Slike stranica

military merchants—it is said their numbers were 100,000. living by plunder and trade. They had a chief who received a tithe from the merchants.1


The Russian traders carried their wares to the south by two river routes, the Dnieper and the Volga. The voyage down the Dnieper was beset by some difficulties and dangers.2 The boats of the Russians were canoes, and were renewed every year. They rowed down as far as Kiev in the boats of the last season, and here they were met by Slavs, who, during the winter had cut down trees in the mountains and made new boats, which they brought down to the Dnieper and sold to the merchants. The gear and merchandise were transhipped, and in the month of June they sailed down to the fort of Vytitshev, where they waited till the whole flotilla was assembled.5 South of the modern Ekaterinoslav the Dnieper forces its way for some sixty miles through high walls of granite rock, and descends in a succession of waterfalls which offer a tedious obstacle to navigation. The Slavs had their own names for these falls, which the Russians rendered into Norse. For instance, Vinyi-prag' was translated literally by Baru-fors, both names meaning "billowy waterfall," and this "force " is still called Volnyi, "the billowy." In some cases the navigators, having unloaded the boats, could guide them through the fall; in others it was necessary to transport them, as well as their freights, for a considerable distance. This passage could not safely be made except in a formidable com

1 The Arabic writers designate him the Chagan of the Russians, and so he is called (chacanus) in Ann. Bert., s.a. 839. This Turkish title was evidently applied to him by the Khazars, and was adopted from them by the Arabs and perhaps by the Greeks (in the letter of Theophilus to Lewis ?).

2 The following account is derived from Constantine, De adm. imp. c. 9. Though composed at a later time, when the Patzinaks were in the neighbourhood of the Dnieper, it obviously applies to the earlier period


3 μovóžvλa, “one-plankers."

4 Βιτετζέβη. The name still exists. 5 Constantine says that the merchants came not only from Novgorod, but also from Miliniska (Smolensk),


Chernigov, Vyshegrad, and Teliutsa (Liubech), but it is uncertain whether any of these settlements were prior to the settlement at Kiev.

6 There are eleven porogi (waterfalls extending over the whole bed of the river), of which Constantine enumerates seven, and six zabori (only partial obstructions).

7 The fifth in Constantine's enumeration: Βουληπράχ, Βαρουφόρος (volna is the Russian, bára the Old

Norse, for " wave"). All the names are not quite so clear, but they have been explained, some with certainty, others probably, by Thomsen, op. cit. Lect. ii. These double names are one of the most important items in the overwhelming evidence for the fact that the Russians were Scandinavians.

pany; a small body would have fallen a prey to predatory nomads like the Hungarians and the Patzinaks. On reaching the Black Sea, they could coast westwards to Varna and Mesembria, but their usual route was to Cherson. There they supplied the demands of the Greek merchants, and then rounding the south of the peninsula, reached the Khazar town of Tamatarkha, where they could dispose of the rest of their merchandise to the Jewish traders, who in their turn could transport it to Itil, or perhaps to Armenia and Baghdad. But the Russians could also trade directly with Itil and Baghdad. The Volga carried them to Itil, where they lodged in the eastern town; then they embarked on the Caspian Sea and sailed to various ports within the Saracen dominion; sometimes from Jurjan they made the journey with camels to 'Baghdad, where Slavonic eunuchs served as their interpreters.

This commerce was of high importance both to the Emperor and to the Chagan, not only in itself, but because the Emperor levied a tithe at Cherson on all the wares which passed through to Tamatarkha, and the Chagan exacted the same duty on all that passed through Chamlich to the dominion of the Saracens. The identity of the amount of the duties, ten per cent, was the natural result of the conditions.

§ 4. Imperial Policy. The Russian Danger

The first principle of Imperial policy in this quarter of the world was the maintenance of peace with the Khazars. This was the immediate consequence of the geographical position of the Khazar Empire, lying as it did between the Dnieper and the Caucasus, and thus approaching the frontiers of the two powers which were most formidable to Byzantium, the Bulgarians and the Saracens. From the seventh century, when Heraclius had sought the help of the Khazars against Persia, to the tenth, in which the power of Itil declined, this was the constant policy of the Emperors. The Byzantines and the Khazars, moreover, had a common interest in the development of commerce with Northern Europe; it was to the advantage of the Empire that the Chagan should exercise an effective control over his barbarian neighbours, that his influence should be felt in the basin of the Dnieper, and that


this route should be kept free for the trade of the north. It is not improbable that attempts had been made to convert the Khazars to Christianity, for no means would have been more efficacious for securing Byzantine influence at Itil. The Chagans were not impressed by the religion of Christ; but it was at least a matter for satisfaction at Byzantium that they remained equally indifferent to the religion of Mohammad.

While the relations of Constantinople and Itil were generally peaceful, there were, however, possibilities of war. The two powers were neighbours in the Crimea. We have seen how the sway of the Khazars extended over the Crimean Goths and the city of Bosporos or Kerch, and it was their natural ambition to extend it over the whole peninsula, and annex Cherson. The loss of Cherson, the great commercial port and market-place in the north-east, would have been a sensible blow to the Empire. There were other forts in the peninsula, in the somewhat mysterious Roman territory or frontier which was known as the Klimata or Regions.1 The business of defence was left entirely to the Chersonites; there was no Imperial officer or Imperial troops to repel the Khazars, who appear to have made raids from time to time. But Imperial diplomacy, in accordance with the system which had been elaborated by Justinian, discovered another method of checking the hostilities of the Khazars. The plan was to cultivate the friendship of the Alans, whose geographical position enabled them to harass the march of a Khazar army to the Crimea and to make reprisals by plundering the most fertile parts of the Khazar country. Thus in the calculations of Byzantine diplomacy the Alans stood for a check on the Khazars.2

The situation at Cherson and the movements in the

1 Cp. Constantine, De adm. imp. 8017, 18022. In the Fragments of the Toparcha Goticus a single fort was called Κλήματα (some think this the right orthography), and Westberg proposes to identify it with the Gothic fortress Doras. See Westberg's ed. of the Fragments (Zap. imp. Ak. Nauk, v. 2, 1901) pp. 83 sgq.

2 This principle of policy is stated by Constantine VII. in the tenth

century, De adm. imp. 80, but it was equally applicable to the eighth or ninth. Constantine also points out that the Black Bulgarians could be used against the Khazars (ib. 81); and also the Uzes (80), who, however, were not on the horizon of Byzantium in the ninth century. The Patzinaks would have been available, if the Emperors had had cause to approach them.


surrounding countries must have constantly engaged the attention of the Imperial government, but till the reign of Theophilus no important event is recorded. This Emperor received (c. A.D. 833) an embassy from the Chagan and the Beg or chief minister of the Khazars, requesting him to build a fort for them close to the mouth of the Don,1 and perhaps this fort was only to be the most important part of a long line of defence extending up that river and connected by a fosse with the Volga.2 Theophilus agreed to the Chagan's proposal. He entrusted the execution of the work to an officer of spatharo-candidate rank, Petronas Kamateros, who sailed for Cherson with an armament of ships of the Imperial fleet, where he met another contingent of vessels supplied by the Katepano or governor of Paphlagonia.3 The troops were re-embarked in ships of burden, which bore them through the straits of Bosporos to the spot on the lower Don where this stronghold was to be built. As there was no stone in the place, kilns were constructed and bricks were prepared by embedding pebbles from the river in a sort of asbestos. The fort was called in the Khazar tongue Sarkel, or White House, and it was guarded by yearly relays of three hundred men.5

When Petronas returned to Constantinople he laid a report of the situation before the Emperor and expressed his opinion that there was grave danger of losing Cherson, and that the best means of ensuring its safety would be to supersede the local


1 The account will be found in Constantine, De adm. imp. 177 sqq. Cont. Th. 122 sqq. The date seems to be soon after A.D. 832; for in Cont. Th. c. 26 ad fin. the elevation of John to the Patriarchate is dated; then, c. 27, prophecies are recorded relative to John; then c. 28 т èπɩÓVTI XрÓv ("in the following year") there is warfare with the Saracens, and кaтà τὸν αὐτὸν καιρὸν the Khazar embassy arrives.

2 For the position of Sarkel, see Westberg, Beiträge, i. 226. Ibn Rusta says that "the Khazars once surrounded themselves by a ditch, through fear of the Magyars and other neighbouring peoples"; see Marquart, 28, who suggests that Sarkel was connected with a whole line of defences. If so, the fosse would probably


begin where the line of the Don ended. The theory of Uspenski that Sarkel was built for the Empire, not for the Khazars, and in the reign of Leo VI., c. 904 A.D. (propounded in the Kievskaia Starina, May and June 1889), has found no adherents: it was answered by Vasil'evski, in the Zhurnal min. nar. prosv., Oct. 1889, 273 sqq.

3 Petronas, on reaching Cherson, τὰ μὲν χελάνδια εὗρεν ἐν Χερσῶνι (De adm. imp. 1788). I formerly suspected Eupev (B.Z. xv. 570), but now see that it means found the Paphlagonian chelandia" already there.

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4 Bhoaλov bessalis (later).

5 ἐν ᾧ ταξεῶται καθέζονται τὰ κατὰ χρόνον ἐναλλασσόμενοι, De adm. imp. 177, where rà is clearly an error for ' (Cont. Th., ib., has тpiaкóσioi).

magistrates and commit the authority to a military governor.1 The advice of Petronas was adopted, and he was himself appointed the first governor, with the title of " Stratêgos of the Klimata." The magistrates of Cherson were not deposed, but were subordinated to the stratêgos.


In attempting to discover the meaning and motives of these transactions we must not lose sight of the close chronological connexion between the service rendered by the Greeks to the Khazars, in building Sarkel, and the institution of the stratêgos of Cherson. The latter was due to the danger of losing the city, but we are not told from what quarter the city was threatened. It is evident that the Khazars at the same moment felt the need of defence against some new and special peril. The fortification cannot have been simply designed against their neighbours the Magyars and the Patzinaks; for the Magyars and Patzinaks had been their neighbours long. We can hardly go wrong in supposing that the Khazars and the Chersonites were menaced by the same danger, and that its gravity had been brought home both to the Emperor and to the Khazar ruler by some recent occurrence. The jeopardy which was impending over the Euxine lands must be sought at Novgorod.

It was not likely that the predatory Scandinavians would be content with the gains which they earned as peaceful merchants in the south. The riches of the Greek towns on the Euxine tempted their cupidity, and in the reign of Theophilus, if not before, they seem to have descended as pirates into the waters of that sea, to have plundered the coasts, perhaps venturing into the Bosphorus, and especially to

1 Shestakov, op. cit. 44, thinks that the danger may have been the disloyalty of the citizens. A certain disloyalty is not impossible, for the Chersonese had been a refuge for many monks during the persecution of the iconoclasts, and there may have prevailed a feeling highly unfavourable to Theophilus; but there was no real danger of Cherson inviting the rule of another power.

2 This was the official title (Takt. Uspenski, 123).

3 The evidence for these early Russian hostilities, unnoticed by the chroniclers, is to be found in the Life


of St. George of Amastris and the Life of St. Stephen of Surozh (Sugdaia). Vasil'evski (who has edited the texts in Russko-vizantiiskiia Izsliedovaniia, Vyp. 2, 1893, a work which it is impossible to procure) seems to have shown that the whole legend of George of Amastris (whose Vita he would ascribe to Ignatius the deacon) was complete before A.D. 843. See V. Jagić in Archiv f. slavische Philologie, xvi. 216 sqq. (1894).

4 See Vita Georg. Am. (vers. Lat., A.S. April 23, t. iii. 278): " a Propontide cladem auspicati omnemque oram maritimam depasti.' It should be

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