Balkans History Relapse
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The Throes Of Regeneration: Independent Serbia 1830-1903
During his rule of Serbia, which lasted virtually from 1817...
The Early Years Of Bulgaria And The Introduction Of Christianity 700-893
From the time of their establishment in the country to whic...
Turkey is no better name for the Osmanli dominion or any pa...
It has been waiting, nevertheless, ever since--waiting for ...
Turkey's situation, therefore, in general terms has become ...
The Rise And Fall Of The Serbian Empire And The Extinction Of Serbian Independence 1168-1496
From 1168 the power of the Serbs, or rather of the central ...
The Turkish Dominion 1496-1796
The lot of the Serbs under Turkish rule was different from th...
Introductory Bulgaria And Serbia
The whole of what may be called the trunk or massif of the ...
Looking back on this revolution across seven years of its c...
Formation Of The Rumanian Nation
About the fifth century B.C., when the population of the Ba...
The Rise And Fall Of The First Bulgarian Empire 893-972
During the reign of Simeon, second son of Boris, which last...
Contemporary Period: Internal Development
In order to obviate internal disturbances or external inter...
Shrinkage And Retreat
The fringes of this vast empire, however, none too surely h...
The Aftermath And Prince Alexander Of Battenberg 1878-86
The relations between the Russians and the Bulgarians were ...
The Awakening Of The Nation
During the two centuries that followed the Ottoman conquest...
Serbia And Montenegro And The Two Balkan Wars 1908-13
The winter of 1908-9 marked the lowest ebb of Serbia's fort...
The Consolidation Of The State
Half the story of Greece is told. We have watched the natio...
The Arrival Of The Slavs In The Balkan Peninsula Ad 500-650
The Balkan peninsula, which had been raised to a high level...
The Turkish Dominion And The Emancipation 1393-1878
From 1393 until 1877 Bulgaria may truthfully be said to hav...
The Balkan Peninsula In Classical Times
400 B.C. - A.D. 500.
In the earlier historical times the whole of the eastern part of the
Balkan peninsula between the Danube and the Aegean was known as Thracia,
while the western part (north of the forty-first degree of latitude) was
termed Illyricum; the lower basin of the river Vardar (the classical
Axius) was called Macedonia. A number of the tribal and personal names of
the early Illyrians and Thracians have been preserved. Philip of Macedonia
subdued Thrace in the fourth century B.C. and in 342 founded the city of
Philippopolis. Alexander's first campaign was devoted to securing control
of the peninsula, but during the Third century B.C. Thrace was invaded
from the north and laid waste by the Celts, who had already visited
Illyria. The Celts vanished by the end of that century, leaving a few
place-names to mark their passage. The city of Belgrade was known until
the seventh century A.D. by its Celtic name of Singidunum. Naissus, the
modern Nish, is also possibly of Celtic origin. It was towards 230 B.C.
that Rome came into contact with Illyricum, owing to the piratical
proclivities of its inhabitants, but for a long time it only controlled
the Dalmatian coast, so called after the Delmati or Dalmati, an Illyrian
tribe. The reason for this was the formidable character of the mountains
of Illyria, which run in several parallel and almost unbroken lines the
whole length of the shore of the Adriatic and have always formed an
effective barrier to invasion from the west. The interior was only very
gradually subdued by the Romans after Macedonia had been occupied by them
in 146 B.C. Throughout the first century B.C. conflicts raged with varying
fortune between the invaders and all the native races living between the
Adriatic and the Danube. They were attacked both from Aquileia in the
north and from Macedonia in the south, but it was not till the early years
of our era that the Danube became the frontier of the Roman Empire.
In the year A.D. 6 Moesia, which included a large part of the modern
kingdom of Serbia and the northern half of that of Bulgaria between the
Danube and the Balkan range (the classical Haemus), became an imperial
province, and twenty years later Thrace, the country between the Balkan
range and the Aegean, was incorporated in the empire, and was made a
province by the Emperor Claudius in A.D. 46. The province of Illyricum or
Dalmatia stretched between the Save and the Adriatic, and Pannonia lay
between the Danube and the Save. In 107 A.D. the Emperor Trajan conquered
the Dacians beyond the lower Danube, and organized a province of Dacia out
of territory roughly equivalent to the modern Wallachia and Transylvania,
This trans-Danubian territory did not remain attached to the empire for
more than a hundred and fifty years; but within the river line a vast belt
of country, stretching from the head of the Adriatic to the mouths of the
Danube on the Black Sea, was Romanized through and through. The Emperor
Trajan has been called the Charlemagne of the Balkan peninsula; all
remains are attributed to him (he was nicknamed the Wallflower by
Constantine the Great), and his reign marked the zenith of Roman power in
this part of the world. The Balkan peninsula enjoyed the benefits of Roman
civilization for three centuries, from the first to the fourth, but from
the second century onwards the attitude of the Romans was defensive rather
than offensive. The war against the Marcomanni under the Emperor Marcus
Aurelius, in the second half of this century, was the turning-point. Rome
was still victorious, but no territory was added to the empire. The third
century saw the southward movement of the Germanic peoples, who took the
place of the Celts. The Goths invaded the peninsula, and in 251 the
Emperor Decius was killed in battle against them near Odessus on the Black
Sea (the modern Varna). The Goths reached the outskirts of Thessalonica
(Salonika), but were defeated by the Emperor Claudius at Naissus (Nish) in
269; shortly afterwards, however, the Emperor Aurelian had definitively to
relinquish Dacia to them. The Emperor Diocletian, a native of Dalmatia,
who reigned from 284 to 305, carried out a redistribution of the imperial
provinces. Pannonia and western Illyria, or Dalmatia, were assigned to the
prefecture of Italy, Thrace to that of the Orient, while the whole centre
of the peninsula, from the Danube to the Peloponnese, constituted the
prefecture of Illyria, with Thessalonica as capital. The territory to the
north of the Danube having been lost, what is now western Bulgaria was
renamed Dacia, while Moesia, the modern kingdom of Serbia, was made very
much smaller. Praevalis, or the southern part of Dalmatia, approximately
the modern Montenegro and Albania, was detached from that province and
added to the prefecture of Illyria. In this way the boundary between the
province of Dalmatia and the Balkan peninsula proper ran from near the
lake of Scutari in the south to the river Drinus (the modern Drina), whose
course it followed till the Save was reached in the north.
An event of far-reaching importance in the following century was the
elevation by Constantine the Great of the Greek colony of Byzantium into
the imperial city of Constantinople in 325. This century also witnessed
the arrival of the Huns in Europe from Asia. They overwhelmed the
Ostrogoths, between the Dnieper and the Dniester, in 375, and the
Visigoths, settled in Transylvania and the modern Rumania, moved
southwards in sympathy with this event. The Emperor Valens lost his life
fighting against these Goths in 378 at the great battle of Adrianople (a
city established in Thrace by the Emperor Hadrian in the second century).
His successor, the Emperor Theodosius, placated them with gifts and made
them guardians of the northern frontier, but at his death, in 395, they
overran and devastated the entire peninsula, after which they proceeded to
Italy. After the death of the Emperor Theodosius the empire was divided,
never to be joined into one whole again. The dividing line followed that,
already mentioned, which separated the prefecture of Italy from those of
Illyria and the Orient, that is to say, it began in the south, on the
shore of the Adriatic near the Bocche di Cattaro, and went due north along
the valley of the Drina till the confluence of that river with the Save.
It will be seen that this division had consequences which have lasted to
the present day. Generally speaking, the Western Empire was Latin in
language and character, while the Eastern was Greek, though owing to the
importance of the Danubian provinces to Rome from the military point of
view, and the lively intercourse maintained between them, Latin influence
in them was for a long time stronger than Greek. Its extent is proved by
the fact that the people of modern Rumania are partly, and their language
very largely, defended from those of the legions and colonies of the
Latin influence, shipping, colonization, and art were always supreme on
the eastern shores of the Adriatic, just as were those of Greece on the
shores of the Black Sea. The Albanians even, descendants of the ancient
Illyrians, were affected by the supremacy of the Latin language, from
which no less than a quarter of their own meagre vocabulary is derived;
though driven southwards by the Romans and northwards by the Greeks, they
have remained in their mountain fastnesses to this day, impervious to any
of the civilizations to which they have been exposed.
Christianity spread to the shores of the peninsula very early; Macedonia
and Dalmatia were the parts where it was first established, and it took
some time to penetrate into the interior. During the reign of Diocletian
numerous martyrs suffered for the faith in the Danubian provinces, but
with the accession of Constantine the Great persecution came to an end. As
soon, however, as the Christians were left alone, they started persecuting
each other, and during the fourth century the Arian controversy re-echoed
throughout the peninsula.
In the fifth century the Huns moved from the shores of the Black Sea to
the plains of the Danube and the Theiss; they devastated the Balkan
peninsula, in spite of the tribute which they had levied on Constantinople
in return for their promise of peace. After the death of Attila, in 453,
they again retreated to Asia, and during the second half of the century
the Goths were once more supreme in the peninsula. Theodoric occupied
Singidunum (Belgrade) in 471 and, after plundering Macedonia and Greece,
settled in Novae (the modern Svishtov), on the lower Danube, in 483, where
he remained till he transferred the sphere of his activities to Italy ten
years later. Towards the end of the fifth century Huns of various kinds
returned to the lower Danube and devastated the peninsula several times,
penetrating as far as Epirus and Thessaly.
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