Re: Romanian "Urheimat"

From: pielewe
Message: 37670
Date: 2005-05-06

--- In, "alexandru_mg3" <alexandru_mg3@...>

> Sirmium to take an example had a Latin Population until 582.

No it hadn't. After 440 AD it had a Byzantine garrison at the best of
times, which were rare. The relevant timeline is as follows:

During the two centuries preceding appr. 440 AD the Sirmium area was
of key military importance as the lynchpin between the western and
eastern sections of the Empire. It appear to have been a large town
and there is every reason to assume that it was surrounded by a
prosperous Latin-speaking rural population. However, in the forties
of the fifth century Attila carried out a number of devastating raids
that appear to have put an end to Roman power in the Sirmium area and
probably also in Kosovo and the Timok valley. Cf. Treadgold History,
p. 95: "the greater part of the diocese of Dacia ... was to remain
desolate and open to the Huns ... ".

Instead of the line Sirmium - Belgrade - Viminacium etc. now Naissos
became the northern border town. However, when Priscus passed through
Naissos in 448 or 449 on his trip to Attila's court, the town was
empty, not counting the sick and the dead.

Around this time the administrative functions of Sirmium were
transferred to Thessalonica. Details about this extremely important
step are unfortunately unclear.

In the late seventies, Goths under Theodoric Amal decided to go on a
rampage. They chose Macedonia. In the name of emperor Zeno,
Adamantius offered them Dardania (an area to the south of Naissos) on
the grounds that it was fertile and uninhabited. In the end (after
several years of unclarity) they were settled nearby in Dacia
Ripensis and Moesia Inferior, from where they departed five years

The implications of all this is that Roman power (as distinct from
Roman territorial claims) did not reach much north of the modern
border between Macedonia and Serbia by the end of the fifth century
and that the territorial losses caused by Attila were not made good
after his death. Given the circumstances it would be wrong to assume
without very strong evidence that a settled Latin-speaking population
remained in the Sirmium area. There just is no room for such a thing
as thriving Latin-speaking populations in Attila-governed territories
and if even Dardania was uninhabited in 479 and Goths could be
settled in Dacia Ripensis shortly afterwards how many remaining Latin
speakers can one reasonably expect north of Skopje at all?

In these same decades conditions in present-day Macedonia were
relatively orderly (despite the occasional Gothic raid). It was now
the Via Egnatia that became the principal road connecting East and
West, and there appears to have been considerable building activity
in such towns as Skopje and Stobi (and Thessalonica).

At a certain point in the first half of the sixth century Justinian
embarked on an ambitious project of defense works on the Balkans. In
that context Sirmium became Byzantine again in 535, but was soon lost
to the Gepids. It was to be Byzantine on and off (mostly off) until

In 542 the first of a series of epidemics struck, causing
considerable dislocation, including manpower problems for the army.
Scholars differ very much in their evaluation of the specific effects
of the epidemics, but that Byzance was militarily weaker than planned
is shown by the number and gravity of Slav raids in the fifties.
Procopius mentions that Slavs settled unopposed in the Morava and
Timok valleys (i.e. in Serbia to the south of Naissus) in the
fifties. That is a logical location because those are areas that were
abandoned by Theodoric's Goths earlier and, we have to conclude, had
not been reoccupied and re-Romanized, or if they were, were abandoned
again. And if Byzance was unable to prevent Slavs from settling in
southern Serbia, it obviously makes no sense to assume (at least
without very strong counterevidence) that Latin-speaking life
blithely continued in the Sirmium area, particularly because in the
fifties an Avar delegation visited Constantinople and shortly
afterwards the Avars constructed their power structures in the
Hungarian Plain.

In the sixties of the sixth century Byzance held Sirmium again for a
short time, and again (and for the last time) in the early eighties
but in the light of the above it is obvious that it would be wrong to
interpret it as anything else than a garrison. (The position of
Belgrade-Singidunum was similar.)

And so the story goes on. There is an unmistakeable tendency among
some people interested in the history of Romanian to think that Roman
power remained more or less intact during the centuries between
Aurelian's retreat from Dacia in or around 275 and the general
collapse around 600 AD. But that is not at all what the sources, such
as they are, tell us. Retreat followed retreat followed retreat until
finally Byzantine power entirely disappeared from the Balkans with
the exception of a small number of coastal towns, most importantly
Constantinople itself and Thessalonica. And the only way of
travelling from the one to the other was by boat. Road travel between
the two key towns was restored only shortly before or after 800 AD.
By that time Slavic had long become something like the default
language in the Balkans. The reimposition of Greek in the Greek
countryside required major demographic shifts that were organized by
emperor Nicephorus in or around 809. I won't start drivelling again
about Albanian and Romanian.

All of this is more or less standard knowledge and can be verified in
the standard handbooks on Late Antiquity and Byzantine history. There
are understandable differences of emphasis here and there, but the
general picture is everywhere basically the same.