Transcultural Approaches to the Concept of Imperial Rule in the Middle Ages

by Christian Scholl (Volume editor) Torben R. Gebhardt (Volume editor) Jan Clauß (Volume editor)
Conference proceedings 380 Pages

Table Of Content

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Transcultural Approaches to the Concept of Imperial Rule in the Middle Ages: Introduction (Christian Scholl / Torben R. Gebhardt / Jan Clauß)
  • Imitatio Imperii? Elements of Imperial Rule in the Barbarian Successor States of the Roman West (Christian Scholl)
  • Introduction
  • Reasons for the imitation of Imperial rule
  • Imperial elements adopted by the Barbarian rulers
  • Imperial elements not adopted by the Barbarian rulers
  • Conclusion
  • Barbarian Emperors? Aspects of the Byzantine Perception of the qaghan (chaganos) in the Earlier Middle Ages (Sebastian Kolditz)
  • Imports and Embargos of Imperial Concepts in the Frankish Kingdom. The Promotion of Charlemagne’s Imperial Coronation in Carolingian Courtly Culture (Jan Clauß)
  • Introduction: Charlemagne’s Imperial Coronation and its Early Medieval Context
  • Charlemagne’s Imperial Coronation – Expression of a Changed Topography of Power
  • Carolingian Power and Cultural Politics
  • Theodulf of Orléans as an Arbiter of Frankish Imperial Concepts
  • Conclusion
  • How to Become Emperor – John VIII and the Role of the Papacy in the 9th Century (Simon Groth)
  • Imperial Aspirations in Provence and Burgundy (Jessika Nowak)
  • Family ties and Carolingian background
  • Patrimony, possessions and bonds in the Regnum Italiae
  • Relationship with the Papacy
  • The conception of kingship in Provence and Burgundy
  • From Bretwalda to Basileus: Imperial Concepts in Late Anglo-Saxon England? (Torben R. Gebhardt)
  • The Caliphates between Imperial Rule and Imagined Suzerainty – A Case Study on Imperial Rituals during Saladin’s Rise to Power (Nadeem Khan)
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Empire – A definition
  • a) Internal aspects
  • b) External aspects
  • c) Dynastical aspects
  • 3. The caliphates
  • a) The Rāšidūn Caliphate
  • b) The Umayyād Caliphate
  • c) The ʿAbbāsid Caliphate
  • d) The Fāṭimid Caliphate
  • Summary
  • 4. Symbolic communication and rituals
  • a) Bayʿa
  • b) Ḫuṭba
  • c) Sikka
  • d) Ḫilʿa
  • Summary
  • 5. Saladin
  • a) A family in service of the Zengids
  • b) Saladin’s beginnings in Egypt
  • c) Saladin between two caliphs
  • d) Tensions between Nūr ad-Dīn and Saladin
  • e) Ayyūbid expansion and stabilization
  • f) The culmination of Saladin’s rise to power
  • Summary
  • 6. Conclusion
  • Von verlorenen Hufeisen und brennenden Nüssen – Über Konflikte im Rahmen des „diplomatischen“ Zeremoniells des byzantinischen Kaiserhofes (Tobias Hoffmann)
  • Byzantium – Rome – Denmark – Iceland: Dealing with Imperial Concepts in the North (Roland Scheel)
  • The semantics of keisari, imperator and imperium
  • Compounds containing keisari
  • Imperium and imperator
  • The Translation of Empire and its semantic renouncement
  • Rex imperio dignus – rex imperator in regno suo
  • Scandinavians and Byzantine Emperors
  • The Semantics of Byzantium
  • Conclusion
  • Intoxication with Virtuality. French Princes and Aegean Titles (Stefan Burkhardt)
  • Imperiale Konzepte in der mittelalterlichen Historiographie Polens vom 12. bis zum 15. Jahrhundert (Grischa Vercamer)
  • 1. Diskurs der Herkunft:
  • 2. Diskurs des ‚Pan-Slawismus‘ und des Hegemonie-Anspruchs der Polen:
  • 3. Diskurs der passiven und reagierenden Herrschaftsausbreitung:
  • 4. Diskurs des Freiheitsgedankens:
  • 5. Diskurs der herrscherlichen Demut und Einfachheit:
  • 6. Diskurs der Zurückweisung ‚imperialer Aggressoren‘:
  • 7. Der Diskurs der Staatsgründung:
  • 8. Diskurs des Namens:
  • Fazit:
  • List of Contributors
  • Index of Names and Places
  • Index of Names
  • Index of Places

Christian Scholl / Torben R. Gebhardt / Jan Clauß (eds.)

Transcultural Approaches to the Concept of Imperial Rule in the Middle Ages


About the author

Christian Scholl studied History and English Language and Literature in Trier and Dublin. He is a researcher at the Institute for Early Medieval Studies at the University of Münster.
Torben R. Gebhardt studied History and English Language and Literature in Bochum. From 2011 to 2015, he worked at the Department of History in Münster. From 2016 onwards, he has been working as a project coordinator at the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Duisburg-Essen.
Jan Clauß studied History and Catholic Theology in Bochum and Dublin. From 2011 to 2015, he worked at the Department of History in Münster. Today, he works as a teacher.

About the book

During the Middle Ages, rulers from different regions aspired to an idea of imperial hegemony. On the other hand, there were rulers who deliberately refused to be «emperors», although their reign showed characteristics of imperial rule. The contributions in this volume ask for the reasons why some rulers such as Charlemagne strove for imperial titles, whereas others voluntarily shrank from them. They also look at the characteristics of and rituals connected to imperial rule as well as to the way Medieval empires saw themselves. Thus, the authors in this volume adopt a transcultural perspective, covering Western, Eastern, Northern and Southern Europe, Byzantium and the Middle East. Furthermore, they go beyond the borders of Christianity by including various caliphates and Islamic «hegemonic» rulers like Saladin.

This eBook can be cited

This edition of the eBook can be cited. To enable this we have marked the start and end of a page. In cases where a word straddles a page break, the marker is placed inside the word at exactly the same position as in the physical book. This means that occasionally a word might be bifurcated by this marker.

Table of Contents

Christian Scholl, Torben R. Gebhardt, Jan Clauß (Münster)

Transcultural Approaches to the Concept of Imperial Rule in the Middle Ages: Introduction

Christian Scholl (Münster)

Imitatio Imperii? Elements of Imperial Rule in the Barbarian Successor States of the Roman West

Sebastian Kolditz (Heidelberg)

Barbarian Emperors? Aspects of the Byzantine Perception of the qaghan (chaganos) in the Earlier Middle Ages

Jan Clauß (Münster)

Imports and Embargos of Imperial Concepts in the Frankish Kingdom. The Promotion of Charlemagne’s Imperial Coronation in Carolingian Courtly Culture

Simon Groth (Frankfurt am Main)

How to Become Emperor – John VIII and the Role of the Papacy in the 9th Century

Jessika Nowak (Frankfurt am Main/Freiburg)

Imperial Aspirations in Provence and Burgundy

Torben R. Gebhardt (Münster)

From Bretwalda to Basileus: Imperial Concepts in Late Anglo-Saxon England?

Nadeem Khan (Münster)

The Caliphates between Imperial Rule and Imagined Suzerainty – A Case Study on Imperial Rituals during Saladin’s Rise to Power

Tobias Hoffmann (Münster)

Von verlorenen Hufeisen und brennenden Nüssen – Über Konflikte im Rahmen des „diplomatischen“ Zeremoniells des byzantinischen Kaiserhofes←5 | 6→

Roland Scheel (Göttingen)

Byzantium – Rome – Denmark – Iceland: Dealing with Imperial Concepts in the North

Stefan Burkhardt (Heidelberg)

Intoxication with Virtuality. French Princes and Aegean Titles

Grischa Vercamer (Berlin)

Imperiale Konzepte in der mittelalterlichen Historiographie
Polens vom 12. bis zum 15. Jahrhundert

List of Contributors

Index of Names and Places

←6 | 7→

Christian Scholl, Torben R. Gebhardt, Jan Clauß (Münster)

Transcultural Approaches to the Concept of Imperial Rule in the Middle Ages: Introduction

The last years have seen a growing interest in the thematic strand of “empire”: not least the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s has stimulated public debates about the role the United States as the single remaining super power were supposed to play in the world. These debates were intensified after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, which, according to the sociologist Michael Mann,1 constituted the United States’ transition from a hegemonic power widely accepted and acting benevolently to a militarist world ruler ruthlessly claiming “imperial” leadership.2

In the years following George W. Bush’s war against Iraq, a number of monographs on “empire” and/or “imperial rulership” were published both by historians and political scientists. In Germany, for example, Herfried Münkler published a volume on Empires: The Logic of World Domination from Ancient Rome to the United States in 2005, which soon became a standard work on the topic.3 In the same year, Hans-Heinrich Nolte published a monograph on empires in early modern times.4 Besides these general studies, several comparative studies were published in recent years: after an article published by Susan Reynolds in 2006,5 the afore←7 | 8→mentioned Hans-Heinrich Nolte edited a comparative study focusing on empires from the 16th to the 20th centuries in 2008,6 before in 2012 Peter Fibiger Bang and Dariusz Kolodziejczyk published the excellent survey Universal Empire. A Comparative Approach to Imperial Culture and Representation in Eurasian History, dealing with empires from Assyrian times to the 18th century.7 Most recently, in 2014, Michael Gehler and Robert Rollinger edited two vast volumes on empires from antiquity to the present.8

It is especially the last-mentioned work that deals with empires – or political systems similar to empires – of the Middle Ages. The empires dealt with include the empires of the Umayyads, Fatimids, Ayyubids, Mamluks, Almoravids, Almohads, Mongols, Byzantines, Ottomans, Merovingians and Carolingians as well as the European territories of the high and late Middle Ages, empires in India, the Holy Roman Empire and the papacy.9 Münkler only refers to the empire of the Mongols,←8 | 9→ whereas the volume by Bang and Kolodziejczyk contains three articles on medieval empires.10

Apart from these articles and Münkler’s references to the Mongols, there are also several recent monographs dedicated to medieval empires or at least elements of imperial rule. Stefan Burkhardt, for example, analysed the Latin Empire of Constantinople as a Mediterranean Empire; Almut Höfert dealt with the imperial monotheism in the early and high Middle Ages, examining the aftermath of Roman imperial tradition not only in Western Europe, but also in Byzantium and the Islamic caliphate in the early and high Middle Ages.11 This shows that in recent years, researchers have increasingly turned their attention to the Islamic world, too, thus going beyond a Eurocentric perspective. In addition to Hoefert’s survey and the contributions to the Islamic world in the above mentioned volumes, this becomes evident in Robert G. Hoyland’s latest publication of a monograph on the early Islamic empire.12 Last but not least, the topic “empire” was discussed among medievalists on several conferences, among them the International Medieval Congress (IMC) in←9 | 10→ Leeds in 2014,13 a conference held at the University of Münster in 2015,14 and another at the University of Hamburg in 2016.15

There are numerous definitions about what constitutes an “empire”. We here follow the definition given by the aforementioned German historian Hans-Heinrich Nolte16 who defined an empire by seven characteristics: 1. a monarch at the top of the hierarchy, 2. a close cooperation between church and crown, 3./4. an elaborate bureaucracy based on and working with written records, 5. centrally raised taxes, 6. diverse provinces, 7. a low degree of political participation of the subjects.17 Other authors add further characteristics, for example regarding space and time. According to most definitions, an empire must cover a vast geographical area, although this criterion is difficult if not impossible to assess for seaborne empires.18 Besides, even if seaborne empires often were not that large, they gained their power from controlling important trade routes, which can be regarded as more important than pure seize.19

Researchers disagree, however, as far as the factor time is concerned: whereas Herfried Münkler holds the view that an empire must have lasted a certain amount of time and have gone through at least one circle of rise and fall,20 others disregard this factor and count, for example, Napoleonic←10 | 11→ France, Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany as empires.21 Especially for the European Middle Ages, a further criterion seems indispensable to us, videlicet the claim to be the only empire with one single emperor dominating the whole of the world. As a result of this claim, empires could not accept others as equals.22 Therefore, conflicts arose when two political systems within the same geographical area claimed to be empires, as with the Western and Eastern empires in the Middle Ages (Zweikaiserproblem).

In this volume, however, we not only deal with classic examples of medieval empires such as that of Charlemagne or the Byzantine empire, but we also cover other communities or “kingdoms”, among them the Barbarian successor states of the Roman West, Anglo-Saxon England, Denmark, Iceland, Poland, Burgundy and Provence and look at elements of imperial rule (for example imperial titles, claims etc.) which played a role in ruling these communities. The following central questions were given by the editors as common ground for all authors to work with: for which reasons and in which situations did some rulers, for example Charlemagne, aspire imperial titles such as “emperor” or “basileus”, whereas other sovereigns, whose rule showed certain characteristics of “imperial” rule such as that of Theodoric the Great, voluntarily shrank away from them? Related to this point is the question as to why some rulers like Charles I of Naples or James of Baux strove for “virtual” or titular titles like “Emperor of Constantinople”, although no immediate power was connected to them.

Concerning imperial terminology and related matters, it is necessary to point out that titular emperorship seldom came alone. Instead, it was semantically flanked; claims of emperorship were underlined by a more or less sophisticated cluster of titles and symbolic prerogatives. Although these ritual aspects are not part of the pragmatic criteria formulated by Hans-Heinrich Nolte above, several contributions will analyse them regarding their underlying traditions and ideological references. After all, these←11 | 12→ specific symbolic resources could not only help to transform royal into imperial power, they could also enable real and “would-be” emperors to furnish their sovereignty with a charismatic aura helping to stabilize their rule. We therefore ask where these titles and rituals arose from, if they originated from a society’s “own” cultural horizon or if they were transcultural borrowings, as was the “basileus”-title in Anglo-Saxon Britain?

Analysing the cultural and conceptual background reveals that imperial titles can occasionally be understood as government programmes. This might include that newly-crowned emperors aimed at reforming the style and intensity of their rule. Around the year 800, for instance, Charlemagne pursued a more comprehensive policy than his predecessors on the Frankish throne had done. Thus, imperial augmentation could bring about internal as well as external changes, among them the sacralisation of the emperor and his realm as a means to stand out from royal opponents, whose power was per se conceived as inferior. For this reason, several contributions in this volume turn towards the changing claim to power as well as to its ethos. They ask as to what extent processes of imperialisation affected other political entities, which were – at least nominally – demanded submission, how the agents politically relevant dealt with conflicts possibly arising from their imperial concepts, and how they used them to order the world mentally.

Apart from that, this volume asks for the legitimacy of imperial rulers: whose consent was necessary to make a ruler emperor? Which role did other rulers, for example the popes, play in the process of the elevation of an emperor: was another ruler necessary to make someone emperor or could this be done by the latter and his surrounding alone? Which (invented) traditions and rituals were used to legitimise one’s imperial rule or dynasty? Further emphasis is put on the representation of imperial rule in the Middle Ages: which titles were held by imperial rulers, which rituals and symbols did they use to represent themselves? How were they portrayed on coins or images? How was this representation perceived by other rulers and which conflicts arose from certain kinds of representations?

Last but not least, we ask for the perception of imperial rule in the Middle Ages: whose rule was perceived by others as “imperial”? Was it necessary to carry an imperial title such as “emperor” or “basileus” to be←12 | 13→ recognized as superior or did it occur that rulers were regarded as such without holding these titles?

In answering these questions, the articles in this volume refer to examples from the early to the late Middle Ages, with a temporal emphasis on the early and high Middle Ages. Geographically, the articles not only cover Western, Northern and Eastern Europe (the Western Mediterranean, England, Scandinavia and Poland), but also the Eastern Mediterranean (the Byzantine empire) as well as the Islamic world. Thus, this volume approaches elements of imperial rule in a transcultural perspective, going beyond central Europe and including the alleged periphery in the North and East as well as Latin Europe’s Byzantine and Islamic neighbours.

The concept of “transculturality” was originally developed by the Cuban anthropologist Fernando Ortiz23 and taken up by the German philosopher Wolfgang Welsch in the 1990s.24 According to this concept, “cultures” cannot be understood as monolithic blocks, as was the understanding in the past, but – following Homi Bhabha and Edward Said – as hybrids and processes which permanently interact with and borrow from each other.25 The fact that←13 | 14→ “cultures” permanently borrow from each other also becomes apparent in the articles of this volume, for example borrowings of imperial titles or rituals from Byzantium or Ancient Rome by rulers from Latin Europe.

The first article, written by Christian Scholl, deals with the imitatio imperii, which means the imitation of the Roman emperor by the rulers of the Barbarian kingdoms in the early Middle Ages. It asks for the reasons why Barbarian kings adopted certain elements of rule formerly employed by the Roman emperors and, in a second step, identifies some elements which were adopted by the Barbarian rulers and some which were not. Special interest is given to the question as to why no Barbarian ruler before Charlemagne strove for the title “emperor”, not even the Ostrogothic king Theodoric the Great, who was ruling over a considerable part of the former Roman empire, thus exerting hegemony over the Western Mediterranean in the early 6th century.

Sebastian Kolditz addresses Byzantium’s relations with the peoples of the Eurasian steppe zone primarily in the 6th and 7th centuries. Conflicting with their own self-understanding, the East Roman emperors had to admit that right at their borders Türks, Avars and later on Khazars attained quasi-imperial plenitude of power. Kolditz expounds the diplomatic and military relationships between these polities and the Romans as well as their reception in Byzantine historiography. These relations encompassed a vast range of contact forms between hostile confrontations, encounters of emperors and the Nomads’ rulers, the qaghans, and even marriage projects. Kolditz’ paper focusses on the (changing) usage of the title “qaghan” and related terminology for Avar, Türk and Khazar rulers in the Greek sources. In this way, it unfolds how the Romans at times denied imperial qualities, or in case of Menander’s assessment of the Türks even applied the title of “basileus” to their leader, although this term was normally reserved for the Roman emperor, only.

The article by Jan Clauß deals with cultural and political long-term processes in the Carolingian world prior to Charlemagne’s imperial coronation. Traditional Carolingian scholarship advocated the position that Charlemagne←14 | 15→ was taken by surprise when Leo III crowned him emperor, and therefore attributed the driving force of the restoration of emperorship in the West to the pope. Against this narrative of a passive Frankish king, Clauß’ paper gathers evidence which evinces that around the turn of the century Frankish scholars actively paved the way for Charlemagne’s imperial perception. The imperialisation of the regnum Francorum and Charlemagne involved political entities in and outside the Carolingian sphere of influence. Corresponding with actual power politics, the status of the papacy, the Byzantine emperor and the Abbasid caliph in Bagdad were denied or (argumentatively) ascribed to the Frankish king himself. For this purpose Frankish scholars made use of selective borrowings from imperial traditions. The paper accordingly outlines that Charlemagne’s imperial rise was above all a transcultural project, which implied a critical reflection on empires of the past and present.

Simon Groth’s paper discusses the role the papacy played in the coronations of emperors in the 9th century. Although Charlemagne was crowned emperor by pope Leo III at Christmas 800 – as is discussed in the article by Jan Clauß –, and although a pope was necessary for the coronations in the high and late Middle Ages, there were two emperors in the early 9th century, Louis the Pious and Lothair I, who were not crowned emperors by the pope, but by their fathers Charlemagne and Louis – in both cases, the papal consent was given afterwards by a second coronation carried out by the pope, but these papal acts were not constitutive. It was not before the coronation of Lothair’s son Louis II, carried out by pope Stephan IV in 850, that the papacy regained the decisive position it had already assumed at Charlemagne’s coronation. This position was confirmed by the coronations of Charles the Bald and Charles the Fat in 875 and 881, both carried out by pope John VIII. Groth’s article examines these events in detail and reflects the process in which the papacy regained its essential position in the “making” of a Medieval emperor.

In her article, Jessika Nowak looks at successful and failed imperial projects in post-Carolingian Provence and Burgundy. Nowak elucidates why the Provencal kings Hugh of Arles and Louis the Blind as well as the Burgundian Rudolph II pursued differing agendas towards the regnum Italiae and either strove for or declined the imperial crown. In order to do so, she identifies essential political and cultural factors which shaped the respective political options. Drawing predominantly on charters, but also on numismatic sources,←15 | 16→ Nowak shows that the ambition to become Roman emperor mainly depended on family networks, especially connections to the Carolingian dynasty, and territorial powerbases and alliances in Italy. The lack of these features caused Rudolph II to emphasise his Burgundian kingship even when he was ruling in Italy, and at the same time led to a rather modest concept of Burgundian kingship. Nowak’s contribution thus demonstrates that ‘not being Emperor’ could be a preferable option for medieval royal agents, as it had been the case with the Ostrogothic king Theodoric the Great.

Torben Gebhardt examines in his contribution the curious case of the use of the title “basileus anglorum” by the Anglo-Saxon king Æthelstan, which was to become something of a tradition with his successors. Gebhardt demonstrates that while the Anglo-Saxon king viewed himself as more than a mere “rex”, he did not strive for the Roman emperor title that Byzantines and Ottonians competed for. He rather aimed at an elevated state between contemporary kings and the Roman emperor, for which he drew inspiration by Bede’s account of English history. Gebhardt comes to the conclusion that basileus, in this context, is more to be understood as a “superrex” in the lexical sense than emperor. Still, the title expressed Æthelstan’s very own concept of a British imperial hegemony. It reflects his rule over a regional construct he, following Bede, envisioned as Britannia.

Nadeem Khan’s contribution deals with the caliphates of the Islamic classic (Rāšidūn, ʿUmayyād, ʿAbbāsid and Fāimid caliphates), showing that these can be classified as “empires” according to the definition given by the aforementioned Herfried Münkler, at least until the 9th/10th centuries. By taking into account the aspect of symbolic communication, Khan furthermore demonstrates that the ʿAbbāsid and Fāimid caliphs were still of “global” or “imperial” importance after they had lost most of their factual political power. Source of their power was their potential to give – or deny – authority to local, “factual” rulers, a power Khan calls “imagined” or “pretended suzerainty”. To exemplify this imagined suzerainty, Khan refers to Saladin, probably the most famous figure in premodern Islam, who was alternating between the ʿAbbāsid and Fāimid caliphs, using them both as a source of legitimacy.

Tobias Hoffmann investigates the Western perspective on the Byzantine court ceremonial, which intended to emphasize the emperors’ socio-economic pre-eminence and was therefore often arranged as a downright running the gauntlet for Western visitors. In the early and high Middle Ages,←16 | 17→ there were anecdotal reports on the experiences of Frankish, Norman and Scandinavian kings and their emissaries visiting Constantinople. Literary echoes of these official visits to the imperial court can be found in writings such as Wace’s “Roman de Rou”, the “Morkinskinna”-saga or Notker’s “Gesta Karoli Magni”, all written for a Western audience. Hoffmann demonstrates that these sources share the common feature of turning the tables in favour of the Western side; they aim at playing the Greeks at their own game, styling their respective protagonists as cunning diplomats who avoid compromising themselves and / or their lords, or who deliberately provoke scandals outshining Byzantine ostentation. It turns out that the allegedly trivial anecdotes on golden horseshoes and eating habits in fact were quite aware of the symbolism of courtly protocol and its political implications. Using the Byzantine court as an antagonistic background, the entertaining episodes thus mirror a transcultural rivalry between East and West.

Roland Scheel’s subject are imperial concepts in the Scandinavian North. While there are almost no Scandinavian rulers that assumed an imperial title, emperors feature frequently in sagas and other prose texts. In his article, Scheel examines the choice of words for these occurrences as well as their semantics and is able to show that western emperors were either uninteresting to the authors or depicted as hostile and inferior. In addition, Byzantine rulers featured far more often and enjoyed great popularity in the North. Scheel concludes that it was the Byzantine method of soft power, which employed the Byzantines’ cultural heritage and wealth to exert control, in contrast to the brute Western hegemonic claim, that ensured the Eastern emperors favorable depictions over their central European counterparts.

Stefan Burkhardt asks for the reasons why a number of French princes from Southern Italy strove for “virtual” imperial titles, especially the title “Emperor of Constantinople”, in the decade after the Latin empire of Constantinople had been reconquered by the Byzantines in 1261. Burkhardt demonstrates that it was especially princes with expansive ambitions in the Eastern Mediterranean, above all Charles I of Naples whose aim was a crusade to recapture Constantinople, who tried to attain these titles. Thus, a virtual title like “Emperor of Constantinople” was regarded as a preliminary stage to justify the exertion of “real” power in the future.

Grischa Vercamer’s article focuses on a realm that is normally not associated with imperial ideas. Yet, Vercamer manages to identify various←17 | 18→ imperial concepts in medieval Polish historiographies between the 12th and 15th centuries. The first conclusion the author draws is a temporal limitation of the use of imperial concepts in historiography to the pre- and early Polish history. The works of Gallus Anonymus and Vincentius Kadłubek take a prominent position among the works analysed because of their early composition and their far-reaching influence on subsequent authors. Therefore, Vercamer puts a special emphasis on them without ignoring different depictions in other Polish chronicles. He comes to the conclusion that Polish historiographies use a variety of discourses, among them Pan-Slavism and superiority over imperial aggressors, to present Poland as an imperium in the collective memory (kollektives Gedächtnis) of the contemporary elites.

Thus, the contributions in this volume examine a wide range of regions as well as a wide span of time, thereby referring to numerous elements and characteristics of imperial rule in very different political communities. Furthermore, the volume not only covers different (interacting) cultural regions, the case studies also deal with a rich spectrum of source material. They include historiography, realia such as coinage, seals and architecture as well as charters, poetry and dogmatic treatises. In this way, the articles often reveal a certain asynchrony of different social contexts with regard to imperial concepts. At a given time and cultural sphere, there could be diverse reflections on imperial rule, which sometimes stimulated one another, but also could conflict with each other. The collected articles, therefore, investigate the dynamics resulting from these colluding forces. Besides, different types of sources often witness the transcultural interferences mentioned above. Localizing the dogmatic treatises and provisions issued by Charlemagne in the context of an increasing rivalry with Byzantium for imperial authority, for instance, clarifies the immediate repercussion of Greek dogmatics on Frankish ecclesiastical politics; the coinage of Knud the Great mirrors his familiarity with imperial symbolism of the Salian dynasty.

But of course, it is impossible for any volume to treat the subject “empire” comprehensively because there will always remain a variety of other questions concerning this topic which cannot all be addressed here. Therefore, we can only hope to have shown the scientific potential that surfaces when looking at elements of imperial rule in various regions, times and communities of the Middle Ages.←18 | 19→

1 Mann, Michael: The Incoherent Empire. Verso: London / New York 2003, p. 252: “Whereas in the recent past American power was hegemonic – routinely accepted and often considered legitimate abroad – now it is imposed at the barrel of a gun. This undermines hegemony and the claim to be a benevolent Empire.”

2 Cf. Münkler, Herfried: Imperien. Die Logik der Weltherrschaft – vom Alten Rom bis zu den Vereinigten Staaten. Rowohlt: Berlin 2005, p. 13.

3 Cf. the German title in the footnote above. The English translation was published in 2007 by Polity Press.

4 Nolte, Hans-Heinrich: Weltgeschichte. Imperien, Religionen und Systeme 15.-19. Jahrhundert. Böhlau: Vienna / Cologne / Weimar 2005.

5 Reynolds, Susan: “Empires: A Problem of Comparative History”. Historical Research 79, 2006, pp. 151–165.

6 Nolte, Hans-Heinrich (ed.): Imperien. Eine vergleichende Studie. (Studien zur Weltgeschichte). Wochenschau Verlag: Schwalbach/Ts. 2008.

7 Bang, Peter Fibinger / Kolodziejczyk, Dariusz (eds.): Universal Empire. A Comparative Approach to Imperial Culture and Representation in Eurasian History. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge 2012.

8 Gehler, Michael / Rollinger, Robert (eds.): Imperien und Reiche in der Weltgeschichte. Epochenübergreifende und globalhistorische Vergleiche, vol. 1: Imperien des Altertums, mittelalterliche und frühneuzeitliche Imperien, vol. 2: Neuzeitliche Imperien, zeitgeschichtliche Imperien, Imperien in Theorie, Geist, Wissenschaft, Recht und Architektur, Wahrnehmung und Vermittlung. Harrassowitz: Wiesbaden 2014.

9 Cf. Hämeen-Anttila, Jaakko: “The Umayyad State – an Empire?”, pp. 537–558; Halm, Heinz: “Die Reiche der Fatimiden, Ayyubiden und Mamluken”, pp. 559–566; Id.: “Die Reiche der Almoraviden und Almohaden”, pp. 567–570; Rothermund, Dieter: “Imperien in Indien vom Mittelalter bis zur Neuzeit”, pp. 571–588; Gießauf, Johannes: “Size does matter – das mongolische Imperium”, pp. 589–620; Chrysos, Evangelos: “Das Byzantinische Reich. Ein Imperium par excellence”, pp. 621–634; Inan, Kenan: “The Ottoman Empire”, pp. 635–658; Steinacher, Roland / Winckler, Katharina: “Merowinger und Karolinger – Imperien zwischen Antike und Mittelalter”, pp. 659–696; Vogtherr, Thomas: “Die europäische Staatenwelt im hohen und späten Mittelalter. Imperium oder konkurrierende Territorialstaaten?”, pp. 697–710; Kampmann, Christoph: “Das Heilige Römische Reich deutscher Nation – das nominelle Imperium?”, pp. 711–724; Schima, Stefan: “Der Heilige Stuhl und die Päpste”, pp. 725–760. Unfortunately, an article about the Abbassid caliphate is missing.

10 Cf. Fowden, Garth: “Pseudo-Aristotelian Politics and Theology in Universal Islam”, pp. 130–148; Angelov, Dimiter / Herrin, Judith: “The Christian Imperial Tradition – Greek and Latin”, pp. 149–174; Haldén, Peter: “From Empire to Commonwealth(s): Orders in Europe”, pp. 280–303.

11 Burkhardt, Stefan: Mediterranes Kaisertum und imperiale Ordnungen. Das lateinische Kaiserreich von Konstantinopel. (Europa im Mittelalter 25). Akademie Verlag / De Gruyter: Berlin / Boston 2014; Höfert, Almut: Kaisertum und Kalifat. Der imperiale Monotheismus im Früh- und Hochmittelalter. (Globalgeschichte 21). Campus Verlag: Frankfurt am Main / New York 2015; on the Norman Empire, cf. besides Bates, David: The Normans and Empire. Oxford University Press: Oxford 2013.

12 Hoyland, Robert G.: In God’s Path: The Arab Conquests and the Creation of an Islamic Empire. Oxford University Press: New York / Oxford 2015.

13 The IMC took place from 7 to 10 July 2014 in Leeds. The triple session “To Be or not to Be Emperor – Transcultural Approaches to the Concept of Imperial Rule from Iceland to Jerusalem”, organised by the editors, was the starting point and basis for this volume. We thank all speakers and participants of the sessions for their valuable contributions and statements to our topic.

14 The conference in Münster, organised by Wolfram Drews, took place from 11 to 13 June 2015 and dealt with the interaction between rulers and elites in imperial orders of the Middle Ages. Cf. the conference report by Jan Clauß, Nadeem Khan and Tobias Hoffmann under http://www.hsozkult.de/conferencereport/id/tagungsberichte-6170 [last accessed: 13 July 2016].

15 The conference in Hamburg, organised by Stefan Heidemann, took place from 7 to 8 October 2016 and was dedicated to the Islamic Empire. It was entitled “Regional and Transregional Elites – Connecting the Early Islamic Empire”.

16 To Münkler’s criteria cf. the contribution by Nadeem Khan in this volume.

17 Nolte 2008, p. 14. To Nolte’s criteria cf. also the article by Stefan Burkhardt in this volume.

18 Münkler 2005, p. 23.

19 Ibid., p. 24.

20 Ibid., p. 22.

21 These three systems are included in the aforementioned volume edited by Gehler and Rollinger, for example, cf. Broers, Michael: “The Napoleonic Empire”, pp. 893–912; Moos, Carlo: “Mussolinis faschistisches Imperium”, pp. 1133–1164; Thamer, Hans-Ulrich: “Das Dritte Reich und sein Imperium”, pp. 1119–1132.

22 Münkler 2005, p. 17.

23 Ortiz, Fernando: Contrapunto cubano del tabaco y el azúcar. Advertencia de sus contrastes agrarios, económicos, históricos y sociales, su etnografía y su transculturación. Jesus Montero: Havanna 1940.

24 Welsch, Wolfgang: “Transkulturalität – Die veränderte Verfassung heutiger Kulturen”. Via Regia. Blätter für internationale kulturelle Kommunikation 20, 1994, pp. 1–19; Id.: “Transculturality – the Puzzling Form of Cultures today”. California Sociologist 17/18, 1994/1995, pp. 19–39.

25 Mersch, Margit: “Transkulturalität, Verflechtung, Hybridisierung – ‚neue‘ epistemologische Modelle in der Mittelalterforschung”. In: Drews, Wolfram / Scholl, Christian (eds.): Transkulturelle Verflechtungsprozesse in der Vormoderne. (Das Mittelalter. Perspektiven mediävistischer Forschung 3). De Gruyter: Berlin / Boston 2016, pp. 239–251, esp. pp. 244–247. The contributions in this volume further discuss the concept of “transculturality” and apply it to the Middle Ages and the early Modern Period. Further contributions to transculturality in the Middle Ages include Borgolte, Michael: “Migrationen als transkulturelle Verflechtungen im mittelalterlichen Europa. Ein neuer Pflug für alte Forschungsfelder”. Historische Zeitschrift 289, 2009, pp. 261–285; Id. et al. (eds.): Mittelalter im Labor. Die Mediävistik testet Wege zu einer transkulturellen Europawissenschaft. (Europa im Mittelalter 10). Akademie-Verlag: Berlin 2009; Id. / Schneidmüller, Bernd (eds.): Hybride Kulturen im mittelalterlichen Europa. Vorträge und Workshops einer internationalen Frühlingsschule. (Europa im Mittelalter 16). Akademie-Verlag: Berlin 2010; Id. et al. (eds): Europa im Geflecht der Welt. Mittelalterliche Migrationen in globalen Bezügen. (Europa im Mittelalter 20). Akademie-Verlag: Berlin 2012; Id. / Tischler, Matthias M. (eds.): Transkulturelle Verflechtungen im mittelalterlichen Jahrtausend. Europa, Ostasien, Afrika. Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft: Darmstadt 2012.

Christian Scholl (Münster)

Imitatio Imperii? Elements of Imperial Rule in the Barbarian Successor States of the Roman West


In nearly all of the “Barbarian”1 kingdoms which were created on formerly Roman soil during the Migration Period, the monarchs adopted certain elements of the ruling style employed by the Roman or Byzantine emperors. In German Medieval Studies, it has become common to use a Latin term for this adoption of Imperial rule: imitatio imperii. This term is problematic, however, because it can neither be found in the sources about the Roman Empire nor in those about the Barbarian kingdoms founded in the fifth and sixth centuries. The phrase imitatio imperii is taken from the “Constitutum Constantini” or Donation of Constantine2 which was not composed before←19 | 20→ the late eighth century, and thus more than 200 years after the Migration Period. Chapter sixteen of the famous forgery says that emperor Constantine had placed a phrygium – later called tiara – on pope Silvester’s head ad imitationem imperii nostri, meaning “to imitate our (Imperial) rule”.3

Due to its ecclesiastical origin, the term imitatio imperii was first used by the German historian Percy Ernst Schramm in the 1940s to denote the imitation of Imperial rule by the Papacy.4 It was another famous historian of the Middle Ages, Karl Hauck, who in 1967 expanded the meaning of imitatio imperii to the Barbarian rulers of the Early Middle Ages adopting elements of Imperial rule.5 It is in this sense that the term imitatio imperii has become common in German Medieval Studies and in this meaning the term will be used in this article.

This paper addresses several questions concerning the imitation of Imperial rule by the Barbarian rulers: first of all, it will be asked why nearly all of the Barbarian kings imitated elements of Imperial rule. In a second step, the paper will examine which Imperial elements were adopted and which were not. In this context, it will be asked which elements the Barbarian rulers were reluctant to adopt and – more important – why they intentionally shrank away from them.←20 | 21→

Reasons for the imitation of Imperial rule

The first answer to the general question as to why the Barbarian kings imitated certain elements of Imperial rule is quite obvious: of course, Barbarian kings could increase their status by copying elements formerly employed by the Roman emperors, thus enlarging their symbolic, cultural and social capital.6 Apart from that, they did so to enhance their legitimacy among the indigenous, Roman population who had already been living in the Barbarian kingdoms before the arrival of the new rulers.7 The consideration of the Roman population also explains why the leaders of the Barbarian gentes had hardly ever imitated Imperial rule before the establishment of Barbarian kingdoms in Spain, France, Northern Africa or Italy. As long as a Barbarian leader was the head of non-Romans only, he did not have to care about being accepted by the Roman population; in this case, it was sufficient to be accepted by the members of the gens and this kind of acceptance primarily depended on military success and loot,8 not the imitation←21 | 22→ of the emperor. But as soon as the Barbarians had settled down within the (former) Roman Empire, their leaders also exercised power over the indigenous Romans, who greatly outnumbered the Barbarian population. Thus, it was impossible for the Barbarians to establish a successful rule without being recognized by the locals, especially by the senatorial upper class,9 who in Roman times had held the most important positions in local administration. To gain the support of the indigenous Romans in general and the senatorial nobility in particular, the kings of the Goths, Franks, Vandals etc. wished to convey the impression that the Barbarians’ seizure of power had not caused any significant changes and that everything would go on as before, prior to the Barbarian invasions.10 There was only one difference according to this view: the tasks formerly accomplished by the Roman emperors were now accomplished by the Barbarian kings.11

Imperial elements adopted by the Barbarian rulers

The elements of Imperial rule which were adopted by the Barbarian kings can be grouped into three categories: inner policy, foreign policy and representation. The fact that Barbarian kings tried to represent themselves in a way similar to the Roman emperors becomes already obvious in their←22 | 23→ titles.12 Theodoric, king of the Ostrogoths for example, did not simply carry the title rex, meaning “king”, but he expanded his official title to Flavius Theodoricus rex.13 Although the name Flavius had already developed into a sort of title in Late Roman Antiquity, referring to a member of the ruling class, Theodoric’s use of the name clearly alludes to emperor Constantine, whose official name was Flavius Valerius Constantinus.14 After Theodoric, other Ostrogothic kings such as Theodahad as well as several kings of the Visigoths and Langobards called themselves Flavius, too.15 Apart from this name, a number of Barbarian kings, for example those of the Vandals, Burgundians and Visigoths, used adjectives such as gloriosissimus when they entitled themselves or they were addressed as dominus noster or pius victor,16 all of which had formerly been prerogatives of the Roman emperors. This culminated in an Italian inscription which praised the Ostrogothic king Theodoric the Great as “Our Lord, the most glorious and celebrated king Theodoric, victor and triumphator, ever augustus.”17 It is important to mention, however, that Theodoric never bore a title such as “augustus” or “imperator” himself; he was only praised as such in this description.

Apart from Theodoric, it was the Frankish king Clovis, who – according to Gregory of Tours – was called “augustus” after he celebrated a←23 | 24→ triumphal adventus into the city of Tours in 508.18 German scholars in the 19th century held the opinion that this was the first coronation of an emperor in Germany. Modern research, however, is meanwhile sure that Clovis was only appointed honorary consul by the Byzantine emperor Anastasios I Dicorus, which allowed him to bear the title “augustus” as a special honour.19

A further privilege originally granted to emperors only was praising the ruler in panegyrics. The most famous panegyric for a Barbarian king is certainly that of Ennodius, bishop of Parma, which he composed for Theodoric.20 Therein, he portrays the Gothic king as a princeps venerabilis who is full of virtues and acts like an “imperator”. Venantius Fortunatus composed similar panegyrics for the Frankish kings Charibert and Chilperich,21 claiming that they possessed the same qualities as the later Roman emperors.

Last but not least, the Barbarian kings introduced a court ceremonial modelled on the example of Byzantium. Part of this ceremonial were diadems, crowns, coronations, splendid clothing and thrones, which the Bar←24 | 25→barians did not use before settling down in the Roman world. An example of the introduction of such a court ceremonial is given by Isidore of Seville, who in his “History of the Goths” writes that the Visigothic king Liuvigild “was the first one to sit in royal garments on his throne, because so far, the Goths have had equal seats and clothes with their kings”.22

The next examples of imitatio imperii deal with the area of inner policy. An important prerogative of the emperors in this field had been legislation. As a consequence, the kings of the Franks, Burgundians and Visigoths had the laws of their peoples codified to demonstrate that they had replaced the Roman emperors as legislators.23 These laws, the Leges Barbarorum, were composed in Latin by Roman scribes, which shows that the Barbarian kings established their administration and chancelleries according to the tradition of the Roman emperors. Theodoric the Great even went a step further and appointed members of the senate,24 officially still the highest←25 | 26→ organ of administration and one of the most important carriers of continuation between Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages in Italy,25 just like the emperors of Antiquity had done.

Another way of following in the footsteps of the emperors was the free distribution of grain, the so-called annona civica, to the inhabitants of Rome, as well as the organization of circus games. As an anonymous chronicler from Ravenna tells us, both was done by Theodoric whom the Romans – according to the chronicler – therefore “called a Trajan or a Valentinian”.26 Gregory of Tours finally mentions that apart from Theodoric, the Merovingian king Chilperic organized games in a circus he ordered to be erected.27 The effects of the games organised by Theodoric and Chilperic were different, however. Theodoric, after all, organised these games – probably venationes, i.e. the hunting and killing of wild animals – in Italy around the year 500, whereas Chilperic organized chariot races 80 years later in France. The difference is that circus games in Italy had not come to end when Theodoric seized power. Consequently, Theodoric continued the traditions of the past when he exhibited the games. In France, however, the tradition of the circus had already died out around the year 400 so that Chilperic organized the first games after nearly 200 years. Therefore, as Bernhard Jussen has pointed out, Chilperic did not follow the traditions of the Western circus but imitated the circus of Byzantium, which, however, was fundamentally different from that in the West. Thus, the examples of Theodoric and Chilperic show that similar acts of imitatio imperii, in these two cases the organization of circus games, could have completely different implications: whereas Theodoric’s circus games were in accordance with←26 | 27→ the past and caused continuity, those of Chilperic broke with the past and caused discontinuity.28

Irrespective of whether the circus games caused continuity or discontinuity, the construction of circuses leads me to the next point, building activity, which was maybe the best way to widely demonstrate that the Barbarian kings had assumed the role of the former emperors. Famous in this respect was Theodoric the Great, again, who not only repaired public buildings and facilities such as aqueducts which had been constructed under the former emperors, but he also had new palaces, baths, colonnades, amphitheatres and city walls built in Ravenna, Verona and Ticinum [= Pavia].29 Most outstanding, however, is the gigantic mausoleum which was built on Theodoric’s order in his capital Ravenna (cf. figure 1),30 in front of which was placed a bronze equestrian statue of Theodoric.31 Roof←27 | 28→ of the mausoleum was a monolith of 109 m³ which the Goths had imported from Istria, thus proving their sophisticated skills in transporting and lifting technologies.32

Apart from the gigantic mausoleum, the most evident example of Theodoric’s desire to imitate the Roman emperors in his urban policy is a city which Theodoric called “Theodoricopolis” after himself,33 thus following the tradition of Constantine the Great, the founder of “Constantinopolis”. Just like Constantine and Theodoric, Charlemagne named “Karlsburg” after himself,34 whereas the Vandal king Huneric renamed the African city Hadrumetum “Hunericopolis”.35 Last but not least, the Visigothic king←28 | 29→ Liuvigild founded a new city in Spain in 578 and called it “Reccopolis”, after his son Reccared.36

Clovis, king of the Franks, chose another way of imitating Constantine. He did not call a city after himself, but built a church in Paris consecrated to the twelve Apostles as a burial place for him and his family. This church was modelled on the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople, which had been commissioned by Constantine and where he was buried after the church was finished.37

After these examples taken from the area of inner policy, this paper now turns to imitatio imperii in foreign policy. Especially prominent in this respect was Theodoric the Great, again. Just like the Roman emperors, he used, for example, sophisticated technology to impress and intimidate his foreign rivals.38 This became evident when Theodoric tried to prevent the Burgundians from entering the war of the Franks against his allies, the Visigoths.39 To achieve this aim, Theodoric sent the Burgundian king Gundobad both a water and a sun clock in order to demonstrate the technological and thus cultural superiority of the Goths. In a letter about this diplomatic mission, written by his chancellor Cassiodorus and sent to the Roman patrician Boethius who was commissioned to find both clocks, Theodoric was full of expectation concerning the Burgundians’ reaction to receiving the presents:

So, by obtaining and enjoying these pleasures [that means the pleasures of the presents], they will experience a wonder which to me is a common-place. […] How often will they not believe their eyes? How often will they think this truth the delusion of a dream? And, when they have turned from their amazement, they will not dare to think themselves the equals of us, among whom, as they know, sages have thought up such devices.40←29 | 30→

In a letter accompanying the two clocks, sent to Gundobad himself, Theodoric goes on to state that

Under your rule, let Burgundy learn to scrutinise devices of the highest ingenuity, and to praise the inventions of the ancients. Through you, it lays aside its tribal way of life, and in its regard for the wisdom of the king, it properly covets the achievements of the sages. Let it distinguish the parts of the day by their inventions; let it fix the hours of the day with precision. The order of life becomes confused if this separation is not truly known. Indeed, it is the habit of beasts to feel the hours by their bellies’ hunger, and to be unsure of something obviously granted for human purposes.41

In the words of Ian Wood, “[i]n these two letters Theodoric’s sense of superiority is almost tangible.”42 Both letters leave no doubt as to Theodoric’s claim that in technological and cultural terms, the Goths were far superior to the Burgundians in particular and all other Barbarian kingdoms in general. After all, the Burgundians are portrayed as primitive and beast-like, who desperately need the Ostrogoths in order to escape this tribal, ‘uncivilized’ way of life. Theodoric behaved similarly when he sent a lyre-player to the Frankish ruler Clovis. This lyre-player also should “tame the savage hearts of the barbarians” with his “Orpheus-like, sweet sound”,43 thus←30 | 31→ trying to prevent the Franks from continuing their aggression against the Visigoths in Southern France.

From this alleged superiority – as Ian Wood has shown, it was in fact rather the Burgundians who were culturally superior to the Ostrogoths44 –, Theodoric deduced the claim of an Ostrogothic hegemony over the West. To underline this assertion, he established a system of alliances by which he tried to exert influence over the actions of the other Barbarian kings.45 For that purpose, he had married off several of his female relatives to the rulers of the Burgundians, Vandals and Thuringians, whereas he himself married the sister of Clovis, king of the Franks. The fact that Theodoric tried to gain influence over the other kings by this marriage policy becomes especially obvious in the marriage between his sister Amalafrida and the Vandal king Thrasamund. After all, the Byzantine historiographer Procopius of Caesarea tells us that his sister was accompanied by several thousand soldiers46 who, in fact, rather functioned as an occupational force, securing the Gothic influence in Northern Africa, than as an escort for Amalafrida.47

Theodoric’s attempt to establish superiority either by precious presents or by his marriage policy failed, however: not only could he not prevent that Hilderic, Thrasamund’s successor as king of the Vandals, captured and later killed Amalafrida along with the Gothic soldiers,48 he was not able to prevent←31 | 32→ the defeat of his Visigothic ‘brethren’ in the aforementioned war against the Franks, either. Theodoric made the best of the Visigothic defeat, however, and seized the power over their kingdom, expanding his rule from Italy to Spain and thus reuniting a considerable part of the former Western Empire.49

Imperial elements not adopted by the Barbarian rulers

After having examined several elements of Imperial rule which were adopted by Barbarian kings, this paper now turns to those Imperial elements which were not imitated by the Barbarians. Thanks to the chronicle of Cassiodorus, we know, for example, that Odoacer, who dethroned the last Roman emperor Romulus Augustulus in 476, neither used the imperial insignia nor the colour purple, which was used by the emperor in Byzantium only.50 The Ostrogothic chancellery under Theodoric avoided purple, as well.51 In the Frankish kingdoms, it was not before Charles the Bald in the ninth century that the rulers began to sign their deeds in purple.52 The only exception to that rule was the Visigothic king Theodoric II who used purple.53 The Ostrogoth Theodoric, however, avoided not only the colour purple, but also refused to call the laws passed by him leges, but only called them edicta, because the passing of leges had been the prerogative of the emperor, whereas edicta could also be passed by Roman magistrates or prefects.54 Besides, most of the coins minted in the Barbarian kingdoms showed the portrait of the emperor in Byzantium,←32 | 33→ not that of the Barbarian kings.55 But above all, there was no Barbarian ruler until Charlemagne in the year 800 who bore the Imperial title “imperator” or “augustus”.

The first one to voluntarily shrink away from these titles was Odoacer. Numerous usurpers in the decades and centuries before had proclaimed themselves “emperor” after having overthrown the incumbent. Yet, as the aforementioned chronicle of Cassiodorus tells us, Odoacer was content with assuming the title “rex”.56 He even sent the insignia of the Western emperors, the ornamenti palatii, to the emperor in Constantinople to show him that he renounced the title “imperator”.57 Similarly, Procopius writes about Theodoric that “he did not claim the right to assume either the garb or the name of emperor of the Romans, but was called ‘rex’ to the end of his life”.58

There were basically two reasons why rulers like Odoacer and Theodoric intentionally shrank away from the title “emperor”. Odoacer first and foremost did so in order to establish a secure and stable rule. As the decades before had shown, the title “emperor” was a hindrance to that; after all, there had been as many as nine emperors between the 450s and 470s. By refusing to proclaim himself “emperor”, Odoacer made sure that one important bone of contention, videlicet the title “emperor”, had disappeared.59 And indeed, Odoacer’s decision was crowned with success: with him as “rex” instead of “imperator”, Italy enjoyed the first longer period of peace←33 | 34→ after decades, taking twelve years60 until Theodoric invaded Italy on behalf of the Byzantine emperor.

The fact that Theodoric was sent to Italy by the emperor in Byzantium hints at the second reason why the Barbarian kings refused to call themselves “emperor”. Theodoric, after all, had signed a treaty with the Byzantine emperor Zeno according to which Theodoric was supposed to conquer Italy and afterwards rule the country until the emperor himself appeared to seize power.61 This treaty and especially Zeno’s intention to seize power over Italy shows that the emperors in Constantinople still considered the Western Mediterranean as belonging to their Empire although “the West” had been conquered by the Barbarians.

As various letters written by the Barbarian kings to the Byzantine emperors demonstrate, the Barbarians were willing to recognize this claim, thus formally acknowledging the superiority of the emperor in Byzantium. The Burgundian king Sigismund, for example, stated in a letter to emperor Anastasius that “my people are yours”, that “though we may seem to rule our own people, we think of ourselves as nothing other than your soldiers” and, finally, that “our country is your sphere.”62 A similar letter was sent by Theodoric to the same emperor, saying: “You are the fairest ornament of all realms; you are the healthful defence of the whole world, to which←34 | 35→ all other rulers rightfully look up with reverence. […] Our royalty is an imitation of yours […], a copy of the unique Empire.”63 Here, we even have the word “imitatio”, but it is improbable that this letter had any impacts on the formulation of the phrase “imitatio imperii” in the Donation of Constantine a few hundred years later.64 Irrespective of this, the two letters commissioned by the Burgundian and Ostrogothic kings reveal that the rulers of the Barbarian kingdoms refused to bear the title “emperor” and contented themselves with titles like “rex” in order to demonstrate their formal subordination to the Byzantine emperors.

The fact that Byzantium put huge emphasis on the Barbarians’ subordination becomes evident in a passage written by Procopius of Caesarea. This passage deals with the Vandal king Gelimer, who – according to Procopius – sent a letter to emperor Justinian beginning with the words “Basileus Gelimer to basileus Justinian” (Βασιλεὺς Γελίμερ Ἰουστινιανῷ βασιλεῖ), thus pretending to be on an equal level with the emperor.65 The latter, who, according to Procopius, had already been angry with Gelimer before, “was still more eager to punish him […] upon receiving this letter.”66 There is no doubt that Gelimer would never have used a formulation like that because he knew that the title “basileus” was a prerogative of the Byzantine emperor; officially, it was not before the reign of Heraclius (610–641) that the Byzantine emperors called themselves “basileus”, but unofficially this title had already been used, for example in literary sources, for a long time.67←35 | 36→ Consequently, there is no doubt that this passage was invented by Procopius. He did so to justify Justinian’s attack on the Vandals, which shows that in Byzantine eyes the non-recognition of the emperor’s superiority in rank was sufficient to provide the reason for a bellum iustum. As a consequence, the Barbarians had to be extremely cautious to avoid any conflicts with the Byzantine Empire which was both economically and militarily much stronger than any of the Barbarian kingdoms.

The risks accompanying the title “emperor” are also shown in another passage in Procopius’ work. In his “History of the Gothic War”, the Byzantine historiographer informs his readers that the Goths were willing to declare the Byzantine general Belisarius “emperor of the West” (βασιλέα τῆς ἑσπερίας) after he had conquered the Ostrogothic capital of Ravenna and captured their king Vitiges.68 Belisarius, however, “was quite unwilling to assume the ruling power against the will of the emperor; for he had an extraordinary loathing for the name of tyrant.”69 Later on, the Goths make a second try, suggesting that their newly elected king Ildibad would come to Belisarius to “lay down the purple at his feet and do obeisance to Belisarius as basileus of the Goths and Italians.”70 Again, however, Belisarius refused the “Imperial name” (βασιλείας ὄνομα), saying “that never, while the emperor Justinian lived, would [he] usurp the title of basileus (ποτε ζῶντος Ἰουστινιανοῦ βασιλέως Βελισάριος ἐπιβατεύοι τοῦ τῆς βασιλείας ὀνόματος).71

In these passages, Procopius makes it crystal-clear that adopting the title basileus, which at his time at least unofficially had been the title of the emperor in Byzantium, was a cause for war because someone adopting this title←36 | 37→ did not recognize the superiority of the Byzantine emperor, but pretended to be an equal partner. An Imperial ruler, however, could not accept an equal partner because this would contradict the Imperial claim of sole and universal rulership, stretching over the whole of the world.72

The tradition of avoiding the title “emperor” became so strong in the West that even Charlemagne, the most powerful ruler in Western Europe for centuries, had to justify his actions when he had himself crowned emperor in the year 800. As the annals of Lorsch tell us, this justification consisted of the well-known claim that the Greeks at that time only had a feminum imperium and thus lacked a “real” emperor.73 This line of argumentation was based on the fact that Byzantium had been ruled by a woman, Empress Irene, between 797 and 802. Thus, even hundreds of years after the end of the Empire in the West, it was not possible to make someone “emperor” without delivering a justification.


This paper has shown various examples of Barbarian kings adopting elements of Imperial rule. Especially prominent in this respect was the king of the Ostrogoths, Theodoric the Great. This is hardly surprising because he was ruling Italy, the heartland of the former Western Empire, just a few years after the deposition of the last emperor Romulus Augustulus. Therefore, in Theodoric’s kingdom both Roman institutions and Imperial←37 | 38→ traditions were still particularly strong so that he had to make special efforts in order to present himself as the successor of the former emperors. However, the farther the Barbarian kingdoms were away from Italy and the more time passed on since the end of the Western Empire, the less efforts were necessary to portray oneself as successor of the emperor. Hence, imitatio imperii was much less extensively practiced by the Barbarian leaders after Theodoric’s times.

What is more, the later Barbarian kings increasingly orientated themselves towards Byzantium when imitating the emperor because the Imperial traditions in the West became increasingly extinct. However, as Byzantium had developed its own Imperial tradition, the imitatio of the Eastern emperor often had a different effect than the imitation of the Western one: imitating the Western emperor caused continuity because a Barbarian leader like Theodoric replaced the emperor and accomplished the tasks formerly accomplished by him. In contrast to that, the imitatio of the Eastern emperor often saw the introduction of new elements of Imperial rule into the West, which had never existed there before, and thus caused discontinuity.

To conclude, it is beyond doubt that in the Barbarian kingdoms of the early Middle Ages, the adoption of Imperial elements comprised both risks and chances: on the one hand, the kings could legitimize their rule and increase their symbolic capital by imitating the emperors. But if they went too far and evoked the impression of being on equal terms with the emperor in Constantinople, for example by calling themselves “imperator” or “basileus”, they were in great danger of falling prey to the Byzantine Empire.←38 | 39→

Figure 1: The Mausoleum of Theodoric the Great in Ravenna, URL: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theoderich_der_Gro%C3%9Fe#/media/File:RA_Theoderich-Mausoleum_2010.JPG (Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0).


←39 | 40→ ←40 | 41→

1 The word “barbarian” will be used in this article as a neutral term referring to non-Romans. The term formerly used by researchers, “Germanic”, is rejected both for a lack of clarity – it simply cannot be said for sure who were the “Germans” in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages – and for the ideological misuse in the past, cf. for the problems relating to the term “Germanic” Jarnut, Jörg: “Germanisch. Plädoyer für die Abschaffung eines obsoleten Zentralbegriffes der Frühmittelalterforschung”. In: Pohl, Walter (ed.): Die Suche nach den Ursprüngen. Von der Bedeutung des frühen Mittelalters. (Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften. Philosophisch-Historische Klasse. Denkschriften 322 / Forschungen zur Geschichte des Mittelalters 8). Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften: Vienna 2004, pp. 107–113. For the Migration Period, Walter Pohl prefers the term “barbarian” to the term “Germanic” as well, cf. Id.: “Vom Nutzen des Germanenbegriffes zwischen Antike und Mittelalter: eine forschungsgeschichtliche Perspektive”. In: Hägermann, Dieter / Haubrichs, Wolfgang / Jarnut, Jörg (eds.): Akkulturation. Probleme einer germanisch-romanischen Kultursynthese in Spätantike und frühem Mittelalter. (Ergänzungsbände zum Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde 41). De Gruyter: Berlin / New York 2004, pp. 18–34, here p. 22.

2 Päffgen, Bernd: “Imitatio Imperii – die Nachahmung des Kaisertums in den germanischen regna des 5. bis 8. Jahrhunderts”. In: Puhle, Matthias / Köster, Gabriele (eds.): Otto der Große und das Römische Reich. Kaisertum von der Antike zum Mittelalter. Ausstellungskatalog. Landesausstellung Sachsen-Anhalt aus Anlass des 1100. Geburtstages Ottos des Großen. Schnell & Steiner: Regensburg 2012, pp. 283–285, here p. 283; Becker, Hans-Jürgen: “Imitatio Imperii”. In: Handwörterbuch zur deutschen Rechtsgeschichte, vol. 2, cc. 1173–1175, here c. 1173.

3 Fuhrmann, Horst (ed.): Das Constitutum Constantini (Konstantinische Schenkung). Text. (Monumenta Germaniae Historica. Fontes iuris Germanici antiqui in usum scholarum separatim editi 10). Hahnsche Buchhandlung: Hannover 1968, pp. 92–93. Cf. regarding the meaning of “imitatio imperii” in this context Fried, Johannes: Donation of Constantine and Constitutum Constantini. The Misinterpretation of a Fiction and its Original Meaning. (Millennium-Studien 3). De Gruyter: Berlin / New York 2007, pp. 44–45.

4 Schramm, Percy Ernst: “Sacerdotium und regnum im Austausch ihrer Vorrechte. Eine Skizze der Entwicklung zur Beleuchtung des “Dictatus papae””. Studi gregoriani per la storia di Gregorio VII e della riforma gregoriana 2, 1947, pp. 403–457.

5 Hauck, Karl: “Von einer spätantiken Randkultur zum karolingischen Europa”. Frühmittelalterliche Studien 1, 1967, pp. 1–93, here pp. 53–55, 92–93.

6 Cf. to different forms of “capital” Bourdieu, Pierre: “Ökonomisches Kapital, kulturelles Kapital, soziales Kapital”. In: Kreckel, Reinhard (ed.): Soziale Ungleichheiten. (Soziale Welt. Sonderheft 2). Schwartz: Göttingen 1983, pp. 183–98. An English translation of Bourdieu’s text, done by Richard Nice, is available online, cf. https://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/fr/bourdieu-forms-capital.htm [retrieved: 2 August 2016].

7 Christian Rohr exemplifies this on the basis of Theodoric’s rule over Italy, cf. Id.: “Das Streben des Ostgotenkönigs Theoderich nach Legitimität und Kontinuität im Spiegel seiner Kulturpolitik”. In: Pohl, Walter / Diesenberger, Maximilian (eds.): Integration und Herrschaft. Ethnische Identitäten und soziale Organisation im Frühmittelalter. (Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften. Philosophisch-Historische Klasse. Denkschriften 301 / Forschungen zur Geschichte des Mittelalters 3). Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften: Vienna 2002, pp. 227–231, here p. 229.

8 It was indispensable for the leaders of the Late Antique and Early Medieval gentes to be militarily successful because loot constituted the major source of income for their soldiers. As soon as military success and loot failed to appear, there was the danger of either being overthrown or being left by the members of the tribe, who in this case joined the leaders of other, more successful tribes. In this respect, the gentes resembled armies much more than peoples with their own customs or traditions. Mainly responsible for this new view of the gentes was Wenskus, Reinhard: Stammesbildung und Verfassung. Das Werden der frühmittelalterlichen gentes. Böhlau: Cologne 1961.

9 The importance of the senatorial upper class for the barbarian rulers is highlighted by Rohr, Christian: “Wie aus Barbaren Römer gemacht werden – das Beispiel Theoderich. Zur politischen Funktion der lateinischen Hochsprache bei Ennodius und Cassiodor”. In: Pohl, Walter / Zeller, Bernhard (eds.): Sprache und Identität im frühen Mittelalter. (Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften. Philosophisch-Historische Klasse. Denkschriften 426 / Forschungen zur Geschichte des Mittelalters 20). Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften: Vienna 2012, pp. 211–217, here p. 216.

10 Again, this becomes obvious when the reign of Theodoric is considered, cf. Claude, Dietrich: “Universale und partikulare Züge in der Politik Theoderichs”. Francia. Forschungen zur westeuropäischen Geschichte 6, 1978, pp. 19–58, here p. 51.

11 However, the adoption of Imperial elements did not necessarily cause continuity, but could also lead to a break with the past. This was the case when acts of the emperors in Byzantium were copied, which had not been performed in the West before. Cf. on this aspect the further course of this article.

12 On royal titles in the Early Middle Ages in general, cf. Wolfram, Herwig: Intitulatio, vol. 1. Lateinische Königs- und Fürstentitel bis zum Ende des 8. Jahrhunderts. (Mitteilungen des Instituts für Österreichische Geschichtsforschung. Ergänzungsband 21). Böhlau: Graz / Vienna / Cologne 1967.

13 Ibid., p. 58.

14 Päffgen 2012, p. 283; Wolfram, Herwig: Geschichte der Goten. Von den Anfängen bis zur Mitte des sechsten Jahrhunderts. Entwurf einer historischen Ethnographie. Beck: Munich 1979, p. 356.

15 Wolfram 1967, p. 61.

16 Päffgen 2012, p. 284; Fanning, Steven C.: “Clovis Augustus and Merovingian Imitatio Imperii”. In: Mitchell, Kathleen / Wood, Ian (eds.): The World of Gregory of Tours. (Cultures, Beliefs and Traditions 8). Brill: Leiden / Boston / Cologne 2002, pp. 321–335, here pp. 326, 329.

17 Dessau, Hermann (ed.): Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae, vol. 1. Weidmannsche Buchhandlung: Berlin 1954, nr. 827, p. 184: Dominus noster gloriosissimus adque inclytus rex Theodericus, victor ac triumfator, semper Augustus. Translation after Fanning 2002, p. 327. Cf. Claude 1978, p. 53.

18 Krusch, Bruno / Levison, Wilhelm (eds.): Gregorii episcopi Turonensis Libri historiarum X, vol. 1. (Monumenta Germaniae Historica. Scriptores rerum Merovingicarum 1,1). Hahnsche Buchhandlung: Hannover 1951, book 2, chapter 38, pp. 88–89: Igitur ab Anastasio imperatore codecillos de consolato accepit […] et ab ea die tamquam consul aut augustus est vocitatus. Michael McCormick has shown, by the way, that Clovis celebrated his entry into Tours like an Eastern Roman general, not like the (Western-)Roman or Byzantine emperor, cf. Id.: “Clovis at Tours, Byzantine Public Ritual and the Origins of Medieval Ruler Symbolism”. In: Chrysos, Evangelos K. / Schwarcz, Andreas (eds.): Das Reich und die Barbaren. (Veröffentlichungen des Instituts für Österreichische Geschichtsforschung 29). Böhlau: Vienna / Cologne 1989, pp. 155–180.

19 Becher, Matthias: Chlodwig I. Der Aufstieg der Merowinger und das Ende der antiken Welt. Beck: Munich 2011, pp. 236–237. Cf. also Ausbüttel, Frank M.: Die Germanen. Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft: Darmstadt 2010, p. 110.

20 Rohr, Christian (ed.): Der Theoderich-Panegyricus des Ennodius. (Monumenta Germaniae Historica. Studien und Texte 12). Hahnsche Buchhandlung: Hannover 1995. Cf. Rohr 2002, p. 230.

21 Leo, Friedrich (ed.): Venanti Honori Clementiani Fortunati presbyteri Italici Opera poetica. (Monumenta Germaniae Historica. Auctores Antiquissimi 4,1). Weidmannsche Buchhandlung: Berlin 1881, pp. 13–22. Cf. Fanning 2002, p. 323.

22 Mommsen, Theodor (ed.): Isidori iunioris episcopi hispalensis historia Gothorum, Wandalorum, Sueborum. (Monumenta Germaniae Historca. Auctores Antiquissimi 11). Weidmannsche Buchhandlung: Berlin 1894, p. 288: [Levvigildus] primusque inter suos regali veste opertus solio resedit: nam ante eum et habitus et consessus communis ut populo, ita et regibus erat.

23 Famous law codes initiated by Barbarian rulers are the Edictum Theoderici, either issued by the Ostrogothic king Theodoric the Great or the Visigothic king Theodoric II, the Lex Salica by the Frankish king Clovis as well as several law codes in the Visigothic kingdom. The legislation of the Ostrogoth Theodoric is highlighted, for example, in an anonymous chronicle from the middle of the 6th century. This chronicle says that Theodoric was considered to be “the strongest king” due to his edict, cf. König, Ingemar (ed.): Theodericiana primum ab Henrico Valesia edita. Denuo edita, translata, adnotationibus exegeticis criticisque instructa. Aus der Zeit Theoderichs des Grossen. Einleitung, Text, Übersetzung und Kommentar einer anonymen Quelle. (Texte zur Forschung 69). Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft: Darmstadt 1997, p. 80: [Theodericus] et a Gothis secundum edictum suum, quo eius constitit, rex fortissimus in omnibus iudicaretur.

24 Wolfram 1979, p. 358; Epp, Verena: “Goten und Römer unter Theoderich dem Großen”. In: Beer, Mathias / Kintzinger, Martin / Krauss, Marita (eds.): Migration und Integration. Aufnahme und Eingliederung im historischen Wandel. (Stuttgarter Beiträge zur Historischen Migrationsforschung 3). Franz Steiner Verlag: Stuttgart 1997, pp. 55–73, here p. 59. Cf. on Theodoric’s administration in general Ausbüttel, Frank M.: Theoderich der Große. (Gestalten der Antike). Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft: Darmstadt 2003, pp. 77–88.

25 Cf. to the senate in Ostrogothic times Schäfer, Christoph: Der weströmische Senat als Träger antiker Kontinuität unter den Ostgotenkönigen (490–540 n. Chr.). Scripta Mercaturae: St. Katharinen 1991.

26 König 1997, p. 80: [Theodericus] ut etiam a Romanis Traianus vel Valentinianus, quorum tempora sectatus est, appelaretur. […] [D]ona et annonas largitus, exhibens ludos circensium et amphitheatrum.

27 Krusch / Levison 1951, book 5, chapter 17, p. 216: Quod ille [Chilpericus] dispiciens, apud Sessionas atque Parisius circus aedificare praecepit, eosque populis spectaculum praebens.

28 Cf. to the circus games organized by Chilperic, causing discontinuity, Jussen, Bernhard: “Um 567. Wie die poströmischen Könige sich in Selbstdarstellungen übten”. In: Id. (ed.): Die Macht des Königs. Herrschaft in Europa vom Frühmittelalter bis in die Neuzeit. Munich: Beck, pp. 14–26, here pp. 17–19, 21–23. Jussen, however, states that the imitations of the emperor by the barbarian rulers necessarily were imports from the East and thus always caused discontinuity, cf. ibid., p. 18. While this is certainly true in the case of Chilperic and later rulers, it is not in accord with Theodoric’s imitations of the emperors in general and his organizations of circus games in particular.

29 König 1997, p. 84: [Theodericus] erat enim amator fabricarum et restaurator civitatum. Hic aquae ductum Ravennae restauravit, quem princeps Traianus fecerat, et post multa tempora aquam introduxit. Palatium usque ad perfectum fecit, quod non dedicavit. Portica circa palatium fecit. Item Veronae thermas et palatium fecit et a porta usque ad palatium porticum addidit. Aquae ductum, quod per multa tempora destructum fuerat, renovavit et aquam intromisit. Muros alios novos circuit civitatem. Item Tricini palatium thermas amphitheatrum et alios muros civitatis fecit.

30 Bovini, Giuseppe / von Heintze, Helga (transl.): Das Grabmal Theoderichs des Grossen. (Bände der römischen, christlichen, byzantinischen, hochmittelalterlichen Antike. Neue Serie 7). Ed. Dante: Ravenna: 1977.

31 This statue was later imported to Aachen by Charlemagne, which shows that the latter considered Theodoric as an important ruler who was suitable for justifying his own claim to the Imperial throne, cf. Epp, Verena: “499–799. Von Theoderich dem Großen zu Karl dem Großen”. In: Godman, Peter / Jarnut, Jörg / Johanek, Peter (eds.): Am Vorabend der Kaiserkrönung. Das Epos “Karolus Magnus et Leo papa” und der Papstbesuch in Paderborn 799. Akademie Verlag: Berlin 2002, pp. 219–229; Thürlemann, Felix: “Die Bedeutung der Aachener Theoderich-Statue für Karl den Großen (801) und bei Walahfrid Strabo (829). Materialien zu einer Semiotik visueller Objekte im frühen Mittelalter”. Archiv für Kulturgeschichte 59, 1977, pp. 25–65, here pp. 36–38; Löwe, Heinz: “Von Theoderich dem Großen zu Karl dem Großen. Das Werden des Abendlandes im Geschichtsbild des frühen Mittelalters”. In: Id.: Von Cassiodor zu Dante. Ausgewählte Aufsätze zur Geschichtsschreibung und politischen Ideenwelt des Mittelalters. De Gruyter: Berlin / New York 1973, pp. 33–74, here pp. 66–70.

32 Hänseroth, Thomas / Mauersberger, Klaus: “Spekulative Betrachtungen über die Entwicklung des technischen Wissens im Mittelalter, mit besonderer Berücksichtigung vom Heben und Versetzen von Lasten”. In: Lindgren, Uta (ed.): Europäische Technik im Mittelalter. 800–1200. Tradition und Innovation. Ein Handbuch. Mann: Berlin 1996, pp. 87–93, here p. 87. For the transport and lifting of the monolith, cf. Korres, Manolis: “Wie kam der Kuppelstein auf den Mauerring? Die einzigartige Bauweise des Grabmals Theoderichs des Großen zu Ravenna und das Bewegen schwerer Lasten”. Römische Mitteilungen 104 (1997), pp. 219–258.

33 Wolfram 1979, p. 360. According to Bryan Ward-Perkins, “Theodericopolis, […] apparently located north of the Alps, is something of an enigma” because it is never referred to in the contemporary Ostrogothic sources, cf. Id.: “Constantinople. Imperial Capital of the Fifth and Sixth Centuries”. In: Ripoll López, Gisela / Gurt Esparraguera, José María (eds.): Sedes regiae (ann. 400–800). (Real Acadèmia de Bones Lletras. Series maior 6 / Memorias de la Real Academia de Buenas Letras de Barcelona 25). Reial Acadèmia de bones lletres: Barcelona 2000, pp. 63–81, here p. 78.

34 “Karlsburg” is probably the modern town of Paderborn, cf. Becher, Matthias: Karl der Große. Beck: Munich 1999, p. 59.

35 Ward-Perkins 2000, p. 78.

36 Ripoll López, Gisela: “Reccopolis”. In: Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde, vol. 24. De Gruyter: Berlin 2003, pp. 204–208.

37 Becher 2011, pp. 268–269.

38 Claude 1978, pp. 25–27.

39 Ibid., pp. 25–26.

40 Mommsen, Theodor (ed.): Cassiodori Senatoris Variae. (Monumenta Germaniae Historica. Auctores Antiquissimi 12). Weidmannsche Buchhandlung: Berlin 1898, book 1, letter 45, pp. 39–41, here pp. 39 and 41: Quatenus impetratis delectationibus perfruendo, quod nobis cottidianum, illis videatur esse miraculum. […] Quotiens [Burgundi] non sunt credituri quae viderint? Quotiens hanc veritatem lusoria somnia putabunt? Et quando fuerint ab stupore conversi, non audebunt se aquales nobis dicere, apud quos sciunt sapientes talia cogitasse. English translation: Barnish, Samuel J. B.: The Variae of Magnus Aurelius Cassiodorus Senator: the Right Honourable and Illustrious Ex-Quaestor of the Palace, Ex-Ordinary Consul, Ex-Master of the Offices, Praetorian Prefect and Patrician. Being Documents of the Kingdom of the Ostrogoths in Italy, Chosen to Illustrate the Life of the Author and the History of his Family. (Translated Texts for Historians 12). Liverpool University Press: Liverpool 1992, pp. 20 and 23.

41 Mommsen 1898, book 1, letter 46, p. 42: Discat sub vobis Burgundia res subtilissimas inspicere et antiquorum inventa laudare: Per vos propositum gentile deponit et dum prudentiam regis sui respicit, iure facta sapientium concupiscit. Distinguat spatia diei actibus suis, horarum aptissime momenta constituat. Ordo vitae confusus agitur, si talis discretio sub veritate nescitur. Beluarum quippe ritus est ex ventris esurie horas sentire et non habere certum, quod constat humanis usibus contributum. English translation: Barnish 1992, p. 24.

42 Wood, Ian: “The Latin Culture of Gundobad and Sigismund”. In: Hägermann / Haubrichs / Jarnut 2004, pp. 367–380, quotation p. 367.

43 Mommsen 1898, book 2, letter 40, p. 72: citharoedum […] facturus aliquid Orphei, cum dulci sono gentilium fera corda domuerit. English translation: Barnish 1992, pp. 42–43.

44 Wood 2004, p. 368.

45 On Theodoric’s marriage policy, cf. Ensslin, Wilhelm: Theoderich der Große. Münchener Verlag: Munich: 1959, pp. 80–81.

46 Dewing, Henry B. (transl.): Procopius in Seven Volumes, vol. 2: History of the Wars, Books III and IV. (The Loeb Classical Library). William Heinemann / Harvard University Press: London / Cambridge, Mass. 1953, pp. 77: “And Theodoric sent him not only his sister but also a thousand of the notable Goths as a bodyguard, who were followed by a host of attendants amounting to about five thousand fighting men.”

47 Kampers, Gerd: Geschichte der Westgoten. Ferdinand Schöningh: Paderborn et al. 2008, p. 159.

48 Dewing 1953 (The Vandalic War), book 3, chapter 9, pp. 83–85: “During the reign of this Ilderic, […] they [= the Vandals] became enemies instead of allies and friends to Theodoric and the Goths in Italy. For they put Amalafrida in prison and destroyed all the Goths.” Shortly thereafter, but probably only after Theodoric’s death in 526, Amalafrida was executed, cf. Merrils, Andy / Miles, Richard: The Vandals. (The Peoples of Europe). Wiley-Blackwell: Chichester 2010, p. 133.

49 Cf. on Theodoric’s reign over Visigothic Spain Kampers 2008, pp. 157–164.

50 The chronicle says about the year 476: His conss. ab Odovacere Orestes et frater eius Paulus extincti sunt nomenque regis Odovacar adsumsit, cum tamen nec purpura nec regalibus uteretur insignibus. Cf. Barnwell, Paul S.: Emperor, Prefects and Kings. The Roman West, 395–565. Duckworth: London 1992, p. 134.

51 Claude 1978, p. 49.

52 Trost, Vera: Gold- und Silbertinten. Technologische Untersuchungen zur abendländischen Chrysographie und Argyrographie von der Spätantike bis zum hohen Mittelalter. (Beiträge zum Buch- und Bibliothekswesen 28). Otto Harrassowitz: Wiesbaden 1991, pp. 4, 13.

53 Fanning 2002, p. 329.

54 Claude 1978, p. 50; Jones, Arnold Hugh Martin: “The Constitutional Position of Odoacer and Theoderic”. The Journal of Roman Studies 52, 1962, pp. 126–130, here p. 129.

55 Claude 1978, pp. 49–50. For the pictorial representation of Barbarian rulers, cf. Rummel, Philipp von: Habitus barbarus. Kleidung und Repräsentation spätantiker Eliten im 4. und 5. Jahrhundert. (Ergänzungsbände zum Reallexikon der germanischen Altertumskunde 55). De Gruyter: Berlin / New York 2007, pp. 256–268.

56 Cf. note 50.

57 Ausbüttel 2003, p. 50.

58 Dewing, Henry B. (transl.): Procopius in Seven Volumes, vol. 3: History of the Wars, Books V and VI. (The Loeb Classical Library). William Heinemann / Harvard University Press: London / Cambridge, Mass. 1953, book 5, chapter 1, pp. 10–11.

59 Pohl, Walter: Die Völkerwanderung. Eroberung und Integration. Kohlhammer: Stuttgart / Berlin / Cologne 2005, p. 34.

60 Ausbüttel 2003, pp. 47, 51. For the period of peace after the end of the empire also cf. Pohl, Walter: “Rome and the Barbarians in the Fifth Century”. Antiquité tardive 16, 2008, pp. 93–101, here p. 99.

61 The treaty between Zeno and Theodoric is mentioned by the anonymus chronicler from Ravenna, cf. König 1997, pp. 76–77: Zeno […] mittens eum [Theodericum] ad Italiam. Cui Theodericus pactuatus est, ut, si victus fuisset Odoacer, pro merito laborum suorum loco eius, dum adveniret, tantum praeregnaret. Ergo superveniente Theoderico patricio de civitate Nova cum gente Gothica, missus ab imperatore Zenone de partibus Orientis ad defendendam sibi Italiam. Cf. Wolfram 1979 pp. 354–356; Pohl 2005, p. 16.

62 Peiper, Rudolf (ed.): Alcimi Ecdicii Aviti Viennensis episcopi Opera quae supersunt. (Monumenta Germaniae Historica. Auctores Antiquissimi 6,2). Weidmannsche Buchhandlung: Berlin 1883, letter 93, p. 100: Vester quidem est populus meus. […] Cumque gentem nostram videamur regere, non aliud nos quam milites vestros credimus. […] Patria nostra vester orbis est. English translation: Shanzer, Danuta / Wood, Ian: Avitus of Vienne. Letters and Selected Prose. (Translated Texts for Historians 38). Liverpool University Press: Liverpool 2002, letter 93, pp. 146–147.

63 Mommsen 1898, book 1, letter 1: Vos enim estis regnorum omnium pulcherrimum decus. […] Regnum nostrum imitatio vestra est, […] unici exemplar imperii. English translation: Hodgkin, Thomas: The Letters of Cassiodorus. Being a Condensed Translation of the Variae Epistolae of Magnus Aurelius Cassiodorus Senator. Henry Frowde: London 1886, p. 141.

64 Fried 2007, p. 45, note 140.

65 Dewing 1953 (The Vandalic War), book 3, chapter 9, pp. 88–89. Cf. about this passage Demandt, Alexander: “Von der Antike zum Mittelalter”. In: Id.: Zeitenwende. Aufsätze zur Spätantike. (Beiträge zur Altertumskunde). De Gruyter: Berlin 2013, pp. 467–488, here p. 483.

66 Ibid., p. 91.

67 Chrysos, Evangelos K.: “The title basileus in Early Byzantine International Relations”. Dumbarton Oaks Papers 32 (1978), pp. 29–75, here p. 59. Even before its official introduction in 629, the Byzantine emperors never conceded the title “basileus” to any of the Barbarian rulers, cf. ibid., p. 33.

68 Dewing, Henry B. (transl.): Procopius in Seven Volumes, vol. 4: History of the Wars, Books VI (continued) and VII. (The Loeb Classical Library). Harvard University Press / William Heinemann: Cambridge, Mass. / London 1954, book 6, chapter 29, pp. 129–131: “All the best of the Goths decided to declare Belisarius emperor of the West.”

69 Ibid., p. 131.

70 Ibid., book 6, chapter 30, p. 145.

71 Ibid. When referring to Belisarius, Dewing translates the word basileus as “king”, but due to the significance of the title basileus, which Belisarius – according to Procopius – was not willing to adopt because he did not want to seem like a usurper, I prefer the meaning “emperor” here.

72 Burkhardt, Stefan: Mediterranes Kaisertum und imperiale Ordnungen. Das lateinische Kaiserreich von Konstantinopel. (Europa im Mittelalter 25). Akademie Verlag / De Gruyter: Berlin / Boston 2014, pp. 213–216. Cf. also Burkhardt’s article in this volume.

73 Annales Laureshamenses ad annum 801. In: Pertz, Heinrich Georg (ed.): Monumenta Germaniae Historica. Scriptores in Folio, vol. 1. Hahnsche Buchhandlung: Hannover 1826, pp. 22–39, here p. 38: Et quia iam tunc cessabat a parte Graecorum nomen imperatoris, et femineum imperium apud se abebant, tunc visum est et ipso apostolico Leoni et universis sanctis patribus qui in ipso concilio aderant, seu reliquo christiano populo, ut ipsum Carolum regem Franchorum imperatorem nominare debuissent. On Charlemagne’s coronation as emperor, cf. Classen, Peter: Karl der Große, das Papsttum und Byzanz. Die Begründung des karolingischen Kaisertums. (Beiträge zur Geschichte und Quellenkunde des Mittelalters 9). Sigmaringen: Thorbecke 1985, as well as the contribution of Jan Clauß in this volume.

Sebastian Kolditz (Heidelberg)

Barbarian Emperors? Aspects of the Byzantine Perception of the qaghan (chaganos) in the Earlier Middle Ages

As direct heirs to the Roman imperial tradition, Byzantine emperors had a strong claim to universal rule over the oikoumenē1 and according to a well-established tradition, they only acknowledged one ruler equal to them: the Persian king of kings, whose place was later accorded to the Muslim caliph.2 In the second half of the 6th century, however, the Constantinopolitan court came into contact with another type of “imperial” monarchs: the qaghans (or khagans) of the Eurasian steppe zone. These partly close, partly remote encounters have left their traces in a number of early and middle Byzantine sources,3 so that the Byzantine modes of perception of the steppe rulers can be discussed.4 Although the Eurasian nomadic polities of the earlier Middle Ages still occupy a rather marginal position in Medieval Studies in general,5 their relevance to the Byzantine civilization as more←41 | 42→ or less permanent neighbours has long been recognized.6 Research in this field does not only concentrate on the interaction between the nomads and Byzantium,7 but also on their perception in the East Roman Empire.8 On the other hand there is a flourishing tradition of profound turkological, archaeological and historical research specifically dedicated to the steppe peoples and their polities.9 Scholars have not only introduced and discussed←42 | 43→ a wide range of sources, reaching from Chinese dynastic records and early Turkic inscriptions to literary testimonies in all major written languages of the Medieval Mediterranean world, but also developed structural concepts about the steppe empires, their economic base and their models of rulership, especially the qaghanate.10

We shall not try to summarize the history of the qaghanal institution – as far as it is known – in this place, but only mention that the title qaghan (in Chinese ke-han)11 seems to occur in the Xianbei polity of the 3rd century CE for the first time and was later used by the Rou-ran, the supposed ancestors of the European Avars.12 When the Türk tribes13 successfully revolted against these overlords in 552, their leader Bumïn consequently claimed the qaghanate for himself.14 Nevertheless, the Avars retained the same in←43 | 44→stitution when they established their control over Pannonia around 568.15 Avar domination over the Western margins of the Eurasian steppe zone proved much more persistent than the Türk Empire as the latter’s history is indeed troubled: de facto subdivided into an Eastern part under the direct rule of the qaghan from the Ashina-clan16 and a Western part headed by his relative, the yabghu, the strength of this empire depended on the shifting loyalties of tribes and tribal confederations and on its relations with powerful neighbours such as Tang China. The decomposition of the Western Türk polity led to the ascent of the long-lived and much studied17 Khazar qaghanate in northern Caucasia and the lower Volga region during the 7th century CE. The original structures of rulership in the Khazar polity seem to be derived from the Türk model.

The Türk tradition thus exercised a strong influence on patterns of rulership with various political forces of the Eurasian steppe zone. The Türk qaghanate has therefore been interpreted as the prototype of a specific model of sacralized monarchy in the steppe zone with strong imperial connotations.18 Among the criteria which gave steppe rulers a legitimate claim to qaghanal status, heavenly fortune (qut) surely played the central role. This became particularly visible by successful conquests. Further aspects having been proposed in research are e.g. the possession of sacred places (mountains or forests) and a direct connection to the charismatic Ashina←44 | 45→ clan (which does of course not apply to the Avar qaghans).19 These and other criteria can certainly be evidenced in several cases, but it should be stressed that the defining characteristics of a qaghan have never been fixed in written form by the nomads. Moreover, there were some powerful and long-lived political entities in the steppe zone which seemingly ignored the qaghanal institution, such as those of the Pechenegs and the Cumans.20 Their emergence in the 10th and 11th centuries in fact marks the very end of the occurrence of qaghans in the Byzantine sources.

Consulting Gyula Moravcsik’s Byzantinoturcica, one easily finds out that Byzantine historiographers used the term chaganos (χαγάνος) regularly with respect to rulers of three ethnika: the Turkoi (a rather ambiguous term), the Khazars and the Avars.21 A first group of authors comprises Menander Protector, Theophylaktos Simokates and the compiler of the “Chronicon Paschale”, all of them active in the later 6th and / or earlier 7th centuries22 and thus not yet acquainted with the Khazars. A second group consists of the “Short History” written by the patriarch Nikephoros and the “Chronography” attributed to Theophanes the Confessor, both of them were composed at the turn from the 8th to the 9th centuries.23 Most occurrences of the qaghan in later sources derive more or less directly from these texts.←45 | 46→

The historical work of Menander Protector, which covers the years from 558 to 582, has only fragmentarily been preserved. Its author24 mainly uses the unspecific term hēgemōn when referring to a barbarian ruler such as Sandilchos, chief of the Utigurs,25 the ruler of the Hephthalites,26 but also the Merovingian king Sigibert.27 The same terminology can occasionally be found for the rulers of the Türk28 and the Avars,29 but Menander gives their titles more preciseley. The Avar leader Baian is more often than not called Chaganos (Χαγάνος) (not necessarily specified by an ethnic attribute).30 As a major protagnist of diplomatic contacts and military confrontation with the Romans, he is often just called by his name: Βαϊανός. This implies, however, that the name of this qaghan was well-known in Constantinople, which stands in striking contrast to the fact that none of the subsequent Avar qaghans is mentioned by name in any historiographical record.31←46 | 47→

In a fragment concerning the Roman-Avar confrontations of 579, Menander nearly exclusively uses the term Χαγάνος to designate Baian, who is nevertheless characterized very negatively and accused of having broken the treaty with the Romans in a shameless, most barbarian way (βαρβαρώτατα).32 While the confrontation with the Avars usually plays on a local scene involving only generals or governors, in this passage the emperor (Tiberius II) is mentioned several times (as basileus or autokrator) and thus figures as the qaghan’s main antagonist. The relationship between the two monarchs is explicitly referred to in a previous fragment concerning the mission of the Avar envoy Targites to Constantinople. He declared to the emperor Justin II: “I am here, o basileus, sent by your son. For you are truly the father of our lord Baianos.”33 The idea of fictious parental relationships between rulers is a common feature of ‘international’ relations in Antiquity and the Middle Ages, specifically associated with Byzantium.34 According to Menander, however, it is not the Byzantine side that proposed such a concept, but the Avar ruler who pursues an obvious goal: that the emperor should show his “paternal love” (στοργή) and give to his “son” what the son is entitled to: τὰ τοῦ παιδός.35 Besides this utilitarian logic,←47 | 48→ Menander’s report seems to reveal that the Avar qaghan did not insist on his own hierarchical superiority with respect to the basileus, nor did he raise claims to universal rule.

The case of the Türk Empire is clearly different. Apart from two short fragments, Menander above all includes extensive accounts of two ambassadorial exchanges with them, which took place under changing political circumstances. The first exchange was initiated by Ištämi, the yabghu qaghan of the Western Türk called Sizabul in the Greek source, in about 567 in order to establish an alliance between the Türk and the Romans against Persia.36 The account on Valentinus’ mission around 576, however, shows clear signs of alienation since the Türk ruler had been informed about treaties between Byzantium and the Avars, whom he considered disobedient subjects who should be punished.37

In the account of the first Roman mission, led by Zemarchos,38 Menander refers to Sizabul usually only by his name, but he once states that Zemarchos arrived at his destination, the “White Mountain” (Ektag / Aqdagh)39, which was the place “where the qaghan personally was”.40 The reception←48 | 49→ is described in detail.41 Sizabul was sitting on a golden wheeled “kathedra” in a tent when the ambassador officially greeted him and expressed the Romans’ desire of friendship with the “tribes of the Turks” (τῶν Τούρκων τὰ φῦλα). The qaghan was addressed as “ruler of so many peoples” ( τοσούτων ἐθνῶν ἡγεμών) instead of any specific title, but the fact that Zemarchos calls the Byzantine emperor “our Great emperor” [emphasis S.K.] ( καθ᾿ ἡμᾶς βασιλεὺς μέγας) underlines the imperial connotation of this address.42 It is thus perhaps not accidental that at the onset of this chapter, Menander states that the growing fortunes of the Turks determined their Sogdian subjects43 to advise their (i.e. the Türk) basileus to send an embassy to Persia.44 The title basileus is usually strictly reserved for the two rulers of Rome and Persia in Menander’s work. Therefore, this passage clearly alludes to the imperial quality of the Türk qaghan or, more precisely, the yabghu qaghan, since Menander seems not to be aware of the existence of a supreme qaghan of even higher rank in the East. Instead, he certainly depended on the information given by Ištämi’s Sogdian envoy Maniach in Constantinople when being asked for the structure of rulership among the Türk and their territories (περὶ τῆς τῶν Τούρκων ἡγεμονίας τε καὶ χώρας). Maniach explained that there were four parts (ἡγεμονίαι) among them, but the supreme rule over the whole people (κράτος τοῦ ξύμπαντος θνους) lay in the hands of Sizabul alone. If this was not a bold lie, should we perhaps assume that the supreme rank among the Ashina clan had indeed (temporarily) devolved to Ištämi as senior ruler at some unknown date?45←49 | 50→

In the fragment concerning Valentinus’ mission, the image of Türk rulership is much more polycentric: Menander repeatedly refers to the leaders (hēgemones or proestōtas) of the Turks in plural, not using the term chaganos or any other title. Instead of a plurality of Turkic tribes or peoples, the Türk are now referred to as one Scythian tribe that has subdivided its land into eight parts (instead of four).46 The Roman envoy is received in audience by Silzibul’s (Sizabul’s) son Turxanthos,47 who later sends him to his brother Tardu48 residing at mount Ektal. Furthermore, a most ancient monarch Arsilas is mentioned.49 The imperial character of Türk rulership in Byzantine eyes is also confirmed by the content of the negotiations: Valentinus tries to convince the Türk to keep friendship with the Romans (implying equal standing),50 but Turxanthos invokes the “invincible might” of the Türk and purposefully declares that he knows where the rivers Danube and Dnepr are. The qaghan thus delineates potential territorial claims, especially if the Romans collaborated with the Uarhonitai who call themselves Avars, but were considered “slaves” of the Türk.51

This deep antagonism between the Türk and the Avars – accused of having usurped the Avar name because of its prestige – is even more clearly←50 | 51→ outlined by Theophylaktos Simokates, who continued Menander’s work in his “Oikumenikē Historia”. His famous excursus on the Scythian peoples has often been commented on and nevertheless remains partially cryptic.52 It is introduced by a letter sent “in this summer”53 to the emperor Maurikios by “the one who in the East is praised as Chaganos by the Türk”.54 The title “qaghan” is thus not explained to the reader, but it becomes clear that its holder is highly venerated. Theophylaktos furthermore cites the letter’s inscriptio (epigraphē) literally: “to the basileus of the Romans from the Chaganos, the great lord of the seven generations and ruler of the seven←51 | 52→ climates of the Oikumene”55. This intitulatio does not correspond to the usual style of Türk rulers – in contrast to the Orkhon inscriptions from the Second Eastern qaghanate, references to heaven as the source of legitimate rule are curiously absent – but it seems to reflect the Persian royal title.56 But with regard to the Byzantine perception it seems interesting that Theophylaktos quotes this part of the letter extensively,57 while he only gives a paraphrase of its main content, a message of various victories obtained by the qaghan over the Hephthalites, the (Eastern) Avar and Oghur peoples and finally against the “rebel” Turum.58 This last victory, the actual cause of the qaghan’s message to the emperor,59 now allows the qaghan to rule felicitously and conclude treaties with the Tabghast (i.e. Sui-China). The ideal state of perfect peace (βαθεῖαν γαλήνην) and unshakeable rule (ἀστασίαστον ἀρχήν) is invoked.60 All these characteristics seem to imply that←52 | 53→ the sender of this letter exercised monarchical power over the Türk, but such a conclusion is immediately contradicted by the mention of three further Great Qaghans who had helped the sender to obtain his victory. Their names are given, but unfortunately, there is no hint to their hierarchical position or place of residence.61 Nevertheless, Theophylaktos displays – like Menander – a vivid interest in the political structures of the Türk Empire and a certain appreciation for its rulers who were located far away from the actual Byzantine zone of influence.

Instead, the person usually alluded to by the title “qaghan” in the “Histories” is the ruler of the Avars, but Theophylaktos follows the Türk interpretation about their unlawful, usurped claim to the qaghanal title and the arrogation of the Avar name by some tribes among the Uar and Chunni on their flight to the west.62 The Avars’ nearly permanent confrontation with the Roman Empire is outlined in a long series of episodes, among them the legation of the physician Theodoros to the Avars who warned the qaghan not to push his military luck, referring to the classical tale about pharaoh Sesostris and the wheel.63 Theodoros thus manages to tame the ambitions of a ruler who is depicted as the prototype of a barbarian. In another situation, however, he is praised as an example of humanity when supplying the starving Roman army near Tomis with plenty of provisions for the Easter Days of 598.64 Instead, it is the Roman emperor Maurikios whom the chronicler←53 | 54→ Theophanes holds responsible for the horrible fate of Roman captives after the combats at Drizipera: they were massacred because the avaricious emperor did not pay the ransom demanded by the qaghan.65 Such episodes have repeatedly been cited by later Byzantine authors: Ioannes Tzetzes refers to the Theodoros-story in his monumental, but rather eclectic “Historiai”66 and Michael Psellos recounts the ransom-story in his “Short History” (Ηistoria Syntomos).67 For Tzetzes the barbarian ruler is just “the qaghan”, and Psellos seems to believe that this was a military leader. It is perhaps revealing that the “Suda Encyclopedia”, compiled in the 10th century, cites episodes from Theophylaktos involving the chaganos in several lemmata, but under the lemma “chaganos” itself, this opus magnum of Byzantine scholarship fails to give a definition, and we only read: “this one was …”68

In Theophylaktos’ account the term chaganos is frequently used thanks to the fact that the Avar ruler is never called by his personal name. This is likewise the case in the so-called “Easter Chronicle” compiled probably still during the reign of emperor Herakleios (610–641). This work does not contain information on the Türk of Central Asia, but the Avar qaghan appears prominently, especially in the account on the siege laid to Constantinople in 626 by the allied Persian and Avar forces.69 Portrayed as archenemy of←54 | 55→ the Romans, the Avar ruler is often endued with insulting attributes, such as godless (ἄθεος) or accursed (ἐπικατάρατος),70 but he finally bears witness to the divine protection of the city, since he himself sees a woman – the Theotokos – appearing on the walls.71 With this crucial event the Avar qaghans practically disappear from the Byzantine sources. There is a last reference to them in the report on the year 677 (AM 6169) in Theophanes’ “Chronographia”: after the conclusion of a peace treaty with the Arabs, the basileus received a number of ambassadors from other rulers, who requested the confirmation of peace and friendship. These legates came from the various inhabitants of the West, from the kings, exarchs and gastaldi. But at the head of the enumeration we find the Avar qaghan,72 who is thus←55 | 56→ perceived as the most eminent among the Western barbarians, but not as a truly imperial ruler.

Emperor Herakleios did not only inherit the confrontation with the Avars in the West from his predecessors, he also renewed the ‘alliance’ between the Romans and the Türk in the East.73 Their mutual military cooperation during the emperor’s long campaign against the Persians is first mentioned under the year 625 (AM 6117)74 when Theophanes states that the “Turks from the east called Chazareis75 invaded the Persian lands from the North through the Caspian Gates. Their leader Ziebel is char←56 | 57→acterized as second in dignity after the qaghan.76 He has now convincingly been identified with Sipi, the “xiao kehan” (little qaghan), who later in 628 killed the yabghu qaghan Tong (in 628) and was himself ousted in 629 and killed in 630.77 Theophanes gives a rather detailed report on Ziebel’s meeting with the basileus: while the Türk leader did obeisance to Herakleios, his whole army stretched on the ground to honour the emperor,78 Ziebel presented his son to him and enjoyed the conversation.79 The patriarch Nikephoros basically refers to the same events in his “Short History”, but he does not identify these Turks with the Khazars nor does he give the name of their lord (τὸν Τούρκων κύριον).80 Nevertheless, his independent report on the meeting is more detailed than that of Theophanes. Nikephoros tells us that the emperor, having received the extremely great honour (τὸ ὑπερβάλλον τῆς τιμῆς) of the prostration of the entire Türk army,81 responded by similar gestures: he called Ziebel his son, crowned him with his own crown (στέφανος), presented him with rich gifts after a banquet, among them an imperial garment (στολῇ βασιλικῇ),82 and finally←57 | 58→ even promised his daughter Eudokia in marriage to him.83 It is significant that Herakleios calls his daughter “Augusta of the Romans” (ωμαίων Αὐγούστα), since Eudokia indeed bore this official title. She appeared on Byzantine coins together with her father and the co-emperor Herakleios the Younger, and her bust was only removed from the coins in 629 when Eudokia received her father’s order to depart from Constantinople and join her husband. The marriage project was, however, never actually put into effect due to Ziebel’s assassination.84 Theophanes perhaps deliberately omitted all these features of Roman-barbarian relations from his report on the events – the difference between his version, which shows the←58 | 59→ Türk humbly obedient towards the emperor, and that of Nikephoros, who emphasizes symbolic elements of reciprocity in Byzantine-Türk relations, is too significant to be merely accidental.

The identification of the Turkic forces with the Khazars, though undoubtedly anachronistic, is not only found in Theophanes’ “Chronography”, but also in the “History of the Caucasian Albanians”, compiled some centuries later by the Armenian chronicler Movsēs Dasxuranc’i.85 Dasxuranc’i based these parts of his account on two sources. One of them is a rather contemporary report on the deeds of the Albanian katholikos Viroy, which denigrates the invaders and their atrocities, but actually does not call them Khazars.86 This account also mentions the genesis of the Roman-Turkic alliance in the war against the Persians via a Roman embassy sent to Ĵebu Xak’an (i.e. the yabghu qaghan),87 which established a treaty. This finally led to the campaign of the Türk army under the command of the šat’, the nephew of the “king of the north”,88 who is characterized as an imperial ruler of universal ambition.89 Dasxuranc’i’s←59 | 60→ second source only shortly mentions this first Northern invasion (“in great hordes the Khazars”)90 and dates the second one, led by Ĵebu Xak’an himself, to the year of Chosrau’s end. During this campaign the Roman and the Türk rulers met outside the walls of the besieged town of Tiflis, but did not succeed to conquer the city and were instead mocked by its inhabitants.91 The Türk took their revenge in the following year,92 but their invasion likewise came to an end: after another victory over a Persian army in 629, terrible news arrived from Ĵebu Xak’an himself who had overdrawn his fortune.93 This apparently caused the invaders to withdraw from the Caucasian region.

The direct cooperation between Herakleios and the yabghu qaghan thus remained an episode, but since this episode concerned a relationship between the basileus and a nomadic ruler of imperial position, it could later easily be projected onto the Khazars as the new imperial factor in the Western steppe.←60 | 61→ Their polity actually took shape only in the second half of the 7th century94 at the expense of Kuvrat’s extensive but shortlived “Great Bulgaria”95 in the Ponto-Caucasian area and after the collapse of the Western Türk qaghanate, which had succumbed to the imperial Tang in 659.96 From that time onwards both Khazars and Bulgars became the principal political protagonists among the Northern peoples in contact with Byzantium for several centuries.

In contrast to the Avar rulers of the 6th and early 7th centuries, Khazar qaghans are rarely mentioned in Byzantine chronicles, but they also usually remain unnamed.97 The two most prominent situations concern the adven←61 | 62→tures of Justinian II after his deposition in 695, when he fled to the Khazar territory and was married to a daughter of the qaghan,98 and the marriage of Constantine V to another Khazar bride.99 Referring to these events, the patriarch Nikephoros uses a changing terminology with respect to the Khazar ruler, who is called hēgemōn, archōn or kyrios, but the author explains that the Khazars call their ruler chaganos.100 Theophanes instead regularly employs the title chaganos, sometimes with an ethnic denomination (tōn Chazarōn).101 He furthermore uses the territorial denomination Chazaria rather frequently in the context of events belonging to the 8th century.102←62 | 63→ It should be noted that the Latin equivalent of this term – together with the first Latin occurence of “Bulgaria” – is already found in the “Life of Pope John VII” (705/707) in the “Liber Pontificalis” with regard to the exile of Justinian II.103 Although this slight shift in terminology should not be overestimated, we might conclude that Khazar rulership was perceived with relation to a specific territorial circumscription (above all refering to the lands beyond the Pontos and close to Crimea) in Latin and Greek imagination, at least more so than other steppe empires before.104 Due to the basically positive relations between Constantinople and the Khazars prevailing between the second half of the 7th and the middle of the 9th centuries (at least), the Khazar qaghans are not portrayed as prototypes of barbarian rulers in our sources as the Avar rulers were.105 In contrast, they remain rather marginal and shadowy figures in the Byzantine texts.←63 | 64→

Another episode relating to a Khazar ruler mentioned in Byzantine historiography once again reinforces the impression of a positive relationship between the two powers: the so-called “Theophanes continuatus” reports106 that in 839107 the qaghan of the Khazars and the Pech sent an embassy to the emperor Theophilos.108 They asked for Byzantine help in the construction of the fortress Sarkel on the river Don in order to secure the Khazar territories against the Pechenegs. The emperor granted the request and sent the spatharokandidatos Petronas Kamateros to the Khazars who duly put the work into effect and later (in 841) became strategos of the newly established thema of Cherson.109 This same contact is also mentioned in Constantine VII’s famous treatise misnamed “De administrando imperio”110 and in the chronicle of John Skylitzes from the second half of the 11th century, who attributes the legation uniquely to the chaganos Chazarias.111 Skylitzes thus fails to transmit the most interesting point, namely that a second←64 | 65→ ruler, called beg, acted together with the qaghan. The Sarkel-story indirectly reflects a fundamental but still somewhat obscure “constitutional change” in the Khazar polity, i.e. the establishment of a dual monarchy comprising the beg as actual political and military leader, whom Arab sources of the 10th century identify as king (malik), and the qaghan who retained his supreme sacral112 authority, but ultimately lost his political role and seems to have been strictly secluded in his palace.113 It seems that this was not yet the case in the late 830s, when the qaghan still played a role in political affairs: the Sarkel-story thus probably gives a terminus post quem. Nevertheless, there is no explicit repercussion of the political transformation in the Byzantine sources at all. Instead, they suggest a long-term continuity of traditional political structures among the Khazars: it is in the qaghan’s presence that Konstantinos the philosopher took part in the debate with representatives of the Jewish and Muslim faiths in 861, which is broadly described in his Vita.114 According to “De administrando imperio”, the←65 | 66→ Khazar qaghan intervened repeatedly in the affairs of the Magyars in the later 9th century.115 And Chapter II 48 of the famous “Book of Ceremonies”, likewise attributed to Constantine VII Porphyrogenetos and compiled in the middle of the 10th century,116 only names the chaganos Chazarias (but no king or beg) among the foreign rulers who receive imperial letters. He is honourably addressed, though with a markedly Christian invocation, and the letter should be sealed with a golden trisoldia bull.117 The qaghan is thus←66 | 67→ ranked at the same level as the king of Armenia, slightly below the caliph,118 but quite above the subsequently mentioned archontes of Rhosia and of the Pechenegs. The title basileus is only accorded to the Bulgarian ruler.119

Byzantine sources also fail to reflect the second major transformation in Khazar history: the conversion of the Khazars, or at least their political elite, to Judaism. The reconstruction and dating of this process is a particularly difficult problem in Khazar studies due to the either allusive or legendary character of the sources available,120 but it seems fairly established that the religious transformation was actively promoted by the emerging dynasty of the begs and thus intimately linked to the constitutional change that ousted the qaghan from power.121 While earlier studies on the question had←67 | 68→ suggested that change took place before or around 800,122 two important recent contributions have come to different, mutually exclusive results. They fix the date of the conversion either to around 838 (based on numismatical evidence),123 or to around 861 (based on a new combination of the Hebrew sources, the “Vita Constantini” and a remark by Christian of Stavelot124 from around 864).125 Both arguments are indeed impressive, but neither←68 | 69→ of them seems to be strictly conclusive.126 In any case, the nearly complete silence of Byzantine sources about the new religious situation in Khazaria and their continuing fixation on the qaghan as ruler instead of the king is indeed remarkable, and it certainly requires caution not to overestimate the consequences of the conversion for Khazar-Byzantine relations. Even if the Khazar king reacted sharply on anti-Jewish measures taken by Romanos I Lakapenos in Byzantium around 931,127 it is nevertheless out of question that Christian communities were tolerated in the Khazar state. Two letters by the patriarch Nikolaos Mystikos from the early 10th century seem to imply that the patriarchate was able to reorganize clerical structures and regular spiritual life in Chazaria by nominating a new archbishop to Cherson.128 In this case the geographical term might, however, refer to the←69 | 70→ land of the Khotzirs in Eastern Crimea instead of the qaghanate.129 Khazar-Byzantine relations did probably deteriorate considerably in the later 9th and 10th centuries, but the reasons for this development should primarily be sought in the circumstances of changing political contexts130 due to the emergence of new powerful players in or at the margins of the steppe zone during the 9th century: the Pechenegs and the Oghuz (Torki), the Magyars and the Rus’, not to forget the key role of Bulgaria in the Balkans.131 Notwithstanding this new plurality, the supreme head of the Khazars remained the only chaganos in the horizon of Byzantine sources132 from the late 7th century onwards.

For Carolingian authors, in contrast, the prototypical qaghan was still that of the Avars whose state had been defeated by Charlemagne in 796, but seemingly continued to exist in a rudimentary way well into the 9th century, as several mentions of leading Avar representatives in the Frankish Annals suggest.133 The Khazars occur only incidentally in the Frankish←70 | 71→ sources.134 This difference of perception is reflected in a short passage of the famous letter to Basileios I written almost certainly by Anastasius Bibliothecarius in the name of the Carolingian Emperor Louis II in 871 after the Frankish conquest of Bari.135 In order to refute the basileus’ claim to be the unique legitimate holder of the basileia, i.e. the (Roman) imperial title, Anastasius had to prove that the ‘correct’ translation of basileus actually was “king” or rex. He found his arguments for this claim not only in the Scriptures, but also in more recent Greek books (Graecos noviter editos codices), where the rulers of the Persians, Epeirots, Indians, Goths and other nations were called basileis.136 But Basileios had pointed to the existence of other proper titles for foreign rulers, such as protosimbulus←71 | 72→ for the caliph of the Arabs, which induces Anastasius to discuss the “accuracy” of these designations.137 It is at this point that the qaghan briefly appears. Anastasius declares that chaganus should be used for the ruler (praelatum) of the Avars, but not for the Gazani and Nortmanni nor the princeps Vulgarum who is rightly called rex or dominus of the Bulgarians.138 This phrase is revealing as it seems to imply that the Byzantines used the term not only to designate the heads of the Khazars (Gazani), but also for Norman (i.e. Rus’) and Bulgarian rulers. Such an indirect evidence has to be used with great caution, the more so as the preceding letter of Basileios is lost, but it is not devoid of any fundament. There are indisputable traces that the title “qaghan” was used for princes of the Rus’ (although the clearest among them belong only to the 11th century).139 The actual title of the Bulgar rulers, on the other hand, remains←72 | 73→ quite unknown to us.140 Greek sources often call them kyrios or archōn, and there are Latin authors who use the term rex.141 The title chaganos in combination with Bulgaria appears only in one Byzantine text, but it←73 | 74→ is an obvious misattribution.142 The actual meaning of the title kanasybigi used by Omurtag (814–831) and his son Malamir (831-c.836) in official inscriptions remains a debated issue. It undoubtedly marks a substantial raise of prestige of the Bulgarian ruler in the early 9th century,143 but it seems to be clearly distinct from the title “qaghan”.

The conversion to Christianity offered new reference frames to both Bulgarian and Rus’ princes for the expression of their potential imperial ambitions. While Symeon of Bulgaria did not hesitate to claim the title basileus for himself and ultimately achieved the Byzantine recognition of this title for his son and successor Peter,144 the Ryurikid princes did not←74 | 75→ undertake any efforts to obtain such an advance in titular prestige within Christian schemes of royalty for many centuries. This circumstance might raise some doubts if the concept of qaghanate, which is well attested for the early Rus’, but not for the Bulgars, did always imply imperial status.

Our concern here is, however, with the Byzantine perception of the qaghan.145 In this respect a seemingly obvious aspect should not be ignored, namely that the basileus never adopted the qaghanal title for himself as the Tang emperor Taizong (626–649) did when he considered it appropriate.146 The qaghan thus always remained a phenomenon belonging to the world outside of Byzantium, but chroniclers of the earlier Byzantine period generally were well familiar with this title used by the rulers of some, though not all of the “barbarian” ethnika living in the Eurasian steppe zone. The term chaganos appears rather frequently in their texts. However, the qaghanate has not been perceived as a specific concept of rulership such as the basileia. The usual image of Avar qaghans as prototypical barbarian rulers with mainly treacherous and avaricious traits differs significantly from the rather neutral but shadowy perception of the Khazar qaghans, while only Türk qaghans are sometimes delineated with truly imperial connotations (and once even called basileus147). These divergences in perception are par←75 | 76→tially due to the different quality of political relationships the Byzantines upheld towards these peoples in certain phases. But at the same time the discrepancies might also reflect differences and developments in the actual notion of the qaghanate as royal, imperial or sacral rulership with the various steppe peoples. In this respect the 9th and 10th centuries offer the most blurry vision: qaghans are still referred to in Greek as well as Latin texts – also with regard to the rulers of Rus’ and Bulgaria – but these appellations are far from clear and uncontroversial, as is the actual role of the qaghan among the Khazars at this time. These ambiguities are perhaps a sign of change and transition, since the period of qaghans now approached its end in those parts of the steppe that stood in closer contact with the Byzantine oikoumenē.←76 | 77→

1 For the complex notion of oikoumenē in Byzantium see Koder, Johannes: “Die räumlichen Vorstellungen der Byzantiner von der Ökumene (4. bis 12. Jahrhundert)”. Anzeiger der philosophisch-historischen Klasse der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften 137(2), 2002, pp. 15–34.

2 Cf. Schmalzbauer, Gudrun: “Überlegungen zur Idee der Oikumene in Byzanz”. In: Hörandner, Wolfram et al. (eds.): Wiener Byantinistik und Neogräzistik. Beiträge zum Symposion 40 Jahre Institut für Byzantinistik und Neogräzistik der Universität Wien im Gedenken an Herbert Hunger. Verlag der ÖAW: Vienna 2004, pp. 408–419.

3 The basic resource for any study on Byzantine-Turkic relations is Moravcsik, Gyula: Byzantinoturcica, vol. 2: Sprachreste der Türkvölker in den byzantinischen Quellen, 2nd edition. Akademie Verlag: Berlin 1958.

4 See also the study by Savvides, Alexis G.C.: “Some Notes on the Terms khān and khagan in Byzantine Sources”. In: Netton, Ian Richard (ed.): Studies in Honour of Clifford Edmund Bosworth, vol. 1. Brill: Leiden / Boston / Cologne 2000, pp. 267–279.

5 Notwithstanding the recent efforts to raise historical awareness of their important role in European Medieval history, cf. Curta, Florin (ed.): The Other Europe in the Middle Ages: Avars, Bulgars, Khazars and Cumans. (East Central and Eastern Europe in the Middle Ages 2). Brill: Leiden / Boston 2008; Spinei, Victor: The Great Migrations in the East and South of Europe from the Ninth to the Thirteenth Century, 2 vols, 2nd edition. Hakkert: Amsterdam 2006. See also Pohl, Walter: “The Role of Steppe Peoples in Eastern and Central Europe in the First Millennium A.D.”. In: Urbańczyk, Przemysław (ed.): Origins of Central Europe. PAN: Warsaw 1997, pp. 65–78.

6 Cf. Schreiner, Peter: “Die Rolle der Turkvölker in der byzantinischen Reichspolitik”. In: Id. (ed.): Studia byzantino-bulgarica. Verein Freunde des Hauses Wittgenstein: Vienna 1986, pp. 39–50.

7 Inter alia Kralides, Apostolos F.: Οἱ Χάζαροι καὶ τὸ Βυζάντιο. Ἱστορικὴ καὶ θρησκειολογικὴ προσέγγιση. Sabbalas: Athens 2003; Kardaras, Georgios: T Βυζάντιο καὶ οἱ Ἄβαροι (6–9 αἰ): πολιτικὲς, διπλωματικὲς καὶ πολιτισμικὲς σχέσεις. Elleniko Idryma Ereunon: Athens 2010 (not consulted); Vásáry, István: Cumans and Tatars. Oriental Military in the pre-Ottoman Balkans, 1185–1365. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge 2005.

8 Carile, Antonio: “I nomadi nelle fonti bizantine”. In: Popoli delle steppe: Unni, Avari, Ungari. (Settimane di Studio del Centro Italiano di Studi sull’Alto Medioevo 35). CISAM: Spoleto 1988, vol. 1, pp. 55–87; Ahrweiler, Hélène: “Byzantine Concepts of the Foreigner: The Case of the Nomads”. In: Ead. / Laiou, Angeliki (eds.): Studies on the Internal Diaspora of the Byzantine Empire. Dumbarton Oaks Library: Washington 1998, pp. 1–15; Malamut, Élisabeth: “Les peuples étrangers dans l’idéologie impériale. Scythes et Occidentaux”. In: L’étranger au Moyen Âge. Actes du XXXe congrès de la SHMESP. Publications de la Sorbonne: Paris 2000, pp. 119–132; Ead.: “L’image byzantine des Petchénègues”. Byzantinische Zeitschrift 88, 1995, pp. 105–147.

9 To cite only some recent works of general character: Golden, Peter B.: An Introduction to the History of the Turkic Peoples. Ethnogenesis and State Formation in Medieval and Early Modern Eurasia and the Middle East. (Turcologica 9). Harrassowitz: Wiesbaden 1992; Kljaštornyj, Sergej G.: Die Geschichte Zentralasiens und die Denkmäler in Runenschrift. Schletzer: Berlin 2007; Id. / Sultanov, Tursun I.: Staaten und Völker in den Steppen Eurasiens: Altertum und Mittelalter. Schletzer: Berlin 2006; Roemer, Hans Robert / Scharlipp, Wolfgang-Ekkehard (eds.): History of the Turkic Peoples in the Pre-Islamic Period. (Philologiae Turcicae fundamenta 3.1). Schwarz: Berlin 2000; Güzel, Hasan Celâl / Oğuz, C. Cem / Karatay, Osman (eds.): The Turks I: Early Ages. Yeni Türkiye Publications: Ankara 2002; Beckwith, Christopher I.: Empires of the Silk Road. A History of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the Present. Princeton University Press: Princeton / Oxford 2009.

10 Pritsak, Omeljan: “The Distinctive Features of the pax nomadica”. In: Popoli delle steppe (as n. 8), vol. 2, pp. 749–780, has analyzed the fundamental concepts that characterized steppe rulership; see also Golden, Peter B.: “The Türk Imperial Tradition in the Pre-Chinggisid Era”. In: Sneath, David / Kaplonski, Christopher (eds.): The History of Mongolia, vol. 1. Global Oriental Ltd.: Folkestone 2010, pp. 68–95, here pp. 71–75. There are also comparative approaches to steppe rulership, e.g. Stepanov, Tsvetelin: “Ruler and Political Ideology in Pax Nomadica: Early Medieval Bulgaria and the Uighur Qaganate”. In: Curta, Florin (ed.): East Central and Eastern Europe in the Early Middle Ages. University of Michigan Press: Ann Arbor 2005, pp. 152–161.

11 The origins and meaning of the title are not yet sufficiently understood, see Golden, Introduction (as n. 9), pp. 71–72.

12 For the Rou-ran see Golden, Introduction (as n. 9), pp. 76–79; Kollautz, Arnulf / Miyakawa, Hisayuki: Geschichte und Kultur eines völkerwanderungszeitlichen Nomadenvolkes. Die Jou-Jan der Mongolei und die Awaren in Mitteleuropa, vol. 1: Die Geschichte. Geschichtsverein für Kärnten: Klagenfurt 1970, pp. 56–137.

13 For the origins and meaning of the name Türk see Scharlipp, Wolfgang-Ekkehard: Die frühen Türken in Zentralasien. Eine Einführung in ihre Geschichte und Kultur. WBG: Darmstadt 1992, pp. 13–17.

14 Ibid., pp. 18–19; Kljaštornyj / Sultanov, Staaten und Völker (as n. 9), pp. 100–101.

15 For the formation of Avar rule in the Hungarian plain in these decades see Pohl, Walter: Die Awaren. Ein Steppenvolk in Mitteleuropa 567–822 n.Chr. Beck: Munich 1988, pp. 43–76.

16 See Golden, Introduction (as n. 9), pp. 121–124 for a discussion of the origins of this probably non-Turkic name and related questions.

17 For an excellent outline of the development and current state of this particularly rich field of study see Golden, Peter B.: “Khazar Studies: Achievements and Perspectives”. In: Id. / Ben-Shammai, Haggai / Róna-Tas, András (eds.): The World of the Khazars. New Perspectives. Selected Papers from the Jerusalem 1999 International Khazar Colloquium. (Handbuch der Orientalistik 8, 17). Brill: Leiden / Boston 2007, pp. 7–57.

18 Golden, Introduction (as n. 9), p. 71: “the title qağan, which we may translate as ‘Emperor of the nomadic, steppe peoples’ ”; Pritsak, “The Distinctive Features” (as n. 10), p. 754: “The qaγan was an autocrat (bilgä) and sole intermediary between the sedentary empire (China, Byzantium) and the ēl, both as a negotiator (peace, money, trade) and a war leader.”

19 Golden, Peter: The Question of the Rus’ Qağanate. Archivum Eurasiae Medii Aevi 2, 1982, pp. 77–97, repr. in: Id.: Nomads and their Neighbours in the Russian Steppe: Turks, Khazars and Qipchaqs. Ashgate: Aldershot 2003, nr. VI, here pp. 84–86; see also Stepanov, Tsvetelin: “Rulers, Doctrines and Title Practices in Eastern Europe, 6th-9th Centuries”. Archivum Eurasiae Medii Aevi 14, 2005, pp. 263–279, here pp. 267–268. See also Golden, Introduction (as n. 9), pp. 146–149; Id., “Türk Imperial Tradition” (as n. 10), pp. 75–79.

20 For the political structure of these two polities see Golden, Introduction (as n. 9), pp. 264–281.

21 Moravcsik, Byzantinoturcica II (as n. 3), pp. 332–334; cf. Savvides, “Some Notes” (as n. 4), p. 275.

22 For this period of Byzantine historiography, see now Treadgold, Warren: The Early Byzantine Historians. Palgrave: Basingstoke 2007, pp. 293–349; cf. Hunger, Herbert: Die hochsprachliche profane Literatur der Byzantiner, vol. 1. (Handbuch der Altertumswissenschaft XII.5, 1). Beck: Munich 1978, pp. 309–319 and 328–329.

23 Ibid., pp. 334–339, pp. 344–347. The various discussions concerning the authorship and the sources of the “Chronography” are now concisely summarized by Conterno, Maria: La “descrizione dei tempi” all’alba dell’espansione islamica. Un’indagine sulla storiografia greca, siriaca e araba fra VII e VIII secolo. (Millennium Studien 47). De Gruyter: Berlin / Boston 2014, pp. 4–21. See also the detailed introduction by Rochow, Ilse: Byzanz im 8. Jahrhundert in der Sicht des Theophanes. Quellenkritisch-historischer Kommentar zu den Jahren 715–813. (Berliner byzantinistische Arbeiten 57). Akademie Verlag: Berlin 1991, pp. 37–74.

24 On his personality and the character of his work see Baldwin, Barry: “Menander Protector”. Dumbarton Oaks Papers 32, 1978, pp. 99–125.

25 Blockley, Roger C. (ed.): The History of Menander the Guardsman. (ARCA Classical and Medieval Texts, Papers and Monographs 17). Cairns: Liverpool 1985, frg. 2, p. 42: τῷ Σανδίλχῳ τῷ τῶν Οὐτιγούρων ἡγεμόνι.

26 Menander, frg. 4,3, p. 46: Κάτουλφος κωλύων τὸν τῶν Ἐφθαλιτῶν ἡγεμόνα.

27 Id., frg. 11, p. 126: ἐσήμηνεν Βαιανὸς Σιγισβέρτῳ τῷ τῶν Φράγγων ἡγεμόνι.

28 Cf. Id., frg. 4,2, p. 44: Σιλζίβουλος τῶν Τούρκων ἡγεμών.

29 Id., frg. 8, p. 94: the Avar envoys sent to Constantinople refer to their qaghan as τὸν καθ᾿ ἡμᾶς ἡγεμόνα; frg. 12,6, p. 138: Βαϊανὸς τῶν Ἀβάρων ἡγεμὼν; frg. 21, p. 192: the emperor Tiberius sends an embassy to Βαϊανὸν τὸν ἡγεμόνα τῶν βάρων.

30 Cf. Id., frg. 5,3, p. 50; frg. 27,3, p. 240; frg. 12,5, p. 136: Bonus, the commander of Sirmium (perhaps magister militum per Illyricum) sends a message to Baian, addressing him Χαγάνε.

31 Pohl, Die Awaren (as n. 15), p. 176; cf. Id.: “A non-Roman Empire in Central Europe: the Avars”. In: Goetz, Hans-Werner / Jarnut, Jörg / Pohl, Walter (eds.): Regna and gentes. The Relationship between Late Antique and Early Medieval Peoples and Kingdoms in the Transformation of the Roman World. (The Transformation of the Roman World 13). Brill: Leiden / Boston 2003, pp. 571–595, here p. 586, assuming that “the ideology of Avar rulership obliterated the individuality of the khagan; it was inconceivable that there was another khagan.”

32 Menander, frg. 25, pp. 216–226, here especially p. 218, l. 8. For the rather typical patterns of Menander’s perception of barbarians see Baldwin, “Menander” (as n. 24), p. 115.

33 Menander, frg. 12,6, p. 138: βασιλεῦ, πάρειμι σταλεὶς ὑπὸ τοῦ σοῦ παιδός· πατὴρ γὰρ αὐτὸς ἀληθῶς Βαϊανοῦ τοῦ καθ᾿ ἡμᾶς δεσπότου.

34 This has been (over)emphasized by Dölger, Franz: “Die “Familie der Könige” im Mittelalter”. In: Id.: Byzanz und die europäische Staatenwelt. Ausgewählte Vorträge und Aufsätze. Buch-Kunstverlag: Ettal 1953, pp. 34–69, who tries to trace the structures of a coherently ordered Byzantine “monarchical world system” out of an address-list given in the treatise “De Cerimoniis”; Dölger’s view has been thoroughly critizised by Brandes, Wolfram: “Die “Familie der Könige” im Mittealter. Ein Diskussionsbeitrag zur Kritik eines vermeintlichen Erkenntnismodells”. Rechtsgeschichte – Legal History 21, 2013, pp. 262–284.

35 Menander, frg. 12,6, p. 138, ll. 17–19: πέποιθα δὴ οὖν ὡς ἐπιδείξασθαι προθυμηθείης τὴν περὶ τὸν παῖδα στοργὴν τῷ διδόναι τὰ τοῦ παιδός. For the implications of the Avar’s demand see also Claude, Dietrich: “Zur Begründung familiärer Beziehungen zwischen dem Kaiser und barbarischen Herrschern”. In: Chrysos, Evangelos K. / Schwarcz, Andreas (eds.): Das Reich und die Barbaren. (Veröffentlichungen des Instituts für Österreichische Geschichtsforschung 29). Böhlau: Vienna / Cologne 1989, pp. 25–56, here p. 31.

36 Menander, frg. 10, 1–5 pp. 110–126. Cf. also Haussig, Hans Wilhelm: “Byzantinische Quellen über Mittelasien in ihrer historischen Aussage”. In: Harmatta, János (ed.): Prolegomena to the Sources on the History of Pre-Islamic Central Asia. Akadémiai Kiadó: Budapest 1979, pp. 41–60, here p. 47.

37 Cf. Menander, frg. 19, pp. 170–178.

38 For Zemarchos, his mission and its sources (besides Menander also in the “Ecclesiastical History” of John of Ephesos) see Dobrovits, Mihály: “The Altaic World through Byzantine Eyes: Some Remarks on the Historical Circumstances of Zemarchus’ Journey to the Turks (AD 569–570)”. Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 64, 2011, pp. 373–409; see also Carile, “I nomadi” (as n. 8), pp. 58–61.

39 Dobrovits, “The Altaic World” (as n. 38), pp. 386–387 shows that the term can refer to any snowy mountain.

40 Menander, frg. 10,3, p. 118, ll. 21–23: Τούτων δὲ ταύτῃ γεγενημένων ἔπειτα ἐπορεύοντο ξὺν τοῖς ἐς τὸ τοιόνδε τεταγμένοις, ἵνα Χαγάνος αὐτὸς ἦν, ἐν ὄρει τινὶ λεγομένῳ Ἐκτάγ, ὡς ἂν εἴποι χρυσοῦν ὄρος Ἕλλην ἀνήρ.

41 For prestigious objects and riches available at the qaghan’s court see Stark, Sören: Die Alttürkenzeit in Mittel- und Zentralasien. Archäologische und historische Studien. Reichert: Wiesbaden 2008, pp. 189–195.

42 Cf. Menander, frg. 10,3, p. 118, ll. 27–42.

43 For the position of the Sogdian merchants as economic elite of the Türk qaghanate see de la Vaissière, Étienne: Sogdian Traders. A History. (Handbook of Oriental Studies 8, 10). Brill: Leiden / Boston 2005, pp. 199–216.

44 Menander, frg. 10,1, p. 110, ll. 2–5: ὡς γὰρ τὰ Τούρκων ἐπὶ μέγα ἤρθη, οἱ Σογδαῗται οἱ πρὸ τοῦ μὲν Ἐφθαλιτῶν, τηνικαῦτα δὲ Τούρκων κατήκοοι, τοῦ σφῶν βασιλέως ἐδέοντο πρεσβείαν στεῖλαι ὡς Πέρσας.

45 Id., frg. 10,1, p. 114, ll. 68–73. Golden, Introduction (as n. 9), p. 128, interprets Maniach’s statement in another way: “the Byzantines learned that Σιλζίβουλος was the supreme ruler of the Western branch of the Türk Empire which appears to have been broken up into four administrative units.” The text, however, does not refer to a distinction between Eastern and Western Türk, and Golden also underlines (p. 131) that in the time of Ištämi the Western Türk Empire did not represent “an independent political entity”.

46 Menander, frg. 19,1, p. 170, ll. 15–16: Σκύθας ἄνδρας ἐκ τοῦ φύλου τῶν ἐπιλεγομένων Τούρκων, and p. 172, ll. 32–33: ἐν ὀκτὼ γὰρ μοίραις διεδάσαντο τὰ ἐκείνῃ ἅπαντα, οἷς γε τοῦ φύλου τῶν Τούρκων ἔλαχε προεστάναι.

47 Beckwith, Christopher: “The Frankish Name of the King of the Turks”. Archivum Eurasiae Medii Aevi 15, 2006/7, pp. 5–12, here pp. 7–8, has argued that this name in fact stands for the title *türkwać (ruler of the Türk) instead of a meaningless *türkšad. The title has also left traces in the so-called Fredegar-chronicle.

48 Menander frg. 19,1, p. 178, ll. 133–135. For Tardu, son of Ištämi, ruler of the Western Türk empire (575–603) and finally even qaghan in the East (600–603), see Golden, Introduction (as n. 9), pp. 131–133; Scharlipp, Die frühen Türken (as n. 13), pp. 27–28.

49 Menander frg. 19,1, p. 172, l. 34: Ἀρσίλας δὲ ὄνομα τῷ παλαιτέρῳ μονάρχῳ Τούρκων. Arsilas has been identified with the dynastic name Ashina by Christopher Beckwith, see Golden, Introduction (as n. 9), p. 121.

50 Menander frg. 19,1, p. 172, ll. 35–49.

51 Ibid., p. 172, l. 50-p. 174, l. 74.

52 The most detailed discussion is Haussig, Hans Wilhelm: “Theophylakts Exkurs über die skythischen Völker”. Byzantion 23, 1953, pp. 275–457. See also the comments by Peter Schreiner in: Id. (transl.): Theophylaktos Simokates, Geschichte. (Bibliothek der griechischen Literatur 20). Hiersemann: Stuttgart 1985, pp. 340–347.

53 The letter’s date is controversial, although it is generally agreed upon that the events mentioned by Theophylaktos in the surrounding chapters belong to 595. Therefore Schreiner, Theophylaktos (as n. 52), p. 341, n. 951, pleads for 595, but Whitby, Michael: The Emperor Maurice and his Historian. Theophylact Simocatta on Persian and Balkan Warfare. Clarendon Press: Oxford 1988, pp. 315–316 prefers a much earlier date shortly after 580 for the letter, as did Haussig, “Theophylakts Exkurs” (as n. 52), pp. 383–384 with regard to the oral victory reports, but not to the actual letter, which he dates to 600. Against such a rather unconvincing split Harmatta, János: “The Letter Sent by the Turk Qaγan to the Emperor Mauricius”. Acta Antiqua Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 41, 2001, pp. 109–118, tries to show that all events mentioned in the letter can be dated to the years between 580 and 599, this last one serving as terminus post quem for the letter’s redaction (p. 118).

54 De Boor, Carolus (ed.) / Wirth, Peter (rec.): Theophylacti Simocattae Historiae. (Bibliotheca Teubneriana). Teubner: Stuttgart 1972, VII 7, 7, p. 257, ll. 1–3: κατὰ τοῦτον δὴ τὸν ἐνιαυτὸν πρὸς τῇ ἕῳ ὑπὸ τῶν Τούρκων Χαγάνος ὑμνούμενος πρέσβεις ἐξέπεμψε Μαυρικίῳ τῷ αὐτοκράτορι. The sender of this letter has usually been identified with Tardu qaghan, who thus announced his ascent to supreme power in 600, cf. Haussig, “Theophylakts Exkurs” (as n. 52), pp. 378–379; Harmatta, “The Letter” (as n. 53), pp. 114–115. Recently, however, de la Vaissière, Etienne: “Maurice et le qaghan: à propos de la digression de Théophylacte Simocatta sur les Turcs”. Revue des Etudes Byzantines 68, 2010, pp. 219–224, has proposed to identify him with Nili qaghan, pretender to the Eastern qaghanate from a secondary Ashina-branch, and has dated the letter to 595.

55 Theophylacti Historiae VII 7,8, p. 257, ll. 5–6: τῷ βασιλεῖ τῶν Ῥωμαίων Χαγάνος μέγας δεσπότης ἑπτὰ γενεῶν καὶ κύριος κλιμάτων τῆς οἰκουμένης ἑπτὰ.

56 This has extensively been discussed by Haussig, “Theophylakts Exkurs” (as n. 52), pp. 317–325.

57 It should be noted that the name of the destinatary precedes the qaghan’s long intitulatio.

58 Theophylacti Historiae VII 7,8–9 (Hephthalites and Avars), VII 7,13 (Oghur) and VII 8–11 (civil war). For historical interpretations of the external victories see Haussig, “Theophylakts Exkurs” (as n. 52), pp. 325–338, 344–345. Turum is identified with qaghan Dulan (588–599) of the Eastern Türk by both Harmatta, “The Letter” (as n. 53), p. 115 and de la Vaissière, “Maurice” (as n. 54), p. 223, independently.

59 Hausssig, “Theophylakts Exkurs” (as n. 52), pp. 372–373, has made an important distinction between the external victories as representatives of the conquest of the four parts of the world (thus reflecting not necessarily personal victories of this qaghan, but of the Türk in general) and the recent defeat of the rebel as actual cause. Cf. Harmatta, “The Letter” (as n. 53), p. 111, who furthermore reckons the letter among the “literary genre” of triumphal reports familiar in the Near Eastern world. For the historical background of Nili’s victory see de la Vaissière, “Maurice” (as n. 54), pp. 222–224, for Tardu’s battles see Haussig, “Theophylakts Exkurs” (as n. 52), pp. 372–386; Harmatta, “The Letter”, pp. 115–118.

60 Cf. Theophylacti Historiae VII 9,1, p. 260, ll. 25–29: μὲν οὖν τῶν Τούρκων Χαγάνος τὸν ἐμφύλιον καταλυσάμενος πόλεμον εὐδαιμόνως χειραγώγει τὰ πράγματα, ποιεῖται δὲ καὶ συνθήκας πρὸς τοὺς Ταυγάστ, πως βαθεῖαν πάντοθεν τὴν γαλήνην ἐμπορευόμενος ἀστασίαστον τὴν ἀρχὴν καταστήσηται.

61 Ibid., VII 8,9, p. 259, ll. 21–23: πρεσβεύεται Χαγάνος πρὸς ἑτέρους τρεῖς μεγάλους Χαγάνους· ταῦτα δὲ τούτοις ὀνόματα, Σπαρζευγοῦν καὶ Κουναξολὰν καὶ Τουλδίχ. Tuldich is identified with the Eastern qaghan Duli (599–608) by de la Vaissière, “Maurice” (as n. 54), p. 223; for further proposals of identification see Haussig, “Theophylakts Exkurs” (as n. 52), pp. 376–378 and Harmatta, “The Letter”, pp. 115–116, proposing two great grandsons of Tardu’s as his allies which obviously causes chronological difficulties.

62 Theophylacti Historia VII 8,1–6, pp. 258–259: Theophylaktos states that the Avars should rightly be called Pseudavars: οἱ Ψευδάβαροι (λέγειν γὰρ οὕτως αὐτοὺς οἰκειότερον). For a critical analysis of this myth about the origin of the European Avars see Pohl, Die Awaren (as n. 15), pp. 28–37; Haussig, “Theophylakts Exkurs” (as n. 52), pp. 345–371.

63 Theophylacti Historia VI 11, pp. 242–244.

64 Ibid., VII 13, 3–5, pp. 267, leading to the conclusion: διὰ τοῦτο μέχρι τῶν χρόνων τῶν καθ᾽ ἡμᾶς τῶν παραδοξολογουμένων τὰ τῆς βαρβαρικῆς φιλανθρωπίας ταύτης καθέστηκεν. Cf. Pohl, Die Awaren (as n. 15), pp. 152–153.

65 De Boor, Carolus (ed.): Theophanis Chronographia, vol. 1. Teubner: Leipzig 1883, AM 6092, pp. 279–280; see also Schreiner, Peter (ed.): Die byzantinischen Kleinchroniken, vol. 1: Einleitung und Text. (Corpus Fontium Historiae Byzantinae 12/1). Verlag der ÖAW: Vienna 1975, Chronicle 1, nr. 13, pp. 43–44. The qaghan is characterized as enraged, but not as a cruel barbarian in this context.

66 Leone, Petrus Aloysius (ed.): Ioannis Tzetzae Historiae. Libr. Scientifica Ed.: Naples 1968, ch. III 240, p. 93 and IV 573, p. 149 – both verses also contain the word Chaganos.

67 Aerts, Willem J. (ed.): Michael Psellos, Historia syntomos. (Corpus Fontium Historiae Byzantinae 30). De Gruyter: Berlin / New York 1990, ch. 74, p. 60: τῷ ἀρχηγῷ τοῦ βαρβαρικοῦ στρατοπέδου (Χαγάνος δὲ γενναιότατος ἦν).

68 Adler, Ada (ed.): Suidae Lexicon, vol. 4. Reprint Teubner: Stuttgart 1971, lemma X. 2/3, p. 779: Χαγάνος· οὗτος ἦν A second entry simply quotes a passage on the Avar qaghan from Theophylaktos I 3,13–4,1, p. 46, without any attempt to define the title: δὲ Χαγάνος τοὺς ὅρκους ταῖς αὔραις φέρειν ἐδίδου ἀθρόον τε τὴν πολέμῳ φίλην ἀράμενος σάλπιγγα τὰς δυνάμεις ἥθροιζε.

69 For the history of the siege see Pohl, Die Awaren (as n. 15), pp. 248–255; Stratos, Andreas N.: Byzantium in the Seventh Century, vol. 1: 602–634. Hakkert: Amsterdam 1968, pp. 173–196; Howard-Johnston, James D.: “The Siege of Constantinople in 626”. In: Mango, Cyril / Dagron, Gilbert (eds.): Constantinople and its Hinterland. Ashgate: Aldershot 1995, pp. 131–142; Kaegi, Walter: Heraclius – Emperor of Byzantium. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge 2003, pp. 132–141; Szádeczky-Kardoss, Samu: “Persisch-awarische Beziehungen und Zusammenwirken vor und während der Belagerung von Byzanz im Jahre 626”. In: Bálint, Csanád (ed.): Kontakte zwischen Iran, Byzanz und der Steppe im 6.-7. Jahrhundert. Academia Sc. Hung.: Budapest 2000, pp. 313–322; Hurbanič, Martin: Posledná vojna antiky. Avarský útok na Konštantínopol roku 626 v historických súvislostiach. Vydatel’stvo Michala Vaška: Prešov 2009.

70 Cf. Dindorf, Ludwig A. (ed.): Chronicon Paschale. (Corpus Scriptorum Historiae Byzantinae), vol. 1. Weber: Bonn 1832, p. 724, ll. 1, 17 etc. The qaghan is even more drastically stylised as a cruel barbarian tyrant in a homily on the siege: Makk, Ferenc: Traduction et commentaire de l’homélie écrite probablement par Théodore le Syncelle sur le siège de Constantinople en 626. Universitas Attila József: Szeged 1975, ch. 8, p. 13 (transl.) and p. 76 (text from the Edition by L. Sternbach, Analecta Avarica): δὲ δυτικὸς χθρός, τὸ μυσαρώτατον ἔκτρωμα, ὃν Χαγάνον ἐπιχωρίως ὀνομάζουσι βάρβαροι.

71 Chronicon Paschale, p. 725, ll. 9–11: Καὶ τοῦτο δὲ ἔλεγεν ἄθεος Χαγάνος τῷ καιρῷ τοῦ πολέμου ὅτι ἐγὼ θεωρῶ γυναῖκα σεμνοφοροῦσαν περιτρέχουσαν εἰς τὸ τεῖχος μόνην οὖσαν. The intervention of the virgin is also the leading motif in Theodoros’ homily, who indirectly evokes the qaghan as a witness of the virgin’s deeds, see Makk, Traduction (as n. 70), ch. 34, p. 88 (text) and p. 32 (transl.). On liturgical repercussions of the virgin’s ‘intervention’ during the siege see Peltomaa, Leena Mari: “Role of the Virgin Mary at the Siege of Constantinople in 626”. Scrinium. Revue de Patrologie 5, 2009, pp. 294–309.

72 Theophanis Chronographia (as n. 65), AM 6169, p. 356: ταῦτα μαθόντες οἱ τὰ ἑσπέρια οἰκοῦντες μέρη, τε Χαγάνος τῶν Ἀβάρων καὶ οἱ ἐπέκεινα ῥῆγες, ἔξαρχοί τε καὶ κάσταλδοι καὶ οἱ ἐξοχώτατοι τῶν πρὸς τὴν δύσιν ἐθνῶν, διὰ πρεσβευτῶν δῶρα τῷ βασιλεῖ στείλαντες εἰρηνικὴν πρὸς αὐτοὺς ἀγάπην κυρωθῆναι τήσαντο. Pohl, Die Awaren (as n. 15), p. 278, interprets this as an evidence for changing political conditions in the Danube-Adriatic area and the emergence of new political players there, but it is perhaps more probable that the whole ‘West’ of Europe, including Italy and beyond, is meant.

73 The famous passage of the so-called Fredegar on the opening of the Caspian Gates by Herakleios, though linked to the emergence of Arab power, is certainly a repercussion of this alliance: Esders, Stefan: “Herakleios, Dagobert und die “beschnittenen Völker”. Die Umwälzungen des Mittelmeerraums im 7. Jahrhundert in der Chronik des sog. Fredegar”. In: Goltz, Andreas / Leppin, Hartmut / Schlange-Schöningen, Heinrich (eds.): Jenseits der Grenzen. Beiträge zur spätantiken und frühmittelalterlichen Geschichtsschreibung. (Millennium-Studien 25). De Gruyter: Berlin / New York 2009, pp. 239–311, here pp. 285–287. Haussig, “Byzantinische Quellen” (as n. 36), pp. 58–59 argues that the Türks’ fear of an Avar empire in the steppe was the driving force behind the alliance.

74 Theophanes’ chronology for Herakleios’ campaign, which lasted from 624 to 628 (death of Chosrau II), is notoriously misleading, see Zuckerman, Constantin: “Heraclius in 625”. Revue des Etudes Byzantines 60, 2002, pp. 189–197. Zuckerman establishes a revised chronology, showing that the events mentioned under AM 6115 and 6116 in fact both belong to the spring of 625, while most of those under AM 6117 should be placed in 626, among them also the first contact between Herakleios and the Türk, but not their concerted campaign.

75 Theophanis Chronographia (as n. 65), AM 6117, p. 315, ll. 15–16: τοὺς Τούρκους ἐκ τῆς ἑῴας, οὓς Χάζαρεις ὀνομάζουσιν, εἰς συμμαχίαν προσεκαλέσατο. The “Turks from the East”, however, need not be “eastern Turks” as rendered in Mango, Cyril / Scott, Roger (transl.): Theophanes Confessor, The Chronicle. Clarendon Press: Oxford 1997, p. 446. The anachronistic identification of the Türk with the Khazars has widely been accepted in earlier research, see Zuckerman, Constantine: “The Khazars and Byzantium – The First Encounter”. In: The World of the Khazars (as n. 17), pp. 399–432, here p. 403. Inversely, some later entries of the “Chronographia” use the term Τούρκοι obviously for the Khazars, see Balogh, László: “Notes on the Western Turks in the Work of Theophanes Confessor”. Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 58, 2005, pp. 187–195, here pp. 190–193.

76 Theophanis Chronographia, p. 316, ll. 2–3: σὺν τῷ ἑαυτῶν στρατηγῷ Ζιέβηλ, δευτέρῳ ὄντι τοῦ Χαγάνου τῇ ἀξίᾳ.

77 De la Vaissière, Étienne: “Ziebel qaghan identified”. In: Zuckerman, Constantine (ed.): Constructing the Seventh Century. (Travaux et mémoires 17). Association des Amis du Centre d’Histoire et Civilisation de Byzance: Paris 2013, pp. 761–768.

78 Theophanis Chronographia, AM 6117, p. 316, ll. 5–11, esp. ll. 8–10: πᾶς δὲ λαὸς τῶν Τούρκων εἰς γῆν πεσόντες πρηνεῖς, ἐκταθέντες ἐπὶ στόμα τὸν βασιλέα ἐτίμων τιμὴν τὴν παρ᾽ ἔθνεσι ξένην.

79 Ibid., p. 316, ll. 11–13: προσήνεγκε δὲ Ζιέβηλ καὶ τὸν ἑαυτοῦ υἱὸν ἀρχιγένειον τῷ βασιλεῖ, ἡδυνόμενος τοῖς τούτου λόγοις καὶ ἐκπληττόμενος τὴν τε θέαν καὶ τὴν φρόνησιν αὐτοῦ.

80 Cf. Mango, Cyril (ed.): Nikephoros, Patriarch of Constantinople, Short History. (Corpus Fontium Historiae Byzantinae 13). Dumbarton Oaks Library: Washington 1990, ch. 12, p. 54, l. 17.

81 Ibid., p. 54, ll. 20–24.

82 Ibid., p. 54, l. 25-p. 55, l. 32. The crowning of the Türk commander with the basileus’ own crown is a rather singular gesture in Byzantium. The close parallels between this encounter and the meeting between Bolesław Chrobry and Otto III at Gnieźno in 1000 according to the description given by the Gallus Anonymus in the early 12th century have already been recognized by Wasilewski, Tadeusz: “Bizantyńska symbolika zjazdu gnieźnieńskiego i jego prawno-polityczna wymowa”. Przegłąd Historyczny 57, 1966, pp. 1–14. Influenced by Dölger’s theory, however, Wasilewski interpreted Nikephoros’ account as the official incorporation of a barbarian ruler into the Byzantine “family of kings” as “son of the emperor” (pp. 7–8). In his view, the similarities thus result from a deliberate imitation of Byzantine ceremonial (by the semi-Byzantine Otto III) in a Middle-European context (p. 11), and the Gniezno events should be seen as Bolesław’s reception into the Ottonian “family of kings” on the highest rank as the emperor’s brother (“do godności braterskiej”, p. 12), but not as an actual coronation. Wasilewski’s interpretation has found a positive echo from numerous scholars, cf. Labuda, Gerard: “Der “Akt von Gnesen” vom Jahre 1000. Bericht über die Forschungsvorhaben und -ergebnisse”. Quaestiones Medii Aevi Novae 5, 2000, pp. 145–188, here pp. 151–152 and (though slightly distorted) Wyrozumski, Jerzy: “Der Akt von Gnesen und seine Bedeutung für die polnische Geschichte”. In: Borgolte, Michael (ed.): Polen und Deutschland vor 1000 Jahren. Die Berliner Tagung über den “Akt von Gnesen”. (Europa im Mittelalter 5). Akademie Verlag: Berlin 2002, pp. 281–291, here pp. 288–289. As far as I see, however, this idea has not been developed further in the intensive debate about the meaning of Bolesław’s “coronation”, see Strzelczyk, Jerzy: Zjazd gnieźnieński. Wydawnictwo WBP: Poznań 2000, esp. pp. 47–61. Nevertheless, the theory should be reviewed because it is based on problematic assumptions about the “reality” of a construction like the “family of kings”, which certainly has nothing to do with what happened in the Caucasus in 627. For very helpful advice on this scholarly debate, I wish to thank Sven Jaros, Leipzig.

83 Nikephoros, Short History (as n. 80), ch. 12, p. 56, ll. 32–40, cf. Claude, “Begründung familiärer Beziehungen” (as n. 35), pp. 26–27.

84 See Zuckerman, Constantin: “La petite Augusta et le turc. Epiphania-Eudocie sur les monnaies d’Héraclius”. Revue Numismatique 150, 1995, pp. 113–126; Id.: “Au sujet de la petite Augusta sur les monnaies d’Héraclius”. Revue Numismatique 152, 1997, pp. 473–478.

85 Dowsett, Charles J. F. (transl.): The History of the Caucasian Albanians by Movsēs Dasxuranci. Oxford University Press: London et al. 1961.

86 For the structure of the report see Zuckerman, “The Khazars and Byzantium” (as n. 75), pp. 404–410: the chapters II 12–16 belong to the report on Viroy; most notably his leading role in a large Albanian delegation to the Türk šat’ that obtained the restoration of peace from this ruler, cf. Dasxuranci, The History (as n. 85), ch. II 14, pp. 92–102 (all this happens after the death of Chosrau). Zuckerman, pp. 410–412, shows that the invaders are not identified as Khazars, but as “Turks” in this source.

87 Dasxuranci, The History (as n. 85), ch. II 12, p. 87. The yabghu is characterized as “viceroy of the king of the north who was second to him in kingship”. The “king of the north” is therefore identified with the Qaghan of the Eastern Türks, who does not actually enter the scene. The Roman embassy is dated to 625 by Zuckerman, “The Khazars and Byzantium” (as n. 75), pp. 412–414.

88 Dasxuranci, The History (as n. 85), ch. II 12, pp. 87–88. Although this campaign is dated to the “beginning of the thirty-seventh year [of Xosrov]”, i.e. summer 626, it obviously belongs to 627 as an immediate prelude to the fall of Chosrau: see Zuckerman, “The Khazars and Byzantium” (as n. 75), p. 415.

89 Dasxuranci, The History (as n. 85), p. 88, in a message of this “king of the north” to Chosrau: “the king of the north, the lord of the whole world, your king and the king of kings, says to you: […]”. Chosrau directs his answer to “my brother Xak’an” whom he reminds of the long tradition of mutual respect and alliances sealed by intermarriage: “for we were allied with each other through our sons and daughters”.

90 According to Zuckerman, “The Khazars and Byzantium” (as n. 75), pp. 407–410, this source comprises the chapters II 9–11 and can be identified as the initial part of the Eulogy of prince Juanšer of Albania continued from ch. II 18 onwards. The first Khazar attack is mentioned at the beginning of ch. II 11, pp. 81–82.

91 See Dasxuranci, The History (as n. 85), ch. II 11, pp. 83–86. The report ends with their withdrawal from Tiflis. The scene of mockery conveys some physical features of Ĵebu Xak’an: his typical facial features, accentuated by the pumpkin caricature, were missing eyelashes and beard and a paltry moustache – perhaps a striking contrast to Herakleios with his impressive beard emphasized on the coins.

92 In contrast to Zuckerman’s reconstruction, two sieges of Tiflis should clearly be distinguished, as has correctly been seen by Ludwig, Dieter: Struktur und Gesellschaft des Chazaren-Reiches im Licht der schriftlichen Quellen. University of Münster, thesis 1982, pp. 121–122: one in 627 that failed after the mockery and caused a temporary retreat of the Turks while Herakleios proceeded to Mesopotamia alone (all this is described in II 11, pp. 85–86), and another in 628 (or 629), which led to the fall of the city on the hands of the Turks (described in II 14, pp. 94–95, after the end of Chosrau). Theophanes is thus perfectly justified in likewise mentioning the Türks’ retreat before the actual Persian campaign in winter 627/8 (contra Zuckerman, p. 416). There is no reason to believe that the Türk army accompanied Herakleios to Persia in the decisive months.

93 On the last battle between Türk (“Khazar”) and Persian troops see Dasxuranci, The History (as n. 85), ch. II 16, p. 105; the news from the yabghu are mentioned ibid., p. 106.

94 Zuckerman, “The Khazars and Byzantium” (as n. 75), pp. 417–431. The first Khazar expedition to Caucasia is dated to 685. In fact, the (ethnic as well as political) origins of the Khazar polity have been the subject of long debates, cf. Golden, “Khazar Studies” (as n. 17), pp. 52–55; see also Ludwig, Struktur und Gesellschaft (as n. 92), pp. 24–68 and 134–142; Romašov, Sergej A.: “Ot tjurkov k chazaram: Severnyj Kavkaz v VI–VII vv.”. In: Tjurkskie narody v drevnosti i srednevekove. (Tjurkologičeskij Sbornik 2003/4). Izdat. RAN: Moskva 2005, pp. 185–202, here pp. 195–198.

95 For Kuvrat’s Bulgar polity see Beševliev, Veselin: Die protobulgarische Periode der bulgarischen Geschichte. Hakkert: Amsterdam 1981, pp. 145–155; Ziemann, Daniel: Vom Wandervolk zur Großmacht. Die Entstehung Bulgariens im frühen Mittelalter (7.-9. Jahrhundert). Böhlau: Cologne / Weimar / Vienna 2007, pp. 142–160; András Róna-Tas: “Where was Khuvrat’s Bulgharia?”. Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 53, 2000, pp. 1–22. The main sources are Nikephoros, Short History (as n. 80), ch. 35, pp. 86–88 and Theophanis Chronographia (as n. 65), AM 6171, pp. 356–359. Kuvrat is called κύριος […] τῶν φύλων τούτων (Nikephoros, p. 88, l. 7) or τοῦ κυροῦ τῆς λεχθείσης Βουλγαρίας (Theophanes, p. 357, ll. 12–13) respectively.

96 Cf. Chavannes, Edouard: Documents sur les Tou-Kiue (Turcs) Occidentaux. Librairie d’Amérique et d’Orient: Paris 1900, pp. 63–67, 267–268; Scharlipp, Die frühen Türken (as n. 13), p. 29, Golden, Introduction (as n. 9), p. 136.

97 The Prosopographie der mittelbyzantinischen Zeit. 1. Abteilung (641–867). De Gruyter: Berlin 2000/1 contains six qaghans of the Khazars. There are four anonymi among them: see vol. 5, #11103, p. 428 (the qaghan of the “Life of John of Gotthia”), #11187, p. 452 (a qaghan mentioned in “De administrando imperio”), #11573, p. 547 (the qaghan ruling in the 830s, demanding Byzantine help to build the fortress of Sarkel) and #12023, p. 658 (the qaghan of the “Vita Constantini”). The names of the two others depend on quite uncertain, non-historiographical sources: Theodoros or Virchor for the father-in-law of Emperor Constantine V (vol. 4, #7524, pp. 411–412) and Ibuzēros Gliabanos for that of Justinian II (vol. 2, #2654, p. 162).

98 See Dunlop, Douglas M.: The History of the Jewish Khazars. Princeton University Press: Princeton, NJ 1954, pp. 171–173; Artamonov, Michail I.: Istorija Chazar. Izdatel’stvo G. Ermitaža: Leningrad 1962, pp. 196–197; Noonan, Thomas S.: “Byzantium and the Khazars: A Special Relationship?”. In: Shepard, Jonathan / Franklin, Simon (eds.): Byzantine Diplomacy. Ashgate: Aldershot 1992, pp. 109–132, here pp. 111–112; Howard-Johnston, James: “Byzantine Sources for Khazar History”. In: The World of the Khazars (as n. 17), pp. 163–193, here p. 168.

99 This second Byzantine-Khazar marriage has received little attention in Byzantine sources, perhaps due to their bias against the so-called iconoclast emperors. See Dunlop, The History (as n. 98), p. 177; Artamonov, Istorija (as n. 98), p. 233; Noonan, “Byzantium and the Khazars” (as n. 98), p. 113.

100 Nikephoros, Short History (as n. 80), ch. 42, p. 100, ll. 8–9: αἰτεῖ δὲ τὸν τῶν Χαζάρων ἡγεμόνα (χαγάνους δὲ τούτους αὐτοὶ καλοῦσιν); ibid., l. 14: τὸν τῶν Χαζάρων ἄρχοντα; ch. 45, p. 110, l. 48: τῷ χαγάνῳ; ibid., l. 62: ὡς τὸν κύριον τῶν Χαζάρων; ch. 63, p. 130, ll. 1–2: ἐκπέμπει βασιλεὺς πρὸς τὸν τοῦ ἔθνους τῶν Χαζάρων ἡγούμενον (with reference to the marriage negotiations for Constantine V). In one case (ch. 45, p. 110, l. 67) the qaghan is simply called “the Khazar” (πρὸς τὸν Χάζαρον).

101 The title is repeatedly used in the long account of Justinian II’s comeback and final downfall, see Theophanis Chronographia (as n. 65), AM 6196-AM 6203, pp. 372–380, and furthermore p. 407, l. 5; p. 426, l. 16 (both discussed in the following note). As far as I see, Theophanes does not substitute the title with other designations for rulers (as Nikephoros does), but when introducing the marriage of Constantine V he calls the qaghan “lord of the Scythians”, thus perhaps reflecting official terminology: AM 6224, p. 409, ll. 30–31: Τούτῳ τῷ τει Λέων βασιλεὺς τὴν θυγατέρα Χαγάνου, τοῦ τῶν Σκυθῶν δυνάστου, τῷ υἱῷ Κωνσταντίνῳ ἐνυμφεύσατο.

102 Cf. Theophanis Chronographia, p. 373, l. 14; 375, l. 21; p. 378, ll. 22–23 (ἀπέστειλαν πρὸς τὸν Χαγάνον εἰς Χαζαρίαν); p. 434, l. 16 (as a geographical area around the frozen Pontus). The perception of the qaghan as a territorial ruler is especially clear when the son of the Khazar ruler, waging an expedition against the Arabs, is introduced as υἱὸς Χαγάνου τοῦ δυνάστου Χαζαρίας in the entry of AM 6220, p. 407, ll. 5–6. Under AM 6241, p. 426, l. 16, the bride of Constantine V is mentioned as τῆς τοῦ Χαγάνου τῆς Χαζαρίας θυγατρός. The territorial terminology is only once employed by Nikephoros, Short History (as n. 80), ch. 42, p. 104, l. 75.

103 Duchesne, Louis (ed.): Le Liber Pontificalis, vol. 1. Boccard: Paris 1886, p. 220: Huius temporibus Iustinianus imperator a partibus Chazariae per loca Vulgariae cum Terveli usque ad regiam urbem veniens.

104 The difference is most notable with respect to the Avars, whose polity is only twice called Ἀβαρία, namely in Theophanis Chronographia (as n. 65), p. 357, l. 24 and 359, l. 16 (in his digression on the early Bulgars), cf. Moravcsik, Byzantinoturcica II (as n. 3), p. 51. The frequency of Τουρκία for the territory of either the Turks or the Khazars in Byzantine sources is likewise minimal, see ibid., p. 320. For the more common use of Βουλγαρία see also Gjuzelev, Vassil: “Les appellations de la Bulgarie médiévale dans les sources historiques (VIIe-XVe s.)”. In: Id.: Medieval Bulgaria – Byzantine Empire – Black Sea – Venice – Genoa, Baier: Villach 1988, pp. 5–9, here pp. 5–6.

105 A certain exception is the negative depiction of the Chaganos in the “Life of bishop John of Gothia”; significantly, however, the author cannot portray him stereotypically as a persecutor of the Christian faith. In fact, the qaghan only punishes those who are unwilling to accept his rule, among them the bishop (§ 4). Nevertheless the qaghan is accused of putting innocent people to death (§ 4) and John calls him “my persecutor” (τοῦ διώκτου μου, § 5), see Auzépy, Marie-France: “La vie de Jean de Gothie (BHG 891)”. In: Zuckerman, Constantin (ed.): La Crimée entre Byzance et le Khaganat khazar. Association des Amis du Centre d’Histoire et Civilisation de Byzance: Paris 2006, pp. 69–85, here pp. 81–83.

106 Theophanes Continuatus III 28. In: Bekker, Immanuel (ed.): Theophanes Continuatus, Ioannes Cameniata, Symeon Magister, Georgius Monachus. (Corpus Scriptorum Historiae Byzantinae). Weber: Bonn 1838, pp. 122–123.

107 The date of this mission is not explicitly given in any source; but see the excellent discussion by Zuckerman, Constantine: “Two Notes on the Early History of the thema of Cherson”. Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies 21, 1997, pp. 210–222. For the event see also Artamonov, Istorija (as n. 98), p. 298 within a chapter dedicated to the archaeological site of Sarkel (pp. 288–323); Dunlop, The History (as n. 98), pp. 186–187; Howard-Johnston, “Byzantine Sources” (as n. 98), pp. 169, 174–175.

108 Theophanes Continuatus (as n. 106), p. 122, ll. 19–20: τε χαγάνος Χαζαρίας καὶ Πὲχ πρὸς τὸν αὐτοκράτορα Θεόφιλον ἔπεμπον πρεσβευτάς.

109 Cf. Zuckerman, “Two Notes” (as n. 107), pp. 214–215.

110 Gyula Moravcsik / Jenkins, Romilly J. (eds.): Constantine Porphyrogenitus, De administrando imperio. Revised edition. (Corpus Fontium Historiae Byzantinae 1). Dumbarton Oaks Library: Washington 1967, ch. 42, p. 182, ll. 27–29: γὰρ χαγάνος ἐκεῖνος καὶ πὲχ Χαζαρίας εἰς τὸν αὐτὸν βασιλέα Θεόφιλον πρέσβεις ἐναποστείλαντες, κτισθῆναι αὐτοῖς τὸ κάστρον τὸ Σάρκελ ᾐτήσαντο. The attribution of Chazaria to the beg might indicate that Constantine VII was aware of the change of actual rulership among the Khazars.

111 Thurn, Johannes (ed.): Ioannes Skylitzes, Synopsis Historiarum. (Corpus Fontium Historiae Byzantinae 5). De Gruyter: Berlin / New York 1973, emperor Theophilos, ch. 22, p. 73, ll. 78–79: ὑποστρέψας δὲ Θεόφιλος πρεσβείαν ἐδέξατο τοῦ χαγάνου Χαζαρίας ἐξαιτουμένου κτισθῆναι τὸ Σάρκελ ὀνομαζόμενον φρούριον.

112 However, the process should not be understood as a secondary sacralization of the qaghanal position compensating the loss of effective power. The characteristics of qaghanal sacrality, as described above all in Muslim sources, were clearly inherited from the Türk qaghans of the Ashina clan and the adherence to Judaism could hardly be reconciled with the sacralization of a human, see Golden, Peter B.: “The Khazar Sacral Kingship”. In: Reyerson, Kathryn L. et al. (eds.): Pre-Modern Russia and its World. Essays in Honor of Thomas S. Noonan. Harrassowitz: Wiesbaden 2006, pp. 79–102 with further literature; Petrukhin, Vladimir Ya.: “A Note on the Sacral Status of the Khazarian Khagan: Tradition and Reality”. In: al-Azmeh, Aziz / Bak, János M. (eds.): Monotheistic Kingship. The Medieval Variants. CEUP: Budapest 2004, pp. 269–275.

113 For an overview of the Muslim sources of the 10th century describing this powerless, but still venerated position of the qaghan in contrast to the king (malik, beg or īša) as actual ruler, see Dunlop, The History (as n. 98), pp. 89–115 and 204–214.

114 Cf. inter alia Dvornik, Francis: Byzantine Missions among the Slavs. SS. Constantine-Cyril and Methodius. Rutgers University Press: New Brunswick, NJ 1970, pp. 65–70 and Ziffer, Giorgio: “Konstantin und die Chazaren”. Welt der Slaven 34, 1989, pp. 354–361, who also discusses the difficulties caused by the late manuscript tradition of this Slavic source. Pritsak, Omeljan: “Turkological Remarks on Constantine’s Khazarian Mission in the Vita Constantini”. In: Farrugia, Edward G. et al. (eds.): Christianity among the Slavs – The Heritage of Saints Cyril and Methodius. (Orientalia Christiana Analecta 231). Pontif. Inst. Studiorum Orientalium: Rome 1988, pp. 295–298 plainly dismissed the historical reliability of the Vita concerning Khazaria as the work of an uninformed author – this is probably a too simple way to cope with the contradictions between the Vita and other sources.

115 See De administrando imperio (as n. 110), ch. 38, pp. 170–174. There are several references to Khazaria and the Khazars within this account on the “genealogy” of the ethnos of the Τούρκοι, i.e. the Magyars. The Khazar ruler is termed χαγάνος ἄρχων Χαζαρίας (p. 170, l. 15; p. 172, l. 32, reduced to chaganos (Chazarias) only ibid., ll. 34, 36, 39, 46). This combination of chaganos and archōn might imply some uncertainty about the existence of still another ruler with the Khazars. But the qaghan is shown as the authority whose decision initiates the “making” of an archōn (of the Turks), following the custom (zakanon) of the Khazars, see ibid., p. 172, ll. 46–53. For Magyar-Khazar relations see inter alia Dunlop, The History (as n. 98), pp. 199–204; Róna-Tas, András: “The Khazars and the Magyars”. In: The World of the Khazars (as n. 17), pp. 269–278.

116 The history of the work and its manuscripts has recently become the object of intensive research, cf. inter alia Kresten, Otto: “Staatsempfänge” im Kaiserpalast von Konstantinopel um die Mitte des 10. Jahrhunderts. Beobachtungen zu Kapitel II 15 des sogenannten “Zeremonienbuches”. Verlag der ÖAW: Vienna 2000; Featherstone, Michael J.: “Preliminary Remarks on the Leipzig Manuscript of De Cerimoniis”. Byzantinische Zeitschrift 95, 2002, pp. 457–480; Id. / Grusková, Jana / Kresten, Otto: “Studien zu den Palimpsestfragmenten des sogenannten “Zeremonienbuches” 1: Prolegomena”. Byzantinische Zeitschrift 98, 2005, pp. 423–430.

117 Reiske, Johann Jacob (ed.): Constantini Porphyrogeniti De cerimoniis aulae byzantinae libri II. (Corpus Scriptorum Historiae Byzantinae). Weber: Bonn 1829, ch. II 48, p. 690: εἰς τὸν χαγάνον Χαζαρίας βούλλα χρυσῆ τρισολδία. “ἐν ὀνόματι τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ καὶ τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος, τοῦ ἑνὸς καὶ μόνου ἀληθινοῦ Θεοῦ ἡμῶν. Κωνσταντῖνος καὶ Ῥωμανὸς, πιστοὶ ἐν αὐτῷ τῷ Θεῷ βασιλεῖς Ῥωμαίων πρὸς τὸν δεῖνα εὐγενέστατον, περιφανέστατον χαγάνον Χαζαρίας”.

118 The Abbasid caliph (ἀμερμουμνῆς) is entitled to a golden bull of four soldia, see ibid., p. 686; for the king (ἄρχων τῶν ἀρχόντων) of Great Armenia see ibid. It is remarkable that the letters to Muslim rulers seemingly do not contain the Christian invocatio mentioned for the Khazar qaghan nor the formula proclaiming that the Holy Trinity is the only true God. These elements are, e.g., also mentioned in letters sent to Carolingian and post-Carolingian kings (ibid., p. 689), but in the Khazar context their use is quite provocative. For the addresses to Muslim rulers see Beihammer, Alexander: “Reiner christlicher König – ΠΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΧΡΙΣΤΩΙ ΤΩΙ ΘΕΩΙ ΒΑΣΙΛΕΥΣ. Eine Studie zur Transformation kanzleimäßigen Schriftguts in narrativen Texten am Beispiel kaiserlicher Auslandsbriefe des 10. Jahrhunderts an muslimische Destinatäre”. Byzantinische Zeitschrift 95, 2002, pp. 1–34, here esp. pp. 21–22.

119 The archontes of the Rus’ (Ῥωσίας), of the Magyars (τῶν Τούρκων) and of the Pechenegs (τῶν Πατζινακίτων) are only entitled to bulls of two soldia, and the letters do not begin with an invocatio or intitulatio, but with the formula “letter (γράμματα) of [the emperors] to [the archontes]”, see De cerimoniis (as n. 117), pp. 690–691. For the Bulgarian ruler, whose address is given (ibid., p. 690) in an old fashion (as ἐκ Θεοῦ ἄρχοντα τοῦ χριστιανικωτάτου ἔθνους τῶν Βουλγάρων) with the said invocatio and a new form (as basileus without invocatio), see Dölger, Fanz: “Der Bulgarenherrscher als geistlicher Sohn des byzantinischen Kaisers”. In: Id., Byzanz und die europäische Staatenwelt (as n. 34), pp. 183–196.

120 A very comprehensive overview of the Arabic as well as Hebrew accounts and their respective problems of authenticity and dating has already been furnished by Dunlop, The History (as n. 98), pp. 89–170.

121 This axiom is generally accepted but rests on shaky ground as it is not explicitly stated in any source. It can only implicitly be inferred from the Hebrew sources: the letter of king Joseph to asday b. Šaprū credits king Bulan with the introduction of Judaism. He is presented as a direct ancestor of king Joseph. The ascent of the dynasty of kings and the introduction of Judaism were thus seemingly linked, cf. the German translation of the letter in: Pletnjowa, Swetlana A.: Die Chasaren: Mittelalterliches Reich an Don und Wolga. Koehler & Amelang: Leipzig 1978, pp. 151–158, here pp. 153–155. The person of the qaghan is only incidentally mentioned in this account (not by the title) as he initially had to give his consent (p. 153). The Cambridge document, instead, seems to reflect a tradition according to which the office of qaghan as a supreme judge had only been introduced together with Judaism; see Dunlop, The History (as n. 98), pp. 158–159. The interpretation of the qaghan as judge is clearly an assimilation to the biblical tradition and thus serves to keep the legitimacy of a non-Jewish institution in the new religious context, see Shapira, Dan: “Two Names of the first Khazar Jewish Beg”. Archivum Eurasiae Medii Aevi 10, 1998/99, pp. 231–241, here p. 236.

122 For example Dunlop, The History (as n. 98), pp. 169–170; Pritsak, Omeljan: “The Khazar Kingdom’s Conversion to Judaism”. Harvard Ukrainian Studies 2, 1978, pp. 261–281, here pp. 271–280. The debate is outlined by Golden, Peter B.: “The Conversion of the Khazars to Judaism”. In: The World of the Khazars (as n. 17), pp. 123–162, here pp. 151–157. The conversion is often understood as a process comprising several steps, a first around 740 (based on a rather approximative date given by Juda ha-Levi), a second around 800 (identified with the ‘reform’ of Obadiyah) and a third step in the 830s.

123 Kovalev, Roman K.: “Creating Khazar Identity through Coins: The Special Issue Dirhams of 837/8”. In: East Central and Eastern Europe (as n. 10), pp. 220–253.

124 Huygens, R.B.C. (ed.): Christianus dictus Stabulensis, Expositio super Librum Generationis. (Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Mediaevalis 224). Brepols: Turnhout 2008, p. 436, ll. 124–130: Nescimus iam gentem sub caelo, in qua Christiani non habeantur. Nam et Goc et Magoc, quae sunt gentes Hunorum quae ab eis Gazari uocantur, iam una gens, quae fortior erat ex his quas Alexander conduxerat, circumcisa est et omne Iudaismum obseruat, Bulgarii quoque […] cotidie baptizantur.

125 Zuckerman, Constantin: “On the Date of the Khazar’s Conversion to Judaism and the Chronology of the Kings of the Rus Oleg and Igor”. Revue des Etudes Byzantines 53, 1995, pp. 237–270; here pp. 237–254; followed by Shepard, Jonathan: “The Khazar’s Formal Adoption of Judaism and Byzantium’s Northern Policy”. Oxford Slavonic Papers 31, 1998, pp. 11–34, here pp. 11–23.

126 Kovalev, “Creating” (as n. 123) bases his argument entirely on a coin emission dated exclusively to 837/38, which obviously propagates the Mosaic religion (pp. 226–230). The growing external threats of these years (Sarkel) form the background for the rise of the beg Bulan, who was able to oust the qaghan from power before 843 (Abbasid letter to arān malik al-azar). However, the open problem – why the new coins were no more struck afterwards – remains; this seems quite strange if a permanent religious change was implied and not only an unsuccessful (first) attempt. Zuckerman, “On the Date” (as n. 125), pp. 242–245, is perhaps too hasty in equating the religious debate mentioned in the Khazar tradition about the people’s conversion with that of the “Vita Constantini”. He conclusively confutes the dating of the conversion to the 8th century and the historicity of king Obadiyah (pp. 245–250), but he slightly overloads the passage by Christian of Stavelot (p. 245), which cannot serve as evidence for a recent (!) conversion of the Khazars. Instead, according to Christian’s phrase the conversion could likewise have happened some decades earlier.

127 See Zuckerman, “On the Date” (as n. 125), p. 255; Shepard, “The Khazar’s Formal Adoption” (as n. 125), pp. 30–31.

128 Jenkins, Romilly J. (ed.): Nicholas I Patriarch of Constantinople, Letters. (Corpus Fontium Historiae Byzantinae 6). Dumbarton Oaks Library: Washington 1973, nr. 68, p. 314; nr. 106, pp. 388–390. For the role of Christianity in the Khazar polity see also Ludwig, Struktur und Gesellschaft (as n. 92), pp. 318–325; Noonan, Thomas S.: “The Khazar-Byzantine World of the Crimea in the Early Middle Ages: The Religious Dimension”. Archivum Eurasiae Medii Aevi 10, 1998/99, pp. 207–230 (who also discusses Mystikos’ initiative, pp. 226–228).

129 Zuckerman, Constantin: “Byzantium’s Pontic Policy in the Notitiae Episcopatuum”. In: La Crimée (as n. 105), pp. 201–230, here pp. 221–226.


ISBN (Book)
Publication date
2017 (March)
Kaisertum, Kalifat, Papsttum imperator, basileus, Kalif, Khagan Transkulturalität Mittelmeerraum Karl der Große Theoderich der Große Sultan Saladin Æthelstan Europa, Byzantinisches Reich, Mittlerer Osten „Barbaren“, Steppenvölker, Franken, Angelsachsen, Skandinavier Byzantiner, Araber
Frankfurt am Main, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2017. 380 pp., 2 ill., 2 tables

Biographical notes

Christian Scholl (Volume editor) Torben R. Gebhardt (Volume editor) Jan Clauß (Volume editor)

Christian Scholl studied History and English Language and Literature in Trier and Dublin. He is a researcher at the Institute for Early Medieval Studies at the University of Münster. Torben R. Gebhardt studied History and English Language and Literature in Bochum. From 2011 to 2015, he worked at the Department of History in Münster. From 2016 onwards, he has been working as a project coordinator at the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Duisburg-Essen. Jan Clauß studied History and Catholic Theology in Bochum and Dublin. From 2011 to 2015, he worked at the Department of History in Münster. Today, he works as a teacher.


Title: Transcultural Approaches to the Concept of Imperial Rule in the Middle Ages