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According to the Tale of Bygone Years, the first Russian chronicle, Serbs are among the first five Slav peoples who were enumerated by their names.[45]

Serbs are thought to be first mentioned by Tacitus in 50 AD, Pliny the Elder in 77 AD (Naturalis Historia) and Ptolemy in his Geography 2nd century AD, who associate the "Serbs" with the Sarmatian tribe of Serboi of the North Caucasus and Lower Volga.[46] Ptolemy also mentions the town of Serbinum, present day Gradiška in Republika Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The works of Vibius Sequester also mention the Serbs.[47] Roman Emperor Licinius referred to the Carpathians as "Montes Serrorum" in the 5th century AD. Procopius uses the name Sporoi as an umbrella term for the Slavic tribes of Antes and Sclaveni, it is however not known whether the Slavs used this designation for themselves or he himself coined the term, it has been theorized however that the name is corruption of the ethnonym Serbs.[47][48]

Having defeated the Avars, under the Unknown Archont, the Eastern Roman Emperor Heraclius invited Serbs (who came from Bojka,[34] derived from Proto-Slavic *bojь. = battle, war, fight) to settle in the provinces of Salonica and Dalmatia, there they gave their name to the town of Servia. The Unknown Archont's descendants (House of Vlastimirović and it's cadet branches) ruled the Serb states (SURBIA[34]) for the most part of the medieval period (until 1371), mainly in Byzantine alliance.[46]

The name is most likely derived from the Indo-European root *ser- 'to watch over, protect', akin to Latin servare 'to keep, guard, protect, preserve, observe', Old English searu 'weapons, armor, skill', Lithuanian sárgas 'watchman'.

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