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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

The Iconoclastic epoch (717-867)

The first Russian attack on Constantinople. [Arabs and Bulgarians.] 


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Amid these annual conflicts with the Arabs, the sources suddenly began to speak of the first attack of the Ros, or the Russians, upon Constantinople. Until comparatively recent times this event was referred by the great majority of historians to the year 865 or 866, and it was frequently connected with the campaign of the Russian princes, Ascold and Dir. But since 1894, when a short anonymous chronicle found in Brussels was published by the Belgian scholar, Franz Cumont, this opinion has been recognized as erroneous. This chronicle gives very exact information: the Russians approached Constantinople in two hundred vessels on the eighteenth of June of the year 860, but were heavily defeated and lost many of their ships. Some scholars were doubtful about the earlier dating of this event long before the publication of the anonymous chronicle, and on the basis of various chronological calculations were inclined to believe that 860 was the correct date. Thus, the famous Italian scholar of the eighteenth century, Assemani, set the date of this first attack of the Russians at the end of 859 or early in 860, although later scholars completely forgot the result of his investigation. Fourteen years before the appearance of the anonymous chronicle of Brussels, and entirely independent of Assemani, the Russian church historian, Golubinsky, also arrived at the conclusion that this attack took place either in 860 or at the very beginning of 861.

In one of his sermons, Patriarch Photius, a contemporary of this event, referred to the Russians as the Scythian, coarse and barbarian people, and to their attack as a barbarous, obstinate, and formidable sea, a terrible northern storm.

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