- Pannonian Avars
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They are probably best known for their invasions and destruction in the Avar—Byzantine wars from to The name Pannonian Avars after the area in which they eventually settled is used to distinguish them from the Avars of the Caucasus , a separate people with whom the Pannonian Avars might or might not have had links. They established the Avar Khaganate, which spanned the Pannonian Basin and considerable areas of Central and Eastern Europe from the late 6th to the early 9th century.
Priscus recounts that, c. In turn, the Avars had been driven off by people fleeing "man-eating griffins " coming from "the ocean" Priscus Fr Denis Sinor has argued that whoever the "Avars" referred to by Priscus were, they differed from the Avars who appear a century later, during the time of Justinian who reigned from to The Turks appeared angry at the Byzantines for having made an alliance with the Avars, whom the Turks saw as their subjects and slaves. Turxanthos , a Turk prince, calls the Avars "Varchonites" and "escaped slaves of the Turks", who numbered "about 20 thousand" Menander Fr Many more, but somewhat confusing, details come from Theophylact Simocatta , who wrote c.
In particular, he claims to quote a triumph letter from the Turk lord Tamgan :.
For this very Chagan had in fact outfought the leader of the nation of the Abdeli I mean indeed, of the Hephthalites , as they are called , conquered him, and assumed the rule of the nation.
But let no one think that we are distorting the history of these times because he supposes that the Avars are those barbarians neighbouring on Europe and Pannonia , and that their arrival was prior to the times of the emperor Maurice. For it is by a misnomer that the barbarians on the Ister have assumed the appellation of Avars; the origin of their race will shortly be revealed. So, when the Avars had been defeated for we are returning to the account some of them made their escape to those who inhabit Taugast.
Taugast is a famous city, which is a total of one thousand five hundred miles distant from those who are called Turks,. Others of the Avars, who declined to humbler fortune because of their defeat, came to those who are called Mucri ; this nation is the closest neighbour to the men of Taugast;. Then the Chagan embarked on yet another enterprise, and subdued all the Ogur, which is one of the strongest tribes on account of its large population and its armed training for war.
These make their habitations in the east, by the course of the river Til , which Turks are accustomed to call Melas. The earliest leaders of this nation were named Var and Chunni ; from them some parts of those nations were also accorded their nomenclature, being called Var and Chunni. Then, while the emperor Justinian was in possession of the royal power, a small section of these Var and Chunni fled from that ancestral tribe and settled in Europe.
These named themselves Avars and glorified their leader with the appellation of Chagan.
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Let us declare, without departing in the least from the truth, how the means of changing their name came to them When the Barsils , Onogurs , Sabirs , and other Hun nations in addition to these, saw that a section of those who were still Var and Chunni had fled to their regions, they plunged into extreme panic, since they suspected that the settlers were Avars.
For this reason they honoured the fugitives with splendid gifts and supposed that they received from them security in exchange. Then, after the Var and Chunni saw the well-omened beginning to their flight, they appropriated the ambassadors' error and named themselves Avars: for among the Scythian nations that of the Avars is said to be the most adept tribe. In point of fact even up to our present times the Pseudo-Avars for it is more correct to refer to them thus are divided in their ancestry, some bearing the time-honoured name of Var while others are called Chunni According to the interpretation of Dobrovits and Nechaeva, the Turks insisted that the Avars were only "pseudo-Avars", so as to boast that they were the only formidable power in the Eurasian steppe.
The Gokturks claimed that the "real Avars" remained loyal subjects of the Turks, farther east. Furthermore, Dobrovits has questioned the authenticity of Theophylact's account. As such, he has argued that Theophylact borrowed information from Menander's accounts of Byzantine-Turk negotiations to meet political needs of his time — i.
In some transliterations, the term Var is rendered Hua , which is an alternate Chinese term for the Hephthalites. While one of the cities most significant to the Hephthalites was Walwalij or Varvaliz , this may also be an Iranian term for "upper fortress".
The 18th-century historian Joseph de Guignes postulated a link between the Avars of European history with the Rouran Khaganate of Inner Asia based on a coincidence between Tardan Khan's letter to Constantinople and events recorded in Chinese sources, notably the Wei zhi and Wu Bei Zhi.
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Superficially these victories over the Tiele, Rouran and Hephthalites echo a narrative in the Theophylact , boasting of Tardan's victories over the Hephthalites, Avars and Oghurs. However, the two series of events are not synonymous: the events of the latter took place during Tardan's rule, c.
According to Edwin G. Pulleyblank , the name Avar is the same as the prestigious name Wuhuan in the Chinese sources. Several historians, including Peter Benjamin Golden, suggest that the Avars are of Turkic origin , likely from the Oghur branch.
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Later in Europe some Germanic and Slavic groups were assimilated into the Avars. They concluded that their exact origin is unknown but state that it is likely that the Avars were originally mainly composed of Turkic Oghuric tribes. In , Walter Pohl summarized the formation of nomadic empires : .
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Many steppe empires were founded by groups who had been defeated in previous power struggles but had fled from the dominion of the stronger group. The Avars were likely a losing faction previously subordinate to the legitimate Ashina clan in the Western Turkic Khaganate , and they fled west of the Dnieper. These groups usually were of mixed origin, and each of its components was part of a previous group.
Crucial in the process was the elevation of a khagan, which signified a claim to independent power and an expansionist strategy. This group also needed a new name that would give all of its initial followers a sense of identity. The name for a new group of steppe riders was often taken from a repertoire of prestigious names which did not necessarily denote any direct affiliation to or descent from groups of the same name; in the Early Middle Ages , Huns , Avars, Bulgars , and Ogurs, or names connected with - o gur Kutrigurs , Utigurs , Onogurs , etc.
In the process of name-giving, both perceptions by outsiders and self-designation played a role.
These names were also connected with prestigious traditions that directly expressed political pretensions and programmes, and had to be endorsed by success. In the world of the steppe, where agglomerations of groups were rather fluid, it was vital to know how to deal with a newly-emergent power.
The symbolical hierarchy of prestige expressed through names provided some orientation for friend and foe alike. Moreover, Avar identity was strongly linked to Avar political institutions.
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Groups who rebelled or fled from the Avar realm could never be called "Avars", but were rather termed " Bulgars ". Similarly, with the final demise of Avar power in the early 9th century, Avar identity disappeared almost instantaneously. In the Avars sent an embassy to Constantinople , marking their first contact with the Byzantine Empire —presumably from the northern Caucasus.
In exchange for gold, they agreed to subjugate the "unruly gentes " on behalf of the Byzantines.
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They conquered and incorporated various nomadic tribes— Kutrigurs and Sabirs —and defeated the Antes. By the Avars controlled the lower Danube basin and the steppes north of the Black Sea.
However, Frankish opposition halted the Avars' expansion in that direction. In the Avars formed an alliance with the Lombards —enemies of the Gepids—and together they destroyed much of the Gepid Kingdom. The Avars then persuaded the Lombards to move into northern Italy , an invasion that marked the last Germanic mass-movement in the Migration Period. Continuing their successful policy of turning the various barbarians against each other, the Byzantines persuaded the Avars to attack the Sclavenes in Scythia Minor modern Dobruja , a land rich with goods.
According to Menander , Bayan commanded an army of 10, Kutrigur Bulgars and sacked Dalmatia in , effectively cutting the Byzantine terrestrial link with North Italy and Western Europe. By , the Avars had captured Sirmium , an important fort in Pannonia.
When the Byzantines refused to increase the stipend amount as requested by Bayan's son and successor Bayan II from , the Avars proceeded to capture Singidunum and Viminacium. They suffered setbacks, however, during Maurice's Balkan campaigns in the s. Nevertheless, by the Avars had established a nomadic empire ruling over a multitude of peoples and stretching from modern-day Austria in the west to the Pontic—Caspian steppe in the east. After being defeated in their homeland, some Avars defected to the Byzantines in ,  but Emperor Maurice decided not to return home as was customary.
He maintained his army camp beyond the Danube throughout the winter and the resulting hardships caused the army to revolt. This gave the Avars a desperately needed respite.
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They attempted an invasion of northern Italy in The ongoing Byzantine civil war prompted a Persian invasion and after , the Avars enjoyed a free hand in the undefended Balkans. While negotiating with Emperor Heraclius beneath the walls of Constantinople in , the Avars launched a surprise attack. While they were unable to capture the city centre they pillaged the suburbs of the city and took , captives.
Payments in gold and goods to the Avars reached the record sum of , solidi shortly before Following this defeat, the political and military power of the Avars declined.
Byzantines and Frankish sources documented a war between the Avars and their western Slav clients, the Wends. Each year, the Huns [Avars] came to the Slavs, to spend the winter with them; then they took the wives and daughters of the Slavs and slept with them, and among the other mistreatments [already mentioned] the Slavs were also forced to pay levies to the Huns.
But the sons of the Huns, who were [then] raised with the wives and daughters of these Wends could not finally endure this oppression anymore and refused obedience to the Huns and began, as already mentioned, a rebellion.
When now the Wendish army went against the Huns, the [aforementioned] merchant Samo accompanied the same. In the s, Samo , the ruler of the first historically known Slavic polity known as Samo's Tribal Union or Samo's realm, increased his authority over lands to the north and west of the Khaganate at the expense of the Avars, ruling until his death in The remaining joined the Wends.
At about the time of Samo's realm, the Kubrat of the Dulo clan led a successful uprising to end Avar authority over the Pannonian Plain ; he established what the Byzantines used to call Patria Onoguria , "the homeland of Onogurs". The civil war, possibly a succession struggle in Onoguria between the joint Kutrigur and Utigur forces, raged from to The power of the Avars' Kutrigur forces was shattered and the Avars came under the control of Patria Onoguria.
Also at the same time, according to Constantine VII 's work De Administrando Imperio 10th century , a group of Croats separated from the White Croats who lived in White Croatia and arrived by their own will, or were called by the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius , to fight and defeat the Avars after which they eventually organized their own principality in Dalmatia. With the death of Samo , some Slavic tribes again came under Avar rule. By , the Viennese chronicle records that in , the "Ungri" Onogur Bulgar ethnicon was established decisively in Pannonia.
Following Khan Kubrat's death or a few years later in the time of Bezmer, the empire was dissolved into 5 branches. Two of them led by Batbayan and Kotrag were subdued by the emerging Khazar Empire, while the fourth one led by Asparukh established the Danube Bulgar Empire and stabilized it by the victory at the battle of Ongal.
The fourth folk moved to Ravenna while the fifth one, led by Kuber moved into the Avar Khaganate. According to the Miracles of Saint Demetrius the Avar-Slavic alliance from northern Carpathia forced the Bulgars south out of western Onoguria Sirmium at about the same time that the Battle of Ongal took place south of the eastern Carpathians.
The new ethnic element marked by hair clips for pigtails; curved, single-edged sabres; broad, symmetrical bows marks the middle Avar-Bulgar period — The Onogur Bulgars under a Kuber leader expelled from western Onoguria Sirmium moved south, settling in the present-day region of Macedonia.
Although the Avar empire had diminished to half its original size, the new Avar-Slav alliance consolidated their rule west from the central parts of the mid-Danubian basin and extended their sphere of influence west to the Viennese Basin.
This strengthened the Avars' power base, although most of the Balkans now lay in the hands of Slavic tribes since neither the Avars nor Byzantines were able to reassert control.
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The Khaganate in the Middle and Late periods was a product of cultural symbiosis between Slavic and original Avar elements with a Slavic language as a lingua franca or the most common language. In the 7th century, the Avar Khaganate opened a door for Slavic demographic and linguistic expansion to Adriatic and Aegean regions. In the early 8th century, a new archaeological culture the so-called "griffin and tendril" culture—appeared in the Carpathian basin.