Category Archives: Piasts

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

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

tops

Book II

3. Regarding the war undertaken against Boleslav.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

30.  Regarding Gero, the frontier commander.

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

* These “barbarians” were Slavs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

40. Regarding the hostages from Boleslav.

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

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

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

Book III

8. How the king led an army against Boleslav

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

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

42. How the Ukrani were defeated by Gero.

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

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

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

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

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

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

45. Regarding Thiadric’s battle against the Slavs.

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

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

49. Regarding the triumph of the king.

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

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

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

50. Regarding the king and Wichmann’s cunning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

53. How the king avenged this raid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

54. Regarding the frontier commander Gero.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

58.  Regarding the letter that reported his death.

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

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

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

66. Gero because of his oath, released Wichmann.

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

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

67. How Gero conquered the Lutizi.

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

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

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

68. Regarding two minor kings and Wichmann.

For this section, see here.

69. Regarding the death of Wichmman.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* presumably his “native” language was Saxon.

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

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

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

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

* Otto I became emperor on February 2, 962.

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

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

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

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

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

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June 12, 2016

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

Published Post author

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

wits

1577 edition

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

vitu

author?

Book I

17.  Regarding King Henry

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

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

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

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

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

20.  How the Hungarians devastated Saxony,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

corvt

Corvey abbey today

36.  Regarding the Redarii and how they were defeated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Saxons
** Slavs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Daleminzi.

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

corvei

Corvey on a map from 1620

Copyright ©2016 jassa.org All Rights Reserved

June 5, 2016

Athleta Christi

Published Post author

The tomb of Boleslaw the Great (aka the Brave) was located in the Poznan cathedral.  This much we know from the Greater Poland Chronicle.  The cathedral itself was upgraded in the then popular “Gothic” style by Casimir the Great in the 14th century.  The first (? see below) mention of an inscription on the upgraded tomb dates to 1422 and is found in a document dealing with the feud between the Teutonic Knights and the King of Poland (it is a witness statement on behalf of the Polish King by one George Merkil, a notary of Poznan).  According to the subsequent testimony of Jan Dlugosz (in the “Lives of Bishops of Poland” or Vitae episcoporum Poloniae), it was Casimir who included this inscription regarding the deeds of his predecessor:

[Casimirus] sarcophagos Regum humiles et solo sequatos, petrosa mole super imposita erexit, delitescentesque umbras, ne in perpetuam residerent oblivionem, vindicatas illustravit, et Posnaniensi ecclesiae vasa aurea et argentes dono data reliquit.”  

vita

The first edition of the text – it was previously thought (again see below) – came from 1490 when Stanislaw Streczaka a Benedictine monk from Tyniec mentioned it in his copy of the Gesta Romanorum (the manuscript was in Lviv where it was apparently destroyed in a fire in 1848).

poznaniensises

what is believed to be the actual tomb underneath the Poznan Cathedral

In any event the tomb was moved in the second half of the 18th century and in 1790 was destroyed when a portion of the cathedral tower fell off.  Once the tomb was destroyed (metaphor?) and the Polish state partitioned (over the years 1772-1795), suddenly everyone became interested in what that inscription said.

A number of authors were discussing it (Lubienski, Starowolski, Hartknoch, Zalaszowski, Czacki, Sarnicki, Naruszewicz) before Joachim Lelewel really made a study of it.  Here it is:

“In this grave there rests
a chieftain, a noble dove
You were called Chrobry
may you be eternally blessed
Though from a pagan father,
yet your mother was a believer
Drops of holy water caused
that you became God’s servant
When you hair was cut
it was laid in Rome
From then among conflict
you were Christ’s athlete
You won [many] lands
and made many wars
Distinguished chief
praise to you, stout Boleslaw
Thus the kingdom of Slavs
Goths,* and too of Poles
The Emperor did raise higher
so thou need not be a duke
And [in turn] many gifts you
you gave [him]
You gave to him
[for] riches/wealth you had aplenty
And to give you fame
did Otto give you the crown
For your great deeds
may you find salvation. Amen”

athleta

Athleta Christi showing the (old) Prussians the (not yet royal) finger

(Hic iacet in tumba
princeps generosa columba
Chabri tu es dictus

sis in evum benedictus
Perfido patre
tu es, sed credula matre
Fonte sacro lotus
servus Domini puta totus
Precidens comam
septeno tempore, Romam
Tu possedisti
velut verus adleta Cristi
Vicisti terras
faciens bellas quoque guerras
Inclite dux
tibi laus, strenue Boleslaus
Regni Sclavorum
Gottorum sue Polonorum
Cesar precellens
a te ducalia pellens
Plurima dona sibi
que placiere tibi
Hinc detulisti
quia divicias habuisti
Ob famamque bonam
tibi contulit Otto coronam
Propter luctamen
slt tlbl saLVs Amen)

And in Lelewel’s version (with a Polish translation) (note that the lines are differently ordered here):

lelewelz

At the time of Lelewel’s writing the oldest copy was thought to be one from 1490.  Interestingly, older versions appeared later – most recently one that was discovered by Wojciech Mischke (an art historian) and that has been dated to the beginning of the 15th century.  How Mischke discovered it should be a subject of independent study.  The language appears in the Codex HM 1036, of the Huntington Library in San Marino (California not Italy) but “appears” is a bit of a tongue in cheek joke.  It barely appears.  Or rather, it was erased and overwritten with a poem praising Pius II (who was Pope between 1458-1464).  We can only assume that someone who tried to read the remains of the writing understood enough of what it said so as to bring in a Polish medievalist like Mischke for a consult (another mystery). You can see it here (folio 206):

stranges

What is interesting, however, too was that there is apparently another writing earlier than the Chrobry inscription that is visible underneath.  Here is the back of that page (folio 205) where you can see it peeking through an Epigram of Martial:

strangezt
 Other pictures of the manuscript can be found here.

huntington

* So what about these Goths?  That Goths conquered the Veneti is evident from Getica itself.  A memory of Goths was preserved all over Eastern Europe (much like Vandals in Central Europe).  Numerous examples abound:

  • Gallus Anonymous speaks of the Sarmatians as Getae – probably meaning the Prussians (The Slavic lands… begin with the Sarmatians who are also known as Getae/Goths)
  • Kadlubek speaks of the Prussians as Getae during the events surrounding the Polish pagan rebellion of the 1030s
  • The Greater Poland Chronicle speaks of the Getae as Russians during the same events
  • The Chronicle of the Priest of Dukla discusses the Goths basically as a variant of Slavs
  • Various Frankish Annals (Borna duke of the Guduscani) refer to certain Slavic tribes in the Balkans as Goths
  • Then you have the above inscription, which probably refers to the Prussians, etc

Here is the Bielowski description in Polish:

bielowksi

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February 8, 2016

On Plaumorati

Published Post author

Saskia Pronk-Tiethoff in her very interesting book “The Germanic Loanwords in Protoslavic” discusses also the word “plough”.  This word appears in all Slavic languages in the following forms:

  • pług – in Polish (pronounced pwoog in English in English pronounciation);
  • pluh – in Czech, Slovak and Ukrainian;
  • płuh – in Upper Sorbian (pwooh);
  • pług – in Lower Sorbian (pwoog);
  • plaug – in Polabian;
  • plug – in Russian (ploog), Serbo-Croatian and Slovene (accent differs);

Of course, in Cyryllic alphabets the word is written плуг.

The same word appears in Germanic languages, e.g.:

  • pflug – German;
  • plough – English;
  • ploeg – Dutch;
  • phluog – Old High German;
  • pfluoc – Middle High German;
  • plog – Old English – in the meaning of plough of land!;
  • plöch – Old Frisian;
  • plovum – Langobardic (see Edictus Rothari, chapter 288; also Leges Baiuwaiorum);

The word is not Germanic or, at least, not proto-Germanic (if such a language existed) since it is not attested in Gothic.  On the other hand, Gothic has the word hoha for plough which seems to correspond to the Slavic socha/sokha.  Finally, in addition to plug and soha, Slavic also has radło/rádlo which corresponds to the ard plough.  In general, these instruments are understood to be slightly different.  Thus:

  • radło (rádlo/pа́ло/орало) – ard plow – the most ancient of “ploughs” (note the Germanic/Slavic ard/rad shift, e.g., Ardogast/Radogast);

radolo

  • socha (sokha/cохaard plow with two ards (or rads);

radlo

  • plug – plough, much heavier, using metal and typically equipped with wheels;

plough

Where Did Ploughs Come From?

The first mention of the word is quite ancient and seems to have been made by Pliny the Elder in his Natural History – a veritable almanac of knowledge.  The form given by Pliny is plaumorati.  The passage follows:

Pliny, Natural History 18,48 (or 18, 172 by lines)

“Ploughshares are of various kinds. The coulter is the iron part that cuts up the dense earth before it is broken into pieces, and traces beforehand by its incisions the future furrows, which the share, reversed, is to open out with its teeth.  Another kind—the common ploughshare—is nothing more than a lever, furnished with a pointed beak; while another variety, which is only used in light, easy soils, does not present an edge projecting from the share-beam throughout, but only a small point at the extremity. In a fourth kind again, this point is larger and formed with a cutting edge; by the agency of which implement, it both cleaves the ground, and, with the sharp edges at the sides, cuts up the weeds by the roots. There has been invented, at a comparatively recent period, in that part of Gaul known as Rhætia, a ploughshare with the addition of two small wheels, and known by the name of “plaumorati.”  The extremity of the share in this has the form of a spade: it is only used, however, for sowing in cultivated lands, and upon soils which are nearly fallow. The broader the plough-share, the better it is for turning up the clods of earth. Immediately after ploughing, the seed is put into the ground, and then harrows with long teeth are drawn over it.  Lands which have been sown in this way require no hoeing, but two or three pairs of oxen are employed in ploughing.  It is a fair estimate to consider that a single yoke of oxen can work forty jugera of land in the year, where the soil is light, and thirty where it is stubborn.”

Vomerum [“spades”] plura genera: culter vocatur inflexus praedensam, priusquam proscindatur, terram secans futurisque sulcis vestigia praescribens incisuris, quas resupinus in arando mordeat vomer. alterum genus est volgare rostrati vectis. tertium in solo facili, nec toto porrectum dentali, sed exigua cuspide in rostro.  latior haec quarto generi et acutior in mucronem fastigata eodemque gladio scindens solum et acie laterum radices herbarum secans. non pridem inventum in Raetia Galliae duas addere tali rotulas, quod genus vocant plaumorati. cuspis effigiem palae habet.  serunt ita non nisi culta terra et fere nova. latitudo vomeris caespites versat. semen protinus iniciunt cratesque dentatas supertrahunt. nec sarienda sunt hoc modo sata, sed protelis binis ternisque sic arant. uno boum iugo censeri anno facilis soli quadragena iugera, difficilis tricena iustum est.

Plaumorati

(On the Plaum)

The word plaumorati has caused a rather long discussion as to its meaning and origin.  Most people think it’s a compound word and that the first part is simply “plow”.  But is it?

Plough or plug has a “g” in it.  Not an “m”.  In this respect it has been asserted that the form plovum was the original form.

However, it is our understanding that:

  • the combination of “pl” is unusual in Langobardic;
  • several explanations have been given for the shift from “g” to “v” and, obviously, if that is true, then there is really no question that plug or plog came before *plovum (and, If so, there may have been a plug even at the time of the plaumorati; and, if so, then plaumorati would not even refer to a plough); and,
  • in any event, today’s cognate words may, apparently, be derived from other “original” forms (not just plovum) – even following the linguist’s own rules;
    • forms such as *ploda and plodum; such forms existed in Latin and, interestingly, in the region of Trentino which just happens to lie right next to the region of Veneto;trento

What is even more interesting in Trentino, the word *ploda meant harvest (see W. Foerster Der Pflug in Frankreich on page 12; Schneller, Die romanischen Volksmundarten in Suedtirol, page 165).

Remarkably, plon/plony means the same thing in Slavic languages (or płód/płódy which may have meant the same thing before it meant “fetus”).   That is one Slavic similarity.

plon1

Another may be seen if we look at the “m” – where does the “m come from? One suggestion could be lemiesz meaning the piece of the plough that actually cuts the soil:  ploughschema

lemiesz

Yet another if we ignore the “m” may be plewa/plewić meaning weed/get the weeds out.

plewa1

All this fits better if we con side that Pliny is not talking about ploughs but rather about ploughshares.

ploughshare

Whether a lemiesz used to be a plemiesz we do not know.  However, plemie means tribe and plemnik means, ahem, seed.  Consequently, it would not be unreasonable that the “p” dropped at some point.

Plaumorati 

(On the -Orati)

As to where the division should take place and what the second part of the word means, there is much disagreement.  Here are some common theories as to the origin of the word – they are basically divided into two groups:

The first is a “wheeled plough”: 

  • plograt – the ancient Gallic for a plough-wheel; as in Geraet/grat;
  • plaustra rati – Latin;
  • plaum radt – Belgic plaum (a plough) and rat or radt  (a wheel);
  • plaum ratum – more generally Celtic plaum, plovum (plough) and ratum (wheel);
  • plaugorati – although no such form has been recorded, some German scholars “created” or emendated a Germanic form plaumgorati – meaning, along the same lines, a wheeled plough (whether the name Much was itself, in this case, an emendation of the Slavic mucha, i.e., fly, we do not know (the word appears too in French… and in Swabian));

The second group is the  “Raetian plough”: 

  • ploum Raeti – Raeitian plough – Who were the Raetians?  We are told either Celts or Illyrians.

Both of these make sense since wheels and Raetia seem to be involved here.  And yet, another suggestion has also been made, as follows:

  • plaustrum aratri, plaustrum rastri, plaum aratri  – that is a plough wagon in Latin where the aratri/rastri is the plough/rake and plaustrum is the wagon; that is, the aratri is referring to the raking or ploughing action.

But, should it then be aratrum?

And here is the thing… 

Can the orati refer to anything other than wheels and Raetians?

orac

orac1z

rataj

Oddly enough, orać or orat, i.e., with an “o” is a Slavic verb for “to plough” (e.g., orka – the act of ploughing, oracz but also (!) rataj – ploughman or tiller) (same as, e.g., Spanish arar) and orati could be either:

  • an adjective for the kind of device, i.e., a ploughing device; or
  • genetive plural for whose device this is, i.e., tillers’ device.

Now, we are not suggesting that Raetians were Slavs but, one would think, that the above facts would, at least, merit mention in academic literature.  But they do not.  Why?  Conspiracy?  We think not.  We think the reasons are quite mundane:

  • conservatism – historians who occupy themselves with such topics do not even admit the possibility of Slavic speakers in Raetia at the time; and
  • dilettantism – the same people are ignorant of the above fact – for one thing, to the extent, they have any familiarity with Slavic words at all, they are typically familiar with Russian and in Russian the word does not really exist in this form;

Let’s note another interesting fact.

Piast of the Plough or Piast of the Wheel?

The Polish archfather – Piast – was said in the early tellings of his legend to have been an oracz, i.e., a ploughman.

ploughman

Piast in a plaumorati featuring the traditional Venetic red-white color scheme

But in later tales he becomes a wheelwright.

wheeelwright

Piast the Wheelwright working on a large order for the Tonka Corporation

Was this an intentional “ennobling” of Piast’s heritage?  Or was there some sort of a mistake or misreading of the word “rat” or “rad” (as in wheel)?

(He is referred to Ckosisconis which suggests either that his father’s name was Choscisco (whom some Germans historians tried to connect with the Hasdingi on account of the long hair…) or, perhaps, that it was Kosisco, meaning something to do with the kosa, i.e., scythe).

And then there is palluchos in Accadian…

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September 9, 2015

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

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

nottortosa

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

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

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

presussen2

…for a little nature get away

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

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

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

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

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

Ibrahim ibn Ya’qub al-Israili says:

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

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

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

On Nakon’s Country

[Duke of the Obodrites]

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

grossgross

A museum at Gross Raden

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

prussia

There be thick foliage

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

starogardreconstruction

Stargard (Oldenburg in Schleswig-Holstein) reconstruction

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

On Boreslav’s Country

[Boleslav, Duke of the Czechs]

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

prahaska

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

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

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

On Mieszko’s Country

[Duke of the Poles]

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

gnieznensi

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

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

On the Prussians

[that is the Baltic Prussians]

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

masure

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

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

On the City of Women 

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

ibrahim

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

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

On the Walitaba Country

[Veleti]

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

coastline

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

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

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

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

January 10, 2015

On the Baptism of Poland by Jan Dlugosz & its After-Effects by Thietmar of Merseburg

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We relate here what the Polish priest Jan Dlugosz says in his Chronicle of the Poles of the fateful events surrounding the “Baptism of Poland” under the heading “The year of our lord 965” [Dobrava arrived in 965, the baptism took place in 966].

We note that there may have been earlier attempts to convert portions of Polish lands – indeed Cracow may already have been Christian by 966.  There is, for example, a threatening missive from Methodius to the “duke in Vislech” to accept Chrisianity willingly or have it shoved down his throat at the point of the sword (see the Chronicle of Methodius).  Nonetheless, little is known of this and those portions were, apparently, not portions of Poland yet (Cracow likely belonged to the Czechs until Mieszko or Boleslaw took it).

believer

The famous “Methodius’ Offer” painting (water colors) from the IXth century, shows Methodius listing the benefits of conversion to the “Duke in Vislech”

BTW we mention Dlugosz from the 15th century since earlier sources (Gallus Anonymous, Master Kadlubek and the Great Poland Chronicles) do not discuss these events in any detail other than to note that Mieszko was first blind but then, at seven, finally gained his sight – this aws an allegory (apparently) to the future baptism of the entire country.  Now, Dlugosz wrote half a millennium after the events in question so that one might question how much of this is accurate but, having said that, this is all we have… almost since there are also reports from the Germans like Thietmar… but first to Dlugosz.

Jan Dlugosz

regius1

“A.D. 965 – Mieczyslaw, the duke of Poland marries Dobrava the daughter of the Czech duke and leaving pagan idols, accepts the christian faith with the entire nation”

“After a warning from Christian believers and friars Mieczyslaw left his seven concubines tied to him with the love of the flesh, so that the female pleasures should not hold him in the blind addiction of idolatry.”

priorwives

Mieszko’s prior wives in traditional Polish red-white uniforms (picture taken at a harvest festival)

“After separating from them [the concubines, i.e., current wives] he sent his envoys to Boleslaw, the Czech duke, the brother and killer of Saint Wenceslas, asking for the hand of his daughter Dobrava which he desired to marry as the only and lawful wife.  The Czech duke said that he won’t refuse such an honorable and excellent son-in-law so long as he should first give up his pagan errors and accept the order of the Christian faith; otherwise he won’t allow his daughter to marry a pagan duke and an idolater; the princess gave a similar answer from her side that it is not proper for a Christian woman to marry a pagan; but if Mieczyslaw the Polish duke should give up the disgusting idol worship and accepting baptism he should be reborn with a new life, then in that case she will not deny him her hand;”

dabrova

Dobrava in a local Plzner promotion – Mieszko’s choice could not have been more difficult

“When the envoys came back to Poland with these messages, duke Mieczyslaw called all the elders and lords and in a well-attended meeting he tried to get counsel what one should do.  The lords had different views so that it was decided to delay the decision till the next day.”

mieszko

Mieszko got agitated at the council meeting

“But that night the foreseeing God, took mercy on the penury and blindness of the Polish nation, and during their sleep filled Mieczyslaw in his dreams as well as a majority of his advisers with a dire warning and order that they should not miss the serendipitous opportunity presented them and to know, before accepting their new faith, that their country should blossom into the future [should they accept it].”

changeofcircumstances

Many of the best of the country’s citizens had an unexpected change of heart over night

“With this revelation, the Polish duke was convinced and he and the elders unanimously agreed to surrender themselves to the holy faith of Christ. And so many envoys  were now sent to the Czechs and promised that in order to obtain marriage not only the Polish duke but also the entire Polish nation, after having first learned exactly the tenets of the Christina faith, will accept baptism…”

[the Czech duke Boleslaw now, of course, agrees to provide his daughter together with worthy dowry]

regius2

“… there were among the lords and elders of the kingdom many who were strongly opposed to this not allowing to accept the Christian faith.  Some argued that this new Christian faith is full of superstitions and nonsense; others argued that it would be hard to keep such a faith; others that it i unworthy to give up the faith of their fathers and mothers, and freely bend their necks to a new and unknown faith.  These, however, and other difficulties, the loving god, who gives good counsel to kings, took pity on the foolishness and blindness of the Poles, took away their doubts, and filled them with the spirit of agreement and drove them to accept the Christian faith so that, by rejecting it, they should not become a target of shame among the Czechs and others…”

shaming

The Czechs’ mockery – what Mieszko feared the most

“… After a few days, prince Mieczyslaw [BTW it’s always Mieszko – Mieczyslaw is Dlugosz’s invention], after having learned the rules and rites of the correct faith from monks and hermits, which with this purpose in mind, he had brought [to his country], together with lords, nobles and certain better [!] citizens gives up the darkness of prior errors and accepts the rightful faith of Christ; the first step of his conversion to the light of the faith he celebrates with the cleansing mercy by accepting his baptism here in Gniezno.  And so cleansed of his sins in the holy fount of rebirth, he uses the baptismal water to cleanse mistakes and paganisms, away from the superstitious worship of idols and towards the knowledge of the true go of the pure and chaste faith…”

“… and at this time, the entire Polish nation accepted the shackle [this is in the text] of salvation of the holy Christian faith; from the mercy of the lord, and with the fervent attempts of Mieczyslaw and his wife Dobrava, Poles saw the light of the faith, when in the Peter Chair there sat Leon VIII, a born Roman who also in this year said good bye to the world and after him there sat down…”

fiathfullight

The light of the true faith is best seen from this angle

“… and thereafter from the most severe command of the duke, and a unanimous resolution of the lords and nobles [1%? of the population?] all the idols were broken and statues of false Gods, their temples were burned and their worshippers and believers were condemned  to the loss of their property and the penalty of the sword.  Polish Duke Mieczyslaw not only abrogated all the feasts and rites honoring the pagan Gods, but also brought together all the magicians, augurers, sorcerers and such and forbade all festivities public and private which were previously part of idol worship.”

refusenik

A Polish refusenik at a Sacred Grove

“Our God, namely, is not similar to those false gods about whom the Polish people thought that they could be roused with noises, feasts and festivities and all kinds of godlessness.  A happy and god-chosen duke who first brought the Poles to the faith of salvation and allied with the holy church through the knowledge of the truth and the abandonment of the idols.  And because in almost all the larger towns and villages there stood statues of Gods and Goddesses, idols and sacred groves, which the people were not altogether eager to destroy, as they were commanded by Mieczyslaw, therefore he ordered that the seventh of March be designated as the day when they shall be crushed and destroyed in all the Polish lands.”

“When this day came, all the towns and villages were forced to hit and topple the statutes of their Gods, and, once crushed, to drown them in marshes, lakes and ponds, and to cover them with stones, [a task] for which there came forth in great numbers people of  both sexes and not without mournful sorrow and cries of the worshippers of these idols, especially among those, who, by reason of having performed rites to honor these [Gods] derived certain benefits [i.e., the priest class], but because of the fear of ducal officials they dared not resist the order.  A reminder of this destruction and drowning of these false Gods and Goddesses idols lives on until the present day in certain Polish villages, where in the fourth Sunday of Lent [Laetare Sunday] they stick on long poles images of Dziewanna and Marzanna [Dzyexwyanye et Marzane], and then they throw them and drown them in nearby bogs.  And so the continuation of this task has not yet ceased among the Poles in this ancient custom.”

dlugosz2

And so it was that Mieszko converted his country so as to marry the woman he loved.  We note that being a much more noble reason than that of Henry VIII who converted his country just to get a divorce.

Thietmar 

And now this is bishop Thietmar of Merseburg reporting on the events in Poland after Mieszko’s passing during the reign of Boleslaw the Great:

thietmar

Bishop Thietmar – known for his writings on cattle, mules and scrota – never saw an Abrahamic religion he didn’t get a hard on for

 “In the country of her [Oda’s] husband [i.e., Boleslaw the Great’s country] there are many customs and although they are terrible, some must be applauded.  His people, namely, must be watched like cattle and need a whip like a stubborn mule; also it is impossible to rule with the interest of the ruler in mind if the ruler does not apply the harshest punishments.  If anyone from these people should dare to enchant someone else’s wife [remember polygamy was permitted before the year 966] or engage in lascivious acts, he is then subject to the following penalty: he is led to a market bridge and then attached to it with a nail through his scrotum.  And then there is placed next to him a sharp knife and so he is given a tough choice: either he should die or to cut off that part of the body” [we have a rather difficult time picturing the exact mechanics here but, be that as it may, the whole thing sounds unpleasant].

successful

And the same refusenik, now, after having undergone a successful conversion

“If it has been discovered that someone ate meat [during Lent], he was punished severely by having his teeth knocked out.  God’s law you see, only recently introduced to this country, grows greater in strength through such duress than it would [only] through the Lent/fasting ordered by the bishops.”

[we chose not to publish the “teeth” photos as they seemed too drastic and, therefore, unsuitable for our audience]

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January 6, 2015

The Tale of Piast and Popiel as seen in Gallus Anonymous’ Chronicle

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We thought it  interesting to produce an English translation of some of the more popular stories and myths of Slavic countries without analysis, interpretation and paraphrasing (something different this time).  To give you what’s there – literally – in the old chronicles.  We will start with the earliest versions but, to the extent we think there is interesting stuff in subsequent iterations of the tale, we will include those as well.  We will start this series with the tale of Piast (with Popiel) but have plans for other stories as well.

With regards to Polish sources, we have the Anonymous Chronicle as the most ancient source, then Master Vincent Kadlubek’s Chronicle, then Dzierzwa and then the Greater (Old) Poland Chronicles.  Finally, there is Jan Dlugosz who is hardly an ancient source but whose versions are always entertaining – for that reason we will include him as well.  Subsequent tales and myths of Miechow, Kromer, Bielski or Guaginin/Stryjkowski we will not include in these series as they are more modern and, we think, do not add much worthwhile material in this respect.

Gallus Anonymous Chronicle

About Duke Popiel [called Choscisko]:

latino1

There was namely in the town of Gniezno, whose meaning in Slavic is simply “nest”, a duke by the name of Popiel, who had two sons; according to pagan custom he prepared a great feast for their postrzyzyny [hair cutting ceremony wherein the boy became admitted to adulthood – aka First Communion or Pole-mitzvah], to which feast he invited a ver many of his magnates and friends.  It happened, however, from God’s mysterious will, that there arrived two guests , who were not only not invited to the feast but were even in hurtful ways turned away from city gates.

threewanderers

Some versions of this story have three guests arriving

And they, outraged at the cityfolk’s inhumane treatment of them, went straightaway to the burbs [i.e., the area around the city walls where poorer people dwelt], where they fortuitously happened upon the little house of a ploughman of the aforementioned duke who was arranging the feast for his sons [this “who” seems to refer to the duke’s feast, rather than to the ploughman].

gnieznen

Piast’s house is the second bottom one from the left

This poor man full of compassion, invited the strangers to his house making it available [to them] in all of its poverty.  And they, grateful to be so invited upon entering the friendly house, said unto him:  “Be happy indeed that we have come and perhaps our arrival will bring unto you a wealth of all good things, and from your offspring pride and fame.”

About Piast the Son of Choscisko:

latino

[note that this section has caused much confusion as it suggests, given the title of the preceding section, that Piast was the son of Popiel – as far as we know that is an unresolved issue and people have lived with this problem and, absent new sources, will have to continue to so live; incidentally, Choscisko seems to mean someone with out of control hair]

“Those who lived in this friendly house were one Piast, the son of Choscisko and his wife by the name Rzepka; and both of them with all their heart tried to tend to the needs of their guests, and seeing their prudence/wisdom, they got ready to run secret plan they had concocted by the guests [?].  When sitting down and according to custom they talked about various things, and the visitors asked, what is there to drink, the hospitable ploughman answered: “I have a barrel of fermented beer which I have prepared for the postrzyzyny of my only son but what does such a small barrel mean?  Drink it should you will so!”  The poor man decided namely at a time when his duke and master was hosting a feast for his sons – for at another time he could not do so because of his poverty – to prepare a slightly better meal for the postrzyzyny of his little one and to invite a few of his likewise poor friends to this feast but rather for a modest snack; and so he’d been fattening a pig for this occasion.

rzepka

Piast’s wife Rzepka trots out the very best

Strange things will I say but who can understand the mind of the Lord?  Or who would dare to question the goodness of God who in this life not once elevates the humbleness of the poor and does not hesitate to reward hospitality even among the pagans?  Calmly the guests thus ask Piast to pour the beer because they well knew that the amount of beer will not be lessened by drinking it but rather will only increase.  And so the there was more and more beer until all the borrowed cups were filled while those that feasted with the duke found their cups to be empty.  They order then to kill the afore mentioned pig whose meat – aching unbelievable – was to fill ten vessels known in Slavic as “cebry” [singular, ceber].

THE AMAZING RACE 14

The names of Piast’s other wives did not make it into the annals of history – yet their role getting that pig was equally important

Piast and Rzepka when seeing these miracles that were happening, sensed in them an important augury for their son and almost intended to invite the duke and his guests but they dared not do so without first asking the travelers.  Why wait?  Thus, at the guests’ counsel and with their encouragement, their lord the duke and all his revelers are invited by the peasant Piast, and the invited duke certainly did not see shame to come to his own peasant’s house.

welcome

Piast is eager to welcome Popiel to his humble house

For at that time the Polish dukedom was not so great, nor did the duke of the country have yet so much pride and did not go about so richly surrounded by a procession of vassals.  So when the customary feast was organized and all the foods were aplenty, the guests cut the boy’s hair and gave him the nama Siemowit [or Siemovit] as an augury of future occurrences.”

About the duke Ziemowit, the Son of Piast:

latino3

“After all this, the young Siemowit, son of Piast Chosciskowiec [i.e., Piast son of Choscisco, with Chosciskowiec being a patronymic] grew in strength and in years and each day grew also in virtues until at last the king of kings and duke of dukes with the common agreement of all made him a duke of Poland and Popiel, together with his descendants, he [i.e., God] removed completely from the duchy.  Wise men also say that this Popiel once thrown out of the kingdom was so greatly pursued by mice, that for this reason he was brought by his people to an island, where he was long defended in a wooden tower against these enraged animals who swam there, until he was finally abandoned because of the great stench that arose from the many killed [mice? men?] and died there in the most shameful way, for he died being torn/bitten apart by these monsters…

miceswithtoms

Popiel’s last stand (from the Hanna Barbera documentary)

But let us leave the histories of people, the recollection of whom has been lost in the forgetfulness of centuries and who were sullied by the errors of idolatry, and mentioning them only briefly let us move on to herald those matters which have been solidified by exact memory.

Siemowit thus, having obtained the duke’s honors, passed his youth not on pleasures and fleeting entertainments but rather, devoting himself to hard work and knightly service, his respectability became well-known and so did his worthy fame and he expanded the borders of his dukedom further than anyone before him.  After his passing, his place was taken by his son Lestek who by his knightly deeds equaled his father in his respectability and courage.  After Lestek’s death there came Siemomysl, his son, who multiplied threefold the memory of his ancestors both through his birth as by his honor.”

[the next story in the Chronicle is the story of Mieszko]

Shaettner Rickover & Borg Corporation – Copyright ©2014, All Rights Reserved

December 27, 2014

On Mieszko, His Names & the Dagome Iudex

Published Post author

Perhaps the most nauseatingly tiresome aspect of the literature concerning Poland’s Mieszko (circa 931*-992) has been the constant questioning of his ethnicity.   While to the rest of the universe Mieszko I is Mr. Poland, to some degenerates he is a Viking commander come to conquer and civilize the unruly Polish Slavs.

MieszkoI

Mieszko confronting Dracula (the Count is off camera)

One might say that we are talking about the first historic ruler of Poland, the man who single handedly united various Lechitic tribes (“you will be one with me!”), repeatedly kicked German ass both east and west of the Oder (“you Kraut go there, across river – but the Mercedes stays!”) and, just to make sure his place in history was firmly secure, introduced Christianity to the Poles (“the new chick better be super hot, I’m not giving up my seven wives for  saggin’ tits !”).  The man is said to have bled both red and white (in an exact 50-50 proportion), to have had mighty Polish eagles vie to nest in his hair (ALL his hair… EVERYWHERE) and to have been altogether the most interesting (Polish) man in the world up, at least, until his son Boleslaw.

mieszkoafterbattle

Mieszko lights one up after slaying many a German

So, a reasonable person will undoubtedly ask “how can ANYONE question the Man’s Polishness (or at least his Slavic…ness)?”

It all has to do with his name** and especially with the Dagome Iudex – a papal document lost to history, whose copies refer to Mieszko (people think) as Dagome.  This document is very important being the first description of the boundaries of the Polish State.  Dagome is not a Slavic name (well maybe it is, see below).  Dago may be a Viking name.  Dagobert certainly is a Frankish (a sort of German) name.

Aside from that, some people think the very name Mieszko is “strange”, its meaning “unknown”, etc. so that the only way to explain it is to look towards the Dagome and see Mieszko as just some sort of a bastardization.  We will address this one separately below.

So, let’s have fun:

The Dagome Iudex is a common parlance (common parlance btw is to be understood very liberally to refer to common parlance amongst those who read this stuff) name of a copy (somewhat paraphrased by the copier) of a letter gifting to Saint Peter (and, in his temporary absence, the then Pope) the Realm of Poland (sort of) as described in the said letter.  In fact, it reads like your typical American real estate deed.  The rough English translation follows:

Also in another volume from the times of Pope John XV , Dagome, lord [i.e., the Iudex in question], and Ote, lady, and their sons Misico and Lambert (I do not know of which nation those people are, but I think they are Sardinians, for those are ruled by four judges) were supposed to give to Saint Peter one state in whole which is called Schinesghe, with all its lands in borders which run along the long sea, along Prussia to the place called Rus, thence to Kraków and from said Kraków to the River Oder, straight to a place called Alemure, and from said Alemure to the land of Milczanie, and from the borders of that people to the Oder and from that, going along the River Oder, ending at the earlier mentioned city of Schinesghe.

There are at least two versions of the letter and the above text varies slightly.   The oldest known version is dated to 1099 and is itself a copy of an earlier copy from the Collectio Canonum (basically a list of stuff the Church thought was its) of Cardinal Deusdedit (most likely from 1087).  This Vatican version (manuscript Vaticanus Lat. 3833) looks as follows:

3833vaticanus

and “cleaned up” like this:

dagomefurther

Here is a copy of the text from the, or rather, Die Kanonessammlung des Kardinals Deusdedit (courtesy of Herr Doctor Victor Wolf von Glanvell (zusammen with his Meister, Theodor von Sickel, Verlag Ferdinand Schoeningh and, of course, the Savigny-Kommission der Kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften in Wien – oh, too, St. Michael’s College, the University of Toronto and the Internet Archive):

Sammlung

And here is another, newer (relatively newer – it obviously way predates the Harry Potter  books) version (so-called Cambrian copy):

640px-DagomeCambraiCopy

Now to top it off with something completely different:

dagonecontinues

First, to be clear, the documents in question are copies (in fact, again, copies of copies) so we are really just talking about one document.  (The exact number of such hand made copies is probably in the dozens).  On the other hand, there are numerous contemporary sources that use Mieszko’s “Slavic” name.

Second, for our American Millenial (or younger) readers these are hand copies – no Xerox back then.  Most of you can barely write having grown up with laptops and other tools of the Devil – try gothic cursive for a few lines.

Third, we know these copies differ even among themselves.  E.g., compare Dagome with Dagone or Schinesghe with Schignesne.  (In fact, there were also Schniesche, Schinesgne, Schinesne and Schniesghee – now you do it – mix it up baby! let’s have some reader participation!).

Fourth, at least in  the Vatican version, we are also dealing with someone (probably the aforementioned Cardinal) who did not really know what he was talking about.  How do we know this?  Well, thanks to the pre-Faulknerian stream of consciousness outburst of the narrator who says of the people concerned:  “Also in another volume from the times of… I do not know of which nation those people are, but I think they are Sardinians, for those are ruled by four judges.”  As an aside, the man sounds like he is not thrilled to be copying one of the most historically significant (for Poles) documents of all time and would just as soon go out and get a latte.

Fifth, some people interpret Dagome as a bastardized version of the words Ego Mesco dux meaning “I, prince Mieszko”.  Basically, another version of scrivener’s/copier’s error response.

So we have one document in several different (non contemporary as to the events described) copies of another earlier copy, which copies are written by hand by and, in one case at least, are written by someone who’d rather be somewhere else, who may be prone to error and whose knowledge of geography is most impressive up to five hundred miles from the scriptorium he spends his life in.

That being said, let’s take the document at (quasi) face value.

Some folks believe that Dagome is an amalgamation of Dagobert (Mieszko’s alleged baptismal name) and Mieszko (his real “Slavic brother” name).   While the use of baptismal, i.e., Christian names was fairly common in Church documents, melding of different names together usually was not.  One might also ask why is one of Mieszko’s sons referred to in the document as Misica – did the parents forget to baptize him?  If so, mentioning this in a letter to the, ahem, Pope, the frikinn’ VICAR OF CHRIST might not have been a great idea (was that the context for Boleslaw driving his step mother out?) .

Moreover, we do not know when the original was actually  written.  The supposed year is 991 but… It refers to the Papacy of John XV who was Pope until he knocked on Saint Peter’s Gate on April Fool’s Day, 996.

Further, the most striking thing about this document is what it does not say.  While it discusses two of Mieszko’s younger sons, it does not mention the name Boleslaw who was Mieszko’s first son (and the future first king of Poland).***   Boleslaw also happened to be the son from Mieszko’s first (well, technically with the pre-baptismal wenches, at least eighth but who is counting) wife – Dobrawa.  Dobrawa the Czech died in 977 and Mieszko married (after he first properly abducted her from a monastery) Ode the German.  (While a hot Czech being replaced with a shriveled German nun did not exactly square with Mieszko’s alpha-male status we must remember that he was not a young man anymore (and the abduction from the monastery does score him at least some points)).  In any event, Mieszko died in 992 and the Pope was Pope for another four years.  What is the date of the original document?  Again, we do not know.  However,   it seems more than conceivable that it was written after (perhaps shortly after) Mieszko’s death and seems designed to secure Ode’s position in the country (she, as mentioned above,  together with her two sons were subsequently driven out by Boleslaw).

If so, then it would seem not much of a stretch to note that presenting Mieszko as a German husband of a German mother might have made her and her sons case more sympathetic or at least more clearcut relative to a case of a man named Boleslaw whose mother, now dead fifteen years, was a Czech princess with whom the aforesaid German Dago might have once had a short fling (note also that Ode’s marriage to Mieszko was longer than Dobrawa’s – can you say E N T I T L E M E N T ?).

And speaking of flings…

Dagome might not even have been a reference to Mieszko (he having croaked) but to some local German (or Scandinavian) lover of nuns…who thought he could take over the reigns of power at Ode’s (or Ote’s) side.

The text, however, does say that Dagome and Ote were the parents of Misica and Lambert – who, we know, were Mieszko’s kids – so that obviously can’t be it…  Or can it…?  History tells us that Boleslaw banished his brothers from another mother (along with his stepmother, Ode) out of the kingdom (and his being left out of the Dagome Iudex might have had something to do with that) – but, dare we ask, were they even his half-brothers?

Let us leave the scandalous interpretation of the verses of Dagome Iudex for those with sultrier minds than ours.

It is also worth noting that the the name Digoma (Dzigoma?) appears in one of the early Polish sources of old personal names – the Gniezno Bull (aka Ex commisso nobis for the Latin fetishists) which reads in parts of relevance:

Stari Biscupici cum his: Navos, Ruz, Sul, Balovanz, Vitossa, Pantis, Zmarsc, Miloch, Craic, Negloz, Conus, Dal, Marsec, Ciz, Posbech, Redanta, Zmogor, Domc, Digoma, Gobilca, Parech, Clobuchec, Pampic, Candera, Comor, Sdomit, Pandetech

And for those with their bifocals on:

bullgnes

So there it is folks (in grey but really it’s crystal clear).****

You might now ask, logically, is Mieszko mentioned in other (and contemporary) sources? By what names is he mentioned in those?

Well, he is mentioned numerous times in German/Frankish and Arabic writings.  Always, as Mieszko or some variation thereof.  We will give just a few examples here – others are also available.

Thus we have, Misaco or Misacam in Widukind of Corvey’s Rerum Gestarum Saxonicarum (On the deeds of the Saxons, written 967-973) (Book III, Chapters 66 & 69).

Gero igitur comes non inmemor iuramenti, cum Wichmannum accusari vidisset reumque cognovisset, barbaris, a quibus eum assumpsit, restituit. Ab eis libenter susceptus longius degentes barbaros crebris preliis contrivit. Misacam regem, cuius potestatis erant Sclavi qui dicuntur Licicaviki, duabus vicibus superavit fratremque ipsius interfecit, predam magnam ab eo extorsit. (Book III, Ch 66, Gero propter iuramentum dimisit Wichmannum)

(Oh, don’t ask about the Licicaviki… that’s for later)

Audiens autem Wichmannus urbem captam sociosque afflictos ad orientem versus iterum se paganis inmersit, egitque cum Sclavis qui dicuntur Vuloini, quo modo Misacam amicum imperatoris bello lascesserent; quod eum minime latuit…. Ille, licet in ultima necessitate sit constitutus, non inmemor pristinae nobilitatis ac virtutis, dedignatus est talibus manum dare, petit tamen, ut Misaco de eo adnuntient: illi velle arma deponere, illi manus dare. Dum ad Misacam ipsi pergunt, vulgus innumerabile eum circumdat eumque acriter inpugnat.  (Book III, Ch 69, De nece Wichmanni)

Of course, most famously, Ibrāhīm ibn Yaʿqūb visited Otto I’s court in 965 and lists Mashaqu (this is from Arabic so obviously the translation is a phonetic one) as one of the four Slavic kings (the others being the King of the Bulgars, Bwyslav (Boleslav of Prague, Bohemia and Cracow) and Naqun (Nakon of the Obotrites)). (this is a copy of Ibrāhīm’s write up from Abū ʿUbayd Al-Bakrī’s book Kitāb al-Masālik wa’l-Mamālik (Book of Roads and Kingdoms, written in 1068 – yes, these people did not have to market their books) since the original has not, it seems, survived to our days).

So, with all of that aside now, let us focus on the other laughable name-based argument for the Vikingness of Mieszko the Awesome.

As mentioned above, some malcontents claim the very name Mieszko is “strange” or “unusual”.  In other words, forget Dagome, even Mieszko is a very unusual name to those numbskulls.

It is important to understand here that the Polish chronicler Jan Dlugosz (almost half a millennium later) does derive Mieszko from Mieczyslaw (i.e., Swordfame).  In response, Mieczyslaw became a very popular name among the Poles but… most people now think that Dlugosz invented the Mieczyslaw name – SUCKERS! Your names are an invention of Dlugosz as opposed to… all the other names that are… original and… have never been… anything but uninvented… or something like that… Again, SUCKERS!

Or are they?

You see some enemies of the Polishness of Mieszko said to themselves, “we are very clever and being clever, we propose that Dlugosz was right so the name Mieszko really is derived from Mieczyslaw/Swordfame but it is also Dagome.”

What ya’ talking about Willis!???

This clever argument examines the word Dagome and derives it from… dagger. Now dagger is an English/Germanic word.  Hence, according to such clever people, we are faced with the allegedly uncomfortable question of why a Christian Polish prince would use a Germanic name in the correspondence with the Pope – as opposed to either a Polish or Latin (which would have been what?) version, that is.

Clever, but not really.  Specifically, the problem lies in the fact that dage or doge always meant just that – a dagger – but never a sword.  Since we all know that a miecz in Polish is a sword and since (without taking too m u c h of a detour into the science of biology) we know that Mieszko’s, ahem… blade, was particularly large (hearkening back to the etymology of the word Pole), this argument simply cannot be taken seriously.

Since that’s about it on the “strangeness” of Mieszko’s name, let’s tackle the “unusual” crowd.  Their argument is just that – the name is unusual… Is that even an argument?  Can we do anything with that/address that?

No & yes (otherwise, where is the fun).

So is the name Mieszko really that unusual? As compared to what?  Other contemporary Slavic names?  Do we know the etymology of the other Slavic names of the time?  Do we really know that many Slavic names of such time in the first place?  (No and no).  After all, as we have seen, Dagome‘s son is referred to as Misica in the Dagome Iudex itself.  Boleslaw’s son was also named Mieszko (not Dagome) presumably after his grandfather.  So were a number of subsequent Piast princes.  Interestingly, also, of the early Slavic names that we do know, one of the very first mentioned – way back when Slavs were kicking butt in the Balkans was Musokios or Musukios (Theophylact Simocatta, Histories Book VI, Ch 9, 1 & 14).

So there you have it… that’s all there is.

Clearly Dagome or Mieszko was Polish and there is no suggestion whatsoever of his Viking roots whether in general or, more specifically, in the Dagome Iudex…

Dagome Iudex…

Dagome Iudex…. Dagome… Iude-x…

oh…

mein…

…Gott

(Holy Occam’s Razor!

or, darf ich “Holy Moses” sagen?)

"I'm small but perky!"

“I’m small but perky!”

* Mieszko’s birth year is only mentioned in the much later Little Poland Annals (Codex Kuropatnicki, Codex Lubinski & Codex Krolewiecki).  The same sources mention that his father, Siemomysl (son of Lestko or Liseko)took the reigns of power in 913-915 – again, obviously much earlier dates than the dates of the sources.

** To be fair, there is also an argument about Vikings who were totally cool (kuehl) and the Slavs who were peasants. This argument is one that essentially claims that Vikings must have founded the Polish state because someone found some Viking stuff in Poland and, well, Slavs were just peasants so there you go.   In fact, the Vikings did found the Kievan Rus.  Even in Western Europe they founded Normandy (hence the name from Northmen) and several lesser known states.  So, of course, the same must be true for Poland.  In fact, Poles are referred to as Lachs and lag was an old Norse name for “companion”.  In this version, the Oberschicht of the Polish society would have been made up of the conquering Norse Lachs and the grunts would be the beta-male Slavs. This argument is really an argument about Polish prehistory and the legendary founder of the Polish tribe, Lech.  As such, debunking that nonsense belongs in a post about Lech not Mieszko – stay tuned.   Here we deal only with the Dagome nonsense.

*** Dagome Iudex also does not mention another son that Mieszko had with Ode but we do not know whether he was then alive – unlike, Boleslaw, no mention is made of him after 991.

**** An obstinate German might claim that that name itself was a derivation from Dagon.  While this would not make Mieszko necessarily Teutonic, it would mean that he was using a Polish version of a Germanic name.  Of course, an obstinate Pole could point out that Dagome and Digoma feature in Polish sources whereas the mythical Dago features nowhere but hey some people will never be happy.

Shaettner Rickover & Borg Corporation – Copyright ©2014, All Rights Reserved

July 29, 2014