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History of Slovakia
 
 
 

Early History

Archaeologists have found prehistoric Homo Sapiens skeletons in the region, as well as numerous objects and vestiges of the Gravettian culture, principally in the river valleys of Nitra, Hron, Ipe, Váh and as far as the city of Žilina, and near the foot of the Vihorlat, Inovec, and Tribe mountains, as well as in the Myjava Mountains. The most well-known finds include the oldest female statue made of mammoth-bone, the famous Venus of Moravany. The statue was found in the 1940s in Moravany nad Váhom near Piešany. Numerous necklaces made of shells from Cypraca thermophile gastropods of the Tertiary period have come from the sites of Zákovská, Podkovice, Hubina and Radošina. These findings provide the most ancient evidence of commercial exchanges carried out between the Mediterranean and Central Europe.

The Bronze Age in Slovakia went through three stages of development, stretching from 2000 to 800 BC. Major cultural, economic and political development can be attributed to the significant growth in production of copper, especially in central Slovakia (for example in Špania Dolina) and north-west Slovakia. Copper became a stable source of prosperity for the local population. After the disappearance of the akany and Velatice cultures, the Lusatian people expanded building of strong and complex fortifications, with the large permanent buildings and administrative centres. Excavations of Lusatian hill-forts document the substantial development of trade and agriculture at that period. The richness and the diversity of tombs increased considerably. The inhabitants of the area manufactured arms, shields, jewellery, dishes,and statues. The arrival of tribes from Thrace disrupted the people of the Calenderberg culture, who lived in the hamlets located on the plain (Sere), and also in the hill forts located on the summits (Smolenice, Molpí). The local power of the "Princes" of the Hallstatt culture disappeared in Slovakia during the last period of the Iron Age after strife between the Scytho-Thracian people and the Celtic tribes, who advanced from the south towards the north, following the Slovak rivers.

The victory of the Celts marked the beginning of the late Iron Age in the region. Two major Celtic tribes living in Slovakia were Cotini and Boii. Cotini were probably identical or made significant part of so-called Púchov culture. The Celts built large oppida in Bratislava and Liptov (the Havránok shrine). Silver coins with the names of Celtic kings, the so-called Biatecs, represent the first known use of writing in Slovakia. Celtic dominance disappeared with the Germanic incursions, the victory of Dacia over the Boii near the Neusiedler See, and the expansion of the Roman Empire.

The Roman epoch began in Slovakia in 6 AD, inaugurated by the arrival of Roman legions on this territory that led to a war against the Marcomanni and Quadi tribes. The Kingdom of Vannius, a barbarian kingdom founded by the Quadi, existed in western and central Slovakia from 20 to 50 AD. The Romans and their armies occupied only a thin strip of the right bank of the Danube and a very small part of south-western Slovakia (Celemantia, Gerulata, Devín Castle). Only in 174 AD did the emperor Marcus Aurelius penetrate deeper into the river valleys of Váh, Nitra and Hron. In 179 AD, a Roman legion engraved on the rock of the Trenín Castle the ancient name of Trenín (Laugaritio), marking the furthest northern point of their presence in this part of Europe.

4th-7th Centuries

In the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD, the Huns began to leave the Central Asian steppes. They crossed the Danube in 377 AD and occupied Pannonia, which they used for 75 years as their base for launching looting-raids into Western Europe. In 451, under the command of Attila, they crossed the Rhine and laid Gaul to waste; then crossed even the Pyrenees, devastating the countryside of Catalonia. However, Attila's death in 453 brought about the disappearance of the Hun tribe. In 568 a proto-Mongol tribe, the Avars, conducted their own invasion into the Middle Danube region. The Avars occupied the lowlands of the Pannonian Plain, established an empire dominating the Carpathian Basin and they made several raids against the Byzantine Empire whose emperors sent gifts regularly to them in order to avoid their attacks. In 623, the Slavic population living in the western parts of Pannonia seceded from their empire. In 626, the Avars and the Persians jointly besieged but failed to capture Constantinople; following this failure, the Avars' prestige and power declined and they lost the control over their former territories outside the Carpathian Basin.


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