Historical Overview Section

The Avars arrived upon the northern region of Caucasia in 557, after which time they sent an embassy to Early Byzantine Constantinople, marking their first contact with the Byzantine Empire. In exchange for gold, they agreed to subjegate the "unruly gentes" on behalf of the Byzantines. They defeated and incorporated the various nomadic tribes- Kutrigurs, Sabirs, Antes and Onogurs, and by 562 controlled the vast steppes of Ukraine and the lower Danube basin. By their arrival into the Balkans, the Avars were a heterogeneous group of c.20,000 horsemen. Having been bought off by the Eastern Emperor Justinian I, they pushed north into Germany (as Attila the Hun had done a century before), eventually reaching as far north as the Baltic. However, further expansion into Germania was halted by stern Frankish opposition and the harsh conditions of western Europe.

Seeking rich pastoral lands, they initially demanded land south of the Danube river (in present-day Bulgaria), but this was denied them by the Early Byzantines, who used their contacts with the Göktürks as a threat against Avar aggression. They thus turned their attention to the Carpathian plain, and the natural defenses it afforded. However, the Carpathian basin was occupied by the Gepid or Early Lombard Gepids at this time. In 567, the Avars signed an alliance with the Lombards, who were the enemies of the Gepids, and together they destroyed much of the Gepid or Early Lombard Kingdom. They then in turn 'persuaded' the Lombards to move into northern Italy, an invasion that marked the last Germanic mass movement in the Migration Period.

Continuing their successful policy of turning the various barbarians against each other, the Byzantines then convinced the Avars to attack the Sclavenes in Scythia Minor - for their land was rich with booty and had never been conquered before. After "devastating" much of the Sclavenes' land, the Avars returned to Pannonia, but not before many of the khagan's subjects deserted to the Byzantine Emperor.

In 626, the Avars and the Sassanid Persians jointly besieged Constantinople and failed. Following this defeat, the Avars' prestige and power declined. The Byzantines document a battle between the Avars and their Slav clients in 629. Constantine Porphyrogenitus, Byzantine emperor in the 10th century writes that seven Croat tribes had been hired as mercenaries to help in war against Avars. Shortly after this, the Croats and Serbs took over rule in Dalmatia/ Illyria. In the 630s, Samo increased his authority over lands to the north and west of the khanate, at the expense of the Avars, becoming ‘’King of the Wends’’. In 631-32, there was a civil war, possibly a succession struggle, between Early Bulgar and Avar parties. The Early Bulgar party lost, and chroniclers recorded that 9,000 Bulgars sought asylum and fled to Bavaria, only to be slaughtered by King Dagobert. Around 630, Kubrat of the Dulo clan revolted, ending Avar authority over the Pontic steppes, and formed an independent Bulgarian realm on the Don.

By 670, the Khazars broke the Kubrat’s Onogur-Bulgar confederation, causing various tribal groups to migrate. One group of Bulgars migrated into the Carpathian basin and accepted Avar supremacy. Byzantine sources reveal they later revolted, led by Kuber (possibly one of Kubrat’s sons). After fending off a punitive Avar attack, they moved to Macedonia. However significant number of Early Bulgars must have remained in Pannonia. This new ethnic element (marked by hair clips for pigtails; curved, single-edged sabres; broad, symmetrical bows) marks the middle Avar period (670-720 AD). Although the Avar’s empire had diminished to half its original size, they consolidated rule over the central Pannonian lands, mid Danubian basin, and once again extended their sphere of influence west to the Viennese Basin (with the Death of Samo, some Slavic tribes again fell under Avar rule). New regional centers appear, such as those near Ozora and Igaz (county Fehér/Hungary). This strengthened the Avars' power base, although most of the Balkans now lay in the hands of Slavic tribes, since neither the Avars nor Byzantines were able to reassert control.

The gradual decline of Avar power was brought to a rapid crash within the space of a decade. A series of Carolingian Frankish campaigns in the 790s led by Charlemagne ended with their conquest of the Avar realm, taking most of Pannonia up to the Tisza river. The Franks baptised many Avars and integrated them into the Frankish Empire (...(sc. Avaros) autem, qui obediebant fidei et baptismum sunt consecuti...). The Carolingian Frankish turned the Avar lands under their control into a military march. The eastern half of this March was then granted to the Slavic Prince Pribina, who established the Balaton principality in 840 AD. The western part continued to exist until 871, when it was integrated into the Carantanian and Eastern marches. In 804, the Later Bulgar?ian Empire took the southeastern Avar lands- Transylvania and south-eastern Pannonia to the Middle Danube river. Many Avars joined the Bulgarian Khanate.

After the fall of the Avar Empire, the name Avar and the self-identified constructed ethnicity it carried disappeared within a single generation

Using the army in ADLG

  • The medium swordsmen can hold terrain versus any enemy terrain force and therefore are bait or a waste.
  • Killing the enemy swiftly with Avars will require more skill in maneuver/flanking attacks than relying on heavily armoured bow cavalry to do the job with brute force
  • Getting it wrong on initiative could bite you. You need open terrain to fight with horse archers.
  • The terrain for Avars is steppe and plain, so that should be good news for the battlefield set-up.
  • The way you win in approach from all directions and shoot. Then evade and return to shoot until you see flanks you can charge.

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Army Lists

Sample army lists for this army

200 Points
Initiative 3

Brilliant C-in-C 6
3 Elite heavy cavalry bow 13 39
3 Heavy cavalry bow 11 33
2 Avar Light cavalry bow 6 12
1 Bulgar Light cavalry bow 6 6

Competent and included Sub-Gen 0
1 Elite Heavy cavalry bow (gl) 13 13
3 Heavy cavalry bow 11 33
3 Bulgar Light cavalry bow 6 18

Ordinary Sub-Gen 0
4 Slav warriors - medium swordsmen 7 28
3 Slav Light infantry bow 4 12

23 units: 200pts

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