Category Archives: Premyslids

Thietmar (Book VI)

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Chapter 2 [1004]

“Meanwhile, because of his own madness and also at the instigation of Margrave Henry, Boleslav attacked the Bavarians and all of his countrymen with a large force [see Book 5 Chapter 36].  In response, the king assembled an army and attacked the lands of the Milzini.  Had he not been impeded by heavy snow which was followed by a quick thaw, the whole region would have been wasted and depopulated.  He returned disappointed, but was aided by Margrave Gunzelin and other loyal supporters who supplied garrisons.  When he arrived at Merseburg, trustworthy intercessors sent by Margrave Henry informed him that his brother haas fled to the king of the Hungarians and desired forgiveness.  The margrave had also repented greatly for what he had undertaken.  Accepting their petition, though unwillingly, and being influenced even more by the entreaties of his dear Tagino and Duke Bernhard, the king offered to forgive Margrave Henry, on the condition that all property and people be to him and to his supporters, and that the margrave himself be retained in custardy as long as the king wished.  In tears, Margrave Henry confessed that he was guilty in all things and, in the manner and clothing of a penitent, surrendered himself to the king.  At the king’s order, the archbishop of Magdeburg  led him off to the burg at Giebichenstein and had his warriors guard him carefully, both day and night.  Among his various good works there, the margrave sang the psalter with one hindered and fifty genuflections, all in a single day.

Chapter 4 [1004]

“…Turning in a different direction he [king Henry at Verona versus King Arduin of the Lombards] asked his advisers if it would be at all possible to seize the mountain passes, located some distance from there, with the help of the Carinthians.  After careful consideration, this plan was carried out although it seemed arduous to many.  Immediately obeying the royal commands, the Carinthians divided into two detachments.  Before daybreak , one secretly seized a high point above the passes with foot soldiers.  At dawn the other detachment followed, in order to storm the passes.  The soldiers who had been sent ahead gave them such a loud signal that their enemies would have heard int in their hidden ambushes.  Thinking that their rear was secure, the enemy took up arms and rushed to mer the attackers.  But then our forces attacked their flank, forcing some to flee and other to die by falling from the precipices or into the rising waters of the Brenta.  The victors carefully protected the passes until the king arrived.”

Chapter 10

“Departing from there [Strassburg], the king humbly sought the threshold of the church of Saint Martin at Mainz and celebrated the feast of the Apostles with due veneration [20 June]/  After this, travelling through eastern Franconia, he visited Saxony which he often referred to as the flowery hall of paradise.  In the middle of August, he announced an upcoming military expedition to all who resided under his authority and were faithful to Christ.  And, from his pious heart, he unleashed his secret and long-repressed desire to restrain the savagery of that arrogant Boleslav.  At the stated time, an army was collected in Merseburg and finally moved against the enemy although by stealth.  For the army gave the appearance of going to Poland, with shops having been reserved on the Boritz and Neussen, all this that its subsequent change in direction would not be revealed to the enemy buy anyone whose support was only feigned.  Meanwhile, a heavy rain greatly delayed the army’s crossing of the river.  Thenm when one could have least expected it, the king suddenly headed towards Bohemia.  The roaring lion, with his tail following, tried to prevent his arrival by setting archers on a certain height, located in a forest called Miriquidui, from which every approach could be blocked.  Learning of this, the king secretly sent a small number of armored warriors ahead to force a way through the unwilling enemy and prepare an easy pat for those who followed.  One day, as Boleslav was ding, one of our people, a chaplain of Bishop Reinbern [of Kolberg/Kolobrzeg], remarked on the advent of our army.  When Boleslav asked what he had said, he responded: ‘If they could leap like fogs, they could be here now.’  But one thing is certain had divine love not inspired the king and inflamed the other’s arrogance we would not have won this happy victory so readily.”

Chapter 11 [1004]

“The king was aided by the presence of the exiled Jaromir – his name means ‘firm peace’ – whose hoped-for arrival weakened the resistance of the Bohemian warriors.  Their advice and wish allowed the king to proceed and, at the entry to that region, a castle was willingly surrendered to him,  The king’s progress was delayed somewhat because the Bavarians had not yet arrived.  When he came to the city called Saaz [on the Eger], the residents opened their doors to him, massacred their Polish garrison, and were thereupon accepted as allies.  The king was disturbed at the sight of so much bloodshed and ordered that the survivors be hidden in a church  One of those present maintained that Boleslav had be been killed by his countrymen.  While the king’s supporters rejoiced in God, the corrupt supporters of the false duke were saddened.  The latter secretly murmured among themselves and spread this falsehood from their unjust hearts: if the king were ever to feel completely secure, they would be as nothing, and would have to suffer much harm from him.  Because of this, as fire hiding under the cinders, on this campaign and quite often afterwards, they preferred the enemy of all the faithful to their king.  They were worse than brute animals and did not know that God, the uncreated father who watches from on high, would reach down from heaven to rescue his early vicar from their wickedness.”

Chapter 12 [1004]

“Then, at the king’s order, Jaromir was sent ahead with our best warriors and with his local supporters to capture or kill the venomous serpent at Prague.  But among this group were informers who gave a detailed account of the plan to Boleslav ,already quite confident in the face of such danger.  Warned by this message, he made secret preparations.  In the middle of the following night, as he heard bells summoning the people to battle in the nearby burg Wyschegrad, he went out with his best warriors and fled to his homeland.  Sobieslav, a brother of Adalbert, bishop and martyr of Christ, pursued him and was wounded on a bridge.  This gave great joy to his enemies but caused his friends unspeakable sadness.  On the following day, Jaromir arrived.  He received petitioners before the door to the city, confirming rights and granting forgiveness for past offenses.  After being allowed to enter, he wa joyfully installed in his former dignity and, removing his simple clothing, put on more costly garments.  His warriors presented him with whatever booty had been seized as their enemies fled or were killed.  Delighted with the many gifts, he was then led to Wyscherad where his rulership was acclaimed and he promised both the king’s favour and a long-desired reward to those who had persevered with him until this point.  From all sides, a huge crowd of both lesser and greater men gathered both to seek the new duke’s favour and to await the glorious king’s arrival.  When the king finally arrived he was received by Bishop Thieddeg and Duke Jaromir and led to the church of Saint George, amid the rejoicing of the clergy and people.  Then, before an assembly of the entire populace, the king immediately honoured Jaromir by bestowing upon him the rights held by his father.”

Chapter 13 [1004]

“While in Prague, the king wished to celebrate the birth of the holy Mother of God which the whole world celebrates [8 September].  Hence, he ordered Gottschalk, venerable pastor of the church of Freising – true to his name!* – to sing the mass an instruct the people, permission for this having been given by the bishop of that place…”

* note: “His name means ‘servant of God.'”

Chapter 14 [1004]

“After everything had been taken care of at Prague, the king sent the Bavarians home.  In the company of the new duke of the Bohemians, he then invaded the nearby lands of the Milzeni, making his way by an unspeakably difficult march, and besieged the burg Bautzen [Budisin].  One day, while encouraging his faithful to attack, the king would have been injured by an arrow shot from the ramparts had divine providence not protected him.  Instead, the arrow injured someone standing very close to him, thereby fulfilling the enemy’s goal with another.  The king humbly raised his heart and offered praise to God who had once again bestowed his love and protection upon him, despite his unworthiness.  As for the aforementioned burg, fires had been set all around it and it would have gone up in flames if Margrave Gunzelin had not hindered this through a most unfortunate command.”

Chapter 15 [1004]

“Many were wounded on both sides and some were killed.  On our side, Hemuzo, a warrior noble in lineage and vigorous in manner, had repeatedly provoked the occupants and pursued them almost to the walls, but he was killed when half of a millstone struck his helmeted head.  The jeering enemy dragged his corpse into the burg.  Count Henry, my brother, who was his vassal, ransomed his body and returned it to his homeland.  Another warrior, called ‘wild Tommo’ because of his constant pursuit of wild game, was vigorously resisting the enemy on the river Spree when the wet rocks caused him to slip.  Alas, though protected for a long time by the best of armour, he finally died from a wound.  While trying to prevent him from being dragged away, one of his retainers was stabbed from above by a spear and killed.  Now, when the suffering of war was almost over, Boleslav sent a messenger who arranged for the burg to be surrendered to the king in return for the lives of the defenders.  It was then secured with a new garrison.  After this, the king returned home with his army which was exhausted by the journey and lack of food.  Wherever necessary, he supported the margraves with the usual reinforcements.”

Chapter 16 [1004]

“While in Mersburg, where he indulged in some long-sought rest, he learned that the venerable Count Esiko had died in Lübschtz after a long illness…”

Chapter 19 [1005]

“The king attacked the Frisians with a fleet forcing them to cease their defiant behaviour and placate the fury of the queen’s sister, Liudgard.  In the palace and in all the countships of his realm, and under the royal ban, he announced an expedition against Poland, naming Leitzkau* as the place of assembly.  The army was assembled there at the proper time, that is 16 August.  The king was celebrating the feast of the Assumption of the Mother of God at Magdeburg [15 August].  Following the completion of his liturgical and charitable obligations, he crossed the Elbe on the same day as the army, with the queen accompanying him.”

* This is the formerly Slavic (Morziani tribe of the Liutici/Veleti confederation) town of Liezka.

Chapter 22 [1005]

“After putting the army in order, the king set forth.  The queen quickly retraced her steps and anxiously a waitered her beloved lord’s return in Saxony.  Our army arrived at a place called Dobrilugk, in the region of Lausitz, where it was strengthened by the forces of Dukes Henry and Jaromir.  The dukes lifted the army’s spirits and fortified it with their good council and bravery.  Traitorous leaders, intent on preserving their own property, led the army through wastelands and swamps where it was much oppressed and, in their evil spitefulness, they prevented it from quickly attacking the enemy.  After reaching the region called Neiss, a camp was set up next to the river Spree.  There, the celebrated warrior Thiedbern learned that the enemy was preparing an ambush.  Desiring to gain the highest praise for himself, he gathered the best of his comrades and tried to trap the enemy by stealth.  But their enemies were very careful.  That they might better hurt pursuers they fled among the thickness of the fallen trees and, as usual, shot the arrows which were their best offensive weapon.  Thus, on 6 September, they were able to kill and despoil any who were careless: chiefly Thiedbern, and then Bernhard, Isi, and Benno, illustrious retainers of Bishop Arnulf, as well as many other warriors.  The king and his entire entourage took the loss very hard and, so credible witnesses report, Boleslav also grieved.”

[* note: We’ve already discussed Thietmar’s Liutizi religious passages here but we include all of them again, this time in David Warner’s translation.]

“After this, the Liutizi joined us.  They came, with images of their gods preceding them, on the day before we were to have arrived at the river Oder.”

Chapter 23 [1005]

“Although I shudder to say anything about them, nevertheless, in order that you, dear reader, may better understand the vain superstition and meaningless worship of this people, I will briefly explain who they are and from whence they have come.  In the region of the Redrarii, there is a burg called Riedegost which has three corners and three doors.  It is surrounded everywhere by a great forest which the inhabitants hold to be inviolable and holy.  Two of its doors offer entry to all.  The third door faces the east and is the smallest.  It opens on to a path leading to a lie that is located nearby and is utterly dreadful in appearance.  In the burg, there is nothing other than a skillfully made wooden shrine supported on a foundation composed of the horns of different types of animals.  Marvellous sculpted images of gods and goddesses adorn its outer walls, so it seems to the observer.  Inside, stand gods made by human hands, each with a nam inscribed and frightfully clothed with helmets and armour.  Among them, Swarozyc occupies the first place and all the heathens honour and worship him above the others.  Their banners may never be removed from this place except in time of war an then only by warriors on foot.”

Chapter 24 [1005]

“To carefully protect this shrine, the inhabitants have instituted special priests. When they convene there to offer sacrifices to the idols or assuage their anger, these priests sit while everyone else stands.  Murmuring together in secret, they tremble and dig in the earth so that, after casting lots, they may acquire certainty in regard to any questionable matters.  When this is finished, they cover the lots with green grass and, after placing two spears crosswise on the ground, humbly lead over them a horse which they believe to be the largest of all and venerate as sacred.  That which the casting of lots had already revealed to them, should also be foretold by this almost divine beast.  If the same omen appears in both cases, it is carried out in fact. Otherwise, the unhappy folk immediately reject it.  An ancient but equally false tradition also testifies that, if the harsh savagery of a long period of internal warfare is imminent, a great boar whose teeth are white and glistening with foam will emerge from that same lake and appear to many witnesses while happily disporting itself in the mire with a terrible shaking.”

Chapter 25 [1005]

“Each region of this land has a temple and a special idol which is worshipped by these unbelievers, but the burg mentioned above has precedence over all.  When going to war, they depart from here and, if they return victorious, they honour the place with appropriate gifts.  Just as i have mentioned, they carefully inquire, by casting lots and consulting the horse, what their priests should offer to their gods.  Their unspeakable fury is mitigated by the blood of human beings and animals. There is no individual lord who presides over all of these people who are collectively referred to as Liutizi.  When important issues are discussed at an assembly, there must be unanimous agreement before any action can be undertaken. If one of their countermen opposes such a decision during an assembly, he is beatern with rods.  If outside the assembly, and openly, he must either lose everything through burning an immediate confiscation, or he must come before that body and, in accordance with his status, pay compensation for his sin.  These unbelieving and fickle people nonetheless demand reliability and great loyalty from others.  They make peace by offering hair cut from the top of their heads and grass, and by joining their right hands, but the desire for riches will easily move them to violate it.  Such warriors, once our servants, now free because of our wickedness, came with their gods for the purpose of supporting the king.  Dear reader, avoid both their society and their cult!  Rather, hear and obey the mandates of divine scripture! If you learn and commit to memory the faith declared by Bishop Athanasius, the things that I have recounted above will rightly appear meaningless to you.”

Chapter 26 [1005]

“From there, under unequal leaders, the dissimilar bands advanced to the river Oder and set up their tents next to a stream called Bober in Slavic, but Castor in Latin.  Having fortified the banks of the river, Boleslav waited at Krossen with a large army, seeking at all costs to prevent a crossing.  The king delayed there for sven days and had boats and bridges constructed, but then, divine province revealed an excellent ford to the scouts he had sent out.  At the king’s order, six war bands entered the river there at dawn and came across safely.  Boleslav’s guards observed this from a distance and quickly sent the sad and incredible message to their lord.  After three or more scouts had assured him that his was true, he quickly dismantled his camp and fled, along with his army, leaving much behind.  After carefully observing  this, at the head of his army, the king joined the clergy and people in chanting praises to God, and safely crossed the river.  If we had not waited for the long-hesitating Liutizi, those who preceded could have surprised and overpowered their enemies while stil in their tents.  Although our forces pursued the enemy vigorously, they fled like deer and could not be caught.  Hence, our warriors returned to their comrades.”

Chapter 27 [1005]

“From here the king moved on to the abbey called Meseritz where he was able to celebrate the annual feast of the Theban legion with the greatest veneration [22 September].  He also took strong measures to prevent his forces from inflicting any damage on the church or the residences of the absent monks.  The enemy did not dare to spend the night in any of their burgs as the king pursued them, wasting everything in his path and stopping barely to miles from the burg Poznan at the request of hies leading men.  Nevertheless, when the army scattered to gather food and other necessities, it suffered heavy losses from the enemy’s ambushes.  Meanwhile, Boleslav sought the king’s favour through trustworthy intermediaries and it was immediately granted.  At Boleslav’s request, Arhcbishop Tagino and others who are close to the king came to Poznan.  After appropriate compensation and promises had been proffered they concluded a peace agreement.  Our forces, suffering grievously from the long journey, lack of food and general savagery of war, were happy to return home.”

Chapter 28 [1006]

“After this campaign , the king sought to strengthen the wholesome security which our region had long desired by rooting out the authors of iniquity [December 1005-April 1006].  He ordered that his celebrated retainer, Brunkio, be hanged with a rope, at Merseburg.  Along with their followers, Boris and Vezemiskle, leading men among the Slavs, suffered the same fate at Fallersleben. At Werben on the Elbe, the king held frequent meetings with the Slavs during which, whether they wised to or not, he took up issues crucial to the realm and forcefully settled them.  For the safety of the homeland, he restored the previously devastated Arneburg and returned property that had been wrongfully taken from it a long time ago.  Through the judgement of a synod, issued in his presence and by canonical and apostolic authority, he forbade both illegal marriages and there selling of Christians to the heather, ordering that those who rejected the justice of God be destroyed with the spiritual sword.”

Chapter 30 [1007]

“…As he was gradually accumulating everything necessary for the celebration of the divine mysteries, he constantly entreated Bishop Henry of Wuerzburg, one of his familiares, that he might agree to this heartfelt plan and, in return for compensation, surrender parochial rights over that district which is named after the river Regnitz…”

Chapter 33 [1007]

“It is rare tfor the heavens to shine brightly without the shadows of dark clouds following.  Thus, while the king was celebrating Easter at Regensburg, representatives of the Liutizi and the large city of Wollin, and also Duke Jaromir, informed him that BOleslav was trying to instigate a great conspiracy against him and employing both his words and riches to lure them into it [April 6th]. They also told the king that he could no longer rely on their loyal service if he continued to grant Boleslav his peace and favour.  The king carefully considered the situate with his leading men.  After receiving different opinions from them, and accepting their hostile viewpoint, he sent, Boleslav’s own son-in-law, Herman, to announce to the duke that their pact of mutual peace had ended.  Boleslav had learned of this embassy through intermediaries and, though he had previously invited the count to visit, did not accord him a friendly reception.  When he received the king’s message, he made a great effort to justify himself, saying: ‘May Christ, who knows all, be my witness! That which I must do, I do unwillingly!’ Afterwards, he assembled an army and ravaged the district of Moeckern which is located near Magdeburg. Boleslav’s hostility also destroyed the bonds of Christian fraternity which he had previously established with the Magdeburgers.  Then, moving on to the burg called Zerbst, he conquered the occupants with dire threats and sweet encouragement, and led them away with him.  Our forces learned of these events, but were slow to arrive and hesitant in their pursuit.  Archbishop Tagino, their leader, knew about everything ahead of time, but had not made sufficient preparations.  I was also with him.  When we had all arrived at the place called Jueterbog, the wisest were of the opinion that pursuit of the enemy with such a small force would not be advisable and so, we returned.”

Chapter 34 [1007]

“Nevertheless, Boleslav then occupied Lausitz, Sorau, and Selpuli.  Not long afterwards, this wicked father-in-law also besieged the burg Bautzen which was defended by a garrison provided by Margrave Herman.  Through messengers, he urged the occupants to surrender this burg to him without a fight, noting that they could hope for no rescue from their lord.  A truce was arranged on the seventh day.  While Boleslav prepared for a n assault, the besieged sent a messenger, to humbly ask for help from their lord and from the leading men of the realm, with the promise that they would resist the enemy for another seven days.  Margrave Herman came to Magdeburg where he approached Walthard, who was then provost, and sent messengers to summon each of the leading men individually.  He complained bitterly about their sluggish response and sent messhegers to reassure his own milites. The latter had suffered much from Boleslav’s constant attacks which they had resisted both long and vigorously.  When they saw that some of their comrades were wavering, however, and that their lord still had not freed them, they arranged with the duke to had over the burg in return for permission to leave with all their possessions.  In sorrow, they returned to their homeland.”

Chapter 49 [1009]

“Meanwhile, Count Dedi brought great shame upon my cousin through his words and deeds and, in so doing, reawakened an evil that he thought long forgotten.  For with his advice and aid the burg of Werner’s father, our Wolmirstedt – it is called Ustiure in Slavic, because Ohre and Elbe flow together here – had been burned down and pillaged.  All of this roused the spirit of the excellent young man’s heart. Thus, when he learned for certain that Dedi was riding out of the burg Tangermuende, so called because there the river Tanger flows into the Elbe, he want after him, taking only brother Frederick and no more than twenty armed men.  He caught up with Dedi near the village of Mose, on a high plain that permitted one to see very far.  He attacked vigorously, and immediately note than forty of his enemy’s allies fled, leaving Dedi and his retainer, Egilard to die, despite their valiant resistance.  After this, Werner justly lost that which he had previously come close to losing unjustly through Dedi’s slander.

Chapter 50 [1009]

If you wish to hear of Dedi’s origins you should know that he was of the lineage of the Bukkonen and his father was Dietrich. From childhood he serve dMargrave Rikdag, who was a relative, and distinguished himself through both his spiritual and physical excellence.  As I have mention,d he also led the rebellious Bohemians against us at the church of Zeitz [see book 3, 18]. Ranging far and wide with them, he brought devastation to the land and wen t so far as to capture his own mother, including her among the booty as if he were her enemy rather than her son.  After this, he made his peace with King Otto III and quickly aimed his favour and trust. Meanhile, Count Bio of Merseburg died during a  military expedition.  Through Archbusio Giselher’s influence, Bio’s country, which lay between the Wipper, Saale, Salza and WIlderbach, was ceded to Dedi.  For himself and his brother Frederick, Dedi also obtained the fortress district of Zoerbig that his ancestors had possessed as a benefice…”

Chapter 51 [1009]

“In those days, Bishop Dietrich of Metz and his brother, Duke Henry, along with other conspirators, were a source of great annoyance to the king and his supporters [July-August].  Nevertheless, Dietrich also brought irreparable harm upon himself and his successors.  For the Slavs, who have no fear of God, pillaged both a church located outside the city of Metz and the congregation that served it.  The king compensated for most of the damage through oaths and from his own property, and ordered all of his warriors to take care that such an incident did not occur again.  They had destroyed vineyards, building, grain, and other useful things.  Not long afterwards, I saw a letter which stated that hunger and need had forced eight hundred dependents of Saint Stephen to flee their homeland, without the permission of their superiors.  The letter did not mention those who had been given permission to leave.  It would have been better for this church if that man had never been born [Dietrich].”

Chapter 53 [1009]

“Meanwhile, Count Herman and Margrave Gunzelin were feuding, but did battle with each other in a manner unusual for our region.  For after vainly trying to conquer the burg Strehla, which was guarded by Herman’s millites, Gunzelin turned his attention to the burg Rochlitz, located next to the river Mulde and not well guarded, and had it burned to the ground…”

Chapter 54 [1009]

“After this incident came to the king’s attention, he immediately hurried to Merseburg inn order to suds it more carefully, There, after listening to the statements of the two counts, he assigned all the blame to Gunzelin. The latter having disregarded the king on many occasions in the past, should not have expected him to avenge his present disgrace.  The king added that he had received more than a few complaints from people that Gunzelin had sold their dependents to the Jews.  Gunzelin had shown no inclination either to order their return or to restrain the banditry which he himself had instigated to the detriment of so many.  It was also noted that he enjoyed more avour with his brother-in-law, Boleslav Chrobry, than was appropriate for him or acceptable to the king.  Among those present were some who personally wished to accuse Gunzelin of treason.  The king then asked the leading men to give their collective opinion regarding the many complaints and also to assess the justification suggested by Gunzelin and his supporters.  After deliberating in private for a long time, they offered the following response.  We recognize that this man’s behaviour towards you is not inexcusable.  It is our opinion that he should submit himself unconditionally to your mercy.  You, however, following the admonitions of our most merciful God, should provide an example to all who might wish to turn to you, namely by displaying that mercy of which you possess an abundant supply and by rejecting the model of behaviour that he himself has followed.  Concurring with this opinion, the king received Gunzelin and placed him in the secure custody of Bishop Arnulf.  He provided for the continued protection of Meissen against enemy attacks and placed it temporarily in the care of Frederick.  The following autumn, on the recommendation of the queen and instigation of his dear Tagino, and also with the advice and agreement of the same leading men, he gave the march to Count Herman.”

Chapter 55 [1009]

“Meanwhile, it was the turn of Count Brun, the brother of Gunzelin, to guard the previously mentioned burg Meissen.  And behold, the day before Count Herman was to arrive at the burg that had been promised to him, a large band of Poles crossed the Elbe at dan and silently approached its entrance.  Because the warriors were in place, however, the invaders found no easy way to enter and so they returned sadly though unfortunately without injury.  As it turned out, the leaders of the incursion were two Withasen from the suburb [see book 5, chapter 9]. They rightly paid for their presumption with their own blood.  Boleslav awaited them at Bautzen, suspended between hope and fear.  When he saw his people arriving, he took the loss very seriously.  After this, Count Herman was installed by a representative of the king and thereupon repaid his debtors whatever they had given him, affirming this with his right hand.”

Chapter 56 [1009]

“During this summer and the winter following, the king made peace with his enemies, thereby following both good advice and his own inclination.  His thoughts turned constantly, moreover, to the shame and injury that Boleslav had inflicted upon him.  Accordingly, after Easter, he issued a ferocious order indicating that an expedition was to be undertaken.  The army was to assemble on Margrave Gero’s lands at Belgern, which means ‘beautiful mountain.’* Then Duke Bernhard and and Provost Walthard went  ahead to see if they could bring Boleslav to his senses.  Finding nothing there that pleased them, they returned. Among those who came to Belgern was Jaromir, the illustrious duke of the Bohemians and a faithful supporter of the king. I also cannot omit the great misfortune that befell the margrave.  All of us – and I exclude no one -acted as though we were Gero’s enemies rather than his friends. With the sole exception of his dependants, we destroyed everything, much of it by fire.  The king did not seek revenge for this offence, nor did he offer protection.”

* note: Alt-Belgern.  The expedition took place between the middle of August and the end of September, 1010 (BG 1735a). Bel-gern is the Germanized versions of Biała Góra (White or Pretty (Bela) Mountain).

Chapter 57 [1010]

“From Belgern, we went to the district of Lausitz.  The burg Gehren is located att he entrance of this district and takes its name from Margrave Gero.  As Gero was a large man, he was called Gero ‘the great’.  At Gheren two brothers from the burg Brandenburg, in the district of the Heveli, were captured.  They had sought out Boleslav in order to provoke his animosity against the king. When they left, however, they were snared in the trap which they themselves had secretly prepared. After being questioned about many things, and behaving indicated their unwillingness to provide any answers, both were killed by being hanged from the same height.  At the is point, both the king and h dear Tagino became ill.  This caused the leading men anxiously to consider what should be done in regard to the expedition that had just begun.  Finally, they decided that the king should return, along with certain of the bishops and everyone else who had taken ill. Bishops Arnulf and Meinwerk, Duke Jaromir, Margrave Gero, Herman, and several others were to pillage the districts of Silesia and Diadesi.  And so it was done.”

Chapter 58 [1010]

“Together and fully armed, these lords passed by the burg Glogow where Boleslav himself was residing and could see them.  This aroused the spirits of his warriors who were watching from the walls.  Addressing their duke, they asked why he suffered such an outrage and requested permission to do battle.  Boleslav answer them in the following way: ‘The army you see may be small in numbers, but it is great in courage and its warriors have been specially selected.  If I were to attack them, regardless of whether I won or lost, I would be weakened in the future.  The king can always raise another army.  It is much better for us to endure this now and find some other occasion to attack their arrogance, if possible, without much harm to ourselves.’ Thus he calmed the insolent spirits of his warrior.  During this campaign, his wish to do us harm remained unfulfilled.  Although frequently delayed by rain, our forced inflicted much damage on the enemy.  Finally, after pillaging far and wide, the Bohemians went back to their homeland and our forces happily returned to the Elbe, through the lands of the Milzeni.  Messengers were sent ahead to inform the king of our success and imminent return.  By the grace of God, the king was again healthy and happily received both the messengers and those who followed, at Merseburg.  Archbishop Tagino had separated from the king at Strehla.  He rejoined him after his own health returned, and after he had celebrated the feast of try Thebas at Magdeburg [September 22].”

Chapter 59 [1011/1012]

“After deliberating on many issues of pressing concern to our troubled homeland, the king again visited the western regions and subdued the fickle minds of the inhabitants with the bridle of wisdom.  He happily celebrated the feast of the birth of the Lord at Poehlde. Afterwards, he again visited dear Merseburg where he established a mutual pace for five years. On the advice of a few, he ordered that the burg Lebusa be rebuilt and strengthened.  Alas, in the same year, the outcome that many predicted would follow the king’s order actually did occur.  We went to Lebusa at the end of January and celebrated the feast of the Purification of the holy Mother go God February 2]. Our assigned task was accomplished  in fourteen days and, after securing the place with a  garrison, we departed.  Near by and to the north was another burg which was separated from the first only by a single valley.  This burg had twelve door.  I surveyed it with great diligence and decided, on the authority of Lucan, that it was a large Roman structure and the work of Julius Caesar.* It could have held more than ten thousand men.  The smaller structure, which we had just restored, had been empty since the time of King Henry [see book 1, chapter 16]. After I have recounted the events that occurred in the meantime, I will explain the tearful fate that quickly befell this place.”

“In the previous summer, on August 10, the monastery at Walbeck was destroyed by fire, along with four churches, all of its bells, and with other structures belonging to it.  All of this happened because of my sins.”

* note: Lucan Pharsalia 6.29-65.

Chapter 65 [1012]

“Although nobility of lineage and manner attracted Tagino’s admiration, he did not disdain persons of lesser character, but merely kept them at a distance.  He loved those who worshipped Christ, but persecuted anyone who spurned him, with righteous anger. He carefully tended to everything that God had committed to him, and tried to increase it.  Before celebrating the divine mysteries, he was very serious. Afterwards, however, he smiled and was friendly with everyone.  He frequently sang the Kyrie eleison with his household. For my part, I can scarcely number the many gifts he lovingly bestowed upon me, though I was unworthy of them.  I know only this, that I never responded to him with suitable repayment.  By no means, did I render the obedient service which, during my examination, I had promised to him and to his successors.  For his church, he acquired the burgs Arneburg, Frohse, and Prettin, as well as an estate formerly belonging to Count Esiko.  The episcopal vestments he acquired were splendid and rich.  As I have already mentioned, this column of the church stood for eight years, four months, and eight days before it fell, at least in terms of this world. Nevertheless, it will stand of ever in the invisible temple of the Lord, to which it has been removed.  Unger, pastor of the monastery at Poznań, died on the same day, in the thirtieth year after his ordination [June 9].  What has been said here will suffice, and I can now return to my original theme.”

Chapter 67 [1012]

“… Furthermore since he [the king] wished to launch another attack on his brothers-n-law, he asked those of his leading men who were present how matters stood in their campaign against Boleslav.  The king committed the entire issue to the care of the newly installed bishop [Walthard?], along with all of his property in Saxony.  On the same day, we all departed fro home [June 15].”

Chapter 68 [1012]

“The following Saturday, at the king’s command, Bishop Arnulf enthroned Archbishop Walthard at Magdeburg, where both were received with honour and great joy [June 21].  The following day, Walthard was anointed by the venerable Eid, third bishop of the church of Meissen, with help from his fellow bishops, Wigo, Hildeward, and Erich [June 22].  I assisted as well, though most unworthy, and we were aided by Bishop Arnulf…”

Chapter 69 [1012]

“Meanwhile, at the request of messenger sent by Boleslav, Walthard went to Zuetzen for the purpose of making peace,  He was accorded a magnificent reception  and remained there for two nights. He returned, having accomplished nothing, but richly rewarded with gifts. Soon it was July 24, the day on which the prosed military campaign was supposed to begin.,  We assembled at the village of Schrenz, and from there moved towards Belgern.  Meanwhile, the leading men decided that it would be better to secure the march with troops rather than proceed any farther.  During the following night, the archbishop suffered from severe headaches [August 2].  In the morning, I tried to visit him, and had to wait for a long time as he lingered in his tent.  When he finally came out, he complained that he was in great pain, but noted his plans to visit the queen, then residing in Merseburg, and promised to speak with me there.  After I departed, Walthard celebrated the mass, though previously disinclined to do so, because it was the feast of the first martyr of Christ as well as a Sunday [August 3].  Unfortunately, it was the last time he would perform this task.”

Chapter 71 [1012]

“On Tuesday, before prime, I visited Walthard again [August 12].  This time, Bishop Eid was present and continually offered prayers for him.  When I had entered the chamber in which that pious man lay, I no longer heard him speaking and realized that he was no longer entirely conscious.  While he still lived, bishops Arnulf, Hildeward, Meinwerk, and Erich arrived and, together, offered him their blessing and absolution.  I, though a sinner, anointed the most painful spots with consecrated oil.  Duke Jaromir was also present.  On Holy Saturday prior to the most recent celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection, his brother an retainer, Ulrich, completely unmindful of his debt, had expelled him from the kingdom oft he Bohemians [April 12].  The duke then tried to flee to Boleslav who, though close in terms of blood relations, had hitherto treated him as an enemy.*  Jaromir had hoped that Walthard’s intercession would allow him to obtain the king’s favour, knowing that he was helpful to all in need and expecting to fin him healthy.  When he saw how Walthard had declined, however, he tearfully sought to commend himself to his care, and thereby to ours as well.  As for the archbishop, I do not know what he say to his left, but as his end approached, he protected himself by vigorously making the sign of the cross with his right hand.  Then, with body and face turned, his face contracted as though he was about to cry, but soon relaxed and seemed happy.”

[*note: Boleslav and Jaromir were cousins as the latter’s father (Boleslav II of Bohemoa) was the brother of Dobrawa, the Polish duke’s mother (Thietmar, Book IV, chapters 55-56)].

Chapter 79 [1012]

“I was on guard duty at Meissen when that venerable man appeared to me, on the feast day of the Apostles Simon and Jude, just after matins [October 28].  Since I knew the dead man well, I immediately asked how things were with him… [Thietmar describes his encounter with the ghost of Walthard…]”

Chapter 80 [1012]

“Upon learning of the archbishop’s death, Boleslav [Chrobry] assembled an army and attacked Lebusa.  He even set up camp there, knowing that the flood waters of the Elbe would prevent us from coming to its aid.  His warriors approached, eager for battle, but encountered little resistance from the defenders.  No more than once thousand men defended this burg although three times that number would have barely sufficed. While sitting at his morning meal Boleslav watched as his victorious followers joyfully entered the burg.  The door was opened and the blood of many was spilled.  Among the most prestigious captives were Gunzelin, Wiso, and Isich, the commander of the burg, who had also been wounded.  For whatever reason, the burg had been entrusted to Isich’s protection, but he had finally lost it, not through cowardice but through wretched misfortune.  All of these men were brought before their proud conqueror who immediately ordered that they be taken away and carefully guarded.  Among the duke’s followers, no fewer than five hundred remained on the field of battle.  This miserable slaughter took place on August 20.*”

“After the booty had been divided and the burg set afire, the victorious army departed for home, amid much rejoicing, and accompanied by its lord.”

[*note: the large number of casualties is also noted in the necrology at Merseburg (NMer., 20 August, 5r, p. 11).]

Chapter 83 [1012]

“Meanwhile, Jaromir, of whom I spoke, humbly sought the king’s favour.  Instead of mercy and restitution, however, he found exile and imprisonment with Bishop Adalbold, Bishop Ansfrid’s successor.  Such punishment was due to Jaromirfor having slaughtered the Bavarians as they were bringing gifts to Boleslav, and for having killed persons entrusted to his care, but not because of any disloyalty to the king. Our enemies made sport of us when they heard the news, but our countrymen feared that it would not be to their advantage.  Those who gave such advice to our king should themselves experience the results of this deed.  After this, at the king’s invitation, Jaromir’s brother, Ulrich, came to Merseburg.  There, the kingdom he had unlawfully seized was willingly conveyed to him as a gift.  At the same time, alas, there was much destruction due to flooding, the result of frequent downpours, and an invasion of pirates.  With the Danube flooding in Bavaria, and the waters of the Rhine covering the land, an unspeakable number of people, cattle, and houses were destroyed.  Indeed, the force of the flood uprooted a large number of trees.  The inhabitants of these regions asserted that neither they nor their ancestors had ever experienced such a thing.  Lamenting that this had occurred because of their many sins, they feared that something worse was still to come.  Yet, after this long digression, I should return to my theme.

Chapter 89 [1013]

“Meanwhile, the king departed from Allstedt where he had celebrated the Lord’s epiphany [January 6] and had received messengers from Boleslav who asked for a truce and promised that Miesco, Boleslav’s son, would confirm it.  Then, the king came to Merseburg, where he learned of Archbishop Liawizo’s death…”

Chapter 90 [1013]

“After a few days, Boleslav’s son Miesco [II], arrived bearing splendid gifts.  He became the king’s man and swore an oath of loyalty to him.  Then, he was sent off with great honour and satisfaction so that he would come again.  In those days, after sundown, a great storm raged and greatly disturbed all of us.  Indeed, it destroyed a church, located outside the city, which had been constructed of red wood during the reign of the first Otto.  A fire also destroyed much of the archbishop’s property.  Furthermore, it came to the king’s attention that my cousin Werner, and Ekkehard, the brother of Margrave Herman, had visited Boleslav without permission and said many things contrary to the king’s favour.  Here, in our homeland, they had secretly received Boleslav’s messengers.  The king took all of this very seriously and ordered both men to appear before him.  When they did not dare to comply, all their property was confiscated and they were declared guilty of resisting the king’s power.  Nevertheless, by offering land and gold, my cousin managed to regain both the king’s favour and the right to remain within the realm.  Ekkehard was only restored to grace much later, through faithful intercession.  In that same year, on March 18, the hermit Wonlef died.  He was a true Israelite [John 1:47].”

Chapter 91 [1013]

“During the following Lent, the king came to Werla where he suffered from an extended attack of colic and had visions in which many things were revealed to him.  Finally, through the tears and prayers of many, he recovered his health.  There was no longer enough time for him to reach his intended destination.  Hence, he celebrated the paschal feast at Paderborn, with appropriate solemnity, in the company of Meinwerk with whom he was very close [April 5]. He spent Pentecost with us [May 24].  Boleslav arrived on the vigil of this feast, having left hostages at home to guarantee his safety [May 23].  He was accorded the best reception.  On the feast day itself, he commended himself into the king’s hands and became his man.  After swearing an oath, Boleslav acted as the king’s arms-bearer as he processed to the church while wearing the crown.  On Monday, he appeased the king by bestowing magnificent gifts that came not only from him, but also from his wife.  He received much better and more through the king’s largesse, and also obtained the long-desired benefice.  His hostages were thereupon released, with honour, and in a friendly manner.  Afterwards, with our help, he attacked Russia and laid waste to a good part of its territory.  When a fight broke out between his own people and the generally hospitable Petchenegs, he ordered all of the latter to be slaughtered, even though they had supported him…”

Chapter 92

“While traveling in the regions to the west, the king made preparations for his trip to Lombardy and returned again to us.  From thence, on September 21, he set forth for the place called [lacuna], hastening through the lands of the Bavarians and Swabians.  From all directions, the army conveyed on this place and duly expressed its desire to render assistance.  Without a hint of anxiety, the king then went on to Rome.  The queen accompanied him.  Although his support for this trip had already been requested, Boleslav did nothing and, as usual, was revealed as a liar despite this attractive promises.  Morevover, in a letter to the pope, he complained that the king’s secret plots prevented him from paying true tax he had promised to Saint Peter, Prince of the Apostles.  Then, he sent spies to find out how the king was held in these parts and, wherever possible, lure men away from his favour.  Thus did he show his respect for God, and this did he seek the intervention of pious men!  So firm was the faith of the celebrated warrior and so did he observe his terrible oaths! Observe, dear reader, how the king acted in the course of so many shameful acts.  If he either recognized that he had greatly sinned or knew of any justifiable complaint against him, he ordered the canons to be placed before him so that he could discover how this sin ought to be emended.  Then, in accordance with those writings, he immediately set about correcting whatever crime had been committed.  Nevertheless, he is still more inclined to sin recklessly than to remain in salutary penance.”

Chapter 93

“Arduin, Boleslav’s equal and virtual colleague, falsely called king by the Lombards, was aggrieved at the arrival of the great king and at the power of his army.  Having no confidence in the ability of his own forces to do battle with them, however, he immediately withdrew to the protection of a burg…”

Chapter 94 [1004?]

“Before I take up these matters, however, Iwill add to my text a few things that were omitted owing to my forgetfulness…”

“Not long afterwards, however, he [Brun] left the king’s service to pursue a life of solitude and lived by his own labours. Following the death of that most glorious emperor [Otto III], when Henry II ruled by the grace of God, Brun came to Mersebur, with the pope’s permission, to ask for the office of bishop.  At the pope’s command, he was consecrated by Archbishop Tagino and also received the pallium which he had brought with him [August or November 1004]. Then, for the profit of his soul, he took upon himself the labour of a long and wide-ranging trip, while constantly chastising his body with fasts and torturing it with vigils.  He received many gifts from Boleslav and other wealthy people , but quickly divided them among churches, his companions, and the poor, retaining nothing for himself.”

Chapter 95

“In the twelfth year of his most excellent conversion, Brun travelled to Prussia.  He hoped to make this sterile land bear fruit by sowing a divine seed, but could not easily soften that horrid place, bristling with thorns.  Later, while he was trying to preach near the border between this land and Russia, the residents first forbade him to do so, and then when he continued evangelizing, seized him.  For the love of Christ, the head of the church, Brunn was himself beheaded on February 14*, meek as a lamb, and accompanied by his eighteen companions.  The bodies of so many martyrs remained unburied until Boleslav, being informed of this, ransomed them and thereby secured the solace of his hour for the future.  These events occurred in the time of that most serene King Henry.  Through the triumph of such a great bishop, omnipotent God had both honoured and, as I hope, saved him.  Much later, the bishop’s father became ill and, as he himself told me, was advised by his son to receive the habit of a monk. He slept in peace on October 19.”

[* note: probably March 9 as per AQ and translator]

Chapter 99 [1014]

“Here I must add that Duke Ulrich of the Bohemians, whose name means ‘mammon of iniquity’, ordered that his celebrated warrior, Boso, be put to death along with manny others.  He did this because he had heard false rumors that they were giving aid to his exiled brother.  From these murders, all should carefully learn ho to protect themselves in the future.  Because of blind ambition, that which the Lord strongly orders to be observed, in both testaments, cannot be fulfilled in those regions.  Ulrich feared his brother, though he should shave loved him above all, and wwas always concerned to keep hint at a distance.  At one time, during the reign of Duke Swentepolk, the Bohemians were our rulers.  Indeed, our ancestors paid an annual tribute to the duke and he had bishops in his land, who is called Moravia.  He and his successors lost all of  this because of their excessive pride since, as the gospel testifies, humility always increases while the height of arrogance declines.  Without the greatest fear, no one can rule in those lands.  Falsehood reigns there, in alliance with receipt, and pure love laments an outcast.”

Copyright ©2017 All Rights Reserved

September 29, 2017

Thietmar (Book VIII)

Published Post author

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

What Widukind’s “Deeds of the Saxons” Has to Say Regarding the Slavs – Part II

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After this first part, here we continue with the work of Widukind of Corvey – Res Gestae Saxonicae – and its discussion of the Ottonian dynasty’s Henry I (919-936) and Otto I (936-973).  Our focus, of course, is on the book’s mentions of the Slavs.  This part brings together all the mentions of the Slavs from Books II and III.  Again, this comes from the David and Bernard Bachrach translation.


Book II

3. Regarding the war undertaken against Boleslav.

“In the meantime, the barbarians were raging to stir up new troubles, and Boleslav killed his brother, a Christian man and, as they say, most devout in the cultivation of God.  Boleslav feared having a minor prince nearby who followed the orders of the Saxons, and so waged war against him.  So the latter sent a messenger to Saxony to ask for aid.  Asik was dispatched to him along with the legion of Merseburgers, and a strong force of men from Hassegau.  The Thuringian expeditionary levy also was added to Asik’s force.  The unit from Merseburg was recruited from thieves.  King Henry was quite severe with foreigners, but showed mercy to his countrymen in all cases.  When he saw that a thief or highwayman was strong and syuted to war, Henry spared the man from punishment that was due, and settled him in a suburb of Merseburg.  He gave them fields and arms and ordered them to spare their country men.  However, they were to exercise their thievery against the barbarians as much as they dared.  When a large number of men of this type had been gathered, Henry created a legion that was fully prepared to go on campaign.”

Interea barbari ad novas res moliendas desaeviunt, percussitque Bolizlav fratrem suum, virum Christianum et, ut ferunt, Dei cultura religiosissimum, timensque sibi vicinum subregulum, eo quod paruisset imperiis Saxonum, indixit ei bellum. Qui misit in Saxoniam ad expostulanda sibi auxilia. Mittitur autem ei Asic cum legione Mesaburiorum et valida manu Hassiganorum, additurque ei exercitus Thuringorum. Erat namque illa legio collecta ex latronibus. Rex quippe Heinricus cum esset satis severus extraneis, in omnibus causis erat clemens civibus; unde quemcumque videbat furum aut latronum manu fortem et bellis aptum, a debita poena ei parcebat, collocans in suburbano Mesaburiorum, datis agris atque armis, iussit civibus quidem parcere, in barbaros autem in quantum auderent latrocinia exercerent.  Huiuscemodi ergo hominum collecta multitudo plenam in expeditionem produxit legionem.

“When Boleslav learned of the Saxon army and that the Saxons and Thuringians were marching against him separately, he decided, since he was a very good tactician, to divide his own forces and position them to oppose each of the armies.  The Thuringians, when they saw the unsuspected approach of th enemy, avoided danger in flight.  However, Asik, with his Saxons and other support troops, did not delay at all his attack on the enemy, and killed the greater part of them in battle.  He forced the remainder to flee, and returned to his camp as a victor.  But Asik was unaware of the army that had pursued the Thuringians, and did not use caution after his victory.”

Bolizlav autem audiens de exercitu Saxonico, et quia Saxones seorsum et seorsum Thuringi irent contra se, divisis et ipse sociis, sicuti erat acerrimus consilio, utroque exercitui occurrere disposuit. At Thuringi, ut hostes inprovise sibi occursitare viderunt, fuga periculum devitaverunt. Asic autem cum Saxonibus et caeteris auxiliariis nichil cunctatus in hostes ruit maximamque partem ex eis armis fudit, caeteros fugere conpulit, victorque ad castra reversus est. Et cum ignorasset de exercitu, qui insecutus fuerat Thuringos, minus caute usus est victoria perpetrata.

“When Boleslav saw that our army was dispersed, with some men taking spoils from the dears, and others resting, and still others busy gathering hay for their horses, he brought together in a single army the forces that had returned and those that had fled.  Boleslav killed the commander [Asik] and destroyed the entire army.  Then, Boleslav marched to the stronghold of the minor prince, captured it in the first assault, and turned it into a wilderness, which it remains to this day.  This war lasted until the fourteenth year of the king’s reign [950].  After this point, Boleslav became a faithful and useful dependent of the king.”

Bolizlav autem videns exercitum nostrum dispersum et alios in extrahendis spoliis caesorum, alios in suis corporibus reficiendis, alios in paleis equorum congregandis occupatos, fugatum reversumque coadunans exercitum, super inprovisos ac recenti victoria securos subito irruit et ducem cum omni nostro exercitu delevit. Pergensque inde ad urbem subreguli primo eam inpetu cepit et usque in hodier num diem solitudinem fecit. Perduravitque illud bellum usque ad quartum decimum regis imperii annum; ex eo regi fidelis servus et utilis permansit.

4. Regarding the king’s campaign against the barbarian nations.

“The king was little disturbed when he received word from a messenger about what had happened.  Rather, fortified by divine strength, he crossed the frontiers of the barbarians to restrain their savagery with his entire army.  Otto’s father had already waged war against them because they had mistreated the legates sent by his son Thankmar, a matter that we plan to discuss more fully below.  The king then decided to establish a new military commander.  He chose for this office a noble, diligent, and quite prudent man named Hermann.  By bestowing this office, however, Otto aroused the jealousy not only of the other commanders, but also of Hermann’s brother Wichmann.  It is for this reason that Wichmann pretended some illness and left the army.  Wichmann was a powerful and brave man, generous, skilled in war, and possessed of such learning that he was said by his people to have superhuman knowledge.”

Rex autem audito huiuscemodi nuntio minime turbatur, sed divina virtute roboratus cum omni exercitu intrat terminos barbarorum ad refrenandam illorum saevitiam. Datum quippe erat illis et antea a patre suo bellum, eo quod violassent legatos Thancmari filii sui, de quo in sequentibus plenius dicturos arbitramur. Placuit igniter novo regi novum principem militiae constituere. Elegitque ad hoc officium virum nobilem et industrium satisque prudentem nomine Herimannum. Quo honore non solum caeterorum principum, sed et fratris sui Wichmanni offendit invidiam. Quapropter et simulata infirmitate amovit se ab exercitu. Erat namque [71] Wichmannus vir potens et fortis, magnanimus, belli gnarus et tantae scientiae, ut a subiectis supra hominem plura nosse predicaretur.

“Hermann, who was in the front rank of the battle line, found himself in combat against the enemy as he crossed there frontier into their region.  He inflicted a grave defeat on them, and, because of this, the jealousy of his enemies burned even hotter. Among them was Ekehard, the son of Liudolf.  Ekehard was so enraged by Hermann’s success that he swore that he would either do something even greater, or wished to die in the attempt.  So Ekehard gathered together the ablest men from the entire army and, violating the king’s orders, crossed a swamp that was located between the enemy’s stronghold and the royal encampment.  He immediately attacked but, surrounded by the enemy, he died along with all of his men.  Eighteen men chosen from the entire army died there with him.  However, the king, after killing many of the enemy, and making the others tributaries, returned to Saxony.  This happened on September twenty-fifth [936].”*

* note from translators: this was a campaign conducted in 936 against the Redarii.

Herimannus autem cum esset in prima acie, in introitu regionis in hostium pugnam incidit eosque fortiter vicit, et ob hoc maiori invidia inimicos accendit. Inter quos Ekkardus filius Liudulfi, qui in tantum aegre passus est fortunam Herimanni, ut sese promitteret maiora facturum aut vivere nolle. Unde collectis ex omni exercitu fortissimis viris interdictum regis rupit et paludem, quae erat inter urbem hostium et castra regis, cum sociis transiit, statimque hostes offendit, et ab his circumfusus cum omnibus suis periit. Erant autem qui cum eo ceciderant electorum ex omni exercitu virorum decem et octo. Rex autem caesa hostium multitudine et caeteris tributariis factis reversus est in Saxoniam. Acta sunt autem haec VII. Kalend. Octobris.

14. Again regarding the Hungarians and how they retreated with heavy losses.

“…The other part of the [Hungarian] army had been led to the north to a place called Droemling through the trickery of a certain Slav.  However, discomfited by the difficult terrain, and overwhelmed by armed forces, this army was destroyed.  Thew result frightened the other Hungarians.  The commander of this army was captured along with a few others.  He was led to the king, and then ransomed for a large price.  When they learned what had happened. ,the enemy’s entire camp was thrown into confusion, and they sought safety in flight.  Nor have they reappeared in Saxony for thirty years.”

[this was somewhere near the Aller and Ohre rivers, north of Helmstedt in the old pagus of Belxa – as per the editors]

Altera autem pars exercitus ad aquilonem versus et arte cuiusdam Sclavi in locum qui dicitur Thrimining deductus, difficultate locorum ac manu circumfusus armatorum periit timoremque nimium caeteris incussit. Dux autem illius exercitus cum paucis elapsus comprehenditur, et ad regem deductus pretio magno redimitur. His auditis castra hostium omnia turbata, fuga salutem quaesierunt, nec ultra per triginta annos in Saxonia apparuerunt.

20.  How the barbarians sought to kill Gero, and dragged out the war for a long time.

“The barbarians were delighted by our misfortunes, and not cease their arson, murder, and devastation.  They also considered cunning ways to kill Gero, whom the king had assigned to govern them.  But Gero, anticipating their trickery with his own, killed almost thirty leading men of the barbarians in one night after they were drunk from wine and buried in sleep following an excellent feast.*  But Gero did not have sufficient forces to fight against all of the barbarian people.  Indeed, at this time, the Obodrites were rebelling, after having annihilated our army, and killed its commander named Haika.  So the king often led the army in person, striking against them, inflicting substantial losses on them, and finally driving them almost to the point of complete defeat.**  Nevertheless, they chose war instead of peace, putting aside all thoughts of misery in the pursuit of costly freedom.”

[* these were probably Hevellians; note the similarity to the Polish legend of the poisoning of the uncles of Popiel by that “nefarious” king at the urging of his wife.]

[** The editors think that this is “a polite way of saying that King Otto was not able to defeat the Obodrites at this time in 939]

Barbari autem labore nostro elati nusquam ab incendio, caede ac depopulatione vacabant, Geronemque, quem sibi rex prefecerat, cum dolo perimere cogitant. Ipse dolum dolo preoccupans, convivio claro delibutos ac vino sepultos ad triginta fere principum barbarorum una nocte extinxit. Sed cum non sufficeret contra omnes nationes barbarorum – eo quippe tempore et Apodriti rebellaverant, et caeso exercitu nostro ducem ipsum nomine Haicam extinxerunt, ab ipso rege saepius ductus exercitus eos laesit et in multis afflixit et in ultimam pene calamitatem perduxit. Illi vero nichilominus bellum quam pacem elegerunt, omnem miseriam carae libertati postponentes.

“They were a tough people, and able to endure hardship.  Accustomed to a poor way of life, the Slavs desire those things that seem heavy burdens to us.  Thre was truly a long struggle between the two sides, with lone fighting for glory and a great and broad empire, and the other fighting for liberty or against the worst kind of slavery.  In those days, the Saxons were afflicted by many enemies, the Slavs from the east, the Franks from the south, the Lotharingians from the west, and the Danes and Slavs from the north.  It is for this reason that the barbarians carried on the war for so long.”

Est namque huiuscemodi genus hominum durum et laboris patiens, victu levissimo assuetum, et quod nostris gravis oneris esse solet, Sclavi pro quadam voluptate ducunt. Transeunt sane dies plurimi, his pro gloria et pro magno latoque imperio, illis pro libertate ac ultima servitute varie certantibus. Multos quippe illis diebus Saxones patiebantur hostes, Sclavos ab oriente, Francos a meridie, Lotharios ab occidente, ad aquilone [85] Danos itemque Sclavos: proptereaque barbari longum trahebant certamen.

21. Regarding the Slav, who was released by King Henry.

“There was a certain Slav. released by King Henry, who by paternal right of succession was to be the lord of those people who are called the Hevelli.  His name was Tugumir.  Having been convinced by a great deal of money, and persuaded by the promise of even more, Tugumir agreed to betray his own land.  And so acting as if he had escaped in secret, he came to the fortress of Brandenburg.  He was acknowledged by the people and received as their lord.  A short time later, he fulfilled his promise.  For he invited his nephew, who had gained a dominant position among all of the leaders of his people, to visit him.  After Tugumir captured his nephew through trickery, he killed him and delivered his fortress along with the entire region to the king.*  After this was done, all of the barbarian nations up to the Oder river subjugated themselves to royal tribute in a similar manner.”

* Tugumir delivered what was to become Brandenburg to King Otto I.  Note the Tugu- prefix similar to Touga of the Croats.  What the prefix or the name may mean is unlear.  Interestingly,  Tugend is German for “virtue.”

Fuit autem quidam Sclavus a rege Heinrico relictus, qui iure gentis paterna successione dominus esset eorum qui dicuntur Heveldi, dictus Tugumir. Hic pecunia multa captus et maiori promissione persuasus professus est se prodere regionem. Unde quasi occulte elapsus venit in urbem quae dicitur Brennaburg, a populoque agnitus et ut dominus susceptus, in brevi quae promisit inplevit. Nam nepotem suum, qui ex omnibus principibus gentis supererat, ad se invitans dolo captum interfecit urbemque cum omni regione ditioni regiae tradidit. Quo facto omnes barbarae nationes usque in Oderam fluvium simili modo tributis regalibus se subiugarunt.

30.  Regarding Gero, the frontier commander.

“At this time, the war against the barbarians* was raging.  When the soldiers, who had enlisted in Gero’s forces, were worn down by the recent campaigns, and were receiving less in the way of pay and booty, because the tribute was not being paid, they developed a seditious hatred of Gero.*  But the king always stood by Gero for the common good of the state.  So it happened that the soldiers were so riled up that they turned their hatred of Gero against the king as well.”

* These “barbarians” were Slavs.

** “This was the tribute that Henry I and Otto I had imposed not he Slavic peoples living east of the Elbe river [translators].”

Eo tempore bellum barbarorum fervebat. Et cum milites ad manum Geronis presidis conscripti crebra expeditione attenuarentur et donativis vel tributariis premiis minus adiuvari possent, eo quod tributa passim negarentur, seditioso odio in Geronem exacuuntur. Rex vero ad communes utilitates rei publicae Geroni semper iuxta erat. Unde factum est, ut nimis exacerbati odia sua in ipsum quoque regem vertissent.

36. Regarding the harmony between the brothers, their manner of life and their characters 

[note: the reference is to Otto I and Henry; note too that nothing is said below about Otto’s ability to write; we know from Einhard that Charlemagne never learned to write]

“…His [Otto I’s] intelligence is exceptional.  For after the death of Queen Edith [January 946], he learned his letters, which he had not done previously, and did so well that he can now easily read and understand books.  Furthermore, he knows how to speak the Romance and Slavic languages.  But it is rarely the case that he finds it useful to do so.  He frequently goes hunting, and loves table games.  He also gracefully practices his horsemanship in a weighty royal manner.  He has grown into a large body that shows his full royal dignity.  His head is covered with white hair…”

Ingenium ei admodum mirandum; nam post mortem Edidis reginae, cum antea nescierit, litteras in tantum didicit, ut pleniter libros legere et intelligere noverit. Preterea Romana lingua Sclavanicaque loqui scit; sed rarum est, quo earum uti dignetur. In venationibus creber, tabularum ludos amat, equitatus gratiam regia gravitate interdum exercens. Accessit ad haec et moles corporis, omnem regiam ostendens dignitatem, capite cano sparsus capillo…

40. Regarding the hostages from Boleslav.

“At that time, while the king spent some in forested regions hunting, we saw the hostages sent by Boleslav,* whom the king ordered to be presented to the people.  The king was very happy about them.”

* note from translators: “Whether Duke Boleslav I sent hostages at such an early date is not clear.  Otto undertook a major campaign against the Bohemia in 950.  Consequently, if Boleslav did send hostages in either 945 or 946, relations between the two rulers deteriorated significantly after this date.”

Eo tempore cum moraretur rex in campis silvestribus venationem agens, obsides Bolizlavi [ibi] vidimus, quos populo rex presentari iussit, satis super eis laetatus.

Book III

8. How the king led an army against Boleslav

“At that time, the king campaigned against Boleslav, the king of the Bohemians.  After he had captured the fortress called ‘New’ [Nymburk], in which Boleslav’s son [i.e., Boleslav II] had been one of those who was besieged, the king, following prudent advice, ended the fighting.  He did so to avoid having any of his soldiers fall prey to danger while seizing the spoils from the enemy.  After he had taken stock of the great strength of the king, and the enormous size of his army, Boleslav departed from his city [Prague], preferring to subject himself to such great majesty rather than suffer ultimate ruin,  So, standing under the banners, listening to the king, and giving answers, he earned mercy.  After he had achieved glory through this complete victory the king returned to Saxony.”

Illo tempore rex proficiscitur in militiam contra Bolizlavum regem Boemiorum; et cum capienda esset urbs quae nuncupabatur Nova, in qua clausus obsidebatur Bolizlavi filius, prudenti rex consilio diremit prelium, ne miles in rapiendis hostium spoliis aliquod periculum incideret. Considerata itaque virtute regis ac innumera multitudine exercitus, Bolizlav urbe egressus maluit tantae maiestati subici quam ultimam perniciem pati. Sub signisque stans et regem audiens responsaque reddens, veniam tandem promeruit. Inde plena victoria gloriosus factus, rex Saxoniam regreditur.

42. How the Ukrani were defeated by Gero.

“In that year, the Slavs, who are called Ukrani, were defeated by Gero with great glory because Duke Conrad was dispatched to provide aid to him.  They captured an enormous quantity of booty, and great happiness reigned in Saxony.” [this was in 954]

Eo anno Sclavi qui dicuntur Uchri a Gerone cum magna gloria devicti, cum ei presidio esset dux Cuonradus a rege missus. Preda inde ingens ducta; Saxoniae laetitia magna exorta.

44. Regarding the famous triumph that the king achieved over the Hungarians.

“When the king entered Saxony around the beginning of July, he met legates from the Hungarians, who presented themselves as if they had come to see him because of their established good faith and friendship.  In truth, however, as it seemed to some people, they had come to learn about the outcome of the civil war.  The king kept them with him for a few days and then sent them back in peace, bearing some minor gifts.  But he then learned from messengers sent by his brother, the duke of the Bavarians, that: ‘Behold numerous Hungarians have invaded your lands and stand prepared for battle with you.’  As soon as he heard this, the king, acting as if he had not endured any labor in the war just ended, began to march against the enemy.  He took a small force with him, and particularly few from among the Saxons, because they were now threatened by a war with the Slavs…”

[note: what follows is the account of the Battle on the Lechfeld at the Lech river where Otto defeated the Hungarians in 955.]

Ingressusque Saxoniam circa Kalend. Iulii obvios habet legatos Ungariorum, tamquam ob antiquam fidem ac gratiam eum visitantes; re autem vera, ut quibusdam videbatur, eventum belli civilis considerantes. Quos cum secum aliquantis diebus retinuisset et aliquibus munusculis donatos remisisset in pace, audivit a nuntiis fratris, ducis scilicet Boioariorum, quia: «Ecce Ungarii diffusi invadunt terminos tuos statuuntque tecum inire certamen». His auditis rex, quasi nichil laboris preterito bello toleravisset, coepit ire contra hostes, sumptis secum paucis admodum ex Saxonibus, eo quod iam bellum Sclavanicum urgeret…

45. Regarding Thiadric’s battle against the Slavs.

“While these events were going on in Bavaria, Thiadric fought with mixed luck against the barbarians.  While attempting to capture one of their strongholds, Thiadric pursued the enemy up to the entrance of the gate, forcing them inside the wall.  He captured the fort and burned it.  All of those who were outside the walls were either captured or killed.  He returned when the fire died out.  Half of his soldiers crossed through a swamp that was adjacent to the fort.   When the Slavs realized that our men were in a tight spot because of the difficulty of the terrain, and that they did not have enough men to fight, and did not have anywhere to flee, they attacked our men from the rear with a great shout.  They killed about fifty of our men and the remainder   fled.”

Dum ea geruntur in Boioaria, varie pugnatum est a preside Thiadrico adversus barbaros. Cum capere nisus esset quandam urbem illorum, usque ad introitum portae persecutus est adversarios, cogens illos intra murum, oppido potito et incenso et omnibus quae foras murum erant captis vel interfectis; cum iam incendio extincto reverteretur, et paludem, quae erat urbi adiacens, medietas militum transisset, Sclavi videntes nostros in arto sitos ob difficultatem loci nec copiam habere pugnandi nec locum adeo fugiendi, insequebantur a tergo revertentes clamore magno; peremerunt ex eis ad quinquaginta viros, foeda fuga nostrorum facta.

49. Regarding the triumph of the king.

“The king made glorious by this celebrated triumph, was named father of the fatherland and emperor by his army.  Then he decreed that worthy honor and praise be given to God in every church.  He had word of his triumph sent by messenger to his sainted mother, and then with great happiness and joy, he returned to Saxony as a victor, and was received most early by his people.  No king in the two hundred years before him had celebrated a victory if this size.  The Saxons had not been present at the battle with the Hungarians, having been held in reserve for the battle against the Slavs.”*

* According to the translators, Widukind may perhaps be comparing the Lechfeld victory of 955 over the Hungarians to the victory of Charles Martel over the Muslims in 732.  Also, apparently, the last sentence about the Saxons not having been there was edited out of one of the manuscripts!

Triumpho celebri rex factus gloriosus ab exercitu pater patriae imperatorque appellatus est; decretis proinde honoribus et dignis laudibus summae divinitati per singulas ecclesias, et hoc idem sanctae matri eius per nuntios demandans, cum tripudio ac summa laetitia Saxoniam victor reversus a populo suo libentissime suscipitur. Neque enim tanta victoria quisquam regum intra ducentos annos ante eum laetatus est. [Nam ipsi bello Ungarico aberant, Sclavanico certamini reservati].

50. Regarding the king and Wichmann’s cunning.

“…After he [Wichmann] had spent several days’ in [Count] Ibo’s company, he asked that he be permitted to go into the forest to go hunting.  He gathered some of his companions, who had hidden there, and returned to his fatherland.  After occupying some fortifications, he was joined by his brother Eckbert, and raised up arms against the emperor.  However, Duke Hermann’s efforts easily suppressed thrum, and foxed thrum across the Elbe.  When they realized that they could not oppose the duke, they joined forces with two minor barbarian kings, who had been troubling the Saxons for a long time, namely Nacco and his brother [Stoinef – both of the Obodrites, as per the translators].”

Aliquantis diebus cum eo degens, petit post haec venandi gratia silvam ire liceret. Ibi absconditos socios secum sumens perrexit in patriam et, occupatis aliquibus urbibus, iuncto sibi Ecberhto arma sumit contra imperatorem. Industria autem ducis Herimanni facile eos obpressit trans Albiamque coegit. Illi cum se sensissent duci resistere non posse, sociaverunt sibi duos subregulos barbarorum, Saxonibus iam olim infestos, Naconem et fratrem eius.

51.  Regarding the army that almost captured Wichmann in the stronghold of Suitleiscranne.

“An army commanded by the duke found them in a stronghold that was called Suitleiscranne.  They were almost captured along with the fort.  But they were warned by the shouting and hastened to arm themselves.  Forty armed men were killed before the fates of the fort, and Duke Hermann departed loaded down with spoils taken from the dead men.  Henry, the frontier commander [praeses], and his brother Siegfried [of Stade?], aided him.  Both of them were prominent and powerful men, excelling equally in both war and in peace.  This action took place at the beginning of the forty-day period of fasting.”

Ductus exercitus a duce, reperti sunt in urbe quae dicitur Suithleiscranne. Et pene erat, ut cum urbe caperentur, nisi clamore cuiusdam citarentur et ad arma prosilirent; caesis tamen ante portam urbis ad quadraginta armatis caesorumque spoliis potitus, dux Herimannus discedit. Erant autem qui eum adiuvarent Heinricus preses cum fratre Sigifrido viri eminentes et fortes, domimilitiaque optimi. Facta sunt autem haec initio quadragesimalis ieiunii. 

52.  How the fortress of the Cocarescemi* was captured.

“Just after Easter that year [Easter was April 15 in 955], the barbarians raided the region.  They were guided by Wichmann in this action, although he was not their commander.  Hermann did not delay.  He brought up military forces to resist them.  However, when Hermann saw that the enemy army was large, and that his own forces were small as a result of the demands of the ongoing civil war, he decided that it would be better to put off battle under these adverse conditions.  He also ordered the great multitude of people, who had fled into one fortress, because they didn’t trust the others, to ask for peace under whatever terms they could obtain.  Hermann’s soldiers were opposed to this plan, especially Siegfried, who was an exceptionally powerful warrior.  But the people of the Cocarescemi did as the duke had ordered and made peace under the following conditions: the free men along with their wives and children should climb up onto the wall, unarmed.  They were to leave behind all of their slaves and other goods in the middle of the fort for the enemy.  However, when the barbarians rushed into the stronghold., one of them recognized the wife of a certain free man his slave.  When the barbarian tried to seize her from the hands of the man, the barbarian was struck, and then shouted that the agreement had been broken by the Saxons.  So it happened that all of the enemy turned to killing, and they left no one behind.  They killed all of the adults and took the mothers and children away as captives.”

*  note from translators: Cocarascemi (also Cocarescesii or Cocarescemii) were “Slavs who lived under Ottonian rule.  They were not Saxon settlers in erstwhile Slavic lands.  Although the Cocarascemi have not been identified by scholars, it is almost certainly the case that these events took place east of the Elbe river.”

Barbari vero post proximum pascha irruunt in regionem, ducem habentes Wichmannum ad facinus tantum, non ad imperium. Nullam moram agens sed et ipse dux Herimannus cum presidio militari adest; vidensque exercitum hostium gravem sibique parvas admodum belli copias affore civili bello urgente arbitratus est consultius differre certamen in dubiis rebus constitutis, multitudinique imperare, quae maxima in unam urbem confluxerat, dum caeteris diffiderent, quoquo pacto possent, pacem expostularent. Quod tamen consilium milites aegre valde tulerunt, et maxime Sigifridus, qui erat bellator acerrimus. Faciunt tamen cives Cocarescemiorum, ut dux imperarat, pacemque eo pacto obtinent, quo liberi cum uxoribus et natis supra murum inermes ascenderent, conditione servili et omni suppellectili in medio urbis hostibus relicta. Cum intra urbem irruerent barbari, quidam illorum suum mancipium agnoscit in cuiusdam liberti uxore; quam cum rapere de manu viri niteretur, ictum pugne accipit, irritumque pactum ex parte Saxonum proclamitat. Unde fit, ut omnes ad caedem verterentur nullumque relinquerent, sed omnes perfectae aetatis neci darent, matres cum natis captivos ducerent.  

53. How the king avenged this raid.

“The emperor, who was eager to avenge this evil deed now that he had achieved victory over the Hungarians, invaded the lands of the barbarians.  He took counsel regarding the Saxons who had conspired with the Slavs, and judged it fitting that Wichmann and Eckbert be declared public enemies.  However he would spare the others insofar as they were willing o return to their own people.  A legation of the barbarians was present announcing that they wished to pay their tribute in the customary manner, but that they wished to have the dominant position among the other peoples of their region.  Under these conditions they wished peace.  Otherwise, they would fight for their liberty.  The emperor responded to them in this manner: he had no desire to deny them peace.  But under no circumstances could he give them peace unless they purged themselves in an honorable manner for the injury they had caused, and provided compensation.”

Quod scelus imperator ulcisci gestiens, victoria iam de Ungariis patrata, regiones barbarorum hostiliter intravit. Consultum de Saxonibus, qui cum Sclavis conspiraverant, iudicatum est Wichmannum et Ecberhtum pro hostibus publicis habere oportere, caeteris vero parcere, siquidem remeare voluissent ad suos. Aderat et legatio barbarorum tributa socios ex more velle persolvere nuntians, caeterum dominationem regionis velle tenere; hoc pacto pacem velle, alioquin pro libertate armis certare.  Imperator ad haec respondit: pacem quidem eis nequaquam negare, sed omnimodis dare non posse, nisi iniuriam perpetratam digno honore ac emendatione purgarent.

“The emperor then led an army throughout their lands, burning and devastating everything,* until finally establishing his camp along the Recknitz river, which was very difficult to cross because of the swamps.**  Here the army was surrounded by enemies.  From the rear the path was blocked by powerful trees that were defended by a force of armed men.***  Directly in front of them, the river,  the swamp adjacent to the river, and a high army of Slav warriors blocked the work as well as the path of the army.  The army was bothered by other difficulties as well, namely sickness and hunger in equal measure.  After operating under these conditions for several days, Count Gero was dispatched to the leader of the barbarians, who was called Stoinef, to give him a chance to surrender to the emperor.  The emperor thus offered to receive him as a friend, and not to test him as an enemy.”

* note from the translators: The lands of the Obodrites were in the regions north and east of the Havel river in modern Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.  Apparently, the devastation wrought by Otto I’s army during this invasion has been confirmed by excavations (see Jens Ulrich’s “Der Burgwall von Klempenow, Landkreis Demmin.”

** note from the translators: “The likely location of this camp was nearby the modern town of Ribnitz-Damgarten.”

*** note from the translators: “The Obodrites felled trees along the route traveled by the advancing Ottonian army in order to cut off their line of communication back to imperial territory.”

Omniaque vastando et incendendo per illas regiones duxit exercitum, donec tandem castris positis super Raxam fluvium ad transmeandum paludibus difficillimum ab hostibus circumfunditur. A tergo namque [via] arborum robore obstruitur, eademque armatorum manu vallatur. Ex adverso fluvius fluvioque contigua palus et cum ingenti exercitu Sclavus bellatores et ab opere et ab itinere prohibens. Vexatur autem et aliis incommodis exercitus, morbo pariter ac fame. Dum talia agerentur per plures dies, mittitur ad principem barbarorum, qui dicebatur Stoinef, Gero comes, quatinus imperatori se dedat: amicum per id adepturum, non hostem experturum.

54. Regarding the frontier commander Gero.

“Gero excelled in many areas.  He was skilled in war, and offered good counsel in peacetime matters.  He was quite eloquent, and very learned.  He preferred to demonstrate his prudence through deeds rather than words.  He showed great energy in gaining wealth, and generosity in giving it away.  But best of all, he showed zeal for the worship of God.  Therefore, the frontier commander greeted the barbarians over the swamp and the river, which was adjacent to the swamp.  A Slav responded to him similarly.  The frontier commander then addressed him in the following manner: ‘It would be enough if you waged war against one of the servants of my lord, and not against my lord king himself.  What kind of army do you have what kinds of arms that you would presume to do such a thing?  If you have any strength, if you have the skill, if you have sufficient bravery, give ys room to cross over to you.  Or do you wish to cross over to us so that the strength of the fighters might be seen on even ground?'”

Erant quippe in Gerone multae artes bonae, bellandi peritia, in rebus civilibus bona consilia, satis eloquentiae, multum scientiae, et qui prudentiam suam opere ostenderet quam ore; in adquirendo strennuitas, in dando largitas et, quod optimum erat, ad cultum divinum bonum studium. Igitur preses super paludem et flumen, cui palus adiacens erat, barbarum salutabat. Cui Sclavus aequalia respondit. Ad quem preses: «Satis tibi esset, si bellum gereres contra unum nostrum de servis domini mei, et non etiam contra dominum meum regem. Quis tibi exercitus, quae arma, ut talia presumas? Si aliqua vobis virtus adsit, si artes, si audatia, date nobis locum ad vos transeundi, sive nos vobis huc veniendi, et aequato loco fortitudo appareat pugnatoris».

“But the Slav raged at him in the barbarian way and, vomiting out fuses, mocked Gero, the emperor, and the whole army knowing that they were burdened by many problems.  Gero, who grew angered by this because he had such an ardent spirit, said: ‘Tomorrow the day will make clear whether you and your people are strong or not.  Let there be no doubt that tomorrow you will see us attacking you.’  Gero, who for a long time had achieved renown for his many great deeds, was especially celebrated at this point because he had defeated the Slavs, called the Ukrani, with such great glory.”

Sclavus barbarico more frendens et multa convicia evomens irrisit Geronem imperatoremque et omnem exercitum, sciens eum multis molestiis aggravatum. Gero ad haec commotus, ut erat animi ardentissimi: «Crastinus», inquit, «dies declarabit, tu et populus tuus fortes viribus sitis an non. Cras enim nos vobiscum congredientes procul dubio videbitis». Gero denique, olim licet multis gestis insigniis clarus haberetur, iam tamen magnus ac celebris ubique predicabatur, eo quod Sclavos qui dicuntur Uchri cum magna gloria cepisset.

“Gero returned to camp and reported what he had heard.  The emperor, who rose while it was still night, ordered that bows and other machines be deployed for battle as if he wished to cross the river and swamp in force.  Following the warning of the previous day, the Slavs did not think that this preparation boded anything else.  So they prepared for battle, defending the path with all of their forces.*  But Gero, along with his allies the Ranen,** traveled almost a mile downstream from the camp, without the enemy realizing it, and quickly constructed three bridges.  Gero then sent a messenger to the emperor summoning the entire army.  Where the barbarians realized what had happened they hurried to mer the legions.  But the foot soldiers of the barbarians had to run a longer route before entering the battle.  Thus, overcome by fatigue, they quickly gave way before the soldiers.  They were immediately cut down as they sought the safety of flight.”***

* note from the translators: “They deployed all of their men in defensive positions to deny Otto I’s army the ability to cross the river, likely over a ford.”

** The Ranen or Rani or Ruiani lived in the area of the island of Rugen (including on the island itself) which later was the site of their Svantevit temple.

*** As per the Annals of Saint Gall, this battle took place on October 16th, 955 (the feast of Saint Gall). Apparently, it also included on the Slavic side the Circipani.

Gero reversus in castra retulit quae audierat. Imperator vero de nocte consurgens iubet sagittis et aliis machinis ad pugnam provocare, et quasi vi flumen paludemque transcendere velle. Sclavi autem hesterna comminatione nichil aliud arbitrati ad pugnam pariter conspiravere, iter totis viribus defendentes. At Gero cum amicis Ruanis miliario ferme uno a castris descendens hoste ignorante tres pontes celeriter construxit et misso nuntio ad imperatorem totum exercitum revocavit. Quo viso barbari et ipsi obviare legionibus contendunt. Pedites barbarorum dum longiorem viam currunt et certamen ineunt, fatigatione dissoluti militibus citius cedunt; nec mora, dum fugae presidium quaerunt, obtruncantur.

55. Regarding Stoinef, the king of the barbarians, and the solider who killed him.

Stoinef waited on events with some mounted troops atop a high hill.  Recognizing that his companions were fleeing, he also took flight.  But he was discovered in a certain wood, along with two of his bodyguards, by a soldier whose name was Hosed.  After being overcome in combat, Stoinef was striped of his arms, and beheaded.  One of his bodyguards was captured alive.  The soldier presented him along with Stoinef’s head and the spoils taken from that minor king to the emperor.  Through this act, Hosed became renowned and distinguished.  The dewar for this famous deed was an imperial grant with an income equivalent to twenty farms [hoba].”

Stoinef autem colle eminenti cum equitibus eventum rei expectabat. Socios inire fugam cernens fugit et ipse, lucoque quodam cum duobus satellitibus repertus a viro militari, cuius vocabulum erat Hosed, certamine fatigatus armisque nudatus capite caesus est. Satellitum alius vivus captus imperatorique cum capite et spoliis reguli ab eodem milite presentatus est. Ex hoc Hosed clarus et insignis habitus. Merces tam famosi gesti donativum imperiale cum reditu viginti mansuum. 

“That same day, the enemy camp was attacked, and many men were killed or captured.  The killing went on far into the night.  The next morning, the head of this minor king was placed in a field  Around it, seven hundred prisoners were beheaded.  The eyes of his adviser were torn out, as was his tongue.  He was then left helpless in the midst of the corpses.  WIchmamn and Eckbert, conscious of their evil deeds, left for Gaul and escaped to Duke Hugh.”*

* As per the translators this is Hugh the Great, the brother-in-law of Otto I.

Eo die castra hostium invasa, et multi mortales interfecti vel capti, caedesque in multam noctem protrahebatur. Postera luce caput subreguli in campo positum, circaque illud septingenti captivorum capite caesi, eiusque consiliarius oculis erutis lingua est privatus in medioque cadaverum inutilis relictus. Wichmannus vero et Ecberhtus scelerum conscii in Galliam profecti, ad Hugonem ducem fuga elapsi sunt. 

58.  Regarding the letter that reported his death.

“A letter bringing news of his death [Liudolf’s – the emperor’s son’s who was campaigning in Italy] was carried to the emperor while he was on campaign, fighting against the Redarii.* He poured out many tears on account of his son’s death.  As for the rest, he remained faithfully committed to God, the guide of all things, who had ordained his empire up to now.”

* As per the translators, the continuators of Adalbert of Magdeburg record this campaign of Otto I’s in 957 (against the “Slavs”).

Litterae autem obitus eius allatae sunt imperatori, cum esset in militia, qua militavit contra Redarios; quapropter satis plurimum lacrimarum pro filii interitu fudit; de caetero, qui adhuc ordinavit imperium suum, rectori omnium Deo fideliter commisit.

66. Gero because of his oath, released Wichmann.

“Not unmindful of his oath, when Count Gero saw that Wichmann had been accused, and recognized that he was guilty, he released him back to the barbarians from whom he had acquired him.  They happily received Wichamnn, who then wore down the barbarians, who live even further away, with numerous battles.  Wichmann derated King Miesco, who ruled over the Slavs called the Licicaviki, in two battles, and killed his brother.  He then extorted a great quantity of booty from them.”

Gero igitur comes non inmemor iuramenti, cum Wichmannum accusari vidisset reumque cognovisset, barbaris, a quibus eum assumpsit, restituit. Ab eis libenter susceptus longius degentes barbaros crebris preliis contrivit. Misacam regem, cuius potestatis erant Sclavi qui dicuntur Licicaviki, duabus vicibus superavit fratremque ipsius interfecit, predam magnam ab eo extorsit.

67. How Gero conquered the Lutizi.

“During this time, the frontier commander Gero badly defeated the Slavs who are called the Lutizi, and compelled them to accept the heaviest burdens of servitude.*  Thus victory, however, was not accomplished without Gero having suffered as serious wound, and the death of his nephew, who was among the best of men, and the deaths of many other outstanding men.”

* as per the translators, these were the Lusatians (see below – Lusiki) of the Lausitz district “between the Bobr and Kwisa rivers and the Elbe… The population of Upper Lusatia during the Ottonian period consisted of the Milceni… [the Lusatians were conquered by the Germans in about 963] These heavy burdens likely refer to extensive tribute payments, and also the requirement to build and to support the numerous fortifications that were established by the Ottonians in this region.” note: it’s not clear why the translators chose to translate Lusiki as Lutizi if they knew that Lusiki referred to the Lusatians and not to the Lutizi (aka Wiltzi, aka Veleti, aka Welatawe, aka Welatabe) who were living on the Baltic coast – far to the north of Lusatia and the Lusatians.

Eo quoque tempore Gero preses Sclavos qui dicuntur Lusiki potentissime vicit et ad ultimam servi tutem coegit, non sine sui tamen gravi vulnere nepotisque optimi viri casu, caeterorum quoque quam plurimorum nobilium virorum.

68. Regarding two minor kings and Wichmann.

For this section, see here.

69. Regarding the death of Wichmman.

“When Wichmann learned that the fort had been captured and that his companions had been punished, he went east and again joined with the pagans.  He took up with the Slavs called the Wuloini,* who wished to wage war against Miesco, the friend [amicus, as in subordinate political ally, as per translators] of the emperor, something that was not hidden at all from Miesco.  Consequently, Miesco sent a request to King Boleslav of the Bohemians, who was his father-in-law,** and received two inits of mounted troops from him.  When Wichmann led his army against Miesco, the latter first dispatched his foot soldiers against him.***  However, at the duke’s order, they gradually withdrew before Wichmann so that he was pulled ever further from his fortified encampment.  Then, when Miesco had sent his mounted troops to attack from the rear, he used a signal to order the foot soldiers, who had been withdrawing, to advance against the enemy.”

* note from the translators: “Their place of settlement included the island of Wollin, which is located off the coast of modern Poland in the lagoon area at the mouth of the Oder river.”

** Because of Dobrawa to whom Mieszko was married then.

*** note from the translators: “This battle took place on September 21, 967, and Wichmann was killed the following day.”

Audiens autem Wichmannus urbem captam sociosque afflictos ad orientem versus iterum se paganis inmersit, egitque cum Sclavis qui dicuntur Vuloini, quo modo Misacam amicum imperatoris bello lascesserent; quod eum minime latuit. Qui misit ad Bolizlavum regem Boemiorum – gener enim ipsius erat – accepitque ab eo equitum duas acies. Cumque contra eum Wichmannus duxisset exercitum, pedites primum ei inmisit. Cumque ex iussu ducis paulatim coram Wichmanno fugerent, a castris longius protrahitur, equitibus a tergo inmissis, signo fugientes ad reversionem hostium monet. 

“When he was being pressed from the front and from rear, Wichmann attempted to flee.  But he was accused of betrayal by his companions.  Although he had convinced them to go into battle, when it became dangerous, he did not hesitate to try to flee on his horse.  After being forced to dismount, Wichmann joined with his companions on foot, and entered the battle.  He fought very bravely that day, defended by his armor.  The next morning worn down by hunger and the long road that he had traveled, fully armed, through the entire night, he and a few others entered a building belonging to some man.”

Cum ex adverso et post tergum premeretur, Wichmannus fugam inire temptavit. A sociis igitur arguitur sceleris, quia ipse eos ad pugnam instigaverit fidensque equo, cum necesse fuerit, fugam facile inierit. Coactus itaque equo cessit, pedestris cum sociis certamen iniit, eoque die viriliter pugnans armis defenditur. Ieiunio autem et longiori via, qua per totam noctem armatus incessit, mane cum paucis admodum aream cuiusdam iam fessus intravit.

“When some leading men among the enemy found him, they recognized from his arms that he was an important man.  When they asked who he was, he responded that he was Wichmann.  They demanded that he lay down his arms.  They swore that they would resent hm safe to their lord, and that he would see to it that Wichmann was returned unharmed to the emperor.  Wichmann, who now found himself in dire straights, was not unmindful of his earlier nobility and strength, and disdained surrendering to such men.  So he asked that they bring word to Miesco that he would lay down his arms and surrender to him.  While they set off to fund Miesco, an enormous crowd surrounded Wichmann, bitterly attacking him.  Although he was exhausted, Wichmann struck down many of them.  At last, he raised up his sword, and said the following to one of the more capable of his enemies: ‘Take this sword, and carry it to your lord. Let him have this as a symbol of his victory, and send it to his friend the emperor so that he might know that he can laugh at the death of an enemy, but should weep at the death of a kinsman.’  After he said this, Wichmann turned to the east and prayed in his mother tongue,* as best he could,  to the Lord, and poured out his soul, filled with many misfortunes and troubles, to the mercy of the Creator of all things.  This was the end of Wichmann, and such also was the end of for almost all of those who raise their arms against your father.  Here ends book three.”**

* presumably his “native” language was Saxon.

** note from the translators: “This is the text of version A.  The final two chapters dealing with Wichmann form a kind of epilogue for the entire book.  In versions B and C, the reference to ‘your father’ and the mention of this as the end of Book Three both are dropped.” Note below versions in Latin.

Optimates autem hostium cum eum repperissent, ex armis agnoscunt, quia vir eminens esset. Interrogatusque ab eis, quisnam esset, Wichmannum se fore professus est. At illi arma deponere exhortati sunt. Fidem deinde spondent salvum eum domino suo presentari hocque apud ipsum obtinere, quatinus incolumem imperatori restituat. Ille, licet in ultima necessitate sit constitutus, non inmemor pristinae nobilitatis ac virtutis, dedignatus est talibus manum dare, petit tamen, ut Misaco de eo adnuntient: illi velle arma deponere, illi manus dare. Dum ad Misacam ipsi pergunt, vulgus innumerabile eum circumdat eumque acriter inpugnat. Ipse autem, quamvis fessus, multis ex eis fusis, tandem gladium sumit et potiori hostium cum his verbis tradidit: «Accipe», inquit, «hunc gladium et defer domino tuo, quo pro signo victoriae illum teneat imperatorique amico transmittat, quo sciat aut hostem occisum irridere vel certe propinquum deflere». Et his dictis conversus ad orientem, ut potuit, patria voce Dominum exoravit animamque multis miseriis et incommodis repletam pietati creatoris omnium effudit. 
      [Versio B/C:] 
Is finis Wichmanno, talisque omnibus fere, qui contra imperatorem arma sumpserunt. 
      [Versio A:] 
Is finis Wichmanno, talisque omnibus fere, qui contra imperatorem arma sumpserunt patrem tuum. Explicit liber tercius.

70. After he had received Wichmann’s arms, the emperor, who was now certain [of his death], wrote a letter to be dispatched throughout Saxony.

“After the emperor* received Wichmann’s arms, the emperor, and was certain of his death, he wrote a letter to the military commanders and counts of Saxony in the following manner: ‘Otto, august emperor by divine grace, to Hermann, Thiadric,** and the other counts of our state, every friendly greeting.  By the will of God, I am well, and all of my affairs are advancing without pause.  Furthermore, messengers have come to us from the king of Constantinople,*** very distinguished men, who, as I understand, are very interested in seeking peace.  However this matter turns out, they certainly will not dare, God willing, to test us with war.  Unless we can come to an agreement, i will gain from them the provinces of Apulia and Calabria, which they have held until now.  However, if they accept our will, we will send our wife and our like-named son [Otto II who became co-emperor in 967 at age 12] this summer to Francia, and we promise you that, with God’s aid, we shall go on campaign to Frainet, to destroy the Saracens.  Furthermore, we wish, if the Redarii have indeed suffered very heavy losses, as we have heard – you know how often they have broken their oaths and what injuries they have inflicted – that they shall have no peace from you.  Discuss these matters with Duke Hermann, and attack with all of your forces, so that you can bring about their final destruction.  If it is necessary, we shall march against them ourselves.  On the Nativity of the Lord, our son received the crown, as a sign of the imperial office from the bless apostle.  Written on 18th January at Capua in Campania.'”

* Otto I became emperor on February 2, 962.

** As per the translators, Thiadric was one of the five successors to Gero.  He was responsible for the Saxon north march which eventually came to be called, the Altmark.

*** This is a slap at the Byzantine Emperor, i.e., Otto is now the emperor but the Byzantines just have a “king”.  Otto fought two campaigns against the Byzantines in the south of Italy in 968 and 969, with mixed results.  The coronation of Otto II (the Red) was designed to enable Otto’s son to become married to the Byzantine princess Theophanu in 972 (the Byzantines were objecting to the use of the term “emperor” for the Ottonians since they saw themselves as the only legitimate heirs of the Western Roman Empire).  Otto I finally returned to Germany in August 972 and died at Memleben in 973. Otto II succeeded him as sole Emperor.  He ruled till 983 and saw (from Italy – where he was and from which he did not return) the beginning of the Lutici-caused “Great Slav Uprising” (started about June 29, 983) against the Ottonians, feudalism and, of course, Christianity.  Out of the marriage of Otto II and Theophanu came Otto III (born 980).  Theophanus was the niece of the Byzantine Emperor John I Tzimiskes.

Imperator itaque acceptis armis Wichmanni de nece eius iam certus factus scripsit epistolam ad duces et prefectos Saxoniae in hunc modum: Oddo divino nutu imperator augustus Herimanno et Thiadrico ducibus caeterisque publicae rei nostrae prefecfis omnia amabilia. Deo volente salus omniaque prospera plane succedunt. Caeterum nuntii Constantinopolitani regis dignitate satis insignes nos adeunt, pacem, ut intelleximus, admodum quaerentes. Quoquo modo tamen res agatur, bello Deo volente nullo modo nos temptare audebunt. Apuliam et Calabriam provincias, quas hactenus fenuere, nisi conveniamus, dabunt. Si vero voluntati nostrae paruerint, ut presenti aestate coniugem cum aequivoco nostro in Franciam dirigentes, per Fraxanetum ad destruendos Sarracenos Deo comite iter arripiemus, et sic ad vos, disponimus. Preterea volumus, ut, si Redares, sicut audivimus, tantam stragem passi sunt – scitis enim, quam saepe fidem fregerint, quas iniurias attulerint -, nullam vobiscum pacem habeant. Unde haec cum Herimanno duce ventilantes totis viribus instate, ut in destructione eorum finem operi inponatis. Ipsi, si necesse fuerit, ad eos ibimus. Filius noster in nativitate Domini coronam a beato apostolico in imperii dignitatem suscepit. Scripta XV. Kal. Febr. in Campania iuxta Capuam. 

“When this letter was read aloud to the assembled leaders and a great crowd of common people, who had gathered at the assembly, which was being held at a place called Werla, it seemed appropriate to keep the peace that had been made with the Redarii, since there was a threat of war against the Danes at that time, and because they did not have sufficient forces to wage two ward at the same time.”

His litteris lectis in conventu populi in loco qui dicitur Werla coram principibus et frequentia plebis, visum est pacem iam datam Redariis oportere stare, eo quod tunc bellum adversum Danos urgeret, et quia copiae minus sufficerent ad duo bella pariter conficienda.

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June 12, 2016

What Widukind’s “Deeds of the Saxons” Has to Say Regarding the Slavs – Part I

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Widukind (Witikindus) of Corvey (circa 925-935 – circa after 973) , the author of the Deeds of the Saxons has much to say about the Slavs.  He was perhaps, named after Wittekind (Child of the wood”?)  the Saxon war hero who fought against the Franks during the Saxon Wars (777-785) and lost… then converted to Christianity and, as per the Vita Liudgeri (biography of Saint Ludger), subsequently accompanied Charlemagne on the latter’s campaign against the Veleti and their leader Dragovit.


1577 edition

Although we’ve already mentioned some references (e.g., to the Licikaviki of Mieszko), we thought we should also discuss other mentions of the Slavs.  The following comes from the Bernard and David Bachrach translation of Res gestae Saxonicae.  We present it here in several parts.



Book I

17.  Regarding King Henry

“…From his youth, Henry [I] devoted every bit of his strength to bringing glory to his people, and to strengthening peace.  When the father saw the wisdom of the youth, and his exceptional judgment, he dispatched Henry with a Saxon levy and the ducal military household against  the Daleminzi, whom he himself had fought for many years.  The Daleminzi were not able to withstand Henry’s attack and summoned against him the Avars, whom we now call the Hungarians, a people that is exceptionally brutal in war.” [906?]

…nam maximum ei ab adolescentia studium erat in glorificando gentem suam et pacem confirmando in omni potestate sua. Pater autem videns prudentiam adolescentis et consilii magnitudinem reliquit ei exercitum et militiam adversus Dalamantiam, contra quos diu ipse militavit. Dalamanci vero inpetum illius ferre non valentes conduxerunt adversus eum Avares, quos modo Ungarios vocamus, gentem belli asperrimam.

19.  The Hungarians were confined by Charlemagne, but were set free by Arnulf

“The Hungarians were defeated by Charlemagne, driven across the Danube river, enclosed within a huge wall, and prohibited from raiding other peoples in their customary manner.  However, during the reign of Arnulf [887-899], this work was undone, and a path was opened up for them to renew their killing since the emperor angered Zwentibold, the king of the Moravians [Svatopluk I, 870 or 871-894].  The great slaughter and tremendous injuries inflicted by the Hungarians on the Frankish empire are attested by the cities and regions that remain desolate up to the present day.  We judge it useful to provide information about this people so that your highness will understand the kind of people against whom you grandfather and father fought, and from what kind of enemies almost all of Europe has been liberated by strength of your grandfather’s and father’s widow and under their banners.”

Victi autem a Magno Karolo et trans Danubium pulsi ac ingenti vallo circumclusi, prohibiti sunt a consueta gentium depopulatione. Imperante autem Arnulfo destructum est opus, et via eis nocendi patefacta, eo quod iratus esset imperator Centupulcho regi Marorum. Deinde quantam stragem quantamque iniuriam imperio Francorum fecerint, urbes ac regiones adhuc desolatae testantur. Haec ideo de hac gente dicere arbitrati sumus, ut possit tua claritas agnoscere, cum qualibus avo tuo patrique certandum fuerit, vel a quibus hostibus per eorum providentiae virtutem et armorum insignia tota iam fere Europa liberata sit.

20.  How the Hungarians devastated Saxony,

“The Hungarian army, mentioned above, was guided by the Slavs and inflicted great slaughter in Saxony.  After taking huge quantities of booty, they returned to Dalminzia and met another Hungarian army there.  The second Hungarian army threatened to make war on the allies of the first army because they refused to provide help to them,* while leading the first army to such great plunder.  So it happened that Saxony was laid waste a second time by the Hungarians.  The first army awaited the second in Daleminzia, and by their presence caused such a dearth of food that they [Daleminzi] were forced that year to leave their own homes and serve other nations to obtain sustenance.”

* apparently the Slavic Daleminzi did not want to help this second Hungarian army notwithstanding the fact that they helped the first.

Predictus igitur exercitus Ungariorum a Sclavis conductus, multa strage in Saxonia facta et infinita capta preda, Dalamantiam reversi obvium invenerunt alium exercitum Ungariorum; qui comminati sunt bellum inferre amicis eorum, eo quod auxilia eorum sprevissent, dum illos ad tantam predam duxissent.  Unde factum est, ut secundo vastaretur Saxonia ab Ungariis, et priori exercitu in Dalamantia secundum expectante, ipsa quoque in tantam penuriae miseriam ducta sit, ut aliis nationibus eo anno relicto proprio solo pro annona servirent.

35.  How King Henry used his nine years of peace.

“…After Henry had accustomed his subjects to this legal obligation and discipline, he immediately attacked the Slavs who are called the Hevelii.  First, Henry wore them down with numerous battles.  Then he established his encampment on the ice during the coldest part of the winter.  Finally, through hunger, iron, and cold, he captured the fortress of Brandenburg [Brennaburg].  Then having captured the entire region along with this fortress, Henry turned his banners against Daleminzia where his father long before had placed him in command of an army.  There he besieged a fortress called Gana,* and finally captured it after twenty days.  Henry distributed the booty from the fortress among his soldiers.  All of the adults were killed, while the youths and maidens were led off as slaves.  After this, Henry marched to Prague, the fortress of the Bohemians, with his entire army.  He received the surrender of the king of the Bohemians.  Certain miraculous stories are told about this king, but we think that it is better to remain silent about them because we have no proof that they happened.  He was the brother of Boleslav who remained loyal and helpful to the emperor as long as he lived.  So Henry made the Bohemians tributaries and returned to Saxony.”

* This may be a fortress between Hof and Stauchitz on the river Jahna about southwest from  Riesa.  That Ganna was the seeress in Germania after Veleda we know from Tacitus.  Ganna, Ganna and Poganie…

Tali lege ac disciplina cum cives assuefaceret, repente irruit super Sclavos qui dicuntur Hevelli, et multis eos preliis fatigans, demum hieme asperrima castris super glaciem positis cepit urbem quae dicitur Brennaburg fame ferro frigore. Cumque illa urbe potitus omnem regionem signa vertit contra Dalamantiam, adversus quam iam olim reliquit ei pater militiam; et obsidens urbem quae dicitur Gana, vicesima tandem die cepit eam. Preda urbis militibus tradita, puberes omnes interfecti, pueri ac puellae captivitati servatae. Post haec Pragam adiit cum omni exercitu, Boemiorum urbem, regemque eius in deditionem accepit; de quo quaedam mirabilia predicantur, quae quia non probamus, silentio tegi iudicamus. Frater tamen erat Bolizlavi qui quamdiu vixit imperatori fidelis et utilis mansit. Igitur rex Boemias tributarias faciens reversus est in Saxoniam.


Corvey abbey today

36.  Regarding the Redarii and how they were defeated.

“And so after the following neighboring peoples were made tributaries by King Henry, namely the Obodrites, Wilzi, Hevelli, Daleminzi, Bohemians, and Redarii, and peace had been established, the Redarii rebelled.  They mobilized a huge force and attacked a stronghold called Walsleben, which they captured, killing everyone living there, comprising a great multitude.  All of the barbarian nations were inspired by this act, and dared to rebel as well.”

Cumque vicinae gentes a rege Heinrico factae essent tributariae, Apodriti, Wilti, Hevelli, Dalamanci, Boemi, Redarii, et pax esset, Redarii defecerunt a fide, et congregata multitudine inpetum fecerunt in urbem quae dicitur Wallislevu ceperuntque eam, captis et interfectis omnibus habitatoribus eius, innumerabili videlicet multitudine. Quo facto omnes barbarae nationes erectae iterum rebellare ausae sunt.

“In order to repress the ferocity of the barbarians, the expeditionary levy as well as a force of professional soldiers were dispatched under the command of Bernhard, who already held authority over the province of the Redarii.  Thietmar also was dispatched to join the legate as a colleague.  They were ordered to besiege the stronghold called Lenzen.”

Ad quarum ferocitatem reprimendam traditur exercitus cum presidio militari Bernhardo, cui ipsa Redariorum provincia erat sublegata, additurque legato collega Thiatmarus, et iubentur urbem obsidere quae dicitur Lunkini.

“On the fifth day of the siege, which was a Friday, scouts announced that an army of barbarians was not far off, and that the barbarians had decided to launch an attack on the Saxon encampment that night.  After this had been confirmed by many others, the people believed the report, since it was corroborated.  When the people had gathered around the tents of the legate, he issued orders following the advice that had been given to him that very hour by his colleague.  The men were to remain prepared through the night in order to prevent a barbarian assault on their camp.”

Quinto obsidionis die venere custodes exercitum barbarorum non longe esse adnuntiantes, et quia nocte contigua inpetum in castra facere decrevissent. Cumque plures eadem confirmarent, populus fidem paribus dabat dictis. Et cum conventus esset populi circa tentoria legati, eadem hora collega dictante precepit, ut per totam noctem parati essent, ne qua forte irruptio barbarorum in castra fieret.

“When the large group of defenders  had been ordered to stand down, emotions in camp were very mixed.  Some were melancholy and others were happy.  Some dreaded the battle and others were looking forward to it.  The fighting men moved between hope and fear according to the nature of their personalities.  In the meantime, the day went by, and the night was much darker than usual because of a huge rainstorm,.  Thus, by God’s will, the evil plan of the barbarians was thwarted.”

Cum autem dimissa esset multitudo, in castris variavere moestitia pariter atque laetitia, aliis bellum formidantibus, aliis autem desiderantibus; et pro qualitate morum inter spem metumque versabantur bellatores. Interea dies transit, et nox solito tenebrosior cum ingenti pluvia adest nutu divino, quatinus consilium pessimum inpediretur barbarorum.

“As had been ordered, the Saxons remained armed throughout the night.  Then at first light, after the signal had been given, they all received the sacrament.  Then each man promised under oath, first to the commanders, and then to each other, that they wiuld do their duty in the resent battle.  After the sun rose, for fine clear weather had returned after the rain storm, they raised their banners and marched out of camp. ”

Ut ergo iussum est, tota nocte illa armati erant Saxones, et primo diluculo dato signo sacramentoque accepto, primum ducibus, deinde unusquisque alteri operam suam sub iuramento promittebat ad presens bellum. Orto autem sole – nam post pluviam clara redit serenitas -, erectis signis procedebant castris.

“The legate, who was in the first rank, launched an attack against the barbarians.  But he was not able to overcome the innumerable enemy with his small force.  When he teruned to the army, he reported that the barbarians did not have many mounted men. However, because of their enormous number of men on foot, and because the rain the previous night had created such an obstacle, the enemy could not be drawn to engage in battle against his own mounted troops.”

In prima quidem fronte legatus in barbaros inpetum faciens, sed cum pauci non prevalerent adversus innumerabiles, reversus est ad exercitum referens, quia barbari non plures haberent equites, peditum vero innumerabilem multitudinem et nocturna pluvia in tantum inpeditam, ut vix ab equitibus coacti ad pugnam procederent.

“As the sun blazed down on the wet clothing of the barbarians, and made steams rise up to the sky, the people of God gained hope and faith as the brihgteness and serenity of His countenance shined around them.  Then the signal was given, and the legate urged on the legions that charted with a great shout against the enemy.  When it became clear that the great number of the enemy would not allow the Saxons to drive through them, they struyck then on the left and right with their weapons.  Whenever they*  were  able to separate some of them** from their fellows, they killed them all.”

* Saxons
** Slavs

Igitur sole cadente in humida vestimenta barbarorum, fumum ascendere fecit usque in caelum, spem fiduciamque prestans Dei populo, cuius faciei claritas atque serenitas circumfulsit illos. Igitur dato signo et exhortante legiones legato cum clamore valido irruunt in hostes. Cumque nimia densitate iter pertranseundi hostes non pateret, dextra laevaque ferro erumpentes, quoscumque a sociis secernebant, neci dabant.

“As the battle intensified with many dead on each side, and the barbarians still managing to maintain their formation , the legate ordered his colleague to provide support to the legions.  So Thietmar dispatched a commander with fifty heavily armed mounted troops against the enemy’s flank and disrupted their entire formation.  From this point on, the enemy faced only flight and death.  When they had been slaughtered through the fields, some of the survivors attempted to flee to the fortress.  But the colleague prevented them from doing this, so they entered a nearby lake.  So it happened that of this enormous multitude, almost all were killed by the sword or drowned in the lake.  None of the foot soldiers survived, and just a few of the enemy mounted troops.  The battled ended with the defeat of all of their adversaries.”

Cumque iam bellum gravaretur, et multi hinc atque inde caderent, et adhuc barbari ordines tenerent, legatus collegam, ut legionibus auxilio esset, expostulat. Ille vero prefectum cum quinquaginta armatis lateri hostili inmisit et ordines conturbavit; ex hoc caedi fugaeque tota die hostes patebant. Cum ergo per omnes agros caederentur, ad urbem vicinam fugere temptabant. Collega autem hoc eis precavente, proximum mare ingressi sunt, et ita factum est, ut omnis illa nimia multitudo aut gladio consumeretur aut in mari mergeretur. Nec peditum ullus superfuit, equitum rarissimus, deponiturque bellum cum casu omnium adversariorum

“There was a huge burst of joy following the victory.  Everyone praised the commanders, and each of the soldiers praised his fellows.  Even the cowards enjoyed some praise, as often happened when there is such good fortune.  The next day, they marched to the aforementioned fortress.  The defenders lay down their arms and asked only for their lives.  They received this.  The unarmed men were ordered to depart the city.  However, the slaves, and all of the money along with the wives, children and goods of the king of the barbarians were carried into captivity.  On our side, two men named Liuthar died, along with manny other noblemen.  The legate, his colleague, and other commanders returned to Saxony as victors.  They were received honorably by the king and given all due praise since with God’s favor and mercy their small forces had gained a magnificent victory.  The next day, all of the captives, as they had promised, were beheaded.”*

* As the editors note, “[t]his is the first reference to the beheading of captives, and it is not clear whether it refers to the slaves and royal family taken at Lenzen, to the captives taken in the battle, or to both.”

Ingens interea oritur laetitia ex recenti victoria, dum omnes laudant duces, unusquisque vero militum predicat alium, ignavum quoque, ut in tali fortuna solet fieri. Postera autem luce movent signa urbi prefatae; urbani vero arma deponunt, salutem tantummodo deposcunt ac merentur. Inermes igitur urbe egredi iussi; servilis autem conditio et omnis pecunia cum uxoribus et filiis et omni suppellectili barbarorum regis captivitatem subibant. Ceciderunt etiam ex nostris in illo prelio duo Liutharii et alii nobiles viri nonnulli. Igitur legatus cum collega et aliis principibus Saxoniam victores reversi honorifice a rege sunt suscepti satisque laudati, qui parvis copiis divina. favente clementia magnificam perpetraverint victoriam. Nam fuere qui dicerent barbarorum ducenta milia caesa. Captivi omnes postera die, ut promissum habebant, obtruncati.

38.  The king’s speech and how he defeated the Hungarians in an open battle.

“…After these events, the Hungarian legates came to the king to receive their customary gifts.  But they departed from him to return to their own land empty-handed.  When they heard this, the Avars did not delay.  They hurried to enter Saxony with a large hostile force.  They took the route through Daleminzia and sought help from the old friends.  But they*, knowing that the Hungarians were hurrying to Saxony, and that the Saxons were ready to fight them, gave a very fat dog to the Hungarians as their gift.  The Hungarians did not have time to avenge this insult as they were hurrying on to a different fight.  For quite a while the Daleminzi pursued their ‘friends’ while mocking them…”

* Daleminzi.

“…Post haec legati Ungariorum adierunt regem pro solitis muneribus, sed ab eo spreti in terram suam vacui sunt reversi. Haec audientes Avares, nichil morati cum gravi hostilique manu festinant intrare Saxoniam. Et iter agentes per Dalamantiam ab antiquis opem petunt amicis. Illi vero scientes eos festinare ad Saxoniam Saxonesque ad pugnandum cum eis paratos, pinguissimum pro munere eis proiciunt canem. Et cum non esset iniuriam vindicandi locus ad aliam pugnam festinantibus, cum ridiculosa satis vociferatione longius prosequuntur amicos…”


Corvey on a map from 1620

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June 5, 2016

On Krok the Czech, Libuse and Premysl

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Now that we have taken our time to discuss the Polish Krak and Wanda here and here, we have decided it was time to relay some information about the Czech Krok, his three daughters and his son-in-law – Premysl – the protoplast of the Czech ruling house, the ploughman Premysl (who, seems very similar in his background to Piast whom we briefly introduced here).


The below are excerpts from Lisa Wolverhampton’s translation of Cosmas’ Chronicle of the Czechs (with some, we think, improvements).  The pictures of the chronicle itself are from the Budisin/Bautzen Codex of Chronica Boemorum.  And so without further ado, we give the voice to Cosmas:

Chronicle of the Czechs

On Krok and His Three Daughters

“One particular man had arisen among them, called Krok, after whom a castle is known to have been named, located in the forest adjacent to Ztibecna and now overrun by trees.  He was a man absolutely perfect in his generations, exceptional for his wealth in secular things, discreet in considering lawsuits.”


Krok with His Three Daughters

“Like bees to their hive, so everyone, both from his own tribe and from the common folk of the whole province, flocked to him to sort out their lawsuits.  Such a great man lacked a manly offspring.  Nevertheless, he fathered three daughters, to whom nature gave riches of wisdom no fewer than she was accustomed to give men.”


Kazi was the emotional one

“The eldest of them was named Kazi who surpassed Medea of Colchis in herbs and song and the Paeonian master in medicinal art, because she often made the Fates themselves cease their unending work and oracles follow the commands of her song.  Hence the inhabitants of this land, when the lose something and despair of its recovery, say the following proverb about her: ‘Even Kazi herself cannot get it back.’ Like the place there the daughter of Ceres was abducted by a tyrant, her burial mount cash still be seen today, heaped up very high by the inhabitants of the land in memory of their mistress, on the bank of the River Mze near the road which leads to the province of Bechne, over the mountain called Osek.”


The very Bohemian Tetka with a specimen of local fauna

“Worthy of praise though second by birth, Tetka was a woman of keen discernment lacking a husband.  She built a castle on the River Mze, named Tetin after herself, well fortified by the nature of the placem with rocks reaching steeply to the summit.  She taught the stupid and senseless people to adore and worship Oreads, Dryads, and Hamadryads, and established every superstitious sect and sacrilegious rite.  Like many villagers up until now, just like pagans, this one worships waters of fires, hat one adores groves and trees and stones, another sacrifices to mountains or hills, and still another beseeches and prays to the deaf and dumb idols he has made himself, so that they rule both his home and his one self.”


Libuse was able to see far

“Younger by birth but older in wisdom, the third was called Libuse.  She built a castle, the most powerful then, next to the forest which reaches to the area of Ztibecna, and called it Libusin after her own name.”

“She was truly a woman among women: cautious in counsel, quick to speak, chaste in body, upright in character, second to no one in resolving lawsuits of the people.  Affable, even lovable, in all things, she adorned and glorified the feminine sea while handling masculine affairs with foresight.  But because no one is altogether blessed, this woman of such quality and of so great praise – alas the terrible human condition! – was a prophetess [phitonissa].  Since she predicted many proven futures for people, that whole people took common counsel and set her up as judge over them after the dearth of her father.”

A Challenge to Libuse

“At that that time not a small litigation arose concerning the boundaries of a contiguous filed between two citizens, both among the more eminent in wealth and birth, men who considered themselves leaders of the people.  They erupted to such a degree into mutual conflict that one flew at the thick beard of the other with his fingernails.  Exposing the sounds of their confrontation and confounding each other disgracefully with a finger under the nose, they entered the court raving.  Not without a great din, they approached the lady and asked humbly that Libuse resolve the undecided case between them by reason of justice.  She, meanwhile – as is the wanton softness of women when they do not have a man whom they fear – reclined very softly deep in a painted coverlet, propped on an elbow, as if she had just given birth to a child.  Walking on the path of justice, not respecting men’s persons, she brought the cause of the whole controversy that had arisen between them to a state of rectitude.”

“Yet he whose cause did not win the palm [of victory] on the judgment, more indignant than was fitting, shook his head three or four times, foolishly hit the ground thrice with his staff, and with a full mouth, saliva sprinkling his beard, cried out: ‘Oh, the injuries hardly to be tolerated by men!  A woman full of cracks treats manly judgments with a deceitful mind.  We know indeed that a woman standing or sitting on a throne knows little; how much less must she know when she is reclining on a coverlet?  Truthfully, this posture is more suitable to the approach of a husband than to prescribing laws to warriors.  They all have long hair, to be sure, but women are short on sense.  A man should rather die than suffer such things.  A disgrace among nations and peoples, nature has forsaken us alone, who lack a ruler and manly severity, and whom feminine laws rule.'”


“Not so fast Libuse – where is your man?”

“At this the lady smiled, dissembling the insult made to her and concealing her heart’s pain in feminine modesty.  ‘It is,’ she said, ‘as you say: I am a woman, I live as a woman, and for that reason I seem to you to know too little.  Because I do not judge you with a rod of iron and since you live without fear, you rightly look down on me.  For where fear is, there is honor.  Now, it is very necessary that you have a ruler fiercer than a woman.  Just as the doves once spurned a white bird for a kite whom they had chosen as their king, so you spurn me.  They appointed as their duke a much fiercer hawk, who, inventing crimes, began to kill both the innocent and the wicked.  From then until now, the hawk eats the dove.  Go home now.  I will accept as my husband whomever you should choose tomorrow as your lord.'”

“Meanwhile, she summoned the aforesaid sisters, who stirred up matching rages.  With their magical skill and her own, she made a fool of the people through everything.  Libuse herself was, as we said above, a prophetess like Sibyl of Cumae, the other sister a sorceress of potions like Medea of Colchis, and the third an enchanter like Aeaean Circe.  What kind of counsel those three Eumenides obtained that night and what kind of secret they carried out was then unknown.  Nevertheless it was made manifest – clearer than light – to everyone in the morning, when their sister Libuse revealed both the place where the future duke was hidden and who he was by name.  Who would believe that they would request their first duke from the plow?  And who would know where plows the man who would become ruler of the people?  What does prophetic rage not know?  And what is there that magical skill cannot make happen?  Sibyl was able to predict to the Roman people the course of their destinies almost to the day.  She even – if we can believe it – foretold of Christ.  (A certain teacher inserted verses about the coming of the Lord, composed by Virgil for the persona of Sybil, in the words of his preaching.)”

“Medea was often able to lead Hyperion and Berecynthia back from heaven through her herbs and song; she was able to call forth rainstorms, lightning, and thunder from the clouds; she was able to make the Aegean king a youth from an old man.  By the song of Circe, the friends of Ulysses were transformed into various forms of wild animals, and King Picus into the flying creature which is now called a picos [woodpecker].  What wonder?  How much did magi in Egypt do through their arts, they who performed almost every kind of wonder with their song, as many wonders as Moses, God’s servant, was said to have produced from God’s power?  Enough of that.”

The Lecture of Libuse

“The next day, as was ordered, they convened an assembly without delay and gathered the people; at once everyone came together into one.  Sitting on the highest throne, the woman addressed the boorish men: ‘Oh most pitiable common folk, who do not know that you live free and that no good man gives up [freedom] except with his life.  You flee that freedom not unwillingly and submit your necks voluntarily to unaccustomed servitude.  Alas, later you will regret in vain, as the frogs regretted it when the serpent whom they had made their king, began to kill them.  If you do not know what the rights of a duke might be, I will try to tell you in a few words.”


Everyone enjoyed Libuse’s lectures

“First, it is easy to appoint a duke, but difficult to depose one appointed.  For he who is now under your power, whether [it was] you [who] made him a duke or not, when later he is established, you and everything your will be in his power.  In his presence your knees will tremble and your mute tongue stick to the roof of your dry mouth.  Because of great fright you will hardly respond to his voice, ‘yes, lord, yes, lord,’ when by his command alone and without your fore judgment he will damn this one and slaughter that one, order these sent to prison and those hanged from the gallows.”

“He will make you yourselves and from your midst, as he pleases, some slaves, some peasants, some taxpayers, some tax collectors, some executioners, some heralds, some cooks or bakers or millers.  He will establish for himself tribunes, centurions, bailiffs, cultivators of vineyards and fields, reapers of grain, makers of arms, sewers of various hides and skins.  He will force your sons and daughters into obedience to hi,m.  From even your oxen and horses and mares and cattle he will take, at his pleasure, whichever are best.  Everything yours, what is better in villages and in plains, in fields and meadows and vineyards, he will take away and reduce to his own use.  Why do I delay with these words?  Toward what end do I speak as if to frighten you?  If you persist in what you have begin and do not swear your oath falsely, I will now announce to you both the duke’s name and the place where he is.”

Libuse’s Quest

“At this, the base commoners jumped up with a disordered shout; with one voice everyone demanded a duke be given to them.  Libuse said to them: ‘Behold! Beyond those mountains’ – and she pointed to the mountains with her finger – ‘is a river not yet large, named Bilina, on whose banks a village is to be found, Stadice by name.”

“In its territory lies one newly cleared field, twelve paces in length and in width, which – wonder of wonders – while positioned in the midst of some many [arable] fields, yet pertains to no field.  There your duke plows with two parti-colored oxen: one ox is girded with white and has a white head, the other is white from forehead to rear and has white rear feet.  Now, if  you please, take my ankle-length robe and mantle, and capes fitting for a duke and go.  Report my and the people’s commands to that man, and bring back your duke and my husband.  The name of the man, who will think up [excogitabit] many laws upon your necks and heads, is Premysl (for this name means in Latin, ‘thinking upon’ [superexcogitans] or ‘thinking beforehand’ [premeditans]).  His subsequent progeny will rule all this land forever and ever.”


Libuse’s most trusted servants were chosen for the mission and equipped with a detailed map

“Meanwhile, messengers were chosen, who would bring the lady’s and the common folk’s orders to the man.  When Libuse saw them delaying, as if they did not know the way, she said: ‘What delays you?  Go confidently: follow my horse.  He will lead you on the right road and bring you back, because that road has been trod by him more than once.’  Empty rumor and false conjecture both fly that , always at night, Libuse, on an imaginary ride, was accustomed to go there in the evening and return before daybreak  (Let Apella the Jew believe it!)  What then? Wise, though uneducated, well aware of their ignorance, the messengers proceeded, following the horse’s footsteps.”

“Soon they crossed mountains and eventually approached the village to which they went.  One boy ran to meet them; they said to him, inquiring: ‘Hark, excellent boy! Is not that village named Stadice?  If it is, is a man named Premysl in it it?’  The boy said: ‘It is the village you seek.  And behold, the man Premysl goads his oxen in the field nearby so that he might finish more quickly the work he is doing.'”

The Meeting with Premysl

“Approaching him, the messengers said, ‘Happy man! Duke produced by the Gods for us!’  As is the custom for peasants, it was not sufficient to have said once, so with puffed out cheeks, the predated: ‘Hail, duke! Hail, most worthy of great praise!  Release the oxen, change your clothes, and mount this horse!’  And they showed him the clothes and the nighing horse.  ‘Our lady Libuse and all the common folk demand that you come quickly and take up the realm fated for you and your descendants.  Everything ours and we ourselves are in your hand.  We elect you duke, you judge, you ruler, you protector, you our only lord.'”


When they saw Premysl, they knew he was their man

“At this speech the foreseeing man, as if unaware of future things, halted and fixed in the earth the prod he carried in his hand.  Releasing the oxen, he said, ‘Let us go to the place you came from.’  Immediately, quicker than can be said, the oxen vanished from his sight and were never seen again.  The hazel-wood prod which he had fixed in the ground produced three branches and – what is more miraculous – leaves and nuts.  Seeing such things happen thus, the messengers stood astonished.  In turn thinking the visitors, Premysl invited them to a meal, shook moldy bread and part of a cheese out of his cork-wovern bag, put the bag in the ground for a table, and placed other things on the rough cloth.”

“Then while they were eating the meal and drinking water from a jug, two of the branches or two of the bushes) withered and died, but the third grew much higher and wider.  Whence greater astonishment, mingled with fear, grew in the visitors.  Premysl said: ‘What are you astonished at?  You should know that from our progeny many lords will be born, but one will always dominate.  If your lady does not immediately hurry in this matter, but awaits the galloping fates awhile and does not quickly send for me, as many master’s sons as nature produces, your land will have that many lords.'”

“Afterward, dressed in a princely garment and shod with regal shoes, the plowman mounted his spirited horse.  Still, not forgetful of his lot, he took with him his boots, stitched in every part from cork, and ordered them preserved for posterity.  They are indeed preserved now and forever in the duke’s treasury at Vysehrad.”

The Wisdom of Premysl

“It so happened that, while they took a short cut, until now the messengers had not yet dared to speak more familiarly to their new lord.  Just like doves when some falcon approaches them, they first tremble at it but soon become accustomed to its flight, make it their own, and love it.  Thus, while the riders chatted, shortened the trip with conversation, and lightened their labor by joking and with jesting words, one of them, who was more audacious and quicker to speak, said, ‘O Lord, tell us: why did you make us save those woven cork shoes, fit for nothing except to be thrown away?  We cannot wonder at this enough.’  Premysl said to them: ‘I had them saved and will have them preserved forever for this reason: so that our descendants will know whence they sprang, and so that they will always live trembling and distrustful, and will not unjustly, out of arrogance, oppress the men committed to them by God, because we are all made equals by nature.  Now allow me to inquire in turn of you, whether it is more praiseworthy to be raised from poverty to honor or to be reduced from honor into poverty?”


Premysl’s speech had to be reconstructed as no one in the rapt audience could pull himself away to write it down

“Of course, you will tell me that it is better to be raised to glory than to be reduced to indigence.  Yet some people, born of noble parentage, are later reduced to base indigence and made wretched.  When they proclaim their parents to have been glorious and to have had power over others, they are hardly unaware that they confound and debase themselves more when they lose through their own laziness what their parents had possessed through industry,  Fortune always plays this game of chance with her wheel: now she raises these men to the pinnacle, and now she plunges those into the depths.  Whence it might happen that earthly honor, which brought glory for a time, is lost to disgrace.  Truly, poverty conquered through virtue does not hide itself under a wolf’s pelt but lifts up to the stars as a victor him whom it had once dragged to the depths.”

The Meeting of Libuse and Premysl

“After they had traversed the road and eventually arrived near the burg, the lady rushed to meet them surrounded by her followers.  With their right hands entwined, Libuse and Premysl went indoors with great rejoicing, reclined on couches, refreshed their bodies with Ceres and Bacchus, and gave themselves up to Venus and Hymen for the rest of the night.”


Libuse & Premysl together at last

“This man – who is deservedly to be called a man from his might – restrained this savage people with laws, tamed the untamed populace by his command, and subjected them to servitude by which they are now oppressed.  All the laws which this land possesses and by which it is ruled, he alone with only Libuse decreed.”

The Establishment of Prague

“One day, at the beginning of the new reign of laws, the aforesaid Libuse, excited by prophesy, with her husband Premysl present and other elders of the people standing nearby, foretold thus: ‘ I see a burg, whose fame touches the stars, situated in a forest, thirty stades distant from the village where the Vltava ends in streams.  From the North the stream Brusnice in a deep valley strongly fortifies the burg; from the south a broad, very rocky mountain, called Petrin from rocks [petrae], dominates the place.  The mountain in that spot is curved like a dolphin, a sea pig, stretching to the aforesaid stream.”

“When you come to that place, you will find a man putting up the doorway of a house in the middle of the forest.  From that event – and since even a great lord must duck under a humble threshold – the burg you all build, you will call Prague [Praha, from pray, threshold].  In this burg, one day in the future, two golden olive trees will grow up; they will reach the seventh heaven with their tops and glitter throughout the whole world with signs and miracles.  All the tribes of the land of Bohemia, and other nations too, will worship and adore them, against their enemies and with gifts.  One of these will be called ‘Greater Glory,’ the other, ‘Consolation of the Army.'”

[these are references to Saint Vaclav and Saint Vojtech/Adalbert]


Once the architects were done with theirs, Prague was built at an incredible pace

“More was to be said, if the pestilential and prophetic spirit had not fled from the image of God.  Immedaitely passing into the primeval forest and having found the given sign, in the aforesaid place they built the burg of Prague, mistress of all Bohemia.”

Meanwhile Somewhere Else But Close By

“At that time the maidens of that land, growing up without a yoke, pursuing military arms like Amazons and making leaders for themselves, fought together like young soldiers and trod manfully through the forests on hunts.  Men did not take them, but they took men for themselves, whichever ones they wanted and whenever they wanted.  Just like the Scythian people, the Plauci or the Pechenegs, man and woman also had no distinction in their dress.  Whence their feminine audacity grew so great that on a  certain cliff not far from the aforementioned [Prague], they built themselves a fortress fortified by the nature of its location.  It was given the name Devin, from a maidenly word [i.e., deva, a girl] .  Seeing this, young men, many of them coming together at once, angry with the women and very jealous, built a burg among the bushes on another cliff, no farther than a trumpet call [from Devin].  Present-day men call it Vysehrad, but at that time it took the name Chrasten from the business [chrasti].”


Unfortunately, as soon as Prague was built it was threatened by vicious Amazons

“Because the maidens were often more clever at duping the young men, and because the young men were often stronger than the maidens, there was sometimes war between them and sometimes peace.  At a time when they possesses peace between them, it pleased both parties to come together with food and drink as a token [of that peace].  For three days they engaged in festive sport – without arms – in an agreed upon place.  What more?  In no other way could  the young men have fun with the girls.  And so, like rapacious wolves seeking food, they entered the sheepfold.  They spent the first day merry, with sumptuous food and too much drink.  While they wanted to quench their thirst, another thirst sprang up, and the young men could hardly defer their happiness to the hour of the night.  It was night and the moon was shining in a cloudless sky.  Then blowing a horn , one of the men gave the signal to the others ,saying: ‘You have played enough, you have eaten and drunk enough.  Arise!  Golden Venus calls you with the hoarse rattle.’  Immediately, each of the men carried off a girl.”  Come morning and having entered into agreement of peace, supported by Ceres and Bacchus, the girls yielded the empty walls of their fortress to Vulcan of Lemnos.  Since that time, after the death of Prince Libuse, the women of our people are under the power of men.”

“But since all men have a journey to make, where Numa and Ancus have gone before, so Premysl, now full of days, who was worshipped like a god while living, was carried off to the son-in-law of Ceres after he established the rule of laws.  Nezamysl succeeded him in rule.”

Shaettner Rickover & Borg Corporation – Copyright ©2015, All Rights Reserved

July 4, 2015

Reports of the Slavs From Muslim Lands Part I – Ibrahim ibn Ya’qub’s Account

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Ibrahim ibn Ya’qub al-Israili, was a Jewish merchant from Tortosa (whether he was also a Muslim is debatable).  In the year A.D. 965, he traveled from Muslim-occupied Spain (the formerly Vandal, Al-Andalus) to Mainz and then to Magdeburg, the residence of German Emperor (as of 962) Otto I where, interestingly, he claimed to have been received by the Emperor (or was it puffery?).  Who was Ibrahim?  He was a merchant but beyond that we are not sure.  That he was given access to Otto suggests that he may have been an envoy and his account below suggests that either he also may have been a scout or a spy or that he was just naturally curious or, most likely, both.  If he was an envoy/spy then he was in the service of the Cordoban caliph Al Hakaman II (ruler between 961-976).


Ibrahim was thrilled to get new orders from the caliph and leave the sleepy Spanish Coast…

It is worthwhile to mention that we have briefly met his father Abd-ar-Rahman III already.  The father, also bears mentioning at this point, was a warrior who may have had a special Slavic guard of over thirteen thousand soldiers who helped him conquer portions of Spain and also North Africa (but maybe they were just slaves not Slavs…unclear).

The son, Al Hakhaman was a patron of the arts (his library contained something like 400,000 plus manuscripts) but was not a warrior.  What he was, however, was homosexual and was known to have kept a number of (male) harems.  Of course, a rich ruler gets bored easily and so his harems need replenishing.  Thus, it may well be that while his father kept Slav warrior slaves, the son was sending Ibrahim on a mission to get him some information and some male Slav sex slaves.  At the time the slave trade was booming and Slavs were the primary bounty (yes, we will have more on that later).  Prague was the center of this trade as of other trade as Ibrahim, himself, describes below.  Of course, we do not know Ibrahim’s mission for sure and, likely, will never know leaving the above in realm of speculation.


…for a little nature get away

It was in the service of Abd-ar-Rahman III, the father, by the way, that Hasdai ibn Shaprut performed all his diplomatic miracles as mentioned here. Ibrahim, it is worth noting may well have known Hasdai since the latter did not pass away until the year 970 or so.  It is conceivable then that Ibrahim would have brought back to Hasdai the news of the defeat and final collapse (A.D. 965) of the Khazar Kingdom at the hands of the newly emergent Rus.

In any event, it appears that after visiting with Otto I in Magdeburg he went on to Prague (the year was 965 so the princess Dobrava was just heading out to see her new husband, still non-Christian, Mieszko) and also went to see the Obotrites in the North though the order of his travels is uncertain (his visits to the Czech capital and to the Obotrite capital are relatively clear from the distances given and a description of the approaches to those cities (another reason that suggests that he was more than a merchant).  As for Poland, the lands of Walitaba (Veleti), the Prussians or the Amazons, it seems that Ibrahim had not ventured to those and that his information comes second-hand from people he met in his travels.

Ibrahim’s original account did not survive but, as already mentioned, some of his writings are replicated in Abu ‘Ubayd al-Bakri’s (11th century) “Book of Roads and Kingdoms.”  Since this is a “classic” account containing some of the first mentions of the Bohemian (first mention of Prague), Polish (other than Widukind’s mention of 963, this seems the earliest mention of Polish lands) and West Slavic countries (and of Baltic Prussia – Burus), we transcribe it here in most of the relevant parts (skipping only the German, lengthy Bulgarian and “hearth & home” sections – the last one we will return to in part III of this series).

From Abu ‘Ubayd al-Bakri’s Book of Roads and Kingdoms

“The Saqaliba are descendants of Madhay, son of Yafith (Japheth) and they dwell in the north-west.” says al-Bakri, then switching to Ibrahim’s reporting:

Ibrahim ibn Ya’qub al-Israili says:

‘The country of Saqualiba extends from the eastern Mediterranean to the north Atlantic.  The tribes of the north dominate them and now live among them.  They are of many different kinds.  They were once united under a king named Makha, who was from a group of them called Walitaba.[1]  This group was of high status among them, but then their languages diverged, unity was broken and the people divided into factions, each of them ruled by their own king.”

[We note that a similar term appears in other Arabic writings, e.g., Majik of the Walitaba or Walinana – which, presumably, is a reference to the Volinians of Wolin (or Wollin) Island – who are the same as the Veleti or Walitaba – either way from the Veletian Union on Wolin (from Masudi on the Slavs from A.D. 943; of course, the same Masudi speaks of the majus when speaking of, apparently, Viking (but, maybe, Wendish pirates – more on that later when we discuss Britain) raiders hitting the coasts of Al-Andalus); same people aka the Wilzi in some sources]

“At the present time they have four kings: the king of the Bulqars; Boreslav [the Cruel], king of Prague (Faraga) and Cracow (Karaku); Mieszko (Mashaqu), king of the North; and Nakon (Naqun), who rules farthest west.”

On Nakon’s Country

[Duke of the Obodrites]

“The country of Nakon is bordered on the farthest west by the Saxons [Saksun] and some Norsemen [Murman].  His country has low prices and many horses, which are exported to other places.  They are well armed, with shields, helmets and swords.”


A museum at Gross Raden

“From Burgh (Fargh [Magdeburg?]) to Mayliyah [?] is ten miles and from [there] to the bridge is fifty miles.  It is a wooden bridge, a mile long.  From the bridge to the fortress of Nakon is around 40 miles, and it is called Grad, which means a “large fort”  Facing Grad jus a fort built in a freshwater lake.  This is the kind of place where the Saqaliba build most of their forts, in swampy meadows with thick foliage.”


There be thick foliage

“They trace out a circular or square space the size they want their for to be, and then dig a trench along the perimeter and heap up the earth into a rampart, which they then reinforce with planks and logs, until the walls of the fort are the height they require.  They make a gate wherever they want and build a wooden bridge leading to it.  From the fort of Grad to the Surrounding Sea is eleven miles.  No army can penetrate the lands of Nakon without great difficult, because the country is all marshy, thickly forested and muddy.”


Stargard (Oldenburg in Schleswig-Holstein) reconstruction

[we note here that Nakon died about 965-966, a fact that Ibrahim does not seem to know about suggesting he visited there immediately before those events – maybe a hit commissioned by Otto using a Cordoban “merchant” emissary – let your imagination roam]

On Boreslav’s Country

[Boleslav, Duke of the Czechs]

“As for the country of Boreslav, from the city of Prague to the city of Cracow is a journey of three weeks; its length is comparable to that of the country of the Turks.  The city of Prague is built of stone an dime.  It is the pinrcipal trading city.  The Rus and the Saqaliba go there from Cracow, to trade, and so do Muslim merchants from the lands of the Turks, as well as Turks and Jews, with [mathaquil al-marqatiyya [?] weights [?]].  They carry away slaves, tin and various kinds of furs [?].  Their country is the best in the north the richest in provender.  There a man can buy enough flour for a month for a qinshar.  In Prague are made saddles and griddles and the leather shields used in their countries.”


Prague, a few hundred years after Ibrahim’s visit but before the tourists ruined it

“In Bohemia are made small lightly-woven kerchiefs like nets, embroidered with crescents, which have no practical use.  The value of ten of these kerchiefs is always equivalent to none qinshar.  They trade and exchange them, and have receptacles full of them.  They constitute wealth, and the most expensive things can be purchased with them, wheat, slaves, horses, gold and silver and everything else.  It is surprising that the people of Bohemia have brown or black hair; blonds are rare among them.”

“The road from Madhinburgh [Magdeburg?] to the country of Boleslav [to] and from it to the fort of Qaliwa is ten miles, and from it to Nub Grad is two miles.  It is a fort built of stone and lime, and it is on the Saale River [Slawah], into which falls the River Bode.  And from Nub Grad to Mallahat al-Yahud [Salzmunde?]  which is on the Saale River, is thirty miles.  From there to the fort of Burjin, which is on the River Mulde [Muldasah] … and from it to edge of the forest is twenty-five miles; from its beginning to its end is forty miles, through mountains and forests. for,, it to the wooden bridge over the mud is about two miles.  From the end of the forest the city of Prague is entered.”

On Mieszko’s Country

[Duke of the Poles]

“As for the country of Mieszko, it is the most extensive of their countries.  It abounds in food and meat and honey and cultivated fields.”


Gniezno reconstruction; courtesy: the Museum of the Beginnings of the Polish State

“His taxes are levied in [mathalqil al-margatiyya [according to how much they weigh?]], and they are used to pay the monthly salaries of his men, each of whom receives a fixed number.  He has 3,000 shield-bearers.  One hundred of his soldiers are equal of 1,000.  The men are given clothing and horses and  weapons and everything they require.  If one of them has a child, he is immediately assigned an allowance, whether it is male or female.  When it grows up, if it is male, he provides for its marriage and gives a dowry to the father of the girl.  Dowries are very important to the Saqaliba, and their customs concerning them are like those of the Berbers.  If a woman has two or three daughters, they are considered a form of wealth.  If a man has two sons, it is a cause of poverty.”

On the Prussians

[that is the Baltic Prussians]

“Mieszko is bordered to the east by the Rus and to the north by Prussia.  The inhabitants of Prussia live on the shore of the Surrounding Sea.  They have their own language, and do not know the languages of their neighbors.”


Old Prussians’ defenses were impregnable – at any temperature above 32 Fahrenheit

“They are famous for their courage.  If an army comes against them, not one of them waits until his comrade joins him, but each man charges on his own, striking with his sword until he is killed.  The Rus raid them in ships from the west [presumably Vikings from Sweden].”

On the City of Women 

“West of the Rus lies the City of Women [Magda/Mazovia?].  They have fields and slaves, and they bear children from their slaves.  If a woman has a male child, she kills it.  They ride horses and devote themselves to war; they are brave and fierce.”


In telling his Amazon story to Ibrahim, Otto (in the middle) relied heavily on visual aids

“Ibrahim ibn Ya’qub says: ‘The story of this city is true; Otto, the king of the Romans, told me so himself.'”

On the Walitaba Country


“To the west of this city is a tribe of the Saqaliba called the nation of Walitaba.  It is in the scrbuands of the country of Mieszko to the north-west.”


Wollin coast – it was a lot woodier in the olden days

“They have a great city on the Surrounding Ocean [presumably Wolin].  It has twelve gates and a harbor, with a revetment of wooden pilings [?] [wa hum yasta maluna la-hi shuturan harlan].  They make war on Mieszko and are very courageous.  They have no king and trade with no one.  Their judges are their old men.”

[1] this name Walitaba refers to the Veleti.  Also known as Wilzi.

Shaettner Rickover & Borg Corporation – Copyright ©2015, All Rights Reserved

January 10, 2015

Idols in Oriente iam sole (East of the Sun)

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 Prologue – Introducing the Cast of Characters

Saint Vaclav (Wenceslas) is one of the two first saints of Bohemia.  He was the son of Vratislav and Drahomira.  His father Vratislav was the son of Borivoj I, the first historically attested ruler of the Czechs and of Ludmila (the other early Bohemian saint).  His mother was Drahomira, a princess of the Hevellians, a Slavic tribe from the area around Berlin.  After Borivoj passed away (about 889), the throne was inherited by Spytihnev, his first son but after Spytihnev died (915), the throne went to his younger brother Vratislav (who was, as we said, married to Drahomira).  After Vratislav died (921), his older son Vaclav (born about 907) became duke at the age of thirteen.

It also happened that Vratislav and Drahomira had a second son, Boleslav (the Cruel) (born about 915) who was about six at the time of his brother Vaclav ‘s becoming duke – as well as, possibly, a daughter – Stretislava (who married the famous Slavnik – about whom there will be more in the future).

(BTW It was this Boleslav the Cruel’s daughter – Dobrava – that married the first historically attested Polish duke, Mieszko I).

Exit Ludmila

He was being raised by both his mother Drahomira and his grandmother Ludmila.  Ludmila was a Christian while Drahomira was a devoted pagan and the grandmother, apparently, began to assert herself more as the regent.


Surprisingly, this led to some tension in the family which tension percolated to the surface such that shortly after Vaclav took the reigns of dukedom, his mother Drahomira caused Ludmila to ascend to sainthood by having her assassinated via strangulation.


Drahomira checking out what’s left of Ludmila

Thereafter, Drahomira began to reinstitute Slavic beliefs (also, presumably, so as get out from under the political overlordship of the Bavarian Church).  Nonetheless, at some point Vaclav sent his mother away as a result (though may later have forgiven her).

Exit Vaclav

In any event, the “good” king Vaclav reigned for many years until, in 935 his brother – Boleslav – decided that it was his turn now and that Vaclav would make an excellent saint.


Boleslav invited Vaclav to a feast, got into a quarrel with him and, apparently, three of Boleslav’s buddies did the dirty deed on the King.  Apparently, Boleslav tried to escape and hide in a chapel but the priest would not let him in.


“Sorry, closed for repairs”

(It is not clear whether Boleslav already then carried the moniker, the Cruel, but if he did then Vaclav was a dumbass for accepting Boleslav’s invitation).


Boleslav was seen as “just a regular guy” – quite understandably then Vaclav was surprised by his brother’s treachery

Thus, did the Czechs, being god fearing people, got two saints in record time and Boleslav got to rule for over 30 years.  Everyone was happy.  (Apparently, too, Drahomira was still alive at that time).

Enter the Literati

Vaclav became a saint almost right away after his passing and a number of Vaclav and Ludmila legends were written already in the X century.  The first one may have been in Old Slavonic but soon Latin versions followed suit as the legend of Vaclav grew and expanded to countries outside of Bohemia.  One of those Latin versions was Christian’s Vita et passio sancta Wenceslai et Sanctae Ludmile ave emus written about 992-994.  It was, it seems, based on that version that a later version of the legend – Oriente iam sole – was based on.  It was, in its shorter version, written in the mid-XIII century and in the longer version in the second half of the XIV century.

Oriente iam sole

[east of the Sun]

Our interest in this version of the Vaclav story is, however, rooted in something else and the above was just for context – the mention therein, however scant, once again of Slavic idols (unfortunately, this time with no names).

“[Denique] cum irent omnes ad immolandum ydolis, que colebat mater eius nequissima, hic solus fugiebat consorcia eorum et pergebat occulte ad ecclesias, quas pater eius construxerant… Sed iam dicta cultrix ydolorum, Yezabel immitatrix… cum autem factus esset vir exprobravit incredulitatem illorum et duriciam cordis, dicens ad omnes, qui erant infideles: Servus christi sum, ydolis vestris non serviam, non sub alicuius vestrum amplius redigar potestatem…. Et extunc ceperunt eo iubente [?] ydola minui, christi ecclesie aperiri, et fideles, qui dispersi fuerant, affluere.”


(When all went to sacrifice to the idols that were worshipped by his mother, he alone escaped and went secretly to the churches constructed by his father [i.e., Vratislav]… But the already the aforementioned worshipper of idols, imitating Jezabel [presumably reference to his mother]… But when he became a man he upbraided them for their lack of faith and their hardness of heart saying unto all of them who were unbelievers: “I am a servant of Christ.  I will not serve your idols.  I will not remain under your power anymore”… And thereafter, at his command, the idols were removed and Christ’s churches reopened and the faithful became bountiful [once more]).

We should say that other version also do have a few mentions of idols, e.g., Oporte nos fratres from the 2nd half of the XI century as well as the aforementioned Christian’s version as set forth in Vita et passio sancta Wenceslai et Sanctae Ludmile ave emus.  You can read more about these in Josef Pekar’s 1905 authoritative Wenzels- und Ludmila – Legenden und die Echtheit Christians.



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January 9, 2015