02) History of the northern Balkans - "Dark Age" (1st to ~14th Century)

The beginning: GROWTH OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE NORTH OF DANUBE   ►Click here for the video clip◄
105 – 271 From Imperator Caesar Nerva Traianus (53-117) to Lucius Domitius Aurelianus Augustus (214-275).

"At this time the Romans became involved in a very serious war with the Dacians, whose king was then Decebalus. This man was shrewd in his understanding of warfare and shrewd also in the waging of war; he judged well when to attack and chose the right moment to retreat; he was an expert in ambuscades and a master in pitched battles; and he knew not only how to follow up a victory well, but also how to manage well a defeat. Hence he showed himself a worthy antagonist of the Romans for a long time. I call the people Dacians, the names used by the natives themselves as well as by the Romans, though I am not ignorant that some Greek writers refer to them as Getae, whether that is the right form or not; for the Getae of whom I myself know are those that live beyond the Haemus range, along the Ister."
Dio Cassius (155 – 235)
105 – 106 The second campaign of Roman Emperor TRAJAN ended with the suicide of DECEBALUS (Dacians’ king), and the conquest of the territory that was to form the Roman province Dacia Traiana.
271 Emperor AURELIAN’s withdrawal South of Danube.
296 During DIOCLETIAN, in order to defend the Roman border, fortifications are erected by the Romans, on the both banks of the Danube.
275 ~ 567 Germanic and Celtic kingdoms, particularly the GOTHIC tribes and GEPIDS made a slow progression toward the Northern Danube Dacia borders and soon within a generation were making assaults on the province. Ultimately, the GOTHS succeeded in dislodging the Romans (~322) and restoring the independence of Dacia following Aurelian's withdrawal.
375 - 453 HUNS (a Turkic tribe coming from the plains east of modern Russia), mainly under the leadership of ATTILA, occupied north of Danube, including Transylvania.
500 ~ 700 Following the dissolution of the Hun Empire the SLAVS made a rapid expansion populating modern Russia, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Romania. The Slavs under name of VENETHI, the ANTES and the SKLAVENS make their first appearance in Byzantine records in the early 6th century. Byzantine historiographers under Justinian I (527-565), such as Procopius of Caesarea, Jordanes and Theophylact Simocatta describe tribes emerging from the area of the Carpathian Mountains, the lower Danube and the Black Sea, invading the Danubian provinces of the Eastern Empire. Slavic peoples are traditionally divided along linguistic lines into West Slavic (including Czechs, Poles and Slovaks), East Slavic (including Belarusians, Russians, and Ukrainians), and South Slavic (including Bosniaks, Bulgarians, Croats, Macedonians, Montenegrins, Serbs and Slovenians).
552-796 The AVARS, another Asian-Turkic tribe from the east, took control of parts of southern Russia and Eastern Europe from the Huns and Slavs. They occupied most of modern Hungary with their empire stretching from the Black Sea to the Baltic, but in the C8 their empire shrank and was finally crushed by Charlemagne (805).
680 ~ 1018 The BULGARS, a Turkic tribe from the east, having been forced from their kingdom around the Black Sea, formed the First State of Bulgaria, as rulers of the Slavs. Their kingdom covered the Danube plain to the NORTH (modern Romania) and SOUTH (modern Bulgaria). Later the state of Bulgaria was extended further south into Thrace and Macedonia. For a brief year the Bulgarian rule extended into Transylvania.
896 (starting with) Five MAGYAR tribes and two Kun tribes entered the Danube basin in 896, settling within modern Hungary. Although these tribes had co-existed with Turkic peoples in the Steppe for a long time, their language structure is distantly related to the Ugrian peoples who include the Finns, Estonians, and peoples of Siberia. In the following centuries the Magyars extended their rule in all directions forming the country now called Hungary after its previous rulers, the Huns.
896 (starting with) Following defeats to the west the MAGYAR tribes looked east, across the Tisa and into Transylvania. There is little documented during this period, but it looks likely the area was inhabited by A MIX OF MAINLY ROMANIANS AND SLAVS ruled under a system of voivodes and knez. (see "Gest Hungarorum" = written by Peter, a high priest in Buda, during the time of King BELA III in the late 12th century. This is some 300 years after the Maygar tribes entered the Carpathian basin.
896 Probably under the leadership of Árpád, some Magyars crossed the Carpathians and entered the Carpathian Basin. The tribe called Magyars (Megyer) was the leading tribe of the Magyar alliance that conquered the center of the basin. At the same time (c.895), due to their involvement in the 894-896 Bulgaro-Byzantine war, Magyars in Etelköz were attacked by Bulgaria and then by their old enemies the Pechenegs.
950 ~ 1000 PECHENEGS touch the north of Danube territories. They are "a Turkish nation living around the country of the Rum", where "Rum" was used by the Turks to denote the Eastern Roman Empire.
1057 ~ 1238 Originally inhabiting the steppes of southern Siberia and northern Kazakhstan the CUMANS (a nomadic Turkic tribe who inhabited an area known as Cumania along the Volga River) entered the lands of present-day southern Ukraine, as well as historic Moldavia, Wallachia, and part of Transylvania, in the 11th century. Having conquered the area, they continued their assaults by attacking and plundering the Byzantine Empire, the Kingdom of Hungary, and Rus. In 1089, they were defeated by Ladislaus I of Hungary.
1310 – 1352 BASARAB I – first Prince of centralized state of Wallachia.
1359 – 1365 BOGDAN I – first prince of centralized state of Moldavia.
1541 – 1700 The OTTOMAN defeat of Hungary (1541) left Transylvania as the only remaining area of Magyar control, until the Austrian Hapsburg's Empire regained Hungary and Transylvania in 1691.

105 – 106 The second campaign of Roman Emperor TRAJAN ended with the suicide of DECEBALUS (Dacians’ king), and the conquest of the territory that was to form the Roman province Dacia Traiana.
271 Emperor AURELIAN’s withdrawal South of Danube. A new Dacia Aureliana was reorganised south of the Danube, with its capital at Serdica (today's Sofia). Later on, Diocletian and Constantine I would reorganise the provinces Dacia Mediteranea, Moesia Inferior, Dardania, Prevalitania and Dacia Ripensis into a Diocese of Dacia, which along with the Diocese of Macedonia formed the Praetorian prefecture of Illyricum. Eutropius, speaking of the Roman withdrawal from Dacia under Aurelian, says: “He took the Romans away from the cities and fields of Dacia, and planted ahem in the middle of Mœsia”.
~300 In the late third century, the Roman Empire was split into eastern and western halves in an attempt to make for easier rule and better control. The first phase of Tetrarchy (sometimes referred to as the Dyarchy, 'the rule of two') involved the designation of the general Maximian as co-emperor - firstly as Caesar (junior emperor) in 285, followed by his promotion to Augustus in 286. Diocletian took care of matters in the Eastern regions of the Empire while Maximian similarly took charge of the Western regions. In 293, feeling more focus was needed on both civic and military problems, Diocletian (with Maximian's consent) expanded the imperial college by appointing two Caesars (one responsible to each Augustus) - Galerius and Constantius Chlorus. The senior emperors jointly abdicate and retire, allowing Constantius and Galerius to elevate in rank to Augusti. They in turn appoint two new Caesars - Severus II in the west under Constantius, and Maximinus in the east under Galerius. The first Tetrarchy was therefore created.
313 Romanian Emperor CONSTANTIN I met Licinius in Milan to secure their alliance by the marriage of Licinius and Constantine's half-sister Constantia. During this meeting, the emperors agreed on the so-called Edict of Milan, officially granting full tolerance to all religions in the empire, especially Christianity.
330 Constantine I rebuilt the city of Byzantium, and renamed it Nova Roma (New Rome). Eastern Roman Empire will last over 1000 years (330 to 1453).
The emblem of the Eastern Roman Empire was the double-headed eagle. The head on the left (West) symbolizes Rome, the head on the right (East) symbolizes Constantinople. The cross and orb in the claws symbolize, respectively, spiritual and secular authority. The laurel wreath is below.
476 The fall of the Western Roman Empire. Emperor Orestes refused the request of Germanic mercenaries in his service for lands in Italy. The dissatisfied mercenaries, including the Heruli, revolted. The revolt was led by the Germanic chieftain Odoacer. Odoacer and his men captured and executed Orestes. Within weeks, Ravenna (that time capital of western Roman Empire) was captured and Romulus Augustus was deposed, the event that has been traditionally considered the fall of the Roman Empire, at least in the West. Odoacer quickly conquered the remaining provinces of Italy.
800 – 1806 Revival in the West to Holy Roman Empire. 324 years after Odoacer abdicated Romulus Augustulus, Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne as King of the Romans, and as Imperator Augustus, attempting to revive the empire in the west. The Holy Roman Empire was a conscious attempt to resurrect the Western Roman Empire, which is considered to have ended with the abdication of Romulus Augustulus in 476. The Emperors thought of themselves as continuing the function of the Roman Emperors in defending, governing and supporting the Church. The Holy Roman Empire consisted of some of the territories of the ancient empire, along with all of modern-day Germany, and some of modern-day Poland. Although most of the emperors were German, the Holy Roman Emperors thought of themselves as being in direct succession of those of the Roman Empire and called themselves Augusti. The Empire was formally dissolved on August 6, 1806 when the last Holy Roman Emperor, Francis II abdicated, following a military defeat by the French under Napoleon, thus removing the last traces of the Roman Empire as an existing political entity in the West.
600 (starting with) Slavic tribes descended south of Danube.
610 Of the many accepted dates for the end of the Roman state, the latest is 610. This is when the Emperor Heraclius made sweeping reforms, forever changing the face of the empire. Greek was readopted as the language of government and Latin influence waned. By 610, the Eastern Roman Empire had come under Greek influence and became what many modern historians now call the Byzantine Empire, although the Empire was never called that way by its contemporaries (rather it was called Romania, Basileia Romaion or Pragmata Romaion, meaning "Land of the Romans", "Kingdom of the Romans").
680 Asparuh or Isperih (Bulgarian: Аспарух, Asparuh or Исперих, Isperih) was ruler of the Bulgarians in the second half of the 7th century and is credited with the establishment of the FIRST BULGARIAN EMPIRE in 680/681 (until 1018) . He is the most famous Bulgarian ruler. He crossed the Danube River delta and while the Byzantine capital Constantinople was besieged by Muawiyah I, Caliph of the Arabs (674–678), he and his horde settled in the so-called Ongul area in Southern Bessarabia or northern Dobrudža. After the Arab siege of Constantinople ended, the Byzantine Emperor Constantine IV marched against the Bulgars and their Slav allies in 680 and forced his opponents to seek shelter in a fortified encampment. Forced to abandon the leadership of his army in order to seek medical treatment for his ailments, the emperor sabotaged the morale of his troops, who gave in to rumours that their emperor had fled. With segments of the Byzantine army starting to desert, the Bulgars and their allies broke through the blockade and routed the enemy troops in the battle of Ongala. In 680 and then he swiftly moved from the Danubian delta down to the Balkan range. Asparuh's victory led to the Bulgar conquest of Moesia and the establishment of some sort of alliance between the Bulgars and the local Slavic groups (described as the Severi and Seven Slavic tribes). As Asparuh commenced to raid across the mountains into Byzantine Thrace in 681, Constantine IV decided to cut his losses and conclude a treaty, whereby the Byzantine Empire paid the Bulgars and annual tribute as protection money. These events are seen in retrospect as the establishment of the Bulgarian state and its recognition by the Byzantine Empire. In later tradition Asparuh is credited with building the major centers of Pliska and Drăstăr, as well as at least one of the Bulgarian limes walls from the Danube to the Black Sea. Recent scholarship has questioned whether it was Asparuh that established Pliska as the capital, suggesting that the original capital of Bulgaria was in the vicinity of Varna. While the multi-tribal and hegemonic character of the Bulgarian state in the first century or two after its establishment is readily apparent, Bulgarian historians have stressed the establishment of a capital and of a state tradition that could be viewed retrospectively as national. According to a late tradition, Asparuh died fighting the Khazars on the Danube. According to one theory, advanced by the Bulgarian historian Vaklinov, his grave is located near Voznesenka ("Ascension") on the Dnieper in Ukraine.
852 Boris I, or Michael, or Mikhail (king of Bulgaria) khan of Bulgaria (852–889) witnessed the conversion of the Bulgarians to Christianity, the founding of an autocephalous Bulgarian church and the advent of Slavonic literature and establishment of the first centres of Slav-Bulgarian scholarship and education.
863 Cyril and his brother Methodius were sent by the Byzantine emperor Michael III to convert the Western Slavs to Christianity and arrange that the divine service in Greater Moravia is performed in their native tongue.
893 By the late 9th and early 10th centuries, Bulgaria extended to Epirus and Thessaly in the south, Bosnia in the west and controlled all of present-day Romania and eastern Hungary to the north. A Serbian state came into existence as a dependency of the Bulgarian Empire. Under Tsar Simeon I of Bulgaria (Simeon the Great), who was educated in Constantinople, Bulgaria became again a serious threat to the Byzantine Empire. Simeon hoped to take Constantinople and become emperor of both Bulgarians and Greeks, and fought a series of wars with the Byzantines through his long reign (893-927). The war boundary towards the end of his rule reached Peloponnese in the south. Simeon proclaimed himself "Tsar (Caesar) of the Bulgarians and the Greeks," a title which was recognized by the Pope, but not of course by the Byzantine Emperor.
1002 Bulgarian Tsar Samuil had extended the Bulgarian kingdom from the Danube River in the north all the way into Greece, stopping just north of Athens.
958 Basil II "Bulgaroktonus" (in Greek Basilios Bulgaroktonos, written Βασίλειος Βουλγαροκτόνος, lived 958- December 15, 1025), Byzantine emperor (January 10, 976-December 15, 1025) led the Byzantine Empire to its greatest heights in nearly five centuries. However, he left no worthy heir and most of his achievements were undone by a long line of weak successors.
July 29, 1014, Basil II fight against the Bulgarian army rulled by tsar Samuil and forced him to fight at the Battle of Kleidion, with Samuil several miles away from the battlefield. He crushed the Bulgarians and took 14,000 prisoners. What he did next gave Basil his nickname Bulgaroktonus, "the Bulgar-slayer." He ordered 99 of every 100 of the prisoners blinded, with every 100th man left one eye to guide the rest home. When Samuil met his troops on their return home, he is said to have died of sorrow. Bulgaria fought on for four more years, but finally submitted in 1018. The victory over the Bulgarians and the subsequent submission of the Serbs fulfilled one of Basil's goals, as the Roman Empire regained its ancient Danube River frontier for the first time in 400 years.
1054 The final separation between the Eastern Christian churches (led by the patriarch of Constantinople, Michael Cerularius) and the Western Church (led by Pope Leo IX). The mutual excommunications by the Pope and the Patriarch that year became a watershed in church history. The excommunications were not lifted until 1965.
1185 – 1393 SECOND BULGARIAN EMPIRE. In 1185 Peter and Asen, leading nobles of supposed and contested Bulgarian, Cuman, Vlach or mixed origin, led a revolt against Byzantine rule and Peter declared himself Tsar Peter II (also known as Theodore Peter). The following year the Byzantines were forced to recognize Bulgaria's independence. Peter styled himself "Tsar of the Bulgars, Greeks and Vlachs".
Resurrected Bulgaria occupied the territory between the Black Sea, the Danube and Stara Planina, including a part of eastern Macedonia and the valley of the Morava. It also exercised control over Wallachia and Moldova. Tsar Kaloyan (1197-1207) entered a union with the Papacy, thereby securing the recognition of his title of "Rex" although he desired to be recognized as "Emperor" or "Tsar". He waged wars on the Byzantine Empire and (after 1204) on the Knights of the Fourth Crusade (1204 – Crusaders conquered and destroyed Constantinopole – under the rule of Baldwin of Flandra), conquering large parts of Thrace, the Rhodopes, as well as the whole of Macedonia. The power of the Hungarians and to some extent the Serbs prevented significant expansion to the west and northwest. Under Ivan Asen II (1218-1241), Bulgaria once again became a regional power, occupying Belgrade and Albania. In an inscription from Turnovo in 1230 he entitled himself "In Christ the Lord faithful Tsar and autocrat of the Bulgarians, son of the old Asen". The Bulgarian Orthodox Patriarchate was restored in 1235 with approval of all eastern Patriarchates, thus putting an end to the union with the Papacy. Ivan Asen II had a reputation as a wise and humane ruler, and opened relations with the Catholic west, especially Venice and Genoa, to reduce the influence of the Byzantines over his country.
However, weakened 14th-century Bulgaria was no match for a new threat from the south, the Ottoman Turks, who crossed into Europe in 1354. In 1362 they captured Philippopolis (Plovdiv), and in 1382 they took Sofia. The Ottomans then turned their attentions to the Serbs, whom they routed at Kosovo Polje in 1389. In 1393 the Ottomans occupied Turnovo after a three-month siege. It is thought that the south gate was opened from inside and so the Ottomans managed to enter the fortress. In 1396 the Kingdom (Tsardom) of Vidin was also occupied, bringing the Second Bulgarian Empire and Bulgarian independence to an end.
1453 The Fall of Constantinople. The capture of the Byzantine Empire's capital by the Ottoman Empire on Tuesday, May 29, 1453 marked the end of the political independence of the millennium-old Byzantine Empire, which was by then already fragmented into several Greek monarchies. Most importantly, the fall of Constantinople accelerated the scholarly exodus of Byzantine Greeks which caused the influx of Classical Greek Studies into the European Renaissance. In addition, it played a crucial role in Ottoman political stability and its subsequent expansion in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Balkans.

BALKANS IN THE “DARK AGE” (go to TOP of this Post)
Theories regarding origin of Romanians:
What happened after Aurelian withdrawal south of Danube (~276):
1) Part of the Daco-Roman inhabitants’ remains north of Danube (the theory of Daco-Roman continuity north of Danube). Nowadays Romanians are the descendents of this people influenced mainly by the Slavic migration – starting with 5th Century. When the Hungarians reached the Carpathians basin (~12th Century) they have found a Romanian speaking population influenced mainly by the Slavic migration.
2) Lands north of Danube remains deserted and Daco- Roman population was moved south of Danube. The process of assimilation and Romanization of Dacian people continued up to 5th Century when the Slavic / Bulgarian tribes descended south of Danube and have influenced the Daco-Romanians there (population which already can be defined as Proto-Romanian). The Proto-Romanians mixed with Slaves / Bulgarians migrated north of Danube probably during the 1st Bulgarian Empire (9th – 10th C = Iohan Engel / „Commentatio de expeditionibus Traian iad Danubium et origine Walachorumi”), after the fall of 1st Bulgarian Empire (1018), during the 2nd Bulgarian Empire (12th – 13th C = Frantz Iosepf Schultzer / „Geschichte des Trans alpinischen Daciens”, Wien, 1781-1782 & Robert Rosler / „Rumanischen Studien Untersuchungen zur alteren Geschite Rumaniens”), pushed by the expansion of the Ottoman Empire and/or the request of Hungarian Kings to help them to fight against the Tatars . Anyhow, under this hypothesis, the Romanians are the descendants of the Dacians, who inhabited the land North of Danube long before the Huns, Slavs, etc.
3) Lands north of Danube remains deserted and the Dacian population there has disappeared. Only Roman inhabitants descended south of Danube. Beginning with 5th Century – when Slavic tribes (which also - during their journey, occupied northern Danube = parts of the former Dacian territories), descended south of Danube and began to assimilate and/or to be assimilated by the Roman inhabitants there. The Roman population mixed with Slavs (who formed later the Romanians) have migrated north of Danube probably during the 1st Bulgarian Empire, after the fall of 1st Bulgarian Empire, during the 2nd Bulgarian Empire, pushed by the expansion of Ottoman Empire and/or the request of Hungarian Kings to help them to fight against the Tatars. Under this hypothesis, the Slavic / Bulgarian people occupied the Carpathians Basin before the Hungarians. In the same time the Romanians are the descendants of the Romans who became victorious against the Dacians and occupied Dacia abt. 170 years.

What is commonly accepted:
Under all theories the nowadays Romanians are the descendants of the Romans. This is proofed mainly by their Romance language * and customs which made the Slavic and German population who encountered them to consider aliens and called them Vlach or similar. The term came from an ancient Germanic word: Walha which means "foreigner" or "stranger" ("welsh") or "roman". There are many structural, phonetic and idiomatic aspects that are amazingly similar between Romanian and Salentine-Apulian, Neapolitan, Calabrian and other tongues of Southern Italy, and also some elements of the North-eastern Italian dialects spoken by the Adriatic coastland.
It is also widely accepted the Thracian substrate and the Slavic influence over Romanians.

* In the Italian region Salento the local people greet each other saying "ce faci?", similar with the Romanian greeting. In Sicily they leave each other saying "ne vedem", same expression used in Romanian. In Naples we can by chance hear the phrase "sora ta" with the same literal meaning as in Romanian, or maybe that a young man would "nsura", pronounced like "însura" in Romanian and with the same meaning.

Personal Conclusions…

The Aurelian withdrawal moved South of Danube part of Dacia’s populations (mainly from the cities). The process of its Romanization – started on 106, continued south of Danube, almost undisturbed, until 6th century. During same period of time, the Dacian land north of Danube was not deserted and – under difficult circumstances, the Romanization of Dacians continued as well.
Within the 5th century, Slavic people migrated from nowadays Ukraine, north of Low-Danube and mixed with local populations which didn’t abandon Trajan’s Dacia.
Starting with 6th century, Slavic people flooded also south of Danube and mixed with Romanized inhabitants there. In 680, when Asparuh established the first Bulgarian Empires, the Slavic people already started to mix with Romanized inhabitants. Because of Slavic / Bulgarians migration south of Danube, the Romanized population was fragmented and therefore the differences between the Romanian language North & South of Danube increased and become permanent.
By the late 9th and early 10th centuries, Bulgaria extended to Epirus and Thessaly in the south, Bosnia in the west and controlled all of present-day Romania and eastern Hungary to the north (under the rull of Simeon the Great). This expansion favored the Latin speaking South of Danube inhabitants to travel north of Danube easier. Since Latin was not anymore a Lingua Franca inside the Bulgarian Empire, the homogeneity of proto-Romanian language declined.
Due to the 1014 victory of the Roman Emperor Basil II against the Bulgarian Empire and the expansion of the Roman Empire up to the Danube, the Romanized population south of Danube started to be mentioned in Byzantium documents.
Because of the fall of Bulgarian Empire, the importance of Romanized population south of Danube increased also. Maybe this is why the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185 – 1393) will have Vlachs’ leaders, also. The second Bulgarian Empire extended its influence north of Danube as well. These circumstances favored the Vlachs journeys in the North, over the Danube.
Finally, because of the Ottoman Turks expansion North of Balkans, the Romanized Christianized population from South of Danube had a new motif to migrate North, where they have found similar language population. Hungary also need their help to fight against the Tatar invasion.

RC©Collection of relevant information, from the following sources:
(you can go to TOP of this Post)
http://www.answers.com/topic/vandals?cat=biz-fin > Map of Vandal migrations
http://www.eliznik.org.uk/EastEurope/History/balkans-map/6-ad.htm > Map of Slavic migrations
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Bulgaria > Bulgaria under Tsar Simeon
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:Map_Byzantine_Empire_1025-fr.svg > Map of Byzantine Empire 1025 AD