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GREAT MORAVIA - A HISTORICAL SKETCH

Introduction
This page is the first easily accessible and reasonably comprehensive on-line introduction to the history of Great Moravia - the first Slavic state in Central Europe. Sources used in compiling this timeline include contributions by various Czech and Slovak authors to the catalogue of the Europas Mitte um 1000 travelling exhibition published by Mannheim University, and a few online resources in English, Czech and Slovak. A more detailed bibliography of the major sources used appears at the bottom of this page.

The history of Great Moravia is a subject that, in English at least, seems to appear on the web only in connection with the Slav Apostles, SS Constantine/Cyril and Methodius; it is hoped that this contribution will go someway to restoring a bit of historical balance. Any comments, corrections, additions, alterations or suggestions for decent resources that you think I might want to add can be sent to me here. Thanks!

The timeline includes a little background information, to help give some context to the period. Note that the name "Great Moravia" was not contemporary - it was apparently coined by the Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus ("Megali Morava") some 100 years after the entity had ceased to exist. Lastly, please note that I subscribe to the generally held theory that the core of Great Moravia lay in what is now the eastern part of the Czech Republic, and not in Pannonia or in what is now Serbia.

This page and all its content © Alastair Millar, 2000-2002. The text may be copied in whole or in part for ANY personal, educational, or non-commercial purpose, provided that the author and source are credited. Details of how and where this material is used would be appreciated.


700's
Establishment of what would later become the administrative centres (major settlement agglomerations) of Great Moravia.

779
Charlemagne issues a ban on the export of weapons to the Slavs

781
Charlemagne issues a second ban on the export of weapons to the Slavs

796
Charlemagne adminsters the coup-de-grace ending the Avar khaganate. Synod of Bavarian bishops convened to discuss Christianisation of the newly-subjugated areas.

803
Charlemagne issues a third ban on the export of weapons to the Slavs

805
Charlemagne issues a fourth ban on the export of weapons to the Slavs. Siege of "Canburg" (somewhere on the Elbe in Bohemia) by Charlemagne's son Charles (Moissac Chronicle). Prince Vratislav is mentioned as lord of what is now Bratislava - after Samo (d.665), he is only the second Slavic historical figure known from the Middle Danube region.

811
Charlemagne issues a fifth ban on the export of weapons to the Slavs

817
The anonymous Bavarian geography, Descriptio, Civitatum et Regionum ad septentrionalem plagam Danubiti mentions the existence of 30 centres in the Nitrian Principality, 11 in Moravia and 15 in Bohemia.

822
Louis II the Pious subjugates Moravia, making it an Imperial fief. Ambassadors of the Bohemians (Boheimorum) and Moravians (Marvanorum) appear at the Imperial Diet at Frankfurt am Main.

830 - TRADITIONAL FOUNDATION DATE OF GREAT MORAVIA
Moravian princes acknowledge Mojmir I. as their Prince, effectively seceding.

c.830
Bishop Adalram of Salzburg dedicates a church at Nitra

831
According to the 13th century chronicles of the Bishops of Passau, Bishop Reginhar "baptised all the Moravians". (Corroboration: in 900, the Bavarian Bishops protest to Rome about Passau having exercised ecclesaistical authority over Moravia since its conversion).

c.833
Prince Pribina ejected from Nitra by Mojmir I, and the Nitrian Principality becomes part of Great Moravia. Pribina becomes a lord in Transdanubian Pannonia (Balaton).

843
Elsewhere, the Treaty of Verdun divides the Frankish Empire. Subsequently, Louis the German seeks to extract tribute from Moravia and influence its internal affairs.

845
Elsewhere, 14 Bohemian princelings are baptised at Regensburg, perhaps assuming that Louis the German would not assault Christians. The faith does not seem to have been actively supported within Bohemia at this time, however (no churches known archaeologically, no ecclesiastical appointments recorded etc.)

846
Louis the German attacks Christian Moravia, seeking to regain control of the area. Mojmir deposed in favour of his cousin Rastislav (who may have been living in the Empire as a hostage until this time). Louis returns home "through the lands of the Bohemians" (Annals of Fulda).

852
The Synod of Mainz discusses Christianisation in Moravia by Frankish clergy.

853
Rastislav seeks alliance with the Bulgars.

late 850's
Rastislav supports the rebellious border Count Ratbod and Louis son of Carloman.

861
"Karlmann, son of Louis King of Germany, made an alliance with Rastislav, petty king of the Wends...With Rastislav's help he usurped a considerable part of his father's realm, as far as the river Inn" (Annals of St Bertin). Rastislav sends to Rome asking that a teacher be sent to educate local (rather than German) clergy, intending to reduce German influence. The request is ignored. Greek-educated Dalmatian clerics may have suggested approaching the Byzantine Emperor Michael III instead. Elsewhere, Gozil (Kocel) succeeds his father Pribina as Prince of Balaton.

c.862
Svatopluk (Sventopulk) I, Rastislav's nephew, becomes prince of Nitra.

863/4
Arrival of the Mission of SS Constantine/Cyril & Methodius

864
Dowin (Devín) in Slovakia mentioned in Frankish sources.

866
"Young Louis also roused Rastiz [i.e. Rastislav] the Wend to come plundering right up to Bavaria" (Annals of St Bertin).

867
Prince Gozil (Kocel) of Pannonia invites the brothers to teach the Slavonic script in his territories. In the autumn, Pope Nicholas I - seeking to keep Moravia in the Western sphere
- summons Constantine & Methodius to Rome. The brothers depart from Moravia, taking their disciples for ordination. (Their decision perhaps influenced by the fact that in September their supporter in the East, the Patriarch Photius, had been replaced by his rival Ignatius).

867/8
They are welcomed to Rome by the new Pope, Adrian II, who praises their liturgy.

869
February: Constantine dies in Rome, taking the religious name Cyril on his deathbed. At Gozil's (Kocel's) request, Methodius is named archbishop of the Pannonian-Moravian diocese, with his seat at Sirmium (Sremska Mitrovica). Methodius is captured and imprisoned by the Bavarians before taking up his new post. Louis the German launches a huge campaign against Rastislav and his Slavic allies in Bohemia, Moravia, Slovakia and the Saale valley. The Bohemians and Svatopluk, ruler of the Nitra principality, sign separate peaces. Rastislav attempts to have Svatopluk killed, but is himself captured, blinded and sent to Louis.

870
Rastislav dies, still a prisoner of Louis the German. Carloman occupies Moravia, joining it to his possessions under the rule of the Counts Wilhelm and Engelschalk. Svatopluk, still at Louis' court, is imprisoned. The Moravians rise up, declare Svatopluk dead, and proclaim Slavomir their Prince. Svatopluk is sent with an army to reclaim his legitimate throne, but defects to the Moravian side and is acknowledged Prince.

870's
Svatopluk builds up professional armoured cavalry units. To support these, he reorganises Moravian society, establishing a model that would later be followed in Premyslid Bohemia.

873
Pope John VIII secures Methodius' release. Methodius, as Archbishop of Pannonia, is noted in Moravia (in unclear circumstances), perhaps to establish new churches.

874
Svatopluk occupies the Vistula basin. The Peace of Forcheim is negotiated between the Moravians and the East Franks, through the diplomacy of the priest John of Venice.

879/880
Svatopluk gives his realm as a fief to St Peter (the Papacy), thereby rejecting domination by the Empire. Methodius - having been summoned to Rome by Pope John VIII to explain his actions, becomes Bishop of Moravia, while the Swabian Wiching is ordained Bishop of Nitra

880
Pope John VIII issues the bull "Industriae tuae", confirming Methodius' position and Papal support for his mission, as well as asserting the divine right of the papacy to confer title to territories.

880-882
Svatopluk extends his domains eastwards to the Tisza valley and north to Krakow/Wislania (Life of St Methodius).

882/3
Svatopluk annexes Bohemia by force. The Prince of Krakow and the
Premyslid Prince Bořivoj [Bor'ivoj] of Bohemia are baptised in Moravia by Methodius, and henceforth are viceroys of Moravian power. Bishop Wiching of Nitra undertakes missions in the Tisza valley.

c.883
Bohemians rebel, naming Strojmír their Prince. Bořivoj [Bor'ivoj] reinstated with Moravian aid - to underline his position, his new stronghold is built on what had
been the Parliament Field of the Bohemian congress - the foundation of Prague Castle. Svatopluk attacks Pannonia.

884
Svatopluk signs a peace with Charles III the Fat
(although who was actually in possession of Pannonia is unclear). Around this time, Bořivoj [Bor'ivoj] establishes the Church of the Virgin, creating the sacred precinct at Prague Castle.

885
Methodius dies, April 6th. On the instructions of Pope Stephen V, Svatopluk expels all priests who do not reject the Slavonic liturgy - some move to Prague Castle, others head eastwards and southeastwards as missionaries. The simultaneous injunction against Slavonic literature is ignored.

?889
Territories of the Lusatian Sorbs acknowledge Svatopluk's suzerainty. (cf Thietmar's Chronicle,VI.99)

890
Svatopluk's possesion of Bohemia confirmed by a peace signed with King Arnulf of Bavaria.

892
Bishop Wiching becomes King Arnulf's Chancellor.

894/5
Svatopluk dies. Mojmir II becomes Moravian Prince, and his younger brother Svatopluk II becomes Prince of Nitra.

?895
Perhaps at Mojmir's request, Pope Formosus sends a mission to Moravia to reorganise an independent church under the direct control of Rome.

895
Bohemian princes secede. The Assembly at Regensburg is attended by "all the duces of the Bohemians, whom the dux Zwentibald [i.e. Svatopluk] had long kept by force from the alliance and control of the Bavarian people" (Annals of Fulda). Prague comes under the authority of the Regensburg Diocese; an arch-presbytery is created by Bishop Tuto, occupied mainly by monks from the monastery of St Emmeram.

896
Magyars appear in the Tisza valley, and are engaged as allies against Arnulf by Mojmir II. Perhaps as a result of the turmoil, the main east-west trade route shifts from the Danube to Bohemia and Lesser Poland at around this time, forming a basis for Bohemia's future prosperity.

c.897
According to the Annals of Fulda "...the Bohemian people came to Emperor Arnulf...offering him royal gifts and begging for his help and that of his men against their enemies, that is the Moravians, by whom they had often been terribly oppressed. The Bohemian appelants are named as Vitislav (?Vratislav) and the Prince's son, Spytihněv [Spytihne'v]. Perhaps as a result, Mojmir II fails to recapture Bohemia. Allegiance of Sorbian territories lost, as the Saxon Liudolphines attack along the Saale and the Havel.

898
Arnulf persuades Magyars to move into Italy against his enemy Berengar. Bavarian raids into Moravia. Despite disputes with his brother, whom he has imprisoned, Mojmir II has consolidated his position well enough to petition Pope John IX for the reconstitution of the Moravian archbishopric with four suffragan bishops.

899
Further Bavarian raids. Death of Arnulf. Magyars occupy Pannonia, joined by their whole people (hitherto still beyond the Carpathians)

900
"The Bavarians proceeded through Bohemia and, taking the Bohemians with them, invaded the kingdom of the Moravians" (Annals of Fulda)

901
Louis IV the Younger and Mojmir II sign a peace.

902
Magyar raids

903/4
The Raffelstetten customs tariff refers to a central "market of the Moravians", which was probably at Mikulčice [Mikulc'ice].

906/7 - THE FALL OF GREAT MORAVIA
Great Moravia fragments under the impact of the Magyar onslaught and Frankish raids.
Many Moravian priests flee into Bohemia. Although centralised authority seems to have collapsed, some individual centres remain active - e.g. the Christian cemetery at Břeclav [Br'eclav]-Pohansko in south-east Moravia is used until around the mid-10th century.

907
Frankish sources mention a battle between Frankish and Magyar units near Presalauspurc (Bratislava) on July 4th - without the participation of the Moravians, who must thus be regarded as a spent force.

920
Tas becomes first Hungarian Prince of Nitra


Major Sources

O. Halecki, 1952, Borderlands of Civilization, a history of East Central Europe, New York, Ronald Press Company

J. Sláma, 2000, "Strongholds, castles and embattled towns in Bohemia" in: Catalogue to the Europas Mitte um 1000 Exhibition, Mannheim, Mannheim University

Dušan Třeštík, 2000, "The Czechs", in: Catalogue to the Europas Mitte um 1000 Exhibition, Mannheim, Mannheim University

Dušan Třeštík, 2000, "The onset of the creation of a Slavic empire - the Great Moravian example", in: Catalogue to the Europas Mitte um 1000 Exhibition, Mannheim, Mannheim University

V.Vavřinek, 2000, "Missions to Moravia: Between the Latin West and Byzantium", in: Catalogue to the Europas Mitte um 1000 Exhibition, Mannheim, Mannheim University

R. Zaroff, 1997, various notes on the Mediev-L mailing list, archived at the University of Kansas