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The khazars and Byzantium—The first encounter

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Chapter Summary

The Byzantine Empire and the Khazar Kaghanate share about three hundred years of common history. The emperor Justinian II married a sister or a daughter of a Khazar kaghan. The military collaboration culminated, in 840-841, in the construction of the great Khazar fortress of Sarkel on the Don under the guidance of Byzantine engineers and craftsmen. While keeping this general framework of byzantino-khazar relations in mind, this chapter touches on their earliest stage, well before they were clouded by religious discord. When did Byzantines and Khazars first meet? It bears on the localization of the Khazars' mysterious country of origin, Barsilia, and on the date and the circumstances of their first appearance in the area north-west of the Caspian Sea, the core of their future realm. It argues that the Khazars arrived in the region later than is generally believed, and then soon discovered their common interests with Byzantium.

Keywords: Barsilia; Byzantine empire; byzantino-khazar relations; Khazar fortress of Sarkel; Khazar Kaghanate; military collaboration



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