Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Dr. Lucian Rosu
Dr. Deborah Deliyannis
Dr. Allen Zagarell
Dr. Speros Vryonis Jr.
This study approaches the problem of the early Slavs from the perspective of current anthropological theories on ethnicity. The relationship between material culture and ethnicity is also examined, with particular emphasis on the notion of style. The historiography of the subject is vast and its survey shows why and how a particular approach to the history of the early Slavs was favored by linguistically minded historians and archaeologists. The historiography of the early Slavs is also the story of how academic discourse was used for the construction of national identity.
The study of the written sources indicates that the history of the Sclavenes and the Antes only begins with the early 500s. The archaeological evidence shows that the implementation of the sixth-century Danube limes under Emperor Justinian played a much more important role in the changes eventually leading to the withdrawal of the Roman armies in the early 600s than did Slavic raids. The same is true for sixth- and seventh-century hoards of Roman coins in Eastern Europe, which were often used to map the migration of the Slavs. A high rate of non-retrieval can be better explained in terms of inflation.
On the other hand, the archaeological evidence from sites north of the Danube river suggests that specific artifacts, such as bow fibulae, may have been used for the construction of group identity. Assemblages found in the region where sixth- and seventh-century sources locate the Sclavenes and the Antes also indicate the rise of elites, which may have been responsible both for building ethnic boundaries and for the increase of Slavic raids in the last quarter of the sixth century. Many chiefs were mentioned in written sources, some of whom were called 'kings'. Because of these military and political developments Byzantine authors acknowledged the existence of groups to which they applied the names 'Sclavenes' and 'Antes'. Since no group called itself by either name, it is possible that a 'Slavic' ethnicity was invented by Byzantine authors, in order to make sense of the process of group identification which was taking place north of the Danube frontier.
Curta, Florin, "Making an Early Medieval Ethnie: The Case of the Early Slavs (Sixth to Seventh Century A.D. )" (1998). Dissertations. 1568.