiev and Galicia", The Slavonic and East European Review Vol. 33, No. 81 (Jun., 1955), pp. 342–349, MHRA, p. 342, JSTOR 4204660, Jordanes used the title "rex" for both Germanic "kuning" and the ruler of the Antes. It is fair to assume that already at that time the Eastern Slavs had taken from the Goths the title "*kuning-" for a ruler and had slavicised it to "kǔnędzǐ" (Ukr. knyaz); consequently, the Old Church Slavonic "kǔnędzǐ" was translated by Jordanes as "rex".


Further reading[edit]

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

External links[edit]

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