Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/246

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230
SLAVS


the Hunnish power the Eastern Goths and Gepidae pressed southwards and westwards to the conquest of the Empire, and the Lombards and Heruli followed in their tracks. When next we get a view of northern Germany we find it full of Slavs, e.g. from Procopius (B.G. ii. 15) we know that they held the Mark of Brandenburg by 512; but this settlement was effected without attracting the attention of any contemporary writer. Modern historians seem to adopt their attitude to the process according to their view of the Slavs; German writers, in their contempt for the Slavs, mostly deny the possibility of their having forced German tribes to leave their homes, and assume that the riches of southern Europe attracted the latter so that they willingly gave up their barren northern plains; most Slavonic authors have taken the same view in accordance with the idealistic picture of the peaceful, kindly, democratic Slavs who contrast so favourably with the savage Germans and their war-lords; but of late they have realised that their ancestors were no more peaceful than any one else, and have wished to put down to warlike pressure from the Slavs all the southward movements of the German tribes, to whom no choice was left but to try to break through the Roman defences. A reasonable view is that the expansion of the Eastern Germans in the last centuries B.C. was made at the expense of the Slavs, who, while no more peaceful than the Germans, were less capable than they of combining for successful war, so that Goths and others were dwelling among them and lording it over them; that the mutual competitions of the Germans drove some of these against the Empire, and when this had become weakened, so that it invited attack, some tribes and parts of tribes moved forward without any pressure from behind; this took away the strength of the German element, and the Slavs, not improbably under German organization, regained the upper hand in their own lands and could even spread westwards at the expense of the German remnant.

Almost as uncertain is the exact time when the Southern Slavs began to move towards the Balkans. If already at the time of Trajan's conquests there were Slavs in Dacia, it would account for the story in Ps. Nestor that certain Volchi or Vlachi, i.e. Romance speakers, had conquered the Slavs upon the Danube and driven them to the Vistula, for the place that the name of Trajan has in Slavonic tradition, and for the presence of an agricultural population, the Sarmatae Limigantes subject to the nomad Sarmatae (q.v.), on the Theiss. In any case, we cannot say that the Slavs occupied any large parts of the Balkan Penin- sula before the beginning of the 6th century, when they appear in Byzantine history as a new terror; there seems to have been an invasion in the time of Justin, and another followed in 527 (Procopius, B.G. iii. 40 and Hist. Arc. 18). At the same time as the Slavs, the Huns, the Bulgars, and after 558 the Avars, were also making invasions from the same direction. The first and last disappeared like all nomads, but the Bulgars, making them- selves lords of one section of the Slavs, gave it their own name. By 584 the Slavs had overrun all Greece, and were the worst western neighbours of the Eastern Empire. Hence the directions how to deal with Slavs in the Strategicum of the emperor Maurice (c. 600) and the Tactics of Leo.

By the end of the following century they were permanently settled throughout the whole of the Balkan Peninsula. (For their further history see Servia, Bulgaria, Bosnia, Dalmatia, Croatia-Slavonia.) These Southern Slavs, though divided into nationalities, are closely akin to one another. There is no reason to think the Serbo- Croats an intrusive wedge, although Constantine Porphyrogenitus (De adm. Imp. 30-33) speaks of their coming from the north in the time of Heraclius— the middle of the 7th century. Their dialects shade into one another, and there is no trace of any influence of the North-Western group. Constantine was probably led astray by the occurrence of the same tribal names in different parts of the Slavonic world. Meanwhile the Southern Slavs were cut off from the rest of the race by the foundation in the 6th century of the Avar kingdom in Pannonia, and after its destruction in the 7th, by the spread of the Germans south-eastwards, and finally by the incursion of another Asiatic horde, that of the Magyars, who have maintained themselves in the midst Of Slavs for a thousand years. Their conquests were made chiefly at the expense of the Slovenes and the Slovaks, and from their languages they have borrowed many words in forms which have now disappeared.

Of the history of the Eastern Slavs, who were to become the Russian people, we know little before the coming of the Swedish Rus, who gave them their name and organization; we have but the mention of Antae acting in concert with the other Slavs and the Avars in attacking the Empire on the lower Danube, and scattered accounts cf Mussulman travellers, which show that they had reached the Don and Volga and stretched up northward to Lake Ilmen. The more southerly tribes were tributary to the Khazars. An exact definition of the territory occupied by each Slavonic people, and a sketch of its history from the time that it settled in its permanent abode, will be found either under its own name or under that of its country.

Culture and Religion. .— i-F 'or all the works treating of Slavonic antiquities we cannot draw a portrait of the race and show many distinguishing features. Savage nations as described by the Greeks and' Romans are mostly very much alike, and the testimony of language is not very easy to use. The general impression is one of a people which lived in small communistic groups, and was so impatient of authority that they scarcely combined for their own defence; and in spite of individual bravery only became formidable to others when cemented together by some alien element: hence they all at one time or another fell under an alien yoke; the last survivals of Slavonic licence being the vece of Novgorod, and the Polish diet with its unpractical regard for any minority. The Slavs were acquainted with the beginnings of the domestic arts, and were probably more given to agriculture than the early Germans, though they practised it after a fashion which did not long tie them to any particular district-^for all writers agree in telling of their errant nature. They were specially given to the production of honey, from which they brewed mead. They also appear to have been -notable swimmers and to have been skilled in the navigation of rivers, and even to have indulged in maritime piracy on the Aegean, the Dalmatian coast and most of all the Baltic, where the island of Riigen was a menace to the Scandinavian and German sea-power; The Oriental sources also speak of some aptitude for commerce; Their talent for music and singing was already noticeable. Of their religion it is strangely difficult to gain any real information. The word Bogu, " god," is reckoned a loan word from the Iranian Baga. The chief deity was the Thunderer Perun (cf. Lith. Perkunas) , with whom is identified S varog, the god of heaven ; other chief gods were called sons of Svarog, Dazbog the sun, Chors and Veles, the god of cattle. The place of this latter was taken by St Blasius. A hostile deity was Stribog, god of storms. There seem to have been no priests, temples or images among the early Slavs. In Russia Vladimir set up idols and pulled them down upon his conversion to Christianity; only the Polabs had a highly developed cult with a temple and statues and a definite priesthood. But this may have been in imitation of Norse or even Christian institutions. Their chief deity was called Triglav, or the three-headed; he was the same as Svetovit, apparently a sky god in whose name the monks naturally recognized Saint Vitus. The goddesses are colourless personifications, such as Vesna, spring, and Morana, the goddess of death and winter. The Slavs also believed, and many still believe, in Vily and Rusalki, nymphs of streams and woodlands; also in the Baba-Jaga, a kind of man-eating witch, and in Besy, evil spirits, as well as in vampires and werewolves. They had a full belief in the immortality of the soul, but no very clear ideas as to its fate. It was mostly supposed to go a long journey to a paradise (raj) at the end of the world and had to be equipped for this. Also the soul of the ancestor seems to have developed into the house or hearth god (Domovoj, Kret) who guarded the family. The usual survivals of pagan festivals at the solstices and equinoxes have continued under the form of church festivals.

Christianity among the Slavs. — The means by which was effected the conversion to Christianity of the various Slavonic