Franks, Moravians, and Magyars: The Struggle for the Middle Danube, 788-907

Franks, Moravians, and Magyars: The Struggle for the Middle Danube, 788-907

Franks, Moravians, and Magyars: The Struggle for the Middle Danube, 788-907

Franks, Moravians, and Magyars: The Struggle for the Middle Danube, 788-907

Synopsis

Assembles evidence from Frankish, Moravian, and Byzantine documents; from archaeological finds; and details of the terrain to buttress the view that the center of the Slavic Moravian empire was in what is now Serbia, much farther southeast than is usually thought. This interpretation explains how the Franks managed otherwise inexplicable military successes against the Moravians.

Excerpt

The genesis of this book took place in the office of my academic mentor and friend, the late Archibald R. Lewis, on an early September afternoon in 1971 in Amherst, Massachusetts. I had just returned from a year in Europe. Inspired by some new conceptual methodologies that Bernard S. Bachrach was then pioneering, my project was to study Carolingian attempts to control militarily the middle Danubian basin, a region in which the capabilities of Charlemagne's war machine should, theoretically at least, have been taxed to the limit. Frankish heavy cavalry, I imagined, surely could not have functioned very well in a region that had been dominated by steppe peoples for centuries, and Western European forces with their grain-fed horses surely would have encountered insuperable difficulties logistically. For such armies to operate in this region would have required the transport of fodder for animals in addition to rations for troops. Yet Charlemagne succeeded in defeating a steppe people, the Avars, in a series of campaigns at the end of the eighth and beginning of the ninth century, and his successors managed to maintain a precarious hold on the region until the Magyar conquests around the year 900. The question that I wanted to resolve was, How did Carolingian Franks accomplish those tasks militarily?

In order to deal with this question, I had to look closely at the so-called Great Moravian empire, a Slavic polity, that in the course of the ninth century became a serious rival of the Carolingians for control over the Danubian basin. However, this Moravian polity caused me great difficulty. I, like almost everyone, assumed that ninth-century Moravia was centered on the Morava Valley (a northern tributary of the Danube) that roughly forms the boundary between the modern Czech and Slovak republics. Yet on the basis of this assumption I found it virtually impossible to explain Frankish military operations in this region. Close scrutiny revealed that the Carolingian marcher organization was oriented toward the southeast, in the direction of modern Belgrade, not toward an enemy north of the Danube. What is more, when Carolingian armies moved against the Moravians, they launched their campaigns south of the Danube, and they seem . . .

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