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History of the Byzantine empire
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The problem of the Slavs in Greece.
As a result of the investigation of sources on the Slavonic invasions into the Balkan peninsula in the second half of the sixth century, a theory of the complete Slavonization of Greece arose in the early part of the nineteenth century and aroused heated disputes among scholars.
In the twenties of the last century, when all of Europe was seized with deep sympathy for the Greeks who had raised the banner of revolt against the Turkish yoke, when these champions of freedom, through their heroic resistance, succeeded in maintaining their independence and created, with the help of European powers, an independent Greek kingdom, when enthusiastic European society viewed these heroes as sons of ancient Hellas and recognized in them the traits of Leonidas, Epaminondas, and Philopoemen — then it was that from a small German town came a voice which astonished Europe by declaring that not one drop of real Hellenic blood runs through the veins of the inhabitants of the new Greek kingdom; that all the magnanimous impulse of Europe to aid the cause of the children of sacred Hellas was founded on a misunderstanding; and that the ancient Greek element had long ago disappeared and been replaced by new, entirely alien ethnographical elements, chiefly of Slavonic and Albanian origin. The man who ventured to advance openly and boldly this new theory, which shocked to the utmost the beliefs of contemporary Europe, was Fallmerayer, at that time professor of general history in one of the German lyceums.
In the first volume of his History of the Peninsula of Morea in the Middle Ages, which appeared in 1830, Fallmerayer wrote:
The Hellenic race in Europe is completely exterminated. The physical beauty, the sublimity of spirit, the simplicity of customs, the artistic creativeness, the races, cities, and villages, the splendor of columns and temples, even the name of the people itself, have disappeared from the Greek continent. A double layer of ruins and the mire of two new and different races cover the graves of the ancient Greeks. The immortal works of the spirit of Hellas and some ancient ruins on native Greek soil are now the only evidence of the fact that long ago there was such a people as the Hellenes. And were it not for these ruins, grave-hills and mausoleums, were it not for the site and the wretched fate of its inhabitants, upon whom the Europeans of our day in an outburst of human emotions have poured all their tenderness, their admiration, their tears, and their eloquence, we would have to say that it was only an empty vision, a lifeless image, a being outside the nature of things that has aroused the innermost depths of their souls. For not a single drop of real pure Hellenic blood flows in the veins of the Christian population of modern Greece, A terrific hurricane has dispersed throughout the space between the Ister and most distant corner of the Peloponnesus a new tribe akin to the great Slavonic race. The Scythian Slavs, the Illyrian Arnauts, children of Northern lands, the blood relations of the Serbs and Bulgars, the Dalmatians and Moscovites — those are the people whom we call Greeks at present and whose genealogy, to their own surprise, we have traced back to Pericles and Philopoemen ... A population with Slavonic facial features and with bow-shaped eyelashes and sharp features of Albanian mountain shepherds, of course, did not come from the blood of Narcissus, Alcibiades, and Antmous; and only a romantic eager imagination can still dream of a revival in our days of the ancient Hellenes with their Sophocleses and Platos.
It was Fallmerayer’s opinion that the Slavonic invasions of the sixth century created a situation in which the Byzantine Empire, without actually having lost a single province, could consider as its subjects only the population of the seacoast provinces and fortified cities. The appearance of the Avars in Europe was an epoch-making event in the history of Greece because they brought with them the Slavs and spurred them on to conquer the sacred soil of Hellas and the Peloponnesus.
Fallmerayer based his theory primarily on the data found in the writings of the church historian of the late sixth century, Evagrius, who wrote: “The Avars twice made an inroad as far as the Long Wall and captured Singidunum [Belgrade], Anchialus, and all of Greece, with other towns and fortresses, laying everything waste with fire and sword, while the greater part of the forces were engaged in the East.” It was this mention of all of Greece in Evagrius that gave Fallmerayer a basis for speaking of the extermination of the Greek nation in the Peloponnesus. The “Avars” of Evagrius did not confuse this German scholar, for at that period the Avars attacked the Byzantine Empire conjointly with the Slavs. This particular invasion which Fallmerayer referred to the year 589, did not exterminate the Greeks completely. The final blow to the Greek population came, as Fallmerayer believed, with the importation of the plague from Italy in the year 746. Reference to this is found in the famous quotation from the imperial writer of the tenth century, Constantine Porphyrogenitus, who remarked that after this terrible plague “the entire land was slavonized and became barbarian.” The year when Emperor Constantine Copronymus died (775) Fallmerayer estimated, may be considered the final date when the desolate land became once more, and at this time completely, filled with Slavs, who gradually covered Greece with their new cities, towns, and villages.
In a later work Fallmerayer applied his conclusions to Attica without any real basis. In the second volume of his History of the Peninsula of Morea he advanced a new Albanian theory, according to which the Greek-Slavs who inhabited Greece were displaced and crushed by Albanian settlers during the second quarter of the fourteenth century, so that the Greek revolution of the nineteenth century was in reality the work of Albanian hands.
The first serious opponent of Fallmerayer was the German historian, Carl Hopf, who had studied thoroughly the problem of the Slavs in Greece and published a History of Greece from the Beginning of the Middle Ages to Our Own Times, in 1867. But Hopf fell into the other extreme because of his desire to reduce the significance of the Slavonic element in Greece at all costs. In his judgment, Slavonic settlements in Greece proper existed only from the year 750 until 807; previous to 750 there were none. Hopf showed that Fallmerayer’s opinions on the Slavonization of Attica were based on a false document.
The abundant literature on this subject, often contradictory and inconsistent in its nature, gives enough basis, however, for concluding that Slavonic settlements of very considerable size existed in Greece from the end of the sixth century, though they resulted neither in pan-Slavonization nor in the complete extermination of the Greeks. Moreover, various sources mention the presence of Slavs in Greece, primarily in the Peloponnesus, during all of the Middle Ages up to the fifteenth century. The most important source on the Slavonic penetration of the Balkan Peninsula is the Acta of St. Demetrius, mentioned above. This was properly used neither by Fallmerayer nor by Hopf; in fact, it has not been adequately investigated up to the present day.
Scholars have frequently disputed the originality of Fallmerayer’s theory. His opinion was nothing new. Slavonic influence in Greece had been spoken of before his time, though he was the first to express his judgments decisively and openly. In 1913 a Russian scholar stated on good grounds that the real originator of Fallmerayer’s theory was Kopitar, a scholar of Slavonic studies in Vienna in the nineteenth century, who developed in his writings the idea of the significant part played by the Slavic element in the formation of the new Greek nation. He did not, it is true, develop this theory in detail; but neither did he create a sensation by an unscholarly paradox. “The extremes of Fallmerayer’s theory,” Petrovsky said, “cannot at present be defended after a thorough study of the problems pertaining to it; but the theory itself, harmoniously and vividly expounded by the author, has a right to claim the attention even of those historians who disagree with it either entirely or partially.” Without question, this theory, in spite of some very obvious exaggerations, has played a very important part in the science of history by directing scholarly attention to a most interesting and at the same time most obscure question, the problem of the Slavs in Greece during the Middle Ages. The writings of Fallmerayer assume still wider general historical significance when viewed as the work of the first scholar who devoted his attention to the ethnographical transformations during the Middle Ages, not only in Greece, but in the Balkan Peninsula in general. At present in Soviet Russia the thesis of early penetration and settlement of the Slavs in the Balkan Peninsula is strongly supported. In contemporary Russian magazines, such as the Historical Journal and the Messenger of Ancient History, several articles on this subject have appeared. Fallmerayer is very popular with Russian historians, who proclaim that his work has not been adequately appreciated. The modern Slavophile movement in Soviet Russia seems even stronger than the similar movement of some hundred years ago, mentioned in the first chapter of this book.