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Charlemagne And The Avars
by [?]

He fully intended to return and complete the conquest of Hungary in the
spring, and, to facilitate his advance, had a bridge of boats
constructed, during the winter, across the Danube. He never returned, as
it happened. Circumstances hindered. But in 794 his subject, the
margrave Eric, Duke of Friuli, again invaded Hungary, which had in the
interval been exhausted by civil wars. All the defences of the Avars
went down before him, and his victorious troops penetrated to that inner
fortress, called the Ring, which so long had been the boasted
stronghold of the Chagans, and within whose confines were gathered the
vast treasures which the conquering hordes had accumulated during
centuries of victory and plunder, together with the great wealth in gold
and silver coin which they had wrung by way of tribute from the weak
rulers of the Eastern Empire. A conception of the extent of this spoil
may be gathered from the fact that the Greek emperor during the seventh
century paid the Avars annually as tribute eighty thousand gold solidi,
and that on a single occasion the Emperor Heraclius was forced to pay
them an equal sum.

In a nation that had made any progress towards civilization this wealth
would have been distributed and perhaps dissipated. But the only use
which the half-savage Avars seem to have found for it was to store it
up as spoil. For centuries it had been accumulating within the
treasure-house of the Ring, in convenient form to be seized and borne
away by the conquering army which now broke into this long-defiant
stronghold. The great bulk of this wealth, consisting of gold and silver
coin, vessels of the precious metals, garments of great value, rich
weapons and ornaments, jewels of priceless worth, and innumerable other
articles, was taken to Aix-la-Chapelle, and laid at the feet of
Charlemagne, to be disposed of as he saw fit. So extensive was it, that,
as we are told, fifteen wagons, each drawn by four oxen, were needed to
convey it to the capital of the mighty emperor.

Charlemagne dealt with it in a very different manner from that pursued
by the monarchs of the Avars. He distributed it with a liberal hand, the
church receiving valuable donations, including some of the most splendid
objects, a large share being set aside for the pope, and most of the
balance being given to the poor and to the royal officers, nobles, and
soldiers. The amount thus divided was so great that, as we are told, the
nation of the Franks “became rich, whereas they had been poor before.”
That treasure which the barbarian invaders had been centuries in
collecting from the nations of Europe was in a few months again
scattered far and wide.

Eric’s invasion was followed by one from Pepin, king of Italy, who in
his turn entered the Ring, took the wealth which Eric’s raiders had
left, demolished the palace of the Chagan, and completely destroyed the
central stronghold of the Avars. They were not, however, fully subdued.
Risings afterwards took place, invading armies were destroyed, and not
until 803 was a permanent conquest made. The Avars in the end accepted
baptism and held themselves as vassals or subjects of the great Frankish
monarch, who permitted them to retain some of their old laws and
governmental forms. At a subsequent date they were nearly exterminated
by the Moravians, and after the year 827 this once powerful people
disappear from history. Part of their realm was incorporated with
Moravia, and remained so until the incursion of the Magyars in 884.

As regards the location of the Ring, or central stronghold of the
Avars, it is believed to have been in the wide plain between the Danube
and the Theiss, the probable site being the Pusste-Sarto-Sar, on the
right of the Tatar. Traces of the wonderful circular wall, or of the
palisaded and earth-filled fortifications of the Avars, are said still
to exist in this locality. They are known as Avarian Rings, and in a
measure sustain the old stories told of them, though hardly that of the
legend-loving Monk of St. Gall and his romancing informant.