A Joint Attack: the Attacks of the Slav and Avars on the City of Thessaloniki (617/618)Fatma İnce
The Avars, who did not want to fall under the rule of the Gokturks, moved west and sent their envoys to the Byzantine State, informing them that they wanted to conclude an agreement with them. Meanwhile, the Byzantine State needed a force that they could use against their enemies, the Bulgarians and Slavs. For this reason, the Byzantine Emperor Iustinianos I (527-565) signed an agreement with the Avars. According to the agreement, the Byzantine State will pay annual taxes to the Avars, and in return the Avars will fight against the enemies of the Byzantine State. Byzantine-Avar relations, which began as friendly, will become different in the following years with the change of circumstances. As a matter of fact, the Avars did not hesitate to establish unity with the Slavs, who were the enemies of the Byzantines since the period of Iustianos II (565-578), according to their interests. One of the main goals of the Slavic-Avar alliance is over the Balkan territory. The Balkans is very important for both Slavs, Avars and the Byzantine State in terms of its geopolitical position. Although Slav-Avar troops captured a large part of this region with their raids between the years 565-616, it was not possible to capture Thessaloniki, one of the most important centers of the region. In this study, the attacks organized by the Slavic-Avar forces on Thessaloniki in 617/618, the events experienced during the siege, the weapons and equipment used, and the consequences of the attacks that occurred in terms of the Slavic-Avar alliance alongside Byzantium will be evaluated on the basis of the work named The Miracles of Saint Demetrios.
Müşterek Bir Hücum: Slav ve Avarların Selânik Kentine Saldırıları (617/618)Fatma İnce
Göktürklerin hükmü altına girmek istemeyen Avarlar, batıya doğru hareket etmişler ve Bizans Devleti’ne elçilerini göndererek, onlarla anlaşma yapmak istediklerini bildirmişlerdir. Bizans Devleti’nin ise bu sırada, düşmanları olan Bulgarlara ve Slavlara karşı kullanabilecekleri bir güce ihtiyaçları bulunmaktaydı. Bu sebeple Bizans İmparatoru I. Justinianos (527-565), Avarlar ile bir anlaşma imzalamıştır. Anlaşmaya göre, Bizans Devleti, Avarlara yıllık vergi ödeyecek, Avarlar da bunun karşılığında Bizans Devleti’nin düşmanlarına karşı mücadele edeceklerdir. Dostça başlayan Bizans-Avar münasebetleri, daha sonraki yıllarda, şartların da değişmesiyle farklı bir hâl alacaktır. Nitekim Avarlar, II. Justinos (565-578) döneminden itibaren zaman zaman Bizanslıların düşmanı olan Slavlar ile menfaatlerine göre birlik tesis etmekten çekinmemişlerdir. Vuku bulan Slav-Avar ittifakının en büyük hedeflerinden biri Balkan toprakları üzerinedir. Balkanlar hem Slavlar ve Avarlar hem de Bizans Devleti açısından jeopolitik konumu itibariyle oldukça önemlidir. 565-616 yılları arasında Slav-Avar birlikleri gerçekleştirdikleri akınlarla bu bölgenin büyük bir kısmını ele geçirmelerine rağmen bölgenin en önemli merkezlerinden biri olan Selânik’in ele geçirilmesi mümkün olmamıştır. Bu çalışmada 617/618’de Slav-Avar kuvvetlerinin Selânik üzerine düzenlemiş oldukları hücümlar, kuşatma esnasında yaşanılanlar, kullanılan silâh ve teçhîzatlar ve vuku bulan saldırıların Bizans yanında Slav-Avar ittifakı açısından neticeleri Aziz Demetrios’un Mucizeleri isimli eser esas alınarak, değerlendirilecektir.
Thessaloniki is one of the most important cities of the Roman period. The city has a very important place in the history of Christianity both because it is an important trading port of the Balkan Peninsula and because the Apostle Paulus visited the city. The city walls built during the time of Theodosius (347-395) are another factor that increases the importance of this city. Thessaloniki is the second important city after Constantinople in terms of the Byzantine State. Slavic-Avar troops organized many expeditions in various periods, especially on Thessaloniki, which they considered a key to the Mediterranean coast, but did not achieve any success in this regard.
The Avars will begin to play an active role in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, moving along the path opened by the Migration of Tribes in 558. During the mentioned period, the Byzantine State, on the one hand, was struggling with the socities remaining from the Huns and Slavs in the West, and Sâsânî in the East. Along with the entry of the Avars into Eastern Europe and the Balkans, the Byzantine State had to take measures against the Avars this time. After all, the Byzantine Emperor Iustinianus I (527-565), who realized that he could not fight the Huns, Slavs, Avars and Persia at the same time agreed to pay taxes by making a deal with the Avars, and in response to this situation, the Avars would also side with the Byzantine State in possible struggles against the Bulgarians and Slavs
On the occasion of this agreement with the Avars, the Byzantine State kept the Bulgarians, Slavs and other enemy elements under control and also got rid of the economic burden and loss of people that could arise if the expedition was organized against different external threats. However, since the time of Iustinos II (565-578), the alliance between the two sides ended because Byzantium did not want to continue paying taxes to the Avars. In the later period, the Avars did not hesitate to be in unity with the Slavs, the enemy of Byzantium. As a result of the struggles, the Slav-Avar armies achieved their goal of holding in the Balkans to a large extent and seized many cities in the region. One city would remain independent from this situation: Thessaloniki. The attacks on the region by the Slav-Avar troops in 617/618 have a special place in Saint Demetrios’ narratives.
According to the narration in The Miracles of Saint Demetrios, the Avars first sent scouts who were waiting for everyone outside the walls. The kagan came later, with the majority of his forces, including heavy siege vehicles, rams, catapults, and siege towers. Emperor Heraclius (610-641) was stunned by the Slav-Avar attack as he fought intensely against the Persians and could not send any aid to the city, and as a matter of fact, Thessaloniki had to rely on his own forces. However, the stories of the people of Nis and Sardica, who had previously experienced Slav-Avar attacks and fled to Thessaloniki, created great fear and anxiety on the people. However, despite this, especially with the encouragement of Archbishop Ioannes, the people of Thessaloniki will start to protect the city. It should be noted that the siege was much better organized than in previous attempts. As a result of a number of events that are considered to be a miracle by the people of Thessaloniki but seen as unlucky by the Slav-Avar armies, the siege will result in negativity for the Slav-Avar troops. Eventually, the Avar Khan reached a negotiated agreement with the Thessalonians and left the city. The Slavs sold their captives to the Thessaloniki people. The 33-day siege of Thessaloniki was an siege that ended in failure in 617 or 618 by Slavic tribes and Avars who settled near the city of Thessaloniki, the largest Byzantine fortress in the region. The alliance established, the weapons used, the state of the people, the developments during the siege of the city and the departure of the Slavic-Arab troops from Thessaloniki will be evaluated on the basis of a contemporary source, The Miracles of Saint Demetrios.