Great Moravian Empire / Moravia Magna
Moravia today is one of the regions of the Czech Republic; its area comparing to other countries and regions is relative, but its history is definitely one of those extremely interesting. So let’s go back for a moment to the 9th century.
Great Moravia during the greatest extent stretched on territory of present-day Moravia and parts of present-day Slovakia, Bohemia, Austria and Malopolsko area in Poland. Name of the state itself comes from Byzantine emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos (year 950).
Emergence of the state is associated with emancipatory efforts of tribe of the Moravians. Although permanent settlement in the area had existed most probably since the 6th century and by early 9th century, network of castles had been already developed, the first written piece of evidence of Great Moravia is participation of “legati Marvanarum” – ambassadors of the Moravians (besides the Czechs) – at the Imperial Diet (Reichstag) of Holy Roman Empire in Frankfurt in 822. Even further – not too many – written reports are mostly from the Franks (eg. Annals of Fulda), but there are some also from the Pope’s court, from Byzantium, even from the Persians and the Arabs. Rulers of Great Moravia were most likely Christians – findings of some churches are of older data (Mikulčice, Staré Město, Uherské Hradiště); in addition, we have reports on a mass baptism during the reign of the first known ruler (Mojmír I., about 833). Existence of nobility is proved by archaeological findings. The most important settlements were in and around Mikulčice (findings of min. 13 churches), Břeclav – Pohansko, Staré Město u Uherského Hradiště – Velehrad / Veligrad (min. 5 churches), areas around Znojmo, Brno, Olomouc, and in Slovak Republic (Děvín, Bratislava, Nitra) etc..
All we know about reign of Mojmír I. is report about conflict with some man called Pribina, whose principality of Nitra Mojmír eventually adjoined to Moravia. He also kept peace with the Franks by paying them a fee for peace (tribut pacis). Other known date is the year 846, when army of king of Eastern Francia Louis (Ludwig) the German invaded Moravia and Louis installed Mojmír’s nephew Rostislav as new ruler; Rostislav however didn’t keep his policy favourable to the Franks for a long time (he even supported Carloman, Louis’ son, in his fight against his father) and this led to further, albeit rather unsuccessful, invasions from the west. Since the 60s, the Moravians sought establishment of their own archbishopric; the Pope did not answer to the request and final success thus came in year 874 as a result of Christian mission of Constantine and Methodius in 863 from Byzantium to Moravia, impact of this mission to expansion of Christianity and emergence of written culture is so important that is deserves a separate post. Let us mention on this occasion for interest at least fonts that people used at that time: Constantine (Cyril) needed for purposes of their mission to translate Christian texts into Old Church Slavonic language and to write them down – so he created Glagolitic script, which was used officially in the years 863-886, and also later in the Middle Ages on the territory of Croatia, Bulgaria and even of Bohemia, but today it is no longer used. Later people accepted simpler Cyrillic script for writing down Slavonic – it was created at the end of the 9th century in Bulgaria and based on the Greek alphabet; now further developed Cyrillic alphabet is used for many national languages with Russian at the first place. Worth mentioning is also a fact that the first Bohemian (Czech) ruler Bořivoj was baptized in Moravia by Archbishop Methodius.
Rostislav was eventually betrayed by his own nephew Svatopluk who allied with the Franks (869). Against Svatopluk’s assumptions it led to temporary occupation of Moravia by army of Louis the German, but already two years later Svatopluk could change sides again and revenge at forefront of the Moravian troops – the Franks were defeated; in 874 peace was made, which enabled the country to stabilize and focus on expansion (detailed description of that will be omitted for our purposes). Fights with the Franks, who had additional help of the Hungarians, were restored in the late 9th century. In 894 Mojmír II. became a new ruler after death of his father Svatopluk, but already a year later Bohemia seceded, and five years later fight for dominance broke out. Termination of the Moravian state is connected with attack of the Hungarians around the years 905-906.
The head of the Great Moravia was a ruler (monarch). Around him, there were other dukes (princes) – family members or subordinates sovereigns, and further more princes ruling over entrusted property, who formed the ruler’s counselling board; furthermore, there were free men and lawless serfs. Significant was the military retinue, commanded directly by monarch – a badge of membership to this noble group was a sword, then a belt – with ornate buckles and belt strap ends, and spurs for cavalry. We do not know much about specialized artisans and merchants. The country already organized into regions called “župa” with central administrative forts (in total there were 11 to 30 župas).
The area had significantly developed crafts, from the 9th century we have evidence of extremely well processed jewellery (please see attached photos).
Typical and specific product which outside the Great Moravia is practically non-existent is “gombík” – decorative pin or button, or more likely rather just sewn garment ornament.