|The Archontology of Great Moravia and the Serbian Moravia – the Sources|
by Vincent Sedlák
There has appeared a considerable number of alternative localizations of Great Moravia recently. This trend was initiated by Imre Boba, whose work is quite widely known today. It was continued by Peter Püspöki Nagy who was a true follower of Boba´s theory of localization of Great Moravia in the region of the Serbian river Morava, south of the Danube. This localization was altered by Toru Senga whose suggestion concerned the territory between the Danube and the Tisa. The third alternative localization of Great Moravia was presented by Martin Eggers, who also presented his attitude towards all the previous attempts, including even the earlier attempts. Although M. Eggers succeeded in showing the inconsistence of the other attempts, it is necessary to deal with all the important features that these theories have in common, and to devote a substantial part of the attention to the specific features of the theory of M. Eggers. The most important issues include the historical geography of the discussed territories, the results of the archaeological research, linguistic conclusions and the most relevant issue seems to be the development of the organization of the Church.
The Danube valley, south of Budapest, is 20 – 30 km wide, especially east of the main flow of the river, since the main flow used to follow the Pannonian hills that presented a natural limitation to its flow. There was a 50-kilometer-wide plateau east of the valley (approx. 200 m over the surface of the sea at its peak) that was naturally protected against the floods from the Danube as well as from the Tisa. The plateau sank only gradually, on one side towards the Danube and on the other towards the Tisa. The gradually lowered plateau was on the side of the Tisa approximately 20 km wide, so the distance between the main river-beds of the Danube and the Tisa was approximately 100 km. Also the Tisa followed a plateau, westwards, similarly as the Danube. East of the Tisa there was a distance of nearly 120 km in the broadest part of the region to the next plateau, in present terms reaching the contemporary Hungarian-Rumanian border. The Danube-valley was in a lot its parts from Budapest down to its turn eastwards continually swampy even in the early 19th century (in some part in all its width).
The state of the Tisa valley was substantially worse. At times of high levels of the river the underground water made vast territories in the whole Tisa region swampy all the way down to the present Hungarian-Rumanian border. The historical geography of this region is a convincing evidence of the fact why it was possible for the Avars and the Old Magyars to occupy these territories. They were scarcely inhabited and were suitable for the way of life of the new-coming communities. It is not by accident that M. Eggers paid attention to the fact that there were mounds built already at the threshold of the 4th century AD in this territory. It was neither by accident that a channel was built from Szeged to Czegléd (over Kecskemét), split into two directions at Czegléd – to Budapest and to Szolnok. It reached the inner part of the above-mentioned plateau and was completed already in 1805. The construction of the channels crossing the plateau could be a sign of the inconvenience of the territory as to a possible settlement, although its height over the surface of the sea could seem convenient enough. And finally it was not by accident that the Channel Čers, situated in the upper Tisa region, was of a considerable depth and width between the Tisa and the Danube.
The historical geography and the scale of the settlements in the territory between the Danube and the Tisa supply sufficient evidence of the fact that the mentioned territory was not suitable for the construction of the above-mentioned entities because of the lack of necessary predispositions. The lowlands in the Tisa region were even less suitable for such a construction. The vast territories of the famous Hungarian puszta and the extremely low density of the population are an explicit evidence of this fact even today.
M. Eggers was not sufficiently aware of this fact since he situated the artificially placed castle Maros (urbs Morisena) in the Maros region as the central castle of Great Moravia. He drew the boundaries of (Great) Moravia north, south-west and west of the castle, according to its gradual expansion, at first towards the Danube, and later into the Slavic territories, reaching the Germanic world at last. If we evaluate the work of M. Eggers from this point of view, we can say that it hasn’t endangered the existing interpretation. It has only turned the existing research upside down. The centre of the mentioned political unit was shifted from the western part to the south-eastern part of the unit and the unit itself was presented as large as none of the Czech or Slovak historians had presented it before. From the heuristic point of view M. Eggers has contributed substantially with an immense collection of materials and opinions and has put an end to other alternative attempts of the localization of the discussed political unit.
We expect that there is going to be produced a considerable amount of partial studies that will have to take into account the research done in the recent years with respect to the opinions of M. Eggers. These studies will have to re-examine a number of traditional opinions about the discussed era which have, at certain stages, prevented us from a further progress in this field. The mentioned task will require a thorough historical-geographical as well as onomastic evaluation. From the point of view of the European accent that is to a great extent paid to this era at present, it is necessary to look upon this issue from a broad European perspective and to organize an intensive research of historical, archaeological and linguistic sources, in which a considerable amount of the previously approximate information would be determined with certainty. One of the main tasks would be to locate and follow the common features of the European development which escaped the devastation even by such disturbing historical events as the invasion of the Avars and the arrival of the Old Magyars.
The work of M. Eggers has many positive aspects, e.g. his arguments in his dispute with I. Boba. In his analysis he rejected the possibility of localization of Great Moravia in the Serbian Moravia. He ascertained that the Great Moravian archonts could not be constrained to the archonts of the Serbian Moravia, nor to the archonts of other South Slavic territories. He must have been also aware of the fact that the Serbian Moravia did not represent a separate political unit in the South Slavic environment. It was merely a part of the Serbian territory. It is also important to note that the name of Pribina is not found either among the Slovenian, Dalmatian Croatian or Serbian archonts of the 9th century. During the rule of Mojmír I. (833-846) the names of the priest Vladislav (821-835) and Mislav (835-845) are mentioned among the Croatians and Prosigoj (before 835) and Vlastimir (835-850) among the Serbs. During the rule of Prince Rastislav (846-870) priest Trpimir (845-864) and Domagoj (864-876) are mentioned among Croatians and among the Serbs Vlastimir continues his rule (until 850) and is succeeded by Mutimir (850-891). During the rule of King Svätopluk (871-894) the Croatians were ruled by Domagoj (until 876), Zdeslav (until 879) and priest Branimir (879-892), who was succeeded by priest Mutimir (until 910) and the Serbs were ruled by Mutimir (until 891) and later by Petar (892-917). The Pannonian Croatians were ruled by Braslav (884-896). On the basis of this short list it is possible not only to ascertain some relevant evidence in the field of archontology, but also to see the apparent difference between the West Slavic and the South Slavic character of the proper names of the individual archonts.
If Imre Boba had taken into consideration this survey he would not have presented his theory about the placement of Great Moravia in the territory of the Serbian Moravia. But since he is a scholar that does not respect even the rules of the Latin grammar, as it was objected during the International Congress of Slavic studies in Bratislava and as it was suggested also by M. Eggers, he was not even interested in studying the state of sources in the territories that he was examining. As a scholar who lacked a thorough knowledge of the historical background he might have thought that the state of sources in the South Slavic territories was identical with the state of sources in our territory (or in Moravia) and this simplified view was the source of his ideas that were to a great extent politically motivated, of which M. Eggers was not aware.
In the Serbian Moravia, or in the South Slavic territory as a whole, was the situation very different. Written documents appear much earlier, in the field of documentary sources as well as in the field of narration-based sources. Especially the documentary sources are of a substantial relevance. The earliest preserved documents date back to 743 (or 839). Documents and letters were issued already in the 9th century by archonts of a rank that was lower than the rank of central Great Moravian archonts. This is a very important fact that would be even reinforced if Great Moravia was to be found in this territory. How many documents were to be issued by every known Great Moravian ruler, or by their lower officials or by all the known Church officials, if the officials of lower ranks issued such a considerable number of preserved documents. Since there has been preserved such a considerable amount of written sources from the period in which this society lived under normal circumstances, because of the fact that these territories came under the central Hungarian rule 2-3 centuries later, there is no historical reason supporting the assumption that the documents of the central Great Moravian rulers would not be preserved in the matters that were dealt with in the documents issued by their lower officials, e.g. the donations to dioceses. Since even the turbulent times, the incorporation into the Hungarian state, did not cause the destruction of written records, there is no reason for the assumption that these times brought about the destruction of the materials written by the Great Moravian officials containing information about Great Moravian affairs.
It is mostly the literature of an official and private character that is subject to diplomatic criticism, unlike the literature of a narrative character. The literature of a narrative character can be used and modified by an author with an addition of his own ideas to fit his aim. It can be misused in many other ways facing the risk of being rejected by the critical literature, as it was clearly manifested in all the cases of alternative localizations of Great Moravia. It is sufficient to determine the aim of the interpretation beforehand and to use an individual key in the interpretation of those parts of the narrative sources that do not match each other as to the historical geography and the chronology of the events of the respective time and place. The individual keys often lead to an exaggerated attempt of proving the unprovable instead of a critical examination of the text that would enable the authors to ascertain where the historical author supplied some inconsistent information or even made a grave mistake, especially in the cases in which he had only mediated information. Their individual keys also lead to a mockery of other authors or, in a better case, to an ironic smile over the incorrect interpretation of the others.
The fact that M. Eggers in some cases treats historical events within today’s political boundaries and in some cases creates his own political framework of the events is a grave mistake of his studies. He places for instance the historical Old Slovak territory into the frame of the present political borders, although the historical-geographical and linguistic studies have supplied the evidence of the fact that the historical Old Slovak territory stretched much further southwards of the present borders and that the settlements outside the present borders were not some forgotten settlements, but were comparatively well-developed and well-organized. This follows from the local toponyms that suggest that this territory was a part of a larger organized unit. This fact is interconnected with the economic organization of this territory that did not depend on any regional units, but on the attempts of the Frankish Empire aimed at a centralization.
It is also necessary to mention the decree of Charles the Great “De villis et curtibus” and its impact on fairly distant territories. It is a widely known fact that the Hungarian historiography dealt with the interpretation of this document, or of this phenomenon in the Hungarian environment – as it actually was a phenomenon – in a very unambiguous way. It has never used this document as an argument. The Hungarian historiography argued only that some system spread throughout Hungary and the system had not been in effect in the place of its origin for two centuries already. Firstly, it cannot be said that it had not been functioning for two centuries, because the decree was issued shortly before the year 800 and the period in which it was in effect cannot be determined with certainty, since such statement would require a timely very costly research. The fact that some things are not reflected in the Frankish toponyms should not lead us to the incorrect assumption that these things had ceased to exist. The mentioned phenomenon did not originate in the Frankish Empire at the time when the decree took effect, it had rather developed within the framework of the already existing nomenclature.
On the other hand the phenomenon necessarily affected the countries that were in the state of dependence upon the Empire in the formation of their local toponyms. In this fact lies the major difference between the conditions in our territory, in the South Slavic territories and in the Frankish Empire as well as in the states that succeeded it. Charles the Great states explicitly in the decree that it shall be implemented in the provinces and other territories in the east. The ban-system was also widely used in the Frankish society although it didn’t appear in the local toponymy, only in some regions, which was typical of it. On the other hand, in places where it was for political reasons used to a greater extent, it penetrated the local toponymy, as well. It was used in the nomenclature in all the places which the Avars were forced to leave by the Frankish Empire. If the term “ban” [lord, master] was of Avar origin and it did not cease to exist upon their withdrawal from the territory it couldn’t have been introduced by them. The evidence of this fact can be found in the Slovak territory, where the ban-system and the duty organization can be found in areas that never experienced the Avar occupation.
This concerns also the core of the South Slavic territory that did not belong to the Avar sphere of power or belonged to it only temporarily and belonged to the Old Magyar sphere of power much later. The mentioned system was implemented in this territory, also in the field of arch ontology, at all levels of the social system. The Old Magyar society did not incorporate the term “ban” into its social system until the incorporation of the Croatian lands into the Hungarian state. After the incorporation of the South Slavic territories, where this term was widely used, this term was adopted, but only in connection with these territories. The gradual expansion of this term, further into other parts of Hungary, was closely connected with the property interests of individual South Slavic bans and it was used only to denote their social status without any impact on the administration of the territories. Although M. Eggers uses anosmatic sources, it is necessary to say that they represent the weakest point in his study.
We are going to mention only two decisive phenomena that he used for the purpose of proving the localization of Great Moravia in the place where he wanted it to be. His doubt connected with Devín is not based only the anosmatic method. He tries to support the anosmatic doubt with the respective archaeological research. According to his theory the scarcity of archaeological sources does not support the theory of a significant historical centre. M. Eggers does not know, however, that in the late 14th century there were significant construction activities in this area, the complex of the whole Sigmund castle was constructed, taking up most of the castle hill. During the construction a number of archaeological sources that could have supported the significance of Devín also in the field of archaeology was destroyed. It was allowed to quarry stone and to use it for the purposes of the construction.
The quarrying of stone could not have taken place in a locality other than the part of the castle hill where there can be found a steep cliff even today. The castle hill must have been quite large, as it was possible to extract enough material in its area for the construction of the whole castle complex. The fragment that has been preserved has been preserved certainly only out of piety, as it comprised two churches, of which at least one was still in use at the time of the arrival of the Old Magyars. Another reduction of the historical significance of Devín is connected with the document of “ineffabilis munitio”. The source states explicitly “ad illam ineffabilem Rastici munitionem”. The pronoun “illam” is a clear evidence of the fact that the author used it not to repeat the same proper name. In the preceding lines, however, only the name of Devín is used. Its name is mentioned in two places. In 855 King Louis attacked the rebellious King Rastislav in the territory of the Moravian Slavs. He returned without a victory and stated that it was better to give up the attempt to fight the enemy who had the advantage of a powerful fortification than to suffer great losses in a dangerous fight. Instead he laid waste a part of the province and killed a considerable number of enemies that tried to attack his camp.
The continuation of the annals should supply the evidence of the fact that all these events happened in Rastislav´s absence, because after his arrival (post reditum regis Rastiz) Rastislav crossed the Danube, chased the troops of Louis and laid waste a great part of the neighbor’s land. This evidence does not support the theory of M. Eggers concerning the localization of Great Moravia, because it would have taken Rastislav a fairly long time to attack the Frankish territory having started from Cenad (Csanád). The mention provides us also with the evidence of the fact that the powerfully fortified place could have been Devín. The information connected with the year 864 proves also that Louis only occupied the fortification headed by Rastislav. This part of the text is very similar to the mentioned passage from the record from 855, only the roles of the rulers are exchanged. Unlike the development in 855, when King Louis refused to get involved in a dangerous fight, this time the unwillingness to initiate a direct fight was attributed to Duke Rastislav, who released a required number of hostages and made the oath of loyalty. But what sort of victory was it, when the chronicler states that this oath was not kept? Who was the one to be afraid of a military conflict, when Louis was content with such an insignificant compensation instead of a total victory?
It was finally in 869, from which a “dubious” information about a great, immense fortification originates, that this great fortification was conquered by Charles, the son of Louis, who was put in command of the army shortly before the death of Louis. It was not by accident that Louis summoned his soldiers in August. At that time the Danube was at its lowest level and offered the easiest crossing in the area of Bratislava. The division of the army into three streams corresponds exactly to the geographical starting point of the army as well as to the geographical point of its destination (the Thuringers and the Saxons against the Serbs, the Franks and the Alemanni against Rastislav and the Bavarians against Svätopluk in Nitra). The information about “urbs antiqua Rastizi” concerns either the centre at Mikulčice or one of the other known Moravian centres. We are bound to mention this mistake even though we could be satisfied with the fact that on the basis of an incorrect understanding of the text another fortification was added to our territory. M. Eggers was attracted by the possibility of interpreting this passage as a mention of a system of ramparts and not of a castle, which suited his idea of Csanád (Cenad), since he was aware of the fact that he wouldn’t have found there even such archaeological sources as those that he doubted in the case of Devín.
The insufficient knowledge of the issue of Devín did not allow M. Eggers to be aware of the fact that from the historical-geographical point of view the complex of Devín was in its extent much closer to his interpretation of the mentioned source. And this complex is connected with a rich basis of archaeological sources as to the Great Moravian fortified settlements and burial places. M. Eggers did not, by the way, mention his doubt only in connection with Devín. He also expressed his doubt as to the archaeological research in the area of the castle of Nitra and his claim was that the research does not go beyond the 11th century. This cannot be denoted as a lack of information anymore, it is a purposeful misuse of the sources for the sake of the theory of the localization of Great Moravia that was invented by him. There have been found several Great Moravian fortified settlements in the area of Nitra and even the castle hill has provided us with several important findings recently, even though it has been argued that because of the construction activities in this locality all the Great Moravian elements must have been destroyed.
Since M. Eggers did not have any archaeological findings at his disposal, he based his theory, apart from the purposeful interpretation of the narrative sources, on the interpretation of the name of the Maros river. Since he did not want to place the centre of Great Moravia in the Over-Danubian Moravia and he could not place it in the Serbian Moravia, he helped himself with the etymology of the name of the Maros river that he turned into Morava. This would not be his main mistake. However, he also invented a Great Moravian castle in this region, whose existence is not proved by any other source, since the archaeological research that has done in this area hasn’t provided us with any results at all. The Hungarian name Maros (pronounced ´Marosh´), the Serbo-Croatian Morish and the Romanian Mureş indicate that the basis of all of them is likely to be the frequent Greek name Máris, Marisos (urbs Morisena), which would not be a surprise as to the geographical position. The question how it is possible to deduce the name of Moravia from the mentioned name must be answered by M. Eggers.
The highlight of his linguistic deduction is the name ´Marót´ that was in Slovak, according to him, in almost all the cases replaced by the form ´Moravce´. This is a very poor knowledge of the conditions of the Slavic world. It is generally acknowledged that the name ´Marót´ was imported into the language of the Old Magyars from the language of the Old Slovaks at a time when the Magyar language did not have the phoneme ´ts´ yet and therefore it was replaced by the phoneme ´t´. This is recognized also by the Hungarian historical linguistics. It is also necessary to deal with the historical events that influenced the political conditions of the mentioned period in a great measure. Great Moravia, as it was later termed, originated historically from a union of the Moravian Principality and the Principality of Nitra. We are not going to deal with the well–known events that accompanied this union, although they constitute a very important part of the question of the localization of Great Moravia. We are going to limit our comments on this event to the statement that it occurred in order for the new unit to be able to defend itself more efficiently against the pressure from the stronger Frankish Empire. Later, however, it became obvious that this step was not sufficient for the purpose of the defense and it was clear that the new-formed unit must be strengthened also from within. Prince Rastislav shared the opinion that it was necessary for the mentioned purpose to found an autonomous organization of the Church with all the necessary institutions. He was, above all, interested in the formation and education of local priests. It can be claimed with certainty that the Church organization of those times was limited to the central fortified towns and other classes were not involved to a greater extent. There had been no diocese formed in Great Moravia before the arrival of the missionaries St. Cyril and Methodius.
The proper localization of the discussed unit is to be ascertained also by the comparison of the basic conditions of this non-defined unit with the conditions of those territories where this unit should be localized according to the so-called alternative localizers. In the territory of the South Slavs the oldest written record concerning the existence of a diocese dates back to 590 (Salona), 591 (Sriem, Skadar). The chronological information does not represent an evidence of the chronological order of origin of the dioceses. We know that the Archdiocese of Sriem was the Metropolitan Archdiocese not only of Pannonia, but also of Illyria. It was after the Avar occupation that it lost its Metropolitan position. The oldest record from 590 contains an information about a wide and well-organized Church organization. It contains the regulation of Pope Gregory I. addressed to the Salona Bishop Natalis requesting him to return the withdrawn administration and territory to Honoratus, who had been degraded from an archdeacon to a priest against his will. If the parties involved were not able to settle the matter in a peaceful manner, Honoratus and the nuncio were required to see the Pope in Rome. A letter with the same contents was sent to Honoratus. The letter was sent again in 592 with the admonition that the pallium could be withdrawn from the disobedient party. The information about this regulation was sent to all the Dalmatine bishops (!).
The Diocese of Dubrovnik was subordinated to the Diocese of Salona. The Salona Bishop sentenced the Dubrovnik Bishop without the Priestly Council and forced him into exile. Pope Gregory I. objected to such a procedure vehemently and ordered to call a Council. The Salona Bishop died in March 593 and Pope Gregory sent a regulation to the clergy and the people of Salona encouraging them to elect their new Bishop and to send him to Rome to be ordained. He also forbade The Dalmatine Bishop Malchus to get involved in the affairs of the Salona Diocese. The Pope himself recommended the clergy of the Salona Diocese to elect Archdeacon Honoratus as their Bishop. He sent another letter to all Bishops of Dalmatia stating that without the papal consent no steps are to be taken in connection with the ordination of the Salona Bishop. If Honoratus could not be elected, the information should be supplied to the Pope. Furthermore he allowed the Bishops to bless the new-elected Bishop, but he expressed his objections to the potential election of Maximus, as he had bad information about him. Two years later Maximus was elected and the Pope excommunicated him. Then he ordered the excommunicated Maxumis to come to Rome to explain his standpoint and to settle the matter. In connection with this dispute the Bishop of Zadar Sabinianus was also summoned to Rome to assist in the thorough investigation of Bishop Maximus´ case. Maximus finally confessed his guilt, repented and he was returned the withdrawn grace. At the same time his dispute with the Bishop of Zadar Sabinianus was settled.
The Salona Bishop Maximus is mentioned as Archbishop for the last time in 602. He was succeeded by Thoedorus who remained in his office until 639. According to F. Dvorník and M. Eggers was Salona the Metropolitan town of Dalmatia until 614 when it was destroyed by the Avars. The seat of the Archbishop was shifted to Split as late as 650. The first Archbishop of Split was John of Ravenna who was the initiator of the shift of the Metropolitan town to Split.. He was confirmed by the Pope and Split became the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Dalmatia. Split was responsible for the Dioceses of Krk, Zadar, Dubrovnik and Kotor. The preserved sources do not provide us with the information concerning the period of 614-639 and we do not know where was the seat of Archbishop Theodor. F. Dvorník suggests that the shift of the Metropolitan town from Salona to Split took place in 640 during the reign of Emperor Herakleus under the influence of Pope John IV. The preserved documents contradict the opinion of M. Eggers that Salona required the right to be an archdiocese after the occupation of Sirmium by the Avars without an unequivocal approval of Rome. Eggers presents the opinion that the Church organization in the Balkan was destroyed by the invasion of the Avars. His statement that the Metropolitan Diocese of Sriem was vacant in the years 582 - 869 cannot be accepted. There is a mention of the presence of a bishop in this town as late as in 595. In this year Pope Gregory I. sent a letter to the Sriem Bishop Sebastian. The Salona Diocese was re-established between the years 858 – 875 when Pope Nicolaus I. sent a letter to the Bishop of Salona.
The evidence of the fact that the lower-rank Church organization never ceased to exist is represented by the letter of Pope John VIII. from 873-875 to the clergy of Salona concerning the presbyters that had been excommunicated during the pontificate of his predecessor Pope Nicolaus I. He allows the excommunicated to repent. The Archdiocese of Salona was re-established between the years 885 – 891 when Pope Stephen VI. reproached the Patriarch of Aquilea for the transgression of his power and territory in connection with the intended ordination of the Archbishop of Salona. On the basis of the letter of Pope John VIII. from 879 it can be stated without exaggeration that among the Dalmatine Bishops the addressee John – the presbyter of the “Holy See of Salona” – was of a rank higher than a bishop’s rank and that his seat was at least the seat of an archbishop. The first written mentions of Bishop Sabinianus in Zadar date back to 597, 598 and 599. The next letter dates back to 879 when Pope John VIII. addresses his letter to the Bishop of Zadar Vitalis, to the Absarenian Bishop Dominic, to other Dalmatine Bishops or to the above-mentioned John, the Arch presbyter of the Holy See of Salona. He calls them back to the fold of the Roman Church and appeals to them to send the elected Archbishop to Rome to accept the ordination and the pallium from the hands of the Pope. In the case of their disregard of the papal admonition, or in the case of doubts, under the influence of the Greeks or the Slavs, he threatens to excommunicate them. A letter with similar contents was sent also to Michael, the king of the Bulgarians. The appeal was most probably made to settle the dispute that originated in 732 during the reign of Emperor Leo III. when the Emperor rejected the papal jurisdiction and the Archbishop of Split was subordinated to Constantinople. It follows from the above-mentioned that the re-establishment of the Archdiocese of Salona can be for the time being placed in 879 or shortly after. This fact is likely to explain the absence of records between the years 732 – approx. 879 which was caused not by the Avars but by a dispute between the Byzantine Empire and Rome. The Avars could have been the cause of the absence until 732 (but not earlier than 650). It would be obviously impossible to explain why the Church organization would be re-established so late after the defeat of the Avars, which indent have happened after all, as the border of the Avarian Kaganate was gradually shifted more and more to the north.
The time of the shift of the Metropolitan town from Salona, destroyed by the Avars, to the not very distant Split can be considered the approximate time of the shift of the Avarian occupation zone and of the stabilization of the borders of the Avarian Kaganate upon the Sava and the Danube. In the period to follow a certain consolidation of the Church affairs took place in the territory below the mentioned border. It can be stated that if Salona hadn’t been destroyed and deserted it might have been re-established as the Metropolitan town of the Archdiocese. This fact is explicitly mentioned in a document from 640 – 642, according to which the destruction of Salona was carried out not only by the Avars, but also by the Croatians. The latter enslaved many Dalmatines. Pope John IV. (640 – 642) made an effort to release the captives and in this connection the transport of the holy relics from Salona to Rome is mentioned. This means that it was not necessary to have the relics in Split. The inhabitants of Salona were scattered all over the islands along the coast, some of them moved to Zadar and Dubrovnik and a large portion of them moved to Split. If, on the other hand, the impossibility of the re-establishment of the Metropolitan town of Salona had been connected only with the Avarian danger, it would have been equally impossible to shift the seat of the Metropolite to Split that was situated in the immediate vicinity of Salona. There must have been an ethnic dispute between the genuine population of Latin origin and the Slavic Croatians with all its consequences.
The Diocese of Nina was founded approximately in the year 860 by Pope Nicolaus I. There had been certain efforts aimed at the founding of a diocese even prior to this time. These efforts prompted Pope Nicolaus I. to write a letter to the elected Bishop of Nina and to the clergy explaining that without the approval of the Apostolic See it is impossible to found a diocese or to build a basilica. All these events had taken place earlier than St. Methodius could use his authorization to set up Church institutions. Theodosius wasn’t ordained even in 879 when Pope John VIII. sent him an admonition not to accept the ordination from anyone else but the Pope himself. In 879 Theodosius, as the elected Bishop of Nina, sent a letter to Pope John VIII. expressing his fidelity to the Roman Church. Shortly afterwards he was ordained and awarded the title of a bishop by the Pope. F. Dvorník maintains that the Dalmatine Croatia did not belong under the jurisdiction of Methodius. Belgrade is mentioned as the seat of a bishop for the first time in 878. At that time the town was in the hands of the Bulgarians. This follows from the letter of Pope John VIII. to the Bulgarian Khan Boris (episcopatus Belogradensis). The diocese had certainly existed also before this date. It is, however, impossible to ascertain the date of its origin on the basis of the mentioned source. According to F. Dvorník the acceptance of the Christian faith by the Croatians took place between the years 610 – 641. He alludes to the report of Constantine Porphyrogenetos, from the time of the reign of Heracleus and the Croatian archont Porga. A similar opinion is shared by M. Brkovič. F. Dvorník acknowledges this report and reject the objections of certain historians on the basis of the argument that the relations between the Byzantine Empire and Rome were good at this time. It was the time when the whole of Illyricum, which comprised all the provinces from Pannonia to Greece and Peloponesos, belonged under the jurisdiction of the Roman Patriarchate. According to F. Dvorník it was the first attempt of the Christianization of the Slavs. According to the tradition the Archdiocese of Split was founded at this time, too. M. Brkovič mentions also other acts of baptism. In the years 820 – 829 during the reign of Tsar Michael II. the Croatians refused to accept the baptism from the Byzantines. M. Eggers considers this event to be the evidence of the fact that the Croatians were baptized approximately in the year 820. It was in the years 867 – 886 that the Croatians asked for the baptism Tsar Basileus I. the Macedonian. The Tsar sent them several priests accompanied by his messenger. The third act of baptism should have taken place during the rule of the archont Porinus, who is by some historians identified with Bron (819 – 821).
In connection with the conditions typical of the Croatian territory we would like to mention certain documents which prove that this area differed in many aspects from the conditions that were typical of Great Moravia. The Croatian Duke Mislav made a donation to the church of St. George of Putala in the Diocese of Split approximately in 839. There is an explicit mention of thefact that the church was in the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Split. In 852 the Croatian Duke Trpimir made a donation to the newly founded monastery at Split. The document starts with a devotional formula and continues with the statement that it was written during the reign of Lothar, the King of the Franks in Italy. Duke Trpimir emphasizes that he has founded the monastery upon the decision made together with all the counts and he adds that the donation doesn’t consist only of a cup, but that it has been supplemented by 11 books donated by the Archbishop of Salona Peter. He also mentions the fact that the Metropolitan Church unit of Salona spread to the banks of the Danube and comprised almost the whole of Croatia. This document is of an utmost importance in connection with the conditions in the southern territories at the time preceding the period when the mission of St. Cyril and Methodius was to unfold in this area according to the alternative authors. It is interesting also because of the fact that the list of the officials at the end of the document consists of five counts, eight witnesses without the indication of their ranks and twelve presbyters. It is an incontestable evidence of a well-developed Church organization as well as of the fact that if Prince Rastislav had been the supreme ruler of this territory it would have been the eminent right of his to make the donation. Similarly the confirmation of the donation by the Croatian Duke Muntimir in 892 would have been the eminent right of King Svätopluk.
In 879 Pope John VIII. praises the Croatian Duke Branimir for his return to the faith and to the fidelity to St. Peter. He entrusts him with the protection of Presbyter John who had been sent to deliver a pastoral letter to the Bulgarians. In the same year he encourages Duke Branimir and all the Croatians and their priests to remain firm in their return to the Roman Church and in their faith. It is again in 879 that he calls the bishops, priests and the people of Dalmatia to return to the fold of the Roman Church. Upon the election of the new Archbishop he invites the canonically elected Archbishop to be ordained and to receive the pallium. The legate was the Salona presbyter John. Approximately a year later he writes to the Croatian Duke Branimir, to the priests, judges and the whole people and asks them to send legates that would confirm their fidelity. He sends a legate himself, so that the whole people can demonstrate their fidelity to the Holy See before him. The letter represents an attempt to settle the unsolved dispute between Rome and Constantinople in this territory in a definite way. The conditions of the Church among the Serbs were not very different from those among the Croatians at the very beginning. This is acknowledged also by M. Eggers. It can be discussed whether his version of the Christianization of the Serbs from the Byzantine Empire is an accurate one.
In the oldest periods the Croatian Church centres expanded evidently to the Serbian territory. We can speak of a closer communication between the Serbian territory and the Byzantine Empire not earlier than in 732, but even in the 9th century these relations weren't too tight. The 9th century brought the Serbs a higher frequency of fights between the Byzantine Empire, the Frankish Empire and the Bulgarians, all of them trying to attain hegemony in the region. The Serbian state, that was being formed at this time, was trying to keep the balance by supporting the party that seemed to be the strongest one at a given time. It was Duke Mutimir (850 – 891) who had to surrender to the Byzantine Empire, while his country retained full-scale self-government. The only point of concern was the process of Christianization, but on the basis of the well-known attitude of the Byzantium towards the usage of the national language there would have been no reason for asking for missionaries. This can be characterized as the opposite of the Great Moravian conditions, but it is not so in the Great Moravia presented by M. Eggers. There was the development of the conditions similar to the development in Serbia.
The organization of the Christian Church in its proper sense was introduced in the Serbian territory during the rule of Duke Mutimir (850 – 891). The strengthening of its position was affected by the arrival of the pupils of St. Cyril and Methodius after their escape from Great Moravia. The northen Serbian lands inhabited by the Catholics were under the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Split until the year 1059. The southern Serbian lands belonged in the 6th and 7th century under Skadar and in the 8th century under Durres. The bishops attended the Synods in Split. Originally they belonged under the Archdiocese of Dioclea and they had independent Church administration even in the old times. The Papal Curia re-established the Archdiocese of Dioclea in Bar before 1067 and charged it with the administration of all the territories from the Sava and the Cetina river down to the Bojana and the Drina and in the north from the Vrbas river to the Morava river. We have presented a short characteristics of the conditions in Serbia. If we are to deal with the request of Prince Rastislav concerning the missionaries, addressed first to Rome and then to Constantinople, on the basis of the mentioned conditions it is not realistic to assume that such a request would come from the Croatians. As to the Serbs, in connection with the unfavourable political situation it is not realistic to assume that the mentioned request would have been submitted to Rome at the mentioned time. M. Eggers was aware of this fact as well. Therefore he was bound to look for a new territory for the localization of Great Moravia and the events connected with its history.
In addition to the objections already made - the historical-geographical conditions, the impossibility of identifying the Great Moravian archontology with the archontology of the South Slavic state units, the development of the organization of the Church and the well-developed network of dioceses and lower-rank administration - it should be noted that the same development of the political and ecclesiastic affairs would have had to take place in the territory of the suggested Great Moravia especially because of the fact that M. Eggers sees the connection of the archonts of Great Moravia with the archonts of the South Slavic territories without any direct evidence. M. Eggers has also forgotten that the considerable attention of the Roman Curia paid to the South Slavic territories in the form of instructions and admonitions was not addressed, for understandable reasons, to the main figures of the missionary activities, St. Cyril and Methodius.
The mentioned documents represent an evidence of very different conditions and very different chronology as well as of issues different from those that could be found in the real Great Moravia. The Christian faith was to some extent proclaimed in Great Moravia also before the arrival of the missionaries St. Cyril and Methodius (temples and priests in the Great Moravian castles), but the proclamation didn't have such a rich history as in the South Slavic environment. M. Eggers himself describes the beginnings of the Christian mission in Serbia as similar to those in the Croatian territory. It can be maintained on the basis of papal letters that decisive steps had been taken in the South Slavic territory a long time before the mission of St. Cyril and Methodius and the names of these missionaries do not appear in any of these letters. In addition to this fact papal letters do not contain any mention of the South Slavs when addressed to the Great Moravian rulers and the Byzantine missionaries and they contain no mention of any Cyrillo-Methodian Church history in the South Slavic territories.