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.
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 . 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  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 .”*
* 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  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.
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.
Is finis Wichmanno, talisque omnibus fere, qui contra imperatorem arma sumpserunt.
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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