Avar Khaganate around 582–612 AD.
The Pannonian Avars (
They are probably best known for their invasions and destruction in the
The name Pannonian Avars (after
Although the name Avar first appeared in the mid-5th century, the Pannonian Avars entered the historical scene in the mid-6th century, on the
The earliest clear reference to the Avar ethnonym comes from
The next author to discuss the Avars,
Many more, but somewhat confusing, details come from
Then he . . . enslaved the Avar nation.
But let no one think that we are distorting the history of these times because he supposes that the Avars are those barbarians neighbouring on Europe and
Pannonia, and that their arrival was prior to the times of the emperor Maurice. For it is by a misnomer that the barbarians on the Ister have assumed the appellation of Avars; the origin of their race will shortly be revealed.
So, when the Avars had been defeated (for we are returning to the account) some of them made their escape to those who inhabit
Taugast. Taugast is a famous city, which is a total of one thousand five hundred miles distant from those who are called Turks, . . . . Others of the Avars, who declined to humbler fortune because of their defeat, came to those who are called Mucri; this nation is the closest neighbour to the men of Taugast;
Then the Chagan embarked on yet another enterprise, and subdued all the Ogur, which is one of the strongest tribes on account of its large population and its armed training for war. These make their habitations in the east, by the course of the
river Til, which Turks are accustomed to call Melas. The earliest leaders of this nation were named Varand Chunni; from them some parts of those nations were also accorded their nomenclature, being called Var and Chunni.
Then, while the emperor Justinian was in possession of the royal power, a small section of these Var and Chunni fled from that ancestral tribe and settled in Europe. These named themselves Avars and glorified their leader with the appellation of Chagan. Let us declare, without departing in the least from the truth, how the means of changing their name came to them....
Barsils, Onogurs, Sabirs, and other Hun nations in addition to these, saw that a section of those who were still Var and Chunni had fled to their regions, they plunged into extreme panic, since they suspected that the settlers were Avars. For this reason they honoured the fugitives with splendid gifts and supposed that they received from them security in exchange.
Then, after the Var and Chunni saw the well-omened beginning to their flight, they appropriated the ambassadors' error and named themselves Avars: for among the Scythian nations that of the Avars is said to be the most adept tribe. In point of fact even up to our present times the Pseudo-Avars (for it is more correct to refer to them thus) are divided in their ancestry, some bearing the time-honoured name of Var while others are called Chunni....
According to the interpretation of Dobrovits and Nechaeva, the Turks insisted that the Avars were only pseudo-Avars, so as to boast that they were the only formidable power in the Eurasian steppe. The Gokturks claimed that the "real Avars" remained loyal subjects of the Turks, farther east.
Furthermore, Dobrovits has questioned the authenticity of Theophylact's account. As such, he has argued that Theophylact borrowed information from Menander's accounts of Byzantine-Turk negotiations to meet political needs of his time – i.e. to castigate and deride the Avars during a time of strained political relations between the Byzantines and Avars (coinciding with Emperor Maurice's northern Balkan campaigns).
According to some scholars the Pannonian Avars originated from a confederation formed in the
The 18th-century historian
Several historians, including Golden and Benjamin Peter, suggest that the Avars are of
A study by Emil Heršak and Ana Silić suggests that the Avars were of heterogeneous origin, including mostly Turkic (Oghuric) and Mongolic groups. Later in Europe some Germanic and Slavic groups were assimilated into the Avars. They concluded that their exat origin is unknown but state that it is likely that the Avars were originally mainly composed of Turkic (Oghuric) tribes.
1. Many steppe empires were founded by groups who had been defeated in previous power struggles but had fled from the dominion of the stronger group. The Avars were likely a losing faction previously subordinate to the (legitimate)
Ashina clanin the Western Turkic Khaganate, and they fled west of the Dnieper.
2. These groups usually were of mixed origin, and each of its components was part of a previous group.
3. Crucial in the process was the elevation of a khagan, which signified a claim to independent power and an
expansioniststrategy. This group also needed a new name that would give all of its initial followers a sense of identity.
4. The name for a new group of steppe riders was often taken from a repertoire of prestigious names which did not necessarily denote any direct affiliation to or descent from groups of the same name; in the
Early Middle Ages, Huns, Avars, Bulgars, and Ogurs, or names connected with -(o)gur ( Kutrigurs, Utigurs, Onogurs, etc.), were most important. In the process of name-giving, both perceptions by outsiders and self-designation played a role. These names were also connected with prestigious traditions that directly expressed political pretensions and programmes, and had to be endorsed by success. In the world of the steppe, where agglomerations of groups were rather fluid, it was vital to know how to deal with a newly-emergent power. The symbolical hierarchy of prestige expressed through names provided some orientation for friend and foe alike.
Such views are mirrored by
Csanád Bálint. "The
Moreover, Avar identity was strongly linked to Avar political institutions. Groups who rebelled or fled from the Avar realm could never be called "Avars", but were rather termed "