KOLEV, Konstantin
January 2015
Studium (2248-2164);2015 Supplement 1, Vol. 8, p5
Academic Journal
The Danube river can be perceived as a cultural and mythical cross-border in ancient and medieval Balkan history. It has served as a contact point between diverse cultures particularly in the early Middle Ages (IX-XII centuries). The large river splitting the civilized Christian imperial Byzantine world from the “barbarian" and pagan northern cultural area (Scandinavians, Pechenegs, Scythians) is a component of the “water labyrinth" mythologem. The Danube is a mystical space which the real historical hero had to cross in order to achieve his goal. For instance, the Bulgars led by khan Asparuh had to cross it in order to create the state of the Bulgars. In that sense, the Danube river has been considered a border zone between the known space (North for Scandinavians) and the unknown foreign space (the mystical but attractive Byzantine South). This river, the same as the Dnepr for Scandinavians, can be considered a place of trial which the crossing historical hero (Viking chieftain) should overcome to establish in the attractive South (the Byzantine Empire). Hence, this river is a dividing line between the elements of ours and theirs, between us and them. The regions northwards of the Danube were populated by Germanic tribes (and Dacians), whereas the South represented the unknown but the cultural area desired by the Scandinavians who intended to establish in the warmer and richer Byzantine lands. Therefore, the Danube has been deemed by medieval Byzantine chroniclers and modern Bulgarian scholars as a divisive rather than a uniting point. It is simply a border; it does not connect, it divides. So, from a real historical viewpoint the Danube has been considered a dangerous place staying on the path of the migration throughout the axis North-South particularly in the period between IX and XII centuries. And the lower Danube is precisely the part of the river where the abovementioned features most accurately apply.


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