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From ‘Nations’ to ‘Archontias’ (I) ‘Sclavinia’ and ‘Sclavoarchontia’: Terms and Chronology

Stoyko Stoykov


This article deals with the terms ‘Sclavinia’ and ‘Sclavoarchontia’, which are used in historiography in different and even contradictory ways, and aims to clarify a highly complicated topic, investigating the ways these terms were used by contemporaries, trying to define differences between them and connecting their use with the political changes of the time. Topics discussed include the chronology of the terms’ usage, different ways in which they were being used, relations of ‘Sclavinia’ and ‘Sclavoarchontia’ with the Empire, their appearance and disappearance and the political processes connected with it, as well as the analysis of the existing interpretations. The first part mostly discusses chronology and some existing hypotheses. The second (and the main) part analyses the way these terms were used and tries to define them.

The hypothesis presented connects these terms with the re-establishing of imperial authority in the Balkans, marked in the sources by replacing the term ‘Slavic nations’, which had been used until the late 8 century to denote the independent Balkan Slavic societies and their lands. The Empire lacked the capacity for direct subjugation of the independent Slavic communities and was forced to rely on complicated measures including colonization and ensuring Slav cooperation in the process. In the themes where the Empire had enough power, Slavic communities were organized as ‘Sclavoarchontias’, who received archons from the strategos, paid collective tribute and served as symahoi, but kept some inner autonomy. The Empire also tended to ensure the cooperation of Slavic communities around themes by granting titles and subsidies to some powerful Slavic leaders, which led to the creation of client states known as ‘Sclavinias’. They were not part of the thematic system, they had their native and hereditary leaders recognized and affirmed by the emperor by titles and seals and act as imperial allies. A prototype of both had appeared at the end of the 7th c., but only when relations of such types had multiplied after Stauracius’ expedition in 783, corresponding generic terms appeared and became regular.


DOI: 10.31168/2305-6754.2020.9.1.1


Sclavinia; Sclavoarchontia; Slavic archontia; Slavic nations; Byzantium; imperial administrative system; subjugation; conquest of the Balkans

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