The Raffelstetten Customs Regulations

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The Raffelstetten Tolls is an interesting document dated to 903-906 describing a marketplace in today’s Austria.  Thought it’d be interesting to put it up here.  The English translation (forgive the laziness) belongs to Jonathan Jarrett whose blog may be found here.

The regulations are in the Book 3 of the Codex traditionis ecclesiae pataviensis olim laureacensis aka Codex Lonsdorfianus (because of the Passau bishop, Otto von Lonsdorf) which sits in the Bavarian Main State Archives (BayHStA München HL Passau 3).

Inquisitio de theloneis Raffelstettensis

Noverit omnium fidelium orthodoxorum, presentium scilicet ac futurorum, industria , qualiter questus clamorque cunctorum Bawariorum, episcoporum videlicet, abbatum ac comitum omniumque , qui in orientales partes iter habebant, ante Hlodowicum regem venerant dicentes se iniusto theloneo et iniqua muta constrictos in illis partibus et coartatos. Ille vero secundum morem antecessorum regum hoc benignis auribus audiens Arboni marchioni precepit , quatenus cum iudicibus orientalium, quibus hoc notum fieret, investigaret ad iura thelonica modumque thelonii exploraret; nuntios suos Theotmarum archiepiscopum, Purchardum Pataviensis ecclesic presulem et Otacharium comitem dedit, ut hoc in suo loco iuste legitimeque corrigerent. Et isti sunt, qui iuraverunt pro theloneo in comitatu Arbonis: Walto vicarius , Durinc vicarius, Gundalperht , Amo, Gerpreht, Pazrich, Diotrich, Aschrich, Arbo, Tunzili, Salacho , Helmwin, Sigimar, Gerolt, Ysac, Salaman, Humperht, item Humperht, Engilschalh, Azo, Ortimuot, Ruothoh, Emilo, item Durinc, Reinolt, Eigil vicarius, Poto, Eigilo, Ellinger, Otlant, Gundpold, item Gerolt, Otperht, Adalhelm, Tento, Buoto, Wolfker, Rantolf, Kozperht, Graman, Heimo. Isti et ceteri omnes, qui in hiis tribus comitatibus nobiles fuerunt, post peractum iuramentum interrogati ab Arbone marchione in presentia Theotmari archiepiscopi et Purchardi presulis Pataviensis ecclesie, residente cum eis Otachario comite, in ipso placito in loco, qui dicitur Raffoltestetun, retulerunt loca thelonio et modum theolonei, qualiter temporibus Hludwici et Karlomanni ceterorumque regum iustissime exolvebatur.

(1) Naves vero, que ab occidentalibus partibus, postquam egresse sint silvam Patavicam, et ad Rosdorf vel ubicumque sedere voluerint et mercatum habere, donent pro theloneo semidragmam, id est scoti I; si inferius ire voluerint ad Lintzam, de una navi reddant III semimodios, id est III scafilos de sale. De mancipiis vero et ceteris aliis rebus ibi nichil solvant, sed postea licentiam sedendi et mercandi habeant usque ad silvam Boemicam, ubicunque voluerint.

(2) Si aliquis de Bawaris sal suum ad propriam domum suam transmittere voluerit, gubernatore navis hoc adprobante cum iuramento, nichil solvant, sed securiter transeant.

(3) Si autem liber homo aliquis ipsum legittimum mercatum transierit nichil ibi solvens vel loquens et inde probatus fuerit, tollatur ab eo et navis et substantia. Si autem servus alicuius hoc perpetraverit, constringatur ibidem, donec dominus eius veniens dampnum persolvat, et postea ei exire liceat.

(4) Si autem Bawari vel Sclavi istius patrie ipsam regionem intraverint ad emenda victualia cum mancipiis vel cavallis vel bobus vel ceteris suppellectilibus suis, ubicunque voluerint in ipsa regione, sine theloneo emant, que necessaria sunt. Si autem locum mercati ipsius transire voluerint, per mediam plateam transeant sine ulla constrictione; et in aliis locis ipsius regionis emant sine theloneo, que potuerint. Si eis in ipso mercato magis conplaceat mercari, donent prescriptum theloneum et emant, quecunque voluerint et quanto melius potuerint.

(5) Carre autem salinarie , que per stratam legittimam Anesim fluvium transeunt, ad Urulam tantum unum scafil plenum exsolvant et nichil amplius exsolvere cogantur. Sed ibi naves , que de Trungowe sunt, nichil reddant, sed sine censu transeant. Hoc de Bawaris observandum est.

(6) Sclavi vero, qui de Rugis vel de Boemanis mercandi causa exeunt, ubicunque iuxta ripam Danubii vel ubicunque in Rotalariis vel in Reodariis loca mercandi optinuerint, de sogma una de cera duas massiolas, quarum utraque d scoti unum valeat; de onere unius hominis massiola una eiusdem precii; si vero mancipia vel cavallos vendere voluerit, de una ancilla tremisam I, de cavallo mascu lino similiter, de servo saigam I, similis de equa. Bawari vero vel Sclavi istius patrie ibi ementes vel vendentes nichil solvere cogantur.

(7) Item de navibus salinariis, postquam silvam [Boemicam] transierint, in nullo loco licentiam habeant emendi vel vendendi vel sedendi, antequam ad Eperaespurch perveniant. Ibi de unaqueque navi legittima. id est quam tres homines navigant, exsolvant de sale scafil III, nichilque amplius ex eis exigatur, sed pergant ad Mutarun vel ubicunque tunc temporis salinarium mercatum fuerit constitutum; et ibi similiter persolvant, id est III scafil de sale, nichilque plus; et postea liberam ac securam licentiam vendendi et emendi habeant sine ullo banno comitis vel constrictione alicuius persone; sed quantocunque meliori precio venditor et emptor inter se dare voluerint res suas, liberam in omnibus habeant licentiam.

(8) Si autem transire voluerint ad mercatum Marahorum, iuxta estimationem mercationis tunc temporis exsolvat solidum I de navi et licenter transeat; revertendo autem nichil cogantur exsolvere legittimum.

(9) Mercatores, id est a Iudei et ceteri mercatores, undecunque venerint de ista patria vel de aliis patriis, iustum theloneum solvant tam de mancipiis, quam de aliis rebus, sicut semper in prioribus temporibus regum fuit.


Inquisition on the Tolls of Raffelstetten

Let the industry of all of the orthodox faithful, present indeed and future, know that the request and demand of all the Bavarians, namely the bishops, abbots and all of the counts, who were making journeys into eastern parts, had reached King Louis [the Child], saying that they were constrained and coerced by unjust toll and unfair exchanges in those parts. Hearing this with benign ears he, indeed, according to the custom of the kings his ancestors, ordered Margrave Arbo, along with the judges of the easterners, by whom let this be recorded, that he should look into the toll laws and the custom of toll; and he gave power to his messengers Archbishop Theotmar [of Salzburg], Burchard Bishop of the Church of Passau and Count Otachar, to correct this justly and legitimately in his place. And these are the people who swore about the toll in the county of Arbo: the vicar Walto, the vicar Durinc, Gundalperht, Amo, Gerpreht, Pazrich, Diotrich, Aschrich, Arbo, Tunzili, Salacho, Helmwin, Sigimar, Gerolt, Ysac, Salaman, Humperht, another Humperht, Englischah, Azo, Ortimuot, Ruotoh, Emilo, another Durinc, Reinolt, the vicar Eigil, Poto, Eigilo, Ellinger, Otlant, Gundpold, another Gerolt, Otperht, Adalhelm, Tento, Buoto, Wolfker, Rantolf, Kozperht, Graman, Heimo. These and other men, who were nobles in these three counties, having been interrogated (after swearing the oath) by Margrave Arbo in the presence of Archbishop Theotmar and Burchard Bishop of the church of Passau, with Count Otachar sitting with them, in the court in the place which is called Raffelstetten, reported on the toll places and the custom of the toll that used most justly to be paid in the times of Louis and Carloman and the other kings.

(1) Ships, indeed, which from the western regions, should afterwards have come out at the wood of Passau, and should wish to beach at Rosdorf or anywhere else and make trade, should give a half-drachm in toll, that is 1 scoto; if they should wish to go downriver to Linz, let there be paid three half-modiiper ship, that is three scafils of salt. For slaves and other things let them pay nothing there, but afterwards have license for beaching and trading as far as the Bohemian forest, wherever they shall wish.

(2) If anyone from Bavaria should wish to move his salt to his own house, and the ship’s steersman affirms this with an oath, let them pay nothing, but go without trouble.

(3) If moreover any free man should have carried out a legitimate trade, paying or saying nothing there, and then this shall have been proved, let him be tolled for it both by ship and by goods. If moreover any slave perpetrates this, let him be bound there, until his lord comes and pays off his fine, and afterwards let him be permitted to leave.

(4) If moreover Bavarians or Slavs of that same country should have entered the same region to obtain victuals with slaves or horses or cattle or other furnishings of theirs, let them buy what things are necessary without toll wherever they should wish in the same region. If moreover they should have wished to cross to the same marketplace, let them go halfway across the shore without any constraint; and in other places of the same region let them buy what things they are able to without toll. If it please them better to trade in the same marketplace, let them give the prescribed toll and let them buy whatever they should wish and however much better they can.

(5) On the salt paths, moreover, which cross the river Enns by the legitimate street, let them pay a full scafil at Url and let them be forced to pay nothing further. But let the ships there that are from the Traungau pay nothing, but cross without tax. This is to be observed with respect to the Bavarians.

(6) The Slavs, indeed, who came out from the Rugians or from the Bohemians for purposes of trade, let them have marketplaces wherever [they want] on the bank of the Danube or wherever among the Rotalarii or among the Reodarii [Redarii?], two lumps from one mule’s load of wax, of which both shall be worth 1 scoto; from one man’s load a lump of the same price; if indeed one should wish to sell slaves or horses, 1 tremissis from one female slave, similarly from 1 male horse, 1 saiga from a slave, similarly from a mare.

(7) Also of salt-ships, after they shall have crossed the Bohemian forest, let them have license to buy or sell or beach in no place before they arrive at Ebersburg. There from each legitimate ship, that is one which three man sail, let them pay 3 scafils of salt, and let nothing further be exacted from them, but let them reach Mutarim or wherever shall then have been constituted the salt-market at that time; and let them pay similarly, that is 3 scafils of salt, and no more; and afterwards they shall have free and secure license to sell and buy without any comital fine or the restraint of any person; but however much better a price the buyer and seller should wish to give for their property between themselves, let them have free license in all things.

(8) If moreover they should wish to cross to the marketplace of Marahorum, let them pay 1 solidus per ship, according to the estimation of the market at that time, and cross freely; on returning, moreover, let them be forced to pay nothing legitimate.

(9) Let merchants, that is, Jews and other traders, wherever they should come from in this same country or other countries, pay the just toll as much for slaves as for other goods, just as they always did in the times of previous kings.

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September 25, 2017

Wolański Again

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Tadeusz Wolański‘s other claims are also interesting but it is hard to know what to make of them.

Lech of the Scriptures 

One of them is the thing he noticed about the so-called Paralipomenon.  In his own words:

“[T]he mention there near [the name of] Lech of names: Lada and Maresa makes a strange impression on us, recalling to us Slavic Deities: Ladda and Marzanna.”

What is he talking about? Well, he is describing here this passage of the Paralipomenon:

“The sons of Sela the son of Juda: Her the father of Lecha, and Laada the father of Maresa, and the families of the house of them that wrought fine linen in the House of oath.”

The Chabad version reads:

“The sons of Shelah the son of Judah: Er, the father of Lechah, and Ladah, the father of Mareshah, and the families of Beth-Abodath Habbuz of the house of Ashbea.”

In other words, Juda/Judah begat Sela/Shelah who begat Her/Er and Laada/Ladah.  In turn, Her/Er begat Lecha /Lechah and Laada/Ladah begat Maresa/Mareshah.

This, however, is among a multitude of other names whose connotations are only constrained by your imagination.  Moreover, what you think of them, depends on the spelling.  Let’s take a look at just a few of these:

  • Hus/Hushah (like Jan Hus!)
  • Jara/Jaroah (like Jarowit)
  • Jacan (like Jason)
  • Jesisi/Jeshishai (like Yessa)
  • Jecsan/Jokshan (Jason)
  • Jesboc/Jishbak (Yes-bog meaning Juterbog)
  • Buz (like Boz)
  • Booz (like Boz)
  • Mosoch/Meshech (like Mieszko)

There are countless others in this list of Chronicles.  There is Beor (for the Swedes) and Bela (for the Hungarians) and Huri (for the Danes).

For example, take this passage:

“These were the sons of Abihail, the son of Huri, the son of Jara, the son of Galaad, the son of Michael, the son of Jesisi, the son of Jeddo, the son of Buz.”

or:

“These are the sons of Abihail, the son of Huri, the son of Jaroah, the son of Gilead, the son of Michael, the son of Jeshishai, the son of Jahdo, the son of Buz.”

But for Michael/Abihail, you could have believed that this was a Viking Saga name list.

It’s not clear what any of these traditions reflect but, whatever they reflect, it cannot be said that they reflect anything clear at all.

Just take a look at this.

Popilius the Popiel

One of the founding legends of the Polish state is that of Duke Popiel and Piast the Plowman.  Who was this Popiel?  We do not know but Wolański finds one of these in Rome by noting the following name:

Flavius Popilius Nepotianus

This is Flavius Julius Popilius Nepotianus Constantinus, a usurper (that is a rebel who lost) to the imperial throne (perished about 350 A.D.).

Yet Popilius is not unknown name in the ranks of the Romans.  Thus, for example, we have the family of Popillii Laenates who, as one might guess, had an ill-reputation – at least in the B.C. era of Rome.  (The Laenates were apparently just a branch of the Popilli but we do not hear much of the rest of the family). There was a Via Popilia built by one of these gentlemen and the town of Forlimpopoli may have been founded by them as well (it was called Forum Popilii).  Now, this (like the place those Buccios seem to come from) is in the Emilia–Romagna.

What does any of this have to do with Popiel?  At first glance not much.

On the other hand, it is certainly true that no one (as far as I know) tried to see how a pre-Slavic language (proto-Slavic) would have been rendered by Latin speaking Romans.  Such a task would likely exceed the abilities of any linguist and would, even more importantly, necessarily be founded on such flimsy footing that it could not be taken seriously.  I say, flimsy footing not because it is unimaginable that Italians – particularly in the North – spoke such a language before the Latin expansion but rather because we are too far into the future to likely ever be able to uncover any such connections (if, in fact, there had been any) with any degree of certainty – at least not via the tools of linguistics alone).

Take for example this.

The Pople family association home page!  They mention that there were Popels, Popleys, Popples, Poppells and, of course, Poples.

In search of their origins they look to Hubba the Viking and the Etruscans… But who was Hubba (who raided England in 866 during the time of Alfred the Great) ethnically? He was most likely Danish but could he have been one of the Veleti?  Think Kaszubas.  And while contemporaneous sources speak of Danes and heathens being the invaders, Asser later says that the invaders came from the Danube (but probably he meant Denmark). Some sources also suggested Frisians but as we know there may have been Slavs in Holland as well…

If so, the Poples could, of course, have arrived in England as Slavs with Hubba.

And the Etruscans, those are a whole other story.

But why look so far afield?  Right next to Somerset lies Wales and, specifically, the old Kingdom of Gwent.  Gwent probably comes from the Veneti and so there you have it.

Incidentally, if you want to look for Popiel, you do not need to look so far as England.  There are a number of places in Germany that suggest the Popiel name.  And as regards Popiel’s feast where he poisoned his uncles, well, all you have to do is look to is look at Gero whose murderous feast Widukind describes approvingly.

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September 25, 2017

Lescho

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Tadeusz Wolański was an interesting character.  He was an archeologist and a student of the Etruscan language, a soldier who participated (as an officer) in Napoleon’s 1812 campaign against Russia and an avid collector.  He made several rather bold claims about Slavic antiquities including one about the above tablet which reads as follows:
C AVILLIO LESCHO
TI CLAVDIVS BVCCIO
COLVMBARIA IIII OLL VIII
SE VIVO A SOLO AD
FASTIGIVM MANCIPIO
DEDIT

Wolański attributed this to a present by the Emperor Tiberius to Lech the eponymous founder of the Lechs, that is Poles. The above is a funerary inscription that Wolański got, as he himself said, from Raphael Fabretti’s 1699 Inscriptionum Antiquarum

This marble inscription is featured among the various Italian inscriptions and described here.  It is not a description of any imperial gift.  It was recovered from a local (?) cemetery at Urbino in 1686 and is interpreted as follows:

C(AIO) AVILLIO LESCHO
TI(BERIVS) CLAVDIVS BVCCIO
COLVMBARIA IIII OLL(AS) VIII SE VIVO A SOLO AD
FASTIGIVM MANCIPIO
DEDIT

It is also featured in Corpus inscriptionum Latinarum (CIL VI, 12905):

It is housed in the museum of the Ducal Palace in Urbino – just southeast of San Marino.  The inscription has been dated to the 1st century A.D. and refers to a transfer of a burial plot by Tiberius Claudius Buccio to Gaius Avillius Lescho (or Caius, if you will).

Avillius is not an unheard of name in Rome.  Thus, for example, we have a bridge inscription from about 3 A.D on the Pont d’Aël bridge/aqueduct in Aymavilles in Aosta Valley, north-western Italy:

 IMP CAESARE AVGVSTO XIII COS DESIG
C AVILLIVS C F CAIMVS PATAVINVS
PRIVATVM

Which, actually, is an “imperial reference” to the times of Augustus and the builder of the bridge/acqueduct, one, Gaius Avillius Caimus from Padua, son of Gaius (or Caius, if you will).

So was Wolański just plain crazy?  It seems this is a case of trying to make too great and ambitious a claim where a much smaller one would have, perhaps, done the trick.

Thus, for example, we can certainly ask a question that is much more interesting than any “imperial” claims:

While Buccio is a common name from the Emilia-Romagna (though it, too, is interesting), what kind of name is Lescho?

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September 23, 2017

Ziza or Zizilia

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Always thought it was curious when German (as opposed to Nordic) Gods sounded Slavic.  One such case – of Lollus – we already discussed here.  Others such as Jecha or Biel I might want to get to later.  But then there is the curious case that actually is attested as early as 1135 in a story – Ex Gallica Historia –  that is very unlikely to be true but whose value is nevertheless at least threefold.

First, the story of how the Swabians defeated the Romans (attributed to Velleius Paterculus but not likely written by him) tells of the founding of the city of Augsburg.  Augsburg was founded by the Romans after the defeat of not the Suevi but of the Vindelici who are supposed to have been an entirely different tribe.  These were, in fact, the same Vindelici who gave their name to Lacus Venetus, that is Bodensee.  Augsburg’s Roman name was Augusta Vindelicorum.  Thus we have Suevi, Vindelici (or Veneti?) of the River Lech and… Master Kadłubek.  This is because the story is in many ways similar to the stories written by Wincenty Kadłubek about how the Poles (or Lechites as he would have it) defeated the Romans (and others).  The fact that Augsburg sits in the old Vinde-Licia seem very suggestive.  At the very least here there may be an inspiration for Kadlubek who was a travelled man.

Second, there is a name here that is clear Slavic and that appears nowhere else.  The author has Roman soldier be called Bogudis.  He seems to be an Avar.

Third, there is a report of who the Swabians relied on for their Divine Protection.  Here we have a name that is at least somewhat similar to a Goddess said to have been worshipped by the pagan Poles.  We know that

  • Jan Długosz says: “Venus they called Dzydzilelya and thought her to be the goddess of marriage, so that they asked her to bless them with children and to give them a richness of sons and daughters.”
  • Marcin Kromer‘s list of Gods includes Zizililia: Colebant itaq pro dijs Poloni, & caeterae Slavici nominis gentes, praeciupe Iovem, Martem, Plutonem, Cererem, Venerem, Dianam: quos Iessam, Ladum sive Ladonem, Niam, Marzanam, Zizililiam, Zievanam sive Zevoniam, vocabant.
  • This is repeated by Maciej Stryjkowski who says: Venera (Venus/Aph-rod-ite [!]) they called the goddess of love Zizilia, to whom they prayed for fertility and all sorts of bodily pleasures they demanded from her.  

(Another “Z” Divinity is Zievana sive Zevonia (Kromer) about whom Stryjkowski says: “Diana the goddess of the hunt in they tongue they called Ziewonia or Dziewanna.”)

For more of these see here.

In any event, the Swabian Goddess’ name is supposedly Cisa or Zisa.  This, when one thinks of the tree cis, would already be enough to perk up Slavic ears. But in the story the name comes up slightly differently:

  • Zizarim (or Zizarana?)
  • Ziza
  • Ziznberc (mountain)
  • Zicę

Of course, already Grimm noticed the similarity of the name to that mentioned by Tacitus:

Para Suevorum et Isidi sacrificat.

There are even closer connections to words such as the Goddess Ziva mentioned by Helmold or “life” as życie (that word comes from żyto supposedly – of course, there is an interesting Slavic connection here too found in Diodorus Siculus description of the (real) Galls who, he says, make a drink “out of barley which they call zythos or beer”).

In any event, the Goddess Ziza has been repeatedly cited by the learned men and women of Augsburg throughout the Middle Ages and many places are said to have been named after Her.

There is another potential connection here but about that later.

There is also this definition of “cross-eyed” (zez) which Brueckner claims comes from the German sechs but does not say why he thinks that:

On the other hand, a multi-cephalic goddess may appear or at least seem to be all seeing – if you tried the same you’d look cross-eyed… not to mention that the expression above about a naked man waiting on Zyza (or on Leda as in “ice”) can also be read to mean waiting not “on” but “for” as in a naked man waiting for a judgment [?] of Zyza or of Leda/Lada.  The expressions cited by Bruecker are ones he discussed already in 1900 and they come from Potocki’s writing.

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September 21, 2017

Soulanos and Boulanes

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The cool thing about these days is that you can actually go and check some of these things that you’ve read about.  Since the Vatican library is now mostly online, thanks to the efforts of one very generous guy, you can see things for yourself.

So on the Boulanes/Soulanes question, went back to look at two codices.

The results of those three are in and Soulanes seems to be winning the day.

Here are from Book 3, Chapter 5 (Sarmatia):

Vaticanus Graecus 191
(about 1300)

this one is clearly an “s” (Souloonos).

Vaticanus Urbinas Graecus 82
(about 1300)

same.

Vaticanus Palatinus Graecus 388
(about 1450)
(the one used by Erasmus)

This one is arguably a “b” (Boulanes).

You can also see the underlined references to the Veneti.  In between the two are the Goths (arguably) and the Finns (Finnoi).

As a point of interest here are the following from 388’s Book 2, Chapter 10 (Germania):

Rivers

The three rivers in Germania, that is Suevus, Viadua and Vistula:

Calisia

(Si) lingai?

Or Lingai?

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September 19, 2017

Prussian Entreaties

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While most of the religious sources on the site are Slavic, it behooves us to look at some neighboring tribes as some of the religious vocabulary of theirs shows potentially remarkable connections.

Starting with the pagan Prussians we have the so-called Treaty of Christburg (modern Dzierzgoń) from February 2 or 7, 1249 between the Teutonic Knights and the Prussians.  The Treaty ended (if only briefly) the Prussian resistance to the Teutons (the so-called First Prussian Uprising).  The text of the treaty contains some interesting religious references with the mention of:

  • a Prussian Deity by the name of Kurcho
  • Prussian diviners that is Tulissones and Ligaschones 

Old Prussian fortress walls at Dzierzgoń

The actual treaty text resided in Konigsberg and appeared (as Urkunde number 191) Friedrich von Dreger’s 1748 Codex diplomaticus.  The section that interests us reads as follows regarding the requirements imposed on the “neophytes,” that is the Prussian new Christian believers/converts:

“They will refrain from making the annual harvest offerings which had been given to the Deity they call Kurcho or to all the other Deities for verily they are not the creators of heaven and earth.  The Prussians promised too to remain faithful servants of the Catholic Church.  They promised also to refrain from reliance on the auguries of the diviners who are called tulissones and ligaschones for those are but simple charlatans and liars.  They call evil good since at burials they honor the dead for their sinful [lifetime] deeds such as robberies and murders.  These diviners raise their blades up high and shout that they see the dead in the heavens riding on a horse clad in shining armor in the company of other warriors.  It is with such fantasies hat they deceive the people.  The Prussians promised to expel these seers from amongst their people.”

Codex diplomaticus. Oder Uhrkunden, So die Pommersch-Rügianisch- und Caminische, auch andere benachbarte Lande angehen. Aus lauter Originalien oder doch archivischen Abschrifften in chronologischer Ordnung zusammen getragen, und mit einigen Anmerckungen erläutert.

Curiously, the Germans conducted extensive architectural digs at Dzierzgoń (then still Christburg) looking for Teutonic tribes.  They found signs of habitations dated (by them) to the beginning of the first millennium B.C.  They also gratuitously vandalized a few of the local trees with swastikas which can be seen even till this day.

Now most probably think that the Polish swear phrase kurczę blade really does refer to a pale chick and is used in lieu of using something worse.  But perhaps some of that is actually incorrect… There are also the word kruche meaning something that is “brittle” and kurgan which is a Turkic word or so they say.

Interestingly, this mention of a Prussian Deity predates the Polish Yassa, Lada, Nia by some one hundred and sixty years.

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September 18, 2017

We Know That We Do Not Know

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One of the readers had asked the question about the location of the “Vistula Venedi”.  This is rather complicated since, with the exception of the Tabula Peutingeriana, we don’t have any actual ancient maps of the region

Pomponius Mela says that: “Sarmatia, wider to the interior than toward the sea, is separated by the Vistula [Vistula] River from the places that follow, and where the river reaches in, it goes all the way to the Ister River. Its people are very close to the Parthians in dress and in weaponry, but the rougher the climate, the cruder their disposition.”  Which sounds about right.

Strabo does not venture that deep (he does mention the Vindilici who previous to Tiberius’ wars lived at the Bodensee).

Pliny, says that “some writers state that these regions, as far as the river Vistula, are inhabited by the Sarmati, the Venedi, the Sciri, and the Hirri.  He does not say who the Sciri and Hirri are.

Incidentally, the Codanus Sinus has also been identified with the Kattegat and not just with the Bay of Gdansk (it appears in Pomponius Mela and in Pliny).

Tacitus does not mention the Vistula and places the Veneti somewhere where Suevia ends.  Where Suevia ends, however, he declines to say.

He also contributes by noting that the Suevi and Esti are very similar except for language with the Estian language similar to that of Britain.

Ptolemy is more detailed and is worth quoting in more detail but is full of issues of his own:

“Lesser races inhabit Sarmatia near the Vistula river. Below the Venedae are the Gythones, then the Finni, then the Soulanes/Boulanes; below whom are the Phrungundiones; then the Avarini near the source of the Vistula river; below these are the Ombrones, then the Anartophracti, then the Burgiones, then the Arsietae, then the Saboci, then the Piengitae and the Biessi near the Carpathian mountains. Among those we have named to the east: below the Venedae are the Galindae, the Sudini, and the Stavani, extending as far as the Alauni; below these are the Igylliones, then the Coestoboci and the Transmontani extending as far as the Peuca mountains. Back from the Ocean, near the Venedicus bay, the Veltae dwell, above whom are the Ossi; then more toward the north the Carbones and toward the east are the Careotae and the Sali; below whom are the Gelones, the Hippopodes and the Melanchlaeni; below these are the Agathyrsi; then the Aorsi and the Pagyritae; then the Savari and the Borusci to the Ripaeos mountains; then the Acibi and the Nasci; below whom are the Vibiones and the Idrae; and below the Vibiones bordering on the Alauni are the Sturni, and between the Alauni and the Amaxobii are the Cariones and the Sargati; near the bend of the Tanis river are the Ophlones and then the Tanaitae; below whom are the Osili extending as far as Rhoxolanis; between the Amaxobii and the Rhoxolani are the Rheucanali and the Exobygitae; and between the Peucini and the Basternae are the Carpiani, above whom are the Gevini, then the Bodini; between the Basternae and the Rhoxolani are the Chuni, and below the mountains named from these are the Amadoci and the Navari.”

Regarding Ptolemy we have “several” issues:

  • The guy was writing in Egypt in pre-Internet days.  He was writing a world geography not a geography of the Vistula region meaning that he had to make sure that he was generally correct across all geographies but he did not need to be specifically correct in any given place.  I mean who was going to call him on whether the Sciri were Sarmatian or something else?
  • He was relying on multiple sources that he was compiling into one “universal” work.  Normally, the way you would do that is you would critically check each against the other and discard the chaff.  But, how could he “critically” look at anything sitting in Alexandria?  My strong suspicion is that, when I’m doubt, he included multiple data points that in reality referred to one and the same thing.  If you can’t check, it’s probably better to be overinclusive than to risk leaving things out altogether.  And he had to fit all of this on his “map”
  • How good were his sources?
  • Even where they were good, to what time periods did they pertain?  The situation north of the Empire was fluid with various watahas carving up their own “kingdoms” until a bigger guy showed up with more men and better weapons. We do not know how long precisely his work took but it was not put together over a day.  Thus, the situation could have changed while he was writing his magnum opus.
  • A very important word in all of Ptolemy is a word that was translated as “below” – what did he mean by that?  Did he mean “south” or “down river” or something else (think of Curta’s arguments about what maps Jordanes was using…).  In fact, did he mean the same thing every time he used the word?
  • The manuscripts vary greatly which means that some of them were copied incorrectly or that some monks “corrected” Ptolemy or both.
  • It is also worth noting that the so-called “Ptolemaic” maps were not his but rather were medieval maps put together as best guesses based on the numbers and names provided by Ptolemy.

There is no good English translation of Ptolemy.  The above comes from Stevenson who, ahem, may have translated from Latin (the original we think was in Greek).

With that said:

  • it is not clear what Ptolemy means by Venedicus Bay – it is safe to say that if the Venedae were really a “great” people then the suggestion that Venedicus Bay is the Bay of Gdansk is ridiculous simply because it is way too small.  A helpful hint is provided by Pomponius Mela who says “Sarmatia, wider to the interior than toward the sea”.  This is, of course true: the further East you go the “thicker” “Sarmatia becomes.  The further West you go the “thinner” it is until you reach the “Cymbrian Peninsula” that is Denmark.  The reason the west is thinner is simple – the Baltic Sea.  Of course, we know that the Baltic is a sea.  But to Ptolemy and others of his age, the north was “Ocean”, Scandinavia was an island and the Baltic Sea was just a “bay” that the Ocean must have carved up in Sarmatia to make it – at that place – thinner than it is to the East.  If you view the entire Baltic Sea as basically a giant bay then you have your Venedicus Bay.  It is the same as the Suevian Sea of Tacitus.  The fact that the Suevian Sea was also called the Sarmatian Sea puts an end to speculation here.  On a large Baltic, you could fit all the Venedi – a “greater” people. This also matches arguably what we see on the Tabula Peutingeriana.
  • There is a potential problem with this.  The “Vistula” was supposed to have separated Sarmatia from Germania.  In fact, the Gotones (assuming they are to be seen as Goths) dwelt in Sarmatia (!) below the Venedae and near the Vistula.  If the Vistula ends Sarmatia then the southern Baltic shore can’t be part of the Venedic Bay. 
  • Or can it?  The assumption that is made is that the Goths must have dwelt at the “mouth” of the Vistula but that is not what Ptolemy says (“Lesser [than the Venedae?] races inhabit Sarmatia near the Vistula river. Below the Venedae are the Gythones, then the Finni, then the Soulanes”).  Moreover, even if the Goths lived at the mouth of the Vistula, we know they moved south at some point.  But there is an even bigger issue here.  We know that the Goths came from Scandinavia (at least those who do not want to deny reality know that).  If so and if they landed on the Baltic shore then it stretches credulity to suggest that they landed in one place that neatly separated different peoples.  It is much more likely that they landed at the mouth of “a river” (will get back to that) and that their landing, in effect, separated the people who lived along that river.  That is the Goths may have simply cut into the Venedae.
  • But there is another issue.  We do not even know what the Vistula River is.  We assume that it must be the river that we call Vistula today because that prevents us from having to think but even this is not certain.  There are quite a number of good reasons to think that the Vistula was the Oder.  For example, in Ptolemy’s mind “Sarmatia is terminated in the west by the Vistula river and by that part of Germania lying between [Vistula’s] source and the Sarmatian mountains but not by the mountains themselves.”  What he is arguably describing here is the land west of the Odra/Oder which is, to the Nysa/Neisse, in Poland.
  • There are other reasons to think that the Veneti extended to the Oder.  Like the name of the river itself.  Whoever you may think the Veneti were the fact that Odra is similar to Adria where the Veneti lived has not escaped notice.
  • Moreover, have you ever thought as to why there were no Rugii at Ruegen in Tacitus’ writings?  But if we assume that Vistula is where the Goths are Vistula must be today’s Vistula, this creates a mess as the Rugii are nowhere near Rugia island.  I mean even if some Rugii marched out, there should have been some other Rugii left behind at… well, Rugia. BUT, if Vistula is the Oder and the Goths are there then the Rugii can be both close to the Goths and close to the island of Rugia/Ruegen.
  • In other words, whether the Goths landed at the Oder or at today’s Vistula has very little bearing on the question of whether there were Veneti West of (today’s) Vistula.  The fact that that whole are is called Wendland (in fact to Denmark) by King Alfred should surprise no one.  And perhaps this matches to with Aethicus Ister who lists “.. Alani, Meotae, Huns, Frisians, Danes, Vinnidi, Riphaeans, and Olches, whom the folk in those parts call orci, very filthy peoples.”  This list seems to be composed of several lists but the Frisians, Danes, Vinnidi description seems to make sense and nicely suggests that the Vinnidi dwell between the Danes and the Riphaeans (which, traditionally meant the Ural mountains or thereabouts).
  •  It is also curious that there are many tribes that Ptolemy mentions that are clearly or very likely the same as the Slavic tribes we know from medieval history.
  • Take the Lincis – all the manuscripts say Lincis – except one.  So 19th century researchers decided to make Silingae out of the poor Lincis.
  • Take the Veltae – the later Veleti who dwell next to the Ossi.  The Ossi speak “Pannonian” we are told by Tacitus.  Then we have Ossentrix be the king of the Wilzi in the Didrek Sagas.  Did the Ossi conquer the Veltae?
  • In fact, take something else… The English translation by Stevenson (corrected above) speaks as follows: “Below the Venedae are the Gythones, then the Finni, then the Sulones.  BUT the manuscripts actually vary and the alleged Sullones are Soulanes or… Boulanes.   
    • The fact that much later in the medieval day the first mentions of the Poles speak of them as Bolanes (not all but enough to ask questions) is interesting
    • the fact that Bol means “great” (Bole-slav) suggests that Boulanes may have been just a different form of Veltae – a “great” people.”
    • Here is a little excerpt from Karl Müller’s 1883 Ptolemy which also discusses the topic (including Schaffarik’s views):

 

That the Venetic name appears in Prussian and Polish is quite clear.  See this piece on the meaning of the word.  But there were also a number of villages in Poland with similar names such as, for example, near Wroclaw.

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September 14, 2017

Thietmar’s Book VIII

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Chapter 1 [1018]

In the year 1018 of the Incarnation, in the second indiction, in the sixteenth year of Lord Henry’s reign, and his fourth as emperor, the same Henry celebrated the Circumcision and Epiphany of the Lord in Frankfurt, with great solemnity (1, 6 January).  On January 25, Ezzelin the Lombard was granted his liberty.  He had been held in custody for four years.  Afterwards in January 30, Bishops Gero and Arnulf, the counts Herman and Dietrich, and the emperor’s chancellor Frederick agreed to a sworn peace at the burg Bautzen.  The agreement was are at the emperor’s order and in response Boleslav’s constant supplications.  This was not as it should have been,  however.  Rather, it was the best that could be accomplished under the circumstances.  In the company of a select group of hostages, the aforesaid lords returned.  After four days, Oda, Margrave Ekkehard’s daughter, whom Boleslav had long desired, was escorted to Zuetzen by Otto, the duke’s son.  When they arrived they were greeted by a large crowd of men and women, and by many burning lamps, since it was night-time.  Contrary to the authority of the canons, Oda married the duke over Septuagesima.  Until now, she has lived outside the law of matrimony and thus in a manner worthy of a marriage such as this one.

Chapter 2

In her husband’s kingdom, the customs are many and varied. They are also harsh, but occasionally quite praiseworthy.  The populace must be fed like cattle and punished as one would a stubborn ass.  Without severe punishment, the prince cannot put them to any useful purpose.  If anyone in this land should presume to abuse a foreign matron and thereby commit fornication, the act is immediately avenged through the following punishment.  The guilty party is led on to the market bridge, and his scrotum is affixed to it with a nail.  Then after a share knife has been  placed next to him, he is given the harsh choice between death or castration.  Furthermore, anyone found to have eaten meat after Septuegesima is severely punished, by having his teeth knocked out.  The law of God, newly introduced in these regions, gains more strength from such acts of force that from any fast imposed by the bishops.  There are also other customs, by far inferior to these, which please neither God nor the inhabitants, and are useful only as a means to inspire terror.  To some extent, I have alluded to these above.  I think that it is unnecessary fro me to say any more about this man whose name and manner of life, if it please Almighty God, might better have remained concealed from us.  That his father and he were joined to us, through marriage and great familiarity, has produced results so damaging that any good preceding them is far outweighed, and so it will remain in the future.  During false periods of peace Boleslav may temporarily regard us with affection.  Nevertheless, through all kinds of secret plots, he constatnly attempts to sow dissension, diminish our inborn freedom, and, if time and place permit rise up and destroy us.

Chapter 3

In the days of his father, when he still embraced heathenism, every woman followed her husband on to the funeral pure, after first being decapitated.* If a woman was found to be a prostitute moreover, she suffered a particularly wretched and shameful penalty.  The skin of around her genitals was cut off and this ‘foreskin,’ if we may call it that, was hung on the door so that anyone who entered would see it and be more concerned and prudent in the future.  The law of the Lord declares that such a woman should be stoned, and the rules of our ancestors would require her beheading.**  Nowadays, the freedom to sin dominates everywhere to a degree that is not right or normal.  And so it is not just a large number of frustrated girls who engage in adultery, having been driven by the desire of the flesh to harmful lust, but even some married women and, indeed, with their husbands still living.  As if this were not enough, such women then have their husbands murdered by the adulterer, inspiring the deed through furtive hints.  After this, having given a wicked example to others, they receive their lovers unite openly and sin at will.  They repudiate their legal lord in a most horrible fashion and prefer his retainer, as if the latter were sweet Abro or mild Jason.  Nowadays, because a harsh penalty is not imposed, I fear that many will fund this new custom more and more acceptable.  O you priests of the Lord, forcefully rise up and let nothing stop you!  Take a sharp ploughshare and extirpate this newly sprouted weed, down to the roots! You also, lay people, do not give aid to such as these! May those joined in Christ live innocently and, after these supplanters have been rooted out forever groan in shame.  Unless these sinners return to their senses, may our helper, Christ, destroy them with a powerful breath from his holy mouth and scatter them with the great splendor of his second coming.

* note: according to Boniface, the Wends “observed the mutual love of matrimony with such great zeal that a woman would refuse to live after her husband had died.  Among them, moreover a woman was judged praiseworthy if she chose to die by her own hand and burned together with her husband on a single pure. (Bon. Epistolae 73).

** note: John 8:5.

Chapter 4

Now, I have said enough regarding that matter, since I must still related certain things regarding Duke Boleslav’s misfortune.  The latter’s territory include a certain burg, located near the border with the Hungarians.  ITs guardian was lord Prokui, an uncle of the Hungarian king.  Both in the past and more recently, Prokui had been driven from his lands by the king and his wife had been taken captive.  When he was unable to free her, his nephew arranged for her unconditional release, even though he was Prokui’s enemy.  I have never heard of anyone who showed such restraint towards a defeated for.  Because of this, God repeatedly granted him victory, not only in the burg mentioned above, but in others as well.  HIs father, Deuvix, was very cruel and killed many people because of his quick temper.  When he became a Christian, however, he turned his rage against his reluctant subjects, in order to strengthen this faith. Thus, glowing with zeal for God, he washed away his old crimes. He sacrificed both to the omnipotent God and to various false gods.  When reproached by his priest for doing so, however, he maintained that the practice had brought him both wealth and great power.  His wife, Beleknegini – the name means beautiful lady in Slavonic – drank immoderately and rode a horse like a warrior.  Once, in a fit of anger, she killed a man.  These polluted hands would have been better employed at the spindle, and her frenzied spirit should have been restrained by patience.

Chapter 5 [1018]

The Liutizi were always united in evil.  Now, they attacked lord Mistislav who had not supported them with troops during the emperor’s expedition, the latter having taken place in the previous year.  They devastated much of Mistislav’s territory, forcing his wife and daughter-in-law to flee, and compelling him to seek protection within the burg Schwerin.  He was joined there by his best milites.  Then, the evil cunning of the populace, rebellious against both Christ and their own lord, forced him to abandon his paternal inheritance.  He barely managed to get away.  This detestable presumption occurred in the month of February which the heathen venerate with rites of purification and obligatory offerings.  The month takes its name from the god of hell, Pluto, who is also called Februus.  Then, all of the churches, dedicated to the honour and service of Christ, were wasted by fire and other forms of destruction.  Even worse, the image of the crucified Christ was mutilated and the worship of idols was preferred to that of God.  The minds of this folk called the Abodrites and Wagrii, hardened like the heart of Pharaoh.  They seized for themselves the kind of liberty possessed by the Liutizi and, following the model of that famous deception, removed their neck from the sweet yoke of Christ even as they willingly submitted to the burdensome weight of the Devil’s rule.  They did this even though they had previously had a much better father and nobler lord.  The members of Christ should lament this weakness of theirs and complain about it to their head, constantly asking, with the voice of their hearts, that this might be changed for the better.  They themselves should not allow this situation to continue, to the extent that this is possible.

Chapter 6 [1018]

As soon as he learned of these events, Bernhard, one of my brethren at Magdeburg and formerly bishop of those apostates, did not hesitate to bring the issue to the emperor’s attention.  It was not from concern over his secular losses that he did this, but rather from  a deep spiritual sadness.  After receiving the news, the emperor gave a heavy sigh.  Neverthless, he decided to delay his response until Easter, so that, with more prudent advice, what had been engendered through an unfortunate conspiracy might be utterly destroyed…

Chapter 20

Now I shall truthfully explain what provoked them to do this.  In the times of Bishop Giselher and Margrave Gunther, the generous beneficence of Otto II, smiling broadly upon everyone, granted to our church a certain forest.  It was situated between the rivers Saale and Mulde, and between the districts of Siusuli and Plisne.  After the sad destruction of our diocese, during the reign of Otto II, Margrave Ekkehard [I] acquired another forest, in a  place called Soemmering, and traded it for the one belonging to us.  Afterwards, along with most of our property, this forest was returned to us by King Henry, the restorer of our office.  This restitution was confirmed through a legal judgement in the presence of all the king’s leading men, and with the brothers Herman and Ekkehard II unable to support their claim.  This forest had been in our church’s possession for more than twelve years.  And Margrave Herman had in no way succeeded in reacquiring it by offering me sixty manses of land.  Nevertheless, he thought that he and his brother might still claim it by means of imperial diplomats relating to the possession of two burgwards, Rochlitz and Teitzig.  He hoped that the old document which confirmed our rights had been lost.  When he showed me his documents, he realized that they would do him no good.  For at Magdeburg, when our respective diplomata were presented before the emperor, it was clear that our church’s claims took precedence, in every way.  At last, in his brother’s presence and hearing, the aforesaid margrave declared: ‘Until now, whatever we have done regarding this matter has been undertaken because we hoped to have justice, and not out of recklessness.  Now let us give it all up.’

Chapter 21 [1018]

Ekkehard was a young man and therefore immature.  Shortly afterwards, at the instigation of his miles Budislav, he began to erect tall enclosures in his burg ward, Rochlitz, for the purpose of capturing wild game.  When subsequently informed of his actions, I accepted the news peacefully.  Nevertheless, through my intermediary – namely his brother – I asked that he desist.  Also, I immediately complained to his brother.  In each case, I was completely unsuccessful, and so things stood until Easter had passed.  Them, because both the weather and the condition of the roads were favorable, and because I had never visited that part of my diocese, I decided to go there and carefully investigate the situation, as yet unfamiliar to me.  On May 2, a Friday, I went to Kohren and confirmed the people who gathered there.  Continuing my trip, I encountered the area, mentioned above, which had been fitted out with ropes and great nets.  I was astonished and wondered what I shod do.  Finally, because I could not take the apparatus with me, I mediately ordered that part of it to be cut down.  Afterwards, I and directly to Rochlitz. There I confirmed a few people and, under threat of the ban, forbade the withholding of my rightful tithes and use of the forest.  I declared all of  this to be property of our church, and made peace.

Chapter 22 [1018]

Then I returned to my estate at Kohren where, after seven days, I heard that Ekkehard’s millets were threatening my people.  At that time, the chancellor happened to be spending the night with me.  When I explained the situation to him, he responded favorably.  On numerous occasions, those same warriors gathered together and tried to attack me, but our guards stopped them, in timely fashion.  Meanwhile, I sent my representative to the emperor, at Mainz, and humbly sought his mediation.  Now, on his own behalf, Ekkehard agreed to a truce, and his brother, whom I had long awaited, returned from Poland and offered his own hand in peace.  Neither kept his word very well, however.  Six flogged and shave men, and as many devastated houses, prove how others must defend themselves against such lords.  In their accustomed manner, their dependents not only raged against me, but also harmed other, better men.  They attacked Archbishop Gero in Werben and Count Siegfried at Nischwitz and took whatever they wished.

Chapter 31 [1018]

We may not keep silent regarding the sad and harmful events that occurred in Russia.  For, on or advice, Boleslav attacked it with a large army and caused much destruction.  On July 22, the duke came to a certain river, where he ordered his army to set up camp and prepare the necessary bridges.  Also camped near the river, along with his army, was the king of the Russians.  He was anxiously awaiting the outcome of the upcoming battle, for which both rulers had called.  Meanwhile, the Poles provoked the enemy into fighting and, with unexpected success, drove them from the river bank which they were supposed to defend.  Elated by this news, Boleslav hastily notified his companions and quickly crossed the river although without effort.  In contrast, the hostile army, drawn up in battle formation, vainly attempted to defend its homeland.  It collapsed at the first attack, however, and failed to mount any effective resistance.  Among those who fled, many were killed, but only a few of the victors were lost.  On our side, the dead included Erich, an illustrious miles whom our emperor had long held in chains.  From that day on, with every success, Boleslav drove his scattered enemies before him, and the whole populace received and honoured him with many gifts.

Chapter 32 [1018]

Meanwhile, Jaroslav captured a city which had been subject to his brother [Sventopolk], and abducted the inhabitants.  At Boleslav’s instigation, the very strong city of Kiev was disturbed by the constant attacks of hostile Petchenegs and severely weakened by fire. It was defended by its inhabitants, but quickly surrendered to the foreign warriors, after its king fled and abandoned it.  On August 14, the city received Boleslav and Sventipolk, its long-absent lord.  Thereafter, through his favour, and from fear of us, the whole region was brought into submission.  When they arrived, the archbishop of that city received them, at the church of Saint Sophia, with relics of the saints and other kinds of ceremonial apparatus.  In the previous year, this church had been severely, but unintentionally damaged by fire.  Here were found the king’s stepmother, wife, and nine sisters, one of whom had previously been desired by Boleslav, that old fornicator.  Unmindful of her husband, the duke unlawfully took her away.  There, too , he was shown an unspeakable amount of treasure, most of high ch he distributed among his friends and supporters.  He sent some of it back to his homeland, however. Among those rendering assistance to the aforesaid duke were three hundred of our warriors, five hundred Hungarians, and one thousand Petchenegs.  Al of these were no sent home, since, as Sventipolk was happy to see, the populace flocked to him and appeared loyal.  In this great city, the centre of that kingdom, there are more than four hundred churches, eight markets, and an unknown number of inhabitants.  As in this entire land, the city gains its strength from fugitive serfs who converge on this place from everywhere, but especially from areas overrun by the fast-moving Danes.  Until now, it successfully resisted the attacks of the Petchenegs and was also victorious over other enemies.

Chapter 33 [1018]

Elated by this success, Boleslav sent the bishop of this city to Jaroslav, to ask that his daughter be sent back to him.  In return, he promised to send back Jaroslav’s wife, stepmother, and sisters.  Afterwards, he sent his beloved Abbot Tuni to our emperor, with splendid gifts that he might more firmly secure his favor and aid.  He also indicated that he would follow the emperor’s wishes in all matters. He also sent messengers to nearby Greece, who promised good things to the emperor there, if he would consider him as his faithful friend.  Otherwise, they intimated, he would be a most obdurate and invincible enemy.  Among all of these, omnipotent God stands firm., mercifully revealing what pleases him and profits us.  In those days my cousin Udo, took Herman prisoner.  This was a man equal to him in nobility and power; and he led him to his burg against his will.  I fear that another dangerous weed will sprout from this, and be exceedingly difficult or impossible to eradicate.

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September 12, 2017

Caesar on Germanic Religion

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What do we know of the religion of the Germans?  Well, you have Tacitus but… you also have an earlier account by no less an authority than Julius Caesar in Book VI of his Gallic Wars:

“The Germans differ much from these usages, for they have neither Druids to preside over sacred offices, nor do they pay great regard to sacrifices. They rank in the number of the gods those alone whom they behold, and by whose instrumentality they are obviously benefited, namely, the sun, fire, and the moon; they have not heard of the other deities even by report.”

Germani multum ab hac consuetudine differunt. Nam neque druides habent, qui rebus divinis praesint, neque sacrificiis student. Deorum numero eos solos ducunt, quos cernunt et quorum aperte opibus iuvantur, Solem et Vulcanum et Lunam, reliquos ne fama quidem acceperunt.

Of course, the worship of the sun and fire was not something that we normally think of Nordic religion.  Instead, we think of “eastern” religions like in this account of the Persians.

Of course, the same could be said of the Slavs who worship:

  • Jasion, Jutrebog, Jarowit/Gerovit or, if you want to go further east, apparently, Svarog as the “Sun”  and
  • Svarozic as the “fire”

What about the moon?  Well, that’s tougher but there is the ksiezyc which is a diminutive of ksiadz.  Ksiadz used to mean prince or ruler.  Ksiezyc would thus mean “little ruler” so that much like:

  • Svarog > Svarozyc (big fire = the Sun > little fire = actual fire) 

we have:

  • Ksiadz > ksiezyc (big prince = the Sun > little prince = the moon)

Now, many folklorists have done all kinds of gymnastics to try to claim that Caesar’s Germanic Gods were somehow just different versions of Wotan, Thor or Tyr.

And yet that is not what the above says.

And those Germanic names!  Where are these Germanic Arios- after all?

Well, we have:

  • Ariovistus, as well as,
  • Ariamir (Suevi) , but to find another Ario- you have to look East,
  • Ariobarzanes and that one is, again, in the East (Persia).

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September 7, 2017

All the Slavs of the Miracles of Saint Demetrius – Book I

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The Miracles of Saint Demetrius come in two books.  The first one was written by Archbishop of John (the second) of Thessalonica sometime in the early 600s.  It is a collection of, what appear to be sermons, amongst which there is a description of a siege of Thessalonica undertaken by a Slavic army.  Since John describes himself as walking the battlements during the siege and since he was archbishop of the city during 603-610 and again during 617-626, the siege presumably took place at that time.  The second book of miracles was written by someone else towards the end of the seventh century.  The primary scholarly edition of both of these books was that of Paul Lemerle (Les plus anciens recueils des miracles de saint Démétrius et la pénétration des Slaves dans les Balkans – which also contains a French translation).  We begin with the first book.  Its “Slavic” passages are contained in Chapter 12, 13 and 14 (there are fifteen total “miracles”/chapters).

Chapter 12
Of the Fire of the Ciborium and the Surprise Attack by the Slavs

[At night during the celebrations of Saint Demetrius’ day, barbarians set fire to the basilica’s ciborium and everyone was called to arms]

“All the people having heard this call, rushed to their houses and armed went to man the walls.  From there they glanced in the plain in front of the sanctuary of the Holy Matron, a throng of barbarians, albeit not too large, estimated at about five thousand, but of great strength for the all were selected and battle-hardened warriors.  They would not have assaulted this city great city were they not possessed of greater might and bravery than those [denizens of the city] who had never defeated them [the barbarians].”

“It was with the coming of the dawn that the townsfolk spotted the enemy from the walls, raised a cry and many of them ran down and through the open gates stepped outside.  Aided by Christ and the Victorious Demetrius] they joined battle with the enemies who, full of battle rage, had by then already breached the sanctuary of the three holy martyrs: Chiona, Irene and Agappa, which sanctuary, as you know, was found in the vicinity of the town walls.  The sides continued in battle throughout most of the day and the hosts of Demetrius, with great risk, once chased the enemy, then gave way to it, because, as is told, the enemy brought out the elite flower of the entire Slav tribe.  Eventually, thanks to the martyr’s [Demetrius’] aid, on that day the barbarians were driven out and retreated in smaller numbers than they arrived with.  In this way ended this unexpected and wild assault.”

Chapter 13
Of the Siege of the City by the Avaro-Slavs

“It is said, that the then ruler of the Avars decided to send emissaries regarding a certain matter to Maurice who was, with God’s choice, then wielding the scepter of the Byzantines. But since his requests did not bring desired results, he fell into an uncontrollable rage, feeling that he must not refrain from causing great harm to the one who so casually listened to his demands, pondering in what manner he could cause him [Maurice] the greatest harm and concocting the most terrible things, which then, however, came to pass.  He realized that the God-honored capital of the Thessalonicans stood out from amongst all cities of Thrace and Illyricum by reason of its diverse riches and pious, wise and most humble people; that is, to put it simply, he knew that the above-mentioned city was dear to the Emperor’s heart for it shines everywhere with its accolades; so that if suddenly it found itself in some kind of danger, the Byzantine Empire would suffer for it.”

“So he called to his side the entire wild tribe of the Slavs – this nation was subordinate to him at that time – and joining with them barbarians from other tribes, ordered them all to set out against Thessalonica.  This was the greatest host that had been seen in our day.  Some estimated it at over one hundred thousand armed men, others at a little bit less, and others yet at much more.  Since the exact truth could not be ascertained due to the countless numbers [of the enemy], the people looked to the eyewitnesses [to guess the numbers of the enemy]… We heard of rivers and streams by  which these armies stopped, about all the country which they traversed and which, as in [writing] of the prophet [Joel] ‘were put out to waste.’  This numerous army was ordered to cross the lands at such a pace that we did not become aware of its arrival until the immediately prior day.”

“This [news] was relayed to us on Sunday, the 22nd of September.  While the denizens of the city were pondering whether the enemy would take the city after four days or later and for this reason the city guard were not adequately prepared, that very same night [they] silently approached the city walls.  It was then that the praiseworthy martyr, Demetrius, aided [the city] for the first time, confusing them during that night so that they spent many hours about the fortress of the praiseworthy Matron martyr, thinking that they had arrived at the city itself.  When it finally dawned and they realized that the city is nearby, they set out for it in unison, roaring like lions.  Thereafter, they attached siege ladders to the walls which ladders they had brought with them, ready to ascend them….”

[Demetrius appears under the guise of a Thessalonican soldier and defeats the barbarians climbing the siege ladders]

“…All the barbarians, who were present there in great numbers, filled with terrible dread, instantly moved away from the walls; that night there were few sentries on the walls and [many] had headed home for it was believed that the throng of barbarians would not appear until a few days from then.”


“When day finally came, these wild animals tightly surrounded the city walls so that even a bird could not fly away beyond the gates, nor enter the city from the outside.  They girded the city from the endings of the eastern wall reaching the sea to the western wall, like a deadly wreath and not a scarp of land was to be seen by virtue of the [density of the] barbarians.  In lieu of the ground, the grass and the trees all that could be seen were the heads of the enemy, one behind the other, all angry and threatening us with death by tomorrow.  And it was strange that on that day not only did they surround the city as if [they were] the sands but also many of them took up spots in the suburbs and fields surrounding the city [proper], destroying everything, consuming and pommeling all, and all that was left trampling with their feet, just as the beast did in Daniel’s vision.  They did not even need to build a stockade around the city or any trenches; rather, their shields formed an impassable palisade  one after the other and a stockade was made of their bodies tightly woven together like a fisherman’s net.”

Chapter 14
About the Recitalist Actor After the Siege by the Avaro-Slavs 

“Many of them, having lost hope of a quick victory in the next few days, went to the city masters and confessed through a translator [as follows]:  “The leader of the Avars sent us having received exact reports from many people [spies] that the city had only a few militiamen, for it had only recently been touched by a plague, and he assured us that we would take it the very next day. But when we arrived we saw many soldiers, who exceeded our armies in numbers and in bravery.  From that moment we stopped believing in our victory and decided instead to seek safety with you.”

“But that only happened later.  Instead on that day [when the Slavs arrived] when they found themselves at the walls, they busied themselves with provisions, prisoners and booty which they carried with them.  But all the grains and other crops (which agricultural produce, even if harvested in prior years, it was customary at that time to keep outside [of the city]) stolen by them would only last them through that day [and] till morning on the day following.  And thereafter, they ate fruits, tree branches and tree roots as well as all manner of vegetables, then grass, wild herbs and the so-called thistle plant – until, eventually, they were devouring dirt and they were hungry still for the Earth did not, as it is written, did not withstand their onrush.”

“In the evening of the first day they gathered brushwood and set up campfires around the city… Then, by this terrible fire there issued from them an even more terrible cry, of which it is said in the prophesies that the ‘Earth shook and the the heaven sent down rain.'”

“Throughout the whole night we heard around us much rumble and on the next morrow we saw that they set up siege engines, iron battering rams, huge stone throwers and the so-called turtle shields which they along with the stone throwers covered with hard leather.  Then, they covered them with the skins of freshly killed cattle and camels so as to protect them from fire and hot tar [of the defenders].  And in this matter they came closer to the city walls and starting on the third day they began to gather on the other side [of the city walls] stones which in their size were reminiscent of mountain boulders and their bowmen were issuing hails of arrows so that no one from the city could stick themselves out or to look outside.* They attached [protective] lids/covers on the other side of the walls while they used rods and war axes ceaselessly trying to break through the [wall] foundations….”

* note: presumably while the stone gatherers were picking them up at the outside of the city walls.

“We have said already that during the first and second day of the siege, the enemy was gathering provisions and getting ready all kinds of terrible machines against the city.  Between the third and the seventh day (for the blessed martyr did not suffer the siege to last longer) they brought to the city walls siege towers, battering rams, stone throwing catapults and wooden mantlets.  First they brought out a battering ram with a head of iron and set it in front of Cassandra’s gate but when they saw a grappling iron hanging over the gate that’d been put up there by the citizens, though it was small and harmless as a child’s toy, they were filled with dread and they spurned their great contraption – I speak of the ram – and burning it down as well as other similar ones and not having achieved their goals, they departed for the day to their tents…”

“Later, under cover of leather covers they tried, like vicious snakes, to destroy the ramparts, they say with axes and wooden poles.  And perhaps they would have achieved their desired goal, had not Providence shone down upon the inhabitants, armed their hearts with bravery and sent them out beyond the walls so as to terrify those, who shielded by the covers had almost manage to destroy all [ramparts].  For it had been [until then] not possible to toss anything at those protected below hidden by the walls so that they remained unseen from above.  Thus, armed men, filled with God-ignited fervor, came in front of the gate using a lowered so-called gangway, that had been damaged earlier.  When they approached the exterior walls, they caused panic among the enemies.  Filled with unspeakable fear, they left all their gear with which they had intended to destroy the exterior walls and escaped; this, even though the men who came out to the did not wield anything other than spears and shields…”

“When the enemy, by reason of a single divine decree escaped, leaving behind mantlets, poles, and pickaxes, no one gave chase after them; [and] on the next day they used stone throwers.These were rectangular, set on broad platforms, with their ends set with sharp tips on which sat broad cylinders covered at the ends with iron; to these there were nailed beams as in a palisade.  At the back they had suspended projectiles and in the front strong ropes, which, when pulled downwards, rumbled as they lifted the catapults. Those, in turn, when lifted high, tossed giant, massive stones, such that neither the ground nor city houses could withstand their fall.   Three sides of these rectangular stone throwers were secured with beams [designed] so that projectiles tossed from the walls would not injure those who were pulling on the [catapult ropes] inside [the contraption].  And if one of them were hit by [our] fire projectiles and burned down together with the beams, the [barbarians inside] were sent escaping together with their equipment.  The next day, they again brought these stone throwers, protected, as we said, with new skins and beams, and setting [the stone throwers] very close to the city walls, they tossed at us heaps of stones…”

[only one projectile hit the walls and on the very same day the barbarians departed to their camp]

“There came Sunday, the seventh and last day of the siege when [our] enemies were resting after the exhaustion of the preceding days.  They wanted to force a life and death battle on the very next day, aiming to surround the walls tightly from all sides and thereupon to frighten the battlement guards with a sudden onrush so as to cause them to abandon the walls so that none of them watching from the top could [see what was going on in front of the gates] and could not come out and try to undertake any effort to help the others futilely fighting [in front of the gates?], upon their [the enemy’s] appearance.  When they were talking among themselves – of which we were made aware by their deserters – all our [men] were terribly frightened awaiting for the assault planned for the next day.  Surprisingly though, that very day, around eight in the evening, all of the barbarians escaped as one man with a great cry onto a [nearby] hill, having abandoned [their] tents with their supplies.  They had been so frightened that some were running away unarmed and without clothes.  They spent the next three hours or so in the nearby hills, seeing that of which we learned only later [the figure of Saint Demetrius].  Finally, at the setting of the sun they returned to their tents, though by order of the triumphant [Christ], now robbing [and fighting] each other so that there were many wounded and some had even fallen.”

“When that night had passed in a great calm, quite different from the prior [night], then at dawn a rather large number of the enemy appeared at the gates, though from that uncounted multitude there remained not one [man].  The inhabitants, suspecting [some new] trick and treachery, neither opened the gates nor accepted any enemy deserters.  However, many of them loudly professed that all the enemies had quietly escaped during the night so that [finally] about five o’clock in the morning they were let in.  The [inhabitants immediately] queried them and demanded that [the men that had been let in] honestly reveal the enemies’ intentions and they confessed why they had escaped [to the city]: ‘We escaped to you so as not to starve but also knowing that you have won [this] war.  We realized that you had been hiding your armies in the city up until now and that only yesterday about eight did you have them issue forth against us in all their numbers at all the gates and so then you saw us escape into the hills.  When in the evening we found out then that the same army had come out of the gates, we abandoned [the hills].  The others argued amongst themselves robbing one another and when they eventually settled down then they [decided to and] escaped quietly throughout the night.  For they said that at dawn [your] armies would once again set out against them.  Thus, those others escaped while we remained behind.'”

[there follows here the explanation as to the nature of the mysterious army as also thanksgiving prayers]

“The inhabitants sent out riders and discovered that the enemies did in fact escape and that during the night they covered a great distance, fleeing in such terror and fear that they dropped/left behind them [their] clothes, equipment, animals and people.”

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September 5, 2017