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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

The Macedonian epoch (867-1081)

The Byzantine Empire and Russia. The Patzinak problem 


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In 1912 a Jewish scholar in America, Schechter, edited and translated into English the surviving fragments of an interesting Jewish medieval text on Khazaro-Russian-Byzantine relations in the tenth century. The value of this document is especially great because of the fact that it mentions the name of Helgu (Oleg), the King of Russia and contains some new evidence about him, such as the story of his unsuccessful expedition to Constantinople. The chronological and topographical difficulties presented by this text are still in a stage of preliminary investigation; hence it is too early to pass any definite judgment about this unquestionably interesting document. In any event, the publication of this text has brought about a new attempt to re-examine the chronology of Oleg given by the old Russian chronicles.

In the time of Romanus Lecapenus the capital was twice attacked by the Russian Prince Igor. His name has been preserved not only in Russian chronicles, but in Greek and Latin sources as well. His first campaign in the year 941 was undertaken on numerous vessels which sailed to the Bithynian coast of the Black Sea and to the Bosporus. Here the Russians pillaged the seacoast and advanced along the Asiatic shore of the Strait to Chrysopolis (now Scutari, facing Constantinople), but the expedition ended with complete failure for Igor. A large number of Russian vessels were destroyed by Greek fire, and the remnants of Igor's fleet returned to the north. The Russian prisoners captured by the Greeks were put to death.

Igor's forces for his second campaign in 944 were much greater than those of his earlier expedition. The Russian chronicler related that Igor organized a large army of Varangians, Russians, Poliane, Slavs, Krivichi, Tivertsy, and Patzinaks. The Byzantine Emperor, frightened by these preparations, sent his best noblemen (boyars) to Igor and to the Patzinaks, offering them costly gifts and promising to pay Igor a tribute similar to that received by Oleg. In spite of all this Igor started out for Constantinople, but when he reached the banks of the Danube he consulted his druzhina (company) and decided to accept the conditions proposed by the Empire and return to Kiev. In the following year the Greeks and Russians negotiated a treaty on conditions less favorable to the Russians than those of Oleg. This peace agreement was to last as long as the sun shall shine and the world shall stand, in the present centuries, and in the centuries to come.

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