View Full Version : The Plague of Justinian and Slavic migration in the Balkans

05-10-2020, 06:19 PM
I think the plague of Justinian is the turning point in the history of Balkans. The plague weakened the Byzantine Empire and the Thraco-Illyrian population, which made possible for Slavs to raid and migrate in the Balkans hinterland.

The plague pandemic in 541–543 and successive outbreaks of the disease till the latter half of the 8th century caused a deep demographic crisis in the Eastern Roman Empire. The most important effects of the plague were a shortage of manpower and a growing importance of marginal barbarian populations, which had suffered less or not at all from the disease. Demographic, political and economic consequences of the pandemic likely caused or at least facilitated Slavic expansion in the Balkans between the 6th and 8th century. The Slavs began to raid intensively and then settle the European provinces of the Roman Empire soon after the first outbreak of the plague and available textual evidence suggests that this region was depopulated by the disease and neglected by the government. During the 7th century, the Empire’s administration and economy collapsed due to the effects of the plague and the existing system of land taxation and central provisioning of professional armies must have been replaced by regional organization of territorial troops recruited from free peasant farmers. In the new circumstances, the Slavs, who had in the meantime re-populated the Balkans, constituted an abundant source of manpower for a restored Empire.

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/270956735_The_plague_pandemic_and_Slavic_expansion _in_the_6th-8th_centuries

05-10-2020, 07:38 PM
The events that occurred during the rule of Justinian I, or as a result of his rule, as a whole seem to have played an extremely significant role in facilitating the Slavic expansion into the Balkans.

During the second half of Justinian's reign, the number of Slavic raids and incursions into the Balkan provinces seems to have increased exponentially. The Byzantine scholar Procopius makes it seem as if Slavic raids were an almost yearly thing and that a significant portion of those Slavs had settled in the eastern Balkan provinces. It has been suggested that a great number of these Slavs were settled as federates (foederati) by the Byzantines due to the reduction in manpower and the inability to effectively protect the frontiers.

Slavic settlement itself however only really became significant after the reign of Justinian. Most associate the Slavic settlement of the Balkans with the expansion of the Avars during the late 6th century AD into Byzantine territory. Many Slavic tribes fled in order to avoid subjugation by the Avars, whilst some joined them as vassals or clients. The attack of frontier fortifications by the Avars, such as Sirmium in 582, also made it easier for the migrating tribes to cross into the Balkans.

There were also other events, such as the Byzantine-Sassanian War of 572-591, that made the defence of the Balkan provinces from invading tribes difficult.

Johane Derite
05-13-2020, 05:47 PM
John of Ephesus in 6th Century said that 3 years after Justinian's death, a large migration of Slavs into Greece, "all of Thrace", Roman territories occurred:

Book VI. 25.

“That same year, being the third after the death of king Justin (A.D. 581), was famous also for the invasion of an accursed people, called Slavonians, who overran the whole of Greece, and the country of the Thessalonians, and all Thrace, and captured the cities, and took numerous forts, and devastated and burnt, and reduced the people to slavery, and made themselves masters of the whole country, and settled in it by main force, and dwelt in it as though it had been their own without fear.

And four years have now elapsed, and still, because the king is engaged in the war with the Persians, and has sent all his forces to the East, they live at their ease in the land, and dwell in it, and spread themselves far and wide as far as God permits them, and ravage and burn and take captive.

And to such an extent do they carry their ravages, that they have even ridden up to the outer wall of the city, and driven away all the king’s herds of horses, many thousands in number, and whatever else they could find.

And even to this day, being the year 895 (A. D. 584), they still encamp and dwell there, and live in peace in the Roman territories, free from anxiety and fear, and lead captive and slay and burn: and they have grown rich in gold and silver, and herds of horses, and arms, and have learnt to fight better than the Romans, though at first they were but rude savages, who did not venture to shew themselves outside the woods and the coverts of the trees; and as for arms, they did not even know what they were, with the exception of two or three javelins or darts."

Johane Derite
05-13-2020, 06:41 PM
We should also note that christian proto-albanians would have also been called romans most of the time as greeks also were, as they were christianised early on.

05-13-2020, 07:06 PM
We should also note that christian proto-albanians would have also been called romans most of the time as greeks also were, as they were christianised early on.
In regards to the adoption of Christianity by the Proto-Albanians, it has been suggested that they were Christianised under the influence of the Roman Catholic faith. This is due to the fact that many of the basic Christian terms in Albanian are of Latin origin.

This would also make some historical sense given that between the 1st and 8th centuries AD, Christianity in the region fell under Roman or Papal jurisdiction. It's only during the 8th century that jurisdiction is taken over by the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople.

05-13-2020, 08:29 PM
By Procopius of Caesarea
500 - 554 AD
History of the Wars, Book VII

''Having accomplished these things, they turned to plunder all the towns, both of Thrace and of Illyricum,''

''Then they slew all the men immediately, to the number of fifteen thousand, took all the valuables as plunder, and reduced the children and women to slavery. Before this, however, they had spared no age. but both these and the other group, since the time when they fell upon the land of the Romans, had been killing all who fell in their way, young and old alike, so that the whole land inhabited by the Illyrians and Thracians came to be everywhere filled with unburied corpses.''

05-13-2020, 08:29 PM
https://historum.com/proxy.php?image=https%3A%2F%2Fi.postimg.cc%2F4y0j7 c4s%2Fk.jpg&hash=63b6b86d622479c04b9fbd192b3660ef

05-14-2020, 10:03 AM
Correct me if i am wrong, some of the Albanian founder-effects in Y-DNA subclades strongly correlate with this event.

05-14-2020, 11:58 PM

The fall of the Roman Empire and the age of great migrations brought radical changes to the Balkan Peninsula and the Illyrian people. Barbarian tribesmen overran many rich Roman cities, destroying the existing social and economic order and leaving the great Roman aqueducts, coliseums, temples, and roads in ruins. The Illyrians gradually disappeared as a distinct people from the Balkans, replaced by the Bulgars, Serbs, Croats, and Albanians. In the late Middle Ages, new waves of invaders swept over the Albanian-populated lands. Thanks to their protective mountains, close-knit tribal society, and sheer pertinacity, however, the Albanian people developed their distinctive identity and language.

In the fourth century, barbarian tribes began to prey upon the Roman Empire, and the fortunes of the Illyrian-populated lands sagged. The Germanic Goths and Asiatic Huns were the first to arrive, invading in mid-century; the Avars attacked in A.D. 570; and the Slavic Serbs and Croats overran Illyrian-populated areas in the early seventh century. About fifty years later, the Bulgars conquered much of the Balkan Peninsula and extended their domain to the lowlands of what is now central Albania. Many Illyrians fled from coastal areas to the mountains, exchanging a sedentary peasant existence for the itinerant life of the herdsman. Other Illyrians intermarried with the conquerors and eventually assimilated. In general, the invaders destroyed or weakened Roman and Byzantine cultural centers in the lands that would become Albania.

Again during the late medieval period, invaders ravaged the Illyrian-inhabited regions of the Balkans. Norman, Venetian, and Byzantine fleets attacked by sea. Bulgar, Serb, and Byzantine forces came overland and held the region in their grip for years. Clashes between rival clans and intrusions by the Serbs produced hardship that triggered an exodus from the region southward into Greece, including Thessaly, the Peloponnese, and the Aegean Islands. The invaders assimilated much of the Illyrian population, but the Illyrians living in lands that comprise modern-day Albania and parts of Yugoslavia and Greece were never completely absorbed or even controlled.

The first historical mention of Albania and the Albanians as such appears in an account of the resistance by a Byzantine emperor, Alexius I Comnenus, to an offensive by the Vatican-backed Normans from southern Italy into the Albanian-populated lands in 1081.

The Serbs occupied parts of northern and eastern Albania toward the end of the twelfth century. In 1204, after Western crusaders sacked Constantinople, Venice won nominal control over Albania and the Epirus region of northern Greece and took possession of Durrės. A prince from the overthrown Byzantine ruling family, Michael Comnenus, made alliances with Albanian chiefs and drove the Venetians from lands that now make up southern Albania and northern Greece, and in 1204 he set up an independent principality, the Despotate of Epirus, with Janina (now Ioannina in northwest Greece) as its capital. In 1272 the king of Naples, Charles I of Anjou, occupied Durrės and formed an Albanian kingdom that would last for a century. Internal power struggles further weakened the Byzantine Empire in the fourteenth century, enabling the Serbs' most powerful medieval ruler, Stefan Dusan, to establish a short-lived empire that included all of Albania except Durrės.