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Back to Europe: A.D. 501 to 600

Slavery continued in Europe throughout these "Dark Ages" despite the Christian Church, but in this century, when Arabs gained control of the Mediterranean, it was difficult for Europeans to get slaves from the Levant. Most were then obtained from the Slavic regions. (Ref. 213 )

Southern europe

Eastern mediterranean islands

The century began with these islands all a part of the Byzantine Empire but one by one the Arabs began to take them over in the latter decades. Cyprus, with its copper mines, fell to the Moslems in 648 and Rhodes in 654. (Ref. 222 )


Greece was now heavily infiltrated with Slavic peoples and although nominally under the eastern Roman Empire, only some of the coastal cities were truly Byzantine.

Upper balkans

The Bulgars, whose original Kaganate was in the middle Volga far north of the Caspian Sea, had migrated in the previous century to the Danube region. This group, including one branch of the Utigurs, had founded a Bulgarian kingdom in ancient Moesia, enslaving the Slavs already there but they adopted the Slavs' language and customs and in time intermarried with them. They began to take over more and more Balkan territory from Byzantium by 679 and were recognized as a separate country in 681 when their first king, Isperikh, was crowned at the capital, Pliska. These were the so-called "White" or "Western Bulgars", originally related to the Huns. (Ref. 180 , 8 )

Farther west, the Srbi (Serbs) settled in part of the old Pannonia and Chrobati (Croats) settled in Illyricum, forming eventually the country of Serbia. By 650 the Slavs \ constituted the majority of the people in the Balkans. Avar horsemen, operating out of Hungary, spread havoc intermittently through the area and repeatedly appeared under the walls of Constantinople.


The Lombards regained control of the northern plain of Italy, where the Byzantines had driven a wedge, between A.D. 601 and 605, establishing a progressive state under Duke Agilulf, who was actually a Thuringian. The Lombards maintained intermittent relation- ships with Rome and eventually became Catholics. Venice continued as an independent realm, allegedly having been built up from fishing villages settled by fugitives from the Huns, on some 60 marshy islands. (Ref. 222 ) Rome continued as a part of the Byzantine Christian Empire although it was no longer its chief city. The remainder of Italy was a patchwork of independent cities or duchies, such as the Duchy of Spoleto and the Duchy of Benevento. (Ref. 137 )

Central europe


The Germanic and Slavic peoples had little disease and no superimposed imperial macroparasitism

McNeill's terminology
such as the Mediterranean urban populations imposed on the peasantries there, and so they had tremendous population growths, with the Slavs colonizing the Balkan peninsula, as we have noted above, and the Germanic tribes swarming to the Rhine and finally far beyond to Britain. (Ref. 140 )

Even in the previous century the Frankish kings of Germany had to reward their followers and the church by granting away their own land and revenues. By the middle of this 7th century two families had emerged as the principal agents of the kings for these transactions. One of these was from Austrasia, the traditional eastern Frankish land, and the other was from Neustria, the new lands north of the Loire. By 687 Pepin, of Heerstal (near Aachen) of the Austrasian family, had won out, thereafter dominating the Frankish kingdoms. (Ref. 8 ) At that time several basic or stem duchies became prominent, including Bavaria (named from the Baiuoaril branch of the Marcomanni), Swabia (bordering Switzerland), Thuringia, Saxony, Franconia and Frisia.

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Source:  OpenStax, A comprehensive outline of world history (organized by region). OpenStax CNX. Nov 23, 2009 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10597/1.2
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