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De Samarcande à Istanbul : étapes orientales

Véronique Schiltz

Première partie. Multiples héritages

Theophylact’s Turkish Exkurs revisited

Etienne de la Vaissière

Texte intégral

1It is a pleasure to dedicate this analysis of Theophylact Simocatta’s famous Exkurs on the Turks to Pierre Chuvin, who so often welcomed me at the Institut Français d’Études sur l’Asie Centrale. It seems appropriate to do so as this text combines three of his scholarly interests, Central Asia, Byzantium and the Turks.

  • 1 W. Haussig’s long article, “Theophylakts Exkurs über die skythischen Völker,” Byzantion, no 23, 19 (...)
  • 2 See details in E. de la Vaissière, «Maurice et le Qaghan: à propos de la digression de Théophylact (...)

2This article is an attempt to take into account the latest Central Asian data so as to interpret the numerous facts provided by the text.1 In a previous article, I have tried to show that the main source to this Exkurs, a letter sent by an anonymous qaghan, is now quite firmly dated to 595: this is the date reached by Theophylact in his narrative and it is also the newly discovered date of the enthronement of a Turkish qaghan, Niri qaghan, great-grandson of the creator of the Turkish empire and head of one the two branches of the sacred clan of the Ashinas. His funerary epitaph has been discovered in Mongolküre, north of the Chinese Tianshan. Niri is a most suitable candidate for identifying the anonymous Qaghan who wrote the letter.2 Niri claimed to be the supreme qaghan of the Turks: my hypothesis is that is that in the letter he sent, he recapitulated the history of the expansion of the Turkish empire, especially in the Western steppe, up to his own enthronement, from 552 et 595. It is this part of the text, the letter itself, that I will analyze, as the following part, which deals with the Altay and China, is clearer and might come from different sources. The emphasis of the letter on the expansion of the Turkish power to the west, its decline due to the Civil war, and the recent end of this Civil war aimed at underscoring that a new period of involvement in the Western steppe of a reunited Turkish Empire was at its starting-point. The dispatch of the embassy to Constantinople was in itself a political act marking this return of the Turks as a major power from Central Asia to the Black Sea. This eventually proved to be a short-lived revival, as Niri became entangled in wars with Tiele tribes in the Altay, but that could not be foreseen in 595.

3The text is quoted in M. & M. Whitby’s translation (M. Whitby and M. Whitby, The History of Theophylact Simocatta, Oxford University Press, 1986, 188-193), with the Greek in brackets when necessary, from the edition of C. de Boor, corr. P. Wirth, Theophylacti Simocattae Historiae, Teubner, Stuttgart, 1972.

4But since we have made reference to the Scythians, both those in the Caucasus and those who face northwards, come then, come, let us interrupt our history and present, like an intercalated narrative, the events which attended these very great nations during these times. When summer had arrived in this particular year, he who is celebrated by the Turks as Chagan in the east, dispatched ambassadors to the emperor Maurice; he composed a letter and inscribed in it victory-praises.

Commentary: The chronology of Theophylact has been a disputed matter until recent progress in the understanding of the Balkan wars. It is now clear that the part of the narrative, just before the beginning of the Exkurs, had reached the summer of 595: see Whitby & Whitby, op. cit. 156 sq. and 315-7. However the Exkurs was regarded as potentially free from this sequential narrative because the translators were misguided by Haussig’s chronology. It is quite strange as Theophylact clearly tried to emphasize that this embassy took place at a precise chronological point in his narrative. The fact that the chronology of Theophylact was regarded as blurred has in turn misled the best specialists of the Turks in Central Asia, such as Chavannes in his translation and analysis of the Chinese texts (É. Chavannes, Documents sur les Tou-Kiue (Turcs) Occidentaux, Saint Pétersbourg, 1903, 245 sq.), who dated the Exkurs to 598 and identified the Qaghan who sent the letter as Tardu.

5The letter’s salutation was as follows, word for word: “To the king of the Romans, the Chagan, the great lord of seven races and master of seven zones of the world [τῷ βασιλεῖ τῶν Ῥωμαίων ὁ Χαγάνος ὁ μέγας δεσπότης ἑπτὰ γενεῶν καὶ κύριος κλιμάτων τῆς οἰκουμένης ἑπτά].”

Commentary: The mention of the Seven zones of the world in Turkish titulature is now confirmed by the Bugut inscription (c. 581), the inscription recording the transmission of power from Muqan to Tatpar qaghan and the reign of Tatpar (572-581) (B2.4-5, ed. and transl. Yoshida, Yutaka, Moriyasu, Takao, “Bugut inscription,” in Moriyasu Takao, Ayudai Ochir eds, Provisional Report of Researches on Historical Sites and Inscriptions in Mongolia from 1996 to 1998, The Society of Central Eurasian Studies, Osaka 1999, 123-4): “[Muqan Qaghan] ruled countries… the seven continents and fed the people well. Now, You God(like) Magha Tatpar Qaghan, also rule the seven continents in that way and feed the people.” The same title seems to be echoed in the Shēr-i Kishwar, “lord of the [seven] climates” given in Narshakhî’s History of Bukhara to a nomadic overlord of the oasis of the 6th c. (transl. R. Frye, The History of Bukhara, The Medieval Academy of America, Cambridge (Mass.) 1954, 7, Shēr is here the Bactrian title King, not the lion, contrary to Frye’s commentary n. 28, and he might be an Hephtalite). However the “great lord of the seven races” is not mentioned in Bugut.

6For [γὰρ] this very Chagan had in fact outfought the leader of the nation of the Abdeli (I mean indeed, of the Hephthalites, as they are called), conquered him, and assumed the rule of the nation.

Commentary: The consequential link γὰρ is here important. The Turkish Qaghan has these titles because he defeated the Hephtalites. It seems that Theophylact understood the name of the Hephtalites as based on Iranian Haft, seven. The question is: is he right in doing so or is this a learned but false gloss? The etymology of the name of the Hephtalites is still an open question. Haussig, 1953, p. 319 sq. provides several Iranian parallels, ultimately unconvincing. X. Tremblay, Pour une histoire de la Sérinde. Le manichéisme parmi les peuples et religions d’Asie Centrale d’après les sources primaires, (Veröffentlichungen der Kommission für Iranistik, 28), Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Vienne 2001, 185 might be closer to the mark when he wrote that ‘la moins mauvaise solution y voit […] évidemment «Sept Aryas»’ without mentioning the ἑπτὰ γενεῶν of Theophylact’s text. I would be quite open to this kind of a reasoning, but possibly on the Turkish side, with a possible Yeti-Al, the Seven Al, later translated to Iranian Haft-al. The name is known in a whole set of transcriptions, but its earliest form might be reflected in the two oldest Chinese transcriptions of the name, Yeda 嗷噠 in Song Yun, and Yedaiyilituo 献帶夷栗陀, in the Liangshu none of which seem to imply a cluster-ftat the end of the first syllable.

There have been some doubts on the equation Abdeli-Hephtalites (for instance Chavannes, op. cit. 250). However, with the discovery of the Bactrian name of the Hephtalites, ηβοδαλο, in the Bactrian documents from Afghanistan, the very heart of Hephtalite power, these doubts can be dismissed. N. Sims-Williams regards ηβοδαλο as precluding any etymology based on Iranian Seven, because of the initial η-. Obviously if it is so, it precludes also any etymology based on Yeti-.

7Then he was greatly elated at the victory and, making an alliance with Stembischagan, he enslaved the Avar nation.

Commentary: Ishtemi qaghan in the Orkhon inscription, Shidianmi in the Chinese sources. He is supposed to be the brother of Bumïn in the Eastern sources and the way it is formulated in the Greek source is quite strange. The chronology here can only be in reverse order as the Rouran were defeated in 552, while the Hephtalites were defeated in 559-560 (M. Grignaschi, «La chute de l’empire hephthalite dans les sources byzantines et perses et le problème des Avar. », in From Hecataeus to al-Huwarizmi, J. Harmatta ed., Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest 1984, 219-48). The equation of these Avars with the Rouran is generally accepted and is well grounded in chronology, history, archaeology and titulature: the Avars were already an extremely powerful confederation in the Far East in the middle of the 5th c. according to Priscus, as were the Rouran (see below); some Avars arrived in the Pontic steppe c. 555-557 just after the defeat of the Rouran; the Avars were the neighbours both of China and Korea according to Theophylact (see below) as were the Rouran; they brought in the Western steppe the stirrup, and elaborated armours, which the Rouran had (F. Curta, “the earliest Avar-age stirrups, or the “stirrup controversy” revisited,” in The Other Europe in the Middle Ages. Avars, Bulgars, Khazars, and Cumans, F. Curta ed., Brill, Leiden 2008, 302 sq.); they graced their leaders with the qaghanal title, a Xianbei and Rouran title which would be only later widely used in the steppe (see below). It is quite possible that Theophylact put the conquest of the Hephtalites before that of the Avars because of a misleading phrase in Menander the Guardsman: “when Silzibul, the leader of the Turks, learned of the flight of the Avars and the damage they had caused to Turkish possessions at their departure, as is naturally the case with barbarians he declared boastfully that, ‘They are no birds that they can take to the sky to escape the swords of the Turks, nor are they fish that they can take to the water and hide ith the Ephtalites, I shall attack the Avars and tin the depth of the sea; but they must travel the earth. When I have ended the war whey shall not escape my might.’ It is said that with this boast Silzibul continued his war against the Ephtalites.” (Menander, Fr. 4.2, transl. R. C. Blockley, The History of Menander the Guardsman, (ARCA, 17), Liverpool 1985, 47). From this phrase, it could be logically deduced that the Avars were crushed after the Hephtalites, if we would not know, but from the Chinese sources only, that it was before.

8But let no one think that we are distorting the history of these times because he supposes that the Avars are those barbarians neighbouring on Europe and Pannonia, and that their arrival was prior to the times of the emperor Maurice.

Commentary: Theophylact is well aware that the first mention of the Avars in the west is dated to 557-8. But as he has read in his source that the qaghan to whom the Avars submitted was alive in 595, he had to find a way to accommodate both the 550’s Avars and the 595 ones, hence his idea of tribes arriving from the East in the 550’s, mistaken for Avars, and finally usurping the name (see below). At one point, the mention of successive qaghans was lost in translation, so that everything was attributed to a single qaghan, contemporary of Maurice. Actually the letter of Niri was describing the history of the Turkish empire from its beginning, with four generations of Qaghans. This interpretation is slightly different from the usual one: if it is very clear for every commentators that all the events mentioned by Theophylact could not have taken place under the qaghan who sent the letter, usually these events are regarded as linked with the initial expansion of the Turkish power, in the 550’s. It seems to me that the whole history of the Turkish empire is here narrated, from the 550’s to the 590’s.

9For it is by a misnomer that the barbarians on the Ister have assumed the appellation of Avars; the origin of their race will shortly be revealed. So, when the Avars had been defeated (for we are returning to the account), some of them made their escape to those who inhabit Taugast.

Commentary: The flight of the Rouran elites toward China is well known and Taugast is a transcription of Tabgach, the nomadic, and eventually Turkish, name of China. It is derived from the name of the Tuoba dynasties who dominated Northern China from the 4th to the 6th c. Tuoba was pronounced Tagbach and is an approximate Chinese transcription, with a simple metathesis, of a Xianbei name.

10Taugast is a famous city, which is a total of one thousand five hundred miles distant from those who are called Turks, and which borders on the Indians. The barbarians whose abode is near Taugast are a very brave and numerous nation, and without rival in size among the nations of the world.

11Others of the Avars, who declined to humbler fortune because of their defeat, came to those who are called Mucri; this nation is the closest neighbour to the men of Taugast; it has great might in battle both because of its daily practice of drill and because of endurance of spirit in danger.

Commentary: The Mucri, Bükli in the Orkhon inscriptions, are the Koreans, and more precisely Goguryeo state in Southern Manchuria and Northern Korea, the Eastern neighbour of the Avars. This state was created by the Mo (貊) people, a name pronounced * mok (Mori Masao, “How Should Bökli or Bükli Be Transcribed and Interpreted?” The Memoirs of the Toyo Bunko, no 42, 1984). The equation of Mucri to Bükli has sometimes been questioned due to the change of initial. However there are several examples of a realization of initial B-in Turkish texts as mb-: Turkish Bäg is rendered Mohe in Chinese, and Mpek in Kuchean for instance.

12Then the Chagan embarked on yet another enterprise, and subdued all the Ogur, which is one of the strongest tribes on account of its large population and its armed training for war. These make their habitations in the east, by the course of the river Til, which Turks are accustomed to call Melas.

Commentary: There is no doubt that the Til is, as always, the Atil (Volga), here qualified Black (Melas) and the location of the Ogurs there is confirmed by the text of Menander: after travelling through Khorezm and the Ust-Iurt, the Byzantine embassy crossed the Volga and met the Ogur. Some attempts have been made to identify the Til with other rivers, but these attempts are in turn based on the false idea that these events were all in the 550’s, so that the Turks could not have reached the Volga. The Volga Ogur were subdued in the 560’s.

13The earliest leaders of this nation were named Var and Chunni; from them some parts of those nations were also accorded their nomenclature, being called Var and Chunni.

Commentary: Chunni are none other than Huns. In Menander, the Avars are named Uarkhonitai, in which –it is the Iranian (Sogdian) plural, i. e.the War-Huns.

14Then, while the emperor Justinian was in possession of the royal power, a small section of these Var and Chunni fled from that ancestral tribe and settled in Europe. These named themselves Avars and glorified their leader with the appellation of Chagan.

Commentary: The title Qaghan is first known among the Xianbei of the 3rd c., and then among the Rouran (P. Golden, An Introduction to the History of the Turkic People, Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1992, 71). But the Hephtalites did not make use of it and it is a strong argument against the proposals trying to link the European Avars with the Hephtalite confederation (for instance K. Czegledy, “From East to West: the Age of Nomadic Migrations in Eurasia,” Archivum Eurasiae Medii Aevi, no 3, 25-125, refuted on a chronological ground in Grignaschi, op. cit.).

15Let us declare, without departing in the least from the truth, how the means of changing their name came to them. When the Barselt, Onogurs, Sabir, and other Hun nations in addition to these, saw that a section of those who were still Var and Chunni had fled to their regions, they plunged into extreme panic, since they suspected that the settlers were Avars.

Commentary: These tribes were nomadizing north of the Western end of the Caucasus. I agree with O. Pritsak, “From the Säbirs to the Hungarians,” in Hungaro-Turcica, Studies in honour of Julius Németh, G. Káldy-Nagy ed., Budapest 1976, 17-30, that the Sabir were part of the Xianbei, then pronounced * Särbi, with a simple metathesis. In fact, Priscus’s narrative (Fr. 30) on the flight of the various–Ogur tribes in front of the Sabir, themselves fleeing the Avars is, to my mind, a direct record of the Xianbei fleeing the expansion of the Rouran qaghanate in the first half of the 5th c., and themselves dislodging the–Ogur tribes in the west.

16For this reason they honoured the fugitives with splendid gifts and supposed that they received from them security in exchange. Then, after the Var and Chunni saw the well-omened beginning to their flight, they appropriated the ambassadors’error and named themselves Avars: for among the Scythian nations that of the Avars is said to be the most adept tribe. In point of fact even up to our present times the Pseudo-Avars (for it is more correct to refer to them thus) are divided in their ancestry, some bearing the time-honoured name of Var while others are called Chunni.

Commentary: This is the famous theory of the false Avars, which is generally rejected. Theophylact himself recognizes that it is a personal attempt to reconstruct the history of the steppe, i.e. to solve the question of the chronological gap between the 550’s and 590’s Avars (“But let no one think that we are distorting the history of these times…”) He made use of Menander’s data on the Turkish name of tribes fleeing to the west, the Uarkhonitai, i.e. War-Hun, and tried to argue from this double name that these tribes could not be the single-named Avars (“In point of fact even up to our present times the Pseudo Avars (for it is more correct to refer to them thus) are divided in their ancestry, some bearing the time honoured name of Var while others are called Chunni”). However his analysis is not consistent with the other data we have: Menander wrote that “Silzibul, the leader of the Turks, learned of the flight of the Avars and the damage they had caused to Turkish possessions at their departure” while waging war in Sogdiana and in Bactriana against the Hephtalites. The only possessions the Avars could damage should then have been to the East of Sogdiana, the Westernmost front of the Turkish armies at that time, and certainly not on the Volga with the Ogurs. These are two very different regions, separated by 2,000 km as the crow flies: Menander does situate the War-Huns in Central Asia, during the first phase of Turkish expansion, as did the author of the Armenian Geography who mentioned some Walkhon, i.e. War-Huns in Sogdiana (actually briefly occupied by the Rouran in the middle of the 5th c.). What Theophylact failed to understand is the complexity of ethnogenesis in the steppe, combining tribes of different origins to create a new political entity, without erasing their identity or their name. The Rouran federation united various pre-existing tribes, and among them remnants of the Xiongnu-Huns, as well as remnants of the Wuhuan, whose name might have been pronounced quite close to * Awar in the Han period (E. Pulleyblank, “The Chinese and their Neighbours in Prehistoric and Early Historic Times,” The Origins of Chinese Civilization, D.N. Keightley ed., Berkeley 1983, 453). These subfederal identities, and especially the Avar one, resurfaced in the flight to the west, while the unifying name of Rouran was lost in defeat — a similar process to the disappearance of the name Turk after the final defeat of the Turks at the hands of the Uighurs, after which there were some ‘Turkish’ tribes, but no-longer any self-designated Turks. What might be true in the theory of the pseudo-Avars, is the question of the qaghanal title: we do not have any proof that part of the upper level of the Rouran state flew to the west (and actually we do have Chinese texts having them fleeing to China), so that these tribes might indeed have usurped the title.

17But since we have, as it were, summarily detailed this information about the Pseudo-Avars, let us move our exposition towards the continuity of the narrative. Then, after the Ogur had been quite soundly defeated, the Chagan handed over to the jaws of the sword the ruler of the nation of Kolch.

Commentary: It is surprising that the name of the Kolch has not been identified: instead of searching for tribes in Mongolia unattested at this date (Haussig’s identification with the Kalkh), this name is perfectly Greek and well-known, namely that of the inhabitants of Colchis. While Theophylact himself wrote that the name is now archaic and more often than not replaced by Lazica (iii.6.17, p. 81), it is nonetheless still in use in Theophylact and Menander’s texts (see Κόλχων in Menander, Exc. de Leg. Rom. 1, fr. 2 in Blockley’s translation). The qaghan is simply following up the narrative of the Turkish conquests in a Western direction: the Avars in Upper Asia, then the Central Asian Hephtalites, then the Ogurs on the Volga, and then the Black Sea littoral with Colchis. The history of Colchis slipped out of sight during this period. It should have been conquered and indeed Crimea itself fell to the Turks according to Menander. A Persian attempt of conquest of Colchis took place in 589 against the Turks, when the country is described as leaderless “because the war was flourishing in the east. Accordingly, after the Huns who dwell towards the north-east and who it is customary for the Persians to call Turks, had been outfought exceedingly mightily, so to speak, by Hormisdas the king of the Parthians, Baram transferred the war to Colchis.” (iii.6.8, 9, p. 80). The former leader of Colchis could only have been a Turk, as if he would have been Byzantine, or local, no link whatsoever with the Central Asian wars between the Turks and the Persians could be contemplated.

18Then three hundred thousand of this particular tribe were slain in the battle, so that the continuous line of fallen corpses extended for a four days’ journey. While indeed victory was thus gloriously smiling on the Chagan, the Turks clashed in civil war.

Commentary: The civil war of the Turks is well dated, and began in 581-2, after the death of Tatpar. The chronology is entirely consistent with the conquest of the Pontic steppe, Lazika and Crimea in the 570’s. Actually, for all Niri’s bragging, the empire was never reunited. After the death of Tatpar, the last surviving son of Bumïn, the qaghanal title should be decided between members of the next generation, the grandsons of Bumïn through his three sons, and successive qaghans, Qara, Muqan and Tatpar. Eventually, the son of Qara, Nevar, managed to secure the throne and his main contender, the son of Muqan, Daluobian, had to flee to the west, to the Northern Tianshan where the son of Ishtemi, Tardu was extremely powerful. From that point onwards, we have two divergent narratives in the sources, one in the Suishu showing the heirs of Muqan prevailing over Tardu and expelling him to the East, and one of the Tangshu giving the first role to Tardu who even tried to reunite for himself the qaghanate at the turn of the century (Wang Huan, “Apa Qaghan, Founder of the Western Turkish Khanate, the Splitting Up of the Turkish Khanate and the Formation of the Western Turkish Khanate,” Social Sciences in China, 1983/2, 124-154). The discovery of the Mongolküre inscription shows that the Suishu version is to be preferred (details in La Vaissière, op. cit.). In the western part of the empire, the heirs of Muqan prevailed, with a claim on the supreme qaghanal title against the heirs of Qara in the East. That is exactly what Niri is narrating from that point on, skipping the difficult period during which the Muqanids were expelled from Mongolia.

19A certain man named Turum, who was connected to the Chagan by birth, revolted and collected great forces.

Commentary: Turum is Dulan, then pronounced in Early Middle Chinese, * Toran, the Eastern supreme qaghan, grandson of Qara. He was the second cousin of Niri. Our understanding of the genealogy of the sacred clan of the Ashinas has been impaired by the difficulty to render in Chinese texts, our main sources, the transgenerational character of the Turkish kinship system. For instance in Turkish sources, both elder brother and paternal uncle are äci, two very different words in Chinese vocabulary of kinship. The Chinese choose to translate äci by uncle everywhere and this has misled contemporary historiography. See É. de la Vaissière, “Oncles et frères: les qaghans Ashinas et le vocabulaire turc de la parenté,” Turcica, no 42, 2010, 267-278 for precise examples, including the identity of Ziebel qaghan, the ally of Heraclius on the Caucasus, now securely identified in the Chinese sources. The actual genealogy of the Ashinas clan is below, with in small slanted characters the princes who were not main qaghans and in red the new discoveries.

The idea that Turum rebelled is interesting as Dulan was regarded by the Chinese sources as the legitimate qaghan although this has more to do with the retrospective political choice of an ally. See E. de la Vaissière, “Away from the Ötüken: A geopolitical approach to the 7th c. Eastern Türks,” in J. Bemmann, U. Brosseder (ed.), The Complexity of Interaction along the Eurasian Steppe zone in the first Millennium AD. Empires, Cities, Nomads and Farmers, forthcoming in 2015.

20When the usurper’s party had gained the upper hand in battle, the Chagan sent an embassy to three other great Chagans. These were their names: Sparzeugun, Kunaxolan, and Tuldich.

Commentary: Out of these three qaghans — under the supreme qaghan there were several smaller qaghans reigning over geographical parts of the empire (M. Drompp, “Supernumerary Sovereigns: Superfluity and Mutability in the Elite Power Structure of the Early Türks (Tu-jue)”, in Rulers from the Steppe: State Formation on the Eurasian Periphery, Gary Seaman and Daniel Marks eds., Ethnographics Press, Los Angeles 1991, 92-115) — only one is safely identified. Tuldikh is Duli, then pronounced * Tulih, of the Chinese texts. Known from 593 onwards, he was a member of the Eastern branch and qaghan of the Northern part of the Eastern empire, and prone to rebellion against his cousin Dulan: he would eventually desert Mongolia, take refuge with the Chinese and create north of the Huanghe big loop a buffer Turkish qaghanate under Chinese protection. Theophylact’s text is our only source mentioning a direct alliance with Niri, although Niri is known to have had allies within Dulan’s own court. Sparzeugun is clearly Ishbara Sangun, combining two Turkish titles of Indian and Chinese origin, but is not identified precisely.

21Then, after their whole array had assembled at the Ikar (this is a place enfolded in great plains),

Commentary: It might be possible that there is a simple problem of translation here: yγrt means “wide, extensive, large” in Sogdian (B. Gharib, Sogdian Dictionary. Sogdian Persian English, Tehran 1995, § 10949), presumably the language of the letter as all the Turkish diplomacy of that time was conducted in Sogdian. The gloss copied by Theophylact is exact, and Ikar might not be a proper name. Another possibility would be to identify it with the Yogra-Yarïš plain mentioned in the Shine-Usu inscription (S7).

22and their opponents had valiantly arrayed themselves in opposition at that particular place, the usurper fell and his allied forces veered away in flight; after much slaughter the Chagan again became the master of his own territory. The Chagan had made a declaration of these triumphs to the emperor Maurice via the ambassadors.

Commentary: Actually, Dulan was killed by his slaves four years later, but he was certainly on the defensive throughout this period. Indeed, Niri tried to conquer the Altay according to the Chinese sources, where he was opposed by the Tiele tribes, and not Dulan. This seems to mark the end of the letter itself, and of my commentary. In the following part, Theophylact wrote about the Golden mountain (on which see P. Chuvin, “Les ambassades byzantines auprès des premiers souverains turcs de Sogdiane. Problèmes d’onomastique et de toponymie”, Cahiers d’Asie centrale, no ½, 1996, 345-355), on a further migration of War and Huns tribes at the end of the 6th c., on which we have no Central Asian data, and then on China (see, among others, P. Boodberg, “Marginalia to the Histories of the Northern Dynasties,” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, no 3.3-4, 1938, 223-243).


1 W. Haussig’s long article, “Theophylakts Exkurs über die skythischen Völker,” Byzantion, no 23, 1953, 275-436, has been the basis for every single commentary of this part of Theophylact’s text, those of P. Schreiner (transl.), Theophylaktos Simokates. Geschichte, Anton Hiersemann, Stuttgart 1985, 340-347, M. Whitby and M. Whitby, The History of Theophylact Simocatta, Oxford University Press, London 1986, 188 sq., in Russian, S.P. Kondrat’jev, Feofilakt Simokatta, Istorija, Izd-vo Akad. nauk SSSR, Moscow 1957, 211 sq. However this article, controversial from the outset, is now totally outdated as the development of research has disproved many, if not most, of its hypotheses.

2 See details in E. de la Vaissière, «Maurice et le Qaghan: à propos de la digression de Théophylacte Simocatta sur les Turcs», Revue des Études Byzantines, no 68, 2010, 219-224. On the Mongolküre monument, see especially Lin Meicun, “A Survey of the Turkic Cemetery in Little Khonakhai”, in Les Sogdiens en Chine, ed. É. de la Vaissière et É. Trombert, Paris, 2005, 377-396; Ôsawa Takashi, “Aspect of the relationship between the ancient Turks and the Sogdians – based on a stone statue with Sogdian inscription in Xinjiang”, in Ērān ud Anērān. Studies presented to Boris Il’ič Maršak on the Occasion of His 70th Birthday, ed. M. Compareti, P. Raffetta, G. Scarcia, Venezia 2006, 471-504, S. Stark, “Some Remarks on the Headgear of the Royal Türks”, Journal of Inner Asian Art and Archaeology, no 4, 2009, 119-133.

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Directeur d’études à l’EHESS. Paris.

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