Early South Slav

Early South Slav

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Historical Overview Section

The Southern Slavs first appear in history in the works of Byzantine historians, where they are portrayed a an "unusually tall and strong (people), with a tan complexion and reddish-blonde hair, living a rugged and primitive life. They lived in huts, often distant from one another and often changed their place of abode." These early South Slavs generally went into battle on foot, charging straight at their enemy, armed with spears and small shields, but they did not wear armour. In the Strategikon the Slavs are cited as being numerous but disorganised and leaderless, resistant to hardship and not allowing themselves to be enslaved or conquered.

Slav's started raiding the Byzantine Empire from the 520s in substantial annual incursions, taking loot and herds of cattle, seizing prisoners and taking fortresses. The Byzantine Empire was usually stretched defending its rich Asian provinces from Arabs, Persians and Turks and so the opportunity for the Slavs was clear. By the 580s, as the Slav communities on the Danube became larger and more organised, and as the Avars exerted their influence by pressurising the Slavs from the west, their raids on Byzantine territory became larger (in 586 AD, as many as 100,000 Slav warriors raided Thessaloniki) eventually resulting in permanent settlements. The Slavs were joined by both Serbs and Croats between 615 and 640 AD according to the Byzantine histiry De Administrando Imperio, when Emperor Heraclius invited them as foederati to help defeat the Avars.

When the Byzantines were not fighting in their eastern territories, they worked to regain imperial control of the regions occupied by the Slavs through the theme system where an administrative province based on an army corps was created, under the control of a Strategos (governor) to assimilate the Slavs into the Byzantine world through doing deals with the Slavic elites. In theory this was a good idea, but for the South Slavs it proved a challenge and it was not until 782-84 when the eunuch general Staurakios campaigned from Thessaloniki and into the Peloponnese that the first theme was established in their lands. Some local Slavic tribes however were to remain independent until Ottoman times.

The Croats as an identifiable grouping emerged to prominence under king Tomislav, when he came into conflict with the Bulgars under Emperor Simeon I making a pact with the Byzantine Empire in which he was allowed to control the Byzantine Dalmatia as long as he curbed Bulgarian expansion. In 926, Simeon tried to break the Croatian-Byzantine pact, sending duke Alogobotur with a formidable army against Tomislav, but Simeon's army was defeated in the Battle of the Bosnian Highlands. After Tomislav's death the Dalmatian city-states and the Duchy of Bosnia were lost to Byzantium and eastern Slavonia and Srijem were taken by the Magyars. The Venetians lso got in on the act, stealing large chunks of territory whilst the Croats were engaged in internicine fighting. The king Krešimir III tried to restore the Dalmatian cities and had some success until 1018, when he was defeated by Venice allied with the Lombards.

After the death of the last of the royal line in 1091 Ladislaus I of Hungary found himself the strongest candidate for the Croatian throne and annexed the country in short order. Byzantine Emperor Alexius I sent the Cumans to attack the Hungarians and forced them to retreat from Croatia. The Croatian feudal lords still struggled to remain independent of Hungary, and Ladislaus' successor, Coloman, came to power that year, made peace with Pope Urban II and led an army into Croatia in 1097. He defeated Croat leader Petar Svačić at the Battle of Gvozd Mountain and killed. When Coloman and his forces were called back to the northeast to fight the Ruthenians and Cumans in Galicia in 1099, the Croatian nobles took the opportunity to liberate themselves from Hungarian rule but the somewhat irritated Coloman returned to Croatia in 1102, forcing the Croatian noblemen to yield and recognise him as the common king for Croatia and Hungary.

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Army Lists

Sample army lists for this army

Name of Army / Date

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  • This is a lot easier to do than easier than setting up tables
  • For FoG I suggest listing your army in order or march
  • with troop desctiptions on each line, for example
  • 4 HF Armoured Average Drilled Impact Foot Swordsmen
  • 8 LG Undrilled Unarmoured Poor Bowen
  • Dont forget to include your Generals !!!

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Created by admin. Last Modification: Tuesday 12 of November, 2019 19:00:13 GMT by admin. (Version 6)
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