The Return of the Rhos

Patria, Chacanus, and the Annales Bertiniani s.a. 839

In: Canadian-American Slavic Studies
Donald Ostrowski Harvard University

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The Annales Bertiniani, a ninth-century Frankish chronicle, reports that the Byzantine Emperor Theophilos (r. 829–842) sent to the court of Emperor Louis the Pious (r. 814–840) in Ingelheim in May 839 a group calling themselves Rhos who were trying to return to their homeland (in patriam). They said that their ruler had the name Chacanus. After Louis found out they were Swedes (Sueones), he became suspicious that they were spies and wrote to Theophilos for confirmation of who they said they were. Various scholarly conjectures have been made concerning who these Rhos were and where their homeland might have been. This article surveys the salient points of those scholarly conjectures and the relevant linguistic and archaeological evidence, including Byzantine artifacts from the reign of Theophilos found in northern Europe. It cautions against excessive supposition, especially in assuming that the homeland of the Rhos was a khaganate.

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