Slavs

   Indo-European peoples from central and eastern Europe, called sklavenoi in Byzantine historical sources. Their raids across the Danube (q.v.) in the sixth century posed a serious threat from ca. 579 onward, when the Avars (q.v.) led them into Byzantine territory in great numbers. The Slavs settled as far south as the Peloponnesos (q.v.), and in 626 they combined with the Avars and Persians (qq.v.) to attack Constantinople (q.v.). With the Avars, they attacked Thessalonike in the late sixth and early seventh centuries; their first attack came in 586. In Greece (q.v.) the Slavs usually settled in more remote areas, which Byzantine historians referred to as sklaviniai. Each sklavinia had its own leader (archon). From the ninth century onward they were gradually brought under Byzantine administrative control and Hellenized, becoming, in effect, Byzantines. However, pockets of independent sklavenoi, notably the Melingoi and Ezeritai, survived into the 15th century in the Peloponnesos (q.v.). North of Greece, Christianization of the Slavs was aided by Church Slavonic (q.v.) and missionary efforts that began with the work of Cyril and Methodios in Moravia (qq.v.). The creation of a Bulgar state by Asparuch (qq.v.) ca. 680, as well as the appearance of the Serbs and Rus (qq.v.), provided new threats on Byzantium's (q.v.) northern borders. These events had the effect of changing the ethnic composition of much of the Balkan Peninsula (q.v.). One of the great triumphs of Byzantium (q.v.) was that it evangelized these peoples, in the process giving them an alphabet and, thus, a literature. In effect, it civilized them.

Historical Dictionary of Byzantium . .

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