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458  

population, which had strong roots not limited to the lands near and
in the Alps.149 Their integration was an important condition for the
successful formation of the Bavarian people;150 their Christian faith151
formed the basis for relations with the Frankish realm, which was
organised along Roman-Christian lines, and the successful mission
of immigrant Germanic groups. Their settlement on fiscal lands was
further an important economic and financial factor in the rule of
the Agilolfings.152 The educational forms preserved within their cir-
cles may have possibly played an influential role: the dukes Theodo
and Odilo both recruited members for their chancellery from fam-

J. Sturm, “Romanische Personennamen in den Freisinger Traditionen”, Zeitschrift
für bayerische Landesgeschichte 18 (1955) pp. 61–80, esp. pp. 68–9; Schwarz, “Die
bairische Landnahme um Regensburg”, pp. 59; 61–4; H. Dachs, “Römerkastelle
und frühmittelalterliches Herzogs- und Königsgut an der Donau”, Aus Bayerns Frühzeit.
F. Wagner zum 75. Geburtstag, ed. J. Werner, Schriftenreihe zur bayerischen Landes-
geschichte 62 (München 1962) pp. 293–320 [repr. Zur Geschichte der Bayern, ed.
K. Bosl, Wege der Forschung 60 (Darmstadt 1965) pp. 44–84, esp. pp. 64–9]; id.,
“Baiern und Walchen”, Zeitschrift für bayerische Landesgeschichte 33 (1970) pp. 857–958,
esp. pp. 921–7; Reindel, “Das Zeitalter der Agilulfinger”, pp. 127–30; F. Prinz,
“Salzburg zwischen Antike und Mittelalter”, Frühmittelalterliche Studien 5 (1971) pp.
10–36, esp. pp. 18–20; id., “Fragen der Kontinuität”, pp. 710–1; 722–7; Eckhart,
“Nach- und Weiterleben”, pp. 27–38; Störmer, “Zum Prozeß sozialer Differenzierung”,
pp. 162–3; M. Pfister, “Entstehung, Verbreitung und Charakteristik des Zentral-
und Ostalpen-Romanischen vor dem 12. Jahrhundert”, Frühmittelalterliche Ethnogenese
im Alpenraum, ed. H. Beumann and W. Schröder, Nationes 5 (Sigmaringen 1985)
pp. 49–95, esp. pp. 61–4; Wolfram, “Ethnogenesen im frühmittelalterlichen Donau-
und Ostalpenraum”, pp. 124–6; id., “Die Zeit der Agilolfinger”, pp. 152–4; id.,
Salzburg, Bayern, Österreich, pp. 25–6; 37–9; Reiffenstein, “Stammesbildung und Sprach-
geschichte”, p. 1340; D. Messner, “Salzburgs Romanen”, Virgil von Salzburg. Missionar
und Gelehrter, ed. H. Dopsch and R. Juffinger (Salzburg 1985) pp. 103–11. There is
hardly any archaeological evidence for those Romance speakers that remained, see
Fischer, Das bajuwarische Reihengräberfeld von Staubing, pp. 87–9.
Prinz, “Herrschaftsstruktur”, pp. 26–7.
V. Miloj‘iÆ, “Zur Frage der Zeitstellung”, pp. 128–9 and 133, thinks that vari-
ous Late Antique sacred buildings were still used in the later Bavarian regions, and
concludes on this basis that the Roman population played the role of intermediary
in the Christianisation of the Bavarians. Also H. Wolfram, 378–907: Grenzen und
Räume, p. 96, stresses the importance of Roman Christianity for the conversion of
the Bavarians. See also Jahn, Ducatus Baiuvariorum, pp. 154–5.
Prinz, “Herrschaftsstruktur”, pp. 22–3; Wolfram, “Das Fürstentum Tassilos
III.”, pp. 166–7; J. Jahn, Ducatus Baiuvariorum, p. 86, points out that the Romance
speakers in Salzburg knew how to win gold, Th. Fischer, Das bajuwarische Reihengräberfeld
von Staubing, pp. 82–3, has demonstrated the significance of the Roman population
for the transmission of Roman pottery technology. See also H. Geisler, “Barbing-
Kreuzhof ”, Regensburg—Kelheim—Straubing 1, ed. S. Rieckhoff-Pauli and W. Torbrügge,
Führer zu archäologischen Denkmälern 5 (Stuttgart 1984) pp. 164–73, esp. pp.
170–3. On the tribute of Romance speakers for fiscal lands see also Jahn, Ducatus
Baiuvariorum, pp. 247–8.
  459

ilies of the Salzburg Romanitas. Organisation based on literacy—a

tool of increased importance for effective rulership—owed much to
the Roman population.153
For the governing efforts of the dukes, the possibility of using the
late Roman infrastructure played a particularly significant role. This
was exemplified by their reoccupation of the legionary camp in
Regensburg (a massive and extremely strong construction of lime-
stone blocks built without mortar) as a centre of power,154 as well
as their continued use of many other Roman fortifications, roadside
stations and roads.155 That they were, indeed, used is demonstrated
by, for instance, the persecution of Saint Emmeram on his way to
Rome and his murder in Helfendorf close to a former Roman tav-
ern, which was apparently still used in the Agilolfing period and at
which site, at least in the eighth century, there was ducal property.156

Störmer, Früher Adel, p. 213; Bosl, Bayerische Geschichte, p. 48; Prinz, “Herr-
schaftsstruktur”, p. 26; Wolfram, “Der Heilige Rupert in Salzburg”, p. 86; Jahn,
Ducatus Baiuvariorum, pp. 29–30; 204; 246–7; 558–60.
Arbeo, Vita Haimhramni 4, p. 32: ad Radasponam pervenit urbem, qui ex sectis lapidibus
constructa, in metropolim huius gentis in arce decreverat. Fischer, “Zur Archäologie des fünf-
ten Jahrhunderts”, p. 103; id., “Der Übergang von der Spätantike zum frühen
Mittelalter in Ostbayern”, p. 242; id., Das bajuwarische Reihengräberfeld von Staubing,
pp. 115–8; Wolff, “Die Kontinuität städtischen Lebens”, pp. 304–5; K. Schwarz,
“Regensburg während des ersten Jahrtausends im Spiegel der Ausgrabungen in
Niedermünster”, Jahresbericht der Bayerischen Bodendenkmalpflege 13/14 (1972/73) pp.
20–98; Dietz, Osterhaus, Rieckhoff-Pauli and Spindler, Regensburg zur Römerzeit, pp.
169–72; K. Reindel, “Regensburg als Sitz der Herrscher bis zum 10. Jahrhundert”,
Regensburg—Kelheim—Straubing 1, ed. S. Rieckhoff-Pauli and W. Torbrügge, Führer
zu archäologischen Denkmälern 5 (Stuttgart 1984) pp. 243–54; A. Schmid, “Regensburg
zur Agilolfingerzeit”, Die Bajuwaren. Von Severin bis Tassilo 488–788, ed. H. Dannheimer
and H. Dopsch (Rosenheim-Salzburg 1988) pp. 136–40; Jahn, Ducatus Baiuvariorum,
pp. 37–8; P. Schmid, “König—Herzog—Bischof. Regensburg und seine Pfalzen”,
Deutsche Königspfalzen. Beiträge zu ihrer historischen und archäologischen Erforschung, vol. 4:
Pfalzen—Reichsgut—Königshöfe, ed. L. Fenske, Veröffentlichungen des Max-Planck-
Instituts für Geschichte 11,4 (Göttingen 1996) pp. 53–83, esp. pp. 53–62.
Dachs, “Römerkastelle”, pp. 44–84; W. Störmer, “Fernstraße und Kloster.
Zur Verkehrs- und Herrschaftsstruktur des westlichen Altbayern im frühen Mittelalter”,
Zeitschrift für bayerische Landesgeschichte 29 (1966) pp. 299–343, esp. pp. 313–32; 339–43;
J. Jahn, “Urkunde und Chronik. Ein Beitrag zur historischen Glaubwürdigkeit der
Benediktbeurer Überlieferung und zur Geschichte des agilolfingischen Bayern”,
Mitteilungen des Instituts für Österreichische Geschichtsforschung 95 (1987) pp. 1–51, esp. pp.
A. Sandberger, “Römisches Straßensystem und bairische Siedlung im Osten
von München”, Aus Bayerns Frühzeit. F. Wagner zum 75. Geburtstag, ed. J. Werner,
Schriftenreihe zur bayerischen Landesgeschichte 62 (München 1962) pp. 287–92,
esp. pp. 290–2; A. Kraus, “Zweiteilung des Herzogtums der Agilolfinger? Die Probe
aufs Exempel”, Blätter für deutsche Landesgeschichte 112 (1976) pp. 16–29, esp. p. 26;
460  


The Agilolfing dukes of the Bavarians started their career in Regensburg

employed as office-holders of the Merovingian kings. By virtue of
their background and the various gentes from which they emerged,
as well as their close relationship even with senatorial circles of south-
western Gaul, conditions were favourable for the formation of Bavarians
as a people from both eastern and western Germanic groups and
the autochthonous Roman population of Rhaetia and Noricum. Their
rule over a fertile land, equipped with infrastructure of the Roman
period and characteristics of a border-region,157 enabled the Agilolfings,
who profitted from their eminent background, to conduct an increas-
ingly independent style of politics. They secured this position by forg-
ing bonds with their Germanic neighbours. The downfall of the
Merovingian kingship created ulterior motives for increasing their
distance from the Frankish rulers, and hence the Agilolfings were
able gradually to achieve a position equal to royalty in the late sev-
enth and the eighth centuries. However, they never completely man-
aged to shake off Frankish supremacy, and consequently Tassilo III’s
accession to power in the 770s was followed by his deposition by
Charlemagne in 788 and eventually even by his forced renunciation
of all rights during the Synod of Frankfurt in 794.158 The implica-
tions of this dismissal of Bavarian ducal power do not differ much
from the fate of Desiderius, the last king of the Lombards, who also
spent the end of his life in a monastery.159 The similarities in
Charlemagne’s behaviour in both cases once again give a sense of
the position of the Agilolfing dukes in Bavaria. They found them-
selves in a permanently ambivalent position in relation to the Frank-
ish kings: on the one hand, they found a livelihood as appointed

Hartung, Süddeutschland, p. 200; Mayr, “Neuerliche Anmerkungen zur Todeszeit des

Heiligen Emmeram”, pp. 204–5; Jahn, Ducatus Baiuvariorum, pp. 44–5.
Jahn, Ducatus Baiuvariorum, pp. 552–4, on natural-spatial and logistic-geographical
prerequisites for tribal formation and Agilolfing rulership.
Classen, “Bayern und die politischen Mächte”, p. 184; Kolmer, “Zur Kommen-
dation und Absetzung Tassilos III.”, pp. 316–7; Becher, Eid und Herrschaft, pp. 72–3;
Jahn, Ducatus Baiuvariorum, pp. 549–50.
Classen, “Bayern und die politischen Mächte”, p. 184; W. Laske, “Die
Mönchung Herzog Tassilos III. und das Schicksal seiner Angehörigen”, Die Anfänge
des Klosters Kremsmünster, ed. S. Haider, Mitteilungen des Oberösterreichischen Landes-
archivs, Ergänzungsband 2 (Linz 1978) pp. 189–97, esp. pp. 190–5.
  461

dukes and enjoyed a guarantee of their position in the Lex Baiuvariorum

that had been shaped by the Franks; on the other hand, they both
expressed self-consciousness and pursued independent policies. This
unique situation gave them freedom as well as established limits on
their power, but it could not prevent their final defeat by the king
of the Franks.

[Translated by Inge Lyse Hansen and Carine van Rhijn]

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Falko Daim


The Avar Empire is one of the most fascinating cultural-historical

phenomena of the European Early Middle Ages.1 From the year 568
until Charlemagne’s Avar wars (788–803), the riders of the steppes
dominated the Carpathian Basin and its environs (fig. 1). The early
period, up to 626, in particular, and the end of the Avar Empire
are well illuminated by numerous written sources. Countless archae-
ological finds, more than 60,000 graves, some hoards and settle-
ments, permit us—provided we are prepared to adhere to a number
of methodical rules—to reconstruct a culture which appears to have
reacted very flexibly to external influences while nevertheless main-
taining some basic traits, apparently as the indispensable “backbone”
of Avar identity, from the period of first settlement to the decline
of the Avar Empire. At the same time, the large number of finds
and the great size of many cemeteries make the Avar material highly
suitable for testing modern evaluation methods. The majority of these
are sophisticated statistical methods; however, technical and scientific
examinations of archaeological finds are becoming increasingly impor-
tant (fig. 2).
The aim of this essay is to present the English-speaking audience
with an overview of Avar archaeology. At the same time, the pur-
pose is to confront the results of archaeological research with the

This essay would not have been possible without advice, suggestions and help
from a number of friends and colleagues. I would especially like to thank: Birgit
Bühler (Vienna), Anton Distelberger (Vienna), Róbert Müller (Keszthely), Silvia
Müller (Vienna), Péter Somogyi (Frastanz), Béla Miklós Szoke
 (Budapest) and Tivadar
Vida (Budapest). For the translation I am indebted to Birgit Bühler and to Elizabeth
Fox (Edinburgh) for thorough proof-reading of the text. I would also like to thank
Beate Lethmayer for the lay-out of the plates and Franz Siegmeth for digitalising
 
Fig. 1: The Avars, Central- and South-Eastern Europe around the Year 600 (according to W. Pohl)
  () 465

political development, which has been reconstructed mainly by the

work of Walter Pohl.
This introductory work is aimed at demonstrating that the diverse
character of the different types of sources—especially the written and
the archaeological evidence—of course facilitate special research-ques-
tions and results, but that only the combined view of the many
results will give a detailed picture of the fascinating world of the
Avars: a world which, with its way of life and system of values, is
so far from ours but is nevertheless part of our European past.

Avar Archaeology—Avar Finds

1 Early Avar Period I (568–626) and II (626–650/670)

The archaeological material of the Early Avar Period (568–650) is
extremely diverse and archaeologists are trying to illuminate the par-
allel lines of development with all their connections. Although we
are still a long way from a detailed overall picture, some admirable
achievements of recent archaeology and some lucky finds allow us
to reconstruct some lines of development. For mainly methodologi-
cal reasons, we tread on somewhat firmer ground only once the
large cemeteries are established. The latter enable us to study the
cultural development of small population groups.
Maurikios gives us an impressive and almost admiring account of
Avar warriors in his Strategikon. He even recommends that certain
parts of their equipment, for instance the long coat, the tent and
the horse armour (of which not a single example has so far been
found in the archaeological material), should be adopted by the
Byzantine army. It is understandable that for a long time, Hungarian
archaeology was mainly concerned with identifying the first genera-
tion of Avar settlement archaeologically. It seems that the Avar war-
riors who entered the Carpathian Basin in 568 were all accomplished
riders and—according to Maurikios—shrewd tacticians, equipped—
in a uniform and rather Spartan way—with riding equipment and
weapons. The Avars used the composite bow, which was a techni-
cal miracle, consisting mainly of wooden parts with tendons, glued
together on the inside with strips of horn, while in the centre and
at the ends it was strengthened with lamellae made of deer antler.
The different parts made use of forces of pressure on the inside and
 
Fig. 2. The most important archaeological sites of Avar culture
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Austria 43 Előszállás 92 Szegvár – Sápoldal

1 Edelstal (Hungarian: 44 Gátér 93 Székkutas
Nemesvölgy) 45 Gyód 94 Szekszárd – Bogyiszlói út
2 Frohsdorf 46 Győr – Téglavető – dűlő 95 Szekszárd –
3 Leobersdorf 47 Hajdúdorog Mocfacsárda
4 Mistelbach 48 Halimba 96 Szentes – Berekhát
5 Mödling 49 Hird 97 Szentes – Kaján
6 Münchendorf 50 Hódmezővásárhely 98 Szentes – Lapistó
7 Sommerein 51 Hortobágy – Árkus 99 Szentes – Nagyhegy
8 Wien 11 – Csokorgasse 52 Igar 100 Táp
9 Wien 23 – Liesing 53 Inota 101 Tápe
10 Zillingtal 54 Iváncsa 102 Tiszafüred – Majoros
11 Zwölfaxing 55 Jánoshida 103 Tolnanémedi
56 Jutas 104 Toponár
Czech Republic 57 Káptalantóti 105 Törökbálint
12 Dolní Dunajovice 58 Kecel 106 Üllő
59 Kecskemét 107 Ürbőpuszta
Slovakia 60 Keszthely 108 Várpalota
13 Blatnica 61 Keszthely – 109 Vasasszonyfa
14 ’ataj Fenékpuszta 110 Zalakomár
15 Cífer Pác 62 Kisköre 111 Zamárdi
16 Devínska Nová Ves 63 Kiskőrös 112 Závod
17 Holiare 64 Kiszombor
18 Komarno 65 Kölked – Feketekapu Former Yugoslavia
19 Moravský Ján 66 Környe 113 Aradac (Hungarian:
20 Nové Zámky 67 Kunbábony Aradka)
21 ”ebastovce 68 Kunhegyes – 114 Brodski Drenovac
22 ”túrovo Bánhalma 115 ’adjavica
23 Záhorska Bystrica 69 Kunmadaras (Hungarian:
24 ¥elovce 70 Kunszentmárton Csadjavica)
25 Zemianský Vrbovok 71 Lébény 116 ’elarevo
26 Zitavská Tôn 72 Mártély 117 ’oka (Hungarian:
73 Mezőberény Csóka)
Hungary 74 Mosonszentjános 118 Novi Balnovci
27 Abony 75 Nagyharsány 119 Pan‘evo
28 Alattyán 76 Nagypall 120 Zmajevac (Hungarian:
29 Bócsa 77 Ozora – Tótipuszta Vörösmart)
30 Boldog 78 Pápa
31 Bóly 79 Pécs Romania
32 Budakalász – Dunapart 80 Pilismarót 121 Band (Hungarian:
33 Budapest – Csepel 81 Pókaszepetk Mez őbánd)
34 Budapest – 82 Regöly 122 Felnac (Hungarian:
Farkasrét 83 Romonya (= Ellend) Fönlak)
35 Cibakháza 84 Solymár 123 Sînpetru German
36 Cikó 85 Szarvas (Hungarian:
37 Csákberény 86 Szebény Németszentpéter)
38 Csanytelek 87 Szeged – Átokháza 124 Sînnicolau Mare
39 Csengele 88 Szeged – Fehértó (Hungarian:
40 Deszk 89 Szeged – Kundomb Nagyszentmiklós)
41 Dunaújváros 90 Szeged – Makkoserdő 125 Z>lau (Hungarian:
42 Egerág 91 Szegvár – Oromdűlő Zilah)