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Southern Pannonia during the age of the Great Migrations
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In this article it is attempted to survey historical developments from 379 through 568 A. D. in the territory of the two southern Pannonian Roman provinces established under the Emperor Diocletian, i.e. Pannonia Secunda or Sirmiensis and Pannonia Savia. The period between the Antiquity and the Middle Ages is marked in Pannonia by a series of short-lived ascendancies of several Germanic peoples. Each of the two Pannonias entered this period in a relative prosperity, still preserving many of the features of the late Roman provincial life. In Pannonia Savia, besides the capital Siscia (today Sisak), a city with a mint and an aqueduct, more important urban settlements included Andautonia (Šćitarjevo) and Neviodunum (Drnovo), situated along the Sava upstream from Siscia, Iovia (Ludbreg) on the Drava river, and also two spa towns, Aquae Iasae (Varaždinske Toplice) and Aquae Balissae (Daruvar). In Pannonia Sirmiensis there was Sirmium (Sremska Mitrovica), metropolis of the whole Pannonia and a place of imperial residence since Diocletian’s times, a large city with a mint, a harbour, an aqueduct, and an industry ranging from stone-masonry to wine production and arms factories. Eastward of Sirmium lay the city of Bassiana (Donji Petrovci), and in the western part of the province there were Mursa (Osijek) on the Drava and Cibalae (Vinkovci). Pannonia Sirmiensis comprised a section of the Limes on the Danube, which consisted of some fourteen foritfications ranging from Ad Militare (Batina) north of the Drava down to Taurunum (Zemun) at the confluence of the Danube and the Sava. Several major roads connected Italy with the Empire’s East across southern Pannonia. They branched off from the ancient Amber Route which, starting in Aquileia, went through Emona (Ljubljana), Celeia (Celje) and Poetovio (Ptuj) and proceeded to the north across the western fringes of Pannonia Prima. From Emona (part of the ancient Italia) a road reached Siscia and then continued along the southern bank of the Sava down to Sirmium; another road separated at Poetovio (belonging to Noricum) and went along the Drava as far as Mursa, then also proceeded to Sirmium via Cibalae. From Sirmium the road continued eastward towards the confluence where it crossed the Sava into the city of Singidunum (Belgrade) and the province of Upper Moesia. Between the two roads along the rivers there were several connecting roads, including a diagonal one from Siscia to Mursa. Also, the roads of southern Pannonia were connected at several junction points with the adjacent road networks in northern Pannonia (the road from Mursa to Sopianae/Pécs and thence to Aquincum/Óbuda and to Savaria/Szombathely), as well as in Dalmatia (southward roads from Siscia, Sirmium, and also from Servitium/Bosanska Gradiška which lay on the road along the Sava). After the advent of Christianity, early bishoprics arose in Sirmium, Mursa, Siscia, probably also in Iovia and Cibalae, and later in Bassiana. In some of these early Christian communities local martyrs were venerated, such as Quirinus in Siscia, Eusebius and Pollio in Cibalae, and a vast array of clerics and laymen in Sirmium, among whom Demetrius and Irenaeus were especially famous. At the same time, the bishops of Sirmium and Mursa, along with that of Singidunum, became notorious in the midfourth century as the last obstinate partisans of the Arian creed in the Roman world. It was shortly after the Emperor Valens was defeated and killed by a Visigothled barbarian army at Hadrianopolis (378) that the Emperor Gratian allowed the Goths, the Huns and the Alans to settle in Pannonia as the Roman foederati (379). Soon afterwards some southern Pannonian towns, including Mursa, were ravaged by the new settlers. The final division of the Empire in 395 left all of the Pannonia on the western side of the division line, along with two other provinces of the “Western Illyricum” (Noricum and Dalmatia). In 401 the Goths under Alaric crossed southern Pannonia in order to invade Italy, where eventually, in 410, they captured and sacked Rome itself. For decades we know nothing about the situation in Pannonia, until the Great Huns, masters of a large multiethnic nomadic “empire”, requested and were allowed to occupy Pannonia as the foederati (probably in 433). In 437, on the occasion of the Western Emperor Valentinian III’s marriage to the Eastern Emperor’s daughter Eudoxia, Sirmium and with it probably Pannonia Secunda were transferred to the East. It is possible that Sirmium then briefly replaced Thessalonica as the seat of the Praetorian Prefecture of Illyricum (“Eastern Illyricum”). But the Huns captured Sirmium in 441 already, along with several towns in Upper Moesia. A few details about the fate of the bishop and other citizens of the Pannonian metropolis are known to us thanks to a description, written by an imperial envoy named Priscus, of the 448 embassy of Constantinople to the court of Attila, the king of Huns, which was located east of the Tisza river. After Attila’s death in 453, the Hun “empire” was shattered following the battle at an unknown Pannonian river (called Nedao by Jordanes), in which the Huns were defeated by a Gepid-led alliance. While afterwards the Gepids established their kingdom east of the Tisza, Pannonia came into the hands of the Ostrogoths ruled by three brothers of the royal Amal clan, for which they received formal permission of the Eastern Emperor Marcian. At the same time, in 455, the short-lived Western Emperor Avitus tried to reassert imperial authority in Pannonia, according to his panegyric written by Sidonius Apollinaris. The partly enigmatic description of the settlement areas of the three Amal kings of the Ostrogoths, provided by Jordanes in his Gothic history, is now predominantly interpreted as referring roughly to the south-eastern quarter of Pannonia, around the lower courses of the Drava nad the Sava rivers. Several points in other sources support such an interpretation, while the main counter-argument – the fact that Jordanes writes of unknown rivers rather than the well-known tributaries of the Danube – may be accounted for by the fact that Jordanes’ text is an abbreviated and probably fragmentary version of an earlier, now lost work of Cassiodorus. Jordanes in addition describes various wars waged by the Ostrogoths during their first occupation of Pannonia, among which the plundering of the Eastern Illyricum provoked by the Emperor Marcian’s denial of their yearly “gift”, which ended probably in 459 when the new Emperor Leo I renewed the payments but also took little Theodoric, son of the Ostrogothic king Thiudimir, to Constantinople as a hostage. Perhaps the transfer of the relics of saint Anastasia from Sirmium to Constantinople also took place in some relation to these events. Among the early Ostrogothic wars described by Jordanes, especially interesting and also partly confusing is the war against the Suevi/Swabians and their allies, which was provoked by the Swabian incursion into Dalmatia that also affected Ostrogothic Pannonia. Here Jordanes puzzlingly writes of a Suavia as a region inhabited by the Swabians and also as an area adjacent to Dalmatia. In earlier scholarship it was considered that Jordane mixed up Suavia, i. e. the Swabian territory which at that time was in the northern neighbourhood of Pannonia, with (Pannonia) Savia that was also called Suavia by Jordanes’ source Cassiodorus (in his Variae). More recently it has been argued, e. g. by F. Lotter and H. Wolfram, that Pannonia Savia was indeed inhabited by the Swabians (...).
Pannonia Sirmiensis and Savia; late antiquity; great migrations; Byzantium; Huns; Ostrogoths; Gepides; Lombards