Category Archives: Byzantine Slavs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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September 5, 2017

Ausserordentlich Viele Koinkidinks

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Speaking of Grimm, it is unfortunate that his Deutsche Mythologie has not been translated into a Slavic language (as far as we know).  There are lots of interesting tidbits throughout that book…

For example:

Most adults are aware that light travels faster than sound.  The difference is actually quite significant.  The speed of light is about 186,000 miles per second whereas sound will travel only 1,125 feet in that same second.  It is for this reason that when you see lightning, you then expect to hear thunder.  In fact, you can calculate how far lightning struck from you merely by counting the number of seconds that pass when you hear the thunder sound that follows it.

What does that have to do with Grimm and Slavs?

Well, there is an interesting passage in Procopius that says something like:

“For they believe that one God, the maker of lightning, is alone lord of all things, and they sacrifice to him cattle and all other victims…”

For years, it was assumed that this was a reference to the Russian Perun.*  And yet, as we know the Polish Piorun, the East Slav Perun or Lithuanian Perkunas refer to thunder not lightning.  Is the same God the maker of lightning?

* note: the cattle reference suggested Veles to some but, to the extent that there even was any Veles, it seems odd to sacrifice “cattle” to the alleged “cattle god”. Veles can, on the other hand, be another name for Piorun.

We might say yes if we look at expressions such as “Jasny piorun”, “jasny grom” and others…  And yet these expressions seem like conflations of two independent atmospheric phenomena.

The distinction of these two phenomena is hinted at in the 8th century work of Cosmography of Aethicus Ister where we learn that:

“Naxos and Melos and these islands are islands of the Cyclades, and the very round Isle of Melon as well, which is ver fertile; Jason, Pluto or Paron, and Pharius were born there.”

Naxon et Melos et ipsae insolae Cicladum insolaque Melon rotundissima adeo et fertilis, ubi Iason et Plutonem uel Paronem et Pharium editos.  

Here Paron is equated with Pluto but “Iason” remains separate.

So what does this have to do with Grimm, again?

Well, we’ve previously noted the strange fact that Odin simply means “one” in Russian/Ukrainian (Polish jeden – eden?).

Did Grimm know that?  He was a competent anthropologist, well-learned in Teutonic, Gallic and Slavic beliefs.

And so right at the beginning of the very first edition of his book, he mentions some Slavic Gods.

Among those, looking for similarities and differences between Slavic and Germanic Gods, he notices a God from the Slavic region of Krain (Italian Carniola) in today’s Slovenia (mentioned in a local dictionary).  That God’s name is Torik or Tork.  Grimm looks at the name and expresses his belief that this (war!) God has nothing to do with either the Germanic Tyr nor Thor.

So far so good…

But Grimm then provides an explanation of the Slavic God’s name, the implication of which he does not appear to grasp.

“There is an extraordinary great overlap in Germanic and Slavic superstitions”

He says that the Slavic God’s name simply comes from vtorik, that is the “other” or “second”.  He says this is because the Slavic Torik was a war God and the name was a simple translation of the  name Mars.  Mars or Martis was and is Tuesday (incidentally, Tyr’s day) which was the second day of the Slavic week.  So the Slavs started to call their Mars by using their translated name of the “second” day of the week which day was dedicated to the god Mars.

This may or may not be true, of course.

A much more interesting question, however, is why is Thor called Thor or Tyr called Tyr?

And here is the real brain twister.  How is it that two Germanic Gods’ names Odin and his “son” Thor correspond to Slavic numerals of one and two.  Note also that vtori can mean the returning, repeated.

And why is Odin called Odin, again?  What is the Germanic etymology here?

Moreover, is not the God of Lightning, the “first” God?  You see lightening first before you hear the corresponding thunder.  Lighting is, well, bright.  Brightness corresponds to the name of the God Jasion (the Polish Jaś), the God of the “year” or Jahr or spring (Slavic v-esna or v-iosna) also the God of agriculture rebirth (notice the adventure with Demeter – Dea – meter – the Mother Goddess but also the Earth Goddess).

First, comes Jasion (“lightning”) and then comes Peron (“thunder”).

“Father” and “Son”.

Odin and Vtor

Odin and Thor.

Was then Zeus Thor who struck his father Jasion in an act of not simply “divine punishment” but usurpation?

Incidentally, Jasion is also mentioned in Sacra Moraviae Historia  where He is referred to as “Chasson/sive Jassen”.

It is also noteworthy that “Chasson” was the name of one of the Slavic leaders in Book 2 of the Miracles of Saint Demetrius.

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July 22, 2017

Miscellaneous Raiding Activity

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Finished sometime between 640 and 724 (see below), the “Miscellaneous Chronicle up to the year 724” (that is Chronicon miscellaneous ad annum domino 724 pertinens) contains a single mention of Slavs (the “blessed men” could be monks killed by the invaders):

“AG 934 [AD 623]  The Slavs invaded Crete and the other islands.  There some blessed men of Quenneshre were taken captive and some twenty of them were killed.”

Typical Slav raid on Crete

The above is from the Andrew Palmer translation.

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June 18, 2017

Evagrius and the Avars

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Evagrius Scholasticus (Greek: Εὐάγριος Σχολαστικός) was a Syrian scholar and intellectual living in the 6th century AD, and an aide to the patriarch Gregory of Antioch.  His one surviving work, Ecclesiastical History (Ἐκκλησιαστικὴ Ἱστορία), comprises a six-volume collection concerning the Church’s history from the First Council of Ephesus (A.D. 431) to Maurice’s reign during his life.

Although Evagrius does not mention Slavs, people have suspected that he included Slavs among at least some of the Avars that he does mention.  (Others have even thought that he means Slavs when he says Avars – at least in some instances).  Overall what can probably be said is that some Slavs partook of the invasions of Greece along with the Avars (as mentioned in the Chronicle of Monemvasia or the Miracles of Saint Demetrius) and so mention of Evagrius’ History is appropriate.  For good measure, given the confusion of the times, we throw in pieces that also mention Scythians (note that the Avars are also referred to as “Scythians” as in their trek west after having been beaten by the “Turks” – Book 5) or Massagetae.

The translation is rather ancient itself – by Walford from 1846.

Book 1, Chapter 17

During those times arose the celebrated war of Attila, king of the Scythians: the history of which has been written with great care and distinguished ability by Priscus the rhetorician, who details, in a very elegant narrative, his attacks on the eastern and western parts of the empire, how many and important cities he reduced, and the series of his achievements until he was removed from the world.

It was also in the reign of Theodosius that an extraordinary earthquake occurred, which threw all former ones into the shade, and extended, so to speak, over the whole world. Such was its violence, that many of the towers in different parts of the imperial city were overthrown, and the long wall, as it is termed, of the Chersonese, was laid in ruins; the earth opened and swallowed up many villages; and innumerable other calamities happened both by land and sea. Several fountains became dry, and, on the other hand, large bodies of water were formed on the surface, where none existed before: entire trees were torn up by the roots and hurled aloft, and mountains were suddenly formed by the accumulation of masses thrown up. The sea also cast up dead fish; many islands were submerged; and, again, ships were seen stranded by the retreat of the waters. At the same time Bithynia, the Hellespont, and cither Phrygia, suffered severely. This calamity prevailed for a considerable time, though the violence with which it commenced, did not continue, but abated by degrees until it entirely ceased.

Book 2, Chapter 14

About the same time, when the Scythian war was gathering against the Eastern Romans, an earthquake visited Thrace, the Hellespont, Ionia, and the islands called Cyclades; so severe as to cause a universal overthrow in Cnidus and Cos. Priscus also records the occurrence of excessive rains about Constantinople and Bithynia, which descended like torrents for three or four days; when hills were swept down to the plains, and villages carried away by the deluge: islands also were formed in the lake Boane, not far from Nicomedia, by the masses of rubbish brought down by the waters. This evil, however, was subsequent to the former.

Book 3, Chapter 2

In such a manner, then, had Zeno, from the commencement of his reign, depraved his course of life: while, however, his subjects, both in the East and the West, were greatly distressed; in the one quarter, by the general devastations of the Scenite barbarians; and in Thrace, by the inroads of the Huns, formerly known by the name of Massagetae, who crossed the Ister without opposition: while Zeno himself, in barbarian fashion, was making violent seizure on whatever escaped them.

Book 3, Chapter 25

Theodoric also, a Scythian, raised an insurrection, and having collected his forces in Thrace, marched against Zeno. After ravaging every place in his march as far as the mouth of the Pontus, he was near taking the imperial city, when some of his most intimate companions were secretly induced to enter into a plot against his life. When, however, he had learnt the disaffection of his followers, he commenced a retreat, and was very soon afterwards numbered with the departed, by a kind of death which I will mention, and which happened thus. A spear, with its thong prepared for immediate use, had been suspended before his tent in barbaric fashion. He had ordered a horse to be brought to him for the purpose of exercise, and being in the habit of not having any one to assist him in mounting, vaulted into his seat. The horse, a mettlesome and ungovernable animal, reared before Theodoric was fairly mounted, so that, in the contest, neither daring to rein back the horse, lest it should come down upon him, nor yet having gained a firm seat, he was whirled round in all directions, and dashed against the point of the spear, which thus struck him obliquely, and wounded his side. He was then conveyed to his couch, and after surviving a few days, died of the wound.

Book 3, Chapter 35

It will not be inconsistent, if, in accordance with the promise which I originally made, I insert in my narrative the other circumstances worthy of mention which occurred in the time of Anastasius.

Longinus, the kinsman of Zeno, on his arrival at his native country, as has been already detailed, openly commences war against the emperor: and after a numerous army had been raised from different quarters, in which Conon, formerly bishop of Apamea in Syria, was also present, who, as being an Isaurian, aided the Isaurians, an end was put to the war by the utter destruction of the Isaurian troops of Longinus. The heads of Longinus and Theodore were sent to the imperial city by John the Scythian; which the emperor displayed on poles at the place called Sycae, opposite Constantinople, an agreeable spectacle to the Byzantines, who had been hardly treated by Zeno and the Isaurians. The other Longinus, surnamed of Selinus, the main stay of the insurgent faction, and Indes, are sent alive to Anastasius by John, surnamed Hunchback ; a circumstance which especially gladdened the emperor and the Byzantines, by the display of the prisoners led in triumph along the streets and the hippodrome, with iron chains about their necks and hands. Thenceforward, also, the payment called Isaurica accrued to the imperial treasury, being gold previously paid to the Barbarians annually, to the amount of five thousand pounds.

Book 5, Chapter 1

In this manner did Justinian depart to the lowest region of retribution, after having filled every place with confusion and tumults, and having received at the close of his life the reward of his actions. His nephew Justin succeeds to the purple; having previously held the office of guardian of the palace, styled in the Latin language Curopalata. No one, except those who were immediately about his person, was aware of the demise of Justinian or the declaration of Justin, until the latter made his appearance in the hippodrome, by way of formally assuming the stated functions of royalty. Confining himself to this simple proceeding, he then returned to the palace.

His first edict was one dismissing the bishops to their respective sees, wherever they might be assembled, with a provision that they should maintain what was already established in religion, and abstain from novelties in matters of faith. This proceeding was to his honour. In his mode of life, however, he was dissolute, utterly abandoned to luxury and inordinate pleasures: and to such a degree was he inflamed with desire for the property of others, as to convert every thing into a means of unlawful gain; standing in no awe of the Deity even in the case of bishoprics, but making them a matter of public sale to any purchasers that offered. Possessed, as he was, alike by the vices of audacity and cowardice, he in the first place sends for his kinsman Justin, a man universally famous for military skill and his other distinctions, who was at that time stationed upon the Danube, and engaged in preventing the Avars from crossing that river.

These were one of those Scythian tribes who live in wagons, and inhabit the plains beyond the Caucasus. Having been worsted by their neighbours, the Turks, they had migrated in a mass to the Bosphorus; and, having subsequently left the shores of the Euxine—- where were many barbarian tribes, and where also cities, castles, and some harbours had been located by the Romans, being either settlements of veterans, or colonies sent out by the emperors—-they were pursuing their march, in continual conflict with the barbarians whom they encountered, until they reached the bank of the Danube; and thence they sent an embassy to Justinian.

From this quarter Justin was summoned, as having a claim to the fulfilment of the terms of the agreement between himself and the emperor. For, since both of them had been possessed of equal dignity, and the succession to the empire was in suspense between both, they had agreed, after much dispute, that whichever of the two should become possessed of the sovereignty, should confer the second place on the other; so that while ranking beneath the emperor, he should still take precedence of all others.

Book 5, Chapter 11

On being informed of these events, Justin, in whose mind no sober and considerate thoughts found place after so much inflation and pride, and who did not bear what had befallen him with resignation suited to a human being, falls into a state of frenzy, and becomes unconscious of all subsequent transactions.

Tiberius assumes the direction of affairs, a Thracian by birth, but holding the first place in the court of Justin. He had previously been sent out against the Avars by the emperor, who had raised a very large army for the purpose; and he would inevitably have been made prisoner, since his troops would not even face the barbarians, had not divine Providence unexpectedly delivered him, and preserved him for succession to the Roman ‘sovereignty; which, through the inconsiderate measures of Justin, was in danger of falling to ruin, together with the entire commonwealth, and of passing from such a height of power into the hands of barbarians.


Tiberius, accordingly, applying to a rightful purpose the wealth which had been amassed by improper means, made the necessary preparations for war. So numerous was the army of brave men, raised among the Transalpine nations, the Massagetae, and other Scythian tribes, by a choice levy in the countries on the Rhine, and on this side of the Alps, as well as in Paeonia, Mysia, Illyria, and Isauria, that he completed squadrons of excellent cavalry, to the amount of nearly one hundred and fifty thousand men, and repulsed Chosroes, who, immediately after the capture of Daras, had advanced in the course of the summer against Armenia, and was thence directing his movements upon Caesarea, which was the seat of government of Cappadocia and the capital of the cities in that quarter. In such contempt did Chosroes hold the Roman power, that, when the Caesar had sent an embassy to him, he did not deign to admit the ambassadors to an audience, but bid them follow him to Caesarea; at which place he said he would take the embassy into his consideration. When, however, he saw the Roman army in the front of him, under the command of Justinian, the brother of that Justin who had been miserably put to death by the Emperor Justin, in complete equipment, with the trumpets sending forth martial sounds, the standards uplifted for conflict, and the soldiery eager for slaughter, breathing forth fury, and at the same time maintaining perfect order, and, besides, so numerous and noble a body of cavalry as no monarch had ever imagined, he drew a deep groan, with many adjurations, at the unforeseen and unexpected sight, and was reluctant to begin the engagement. But while he is lingering and whiling away the time, and making a mere feint of fighting, Kurs, the Scythian, who was in command of the right wing, advances upon him; and since the Persians were unable to stand his charge, and were in a very signal manner abandoning their ground, he made an extensive slaughter of his opponents. He also attacks the rear, where both Chosroes and the whole army had placed their baggage, and captures all the royal stores and the entire baggage, under the very eyes of Chosroes; who endured the sight, deeming self-imposed constraint more tolerable than the onset of Kurs. The latter, having together with his troops made himself master of a great amount of money and spoil, and carrying off the beasts of burden with their loads, among which was the sacred fire of Chosroes to which divine honours were paid, makes a circuit of the Persian camp, singing songs of victory, and rejoins, about nightfall, his own army, who had already broken up from their position, without a commencement of battle on the part of either Chosroes or themselves, beyond a few slight skirmishes or single combats, such as usually take place.

Chosroes, having lighted many fires, made preparations for a night assault; and since the Romans had formed two camps, he attacks the division which lay northward, at the dead of night. On their giving way under this sudden and unexpected onset, he advances upon the neighbouring town of Melitene, which was undefended and deserted by its inhabitants, and having fired the whole place, prepared to cross the Euphrates. At the approach, however, of the united forces of the Romans, in alarm for his own safety, he mounted an elephant, and crossed alone; while great numbers of his army found a grave in the waters of the river : on learning whose fate he retreated.

Having paid this extreme penalty for his insolence towards the Roman power, Chosroes retires with the survivors to the eastern parts, in which quarter the terms of the truce had provided that no one should attack him. Nevertheless Justinian made an irruption into the Persian territory with his entire force, and passed the whole winter there, without any molestation. He withdrew about the summer solstice, without having sustained any loss whatever, and passed the summer near the border, surrounded by prosperity and glory.

Book 5, Chapter 20

He also engaged Tamchosroes and Adaarmanes, the principal Persian commanders, who had advanced against him with a considerable force: but the nature, manner, and place of these transactions I leave others to record, or shall perhaps myself make them the subject of a distinct work, since my present one professes to treat of matters of a very different kind. Tamchosroes, however, falls in battle, not by the bravery of the Roman soldiery, but merely through the piety and faith of their commander: and Adaarmanes, being worsted in the fight and having lost many of his men, flies with precipitation, and this too, although Alamundarus, the commander of the Scenite barbarians, played the traitor in declining to cross the Euphrates and support Maurice against the Scenites of the opposite party. For this people are invincible by any other than themselves, on account of the fleetness of their horses : when hemmed in, they cannot be captured; and they outstrip their enemies in retreat. Theodoric too, commander of the Scythian troops, did not so much as venture within range of the missiles, but fled with all his people.

Book 5, Chapter 24

By the aid of God, an account of the affairs of the Church, presenting a fair survey of the whole, has been preserved for us in what has been recorded by Eusebius Pamphili down to the time of Constantine, and thence forward as far as Theodosius the younger, by Theodoret, Sozomen, and Socrates, and in the matters which have been selected for my present work.

Primitive and profane history has been also preserved in a continuous narrative by those who have been zealous at the task; Moses being the first to compose history, as has been clearly shewn by those who have collected whatever bears upon the subject, in writing a true account of events from the beginning of the world, derived from what he learned in converse with God on Mount Sinai. Then follow the accounts which those who after him prepared the way for our religion have stored up in sacred scriptures. Josephus also composed an extensive history, in every way valuable. All the stories, whether fabulous or true, relating to the contests of the Greeks and ancient barbarians, both among themselves and against each other, and whatever else had been achieved since the period at which they record the first existence of mankind, have been written by Charax, Theopompus, Ephorus, and others too numerous to mention. The transactions of the Romans, embracing the history of the whole world and whatever else took place either with respect to their intestine divisions or their proceedings towards other nations, have been treated of by Dionysius of Halicarnassus, who has brought down his account from the times of what are called the Aborigines, to those of Pyrrhus of Epirus. The history is then taken up by Polybius of Megalopolis, who brings it down to the capture of Carthage. All these materials Appian has portioned out by a clear arrangement, separately grouping each series of transactions, though occurring at intervals of time. What events occurred subsequent to the before-mentioned periods, have been treated by Diodorus Siculus, as far as the time of Julius Caesar, and by Dion Cassius, who continued his account as far as Antoninus of Emesa. In a similar work of Herodian, the account extends as far as the death of Maximus; and in that of Nicostratus, the sophist of Trapezus, from Philip, the successor of Gordian, to Odenatus of Palmyra, and the ignominious expedition of Valerian against the Persians. Dexippus has also written at great length on the same subject, commencing with the Scythian wars, and terminating with the reign of Claudius, the successor of Gallierius: and he also included the military transactions of the Carpi and other barbarian tribes, in Greece, Thrace,and Ionia. Eusebius too, commencing from Octavian, Trajan, and Marcus, brought his account down to the death of Carus. The history of the same times has been partially written both by Arrian and Asinius Quadratus: that of the succeeding period by Zosimus, as far as Honorius and Arcadius: and events subsequent to their reign by Priscus the Rhetorician, and others. The whole of this range of history has been excellently epitomised by Eustathius of Epiphania, in two volumes, one extending to the capture of Troy, the other to the twelfth year of the reign of Anastasius. The occurrences subsequent to that period have been written by Procopius the rhetorician as far as the time of Justinian ; and the account has been thenceforward continued by Agathias the rhetorician, and John, my fellow-citizen and kinsman, as far as the flight of Chosroes the younger to the Romans, and his restoration to his kingdom: on which occasion Maurice was by no means tardy in his operations, but royally entertained the fugitive, and with the utmost speed restored him to his kingdom, at great cost and with numerous forces. These writers, however, have not yet published their history. With respect to these events, I also will detail in the sequel such matters as are suitable, with the favour of the higher power.

Book 6, Chapter 3
[AD 589]

Maurice sent out as commander of the forces of the East, first, John, a Scythian, who, after experiencing some reverses, with some alternations of success, achieved nothing worthy of mention; afterwards, Philippicus, who was allied to him by having married one of his two sisters. Having crossed the border and laid waste all before him, he amassed great booty, and killed many of the nobles of Nisibis and the other cities situated within the Tigris. He also gave battle to the Persians, and, after a severe conflict, attended with the loss of many distinguished men on the side of the enemy, he made numerous prisoners, and dismissed unharmed a battalion, which had retreated to an eminence and was fairly in his power, under a promise that they would urge their sovereign to send immediate proposals for peace. He also completed other measures during the continuance of his command, namely, in withdrawing his troops from superfluities and things tending to luxury, and in reducing them to discipline and subordination: the representation of which transactions must be fixed by writers, past or present, according as they may be or have been circumstanced with respect to hearsay or opinion— writers whose narrative, stumbling and limping through ignorance, or rendered affected by partiality, or blinded by antipathy, misses the mark of truth.

Book 6, Chapter 10
[A.D. 590]

Accordingly, the emperor remunerates the troops with largesses of money; and, withdrawing Germanus and others, brings them to trial. They were all condemned to death: but the emperor would not permit any infliction whatever; on the contrary, he bestowed rewards on them.

During the course of these transactions, the Avars twice made an inroad as far as the Long Wall, and captured Anchialus, Singidunum, and many towns and fortresses throughout the whole of Greece, enslaving the inhabitants, and laying every thing waste with fire and sword; in consequence of the greater part of the forces being engaged in the East. Accordingly, the emperor sends Andrew, the first of the imperial guards, on an attempt to induce the troops to receive their former officers.

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April 17, 2017

The Slavs of the Chronicle of Monemvasia

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Although we wanted to relate only the “Slavic” passages of the Chronicle of Monemvasia, the size of the Chronicle lent itself to a translation of it in toto so we went that way so as to, in addition to the Slav references, give more of the context.

The chronicle is extant in the following manuscripts:

  • Turin Codex (Codex Taurinensis Rev. 336)
  • Koutloumousion Codex (Codex Kutlumus 220/3293)
  • Iveron Codex (Codex Iviron 329 (aka Athous 4449))
  • Rome Codex (Codex Collegio greco (Rome))

A portion of the chronicle is very similar to the Scholion of Arethas of Caesarea which we discussed here which led to some suggesting that Arethas was the author.  The dating of the Chronicle is also uncertain with general “agreement” putting it at about the year 1000 A.D. give or take a few hundred years (earliest about 800 to latest in the 1500s – see below for detail).

The Chronicle was first published in print by Joseph Pasinus (Giuseppe Passini) in 1749.  This publication was based on the Turin Codex from the Royal Library of Turin.  It remained largely ignored until the Slavophobe Jacob Philip Fallmerayer cited it as evidence for the proposition that the Greeks had been exterminated by various invaders such that the denizens of 19th century Greece were not really Greeks (the next argument that followed naturally and that Fallmerayer’s theories helped usher, was that the “original” Greeks were not, therefore, like the current Greeks but rather were “Arians” of the Nordic type best represented by the Germans and associated northern peoples, of course).

That Fallmerayer himself looked more, ahem, swarthy than your typical Slav and came from a provincial backwater of Germany (Tyrol which soon became part of the Hapsburg lands) foreshadowed another provincial man’s backwater and personal complexes.  Though Falmerayer did manage to graffiti the Great Temple of Ramses II with the inscription of his name (as did others), thankfully the  overall damage he wrought was less significant than that caused by another confused denizen of the podunk Austrian borderland. (For Falmerayer’s views see Fragmente aus dem Orient, 2nd edition, edited by Georg Thomas published in Stuttgart in 1877).

In any event, with the world’s attention now focused (a bit) on this entire question, the Greek historian (and later a rather inept prime minister) Spirydon Lambros (also Lampros) in 1884 published a new edition of the Chronicle featuring three manuscripts – the two “new” ones that Lambros located came from two separate monasteries on Mount Athos (Koutloumousion and Iveron).  Another edition came out in 1909 in Athens and was produced by Nikos Athanasiou Bees.  Finally, in 1912 Lambros printed another version – this one based on yet another manuscript from the Collegio Greco in Rome.

The most striking feature of these manuscripts is that the Iveron Codex covers the earliest time, the Turin and Koutloumousion Codices also cover events from 1083 through 1350 or so whereas the Rome Codex contains only the additional information from the Turin and Koutloumousion Codices with no overlap with the Iveron Codex.  (Consequently, the Rome Codex is almost a different chronicle is of little relevance for our purposes here).  There is also some information in the Iveron that is not present in the Turin and Koutloumousion Codices.

More modern English language scholarship on the Chronicle comes from historian Peter (Panagiotis) Charanis’ article “The Chronicle of Monemvasia and the Question of the Slavonic Settlements in Greece” (Dumbarton Oaks Papers, volume 5. 1950) (available for free on JSTOR) and some follow up work from him and most recently (?) from Stanisław Turlej’s 2001 study .  Much of the information in this post is courtesy of Charanis’ article. (Separately, Paul Lemerle published a partial French translation of the Chronicle in 1963 and in 1979 an Italian version of the Chronicle was published by the Bulgarian historian Ivan Duičev and there have been a few additional articles/books discussing the work in other contexts).

Charanis’ view is that the Chronicle (as well as the Scholion of Arethas) is based on a now lost chronicle that was put together between 805 (the year of the rebuilding of Patras and its elevation to a metropolitan see) and 932 (year of the Scholium).  That lost chronicle itself was, according to Charanis, based on the writings of Menander, Evagrius, Theophyllact Simocatta and some other lost source.  Although Charanis’ article is most lucid, the introduction of this intervening chronicle seems unnecessary.  Instead, it is also possible that the writer of the Chronicle of Monemvasia (and the Scholion) used the above named sources directly.

Interestingly, the 19th century controversy raised by Fallmerayer about the nature of the present day Greeks (i.e., they are all Slavs or other assorted invaders) led to another controversy with a response by some Greek scholars denying any Slavic invasion of Greece proper (the references to Hellas being invaded in Evagrius, Menander being explained as made to the Byzantine Empire’s lands in the Balkans but not Greece itself.  For those scholars the Chronocle was, of course, very inconvenient.  Current scholarship seems to have settled on a more balanced view seeing an actual Slav settlement – but not in all of Greece or even all of the Peloponnesus (Fallmerayer who brought up the Chronicle in the first place seems to have missed this point) – while also pointing to a Greek (and other) resettlement of the area.

Charanis also brings up the fact that Max Vasmer in his 1941 study of Slav settlement in Greece tallied Slavic toponyms in the area showing the following numbers: Corinth 24, Argolis 18, Achaia 95, Elis 35, Triphylia 44, Arcadia 94, Missenia 43, Laconia 81.  Oddly Vasmer did not mention the Chronicle of Monemvasia or the Scholion of Arethas.  Hopefully, he was not trying to fit his data to the report of the Chronicle (Die Slaven in Griechenland (Abhandlungen der Presussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Jahrgang 1941) Philosophisch-historische Klasse, number 12, Berlin 1941).  Here is a map of Peloponnesus from Vasmer’s book (color scheme is ours):

Charanis claims that Vasmer’s study supports the Chronicle’s position that the Avars/Slavs primarily occupied western Peloponnesus.

(Of course, there is another question that is not on any mainstream scholar’s radar and that is the question of the possibility of Slavic settlements in the Peloponnesus prior to the events described in the Chronicle of Monemvasia. For example, if one were to view S-parta as a compound along the same lines as S-labi that would suggest a “Parthian” origin of the inhabitants (ironically, given the Battle of Thermopylae) – compare, Mount Parthenion whose name suggests that Sparta may be a compound.  For that matter, if you were interested in our Elbe <?> Laba post, compare ακρωτήρι, the Greek for “cape” with “Cape Arkona” (Cape Cape?).  Or compare Krak with Krk island off of Croatia but better yet with Kerkyra off or Epirus with the Karkisa (Carians) called KRK by the Phoenicians and krka by the Persians.  To top it off the Carians seem to have either defeated or (as per Herodotus) been the Leleges who now moved to Laconia and whose King – Lelex – whose great-granddaughter was Sparta who would, in turn, marry Lacedaemon 🙂 ).

In any event, here is the Chronicle of Monemvasia as per, mostly, the Iveron Codex.


“In the 6064th year from the Creation of the world, which was the 32th [actually 31st] year of the reign of Justinian the Great [557 A.D.], there came to Constantinople envoys of strange people, the so-called Avars.  Having never seen such a people, the whole city rushed to see them.  Their jackets were made of long hair, tied with ribbons and twisted.  The rest of their clothing was similar to the clothing worn by other Huns.”

“As Evagrius says in the fifth book of his Ecclesiastical History, they were a nomadic people from the lands beyond the Caucasus mountains and inhabited the plains beyond [these mountains].  Having suffered badly at the hands of the Turks, they escaped these neighbors of theirs, abandoned their land, crossed the Black Sea coast and reached the Bosphorus.  Moving on from there, they crossed the lands of many peoples, fought barbarians they met, until they came to the banks of the Danube [and] then sent messengers to Justinian and asked to be welcomed [within the Empire].  Having been graciously welcomed by the Emperor, they received from his permission to settle in the region of Moesia, in the city of Dorostolon which is now called Dristra[1].  [And] so from poor they became rich and they spread over a very wide space.  Showing themselves forgetful [of the graciousness of Justinian] and ungrateful, they began to subjugate the Byzantines, they took the inhabitants of Thracia and Macedonia as slaves [and] even attacked the capital [Constantinople] and ruthlessly devastated its surroundings.  They also occupied Sirmium[2] [in 581/582 A.D.], an illustrious city in Europe which – being now in Bulgaria, is called Strem [‘Strjamos’] – had earlier been under the control of the Gepids, [to/by?] whom it was given [by/to?] the Emperor Justin[3].  It was for this reason [occupation of Sirmium by the Avars] that the Byzantines concluded a humiliating treaty with them [the Avars], promising to pay them an annual tribute of eighty thousand gold solidi.  On this condition the Avars promised to keep the peace.”[4]

“When in the year 6,000 [582 A.D.] Maurice received the scepter, the Avars sent envoys to him demanding that the eighty gold pieces they were receiving from the Byzantines be increased by another twenty thousand.  The emperor who loved peace agreed to this as well.  But even this agreement did not last more than two years.  [Every] time their master, the khagan, came up with another pretext so as to find a reason for war and demanded excessive things, so as to [be able to] get out of the agreements whenever some of his [new] demands were not fulfilled.  So he, finding the Thracian city of Singidunum [Belgrade] defenseless, he occupied it and, also, Augusta and Viminacium [Stari Kostolac] – a large island on the Danube.  He also conquered Anchialos [Pomorie, Bulgaria] which today is called Messina in Macedonia[5], and he also subdued many other cities that were in Illyria.  Pillaging all he came up on the outskirts of Byzantium [Constantinople] and even threatened to destroy the Great Wall.  Some of them [the Avars] crossed the Strait of Abydos [Hellespont], looted the lands of Asia [meaning today’s Turkey] and then turned back again [towards Constantinople].  The emperor sent envoys to the khagan, the patrician Elpidius and Comentiolus [probably 584 A.D.], agreeing to increase the stipend [tribute].  On these conditions the barbarian agreed to keep the peace.   [But] left alone for a short time, he [then] broke the agreements and undertook a terrible war against the Scythian province [Scythia Minor] and Moesia and destroyed many fortresses.”

“During [yet] another invasion they [the Avars] occupied all of Thessaly,[6] all of Greece, Old Epirus, the Attica and [the island of] Euboea.” 

“Impetuously pushing forth also in the Peloponessus, they took it by force of arms.  Scattering and destroying the noble population and the Greek [noble and Hellenic nations?], they themselves settled in this territory.”

“Those who managed to escape their murderous hands were dispersed into one region or into another.  [The people of] the city of Patras moved to the region of Rhegium in Calabria, the inhabitants of Argos to the island called Orobe, the Corinthians moved to the island called Aegina.  At that time even the Laconians [Lacedaemonians] abandoned their homeland and some of them sailed to the island of Sicily and some still remain there [living] at a place called Demena[7] and preserving the Laconian dialect and changing their name to the Demenites rather than Lacedaemonites.  Others though, having found a place inaccessible by the sea coast, built a strong city [there] and called it Monemvasia as there was only one way for those arriving.  They settled in this city along with their bishop. The shepherds and farmers moved into the rough areas surrounding [this place] and came to be ultimately called Tsakoniae.”

“The Avars having occupied and settled in this way the Peloponnesus, remained there for two hundred and eighteen years, without being subject to the Emperor of the Byzantines nor to any other [ruler], that is from the year 6,096 [587 A.D.] from the Creation of the world – which was the eighth year of the reign of Maurice – until the year 6313 [805 A.D.] – which was the fourth year of the reign of Nicephoros the Elder whose son was Staurakios[8].

“Because only the eastern part of the Peloponnesus, from Corinth up to Malea remained – due to its rough and inaccessible nature – free from the Slavic people and to that area [there continued to be] sent by the Emperor of the Byzantines a governor [strategus] of Peloponnesus.  One of these governors, a native of Lesser Armenia, [a member] of the so-called Skleros [Skleroi] family, went to battle the people of the Slavs, reduced them in battle with his arms and completely annihilated them [and] then he permitted the original inhabitants to get back their homes.  Upon hearing of this, the aforementioned Emperor Nicephoros, full of joy, immediately ordered that the cities in that region be rebuilt and all the churches [too] that the barbarians had destroyed and that these barbarians be converted to Christianity.  He informed the Patras exiles – at the place where they fled to – of his order reestablishing them in their ancient seat together with their bishop who at the time was Athanasius [and] gave the city of Patras – which until then was an archbishopric – metropolitan rights.”

“And he rebuilt from bottom up their city and their holy churches of God when Tarasios was still Patriarch [Patriarch of Constantinople 784 – 806].   He built the foundations well as the city of Lacedaemon and placed there a diverse population [of] Caferoe [Cabaroe/ Cabeiroe/Kibyraeotae?], Thrakesioe [Thracians/Thracesians?], Armenians and others, gathered from various places and cities and also established [the city] as [the seat of] of a bishopric and arranged that it be under the jurisdiction of the metropolis of Patras,  to which he also assigned two other bishoprics, Modon and Koron [Methoni and Koroni both in Messenia].  By reason of this the barbarians having been with the help and by the grace of God catechized, were [then] baptized and joined the Christian faith, for the glory and grace of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and ever, Amen.”

[1] note: modern day Silistra in northeastern Bulgaria]
[2] note: modern Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia]
[3] note: probably the reference is to the Gepids returning Sirmium to Justin II in 567 A.D. when the Gepids were being crushed by Lombards and Avars and offered to give up Sirmium for Byzantine help.  The Byzantines did in fact regain Sirmium at that point]
[4] note: Sirmium fell during the reign of Tiberius II Constantine who possibly agreed to pay three years’ worth of the 80,000 tribute to have the inhabitants spared.  Shortly afterwards he died and Maurice became the emperor]
[5] note: Anchialos is different from Messina – this is a chronicler error.  The Avars took Anchialos in 584 A.D.]
[6] note: ditto Book II of the Miracles of Saint Demetrius – to come]
[7] note: probably in northeastern Sicily – refered to in ninth and tenth century documents]
[8] note: both victims of the 811 Battle of Pliska against Krum who encased Nicephorus’s skull in silver, and used it as a cup for wine-drinking]

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April 10, 2017

The Slawinia of Vita Willibaldi

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According to the composer of his Vita, Hugeburc of Heidenheim (!), Bishop Willibald of Eichstätt (700 – 787) went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in the year 722.  During his journey he passed through the Peloponnese reaching the city of Monemvasia in the land of Slavinia (“….venerunt ultra mare Adria ad urbem Manamfasiam in Slawinia terrae.”)  Slavic presence in the Peloponnese is attested in numerous sources (such as the Scholium of Arethas of Caesaria, the Chronicle of Monemvasia, the much later Chronicle of Morea).  Here we present Hugeburc’s Vita Willibaldi (translation by C. H. Talbot).

As a point of further interest both Willibald (born in Wessex) and Hugeburc were Anglo-Saxons. Also Hugeburc (also Hygeburg or Huneberc) was a nun at the Abbey of Heidenheim.  She wrote the Vita at some point between 767 and 778.

“…So after the solemnities of Easter Sunday were over this restless fighter set off on his journey with two companions.  On their way they came to a town east of Terracina [Fondi] and stayed there two days.  Then, leaving it behind, they reached Gaeta, which stands at the edge of the sea. At this point they went on board a ship and crossed over the sea to Naples, where they left the ship in which they had sailed and stayed for two weeks. These cities belong to the Romans: they are in the territory of Benevento, but owe allegiance to the Romans.  And at once, as is usual when the mercy of God is at work, their fondest hopes were fulfilled, for they chanced upon a ship that had come from Egypt, so they embarked on it and set sail for a town called Reggio in Calabria. At this place they stayed two days; then they departed and betook themselves to the island of Sicily, that is to say, to Catania, where the body of St. Agatha, the virgin, rests.  Mount Etna is there.  Whenever the volcanic fire erupts there and begins to spread and threaten the whole region the people of the city take the body of St. Agatha and place it in front of the oncoming fiames and they stop immediately.  They stayed there three weeks. Thence they sailed for Syracuse, a city in the same country.  Sailing from Syracuse, they crossed the Adriatic and reached the city of Monembasia [Monemvasia], in the land of Slawinia, and from there they sailed to Chios, leaving Corinth on the port side.  Sailing on from there, they passed Samos and sped on towards Asia, to the city of Ephesus, which stands about a mile from the sea.  Then they went on foot to the spot where the Seven Sleepers lie at rest.  From there they walked to the tomb of St. John, the Evangelist, which is situated in a beautiful spot near Ephesus, and thence two miles farther on along the sea coast to a great city called Phygela, where they stayed a day.  At this place they begged some bread and went to a fountain in the middle of the city, and, sitting on the edge of it, they dipped their bread in the water and so ate. They pursued their journey on foot along the sea shore to the town of Hierapolis, which stands on a high mountain; and thence they went to a place called Patara, where they remained until the bitter and icy winter had passed.  Afterwards they sailed from there and reached a city called Miletus, which was formerly threatened with destruction from the waters.  At this place there were two solitaries living on ” stylites “, that is, colurnns built up and strengthened by a great stone wall of immense height, to protect them from the water. Thence they crossed over by sea to Mount Chelidonium and traversed the whole of it.  At this point they suffered very much from hunger, because the country was wild and desolate, and they grew so weak through lack of food that they feared their last day had come.  But the Almighty Shepherd of His people deigned to provide food for His poor servants.  Sailing from there, they reached the island of Cyprus, which lies between the Greeks and the Saracens, and went to the city of Pamphos, where they stayed three weeks. It was then Eastertime, a year after their setting out.  Thence they went to Constantia, where the body of St. Epiphanius rests, and they remained there until after the feast of St. John the Baptist…”

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January 29, 2017

George of Pisidia’s Slavs

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George Pisidia (Γεώργιος Πισίδης, (of Pisida in Latin) aka The Pisidian) was a Byzantine deacon and poet, born in… Pisidia.  He flourished during the 7th century AD.

From his poems we learn he was a Pisidian by birth, and a friend of Patriarch Sergius I of Constantinople and the Emperor Heraclius.  His earliest work, in three cantos, is De expeditione Heraclii imperatoris contra Persas, libri tres on Heraclius’ campaign against the Persians in 622.  His second work was Avarica (or Bellum Avaricum), an account of the Avar attack on Constantinople in 626.  Then came the Heraclias (or De extremo Chosroae Persarum regis excidio), a general survey of the exploits of Emperor Heraclius both at home and abroad down to the final overthrow of the Persian Chosroes in 627.  Some of his works may have been used by Theophanes the Confessor as a basis for his Chronographia.

Of interest to us, both the Avarica and the Heraclias contain some very early references to the Slavs (referring to them as Sthlawos).

(or Bellum Avaricum)
written in 626

“Truly a tempest of our enemies came at us like the sea’s countless waves, throwing the sands of different barbarian tribes; For that summer an ominous wind sent forth onto our heads from all of Thrace a terrible snowstorm from many clouds gathered…”

“…Not one of these struggles was easy, as [they] all spattered [among us], [first] coming [as each was] from a variety of different causes intertwined together.  For the Slavs with the Huns and the Scythian* with the Bulgar, and from the other side a Medes** also with the Scythian conspiring, [each] different from one another in language and blood, yet though far from one another, from afar coming together, they raised one sword against us, demanding that we should fatuously take their deceit for steadfast fidelity…”

* Huns and Scythians meaning Avars.
** Medes meaning Persians.

“…And the barbarian [i.e., the Avar khagan] put his hordes of Slavs together with Bulgars onto ships, for he had canoes hallowed from tree trunks, and added a sea battle to that on land…”

(or De extremo Chosroae Persarum regis excidio)
written circa 627-629

“…And from beyond, from Thrace, clouds gathered again bringing us the thunder of war; and from one side the Scythian Charybdis silently went about marauding, and from the other, the Slavs like wolves ran out to sting us on land and sea.  The sea waves mixed with their blood after the battle seemed red to the eye, so much that this sight seemed like Perseus’ Gorgon [Medusa] terrible, and the whole world plunged in the depths…”

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January 5, 2017

Liutprand of Cremona

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Here are some mentions of Slavs  (and we included mentions of Bulgarians and Macedonians since at this time they were mostly Slavicized) by Liutprand of Cremona (in a translation by Paolo Squatriti – there is also an older Scott version which we did not use; we have used one excerpt from Henderson’s even older translation).  Liutprand (circa 920 – 972) was a diplomat and bishop of Cremona.  He was likely of Lombard origin (he was probably named after the 8th century Lombard king Liutprand).  In 931 or so he entered the service of Hugh of Aries (who kept court at Pavia) (this is the “King Hugh”).  Later he worked for Berengar II who sent him to the court of Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos (both his father and stepfather had also been diplomats/ambassadors in Constantinople).  It is possible that Liutprand was the source of some of the information set out by Porphyrogennetos in his De Administrando Imperio.

Returning to Italy, he began to work for Berengar’s rival Otto I.  He became Bishop of Cremona in 962.  In 963 he was sent to Pope John XII at the beginning of the quarrel between the Pope and the Emperor Otto I over papal allegiance to Berengar’s son Adelbert. Liutprand attended the Roman conclave of bishops that deposed Pope John XII on November 6, 963 and wrote the only connected narrative of those events.

in 968 Liutprand was again sent to Constantinople, this time to the court of Nicephorus Phocas, to demand the hand of Anna Porphyrogenita, daughter of the former emperor Romanus II, for the future Emperor Otto II.  The possible marriage was part of a wider negotiation between Otto I and Nicephorus.  Liutprand’s reception at Constantinople was humiliating and his embassy ultimately futile after the subject of Otto’s claim to the title of Roman Emperor caused friction.

His works include:

  • Retribution (Antapodosis),
  • King Otto (Historia Ottonis),
  • Embassy or Report of the Mission to Constantinople to Nicephorus Phocas (Relatio de legatione Constantinopolitana ad Nicephorum Phocam),
  • Paschal Homily (Homilia paschalis)and
  • some minor works.

Liutprand’s works display a modern sense of humour (for example, in Retribution V (23) where he describes the scene of the deposed brothers Stephen and Constantine arriving at a monastery at Prote to be mockingly welcomed by their father Romanos, whom they had themselves earlier deposed and sent there – we do not present that here but suggest reading the whole thing).

Embassy (23) also contains an interesting reference to a ritual of the Slavs, seemingly of a religious nature.

Retribution I (5)

“In that same period, Leo  Porphyrogennetos, son of the emperor Basil, father of that Constantine who up until now happily lives and reigns, ruled the empire of the Constantinopolitan city.  The strong warrior Symeon* governed the Bulgarians, a Christian but deeply hostile towards his Greek neighbors.  The Hungarian people, whose savagery almost all nations have experienced, and who, with God showing mercy, terrified by the power of the most holy and unconquered king OTTO, now does not dare even to whisper, as we will relate at greater length, at that time was unknown to all of us.  For they were separated from us by certain very troublesome barriers, which the common people call ‘closures,’ so that they did not have the possibility of leaving for either the southern or the western regions.  At the same time, once Charles surnamed ‘the Bald’ had died, Arnulf, a very powerful king, ruled the Bavarians, Swabians, Teutonic Franks, Lotharingians, and brave Saxons; against him Sviatopolk, duke of the Moravians fought back in a manly way.  The commanders Berengar and Wido were in conflict over the Italian kingdom.  Formosus, the bishop of the city of Porto, was the head of the Roman see and universal pope.  But now we shall explain as briefly as we can what happened under each one of these rulers.”

* Simeon I of Bulgaria was tsar between 893 and 927.

Retribution I (8)

“The august emperor Basil [this is Basil I the Macedonian], his forefather,* was born into a humble family in Macedonia and went down to Constantinople under the yoke of τῆς πτοχεῖας – which is poverty – so as to serve a certain abbot.  Therefore, the emperor Michael who ruled at that time [Michael III], when he went to pray at that monastery where Basil served, saw him endowed with shapeliness that stood out from all others and quickly called the abbot so that he would give him that boy; taking him into the palcem he gave him the office of chamberlain.  And them after a little while he was given so much power that he was called ‘the other emperor’ by everyone.”


* The “his” refers to Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos.  Basil may have been a Slav.

Retribution I (11)

“But now it will not disturb this booklet to insert two things, worthy of memory and laughter, which the son of this Basil, the aforementioned august emperor Leo, did.  The Constantinopolitan city, which formerly was called Byzantium and now New Rome, is located amidst very savage nations.  Indeed it has to its north the Hungarians, the Pizaceni, the Khazars, the Rus, whom we call Normans but another name, and the Bulgarians, all very close by; to the east lies Baghdad; between the east and the south the inhabitants of Egypt and Babylonia; to the south there is Africa and that island called Crete, very close to and dangerous for Constantinople [because then it was held by the Saracens].  Other nations that are in the same region, that is, the Armenians, Persians, Chaldeans, and Avasgi, serve Constantinople.  The inhabitants of this city surpass all these people in wealth as they do also in wisdom…”

Retribution I (13)

“Meanwhile Arnulf, the strongest king of the nations living below the star Arcturis, could not overcome Sviatopolk, duke of the Moravians, whom we mentioned above, with the latter fighting back in a manly way; and – alas! – having dismantled those very well fortified barriers which we said earlier are called ‘closures’ the populace, Arnulf summoned to his aid the nation of the Hungarians, greedy, rash, ignorant of almighty God but well versed in every crime, avid only for murder and plunder; if indeed it can be called ‘aid’, since a little later, with him dying, it proved to be grave peril, and even the occasion of ruin, for his people alongside the other nations living in the south and west.”

“What happened?  Sviatopolk was conquered, subjugated, made tributary; but that was not all.  O blind lust of King Arnulf for power! O unhappy of all Europe! How much widowhood for women, childlessness for fathers, corruption of virgins, enslavement of priest and peoples of God , how much devastation of churches, desolation of rural districts does blind ambition bring!… [continues complaining]…But let us get back to the issue.  After having conquered Sviatopolk, duke of the Moravians, once he  obtained peace, Arnulf oversaw his realm; meanwhile the Hungarians, having observed the outcome and contemplated the region, spun evil schemes in their hearts, as becomes apparent when events unfolded.”

Retribution II (6)

“…After a few years had elapsed, since there was no one in the eastern or southern lands who could resist the Hungarians (for they had made the nations of the Bulgarians and the Greek tributary), lest there might be anything still unknown to them, they assailed the nations who are seen to live under the southern and western skies [climes].  Having gathered an immense, numberless army, they sought out Italy…”

Retribution II (28)

“The king aspired to say man y more things like this when a messenger announced that the sly Hungarians were in Merseburg, a castle set at the border of the Saxons, Thuringians, and Slavs. The messenger also added that they had taken captive no small number of children and women, and had made an immense massacre of men; and they had said that they would leave no one surviving older than the age of ten, since in this way they could create no small ferro among the Saxons.  Yet the king, as he was steady in spirit, was not frightened by such news, but increasingly exhorted his men, saying that they must fight for their fatherland and die nobly.”

Retribution II (3)

“With hardly amy delay battle began, and frequently there was heard the holy and plaintive cry “Κύριε, ελέησον” from the Christians’ side, and from their side the devilish and dirty ‘Hui, hui.'”

Retribution III (21)

“Once Hugh was ordained king, like a prudent man he began to send his messengers everywhere throughout all lands and to seek friendship of many kings and princes, especially the very famous King Henry, who, as we said above, ruled over the Bavarians, Swabians, Lotharingians, Franks, and Saxons.  This Henry also subjugated the countless Slavic people and made it tributary to himself; also, he was the first who subjugated the Danes and compelled them to serve him, and through this he made his name renewed among many nations.”

Retribution III (24)

“At last he [Liutprand’s father on a mission from King Hugh] was welcomed with great honors by the same emperor [Romanos]; nor was this so much because of the novelty of the thing or the grandiosity of the gifts as it was because, when my aforementioned father reached Thessalonica, certain Slavs, who were rebels against the emperor Romanos and were depopulating his land, fell upon him; but truly it happened by the mercy of God that two of their leaders were taken alive after many had been killed.  When he presented the prisoners to the emperor, the latter was filled with great glee and, my father, having received a great gift from him, returned happy to King Hugh, who had sent him there…”

Retribution III (27)

“Meanwhile what had been done by Romanos was announced to the domestic Phocas, who was at that time fighting the Bulgarians and who himself ardently desired to be made father of the emperor, and who was jus then obtaining a triumph over the enemy.  He immediately became dejected in spirit and afflicted by great anguish, and he cast down the sign of victory with which he was chasing his enemies, turned his back, and made his men take flight.  The Bulgarians then restored their spirits through Symeon‘s exhortation, and those who at first, with Mars contrary to them, had fled, now, with the war god turned favorable, did the chasing; and such a great massacre of Achaeans took place that the field was seen to be full of bones for a long time afterwards.”

Retribution III (28)

“With all possible haste the aforementioned Phocas, the domestic, returned to Constatntinople and wanted to enter the palace, and he strove to become ‘father of the emperor’ by force if not by craft.  But since, as Horace says, ‘force, deprived of wise counsel, collapses under its own weight,’ and ‘the gods advance a tempered force,’ he was captured by Romanos and deprived of both eyes.  No small force of Bulgarians arose, and doubly paid back the Greeks through a depopulating raid.”

Retribution III (29)

“And they used to say Symeon was half-Greek, on account of the fact that since his boyhood he had learned the rhetoric of Demosthenes and the logic of Aristotle in Byzantium.  Afterwards, however, having abandoned his studies of the arts, as they relate, he put on the habit of holy living.  Truly, deceived by his lust for power, a little later he passed from the placid quiet of the monastery to the tempest of this world, and preferred to follow Julian the Apostate rather than the most blessed Peter, the heavenly kingdom’s doorkeeper.  He has two sons, one named Baianus. and the other, who is still alive and powerfully leads the Bulgarians, by the name of Peter.  They report that Baianus learned magic, so that you could see him quickly transform himself from man to wolf or any other beast.”

Retribution III (32)

[this largely repeats the Macedonian origin story of Basil I from Retribution I (8)]

Retribution III (38)

“At that same time the Bulgarian Symeon began vigorously to afflict the Argives. Romanos having given the daughter of his son Christopher as a wife for Symeon’s son Peter, who is still alive, restrained him from the rampage he had launched, and allied him to himself with a treaty.  Whence the girl was called Irini, by a changed name, because through her a very solid peace was established between Bulgarians and Greeks.”

Romanos and Simeon

Retribution V (2)

“At that time, as you well know yourselves, the sun underwent a great eclipse, terrifying for all… at the third hour of the sixth day, the very same day when your King And ar-Rhaman was defeated in battle by Radamir,* the most Christian king of Galicia…”

* We have included Radamir of Galicia here by reason of his name.  Radomir would clearly have been Slavic.

Retribution V (15)

“A certain people is established within the northern region, which the Greeks call Ρουσιος from the nature of their bodies, and we instead call ‘Northemen’ from the location of their country.  Indeed, in the German language nord means ‘north’ and man means ‘people,’ whence we might call the Norsemen the ‘men of the north.’  The king of this nation was called Igor, who having collected a thousand and more ships, came to Constantinople.  When Emperor Romanos heard this, since he had sent his navy against the Saracens and to guard the islands, he began to bubble over with thoughts.  And when he had passed not a few sleepless nights in his thinking and Igor had brutalized everything close to the sea, it was announced to Romanos that there were 15 half-sunk warships, which the people had abandoned on account of their age.  When he heard this the emperor ordered τοῦς kαλαφατάς that is, the shipbuilders, to come to him, and to them he said: ‘Starting without delays, prepare the warships that are left; but place the contraption from which fire is shot not just on the bow, but also on the stern and in addition on both sides of each ship.’ Thus, once the ships were refurbished according to his directive, he stationed very clever men on them and ordered that they steer toward King Igor.  When at last they cast off, when King Igor saw them floating on the sea, he ordered that his army take the crews alive and not kill them.  At last the merciful and mercy-giving Lord, who wanted not just to protect those who worshiped him, adored him, and prayed to him, but also to honor them with a victory, suddenly turned the sea calm by stilling the winds – for it would have been a nuisance to the Greeks to have contrary winds, on account of having to shoot the fire.  Thus, placed in the midst of the Rus, they cast their fire all around.  As soon as the Rus observed this, they cast themselves quickly from their ships into the sea, and chose to be submerged by the waves rather than be burned by the fire.  Others, however, burdened by breastplates and helmets, sought out the bottom of the sea, never to be seen again while several, swimming between the waves of the sea, were burned, and on that day no one escaped who did not free himself by fleeing to the shore.  For the ships of the Rus pass even where the water is very shallow, on account of their smallness; this the warships of the Greeks cannot do because of their deep keels;  on account of this fact, Igor, freed with many of his men by flight to the shore, afterwards in the enormous confusion returned to his country.  Having obtained victory, the Greeks returned happy to Constantinople, leading off many live captives; Romanos ordered all the prisoners beheaded in the presence of the messenger of King Hugh, that is, of my stepfather.”

Retribution V (22)

“…Diavolinus replied to him [Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos]*: ‘It is not hidden from you that the Macedonians are as devoted to you as they are tough in combat; send for them and stuff your own rooms with them, leaving Stephen and Constantine ignorant of it.  And when the designated day for the dinner arrives and the moment comes for the ceremony of seating, at the giving of the signal, that is when the shield is struck as I said before, while their bands of armed men will not be able to protect them, let your men suddenly and quickly sally forth and capture the brothers as easily as unexpedcedly, and with their hair shaven as the custom is, pack the off to love wisdom at the nearby monastery, to which they sent their own father, meanings your father-in-law.   Indeed, the rectitude of divine justice, whose retribution did not scare them off from sinning against their father, and which prevented you from offending, will abet your endeavor.’  That this took place exactly in this manner by God’s judgment not just Europe, but nowadays both Africa and Asia declare, too.  Indeed, not he designated day, when the brothers Stephen and Constantine invited the other Constantine to dinner after counterfeigint peace, and when a tumult broke out over the ceremony of seating, and when the spied was struck as we said the Macedonians unexpectedly sallied forth and, as soon as they captured them, packed of the two brothers Stephen and Constantine with shaved heads to the nearby island to love wisdom, the same one to which they had sent their father.”

* Emperor Romanos remained in power until 944, when he was deposed by his sons, the co-emperors Stephen and Constantine. Romanos spent the last years of his life in exile on the Island of Prote as a monk and died on June 15, 948.  With the help of his wife, Constantine VII succeeded in removing his brothers-in-law.  It is not clear whether these Macedonians were Slavs, Greeks or someone else.

King Otto (6)

“To this the emperor replied:

‘…As to Bishop Leo and Cardinal Deacon John, who were unfaithful to the pope, whom he access us of welcoming, in this peril we neither saw nor welcomed them.  With the lord pope directing them to leave for Constantinople to cause us trouble, they were captured at Capua, accodunrg to what we heard.  With them, we heard, were captured also Saleccus, a Bulgarian by birth, by education a Hungarian, a very close associate of the lord pope, and Zacheus, an evil man, ignorant of divine and profane letters, who was recently consecrated bishop by the lord pope and sent to the Hungarians to preach that they should attack us.  WE would never have believed anyone who said the pope did these things, except that there were letters worthy of trust, sealed with lead and bearing his inscribed name on them.'”

Embassy (16)

“To them I said: ‘Even you are not unaware that my lord has mightier Slavic peoples under him that the king of the Bulgarians, Peter, who led off in marriage the daughter of the emperor Christopher!’ ‘But Christopher,’ they said, ‘was not born in the purple.'”

Embassy (19)

“…On that feast day I was quite sick, but nevertheless he [the emperor’s brother] ordered me and the messengers of the Bulgarians, who had arrived true day before, to meet him at the Church of the Holy Apostles.  When, after wordiness of the chants and of there celebration of the masses, we were invited to table, he placed the messenger of the Bulgarians, shorn in the Hungarian style, girt with a bronze chain, and – as my mind suggested to me- not yet baptized, at the furthest end of the table (which was long and narrow) but closer than me to himself, obviously as an insult to you, my august lords.  For you I underwent contempt, for you I was disdained, for you I was scorned; but I give thanks to the Lord Jesus Christ, whom you serve with your whole spirit, that I was considered worthy to suffer insults in your name.  Truly, my lords, I left that table considering the insult not to me, but to you.  As I sought to leave, indignant, Leo, the chief of staff and brother of the emperor, and the first secretary, Simon, followed behind me, howling: ‘When Peter the emperor of the Bulgarians led off Christopher’s daughter as spouse, symphonies, that is accords, were written and sealed with oaths, so that we would give precedence to, give honor and favor to the Bulgarians’ apostles, that is, the messengers, above the apostles of all the other nations.  That apostle of the Bulgarians, though he is, as you say (and it is true), shorn, unwashed, and girt with a bronze chain, nevertheless is a noble, and we judge it unpropitious to give precedence over him to a bishop, especially one of the Franks.  And since we perceive you bear this without dignity, we will not allow you to return to your hostel now as you think, but will force you to savor food with the slaves of the emperor in a certain cheap inn.'”

Embassy (20)

“To them I answered nothing because of a boundless pain within my heart; but I did what they had ordered, considering dishonorable a table where precedence is given to a Bulgarian messenger over not me, that is, Bishop Liudprand, but over one of your messengers.  But the holy emperor alleviated my pain with a great gift, sending me from his most refined foods a fat goat, one of which he himself had eaten, totally overloaded with garlic, onion, leeks, drowned in fish sauce, which I wish could appear on your own table, my lords, so that, whatever delectables you did not believe fitting for a holy emperor, at least, after having  seen these ones, you might believe it.”

Embassy (21)

“When eight days had passed, once the Bulgarians had gone, thinking I would esteem his table highly, he invited me, still quite sick, to eat with him in the same place.  The patriarch was there, along with many bishops…”

Embassy (23)

“He ordered me to rush to him in the palace in the afternoon of that same day, though I was weak and beside myself to the point that women I met in the street who earlier with wondering minds called out, ‘Mana! Mana!’ now, pitying my pitiful; condition, beating their breasts with their fists, would say, ‘Ταπεινέ και ταλαὶπωρε!’ May what I prayed for, with my hands outstretched to the heavens, both for Nicephoros as he approached, and for you, who were absent, come true!  Still I want you to believe me that he induced me to no small laughter, sitting as he was, quite tiny on a quite big, impatient, and unbridled horse.  My mind pictured to itself that kind of doll your Slavs tie onto the young horse they send out unbridled to follow the lead of its mother.”

Puppam ipsum mens sibi depinxit mea, quam Sclavi* vestri equino colligantes pullo, matrem praecedentem sequi effrenate dimittunt

* Schlavi being the Latin-Italian hybrid version.  Note that the Henderson translation has this as: ‘My mind pictured to itself one of those dolls which your Slavonians tie on to a foal, allowing it then to follow its mother without a rein.’  No actual manuscript of this exists (last editors that  saw one were Baroni & Canisius whose edition came out in 1600)

Embassy (29)

“But let us return to the matter at hand.  At this dinner he ordered to be read aloud the homily of the blessed John Chrysostom on the Acts of the Apostles, something he had not done before/  After the end of this reading, when I asked for license to return to you, nodding with his head that it would be done, he ordered me to be taken back by my persecutor to my fellow citizens and roommates, the lions.  When this was done, I was not again received by him until the thirteenth day before the calends of August, but iI was carefully guarded lest I might benefit from the speech of anyone who could tell me of his deeds.  Meanwhile he ordered Grimizo, Adalbert’s messenger, to come to him, whom he ordered to return with his naval expedition.  There were twenty-dour warships, tow ships of the Rus,* two Gallic shops; I do not know if he sent more that I did not see.  The strength of your soldiers, my lords, august emperors, does not need to be encouraged by the impotence of enemies, which it has often proved against those peoples, even the least of which [peoples], and the ones weakest by comparison with the others, cast the Greek power down and made it tributary: for just as I would not frighten you if I spoke of the Greeks as very strong people, similar to Alexander of Macedon, so I will not egg you on if I tell of their impotence, which is very real.  I want you to believe me – and I know you will believe me – that forty of your men could kill off all that army of theirs, if a moat and walls did not prevent it…”

* Possibly of the Varangian guard.

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December 23, 2016

The Climes of al-Farghānī

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Abū al-ʿAbbās Aḥmad ibn Muḥammad ibn Kathīr al-Farghānī (circa 800/805 – circa 870) was a Persian astronomer also known, in Europe, as Alfraganus.  His Kitāb al-harakāt as-samāwija wa-Jawāmiʿ ʿIlm al-Nujūm (The Book of Celestial Motions and Compendium of Information Regarding the Stars) was written about sometime between 838 and 861, as a summary of Ptolemy’s Almagest.  It was translated into Latin in 1135 by John of Seville (Johannes Hispalensis or Johannes Hispaniensis) and Gerard of Cremona.  This was published in Ferrara, Nuremberg and Paris (in 1493, 1537 and 1546, respectively).


Nuremberg edition

There was also a Hebrew edition and a Latin translation of the Hebrew.  A separate Latin version was published by Jacobus Golius in the Netherlands (in 1669).  Finally, there was also an edition by Romeo Campani of a XIV-th century manuscript found in the Medici library (see the 1910 publication – secondo il Codice Mediceo-Laurenziano, pl. 29, cod. 9 / Alfragano).


The Book of Celestial Motions and Compendium of Information Regarding the Stars

“The sixth clime begins in the East and includes the land of Yagogs [Gog].  Then it includes the country of the Khazars and the middle of the Gurgan Sea, further towards the Byzantine lands.  The clime cuts through Gurzan [Gerorgia?], Amaseya, Haraqla/Heraqla [Heraclea?], Halquidun/Halquedun [Chalcedon in Bithynia], Constantinople and the Burgan [Danube Bulgars or Burgundians?] country and reaches the Western Sea [Atlantic?].”

“The [sixth or] seventh clime begins in the East, in the north of the land of Gog.  Next it cuts through the land of the Turks, then the northern shore of the Gurgan Sea.  Then it cuts through the ar-Rum sea [Black Sea], the land of the Danube Bulgars and Slavs and reaches the Western Sea [Atlantic or Baltic which Arabs thought to be part of the “Ocean”].”


Solanoru more or less

“As regards what lies beyond these climes, until the end of inhabited lands known to us, [such part] begins in the East in the land of Gog.  Next it cuts through the countries of the al-Togurgur [Toguzguz?] and lands of the Turks, then the country of the Alans, then through at-Tatar [or al-babe?], then Danube Bulgars, then through the Slavs and [so] reaching the Western Sea [Atlantic or Baltic which Arabs thought to be part of the “Ocean”].”

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November 7, 2016

On the Life of Justinian

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For a very long time it was claimed that that most famous of Byzantine emperors – Justinian – was of Slavic heritage.  His real Slavic name was supposedly Upravda and he was to have been born of a father named Istok (not Sabatius) and a mother named Bigleniza. The source for this belief was an apparently otherwise unknown work – “The Life of Justinian” – written by an otherwise unknown writer Theophilus.



This belief was so widely spread that many scholars stated it as fact without having done any proof checking.  Even the great English historian Edward Gibbon apparently repeated it without so much as a blink.  It was not until James Bryce put on his Sherlock Holmes hat and started to ask questions that the house of cards that was the Life of Justinian began to fall apart.  

We present here Bryce’s entire article published in the English Historical Review (Vol. 2 (1887), pp 657‑686) (along with a letter by M. Constantin Jireček that was published along side of the Bryce article) as an example of a very fun historical mystery that was (mostly) solved by a very determined scholar got on the case. (the same was also published in the Archivio della R. Societa Romana in the same year).

Note that the house of cards – though shaken – has not fallen entirely.  There is still a chance that The Life of Justinian by the mysterious Theophilus does yet exist – perhaps somewhere deep in the bowels of one of the secretive Mount Athos monasteries…


Life of Justinian by Theophilus
by James Bryce

The Mystery of Nicholas Alemmanni 

“For the last two centuries and a half, historians have been accustomed to quote, as an authority for several curious facts connected with the emperor Justinian and his scarcely less famous wife the empress Theodora, a life of Justinian by a certain Theophilus, described as an abbot and as the preceptor of Justinian.  One of these facts is the Slavonic origin of the family of Justinian, a circumstance not only interesting in itself, but important as showing that Slavonic tribes had settled in Upper Macedonia or Western Thrace in, or soon after, the middle of the fifth century, a date considerably earlier than we should otherwise be entitled to accept. Another is the sojourn of the young Justinian as a hostage at Ravenna in the court of Theodoric the Great, a sojourn from which the future emperor must have derived a knowledge of the condition of Italy under Ostrogothic rule of supreme value for his subsequent war against the successors of Theodoric. A third is the opposition made by the mother of Justinian to his marriage with Theodora, and the fact that the graces and accomplishments of that lady did not prevent her from being regarded as a source of danger to Justinian and the empire. These points were all of historical significance. But of the authority on which they rest, of Theophilus himself, nothing has been known beyond the curt statements of the undoubtedly learned writer who cites him, and whom all subsequent historians seem to have followed as a sufficient voucher for the genuineness and worth of the original Theophilus himself.”


Justinian and his posse

“This learned writer is Nicholas Alemanniscrittore in the Vatican library. In 1623 he published at Lyons the first edition of the ‘Anecdota’ or unpublished history of Procopius of Caesarea, which, as all the world knows, treats of the life, acts, and character of the emperor Justinian and the empress Theodora, of Belisarius and his wife Antonina.  In the preface which Alemanni prefixed, and in the very full and valuable notes which he appended to his edition, he refers several times to a ‘Life of Justinian’ by a person whom he calls ‘Theophilus Justiniani praeceptor,’ ‘Theophilus Abbas.'”


[from 1812 Chalmers’ Biography]

AlemanniNicholas, an antiquary of great learning, was born of Greek parents, Jan. 12, 1583, and educated in the Greek college founded by pope Gregory XIII. where he made a vast progress in learning, and was no less esteemed for the integrity of his morals. He afterwards entered into holy orders. He probably at first intended to settle in Greece, and applied to a.’ Greek bishop, who ordained him a sub-deacon; but he afterwards changed his mind, and received the other sacred orders from the hands of the bishops of the Romish church. Erythneus, in his “Pinacotheca,” although a zealous Roman Catholic, insinuates, that in this change Alemanni was influenced by the prospect of interest. His fortune, however, being still inconsiderable, he employed himself in teaching the Greek language to several persons of distinguished rank, and gained the friendship of Scipio Cobellutius, who was at that time secretary of the briefs to pope Paul V. This paved the way for his obtaining the post of secretary to cardinal Borghese, which, however, he did not fill to the entire satisfaction of his employer, from his being more intimately conversant in Greek than Latin, and mixing Greek words in his letters. He was afterwards made keeper of the Vaticanlibrary, for which he was considered as amply qualified. He died July 24, 1626. His death is said to have been occasioned by too close an attendance on the erection of the great altar of the church of St. Peter at Rome. It was necessary for him to watch that no person should carry away any part of the earth dug up, which had been sprinkled with the blood of the martyrs, and in his care he contracted some distemper, arising from the vapours, which soon ended his days. He published “Procopii Historic Arcana, Gr. et Lat. Nic. Alernanno interprete, cum ejus et Maltreti notis,” Paris, 1663, fol. and a “Description of St. John de Lateran,” 1665.


“Alemanni neither tells us where he found or read this ‘Life of Justinian,’ nor gives us any other clue whatever to it.  In fact, the extracts given in the footnote, together with the mention in the preface of ‘Theophilus Justiniani praeceptor‘ as a writer contemporary with Procopius, are all that he says regarding this personage, who is not mentioned by any other writer.”


“It came to be supposed that as Alemanni was himself an official of the Vatican library, and had printed the ‘Anecdota’ from two manuscripts which he found there, the manuscript of this ‘Life of Justinian’ by Theophilus must also be preserved in that library.  Repeated searches were made, but failed to discover the book or any trace of it.  Later writers, however, assumed Theophilus to have been what Alemanni’s references implied him to be, a contemporary and trustworthy authority; and went on quoting from Alemanni the statements regarding Justinian above given. I need refer to a few only of the more important of these writers.”


JP Ludewig

Ludewig [Johann Peter von], the famous jurist and chancellor of Halle, in his elaborate ‘Life of Justinian and Theodora’says of the ‘Life’ by Theophilus, after referring to Alemanni’s extracts, cujus copia nobis non est; and again, Nomen Biglenizae prodidit solus Theophilus, Justiniani biographus; cujus testimonium laudamus fide Alemanni, qui eum legit in membranis Vaticanis (p128). (Alemanni, however, did not say he read Theophilus in a Vatican manuscript.)”


De Rebus

“The learned Philippo Invernizi, in a note to the preface to his book on the reign of Justinian, says:—

His [sc. scriptoribus] quendam Theophilum historicum addit Alemannus, quem fuisse Justiniani praeceptorem Ludewigius putavit. Quis autem novus hic Theophilus fuerit, semper est ignoratum: nec Ludewigius, nec Hoffmannus, nec, cujus fide creditur extare, Alemannus, demonstrare id veterum auctoritate potuerunt. Quin etiam vir clarissimus Guillelmus Otto Reitz in tertia adnotatione ad Historiam Theophili JCti Joannis Henrici Mylii cap. I, solide Alemannum refutavit. Quare ut opinor de hac re desitum est disputari. Est autem qui censeat hanc Theophili Historiam Alemannum in Vaticana Bibliotheca legisse; in qua tamen cum diu et ab aliis et a me doctorum hominum et laudatae Bibliothecae peritissimorum opera fuerit quaesita, nullus codex profecto in quo extaret Theophili historia, nulla est pagina reperta.” 3

BBC206171 Portrait of Edward Gibbon (1737-94) c.1779 (oil on canvas) by Reynolds, Sir Joshua (1723-92) oil on canvas 73.6x62.2 Private Collection English, out of copyright


Gibbon (‘Decline and Fall,’ chapter XL) assumes Theophilus on the evidence of Alemanni. ‘For this curious fact [that Justinian had lived as a hostage at the court of Theodoric] Alemannus quotes a manuscript history of Justinian by his preceptor Theophilus.’ (Alemanni, however, did not say that the history of Theophilus was in manuscript.) Gibbon quotes other statements, such as the names Vpravda, Istok, Bigleniza, without hesitation.”

“More recent writers seem to have simply accepted and followed Alemanni without further inquiry, taking the names he gives as genuine, and endeavouring to explain their etymology. See among others Schafarik (‘Slavische Alterthümer,’ vol. II p 160) and Ujfalvy (‘Imperator Justinianus Genti Slavicae vindicatus‘), both of whom, like some writers of our own day, take the Slavonic origin of Justinian as proved by these apparently Slavonic names. No one, however, explored the mystery of Theophilus and his Life; and the general belief has, I think, been that Alemanni drew upon some ancient manuscript of a real writer contemporary with Justinian, which manuscript, then in the Vatican, has long since disappeared. Theophilus had in fact passed into one of the minor riddles of history, which there seemed no prospect of ever solving.”

Bryce the Detective Heads for Rome

“In January 1883, being engaged in studies relating to the history of Justinian and especially to the Ostrogothic war, I visited Rome, and inquired at the Vatican library regarding the supposed manuscript of Theophilus. The officials of the library, whose courtesy I desire to acknowledge cordially, informed me that it had often been searched for, but in vain. After an examination of the manuscripts of Procopius in the library, from which no light on the subject could be gained, I determined to pursue my inquiries in some of the greater private libraries of Rome, following in this the advice given to me shortly before at Florence by the distinguished head of the Laurentian library there, the Abate Anziani, and by my friend Signor Giorgi, head of the Vittore Emanuele library in Rome. Having heard that Nicholas Alemanni had been in intimate relations with the Barberini family, I proceeded to the library in the Barberini palace, and there, after a short search, found a manuscript entitled ‘Vita Justiniani,’ written on paper of quarto size and bound up with some other manuscripts in a small book. I copied it out, and here give the whole of it verbatim. It is written on paper in a seventeenth century handwriting, 27 cent. long by 20 cent. wide (about 10 inches by 8), is marked Barb. XXXVIII. 49, has a modern binding on which, on the back, are the words Suares Opuscula, and is described as follows in the catalogue of the library made by the librarian Pieralisi: Opuscula quae erant inter schedas Josephi Mariae Suaresii alienis manibus exaratas. Cod. chart. in fo. saec. XVII.” 4

barberini palace

Barberini Palace

“The ‘Life of Justinian’ which is bound up among these opuscula is followed by a sort of commentary, which bears the heading ‘Explicationes.’ Both the Life and the explanations are contained in two sheets of paper (folded), and are in the same handwriting. I copied them out; and the copy then made has been recently carefully collated with the original by Signor Levi of the Reale Società Romana di Storia Patria, to whom my best thanks are due for this service. I give here the text of the ‘Life’ and notes in full before proceeding to make some observations upon them.”

Justiniani Vita 5

Ex opusculo continenti Vitam Justiniani Imperatoris scripto literis et characteribus Illyricis usque ad annum imperii ejus 80 per Bogomilum Pastorem seu Abbatem monasterii Sancti Alexandri martyris in Dardania prope Prizrienam civitatem natale solum eiusdem Justiniani, quod opusculum asservatur in bibliotheca monacorum Illyricanorum regulam Sancti Basilii profitentium in monte Atho seu sacro in Macedonia supra Aegaeum mare. Hic Bogomilus cum diutius fuisset pedagogus Justiniani factus est episcopus Sardicensis dictusque a Latinis et Graecis D D 6 vir magnae sanctitatis et in catholica religione tuenda constantissimus.

Natus est Vpravda (1)7 (nomen Justiniani gentili sermone) in Prizriena (2)8 sub imperio Zenonis Regis Constantinopolitani et Patriarchatu Acacii novae Romae, postquam imperatores in veteri Roma esse desierunt: quasi Deus vellet edere Regem qui recuperaturus esset occidentale imperium et cum orientali in antiquum splendorem restituturus.

“Pater ejus fuit Istok (3) ex progenie et familia sancti Constantini (4) — magni Regis Romanorum et maximi monarcharum Christianorum. Mater vero Bigleniza (5) — soror Justini qui regnavit in nova Roma. Istoki soror fuit Lada, quae nupsit Selimiro (6) Principi Slavorum, qui complures filios habuit, inter hos Rechiradum quem singulari certamine, ut dicetur, interfecit Justinianus.”

Istok cum esset Ilnez, 9 hoc est, Dynasta inter Dardanos, dedit filio Vpravdae pedagogum egregium sanctum virum Bogomilum (7) pastorem seu Abbatem monasterii Sancti Alexandri martyris, vitae Justiniani scriptorem, qui puerum summa diligentia sanctissimis moribus inde literis Latinis et Graecis instruxit. Verum cum ab avunculo Justino enixe diligeretur, ab eodem ad castra trahebatur, Bogomilo nunquam a latere adolescentis abscedente.

Tyrocinium deposuit jubente Justino, qui jam pridem primos ordines Romanorum ductabat; quo tempore idem Justinus contra Caesarides (8) Zenonidas pro Anastasio rege decertabat, cum avunculo miles in Illyricum revertitur ob Bulgaros Romanis cervicibus imminentes, a quibus cum esset interfectus Rastus (9) dux militiae Illyricanae cum primoribus Ducibus Justinus Barbaris occurrens plus nimio insultantes repressit.

Et quia Bulgaris auxilio affuerat Rechirad (10) Selimiri filius, nec ullis precibus aut promissius eum Justinus a societate Bulgarorum abstrahere poterat, ob idque simultas gravissima inter Justinianum et germanum suum Rechiradum exarserat, unde ad jurgia et probra in quodam colloquio devenerant, res ad singulare certamen inter eos est deducta, in quo certamine Justinianus nondum vigesimum annum attingens adversarium mira virtute ad ripas fluminis Muravae (is Latinis est Moschus) prostravit, quas ob res ingentia munera tum ipse tum dux militiae Justinus et ejus milites Illyricani accepere. Quoniam autem periculosum vulnus in eo certamine Justinianus acceperat, Constantinopolim curandus mittitur, ubi Anastasio regi acceptissimus fuit, qui eum studuit a verae Religionis cultu abducere, quod ubi Bogomilus pedagogus ejus animadvertit, sollicitus de salute adolescentis eundem ad Justinum in castra, mox in patriam ad matrem viduam nuper ab Istoko relictam reduxit. Sed Justinianus pertesus atrium domesticum brevi ad avunculum rediit, quem ad Margum Pannoniae oppidum reliquias exercitus Sabiniani Ducis a Gothis fusi colligentem invenit, a quo ad Theodoricum regem Gothorum Analimiri 10 filium in Italiam mittitur, ad suorum Ducum, qui paulo ante Sirmiensem Regionem Bulgaris abstulerant, auxilia impetranda, a quo benigne acceptus et auxilia obtinuit et diutius tanquam obses Ravennae detentus quamdiu Justinus Gothorum militum opera usus est, habitusque est Theodorico loco fratris, quin immo Illyrico more fraternitatis (11) vinculo sese colligarunt.

Ad avunculum reversus cum Justinus nullam ex Vukcizza (12) conjuge sobolem speraret, jubente eo connubio illigatur, ducta Bosidara (13) egregia puella, licet reclamante Biglenizza, quippe quae indolem puellae alioquin scitissimae et eruditissimae sed sevioris et arrogantioris ingenii aliquando obfuturam fortunae et pietati filii pertimescebat, praesertim quia vetula quaedam divinationibus addicta Bosidaram futuram Vraghidaram (14) Romano Imperio, inflexuramque rectitudinem Vpravdae, ex sortium augurio consulenti Biglenizzae praedixerat. Verumtamen mores tunc temporis excultissimi variarumque scientiarum peritia cum eximia forma conjunctae apud Justinum et ipsum Justinianum praevaluerunt, quamobrem Biglenizza paulo post moerore consumpta e vivis excessit antequam fratrem fastigium Romani regni conscendisse gaudere potuisset.

Trigenario maior cum Anastasius Rex Bogomilum ad Sardicensem episcopatum favore Justini promotum cum multis aliis episcopis ob Catholicam Religionem Constantinopolim evocatos vexaret, Justinianus cum avunculo Justino a Ducibus Illyricanae militiae destinantur [sic] ad Anastasium obtestando nisi impetum tumultuantis militiae vellet experiri ab insectatione Catholicorum Antistitum desisteret, quorum libertate deterritus cum subornasset delatores qui eos conjurationis in Regium caput initae accusarent, carceribus utrumque mancipavit, mox in eosdem capitalem tulit sententiam. Verum apparentibus ei in somnio Sergio et Bacho martyribus quorum cultus insignis habetur inter Dardanos, et dira minantibus si homines innocentes et imperio digniores quam ipse foret perdere auderet, absolutos cum episcopis Catholicis dimisit, cui tamen brevi Justinus regno successit.

Sub imperio Justini Justinianus dignam principe viro ecclesiam in Illyrico sub Scodrensi urbe supra Barbenam fluvium Sergio et Bacho martyribus extructam dicavit. Idem auctoritate avunculi Ecclesiam olim a Marciano oeconomo Constantinopolitanae ecclesia Constantinopoli Gothis concessam Catholico ritu per Joannem Romae veteris pontificem consecrari curavit, retento tamen psalmodiae et liturgiae usu Gothico sermone in gratiam suae gentis Illyricae eandem linguam cum Gothis colentis. Justino succedens templum ad imitationem illius quod in Regia urbe divinae sapientiae dicaverat Sardicae (15) in gratiam Episcopi Bogomili seu Domnionis olim sui pedagogi condidit.


Explicationes quorundam nominum quae leguntur in praecedenti fragmento observatae per Joannem Tomco Marnavich Canonicum Sibensem 11 fragmenti interpretem.

1. Vpravda vox Illyrica derivata a Pravda, hoc est Justitia. Vpravda autem cum illa praepositione V significat directam Justitiam, quo nomine ab Illyricis scriptoribus tam Justinianus quam uterque Justinus dicti sunt.

2. Prizriena. Ita scribitur patria Justiniani tam ab antiquis quam recentioribus Illyricis sita eo prorsus loco quo Procopius Tauresium ponit, nimirum inter Dardanos super Epydamnum. Hoc Agathias de bello Gothico Bederinam appellat et hodie sub Turcis inter fines antiquae Dardaniae et recentioris Hercegovinae seu Ducatus Sancti Sabae visuntur tam intra quam extra civitatem complura vestigia et rudera eximiorum vestigiorum aedificiorum estque titulus nunc Petri Calitii episcopi nuper cum missione Patrum Societatis Jesu ad curandas Christianorum reliquias sub Turcica tyrannide per Macedoniam Dardaniam et Pannonias misere gementum a Smo Dno Nro Paoloº V destinati.

3. Istok vox Illyricana Orientem significans intra nomina nostratum antiquis usitatior quam recentioribus, qui saepius nominibus sanctorum virorum quam gentilibus appellare filios consueverunt.

4. Familiam Constantini professi sunt complures ex Illyricis principibus usque quo a Turca sedibus pulsi cum familiis interierunt. Ita Reges et Despotae Serviae Reguli Scardi montis, Duces Sancti Sabae, etc.

5. Biglenizza nomen Illyricum ab albedine ductum, Latinis Albulam sonans.

6. Selimiri filii a Justiniano Rege saepius nomen regium super Dalmatas petierunt nec unquam impetrarunt, eo quod Rechirad Selimiri filius a Justiniano occisus a Bulgaris contra Romanos stetisset.

7. Bogomilus Illyrica vox Deo carum significans.

8. Caesarides Patronimicum nomen usitatissimum apud Illyricos apud quos Zar Regem seu Imperatorem significat Zarevichi ut habet author Caesaridae interpretantur.

9. Rastus nomen Illyricum Crescentem significans: hunc puto esse quem Marcellinus Comes Aristum appellat, Ductorem militiae Illyricanae.”

10. Rechirad nomen Illyricum compositum a rechi, hoc est loqui, et rad, hoc est cupidum, ita ut requirad loqui cupidum significet. Cuiusmodi nomen aliquorum Regum Gothorum in Hispania fuit, quae tamen nomina ab ignaris linguae Gothicae seu Illyricae male per Precaredos 12 efferuntur et scribuntur.

11. Solemnitas vinculi fraternitatis ad hunc usque diem tanti fit apud Illyricos ut non solum inter Christianos homines credatur vera jungi fraternitas, sed etiam inter Christianos et Turcas habeatur validissima.

12. Vukcizza nomen Illyricum lupae proprium. Unde Latini Graecique authores scribunt uxorem Justini ubi is ad regum assumptus fuit Lupicinae nomen in Euphemiam commutasse.

13. Bosidara nomen Illyricum compositum a Bogh, idest Deo, et Dar, hoc est dono, ut Bosidara nihil aliud sit nisi a Deo donata vel Dei donum, quod idem est cum Graeco nomine Theodora.

14. Vraghidara nomen itidem Illyricum, a Vrag, hoc est Diabolo vel hoste, et dar, hoc est dono, compositum ut Vraghidara sit diaboli vel hostis donum oppositum Theodoro.

15. Sardica progressu temporis a templo Justiniani Sophiae nomen ad hodiernum usque diem usurpavit. Ante fores dicti templi Justinianus nobile sarcophagum Bogomilo seu Domnioni santissimoº viro excitavit, carminibusque super crustas marmoreas illustravit. 13

Bryce’s Questions

“The discovery of this manuscript and an examination of its contents give rise to several questions which I shall endeavour to discuss as briefly as possible:”

Question I.

“The first of these questions is: Is this the ‘Life of Justinian’ by Theophilus which Alemanni quotes in the notes to his edition of the ‘Anecdota’ of Procopius, and for whose existence he has hitherto been the sole authority?

“On this it may be observed that all the facts which Alemanni gives in his notes on the authority of Theophilus are found in this manuscript. They are:

1. That a church was erected by Justin and Justinian at Skodra (or Scutari) on the river Barbena (Boyana) (in northern Albania) to Saints Sergius and Bacchus.”

2. That Justinian was born in the reign of Zeno and patriarchate of Acacius.”

3. That Justinian was over thirty years of age when he came to Byzantium near the end of the reign of Anastasius.”

4. That Justinian contracted the rite of fraternitas with Theodoric the Ostrogothic king.”

“5. That Justinian was as a youth a hostage at Ravenna with Theodoric.”

“6. That Bigleniza, the mother of Justinian, opposed his betrothal to Theodora.”

“7. That Bigleniza distrusted the character of Theodora, having been warned by an aged female soothsayer that she would prove not a gift of God but a gift of the devil.”

“8. That the original names of the mother of Justinian, of Sabatius, his father, and of Justinian himself were Bigleniza, Istok, and Vpravda respectively.”

“9. That Justinian before he ascended the throne was instructed in theology by the abbot Theophilus.”

Alemanni does not quote Theophilus for a few other facts stated in the manuscript. But these are mostly facts in themselves improbable, which he may well have doubted, e.g. that ‘Istok,’ father of Justinian, was a prince among his own people, that Justinian killed Rechirad in single combat, that Justinian’s mother died after his marriage with Theodora but before the accession of her brother Justin. It might perhaps have been expected that he should also mention that Theophilus calls the empress Euphemia, the wife of Justin I, Vukcizza. But as Alemanni quotes Theodorus Lector and Theophanes (p384 of his notes) for the statement that her real name had been Lupicia, he may have thought it undesirable to quote Theophilus for a less well-attested name, although one which Marnavich, the fragmenti interpres, explains as the Slavonic equivalent of Lupicina.”

“From this it may be concluded that Alemanni had before him our present manuscript of Theophilus and nothing else. If any one suggests that there may then have existed and been read by him a full life of Justinian bearing the name of Theophilus which has now disappeared, and which contained all that the present manuscript contains together with other matters, the answer is not only that Alemanni would probably have quoted from it some of those matters, not appearing in our manuscript, but also that the passage (beginning licet reclamante) which he copies in full from Theophilus (p 415 of his notes in Bonn edition) tallies word for word with the present manuscript, except that Alemanni gives levioris where the word in the manuscript (which is obscurely written) seems to be sevioris or sævioris.”

“Considering these facts, and considering that no trace has ever been discovered of any other life of Justinian by any Theophilus, although repeated searches have been made, and considering also that the manuscript is of the same date as Alemanni, was among the books belonging to Suares, the friend of Alemanni, and was placed in the library of the Barberini, patrons of Alemanni, it seems practically certain that we have here the materials, and all the materials, which Alemanni possessed, and that no further authority is therefore attributable to his statements quoted from Theophilus than can be shown to belong to this present manuscript; although it is of course possible that Alemanni may have had stronger grounds for attaching value to the manuscript than those which we now possess. Apparently he did value it. He quotes it with respect, and he seems to have rather expected that ‘Theophilus’ would, like a regular historian, have given the date of Justinian’s birth by reference to the consul of the year (consulem reticet Theophilus, see above, note 1, p 658).”

“That is to say, we have in this manuscript the Theophilus of Alemanni, the biographer of Justinian, and there is no other. If there be any Theophilus who wrote Justinian’s life, this is he.”

Question II.

“The next question is: Who wrote our present manuscript? It is all, both the text of the fragmentum and the notes (explicationes) which follow the fragmentum, in the same ink and handwriting and on paper of the same make and size. Moreover the explicationes are stated to be by the person who translated the fragmentum — fragmenti interpretem. The manner and substance of the fragmentum, and the fact that Bogomilus (the Slavonic equivalent of Theophilus), who is called the author of the life, is nevertheless always spoken of in the third person, make it clear that the fragmentum is not a literally translated extract from a book purporting to be written by a person named Theophilus or Bogomilus, but can only be an abstract of that book or parts of it. Even supposing that the original book did not purport to be composed by Bogomil in his own person, but to relate facts about him, as the book of Deuteronomy (or at least large parts of it), although attributed by the Jews to Moses, does not itself purport to be composed by Moses, who is always spoken of in the third person, still the character of the fragmentum is that of an abstract rather than of a simple translation from an original treatise in another language.”

“It may therefore be taken that the text, no less than the notes, is in its present form the work, and is probably actually written by the hand, of the person described as the author of the notes, who, however, professes to be, as regards the text, nothing more than a translator.”

“This person is John Tomco Marnavich, canon of Sebenico in Dalmatia, and afterwards archdeacon of Agram and bishop of Bosnia. Of him something must be said, because our estimate of the worth of the fragmentum depends largely on our judgment of him.”

“When I discovered the manuscript and found that it was evidently from a Slavonic source, I applied at once for help to my friend Mr. Arthur John Evans, keeper of the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford, whose travels in Slavonic countries and writings on Slavonic history and antiquities have won for him a deserved reputation. In tracing the life and writings of Marnavich I have received much help from him, as well as from the kindness of M. Constantin Jireček, the distinguished historian of the Bulgarians, and of my friend Count Ugo Balzani. Help was the more needed because Marnavich’s books are scarcely to be found in England — the Bodleian library containing only one of them, and that of no value for the present purpose, the British Museum one only, and the University library at Cambridge none at all. M. Jireček has sent me a valuable letter, which will be found at the end of this article, and for which my best thanks are due to him.”


Ivan Tomko Marnavich (written in Serb Mernjavćić or Mrnavić), a person of note in his day, was born in the episcopal city of Sebenico, then under Venetian rule, in 1579, being, according to his own account, the scion of an ancient family of Bosnian nobles, but, anyhow, the son of a customhouse officer in the Turkish service.  14 He went early to Rome, was educated there by the Jesuits, and attracted, by his quick intelligence, the regard of some eminent men, among others of Cardinals Baronius and Sacchetti, of Francis Barberini, afterwards cardinal, and of Cardinal Pazmany, archbishop of Gran and primate of Hungary. 15 His literary career began with a book entitled ‘De Regno Illyrico Caesaribusque Illyricis Dialogorum Libri Septem,’ which is referred to you some as having been printed and published at Rome in 1603, but which, according to others, was not printed, but remains in manuscript. Some years later he entered the service of Faustus Verantius, bishop of Csanad in Hungary, and in 1614, on the recommendation of this Dalmatian, was summoned to Rome to be employed in making translations into and from the Serbo-Croat language. 16 In 1622 he was appointed archdeacon of Agram. In 1626 he aspired to the bishopric of Sebenico, with the support of Cardinal Francis Barberini; but the Venetians, who disliked him as an adherent of the Jesuits, prevented his nomination, alleging that he was a Turkish subject.”


“However, in 1631 the emperor Ferdinand III, king of Hungary, nominated him bishop of Bosnia and Diacova, and the nomination was confirmed by Pope Urban VIII. (In the same year he had received the honour of Roman citizenship by diploma.) He seems to have never visited his see, which, to be sure, was in the hands of the Turks, but when not employed in ecclesiastical missions to have lived at Rome, continuing his literary labours. 17 We hear that his retention of the post of lector in the chapter of Agram (which was deemed to imply residence) after he had become titular bishop of Bosnia caused many heartburnings between him and the other canons of that church. He died in 1639, probably in Rome, although the place of his burial is not known.” 18

“As this manuscript describes Marnavich as canon of Sebenico (a preferment he had received as early as 1609 or 1610), but not as archdeacon of Agram, it would seem to be posterior to 1609, and probably to 1614, but anterior to 1622. We have already seen reason to think that Alemanni read it before 1623, the year of the publication of the Anecdota of Procopius; and this date is confirmed by the reference in the explicationes to opportune Paul V as the reigning pontiff — for Paul V was pope from 1605 to 1621.”

“Marnavich was evidently a fanciful or fraudulent genealogist, and so ignorant of history and ethnology as to suppose the Goths — the Visigoths of Spain, as well as the Ostrogoths — to have spoken the same language as the Slavonic Serbs. But in these points he was probably not below the average of learned men in his day: Luccari, the historian of Ragusa, and other writers of that and the following century identify the two races. Even in our own day we see men otherwise intelligent commit incredible follies when they enter the field of genealogy, while, as to philology, Victor Hugo believed the language of the Basques and that of the Irish Celts to be the same. Marnavich was obviously a wholly uncritical person. Whether he was also untruthful we have no sufficient materials for judging, and it is therefore hard to say now much weight is to p669be attached to his statement regarding the manuscript which he declares to exist in the monastery at Mount Athos. His book, ‘De Caesaribus Illyricis,’ may probably throw some light on the contents of the present manuscript. But I have been unable to procure a copy, and am informed that it is exceedingly rare. M. Jireček says that the most learned Croatian bibliographer, M. Kukuljević, has never seen it.” 19

Question III.

“From Marnavich who purports to translate an ancient author, we naturally turn to that author himself, and ask: Was there ever any person called Bogomil by those who spoke Slav and Theophilus by those who spoke Greek, a person who was the preceptor of Justinian, abbot of Saint Alexander near Prizrend, and preferred by the emperor Anastasius to the bishopric of Serdica?”

“So far as I have been able to ascertain, no trace of any such person exists in any author of the sixth or next succeeding centuries. We hear of no preceptor of Justinian, of no contemporary biographer of Justinian, of no Theophilus who in anywise answers to the account given in the Barberini MS. of the author of the supposed Life. The reader will have observed that the name Theophilus occurs nowhere either in the fragmentum or in the explicationes. We hear only of Bogomilus, and the only suggestion of Theophilus is in the remark in the explicationes that Bogomilus = Deo carus, which would in Greek be Theophilus20 The name Theophilus would therefore seem due to Alemanni, who may have had his doubts about this ‘Illyric’ (i.e. Slavonic) name of Bogomil for a bishop at the beginning of the sixth century, though he accepted the ‘Illyric’ names of Justinian and his family.”

“The fragmentum, however, as well as the explicationes, identifies Bogomil, the preceptor of Justinian, with Domnio, bishop of Serica (Sofia). Now Domnio is an authentic personage, mentioned by Marcellinus Comes (ad A.D. 516) in a passage to be quoted presently. Is there any ground for believing that this Domnio was the preceptor of Justinian, or was called either Bogomilus or Theophilus? I have not been able to find any, and am led to conclude (on grounds which will appear later) that Bogomil the preceptor and biographer of Justinian is a purely legendary personage, who at some date long subsequent to the sixth century was identified with the historical Domnio. For the purposes of our present inquiry Theophilus and Bogomilus are mere names of which it has pleased Alemanni and Marnavich to attach to what they call a life of Justinian.”

Question IV.

“The next question is, What is the relation of our Barberini library manuscript to the ‘Life of Justinian’ by Bogomil (Theophilus), from which it purports to be extracted?”

“The only evidence we have for the existence of such a ‘Life’ bearing the name of Bogomil is that which the manuscript itself supplies, i.e. the evidence of Marnavich, who calls himself, in the explicationes, ‘fragmenti interpretem‘. It is quite possible, and consonant with what we know of other literary forgeries, that Marnavich should have simply invented this Slavonic original in the monastery on Mount Athos in order to provide a plausible source and apparently historical basis for his legendary tales. External evidence for the existence of the original there is none, beyond that in the present Barberini MS., and a passage in a later book of Marnavich’s in which he refers to Bogomil as an authority for the fact that the descendants of the emperor Constantine were in his (i.e. Bogomil’s) day still living ‘above the sources of the Rhine between Italy and Germany,’ adding that Bogomil is called Theophilus by Alemanni in his notes to Procopius. 21 But the internal evidence seems to me to point slightly the other way, and to favour the view that Marnavich believed in some sort of an original which he was using, however freely. He was not publishing a book for which he sought to gain credence by representing it as a translation of an extract from an ancient writing, for the present manuscript bears no signs of having been intended for the world. The ordinary motive for falsification is therefore absent. Nor is there again in the fragmentum which we can perceive Marnavich to have had any personal reason for forging, as if, for instance, he had endeavoured to support by it his derivation of his own family from the gens Marcia. It may be said that we do not now know for what purpose the fragmentum was composed. But, in fact, it seems to have no special point or purpose. It is a collection of scattered observations which, so far as can be discovered, have not been put together for any of the objects usually contemplated by a literary falsifier. These notices redound to no one’s credit or discredit. They prove nothing of any present interest to any party, sect, or family. They have nothing that can be called literary quality; they have not even any literary or historical unity. 22 And as to the ‘Notes’ they do not look as if the fragmentum had been written with a view to them, so that they might develop it and confirm its themes by references to other sources. One reference to an historical source there is which might have this aim (see post as to Comes Marcellinus), but on the theory I am stating we should have expected many; and the impression made by the ‘Notes’ rather is that the writer is in good faith explaining names and facts which he has somewhere read or heard, but has not himself invented. Thus he justifies his translation ‘Caesarides’ by reference to ‘Zarewichi,’ ut habet author. Had he wished to give these statements further verisimilitude, it would have been easy for him to insert in the fragmentum things which he could in the ‘Explanations’ show to fit neatly in with the statements of recognised historical authorities.”


One of the monasteries on the peninsula of Mount Athos

“It is therefore at least a possible view that Marnavich himself believed in the existence of this ‘Life of Justinian’ written in Illyric (Slavonic) letters and characters, in the library of the Basilian Slavonic monks on Athos. He had probably read some old Slavonic writings even in his youth, when he produced ‘Dialogi de Caesaribus Illyricis’ and edified Cardinal Baronius by stories about the emperor Constantine; and his position as Slavonic translator at Rome after 1614 would give him opportunities of perusing many others, and doubtless also meeting persons who brought manuscripts to Rome from the East. It is not likely that he ever visited Mount Athos — he does not even himself profess to have done so — but he may have been shown what purported to be copies of originals preserved there. And in another of his works he refers, though indeed in disparaging terms, to documents collected by the monks of Athos. 23 Moreover, we shall see presently that the there are traces in other quarters of some of the legends and names referred to in the fragmentum. On the whole, therefore, the probabilities are that Marnavich has given in this manuscript statements which he was not inventing, but was drawing from some document or documents which he had seen, or whose contents had been repeated to him. It is characteristic of himself and of the school to which he belonged that he should be utterly loose and uncritical, not only in accepting documents shown him and reporting their substance, but also in giving the vaguest indications of the source whence he derived them.”

“Be this as it may, the fragmentum has not the character of a direct translation from an ancient original couched in narrative form. It is a series of detached notes; but whether the alleged original consisted of such detached statements regarding Justinian and the events of his time, or had the form of a regular narrative, we have no grounds for conjecture. The original, whatever it was, was apparently short (it is called opusculum), and may have contained few facts of importance beyond those which the Barberini fragmentum purports to give. As Alemanni in all probability knew Marnavich at Rome between 1603 and 1623, 24 and had obtained the statements which he quotes in the notes to the Anecdota either from Marnavich directly or from this manuscript in which Marnavich is named, it may be assumed that Alemanni would desire to get from Marnavich all possible information of historical value for the illustration of the Anecdota25 As Alemanni gives nothing save what we find in the manuscript, we may conclude either that the alleged original contained little more, or that Marnavich remembered or possessed little more drawn from that original. There may, of course, have been abundance of semi-mythical matter in the original, but this Alemanni, who was critical as well as learned, would not transfer to his pages. It is an obvious guess that Marnavich may have written our present manuscript at the suggestion of Alemanni, and the latter, when he had done with it, have placed it in the library of his patrons, the Barberini, which was then being formed, or given it to Suares, who was then librarian in that library. Perhaps it contained whatever Marnavich, interrogated by Alemanni, could recall to mind from what had been shown him as a copy of the book in the Mount Athos library, or could find in his notes made from that copy, and was put on paper in this form for the purpose of Alemanni’s notes to the Anecdota. It is of course also possible, but perhaps less likely, that Marnavich is simply romancing, that he is putting together a number of statements drawn from various sources, fathering them upon one original, and localising that original on Mount Athos.” 26

The evidence we possess seems to me insufficient to enable us to decide between several hypotheses which may be formed regarding the relation of Marnavich to the fragmentum and to the alleged original. But whatever hypothesis be true — and this is the point of practical consequence for the historical student — no greater authority can be allowed to the fragmentum, even supposing it to be a series of genuine extracts from a then existing Slavonic original bearing the name of Bogomil, than would be due to a book in which Marnavich would have recorded the Slavonic traditions he had himself collected from such old manuscripts as he had seen in Dalmatia or at Rome.

“Does there now exist in a monastery of Slavonic monks professing the rule of Saint Basil on Mount Athos any such manuscript relating to Justinian, and bearing the name of Bogomil, as the fragmentum describes? Mr. Arthur Evans, when he visited the monasteries of Athos in 1885, made, at my request, inquiries regarding the manuscripts preserved in the Slavonic monasteries there, but was unable to discover any trace of such a book. But as the contents of the Slavonic libraries are in great confusion, no proper catalogue exists, except at the Russian monastery, and the monks do not seem to know what they possess, it is possible that if it ever was there it may be there still. It may, however, have been since the beginning of the seventeenth century transferred to Russia, whither many manuscripts from Athos have gone. Careful inquiries ought to be made both in the Slavonic monasteries of Athos and at Petersburg and Moscow.”

“It need hardly be said that the Athos manuscript referred to in the fragmentum could not possibly have been written in the lifetime of the alleged Bogomil himself, for it is stated to be written in Slavonic characters, and these were not invented till three centuries after Justinian’s time. Neither could any contemporary of Justinian have used any Slavonic tongue for literary purposes. If there was ever any life of Justinian written by a contemporary ecclesiastic, it must have been composed in Greek or Latin, and a Slavonic book purporting to contain it could only be a translation from one of those classical languages executed long afterwards.”

Question V.

“What is the character of the contents of the Barberini manuscript? I do not now attempt to give a thorough examination of these contents, reserving such criticism for a future occasion, but confine myself to the following observations.”

“1. The fragmentum obviously betrays a Slavonic source. Whatever is new in it relates to the Slavonic tribes, or personages alleged to be Slavonic, including even Theodoric. Now in the days of the supposed Bogomil the Slavonic tribes were fierce heathen, dwelling in the northern frontiers of the empire, and frequently ravaging it. A certain number of Slavs may possibly have already settled within the empire, in northern Macedonia and Thrace. These would, however, be still in a condition of great rudeness,27 and their language was not reduced to literary shape for centuries afterwards. The great migration which slavonised the countries east of the Adriatic falls in the first half of the seventh century; there seems to be no evidence of Slavonic settlements either at Prizrend or Ochrida or Uskiub as early as the end of the fifth.”

“2. The romantic and indeed semi-mythical character of much of the manuscript (fragmentum) is palpable. For instance, Istok, the father of Justinian, is presented as a chieftain among the Dardanians, and as also a scion of the family of Constantine the Great. Without necessarily accepting the statement of Procopius in the Anecdota that the emperor Justin, the uncle of Justinian, was a peasant, it is abundantly clear that if the father of the emperor Justinian had been a prince and a descendant of Constantine, that sovereign and his adulators (among others Procopius in the De Aedificiis) would have recorded the fact.”

“The young Justinian, as befits the son of a prince, is accompanied even in his campaigns by a tutor, who occupies the intervals of drill in giving theological instruction.”

“Justinian sustains his character of the young hero by encountering and killing in single combat his cousin, Prince Rechirad, son of Selimir, prince of the Slavs. It need hardly be said that this exploit, as well as the name of Rechirad, is unknown to authentic history. (Pursuant to his information of Slavs and Goths, Marnavich in his notes makes out the name to be the same as the West-Gothic Recared.)”

“The Bulgarians are conceived as already near and dangerous enemies to the empire. As we shall see presently, they are mentioned by Marcellinus as making an irruption in 502 A.D. (as also in 499 and 530). In other authors, however, they do not appear as being at this time formidable, and we hear nothing of Justin’s having held a command against them. Not only the whole family of Justinian, but apparently even Theodora, are conceived of as Slavonic: at least the name Bosidara (explained etymologically to be the ‘gift of God’) is given as if her original name, and Justin represented as the suggestor of her marriage with Justinian. It is implied that this marriage took place before the emperor Justin I reached the throne, but we gather from Procopius that in reality it occurred towards the close of Justin’s reign.”


Theodora and her mean girls

“There is a marked ecclesiastical flavour about the narrative. Besides the prominence given to Bogomil (who is described as abbot of the monastery of Saint Alexander near Prizrend and bishop of Serdica (Sofia), we are reminded of the heretical proclivities of Anastasius (who leant to Monophysitism); he is presented as a persecutor of Catholic bishops, and a desire to pervert the orthodoxy of Justinian is attributed to him when that young hero goes to Constantinople to be cured of the wounds received in his single combat with Rechirad. There is a mixture in this part of the narrative of the religious tract with the fairy tale. Reference is made to the consecration as a catholic church of the Gothic (i.e. Arian) church at Constantinople by Pope John I, with the retention, however, of the Gothic, i.e. Slavonic, tongue in the liturgy.”

“Notice is taken of the foundation of two famous churches, the monastery (catholic) of Saints Sergius and Bacchus near Skodra (or Scutari) in northern Albania, and the church of Saint Sophia at Serdica. I do not say that the tales here related are to be connected with those churches, though the apparition of Saints Sergius and Bacchus may have something to do with the building of the monastic church at Skodra; but the mention of them points to an ecclesiastical source.” 28

“The most curious and novel feature of the manuscript is the nomenclature which it supplies of the members of Justinian’s family — Istok, Bigleniza, Vukcizza, Lada, Vpravda, Rechirad. 29 Of these Istok 30 is not alleged to have any connection with Sabatius, the name which Procopius and Theophanes give as that of Justinian’s father, and which seems to be a genuine Thracian name, connected with a Thracian solar deity akin to the Greek Dionysos. Bigleniza may have been slavised from Vigilantia or Biglantia, which Alemanni conjectures to have been the name of Justinian’s mother, and which we know was the name of his sister, the mother of Justin II. Vukcizza is said by Marnavich to have the same meaning (she-wolf) in Slavonic as Lupicina, which Victor Tununensis and Procopius (Anecdota), or Lupicia, which Theophanes and Theodorus Lector give as the original name of the empress Euphemia; so it may be a Slavonic equivalent invented in the same way as Bosidara for Theodora.”

“The same origin may be suggested for the name Vpravda, which on the faith of this manuscript, or rather of Alemanni’s quotation from it, has been assumed to have been the original name of Justinian — the notes to the manuscript say, of both the Justins also. It is a Slavonic version of JustinusJustinianus, taken as derived from justusjustitia. For this name, however, another authority may be cited, which, though nearly as late as the Barberini manuscript, refers to an earlier source. Luccari in his ‘Annali di Rausa,’ published at Venice in 1605, two years after Marnavich wrote his ‘Dialogi de Caesaribus Illyricis,’ says (lib. I):—

Selemir dopo questo (come si vede nell’ Efemeridi di Dioclea) 31 prese per moglie la sorella d’ Istok barone slavo, il quale avea per moglie Bigleniza sorella di Giustiniano e madre di Giustino [Justin II] imperatori romani, i quali, come ho veduto in un Diadario in Bulgaria in lingua slava, sono chiamati Urauda, che significa Giustiniano o Giustino.

“Here we have the names of the Barberini manuscript, but Istok is the brother-in‑law, not the father, of Justinian, and Bigleniza is the emperor’s sister.”

“The Slavonic origin of Justinian seems to have largely accepted by the Slavs in the middle ages, and was a natural belief for those who localised his birth-place either at Prizrend or Ochrida, the Bulgarian tradition fixing on the latter spot, the Servian on the former. So Mauro Orbini of Ragusa, in his book, ‘Il Regno degli Slavi’ (Pesaro, 1601), says (p175):—

Fu eziandio slavo Giustiniano primo di questo nome imperadore. Il quale (secondo il Platina ed il Bosen) nacque nella città di Prizren, ch’ è nella Servia: o (come vole Niceforo Callisto) nella città di Achrida, la quale, egli dice, fu ancora chiamata Giustiniana Prima; e hoggi la chiamano Ochrida.

It often happens that the descendants of an incoming people appropriate, after a few generations have passed, the heroes of those among whom they have settled. So the Celtic Arthur was a sort of national hero to the Anglo-Normans of the middle ages. And it is natural that the inhabitants of a place should give themselves the credit of any famous native of that place, though born before their ancestors settled there; for immigrations are after a time forgotten, and people assume that their predecessors were their progenitors.”

“M. Jireček, whose authority is of course of the highest, informs me (see his letter at the end of this article) that the names Vpravda, Istok, Vukcizza, Vraghidara, Bigleniza, are all of them suspicious from the point of view of Slavonic etymology, and can hardly be referred to a date even so early as the middle ages, much less the sixth century. It is of course possible that they may be late forms, or corrupted forms, of genuine old Slavonic names. But it seems more probable that they are not natural growths, but either translations, more or less happy, of Latin and Greek names (e.g. Justinianus, Lupicina, Theodora), or essential Slavonic names of comparatively recent origin.”

“Mr. Arthur Evans suggests to me an ingenious theory regarding these names, which may be stated as follows:—

Justinian’s father was of Dardanian origin, and his name, as we know from Procopius, was Sabatius. Now Sabatius is the name of a Thracian god who, as Roesler has shown, may from some points of view be regarded as the sun god. Thracian was still a spoken language in the sixth century, and the name might retain a solar or kindred meaning — perhaps that of Oriens. Assuming that in the land of Justinian’s birthplace a Thracian population was subsequently slavonised, the name, together with the glorious traditions attaching to it, may have been taken over in a translated form as Istok, which, at least in the later Slavonic dialects, means the East or the rising sun. So too Justinianus, who represents the romanised Thracian element, had been translated into Vpravda. M. Jireček has observed that the words Istok and Vpravda are not genuine and natural Slavonic name-forms. Some explanation is therefore needed for them. But they appear as names of persons, of Slavs in Dalmatia and Herzegovina, as early, Istok as the twelfth century, Vpravda as the fifteenth (see note 30, ante). May not this fact be explained by the existence of Slavonic legends regarding Justinian and his family received before that date from the earlier indigenous elements of the peninsula which the Slavs had assimilated? These names, passing as those of national heroes, would come to be bestowed on persons as proper names.”

“It is anyhow clear that both names are anterior to Marnavich, and not invented by him; and this increases the likelihood that the other names, with regard to which we have no clue at present, are similarly not of his making, but taken from some pre-existing source.”

“But any such source is plainly legendary and not historical. There is no ground whatever for accepting the ascription to Justinian of a Slavonic origin. He came from a region, whether Ochrida, or Prizrend, or Uskiub (as Hahn and Tozer and Evans hold), in which we find Slavs established not long after his time. But the probabilities are that his family were Thracians and not Slavs.” 32

“The references to the wars between the empire, the Slavs, and the Goths, contained in the manuscript, seem drawn partly from the narrative of Marcellinus Comes, partly from the Slavonic legend, some fragments of which are preserved in the chronicle of the priest of Dioclea.” 33

“Marcellinus says (ad ann. 499):—

Aristus Illyricianae ductor militiae cum XV millibus armatorum et cum DXX plaustris armis ad praeliandum necessariis oneratis contra Bulgares Thraciam devastantes profectus est. Bellum juxta Zyrtum fluvium consertum, ubi plus quam milia IV nostrorum aut in fuga aut in praecipitio ripae fluminis interempta sunt. Ibique Illyriciana virtus militum periit, Nicostrato Innocentio et Aquilino comitibus interfectis.

“He does not, however, mention Aristus as killed. Again, ad ann. 505, Marcellinus describes the defeat of Sabinianus ductor militiae by Mundo (not Mundus) Geta (the Goth) on the banks of the Margus. This seems to be the ground for the reference to the reliquiae Sabiniani exercitus a Gothis fusi. Selimir does not appear in Marcellinus. But we find him in the chronicle of Presbyter Diocleas, where he is described as king of Dalmatia and the adjoining regions. According to this book (which I quote from the edition of it in Latin subjoined to the ‘De Regno Dalmatiae’ Joannis Lucii (Frankfort, 1666)), Totila and Ostroylus are two brother kings of the Goths, who are Slavs. As they descend upon the empire, Totila takes Italy for his share, which he ravages, passes into Sicily and dies there. 34 Ostroylus conquers Illyria and Dalmatia, being opposed by the armies of Justinian. Ostroylus leaves a son Sevioladus or Senudilaus, who reigns twelve years and is succeeded by his son Syllimirus or Selemirus, who, though himself a heathen, is peaceful, p680and protects the christians; he makes a treaty with them, and they become his tributaries. He is succeeded by his sons, first by Bladinus, then by Ratomir, who persecutes the christians. Here we have legends different from those of Marnavich, because Selimir in the latter is Justinian’s uncle, while in Presbyter Diocleas he is the grandson of an invading heathen enemy of Justinian. 35 Of Rechirad I find no trace here, nor of Istok or Bigleniza, but Luccari tells us that in his Presbyter Diocleas Selemir is the brother-in‑law of Istok, and Istok the brother-in‑law of Justinian.”

“The story of Justin and Justinian rescuing the orthodox bishops seems to refer to the event described by Marcellinus as follows (ad ann. 516):—

Laurentium Lychnidensem [episcopum], Domnionem Serdicensem, Alcissum Nicopolitanum, Gaianum Naisitanum et Evangelum Pautaliensem, catholicos Illyrici sacerdotes, suis Anastasius [Imperator] praesentari jussit obtutibus. Alcissus et Gaianus episcopi apud Byzantium vita defuncti sunt, Domnione et Evangelo ad sedes proprias, ob metum Illyriciani catholici militis, extemplo remissis.

“Marnavich in his notes identifies the Bogomilus of the Barberini manuscript with this Domnio. Bogomil may have been the legendary name of the Serdican prelate whom a local tradition commemorated as the orthodox confessor who withstood the Monophysite emperor, this tradition connecting itself with the inscription on the tomb in front of the church at Serdica. Possibly we have here the germ of the legend. When it was supposed that Justinian, himself a Slav, rescued the pious Slavonic bishop, it would come to be believed that the bishop had been the instructor in theology of the champion of orthodoxy.”

“It is remarkable how little there is in the manuscript of historical interest or value beyond these new names, themselves, as has been indicated, more than suspicious. The chief fact is the visit of Justinian to the great Theodoric, his being received by the latter into a species of artificial brotherhood (ἀδελφοπιστία), and his subsequent sojourn as a hostage at Ravenna. Unhappily the circumstances narrated as having led to these events are so questionable as to throw great doubt on the events themselves. They are wholly unconfirmed by other historians, and they assume an importance both for Justin twelve years before he reached the throne and for Justinian at the age of twenty (or a little more), which is in itself improbable. Note that both the author of the manuscript and Marnavich (assuming them to be different) conceive of the Goths as speaking Slavonic, and doubtless therefore of Theodoric as a Slav.”

“As already observed, the author of the fragmentum (or rather of p 681 the statements contained in it) evidently knew the chronicle of Marcellinus Comes, a book which had considerable value for the catholic clergy of the middle ages in the Slavonic countries, because it has a certain Latin colouring.” 36

“Marnavich in his notes refers to Marcellinus, to Procopius (the De Aedificiis), and to Agathias. Whether, however, either the author of the statements contained in the manuscript or Marnavich (supposing them to be different persons) knew the Anecdota is not clear. There are three passages in the manuscript which may have been suggested by that book. One is the shadow which is felt to rest on the empress Theodora. This, however, may be sufficiently explained by the reputation of that lady for heterodoxy, which had led to her being severely handled by ecclesiastical writers from Victor Tununensis down to Cardinal Baronius. The second is the opposition of the ladies of the imperial household to the marriage of Justinian and Theodora, attributed by Procopius to the empress Euphemia, Justinian’s aunt, by our manuscript to his mother Bigleniza, whom Procopius does not name. 37 The third is the legend as to the imprisonment and deliverance from death of the emperor Justin — an anecdote which recalls the story told in chap. 6 of the Anecdota, though the colour of the narratives is different. But instead of the dream by which John Crookback, the general in the Isaurian expedition, was forbidden to put Justinian to death, we hear in the manuscript of an apparition of Saints Sergius and Bacchus. Other writers (Zonaras, Cedrenus, Ephraemius) also tell the tale of Justin’s imprisonment and release; and it is more likely that the author of the manuscript drew from one of them, who give a religious turn to the tale, than from Procopius.”

“If it be thought that these points of contact are sufficient to show that the writer of the manuscript must have seen the Anecdota, the argument will be strong that Marnavich was either the author or the very free redactor of the manuscript, because the Anecdota, although not unknown before their publication in 1623 (seeing that Suidas refers to them), were unlikely to have been seen by any Slavonic author of the alleged ‘Vita Justiniani’ of Mount Athos; whereas Marnavich in Rome might have learnt about them from Alemanni before they were published in 1623. But the presumption seems to be rather the other way. Had Marnavich read the Anecdota, he would probably have referred in his notes to several passages in it which would have suited him. But he has not done so.”


Mount Athos itself

“It is worth while to notice an omission singular in an author desiring to claim Justinian and his family for the Slavonic race. Nothing is said about Belisarius, who plays so great a part in the wars of Justinian, who was undoubtedly of Thracian birth (he came from Germania, near Serdica), and for whose name the plausible Slavonic etymology of Beli Tsar or White Prince has been suggested, and was, for a while, generally accepted. It is now, I believe, rejected by Slavonic scholars on the ground that the word tsar is itself later than the sixth century, being probably (though perhaps not certainly) formed from Caesar.”

“These observations on the contents of the Barberini manuscript may be summarised as follows:—

The substance of the book is semi-mythical and romantic, and in some points diverges widely from the truth of history.

The names given are apparently of comparatively late origin; and as regards those which have Greek or Latin equivalents, it is far more probable that they have been formed by translating the Greek or Latin names into Slavonic than that they are themselves Slavonic originals from which the Greek and Latin names were formed by translation.

The origin of the facts given is to be found partly in Slavonic legends which had grown up round the famous name of Justinian, partly in the conscious harmonising and working up together of legend and of authentic history to be found in existing sources, some of which, such as Marcellinus Comes, perhaps also Theophanes and Zonaras, the author of the statements contained in the manuscript knew.”

Question VI.

“We may now proceed to state the general conclusions to which the foregoing inquiry seems to have led us. These conclusions may be modified by further information as to Slavonic legends of this order, possibly even by an examination of Marnavich’s book ‘De Caesaribus Illyricis,’ if a copy of it can be found. So far as present data enable us to go, we may, I think, adopt the following propositions:”

“1. This Barberini manuscript of ours is the ‘Vita Justiniani’ quoted by Alemanni, and which subsequent writers have quoted from him.”

“2. This book is, however, not a life of Justinian, nor even an extract from a life of Justinian, but an abstract from an original (whether real or supposed), which, though called by the abstractor (p 683) a life, was more probably a collection of notices relating to Justinian and the churches he founded.”

“3. The Barberini manuscript, as well as the explicationes which follow it, was written by Marnavich, and probably at Rome, and before 1621.”

“4. The existence of the original ‘Vita Justiniani’ said to exist in the Basilian monastery on Mount Athos cannot be assumed, for we have no evidence regarding it except that of Marnavich, and he is a witness not above suspicion. On the whole, however, in the absence of positive grounds for holding Marnavich to have invented it, there seems reason to think that some book of the kind did exist, though perhaps not on Athos, or at least that he believed in its existence.”

“5. There is nothing to show that there ever existed either a preceptor of Justinian or a bishop of Serdica named Bogomilus or Theophilus, the identification of such a person with the historical Domnio being apparently arbitrary and baseless. Much less then have we any ground for accepting the authorship of the opusculum on Mount Athos (assuming its existence) as that of this alleged contemporary of Justinian.”

“6. Assuming this original on Mount Athos to have existed, it cannot have been very old in the form in which Marnavich used it, probably, to judge by the forms of the Slavonic names it contains, not older than the fourteenth century.”

“7. The legends it contains may of course be older, but how much older it is impossible to say in the absence of sufficient evidence from other quarters regarding them. They have a marked ecclesiastical tinge, and may have arisen from local traditions connecting the great and orthodox emperor with Prizrend and its churches on the one hand, Serdica and its church on the other. The former would be Servian traditions, the latter Bulgarian. There would thus seem to be here a mixture, perhaps an internal harmonising, of Servian and Bulgarian legend. 38 Both meet in Domnio-Bogomilus-Theophilus, who is abbot at Prizrend and bishop at Serdica.”

“8. No veritable historical authority can be claimed for any one of the statements of this manuscript. Even the assumption, made for a long time past on the faith of Alemanni’s citations from it, that Justinian’s true name was Vpravda, and he of Slavonic race, must now be considered unfounded. He doubtless came from Thrace or Macedonia, but to which of the races then dwelling in those countries he belonged it seems impossible to determine; for although the name Vpravda is given also by the writer whom Luccari cites, that writer is doubtless also the mere repeater of a tradition, and entitled to no more weight than this mysterious Bogomil of ours. The name of his father, Sabatius, seems to point to the old Thracian stock.”

“What the manuscript does is to give us a glimpse into a sort of cyclus of Slavonic legends attaching themselves to the great name of Justinian, as other Slavonic legends were connected with Alexander the Great, as Aquitanian legends were connected with Charlemagne, German legends with Theodoric and with Attila, British legends with Arthur, Italian legends with Totila. Other traces of such legends are found in the priest of Dioclea, and others may possibly exist in Slavonic books which have not become known to western scholars.”

“One may feel inclined to regret that the results to which this inquiry into the supposed biographer of the emperor has led us should be so purely negative, teaching little more than that Justinian had become a legendary hero among the South Slavonic races. There is nevertheless some satisfaction in destroying assumptions which we now find to be groundless, and in clearing up what has been, since Marnavich and Alemanni launched their Theophilus upon the world two centuries and a half ago, one of the standing puzzles of later Roman history.”

James Bryce.

Letter from M. Constantin Jireček.

Notices concernant la Vita Justiniani avec les explications de Marnavich dans un MS. de la Bibl. Barberini à Rome.

“1. Le nom Upravda pour l’empereur Justinien ne se trouve dans aucun des ouvrages historiques compilés ou traduits en slavon pendant le moyen âge, à ce qu’ils me sont connus et à ce qu’ils sont déjà publiés et accessibles.”

“2. L’auteur de la Vita Justiniani s’est servi évidemment de la chronique du Comes Marcellinus. De là viennent Domnion, évêque de Serdica (Marc. ad a. 516), slavisé avec un second nom Bogomil, ‘Aristus Illyricianae ductor militiae’ (ad a. 499, changé en ‘Rastus dux militiae Illyricianae,’ Sabinianus avec la bataille de Margus (Marc. ad 505). ‘Selimirprinceps Sclavorum’ est un personnage mythique, pris de la Chronique du Diocleas, cap. IV, où il figure comme roi de Dalmatiae. Une source dalmate se trahit par la mention du célèbre monastère catholique (ordinis Sti Benedicti) St. Sergii et Bacchi, qui se trouvait sur la Boyana, 6 milles de Scutari, 18 milles de la mer, jusqu’au XVIe siècle un port commercial très fréquenté, San Sergi des Italiens, Sveti Srgj des Slaves. S. Alexandre, à qui la Vita attribue un couvent dans la contrée de Prizren, est le martyr romain de Drusipara entre Adrianople et Constantinople, dont la légende se trouve dans les Acta SS. Boll. Mai III 197. L’église de St.º Sophie à Sardica n’a pu être fondée par Justinien ‘in gratiam Bogomili seu Domnionis olim sui pedagogi ;’ c’est un édifice byzantin d’une époque plus récente, apparemment de la même époque, c. à d. du XIe siècle, lorsqu’on a construit l’église de St.º Sophie à Ochrida qui a le même plan que celle de Sophia, opinion prononcée déjà par le voyageur russe V. Grigorovič en 1845.”

“3. Il est intéressant de remarquer que l’auteur de la Vita fait Justinien originaire de Prizren. Il adopte évidemment l’opinion, prononcée vers 1600 par les Dalmatins Orbini (‘Regno degli Slavi,’ 1601, p175) et Luccari (‘Annali di Rausa,’ 1605, p61) que Justiniana Prima est Prizren. Les indigènes et surtout le clergé de ces pays identifiaient au contraire Justiniana Prima toujours avec Ochrida, idée qui se maintient dans les actes et les titres de l’église d’Ochrida à partir du XIIIe siècle.”

“4. Miklosich (‘Bildung der slavischen Personennamen,’ Wien, 1860) n’a trouvé aucun nom de personne formé de pravda, justice. J’en connais cependant un exemple, un gentilhomme herzégovinien Radiz Oprouda (sic), qui est mentionné dans les protocolles du sénat de Raguse, rédigés en latin et en italien, 1459, 1462, 1469‑1471, 1476‑1477, comme ambassadeur du ‘herceg’ de la Herzégovine Stefan et plus tard de son fils Vlatko. La forme slave de ce nom, qui paraît avoir été un sobriquet (différent des patronymiques en ‑ich = ‑ić, avec lesquels sont écrits les collègues de ce Radić : Grupković, Paskanić &c.), était sans doute Opravda, du verbe opravdatiopravditijustum censerejusta ratione regerepurgaredefendere, to justify, to vindicate, rechtfertigen (cf. Miklosich, ‘Lex. palaeoslovenicum,’ et Daničić, ‘Dict. du vieux serbe,’ II, 225).”

“D’ailleurs le nom Opravda ne peut pas être d’ancienne date ; au moyen âge prédominent les noms composés de deux thèmes : Rado-Slav, Vъlko-drug, Slavo-mir (cf. les formes grecques Ἀλέξ‑ανδροςΚαλλι‑κράτηςΔημο‑σθένης, et les anciens noms germaniques) ; les contractions, plus familières (le premier thème avec un suffixe), ne commencent à se répandre que vers la fin du moyen âge.”

“5. Les autres noms de la Vita sont également suspects. Le soi-disant Istok est comme nom de personne un ἅπαξ εἰρημένον de la légende sur Justinien. Dans les dialectes slaves de la presqu’île Balcanique istok au moyen âge signifie seulement fonseffluviumostium fluminis ; il y a aussi une rivière Istok en Serbie (au 14e siècle) ; l’adjectif istočьnfontanusπηγαῖος. L’orient est au moyen âge toujours vъstokorientalis vъstočьn ; istokoriensistočьnorientalis, ne paraît qu’au 15e siècle.”

Vukcizza (nom qui se trouve aussi ailleurs, mais qui sonnait au moyen âge en serbe et bulg. Vlъčica), Bozidara (dans les monuments seulement le masc. Bozidar), Vraghidara(tout à fait isolé) portent aussi le type d’une époque récente. Vraghidara est, outre cela, mal formé dans sa phonétique, avec une consonne gutturale au lieu d’une palatale (gavant i devient ž): de vragdiabolus, on peut dériver seulement vražidara, comme de bogdeusbožidar.”

“Vigilantia = Bigleniza n’a pu être compris comme slave (‘Albula‘ de Marnavich) en Dalmatie et Croatie que lorsqu’on y écrivait, depuis le 15e siècle, gl pour le l mouillé ; cependant de bielialbus (aux dialectes bîli), on peut s’attendre seulement à BieleniçaBileniça (un nom sans parallèle) avec un l dur.”

“6. Ivan Tomko Marnavich (lisez Mrnavić), né à Sebenico 1579, mort à Rome 1639, ne mérite pas beaucoup de confiance. Le prof. Armin Pavić a publié une biographie détaillée de cet historien, hagiographe et poète, dans les actes de l’académie d’Agram (‘Rad jugoslavenske akademije,’ vol. XXXIII (1875) pp 58‑127. Marnavich, qui avait aussi le défaut de construire sa généalogie, en se déclarant lui-même descendant du roi serbe Vukašin ‘Mrnjavčević’ (1366‑1371) et même de la gens Marcia de Rome, et cela naturellement en se basant sur des documents falsifiés, a débuté à Rome en 1608, comme jeune homme encore, par la publication d’un livre De Illyrico Caesaribusque Illyricis. Cet ouvrage est cité par Valentinelli comme De Illyrico Caesaribusque Illyricis Dialogorum libri septem 1608; mais ni Kukuljević, le premier bibliographe croate de nos jours, ni Pavić lui-même n’a eu la chance d’en trouver un exemplaire. Il serait intéressant de voir ce qu’il raconte là sur l’origine illyrique de Justinien.”

“Il est difficile de dire si Luccari, qui a signé la préface de ses ‘Annali di Rausa’ (Venezia, 1605) le 1 janvier 1604, a déjà pu avoir dans ses mains ce livre, paru en 1603. Il ne le nomme pas dans le catalogue des ‘auctori citati nella presente opera.’ Il nous raconte (p 3) qu’un ‘barone Slavo’ Istok était père de Justinien, et que Justin et Justinien ‘ com’ ho veduto in un Diadario in Bulgaria in lingua slava, sono chiamati Vprauda (alors tous les deux), che significa Giustiniano ò Giustino.’ On pourrait aussi supposer que Luccari a pris (peut-être dans quelque récit sur le rétablissement de l’orthodoxie après Anastase par Justin et Justinien, inséré dans une chronique slavonne) l’aoriste opravdȧ (de opravdati‘justifier’) pour un nom d’homme, mais d’un autre côté le nom Istok chez lui fait penser qu’il a puisé déjà d’une source semblable aux productions de la fantaisie de Marnavich.” 39

Constantin Jireček.

Prague : 1 janvier 1886.

Post-scriptum. — Le gothisme ou la gothomanie, comme l’appellent les historiens actuels de la Croatie, c’est à dire la confusion des Gothes avec les Slaves, est très vieille en Dalmatie. On la rencontre déjà chez le presbyter Diocleas (XII s.) et chez Thomas, archidiacre de Spalato (XIII s.). D’après l’analyse de l’historien croate Rački (président de l’académie d’Agram) dans sa dissertation sur les sources de l’histoire croate et serbe (en croate, Agram, 1865, p 59) la première partie du Diocleas (chap. I‑XIX) n’est qu’un libellus Gothorum, qui est antérieur même à Diocleas, évidemment une composition indigène, faite en Dalmatie.”

“Licinius et sa femme, soeur de Constantin le Grand, figurent comme ancêtres des Nemanjides serbes dans la biographie du despote Etienne Lazarević (1389‑1427), écrite par Constantin le ‘Philosophe’ en 1431 (publiée par Iagić dans le ‘Glasnik,’ journal de la société savante serbe, vol. 42), et dans la seconde rédaction des annales serbes, rédigée à la même époque. La première rédaction, de la fin du XIV s., ne connaît pas encore cette fantaisie généalogique, de même que toutes les biographies des Nemanjides composées aux XIII et XIV siècles. C’est une traduction de la chronique de Zonaras, faite en Serbie vers 1400, qui débute par l’identification des Daces avec les Serbes, qui nomme Licinius un Serbe etc. (Cf. Iagić, ‘Ein Beitrag zur serbischen Annalistik,’ Archiv für slaw. Philologie, Bd. II.”

“Le voyageur Schepper en 1533 (Mém. de l’académie de Bruxelles, t. XXX, 1857) a reçu des moines du monastère de Mileševa en Herzégovine la même généalogie de saint Sava, fils de Nemanja, descendant de Licinius.”

“Justinien, au contraire, ne joue aucun rôle remarquable dans ces compositions.”

Constantin Jireček.

Prague : 3 août 1887.


The Author’s Notes:

1 These references are as follows (I give them by the numbers of the pages of Alemanni’s notes in the Bonn edition of the AnecdotaA Justino et Justiniano superbissimum templum ad urbem Scodram Barbenamque fluvium Sergio et Bacchio martyribus excitatum fuit, ut pluribus narravit Theophilus Justiniani praeceptor (p 363). Theophilus Justiniani praeceptor licet sub Zenone et Acacio patriarcha dicat [Justinianum natum], consulatum tamen reticet (p 368). Sub finem Anastasii dominatus Byzantium venisse Justinianum trigenario majorem, Theophilus ejus praeceptor affirmat (p369). Hac ratione et fide (i.e. ἀδελφοπιστίαJustiniani frater fuit Theodoricus Gotthorum rex, ut Theophilus Justiniani praeceptor explicat (p 371). Venit Ravennam Justinianus plane adolescens, eoque missus est obses ad Theodoricum Gotthorum regem a Justino avunculo exercitus duce, ut Theophilus Justiniani praeceptor exponit (p 383). Justiniani mater Bigleniza repugnabat [sc. quominus Justiniano Theodora desponderetur], quod cum evincere illa nequivisset, ut Theophilus in Vita Justiniani affirmat, moerore contabuit (p 384). Duxit Justinianus Theodoram egregiam puellam, licet reclamante matre Bigleniza, quippe quae indolem puellae alioqui scitissimae et eruditissimae, sed levioris et arrogantioris ingenii aliquando obfuturam fortunae et pietati filii pertimesceret, praesertim quia vetula quaedam divinationibus addicta Theodoram futuram Daemonodoram Romano imperio, inflexuramque rectitudinem Justiniani ex sortium augurio consulenti Biglenizae praedixerat (p 415). Bigleniza soror Justini, mater Justiniani imperatoris. . . . Nomen Biglenizae Theophilus in Vita Justiniani prodidit (p 418). Sabatius Justiniani pater Istokus appellatus est ab Illyriensibus. Theophilus in Vita Justiniani (p 418). Justinianus imperator Uprauda a suis gentilibus dictus est. Idem Theophilus (p 418). Antequam imperium caperet, a Theophilo abbate praeceptore suo theologicis jam erat studiis imbutus Justinianus (p 438).”

2 J. P. Ludwig, Vita Justiniani atque Theodorae Augustorum; necnon Triboniani, jurisprudentiae Justinianeae proscenium. Halae Salicae, 1731.”

3 Invernizi, Phil., De rebus gestis Justiniani Magni, Romae, 1783. W. O. Reitz in his edition of the paraphrase of Justinian’s Institutes by the famous jurist Theophilus, one of the authors of the Institutes, says (II.1039, note 3 to Chap. I) that he is surprised that none of those who have written about the various Theophili has mentioned Theophilus Abbas, the preceptor and biographer of Justinian. ‘I do not know,’ he proceeds, ‘whether this life of Justinian has ever been published or still lurks in the Vatican library, for I cannot find it anywhere. I think that this abbot was not our paraphrast, seeing that the latter died in A.D. 534, and could not have written the life of Justinian who died in 568. Moreover, a preceptor could not have written the life of a person who lived to the age of eighty-three. Forte igitur Alemannus humani aliquid passus est, qui abbatem hunc eidem Justiniano cujus vitam scripsit praeceptorem adsignaverit, quum alium Justinianium magni Justiniani ex patre nepotem (cujus pater Germanus fuit quique sub Justino secundo contra Persas feliciter pugnavit et deinde Tiberio imperatori insidias fecerit) illi abbati discipulum dare deberet.‘ Reitz, therefore, also accepts Alemanni’s Theophilus as a good authority, though he desires to put him a generation later than that to which his being the instructor of the emperor Justinian would assign him.”

“So the learned Le Beau in his Histoire du Bas Empire (edition of St. Martin, Paris, 1827) and M. Debidour in his very recent Dissertatio de Theodora Justiniani Uxore (Paris, 1877) and in his monograph L’Impératrice Theodora (Paris, 1885) quotes Theophilus without hesitation as an indubitable authority. So also Mr. C. E. Mallet in the number of this Review for January 1887. At p 55 (note) of his monograph, M. Debidour doubts whether this Theophilus the biographer of Justinian is or is not to be identified with Theophilus the jurist and paraphrast of the Institutes.”

4 Joseph Maria Suares was born at Avignon in 1599 and died at Rome 1666. He was a man of considerable learning, and soon after 1622 was placed by Cardinal Francis Barberini in charge of the library formed by this magnate. In 1633 Pope Urban VIII (uncle of the cardinal) named him bishop of Vaison.

5 This title is written in a different hand from that of the MS., and in different ink.”

6 Possibly we ought to read Domnio; see post, p 669.”

It is hard to say what the fifth letter of this word is, whether a u or an n or a v, for the writing in the MS. is obscure. But I believe it to be a v, and have consequently printed the name all through as Vpravda. The numbers in brackets, which in the original are placed over instead of after the words to which they belong, refer to the Explicationes which follow.”

“Thayer’s Note: “Brackets” actually refer to what in modern American English are called parentheses; in this Web transcription, these notes are marked in the following style — (1) — and are linked to the corresponding Explicatio, and vice-versa.”

In the MS. the words aut Prizriota, or perhaps Prizrieta; are interlined in a different hand.”

Read Knez, which in Slavonic means a prince.”

10 Ought to be Amalamiri.”

11 So apparently in the MS. Read Sicensem.”

12 Or Procaredos.”

13 At the bottom of the last page of the MS. are the words, written in a different hand from that of the procopium Alemannus, f. 9; a little lower, the words missum ab urbe.”

14 The Count of Sebenico writes to Venice of Marnavich, in 1626: Morlacco, nato qui, quando suo padre era qui datiario per il Turco, poi cacciato suo padre per ordine publico, alievo de’ Gesuiti.

15 He tells us (p 147 of the Regiae Sanctitatis Illyricanae Foecunditas) that Baronius (who died in 1610) was so much moved by what he (Marnavich) told relating to Constantine the Great, that tantus heros lacrymis prae pietate effusis, in meum proruens complexum, magnas se mihi debere gratias, et a juvene imberbi tali didicisse minime pudere, disertis verbis non solum sit protestatus, sed conscenso curru ad easdem (nempe Constantini) sacras imagines adorandas statim sese contulit. Was this at hearing that the emperor Constantine was a Slav?”

16 M. Jireček remarks that at this time the Holy See favoured the use of the national tongue in the South Slavonic countries, in order to combat the influence of the books printed in Slavonic at Tübingen by protestant Slavs from Dalmatia and Istria.”

17 Among the works of Marnavich I find references to the following: Oratio in laudem Fausti Verantii ep. Chanadiensis (Venet. 1617); Vita Petri Berislavi Bosnensis ep. Vesprimensis(Romae, 1620); Oratio in adventu ad urbem Sicensem illustr. viri Fr. Molini, sereniss. Reipublicae Venetae legati (Venet. 1623); Sacra Columba ab importunis vindicata suaeque origini restituta (Romae, 1625); Unica gentis Aureliae Valeriae Salonitanae Dalmaticae Nobilitas (Romae, 1628); Regiae Sanctitatis Illyricanae Foecunditas (Romae, 1630); Indicia Vetustatis et Nobilitatis familiae Marciae vulgo Marnavitiae Nissensis, per Joannem Tomcum ejusdem generis (Romae, 1632; with portraits of the author of Vukassin, king of Servia); Saint Felix episcopus et martyr Spalatensi urbi vindicatus (Romae, 1634); Vita Magdalenae Modrussiensis sanctae mulieris (Romae, 1635); Pro sanctis Ecclesiarum ornamentis et donariis (Romae, 1635. This is said to be the best of his works); Vita Beati Augustini Casotti ep. Zagrabiensis (Vindob. 1637); translation into Slavonic (‘Illyrian’) of the Doctrina Christiana of Cardinal Bellarmin (Romae, 1627); an Italian life of Saint Margaret, daughter of Bela, king of Hungary. He was also the author of sundry dramatic and other poems in his vernacular tongue, which he wrote with some force and spirit. A life of Saint Sabbas, which he left in manuscript, was published by Ivan Lucić at Venice in 1789.”

18 Further information regarding Marnavich may be found in Farlati, Illyrici Sacri, tom. IV, pp80, 81; Engel, Fortgesetzte Litteratur der Nebenländer des ungarischen Reiches (Halle, 1798); Schafarik, Geschichte der südslawischen Litteratur (Prague, 1865); Alberto Fortis, Viaggio in Dalmazia (Venice, 1774). This last-named writer accuses (p 146) Marnavich of having found in the papers of Bishop Veranzio, and published as his own composition, the life of Bishop Peter Berislav, which had really been written by Antonio Veranzio a century before, ‘adding a few sentences to it to make it appear to be his own, and leaving out the few lines which reveal the real biographer, Antonio Veranzio.’ This charge is doubted by G. G. Paulovich Lucić, who, however, rebuts it only by saying that ‘our excellent Marnavich left such rich and abundant fruits of his own genius that he did not need to steal from any one else.’ Its Latin is far better than that of Marnavich’s other works, a fact which increases the suspicion. Professor Armin Pavić has written a full biography of Marnavich in the Acts of the Academy of Agram (vol. XXXIII 1875), from which, as I cannot read Serb, some interesting facts have been supplied to me by M. Jireček, Mr. Evans, and Mr. W. R. Morfill of Oxford.”

19 It is hard to make out whether this book was ever printed. The abate Alberto Fortis (already quoted) says Marnavich wrote in 1603 un grosso manoscritto, che si conserva ancora, quantunque sia un po’ mutilato. Perhaps the MS. is still in some Roman library. Marnavich refers to it in one of his later books (the Gentis Aureliae Nobilitas) as written by himself ‘olim,’ but without saying whether it had been printed or not. When in Ragusa some little time ago, I was informed that a copy existed there, but it was said to have been sent to Pesth. My friend, Mr. Arthur J. Patterson, professor of English literature in the university of Pesth, tells me that no copy can be found in any of the three chief libraries of that city or in any of the libraries of Agram. Dr. Konrad Maurer tells me it is not in the university library at Munich; and has kindly ascertained for me that it is not in the university library at Tübingen, which is rich in Slavonic books of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.”

20 It is natural to fancy that the name Bogomil may have something to do with the remarkable sect, bearing that name in Slavonic vernacular, who subsequently arose in Bulgaria, and who are commonly known in history as Paulicians. There does not, however, seem to be anything to connect this manuscript or the legends it refers to with that sect.”

21 In the dedication of his book Regiae Sanctitatis Illyricanae Foecunditas (Rome, 1630) to the emperor Ferdinand III, king of Hungary (who next year nominated him as bishop of Bosnia), Marnavich, wishing to prove that the house of Habsburg is descended from Constantine the Great, writes as follows: Constantinum autem gentis tuae conditorem exstitisse praeter animi corporisque omnium tuorum gentilium dotes a tot seculis ipsum sanctissimi principis exemplar perpetuo praeferentium ipsimet in ea tellure progeniti quae urbem a Constantini posteritate utpote in eadem a declinatione Romani imperii dominante Constantiam idcirco adhuc appellatur sub tuorum sceptris continent, facile conjecture concedunt, tum quia nullus qui tuae familiae Augustalem antiquitatem maturiori stylo prosequitur aliunde natales ejus quam ex antedicta tellure educit, tum Justiniani magni Romani imperatoris infantiae institutor ejusdemque vitae et maxima ex parte imperii scriptor, Illyricis Bogomilus, Latinis et Graecis Theophilus apud Nicolaum Alemannum in notis ad Procopii fragmenta appellatus, Constantini posteros suo tempore supra Rheni fontes intra Italiae Germaniaeque fines, longe a turbis superstites fuisse, potestate in vicinas gentes claros, est author. On this passage (which I owe to the kindness of Count Ugo Balzani, the book not being to be found in any English library) it may be observed: (1) The absence of any reference to the Barberini MS. and to the (alleged) original of Bogomil on Mount Athos may be thought to cast doubt on Marnavich’s recollection of these two documents. But he did not need, in a passing mention of Bogomil, to say where his book existed, and the Barberini MS. had never been published; indeed, it may have been in the hands of Alemanni or Suares, whereas Alemanni’s edition of the Anecdota had appeared in 1623. (2) Marnavich here refers to Alemanni only as an authority for the name Theophilus. The name Bogomil is not in Alemanni, but is the name given throughout the Barberini MS. (and, so far as I know, nowhere else) to our supposed biographer. (3) The statement that the descendants of Constantine were living near the sources of the Rhine is not to be found among Alemanni’s citations from Theophilus. Neither is it in the fragmentum, which merely says that Justinian, born at Prizrend, was descended from Constantine. Was it then in some part of the original (alleged) Bogomil which the fragmentum does not give, or is it an invention of Marnavich’s, attributed to his Bogomil? It is a statement not likely to have formed part of any Slavonic legend, which would not trouble itself about descendants of Constantine far away in the north-western Alps, however desirous to find them in Pindus or the Balkan. One naturally suspects that Marnavich is here using Bogomil-Theophilus as a name upon whom to father statements for which he wishes to claim authority. But be this as it may, the reference in this dedication not only confirms, if that wanted confirming, the connexion between Marnavich and the Barberini MS., but shows that ten years or more after the date of the MS. he still believed, or professed to believe, in his Bogomil. It is odd that, in the absence of all other clues to the Theophilus of Alemanni, this clue, slight as it is, should not have been laid hold of.”

22 It may be thought that Marnavich, stimulated by Alemanni’s discovery of the Anecdota, wished to have a share in the fame and talk which that discovery was likely to make, and volunteered his information about Justinian accordingly, to be inserted into Alemanni’s notes. But Alemanni, though he quotes Theophilus, never refers to Marnavich in any way. So that even the motive of a desire for notoriety seems wanting.”

23 In the Vita Sancti Sabbae he says: Vitae ejus (i.e. Saint Sabbaefusiori stylo prosequendae non defuit occasio ex iis monimentis quae a solitariis viris Athos incolentibus collecta ad memoriam posteritatis habentur transmissa, verum cum ea Graeca fide laborare non ambigamus, utpote posterioribus temporibus conscripta quibus extincto Latinorum imperio in Graecia latinae quoque sinceritatis puritas evanuit, Palaeologis regnantibus principibus, &c. Cited by Pavić in the article mentioned above.”

24 Alemanni, born in 1583, had been secretary to Cardinal Scipio Borghese, who apparently finding him unsuitable, got him a post in the Vatican library in 1614. He died in 1626.”

25 I am inclined to suspect that Marnavich got from Alemanni some of the learning with which he has enriched his explicationese.g. the statement that ‘Latin and Greek authors’ gave the original name of the empress Euphemia as Lupicina, and the reference to the name Bederina in Agathias. See Alemanni’s notes at pp 360, 367, 384 of Bonn edition.”

26 Cardinal Barberini, uncle of Francis, Marnavich’s patron, became pope under the title of Urban VIII in 1623, and reigned till 1644.”

27 There are a few, but only a few, names which seem to be of Slavonic origin in the long list of forts built or repaired in the northern provinces which Procopius gives in the De Aedificiis. M. Jireček, however, says (in a letter to me): ‘Les noms de certains châteaux chez Procope ont une ressemblance avec les noms slaves, mais rien de plus ; il y a aussi des explications du zend (le thrace d’après les recherches de mon collègue, le professeur Wilhelm Tomaschek à Vienne, paraît avoir été une langue iranienne), et de l’albanais. Cf. Krek, Einleitung in die slaw. Literaturgeschichte, 2de éd., p279, sqq.'”

“Schafarik (Slawische AlterthümerII. 12‑14) thinks that by the end of the fifth or beginning of the sixth century the Slavonic tribes held the north bank of the Lower Danube, and were beginning to settle quietly south of that river. But he does not bring them in Upper Macedonia and Northern Albania till the seventh.”

28 Marnavich in his notes refers to Bogomil as the person to whom there existed a marble-cased monument with an inscription in the church of Saint Sophia at Serdica (Sofia), identifying him with Domnio, a bishop of Serdica mentioned by Marcellinus Comes. I owe to the courtesy of Mr. N. R. O’Conor, her Majesty’s representative at Sofia, the following information regarding the ancient cathedral there, which he has obtained for me from some of the archaeologists of that city. ‘The ruins of the old cathedral church named Saint Sophia stand over those of a smaller church bearing the same name, which is said to have been built in the sixth century by Justinian. The local traditions confirm these historical statements, and add that, the wife of Justinian having found relief from a sickness for which she had come to Serdica to be cured, the emperor erected the said church. The original church had not, however, the form of the cathedral of Saint Sophia in Constantinople, any more than such form can be discovered in the ruins of the present church. The present building was erected in the thirteenth century by one of the Comneni (?). It was converted into a mosque when the Turks took the city. In the great earthquake of 1858 its minaret fell down, and ever since it has remained abandoned. In the course of some diggings made in 1884 at the back part near the altar, there were found two sarcophagi of brown stone, which are now in the building of the Gymnasium. The skeletons were far gone in decay. No inscription is to be seen anywhere. Excavations have not been made at or round the porch of the church.’ M. Jireček, however, informs me that the existing church belongs to the eleventh century, and thinks that it is the ruins of the apse that have given rise to the belief that there was previously ‘a smaller church.’ See his remarks in an article on the antiquities of Bulgaria in the Archäologisch-epigraphische Mittheilungen of Vienna for 1886, vol. X. He observes that the traditions of the people began very early to connect this Saint Sophia with the Saint Sophia of Constantine and the old emperors.”

29 It need hardly be said that the names of places in the fragmentum are some of them obviously later than the sixth century. The whole fragmentum is so evidently long posterior to that age that it is not worth while to go into this point further.”

30 The name Istok appears in Luccari (Annali di Rausa) as that of a Narentine of the twelfth century. It is said to be also the name of a river and of a town near Prizrend. And Luccari also mentions a Herzegovinian, in A.D. 1464, who bears the name Vpravda — Vpravda Katunar di Dabar. This may be the same person as the Radiz Oprouda mentioned in M. Jireček’s letter at the end of this article.”

31 The name Istok does not appear in the version of Presbyter Diocleas which we now possess. Luccari probably read a different one.”

32 To make Justin, the uncle of Justinian, a Slav, it would be necessary to suppose the Slavs to have begun to settle in Western Thrace or Upper Macedonia as early as A.D. 450. And if he and his nephew Justinian had belonged to a race of lately entered and rude barbarians, whose tribes were perpetrating horrible cruelties and ravages on the northern frontiers of the empire during Justinian’s own time, Procopius would probably in his Anecdota, where he seeks to heap every disgrace upon Justin and Justinian, have availed himself of the fact as one discreditable to both sovereigns. But that spiteful historian merely says that Justin was the unlettered son of a peasant who came from his Dardanian home to Constantinople with nothing but a bag of biscuits on his back.”

33 This chronicle is ascribed to the twelfth century. Dioclea is Dukli in Montenegro near the lake of Skodra.”

34 There is evidently in these legends a mixture of Totila and of Alaric. I found another curious instance of the mixture when, in visiting Caprara in Umbria, the place where Totila probably expired after his defeat in the great battle of A.D. 522, I was told by the inhabitants that a great barbarian king was buried beneath the channel of the river.”

35 Near the beginning of Luccari’s Annali di Rausa Selemir is presented to us as a sort of eponymus of the South Slavonic race, having three brothers, Lech (for the Poles), Cech (for the Bohemians), and Russ (for the Russians).”

36 Although by that time monophysitism had quite died out in the eastern church, there was an opposition, strong down to and in our own days, between the Catholics looking to Rome, and the orthodox looking to Constantinople. In Marcellinus’s time there was also an opposition, though one rather due to the fact that whereas the Latins were all opposed to monophysitism, there was a considerable monophysite party (to which, indeed, Anastasius and Theodora belonged) in Constantinople and the Greek-speaking districts generally.”

37 The tale of the feminine opposition to Justinian’s marrying Theodora certainly seems to suggest the story in Procopius. But it must be remembered not only that in Procopius the opposing person is different, but the events are differently conceived altogether. Here Justin arranges the match, and does so before he comes to the throne; in the Anecdota Justin, being a weak and aged emperor, is induced to consent to it, apparently at the end of his reign, and to change the law in order to make it possible.”

38 It is noteworthy that Luccari also refers to a Bulgarian source (the Diadario) as well as a Serb one (Presbyter Diocleas).”

39 Il est à noter qu’Orbini (1601, p 175) ne connaît encore ni Istok ni Upravda, quoique ilº déclare Justinien être Slave.


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November 6, 2016