Otherwise known as the Samo Empire, an early Slavic state created by one Samo in the mid seventh century somewhere in the area of the modern Czech republic.

Samo, the first king of the Slavs

Samo is the first real historical figure in the Czech region, whom we know of because he is documented by the Frankish chronicler Fredegar writing in the second half of the seventh century. (Actually there is a Frankish chronicle dating from around 650 that was written by a person or persons unknown, who for some reason that no one now seems to remember has come to called 'Fredegar'.)

The various Slav tribes had migrated into central and eastern during the period between the first century BC and the third century AD, but during the sixth century the Avars, a nomadic Asian tribe, had themselves taken charge of the Hungarian plain and extended their control over much of the Danube region, bring most of the Slavic tribes under their dominion.

According to Fredegar, Samo was a Frankish merchant from the town of Sens in Gaul whose trade brought him into contact with the Slavic tribes who were at the time, living under the domination of the Avars. However his precise identity and ethnic background remain controversial, with some arguing that he was in fact a Moravian Slav, but whatever his true origins this Samo assisted with, or led a revolt by the Slavs against the Avars and was afterwards chosen as their ruler.

This date of this revolt is normally given as 623 but there is a school of thought that it took place in 626 after the Avars suffered their disastrous defeat near Constantinople in that same year. Whenever the revolt took place it successfully freed the Slavs from Avar rule after which Samo was chosen as 'knez' or king of the liberated Slavs at a gathering of the tribal leaders.

Samo's kingdom thus became the first Slavic state and Samo himself the first king of the Slavs, although quite precisely where this was is still debated. Most seem to place the centre of his kingdom in Bohemia but others place it in the basin of the Morava river, and assert that the kingdom's capital was Vyshgorod in Moravia.

One thing is agreed however, is that Samo made it his business to raid Frankish trade caravans on their way to the east. (And also apparently indulging himself in the lucrative business of the slave trade.) This naturally did not endear him to the Franks who therefore resolved to bring him to heel.

Dagobert I, who was king of the Franks at the time, sent an envoy by the name of Sichar requesting compensation be paid to the merchants. As Samo refused, Sichar lost his temper, and threatened Samo saying that it was not possible "for Christians and servants of God to establish friendship with dogs". To this insult Samo responded with the words that "If you are God's servants and we are his dogs, as long as you continue to act against him, we have received permission to bite you". Which appears to be a reasonable enough comeback in the circumstances.

The reported conversation is probably apocryphal but around the year 631 Dagobert I inevitably launched an invasion of this newly forged kingdom. Although a force of Langobards and Alamans, attacking along the Danube, managed to win a victory, the main Frankish army was defeated after a three day battle near a place called Wogastisburg. Thus did Samo continue to bite Dagobert

The location of Wogastisburg remains one of the biggest mysteries of early Slav history. It was probably somewhere along the valley of the river Main, as this was likely the route taken by the Franks on their way to Bohemia, but the latest suggestion is that Wogastisburg may be identical with a hill called Rubín in the valley of the river Ohre.

After winning his great victory over the Franks, Samo continued to expand the boundaries of his kingdom, although exactly where is again disputed with contrary arguments advanced in favour of a push to the northwest, in what is modern eastern Germany, or an alternative southwards into Pannonia. But it is clear that the victory at Wogastisburg ensured that Samo's kingdom was safe from any threat from the Franks to the west.

According to the chronicle of Fredegar, Samo ruled for thirty-six years and had 12 wives, 22 sons and 15 daughters. This doesn't stop some sources from stating that he died without leaving a heir, which seems unlikely even allowing for a certain amount of exaggeration in Fredegar's enumeration of his progeny.

What is known is that his kingdom did not survive his death and that it was most likely conflict between his sons that led to the kingdom's downfall. His death and the end of his kingdom is dated to either 659 or 662 depending on when it is considered that Fredegar's thirty-six years began. After Samo's death his kingdom once again fell under the control of the Avars, where it remained until they were finally defeated by Charlemagne in the year 799.

As history this is, of course, somewhat unsatisfactory. Although we can say that there was indeed someone called Samo who became king of the Slavs in the mid seventh century and that he defeated Dagobert I in battle, certain details such as who exactly he was and the location and extent of his kingdom are uncertain.

But Samo and his kingdom do have a certain iconic significance as both Slovaks and Czechs claim him as their own as do indeed the Slovenians and some see Samo's kingdom as the ancestor of the Great Moravian Empire.

Poti Byl Otec

There is apparently a legend that Pontius Pilate came from Hausen in Germany and that as governor of Palestine he accumulated such wealth that he was able to build a large city near to Hausen named after himself. However as soon as Pontius delivered his judgement on Jesus the whole city was swallowed up by the ground.

The theory is that the source of this legend is none other than Samo, who was known by the name Poti Byl Otec, which is Old Slavic for 'Lord of the road', which was later confused with the more familiar 'Pontius Pilate'. And Samo, as the theory develops, was associated with the Hausen area because the nearby village of Burk was indeed the site for the battle of Wogastisburg.


The medieval history of Bohemia and Moravia at http://www2.webpark.cz/booboo/czechhistory.htm

It's All about Warfare> Medieval - Land Actions> Kingdom of Samos at pub131.ezboard.com/ fallboutwarfarefrm7.showMessage?topicID=2.topic

Extracts from Fredegars' Chroncile at http://www.northvegr.org/lore/germanic/f.html

Abstract of Martin Eggers Samo – "Der erste König der Slawen" at www.oldenbourg.de/verlag/zeitschriften/row-bo0101.htm

The legend of Pontius Pilate at http://home.t-online.de/home/batz.hausen/pilaten.htm

Distortions of Slovenian History at http://www.angelfire.com/country/veneti/Distortions.html

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