- A Turkic people from the Asia steppe (q.v.) who settled in the plain of Hungary in 568, wresting away from Byzantium (q.v.) much of the Balkan Peninsula (q.v.). Strong allegiance to a single ruler, the khagan (q.v.), helped to create an empire in central Europe that was a solid base from which to launch attacks on Byzantium. Mastery on horseback gave them mobility, and their use of the iron stirrup (which they introduced to the West), often gave them the edge in battle. Their knowledge of siegecraft was such that city after city fell to them. Finally the Slavs (q.v.), who the Avars dominated and used in their raids, ended up settling in great numbers in the Balkan Peninsula, changing much of its ethnic composition. The Avars were particularly threatening in the reign of Herakleios (q.v.), when in 626 they coordinated with the Persians a massive assault by land and sea on Constantinople (q.v.). After that their empire declined. They were finally destroyed by Charlemagne (q.v.) between 791 and 795.
Historical Dictionary of Byzantium . John H. Rosser .
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