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Memorial statue of Samos on Náklo hill near Dubňany .

Samo (* 600, † to 658/659) was after the Fredegarchronik the only known source, from, Franks originating merchant and the first known ruler of a Slavic empire. Around 623/624 he founded the kingdom of Samo ( Latin : regnum Samoni ) in Central Europe , which Samo is said to have ruled as king ( rex ) for 35 years until his death . The further fate of the empire after Samo's death is unknown. Its center was presumably in the southern March region , that is, today's Moravia , Lower Austria and southwest Slovakia . Its exact extent is disputed.

The kingdom of Samo is considered to be the first known political entity of the Slavs . It was not yet a “state”, but rather a tribal union or a higher level of a tribal union , a confederation of several more or less independent “ principalities ” ( ducates ).


The written sources on Samo and his empire are sparse. The only contemporary source that reports on the events is the Fredegar Chronicle (IV 48 and IV 68) from the 7th century. The second part, in which the history of the Franks between 584 and 642/643 is described, is considered to be the main source of the Merovingian history of this time. The problem with this source is that it only contains the Frankish perspective, events that were not related to the Frankish Empire are not mentioned and a corrective for the Slavic perspective is not available.

All other sources are derived from the Fredegar Chronicle and are considerably more recent. These are the Gesta Dagoberti from the first third of the 9th century from the Abbey of Saint-Denis near Paris and above all the Conversio Bagoariorum et Carantanorum from Salzburg , a center of the Bavarian clergy, which was written around 870, but in several parts is derived from the Gesta Dagoberti .

Samos origin

In the Fredegar Chronicle (IV, 48) a homo nomen Samo, natione Francos, de pago Senonago is mentioned ( a man named Samo, of Franconian origin, from the Gau of "Senonago" ). However, this sentence can be translated and interpreted in different ways. Today it is partly assumed that Senonago corresponds to today's French city of Sens, southeast of Paris. According to others, it is the Senonago but to Soignies or Sennegau . In sources in the 7th century, the inhabitants of the Franconian Empire were generally referred to as “ natione Franco ”.

Today, other interpretations are more secondary, but they are quite numerous. So, contrary to the information in the Fredegar Chronicle, Samo is seen as a Slav, mainly due to some information in the Conversio Bagoariorum et Carantanorum (see below the section on the geographical location). Lately the word Samo is sometimes seen as an old Slavic title: Samo should mean “master” or “ruler”, especially since “samo” means “self” in Slavic languages. But there are also already outdated views that Samo is an abbreviation of the Slavic name Samoslav. Finally, the name could be derived from the Hebrew Samuel.


Before Samo's arrival

The Slavs settled no later than 500 in today's southern Slovakia, in the course of the 6th century in Moravia, in Northern Lower Austria, north-western Bohemia , in Carinthia , East Tyrol , in Salzburg's Lungau and in the Steiermark , in northern Slovenia and northern Croatia Lower . There were also isolated Slavs in today's Hungary . The areas around the middle Danube were ruled by Lombards and Gepids . To the south of it was the Byzantine Empire , to the east and north of all these areas were exclusively Slavs and to the west of the areas was the Frankish Empire.

In this situation, the nomadic Avars from Asia came to what is now eastern Hungary in 567 . After that, in an alliance with the Lombards, they completely defeated the Gepids, which perished as an independent association. In 568 they urged the Lombards to resettle in northern Italy, and now they settled in what is now western Hungary and founded their Kaganat there . This powerful Avar empire subjugated the Slavs in the occupied territories and in the border areas at the end of the 6th century.

The realm of Samo

The riot

The text of the Fredegar Chronicle begins in the year 623/624, in the 40th year of reign of the Frankish King Chlothar II. According to this source, the negucians (perhaps negotiators) Samo and his companions undertook a trade trip to the " also called Wends " Slavs ”. Despite a Frankish ban, Samos Karavan, like other merchants from Gaul at the time, probably mainly delivered weapons to the Slavs. The “caravans” were well armed and protected militarily at that time, and they were accompanied by warriors. Occasionally the view, which cannot be proven by sources, is taken that Samo was a slave trader who bought new "goods" from the Slavs.

At that time, the Slavs began a revolt against Avar suzerainty. According to the sources, the reasons were that they were forced to fight in the first ranks of the Avar army, that they had to pay high tributes to the Avars, and that the Avars spent the winter with the Slavs every year and fathered children with their Slavic wives . According to the sources, the insurgents were children of Avar fathers and Slavic mothers. The uprising broke out at a time when the Avars, together with the Persians and supported by southern Slavs, were preparing to conquer Constantinople , and perhaps thanks to this it was successful. The Avars and the Sassanids suffered a heavy defeat in the siege of Constantinople in 626 .

After their arrival with the Slavs, Samo and his group inevitably took part in the battle of the Slavs against the Avars and, according to the Fredegar Chronicle, his "military ability" helped the Slavs to victory. The researchers interpret this part in such a way that either Samo himself was a good fighter or combat leader or that the military escort of his caravan was very helpful or that Samos help consisted in the delivery of weapons and in contacting the Frankish king. Thereupon, according to the Fredegar Chronicle, Samo was chosen by the Slavs because of his decisive participation in a victorious battle to rex (" king "). Some historians prefer the terms “ leader ” or “ prince ”. Rex was at least the same title that the ruler of the Franconian Empire wore. It is not excluded that Samo was sent to the Slavs by Dagobert I , the son of Chlothar, who at that time had been appointed by his father as sub-king in the Austrasian part of the empire. The aim of such an action was possibly to build another power between the Avars and the Frankish empire and thus protect his empire from Avar attacks. Others, on the other hand, see Samo as a "compromise candidate" that several Slav leaders were able to agree on. The choice fell on a stranger in order not to favor one of the competing leaders over the others.

Samos rule

Samo quickly adapted to the new cultural environment. In the Fredegar Chronicle it is mentioned that he had twelve Slavic wives and with them 22 sons and 15 daughters. According to the views of some historians, these were women from the various principalities ruled by Samo, that is, “political marriages”, whereupon twelve tribes came together under his leadership. In view of the various meanings of the number in the Middle Ages, however, the reliability of this information should not be overestimated. Under Samos rule, the Slavs are said to have waged other successful wars against the Avars.

The Franconian Empire around 628

Otherwise, the Fredegar Chronicle only provides information about the Samo empire insofar as there was a reference to the Franks. It is stated that the area liberated from the Avars was visited by other Franconian merchants. In 631/632 Slavs robbed and killed a group of Frankish merchants. Thereupon Dagobert sent envoys to Samos' realm to demand redress for this murder and theft. It is assumed that Dagobert took this incident as an opportunity to start a more intensive "Ostpolitik". However, the protection of Frankish subjects also belonged to the king's duties within a foreign sphere of influence. The negotiations that a Sicharius led on behalf of King Dagobert were unsuccessful. The Fredegar Chronicle describes them as follows:

... as is customary with the heathen and foolish haughty ones, Samo did not make amends for what his people had crimes, he just wanted ... that mutual justice and justice regarding this and other accusations that arose between the parties, is asserted. Sicharius ... uttered inappropriate [unjust / insulting] words to Samo that had not been imposed on him, and even threatened that Samo and his people Dagobert are obliged to "servicium" [serviceability or subordination to his power]. Samo replied with anger: "The land we own is Scrooge's land, and we are his too, provided, however, that he orders that peace be kept with us." Sicharius said: "It is not possible that Christians and servants of God make friends with dogs. ”Samo replied,“ If you are the servants of God and we are the dogs of God, [then] while you are continuously acting against God, we took permission to cut you to pieces tear. ”Then Samo threw Sicharius out.

Portrait of Dagobert I from the 17th century

In the same year a large-scale campaign by Dagobert with three or four armies against Samo was waged. (The fourth army is later no longer mentioned in the Fredegar Chronicle.) The allied Alemanni under Duke Chrodobert attacked the outskirts of the Samo Empire. The allied Friulian Longobards invaded most likely from the south and occupied the "regio Zellia", probably located in today's Gailtal in Carinthia. The main Austrasian army (perhaps led by Dagobert himself) was to penetrate into the heart of the empire. However, the individual armies did not succeed in uniting. While the first two armies returned victorious with many prisoners, the main Austrasian army was defeated after a three-day unsuccessful siege of a place in Wogastisburg , the location of which is unknown. The remaining fighters of Dagobert had to flee and leave behind all weapons and tents. The attempt to subjugate Samo had thus failed.

As a result, the Slavs under Samo undertook several incursions into Thuringia and the eastern Franconian Empire , whereupon Derwan (Dervan), a prince ( dux ) of the Sorbs living in the Elbe - Saale area who was subordinate to the Franks, fell away from the Franks and joined Samo ( Dervanus dux gente Surborium que… ad regnum Francorum iam olem aspecserant ). Its mention is the first source evidence for the presence of Slavs north of the Ore Mountains . It is possible that (West) Bohemia and the areas of Bavaria Slavica were also part of the Samo Empire.

The Slavs later undertook further incursions into the Frankish Empire, which forced Dagobert to take measures to protect the eastern border of his empire. In 633 he named his son Sigibert King of Australia. Further information about Samos' empire is missing, so that presumably until Samo's death no more noteworthy disputes between the Franks and Samo took place. From the duration of his reign, which is given as 35 years, it can be concluded that Samo died around the year 658.

After Samo's death

Since no written sources are available for today's Czech Republic and Slovakia for the following 150 years (633/658 - 791), the fate of the empire is unclear. Based on archaeological finds, it is known that the Avars returned to what is now southern Slovakia around 650 and also to southern Moravia in the 8th century and continued to live there with the Slavs from then on. The Slavs in more northern and western areas were apparently independent of the Avar supremacy. After the death of Dagobert (639) a crisis arose in the Frankish Empire, in which the Franks hardly posed a threat to the neighboring Slavs. So it seems quite possible that some of the political structures of the Samo Empire endured.

The written sources only start again at the end of the 8th century in connection with the struggle of the Franks under Charlemagne against the Avars (788 / 791–796 / 803), who were defeated in 799 or 802/803. Charlemagne was supported by Slavs in these battles (e.g. 791, 795) and the Slavs also fought their own struggle (e.g. "infestationes Sclavorum" 802-805). At that time there were two Slavic principalities in the central Danube region, the Moravian and the Nitra Principality (see Moravian Empire ). A political and institutional connection between the kingdom of Samo and the two principalities need not have existed, however, a settlement and cultural continuity could be archaeologically proven. This continuity cannot be used for the reconstruction of political processes, but it created the economic and social conditions for the emergence of the two principalities and Greater Moravia. In addition, the fact that the Slavs in Moravia and Slovakia - in contrast to other Slavs, especially in Bohemia and Poland - should no longer have any tribal names at the time when Great Moravia was formed (only the Moravians or the Moravian Slavs or the slověne mentioned, see e.g. the list from the 9th century in the en Geographus Bavarus ), interpreted to the effect that more stable rulership structures than the tribal unions and thus probably possible successors of the Samo Empire had arisen here. At least in German-language research, it is mostly assumed that Samos' rule fell apart after his death around 660 and did not have a tradition-forming effect. The reason given for this view is that the economic and social structures in this area were not generally so advanced that a structure like the Samo Empire could have survived in the long term.

Geographical location

The location of the Samo Empire is controversial. The reasons for this are a lack of written sources and disagreement over the exact dating of the archaeological finds (Avenarius 2002). In the following, some of the previous localization suggestions are listed and the arguments for and against are presented.

Czech research

The Czech research opinions, as expressed in particular by Michal Lutovský and Nad'a Profantová, are essentially based on the state of research already achieved in the 1960s and 1970s, especially on Ján Dekan. The center of the empire was therefore in today's Moravia and in the neighboring Lower Austria as well as in western Slovakia. The empire also included the area of ​​the Sorbs under Dervanus, certainly also (western) Bohemia and perhaps also southwestern Slovakia (the area of Lusatia is definitely to be deleted, see Wogastisburg ). Some scientists also include the areas of Bavaria and Upper Austria bordering the Czech Republic. The membership of Carantania is either completely ignored or viewed as doubtful. The affiliation of Bohemia is mainly justified by the fact that the Sorbs in the Elb-Saale area had also joined Samo since the 630s. However, other researchers assume that the membership of (West) Bohemia is rather improbable due to the great distance to the Avars and was only temporary.

Place of the Slavic Uprising

According to most Slovak and Czech researchers, the Slav uprising that led to the creation of the empire took place on the north-western edge of the Avar Empire, probably somewhere around Bratislava . The reason for this is that, according to the Fredegar Chronicle, the insurgents were children of Avar fathers and Slavic mothers, which implies that it must have been an area that the Avars have been visiting for at least a generation. There is also an indication that the Avars came to the Slavs regularly to winter. So it must have been a Slavic area on the edge of the Avar Empire. According to archaeological sources, a mixture of Avar and Slavic cultural elements only occurred in the Bratislava area, especially in today's western Bratislava (Bratislava- Devínska Nová Ves , Bratislava- Záhorská Bystrica ), ie in the vicinity of Bratislava- Devín . This area is also one of the areas with the oldest known Slavic finds in Central Europe (around 500) and it was on a very important Danube trade route . In older research, however, the area of ​​the uprising was often suspected in Carantania.

Slovak research

Apart from the location of the uprising, the Slovak research paints a partly different picture. The center of the empire is said to have been located somewhere in this area or in the rest of the southern March area. At least the central area also had "foothills" in what is now southern Moravia and eastern Lower Austria, which is mainly due to the fact that the Avar finds from Moravia and Lower Austria are dated somewhat later. However, the location directly on the border of the Avar Empire should speak against the location of the center (not the uprising!) In the Bratislava area (Tatiana Štefanovičová). Mostly it is said about Bohemia that it did not belong to the empire at all or perhaps only from the 630s onwards. According to other views, the area around the city of Nitra also belonged to the Samo Empire. The assumption that Karantanien also belonged was either outdated or controversial or Karantanien was only temporarily part of the empire. Among other things, a dating of the finds, according to which the Avars returned to southwestern Slovakia around 650, speaks for the affiliation to Slovakia. The assumption made earlier that the center of the strategically particularly well-located castle hill Devín (today part of Bratislava) could not be proven archaeologically (see Devín ).


The situation in Carantania (roughly today's Carinthia, East Tyrol, Styria and Slovenia) remains possible in all interpretations, since the Conversio Bagoariorum et Carantanorum claims that Samo was a ruler of the Carantanians and that the center of the empire was in Carantania. On the other hand, the objection is now raised that on the one hand it would be a mix-up of Carantania and Carnuntum , which was common in the early Middle Ages, and on the other hand one of the rulers of Carantania by the name of Valuk (Walluc) is known. In addition, the local Slavs were under the sovereignty of the Lombards until 630.

Other theories

There were other theories that looked for the center of Samo's rule in the Vienna area (Wolfgang Fritze) or in Eastern Franconia ( Heinrich Kunstmann ). In Germany, Martin Eggers recently published a controversial thesis that the empire could be found in Bohemia and the Main region .

Finally, there have recently been attempts to understand Fredegar's text somewhat more freely in line with the archaeological finds. There are speculations that the uprising was not directed against the Avar supremacy, but against the attempt of the Avars to advance to the northwest. One assumption is that the uprising originally began in the middle of the Avar Empire, but that the rebels then moved to the north-eastern outskirts (Jan Steinhübel). In older research - whether because of archaeological finds or for other reasons - Mikulčice , Olomouc , Vienna and Bratislava were named as possible centers. These assumptions are largely rejected today.


  • A. Kusternig, H. Haupt: Sources for the history of the 7th and 8th centuries. The four books of the chronicles of the so-called Fredegar. Book 2, Chapter 53 to Book 4, slightly shortened. The sequels of the so-called Fredegar. The book of the history of the Franks. The old life of Lebuin. Jonah's first book on Columban's life. Darmstadt 1982, ISBN 3-534-01414-6


  • Hansjürgen Brachmann : But when the Austrasians besieged the castrum Wogastisburc (Fredegar IV 68). Onomastica Slavogermania 19. Abhandl. Saxon. Academy of Science Leipzig. Philological-historical class 73 Hf. 2. Berlin 1988, 17–33.
  • Sebastian Brather : Archeology of the Western Slavs. Settlement, economy and society in early and high medieval East-Central Europe. Supplementary volumes to the real dictionary of Germanic antiquity 30. Berlin a. a. 2001, 122. ISBN 3-11-017061-2
  • Manfred Eggers: Samo - "The first king of the Slavs". A critical research review. In: Bohemia. Journal of the history and culture of the Czech lands. Oldenbourg, Munich / Vienna 42.2001, pp. 62–83. ISSN  0523-8587 (Eggers' theses here and in other publications are highly controversial and are mostly clearly rejected by other research!)
  • Wolfgang H. Fritze: Studies on the early Slavic and early Franconian history up to the 7th century . Diss. From 1952! European university publications. Row 3. History and its auxiliary sciences. Vol. 581. Frankfurt am Main 1994. ISBN 3-631-46669-2
  • Ludwig Oelsner:  Samo . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 30, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1890, p. 309 f.
  • Walter Pohl : The Avars. A steppe people in Central Europe 567–822 AD. Series “Early Peoples”. 2. actual Ed., Munich 2002, pp. 56-61. ISBN 3-406-48969-9 .
  • Walter Pohl: Samo . In: Lexicon of the Middle Ages . Vol. 7. Munich 1995, Sp. 1342f. ISBN 3-7608-8907-7 .
  • Walter Pohl:  Samo. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 22, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2005, ISBN 3-428-11203-2 , p. 408 ( digitized version ).
  • Ralph Pöllath: Carolingian cemetery fields in northeast Bavaria. An archaeological-historical interpretation based on the excavations by K. Schwarz in Weismain and Thurnau-Alladorf. Munich 2002. ISBN 3-934207-01-4
  • Michal Lutovský, Nad'a Profantová: Sámova říše. Prague 1995.
  • Michal Lutovský: Encyklopedie slovanské archeologie v Čechách, na Moravě a ve Slezsku. Praha 2001. (Articles “Sámo” and “Sámova říše” p. 291 f., “Wogastisburg” p. 365) ISBN 80-7277-054-3 .
  • Magdaléna Beranová: Slované. Praha 2000 (2nd revised edition) ISBN 80-7277-022-5 .
  • Alexander Avenarius: Samova ríša a Slovensko. Súčasný stav poznania. In: Nitra v slovenských dejinách. Martin, Bratislava 2002. ISBN 80-7090-625-1
  • Tatiana Štefanovičová: Najstaršie dejiny Bratislavy. Bratislava 1993. ISBN 80-85331-07-1 .
  • Tatiana Štefanovičová: Osudy starých Slovanov. Bratislava 1989.
  • Matúš Kučera: Stredoveké Slovensko. Cesta dejinami, Bratislava 2002. ISBN 80-8046-217-8 .
  • Veronika Plachá, Jana Hlavicová: Devín. Slávny svedok našej minulosti. Ilustrované dejiny, Bratislava 2003. ISBN 80-8046-231-3 .

Web links

Commons : Samo  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

This article was added to the list of excellent articles on November 11, 2004 in this version .