Monthly Archives: July 2015

Pomeranian Gods Part III – Ottonis Vita Second Tour (Conclusion)

Published Post author

With this post we conclude the Life of Otto (for part I see here, for part II see here).

Ebbo IX

[Temples at Gutzkow]

“The Apostle of Pomerania, after spending the following week in spreading the knowledge of the faith and in handing on baptismal grace in this town, appointed over its inhabitants the devout priest John. He then made for another town called Chozegow [Gutzkow], which contained temples of great beauty and marvellous design, in the building of which the citizens of this town had spent three hundred talents.”


Notice the chopper landing pad – recently installed for traveling priests of Triglav

“They offered our blessed father a very large sum of money if he would refrain from destroying them and would keep them whole and uninjured as an ornament to the place. This the man of God altogether refused to do, as he declared that he could by no means agree to preserve these sacrilegious buildings which after his departure would give rise to apostasy and be the cause of ruin to those who were weak. He said that he would not become responsible in the sight of God for this offense.”

Herbordus VII

[Temples at Gutzkow – Herbordus version]

“He then bade good bye to all the people (at Hologost), and having with much affection committed them to the Almighty God, he turned towards Gozgaugia [Gutzkow]. In this town was a temple of great size and beauty.  When the bishop spoke to its inhabitants concerning the Christian faith through an interpreter for the Duke had already left him on his own business they declared that they were prepared for anything if only their temple might remain intact, for it had been recently built at great expense, and they were very proud of it because it appeared to be an ornament to the whole town. They made attempts secretly and sent some men to try to soften the disposition of the bishop by gifts in the hope that the building might be preserved. Finally they asked that it might be altered and used as a church.”


Otto did not see the value of keeping primitive pagan temples around

“But the bishop consistently maintained that it was unfitting that a building that had been erected and called by the name of a demon, and that had been profaned by indecent rites, should be transferred to the service of God: ‘For what concord has Christ with Belial?’* or ‘what hath the temple of God in common with an idol temple?’  He spake also a parable unto them,  ‘Do you sow your wheat on top of brambles and thorns?  I think not.  If then you root up the thorns and thistles from your fields in order that, when good seed has been sown, they may bring forth the wished-for crops, so is it right that this root of idolatry be utterly destroyed from among you in order that from the good seed of the gospel your hearts may bear fruit unto eternal life.’  With these and other similar words he continued day after day, in season and out of season, to entreat, denounce and accuse, till at length he so far influenced the minds of the pagans that they themselves with their own hands demolished the images and broke up this accursed building, concerning which the discussion had arisen.

* note: this does not mean that Slavs worshipped Belial (whether or not that is the same deity as Baal) – Otto’s exclamation is a quote from 2 Corinthians 6:15. 

Ebbo X

[The Guetzkow Gods Turn the Other Cheek]

“At the very time that he was destroying these shrines of marvellous workmanship in the town of Chozegow [Guetzkow] certain honourable messengers from Duke Adalbert arrived, who carefully examined his condition, and at the same time there came messengers from his own farms at Muecheln and Schidingen, who brought him the supplies that had been promised. When they perceived the grace of God and saw that the Church there was growing and becoming strong they were filled with great joy and with the consolation of the Holy Spirit.  And indeed it was a joyous sight when images of great size and marvellously sculptured, covered too with most beautiful designs, which many yoke of oxen could hardly move, had their hands and feet cut off, their eyes dug out and their nostrils mutilated, and were drawn down to a certain bridge to be burnt with fire, while the supporters of the idols stood by and with loud ejaculations exclaimed that help should be given to their gods and that the wicked subverters of their country should be cast down from the bridge and drowned.  Others who were of wise counsel protested that if these were indeed gods they should be able to defend themselves; inasmuch as they kept silence and could not even move out of their place except when drawn, it was clear that they altogether lacked feeling and actual life.


Disappointed with the locals’ constant excuses, Otto decided to take matters into his own hands

The idol priests, however, endeavoured to stir up discord in order to secure their own gain. For, as we read in the prophet Daniel, dishes of food and drink of every kind and in great abundance were placed in front of these large projecting images, all of which the priests and their friends declared were consumed by the gods, though they had themselves secretly entered and taken them away.”

Ebbo XI

[The Attack of the Giant Flies and How They Fled to Rugia]

“But we must not omit to relate the miracle which was manifested while these shrines were being destroyed.  For, all of a sudden, whilst many people were standing by, flies of unusual size, such as were never before seen in that land, rushed from the ruins of the idols in such vast numbers that they darkened the whole of the district round the city and seemed to obscure the daylight by a hideous darkness, and, as by their fierce onslaught they distressed the eyes and lips of all, they caused to those who saw them no small horror.  When, however, they were driven away by violent slaps of the hand, they kept coming on with no less insistence, till at length as the believers sung aloud the praises of God and carried round the standard of the Cross, a detestable monster fled out of the open doors and with utmost speed made for the country of the barbarians who are called Ruthenians [he means Rugians].”


The giant flies were powerless to stop the ardent faith of Otto and his acolytes

“In the opinion of all who were wise this portent clearly presaged the expulsion of the devils, of which Beelzebub, that is the man of flies, was chief, for these devils could not endure the grace of Christ which was brought by these new teachers, and when they were denied any resting place in these parts, they went to the Ruthenians [Rugians] who were still ensnared in pagan error.”

Ebbo XII

[Of Mizlaus, the Chief of Guetzkow]

When then the idol shrine had been destroyed and the people had been gathered into the bosom of Mother Church by the washing of regeneration, the holy preacher began to build a new church for Christ.  There came to its dedication the chief of this place called Mizlaus, who, at the conference that was held at Pentecost in Uznoim [Uznam], had with other chiefs received the grace of baptism, and to them the good bishop spoke through his interpreter Adalbert, who afterwards became a bishop.”

[there follows an account of Otto freeing Christian captives and Mizlaus trying to negotiate for one particularly valuable Danish hostage; then Otto prevents the invasion of Pomerania by the Poles of Boleslav III and mediates their peace treaty; after that it’s back to the business at hand]

Ebbo XV 

[Onto Stettin/Szczecin]

“The apostle of the Pomeranians, who wisely considered that the will of God was hereby revealed, but who judged the Ucranians [people on the River Ukra/Uker] unworthy to hear the word of salvation, directed his journey to the people of Szczecin/Stettin who, as we have already said, had apostatized from the faith, although many who were faithful to Christ and were his friends would have recalled him from this attempt.  For the idol priests had stirred up all the apostate people to seek with one accord his death.”


The idol priests were stirring up the apostates

He himself being eager for martyrdom and perceiving that none of his companions would venture to undertake this task, gathered together on a certain day his episcopal clothes, and placing them on his neck started on the journey alone, and seeing a boat that happened to be passing he paid his passage money and went on board with all speed.”


Otto just wanted to bring love

“When, in accordance with the divine will, Udalricus discovered what had happened, he immediately told his companions, who followed him with quick steps, the first being Adalbert the interpreter, who caught him up and compelled him to return, though he was unwilling and strove to resist. He groaned deeply, and bitterly deplored his capture, and said that he deserved now to have companions from amongst his attendants on this dangerous journey, whilst they, having regard to his great zeal, thought that it was wrong to recall him or to leave him unattended.”


Extraordinarily alert and singularly vigilant, the Szczecin sentries immediately spotted Otto’s group

“…Accordingly they embarked in a boat, and when they had come near to the town of Stettin/Szczecin those on the look out recognized the bishop and, having scanned him carefully, raised a great disturbance and cried out to the citizens that the former teacher of error had come, and that they ought to attack him with swords and clubs and treat him with indignity in order to vindicate the honour of their gods. When the servant of God had learned this through his interpreter, being fearless and armed with the ardour of his faith, he raised the standard of the cross, and having made himself ready by putting on his bishop’s dress contemplated going forth to meet them.  He first of all entered the church of the chief of the apostles, which he had built in front of the gate of this city, and offered to Christ the worship that was His due, and then awaited the onset of the barbarians and the completion of his life in Christ.  After a little while the people burst forth from the gates with a tumultuous noise, but when they beheld the servants of Christ singing the praises of God, they hesitated much and long and conferred amongst themselves as to what they should do, and at length, by God’s help, they were overcome with fear and retreated in confusion [and returned to the city] by the way by which they had come…”

Herbordus XIV

[Szczecinians Decide What to Do]

“And they began to be more kindly disposed and they said that reason rather than force was needed to decide whether these things should be accepted or rejected.  Then some who were wiser than the rest in reference to these matters secretly gathered together the priests, saying that it belonged to them to defend their own religion by suitable arguments.  Whilst they muttered these things among themselves they gradually departed one by one to their own homes. This happened on a Friday.”

Herbordus XVI

[And the Solution Is… Dvoeverie!] 

“The wicked priests, when in a certain year men and beasts suffered illness and death owing to the changes in the temperature, declared that this calamity was sent by the gods, and, with the consent of the people, they had broken down the bells and had begun to destroy the church of the blessed martyr Adalbert.  Whilst one of them was striking the altar with a mason’s hammer, he was suddenly struck by the Lord with languor and stupor, and as his hammer fell from his hand he too fell to the ground.”


The priest’s hammer failed in front of the altar of Saint Adalbert

“When, after a long space, he had recovered his breath, he addressed the people who were standing by as one whose character had been reformed by the blow that had befallen him, and said, ‘It is in vain, O citizens, that we strive; the God of the Christians is strong and cannot be driven away by us. My advice is that we keep Him, but at the same time that we do not part with our ancient gods and that we build an altar for our gods next to His altar, so that by worshipping them all alike we may secure that He and they are equally propitious to us.’  What were the people to do? Terrified, as they were, by the portent, they approved the advice given them and, having impiously built an altar next to the altar of the Lord, they served God and devils even as the ancient historian says, ‘The people of Samaria worshipped the gods of the nations, but none the less served the Lord.'”

[this passage is basically Ebbo I as above]

Ebbo XV

[On the Pyramids of Szczecin]

“As the Sunday dawned in the early morning after the service of the Mass had been completed, Otto, the servant of God, having put on his episcopal headdress and with the standard of the cross borne in front of him, went forth to the multitude of the people in order to preach to them. He took with him Udalricus, who wore a dalmatic, as a deacon, and Adalbert who served as a subdeacon and others to assist in preaching.”


The three aspects of Triglav departing in their pyramids by Otto’s command

“There were there some large pyramids surrounded by walls to a considerable height in pagan fashion. The good preacher ascended one of these pyramids with his companions, and through his interpreter Adalbert began to explain the way of truth to those who had gone wrong and to threaten them with eternal destruction if they did not turn from their apostasy.”

Ebbo XVI

[Wherein Otto Continues to Seek Martyrdom and, Again, Fails]

“As he was engaged in preaching the chief idol priest came running breathless and perspiring, and creeping in amongst the closely pressed crowd he struck the pyramid and with a great shout ordered the servant of God to be silent. He and his companions on the previous night had planned to effect the death of the bishop at the earliest dawn of Sunday, but by God’s providence he had been overcome with deep sleep and had been prevented from carrying out his purpose.  When he awoke, at the second hour of the day, and heard that the man of God was already preaching in an open assembly, he was extremely angry, and rushing thither ordered him to be silent. The servant of the Lord, however, continued stedfastly to carry out the work which he had begun. The idol priest endeavoured to restrain by his noisy and high-pitched shouts the gentle voice of Adalbert, the interpreter, and with a strong voice ordered the barbarians to transfix forthwith Christ’s preacher with the spears which, in accordance with the old custom of the Roman Quirites, they always carried.  When they were about to obey his commands and had raised their right hands aloft in order to strike him, influenced by divine power, they became stiff like stones, so that they could neither put down their spears nor open their mouths, but their hands remained suspended and immovable and seemed as though they were chained.”


The barbarians became instantly frozen

“When the unfortunate idol priest saw this, he was inflamed with anger and began to charge them with cowardice, and seizing a spear from one of them, he tried to transfix Christ’s servant. He too immediately became rigid, and overcome with shame turned to flee. When he was gone Otto made the sign of the cross and invoked a blessing upon the people, who, being forthwith released from their bonds, put down their right hands which held the arrows; whereupon the bishop gave thanks to God for this manifest miracle and entered the town with confidence; and when he saw that the central part of the church of St. Adalbert had been destroyed, he wept bitterly and, kneeling together with his companions, engaged in long and earnest prayer.  Meanwhile the barbarians, armed with swords and clubs, had gathered together and had surrounded the cloor of the church, seeking to kill God’s servants, but as a result of divine influence, they were suddenly overcome with trembling and turned to flee. Then the chief, Witscacus, who had once been delivered by Otto from his captivity with the Danes, intervened together with other friends of the bishop and begged him by any possible way to leave the city before he met his death by the treachery of the priests. The saintly bishop refused, saying, ‘It is for this purpose that I have come.'”

Herbordus XVIII

[Wherein Otto Continues to Seek Martyrdom and, Again, Fails – Herbordus Version]

“When all had become silent and most of them were eager to hear his discourse, one of the priests who was a man of Belial [again, author means Baal but this is obviously interpretatio Mesopotamica], and was passionate, fat and tall, rushed into the midst of the crowd, and brandishing his spear in his hand, advanced panting and gasping as far as the steps, and, raising his hand once and again, struck the top of the steps with preat violence. When a great clamour had arisen and o o strange words of abuse had been uttered, he demanded silence while he spoke, and his loud and raucous voice drowned the speech of the interpreter and of the bishop. Addressing the people he said, ‘O senseless, foolish and indolent people, why are ye deceived and bewitched?  Behold, your enemy and the enemy of your gods is here. For what do ye wait? Are they to suffer derision and injury for nothing?’  While all the people were advancing with spears in their hands, he said, ‘Let this day put an end to all his deception.’  Addressing them all, he spoke also to those individuals of whose evil disposition he was assured, calling them by their own names. Those who were inflamed with a spirit of madness and who were accustomed to act with rashness rather than with discretion, roused by the voice of the speaker, began to raise their spears, but while they were brandishing them in readiness to throw them, their limbs became rigid in the very act of throwing them, and, marvellous to relate, they were unable to throw their spears, to relax their right arms, or to move out of their places. They stood immovable, as images, a spectacle to the faithful and the pious. As many as were unbelieving and evil disposed and had fallen away from the Christian faith, and, continuing in their persistent folly in unbelief, had raised impious hands against God’s servant, stood suffering this punishment until the good had been strengthened in their faith, and in the case of the others by the punishment inflicted on their bodies the wickedness of their hearts had been corrected. The bishop, making use of the opportunity afforded by the miracle, said, ‘Ye see, my brothers, how great is the power of the Lord.  It is indeed, as I perceive, by divine power that you are held fast. Why do you not throw your spears?  Why not put down your right hands?  Why continue so long in one position?’ They however, whether through confusion or astonishment, made no reply. Then he continued, ‘Let your gods for whose religion ye contend help you if they can. Let this noisy priest of yours call upon the gods on your behalf, let him give you counsel or assistance. If he knows anything or can do anything, now is the time for action.’  The priest, however, stood amazed at the course which the events had taken and did not venture to mutter anything more. And when all were silent and held by a great fear, the bishop being moved with pity said, ‘thanks be to Thee, O Lord, Jesus Christ, who are wont to exercise Thy power and strength, when occasion arises, to terrify those who oppose and to protect Thy servants.  But, inasmuch as Thou art holy and compassionate, we pray that Thou wilt pardon the ignorance, or the temerity, of this people, and that with Thine accustomed pity Thou wilt restore to these the use of their bodies, of which by Thy restraining power they have been deprived.'”


Otto welcomed a chance at martyrdom: “It is for this purpose that I have come.”

“When he had said this and had made the sign of the cross towards them, his speech produced an immediate effect. The bishop added also, ‘If hitherto you have been unwilling to listen, prove now by touch and feeling how great is the compassion of our God and how true is the faith which we declare unto you.’  He argued at length and with great force concerning the judgment and compassion of God and the uncertainty of this present life and the continuance of things that are eternal, and he instructed the sinners in Zion who were afraid, and when they had been overcome by the saving medicine of his eloquence, he gave them his blessing and dismissed the assembly. Descending then from the steps he visited, with the faithful believers who were zealous on behalf of God’s house,  the Church of St. Adalbert and, having first offered a solemn prayer, he destroyed the altar of abomination and, having broken it into small pieces, cast it out. Having then performed a service of cleansing and reconciliation he caused the broken parts of the church to be restored at his own expense.”

Ebbo XVI

[Democracy In Action]

“After fourteen days a general Conference was announced, at which the priests and people might arrive at a definite decision either to take upon them the yoke of Christ or to abjure it altogether.  On the appointed day the bishop ascended the hill of Triglav in the middle of the town where was the Duke’s dwelling place, and entered his large house which was a convenient place for this Conference. The chiefs together with the priests were present, and when silence was made the man of God said, ” The day that was fixed for our meeting has now come, and I, who eagerly desire your salvation, wish to hear from your own mouths whether you have decided to serve my Lord Jesus Christ, who is the true light, or the devil, who is the prince of darkness.” One of the priests answered, ‘It was not right that this Conference should have been delayed so long, inasmuch as in former time and now and always it is our determination to worship the gods of our fathers; do not therefore labour to no purpose, for thy speech has no place amongst us.'”


Otto addressed the conference explaining that from now all will be well

“On hearing this the man of God said, ‘I perceive that Satan has destroyed your vision so that you cannot behold the true light. I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I have not shunned to declare unto you the word of God in season and out of season.  But as you have cast away the yoke of my Lord Jesus Christ, I commit you to the power of Satan whom ye have chosen, so that, being delivered over with him to eternal destruction, you may possess that heritage where the worm clieth not and the fire is not quenched.’  Rising then from his place he took up his spiritual arms and placed his stole on his neck in order that he might bind them by his solemn curse.  When the chiefs saw this they were seized with timely fear, and prostrated themselves at his feet humbly, entreating him to suspend his curse, and to allow them a brief space of time in which to confer.  The good bishop at once agreed, and placing aside his stole he sat down. The chiefs then went out of the house, leaving the priests behind, and with one accord they abjured the uncleanness of their idolatry and accepted the faith of Christ.  First of all Witscacus, who was the man of chief rank amongst them, went in to the servant of God and delivered this opinion on behalf of them all. ‘Honourable father, I, together with the chiefs who rule this place, being inspired by God, have by a unanimous vote agreed that we banish to a distance from our lands these sacrilegious priests who have incited us to all evil, and that with ready mind we follow you as our leader and teacher on the way that leads to eternal salvation.'”


Exclusion from the pride was the lot of the local priest

“Then he turned to the priest who had spoken before and said, ‘Wretched and miserable man, what help did your gods render to me when I was closely fettered and guarded, and was already awaiting sentence of death, my companions having been cruelly strangled, and when I distinctly saw Otto, my lord and father, freeing me from my fetters and restoring me to the liberty for which I longed ? Is it not better for me to serve the living and true God who was my liberator, than to serve logs and stones which have neither life nor feeling? Go then with your companions whither you will, and beware that you appear no more in our territory, for inasmuch as our Lord Jesus Christ is King over us, there is no room for you and your idols in these parts.’ When they heard this all the idol priests rose up without delay and fled with haste, and none of them was afterwards seen in that place. The bishop thereupon rendered cordial thanks to God, and he and his companions began at once to destroy the idol temples.”

[elsewhere in the Vita it is told that Witscacus had been captured by the Danes and was able to escape after he saw Otto in a vision]


[The Nut at the Nut Tree] 

“There was a certain shrine situated at a distance to which the bishop had sent his faithful and beloved friend, the good priest Udalricus, in order that he might destroy it.  There were, however, a few persons who supported the worship of idols, and, when they saw him from the wall as he was coming thither, they tried to break his head by throwing stones and pieces of wood. By the help of God he avoided these and was uninjured, and returning to his father Otto he told him of their plots.  The man of God immediately raised the standard of the cross and binding on his episcopal headdress he proceeded without hesitation to undertake this perilous adventure.  The barbarians would not endure his presence and dispersed hither and thither, seeking to conceal themselves by flight.   When the shrine had been destroyed, and the man of God was returning he found a very large nut tree which was consecrated to the idol together with a fountain the water of which flowed beneath.”  


The bishop ordered the tree to be immediately chopped down

“He at once ordered his companions to cut it down, whereupon the people of Szczecin/Stettin came out and earnestly begged that it should not be cut down because the indigent man who was its guardian obtained his poor subsistence from its fruit.  They declared also with an oat. that by a general edict they would for ever prohibit the sacrifices which had been there offered to demons. The good teacher, influenced by the justice of their reasonings, acceded to this request.  While they were engaged in mutual discussion the barbarian who was the guardian of the tree suddenly came up and, approaching secretly from behind, struck a violent blow with an axe at the sacred head of the bishop. By divine providence he missed his aim and struck the axe with such force into the wooden floor of the bridge on which the bishop was standing that the difficulty of drawing it out again caused delay to the assailant.”

Ebbo XIX

[The Magnanimity of Otto]

“When the interpeter, Adalbert, saw this he was struck by so great a fear that he quickly snatched the axe from the hands of the barbarian and ran off. The others, overcome by unaccustomed horror, attacked the sacrilegious man and threatened him with death. The pious Otto, however, interfered to prevent the murderer from suffering any harm and procured for him, unworthy as he was, life and safety…”

Ebbo XX

[More Idol Priests and More Snares]

“When the inhabitants of Stettin/Szczecin had been confirmed in the faith and teaching of the Lord and the man of God was arranging to return to Uznoim/Uznam, the citizens of the town came to him and begged that by his intervention he would put an end to the dispute which at the instigation of the devil had broken out between them and the Duke Wortizlaus.  Whereupon he said, ‘I will do as you wish, but I desire that you should send messengers of honourable rank with me to bring back to you the terms of peace and, if the Duke has any just cause of complaint, to explain the points that may be raised.’  The people of Szczecin/Stettin immediately appointed messengers to accompany their good pastor, who also served as a guard to the bishop on the journey.  For two idol priests had laid snares in order to secure the death of the man of God, and had sent on secretly eighty-four soldiers to find and kill him on his return journey and to bring back to them his head fixed on a post.  But against the Lord is there no wisdom, no fortitude, no counsel.  For the holy Otto, being protected by divine providence, came forth unharmed, whilst the unbelievers fell into the snare and pit which they had prepared.”


The idol priests felt that “you don’t just turn it off”

“For in the absence of the good bishop the chief idol priest called together his friends and with exceeding joy bade them keep this day as a festival day for their gods, and he said, ” Our god whom that old deceiver has attempted to destroy has appeared to me, and has clearly announced that Otto’s head is to be cut off today, and sent to me today.” When he had given vent to this wild utterence with laughing voice, his neck was suddenly shattered by the devil and his head was bent back crosswise, in a horrible and pitiable manner, and his brain coming out of its place was dashed against the wall with a cruel impact. When his friends saw this they were struck with amazement and inquired of him the cause of this strange calamity. He cried out with a dreadful voice and at length exclaimed, ” It is because I have tried to ensnare the servant of God, and to separate you from the way of truth, that I have been terribly afflicted by God.” Having said this he expired and the place was thereupon filled with so dreadful an odour that as he was dying no one could stand there on account of the unbearable smell.  And as it is written, ‘When a pestilent man is punished the wise man will become wiser,’ so all the people, when they heard of his death, were more and more encouraged to persevere in the faith.  There was, however, one other idol priest who was not overcome with remorse, but began an altercation with the man of God and declared that his teaching would soon be done away with in those parts.  He endeavoured also to draw away from the true path all whom he could influence, and as a result he also perished soon afterwards by the judgment of God. For whilst for some urgent reason he was crossing the sea in a boat, he left the boat for a short time in order to retire to a neighbouring wood.  By divine providence it came about that some of his companions, armed with righteous zeal, followed him secretly, and when they had caught him in a cruel snare they hung him up in a closely wooded place. So his grief and his iniquity descended on his own head.   When then the eighty-four soldiers who, as we have said, had been sent on by that wicked idol priest had seen the man of God as he was sailing, they burst forth from their hiding place and demanded of him in a loud voice whither he was going.  The messengers from Szczecin/Stettin asked in return why they made this inquiry, but the others, recognizing the voices of their own friends and citizens, stopped and said that they had been unaware of their presence there.  They replied, ” The Lord’s bishop is going to put a stop to the discord that has long existed between us and the Duke, and for this reason we will not suffer any harm to molest him on his journey, but are prepared to suffer death on his behalf. If therefore you desire to consult your own interests, return as quickly as possible by the way by which you came.”

Herbordus XXIV

[Wicked Priests, Their Assassins and the Sea Battle with Otto]   

“The wicked priests, however, who were inspired by devils, as they could not act openly, tried to injure God’s servant by craft.  They accordingly brought together a great number of assassins, and invested the route by which he was leaving at the narrowest part where the ship would pass, having foretold, as though by divination, the death of the bishop to his friends, who were unaware of what was being done.  When they came to the spot the enemy seized their arms, laid hold on those who were climbing the ropes and attacked those who were sailing the boat, desiring above everything the bishop’s blood.”


Ignoring his own safety, Otto rushed to protect his companions

“But the people of Szczecin/Stettin and our men who were with the bishop seized their arms and jumped from the boat, and standing some on the land and some in the water bravely repelled force by force. When the fight had gone on for some time, those who had taken part in the ambuscade began to be recognized by the people of Szczecin/Stettin and fled in confusion from the scene of their crime.”

Ebbo XXI

[Otto Returns to Wolin]

“Thus, by divine providence, was the wicked design of the idol priest frustrated, whilst the servant of God drew near to the town of Julin [Wolin] which had formerly been initiated by him into the sacraments of the faith.”

Herbordus XXV

[Otto Returns to Wolin – Herbordus Version]

“When, by the help of God, the bishop arrived at Julin [Wolin] he met there with no opposition. For the people bore with patience all his remonstrances in reference to their apostasy, and other offences, and were ready to purge and improve their unworthy and evil actions and to amend their conduct in accordance with his teaching.”


[On the Rugians’ War on Pomerania]

“[T]he Ruthenians [Rugians], who were still bound in heathen error, when they heard of the conversion of the people of Stettin/Szczecinwere exceedingly angry because they had renounced their idols and submitted to the Christian law without reference to, or consultation with them, and they feared not to make war upon them.  When they had brought together their large army they occupied the river banks and stationed there one line of their men, who were equipped with noise-producing arms and who, with meaningless clamour, sought to find out where their God was and if he was able to succour those who called upon him.  The others, however, carried in front of them the standard of the Lord’s cross and put their opponents to flight at their first onslaught. On the following day they came back like dogs and again threatened war upon the Christians, but they were overcome in the same way and thrown into confusion and again turned to flight. On the third day, having been well nigh exterminated, they exclaimed that the God of the Christians was unconquerable, and that if He would spare them they would never again attempt any rash action. The Christians forbore and they speedily dispersed and returned one by one with great fear and confusion to their own homes. But the bishop, who thought it right to return good for evil, desired to teach the Christian laws to these Ruthenians, who had not feared to harass by war a newly converted people. They, however, hardened themselves against him and on several occasions declared by their messengers that if any of his companions should presume to approach the borders of Ruthenia (Rugia), for the sake of preaching the gospel, their heads would be cut off forthwith and they should be exposed to be torn by wild beasts.”


[On the Rugians & the Danish Archbishop – Herbordus Version]

“This people (the Ruthenians [Rugians]), although on many occasions they were invited by different preachers to accept the faith, were never willing to do so as a body, but, whilst some believed, others did not believe. For the most part they lived according to pagan rites, and by choking like thorns the seeds of faith they did not suffer them to develop. Ruthenia is adjacent to the country of the Danes, and ought to be subject to the Danish archbishop. But when a people is engaged in spreading the catholic faith it is unnecessary for priests to quarrel over parish boundaries. As their hatred gradually increased the Ruthenians began to offer open opposition to the people of Stettin/Szczecin. First of all they kept their ships from their own shores, and later on by a unanimous decision they resolved that they should be regarded as enemies, and, as they had heard that Bishop Otto was to come to them for the purpose of preaching, they commanded him that he should never approach their territory. For, they said that he would find  with them nothing but bitter punishment and certain death. When Otto received this message he silently rejoiced and prepared himself for martyrdom, and he thought out and arranged everything and debated anxiously with himself whether he ought to go alone or accompanied by others to this feast.  Now there were at Julin [Wolin] amongst the followers of the bishop some good and prudent men from Stettin/Szczecin who knew the several districts and the customs of this race.  The bishop questioned these for some time, as he desired to learn whether they would be willing to conduct him thither.  They, however, told him much concerning the origin of the Ruthenian race, the fierceness of their dispositions, the instability of their faith, and their bestial conversation: they told him also that they ought to be subject to the Danish archbishop.  The bishop trusted that their conversion, if it could be secured, would be pleasing to the archbishop, and at the same time he considered that it was fitting that he should obtain his licence and permission before going to preach in his jurisdiction. Accordingly he sent from where he was the venerable priest Iwanus and some other messengers in a boat with letters and gifts to ask for his permission to preach.”


Furious at the Pomeranians’ conversion, the Rugians immediately put to sea to straighten things out

“The archbishop received them with the greatest joy and respect and treated them with the utmost kindness, asking them many questions concerning the position, the teaching and the work of the blessed Otto.  He was a good and honest man and loved to hear of things that were good: he was also learned and devout, though externally he possessed the rustic manners of the Slavonians [this is a Dane].  For it was the case with all the men of that country that, whilst living in prosperity and wealth, they seemed harsh, uncultivated and rustic. Their towns and camps had no walls or towers and were defended with woodwork and ditches. The churches too and the houses of the chief men were humble and poorly designed. The men’s pursuits were hunting, fishing, or the tending of cattle, and their whole wealth consisted of these last, for there was but little cultivation of the fields. In regard to food and dress they were by no means luxurious or elegant. Even our middle-class people were ostentatious when compared with them, and the priest Iwanus appeared to be a more important person than the archbishop himself.  And as he was a man of good speech and answered all inquiries in a careful  manner, he pleased the archbishop much, and he could not hear enough concerning Otto. For he had been known to him by report for many years and he was now glad and proud that he had present with him the worthy and distinguished messengers of the bishop, whose great and noble deeds he had heard spoken of in all directions.  Regarding the message sent to him he said that he could make no reply till, after a certain delay, he had consulted the chiefs and principal men amongst the Danes.  Iwanus and the messengers, thinking that this would occupy a long time, asked that they might be sent away, as they feared that the bishop might be distressed at their delay.  He very kindly agreed and he sent to the bishop letters, gifts and a fairly large boat filled with butter as a sign of affection and friendship, and said that he would consult with the chiefs as quickly as possible, and send a reply by his own messengers to his statement.  Whether he spoke falsely or candidly we did not discover, for, whilst we were spending several days awaiting his messengers, additional messengers from the district of Alamania and from the house at Bamberg arrived, who desired the return of the bishop [Otto] for great and urgent reasons.”

[Of course, it was the Danes that, in the end converted the people of Rugia.  For more on that see here]

Herbordus XXXI

[On the Rugians’ War on Pomerania – Herbordus Version]

“On many occasions the Ruthenians [Rugians] had reviled the men of Stettin/Szczecin and had assailed their territory with armed ships.  After they had been once again repulsed and would not abandon their attacks, the men of Stettin/Szczecin began with one accord to arm themselves and to meet those who came against them with united forces.  Why say more?  The Ruthenians were scattered with so great a slaughter and so many of them were taken away as slaves that those who were able to escape made no further attack upon the victors.  The men of Stettin/Szczecin, elated by this victory, rendered honour to the Lord Jesus Christ and to His servant Otto.  They no longer feared the Ruthenians, but having taken them as captives they forced upon them a humiliating and unworthy compact.”

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

July 31, 2015

Whatever Remains, However Improbable

Published Post author

In all of our discussions we have steadily leaned towards the position that the “homeland” of the Slavs must be somewhere in the area where the Slavs – or some of them – are now.  What is more, it is likely to be rather centrally located within that vast area.  But weren’t “Germanic” tribes there, one might ask?  It may make sense to review some of the issues with the “East Germanic” theory, i.e., the theory that East German tribes lived in the area of, say, Poland, before vacating the space to the advancing Slavic hordes who came from, take your pick:

  • the Carpathian bend/Podolia/parts of Ukraine;
  • somewhere in Russia, possibly even East of the Urals; or
  • everyone’s favorite – the Pripet marshes;

“78 on the Cephalic Index and R1a1a! You know what that means Watson!” “Holmes… could it be!? One of the Lugii Omani this far North!?” “Elementary my dear Watson, elementary!”

Place Names Issues

The vastness of the lands of “Slavia” suggests that there ought to have been significant Germanic place name remains somewhere in the area.  However, evidence for such is scant.  While it has been asserted that there are many place names in the area that are neither Germanic nor Slavic, the Slavic names – this itself creates a difficulty with the theory of Slavic expansion.

If the Slavs came into territories that were emptied of peoples, they should have renamed the various rivers and streams with their own Slavic names.  Instead, it appears that they didn’t do that.  So how did they learn the names of these?

  • The standard answer has been that there was, in reality, no total “emptiness”, i.e., that Germania had not, in fact, been entirely emptied of all of its peoples, that, in other words, some Germanics remained and it was they who, in turn, passed the names to the incoming Slavs.

The argument is entirely plausible but there is a problem with using it to explain Slavic knowledge of Central European hydronymy.  The names passed on to the Slavs are not clearly Germanic.  They are, as we noted, at best described as “Old European” or Illyrian or whatever – but not Germanic.

  • So, the answer comes back, maybe these names were “Venetic” and the Veneti passed the names to the Germans who, in turn, passed them on to the Slavs?

This sounds at least somewhat plausible except that the Germans have their own names for the same places and those names are different from those of the Slavs and were different as far back in time as we can tell.  In other words, the Germans would have had to have 1) learned the names of the rivers, etc from the Veneti, 2) come up with their own versions of the same, and 3) passed the Venetic (but not the Germanic!) versions to the Slavs.  Is that probable?

  • But perhaps there is another way to solve this that fits current theories!  What if the Slavs learned of the same names directly from the mysterious Veneti?

The problem with this theory and, specifically, with fitting it into the framework of a pre-Slavic Germanic population, is obvious.  If the Slavs actually encountered the Veneti upon arrival in Central Europe they would have had to have encountered the remaining Veneti in greater numbers than the remaining Germans.  But if we assume that all of Central Europe was occupied by Germanic tribes from, at least the time of Caesar till the 500s we would then have had to assume also that 1) the Veneti survived as a separate people under the German “yoke” for over 500 years and 2) that while the various Germanic tribes left (or at least left in sufficient numbers to make the Veneti dominant once more), the Veneti stayed.

Of course, one can assume this to be the case.  However, if the Veneti could survive half a millennium of living under foreign rulers why not the Slavs?  (Certainly, the Sorbs have survived for (at least) 1,500 years in Germany).  In other words, various historians have previously proposed an “underlayer” of Slavs that existed and persisted in Central Europe despite at least some Germanic presence.  But this was rejected as being just too clever.   And indeed the burden of proof should reside with the Slavic “side” in this case.

Except… that as we can see from the above, this version of the “Germanic” theory necessarily relies on an even more convoluted argument about the original Veneti who are taken over by the Germanics but who persevere until the Germans leave and the Slavs arrive so as to hand the Venetic knowledge of local hydronymy to the Slavs only to then be quickly “absorbed” by the latter – in some unspecified way – into the Slavic populace (despite the fact that the same Veneti were never fully absorbed by the Germans).

It should be obvious by now that these  free-standing, independent but otherwise unrelated Veneti are easily made redundant here.  It is much simpler to assume that they – the Veneti – were, what we would today call Slavs, than to assume the above described convoluted fact pattern.

And there is Another Problem

With the mysterious Veneti 1) not being Slavs themselves but 2)  being a conduit for the Slavs’ “learning” local place and water names.

Take Poland.  Based on archaeological “cultures”, the present scholarship divides the country into a “Gothic” half (so-called Przeworsk group) and a “Vandalic” half (so-called Wielbark group) (never mind that the evidence for Vandals ever having set foot in Poland is suspect and highly circumstantial, i.e., virtually nonexistent – more on that later).  Let’s assume that both of these spoke the same language and that language was a Germanic (i.e., Scandinavian) language.  Procopius says as much (though he also calls these (and the Herules) peoples Sarmatians, showing again that  such terms as Sarmatia or Germania were basically geographical constructs.

So here we have Germanic tribes of:

  • Goths
  • Vandals
  • Lombards
  • Herules
  • let’s add Franks too.

But all the origin myths of these peoples are myths of having come from Scandinavia:

  • Goths – see Cassiodorus/Jordanes;
  • Lombards – see Paul the Deacon;
  • Franks – see Gregory of Tours (this one less certain but talk is of “bursting” into the province of Germany);
  • Vandals & Herules –  see Gregory of Tours/Cassiodorus/Jordanes and Procopius.

There is no reason not to believe the old chroniclers on this point.  During the Christian Era people usually tried to derive their origins from Adam and hence the Middle East.  There was no reason to bring up Scandinavia here unless that “vagina of nations” really did beget all these peoples.

But if these people really did come from Scandinavia, then who lived in Central Europe before they arrived?  Were Lugi Buri and Lugi Diduni also Germanic?

  • the answer that comes back is that either:
    • these were all Germanic and constituent parts of the Goths, Vandals, etc, or
    • they were some other Germanic tribes (and it’s unclear whether they too came from Scandinavia – obviously, if they had, then the question of who was there in Central Europe before them would still stand), or
    • they were Celts (the last refuge of a scoundrel).

(one might object that you can always ask about the “before” until you get back to Africa but the reality is that we are only asking because the Germanic explanations for these place names are nonexistent).

If this is so then the question arises what footprint did these Celts and Germans leave on the rivers, mountains and towns of the area?  A longer “Germanic” necessitates more of an impact.  But we still get close to none (the Goths might get Gdansk though).

So then were these Celts or Germanics responsible for the “Illyrian” or “Old European” topography or hydronymy of Central Europe?  This seems rather unlikely.  And that, in turn, means that such place and water names must have existed even before these Celts and Germanics.  But if that is true, how many thousands of years must the Veneti have survived the rule of these dominant peoples before all such Celts & Germanics were swept away and the Slavs arrived and the Veneti were able – in their final momentous act – pass their knowledge to the Slavs?

Possible?  This we would think is as close to impossible as you can get in history.

It would be much simpler to assume that:

  • while some tribes in Central Europe (e.g., Goths but also Vandals, Saxons and others on the above list) were Germanic speaking,
  • the rest (e.g., Lugii (Lechs? or Lusitians?), Rugiclei (later Slavic Rugii?), Sidones, Varisti, Viruni (later Slavic Varini?) Sudini (Balts?) or Adrabaecampi (those who camp on the Oder?)) – were not; and further
  • that the Goths and others (including non-Germanic tribes) were much like the later known roving warrior bands of Vikings – causing a lot of havoc but leaving a very small final footprint.  In fact, the same can be said of all of these:
    • Lombards – no one speaks German in Lombardy;
    • Vandals – ditto in Spain and Africa;
    • Franks – ditto in France;
    • Alans and Suebi – same;
    • Normans – same for Normandy (though they carried French but not Frankish German into Britain);
    • Herules – they’re back at Thule…

This seems to show that conquest does not necessarily mean assimilation of the host population if you do not have the numbers.  Remember, the children will be raised by the mothers who are taken from the local populace and, probably, taught the mothers’ language before the father comes back – if he does that at all.  Even if you stay you might need some semblance of a state in order to impose your language.  (And the fact that the locals themselves have different languages probably helps too (e.g., Spain and Portugal’s colonies or India during the Raj)).

But even that does not always work.  It does not take much to believe that the Rus were Scandinavian but does Russia speak Swedish?  Similarly, we’ve made the point before about the Mongols and their conquest of the Russians – the Mongol language is nowhere to be found in Kiev.  For other examples, just take a look at any late 19th century map of the world.  You’d think that virtually all lands were in the hands of the English, French, Germans, Dutch, Italians and Russians.  And yet, the map fails to account for the truth.  Even in South Africa where Dutch colonists’  roots reach the 17th century, the ethnic situation could not be described properly on any map.

Moreover, if the Scandinavian warrior bands had come from the North and pillaged and raped left and right (that was the way of life back then), what would the locals have done?  Academics speak of “reassessing”, “bargaining”, “changing affiliations”, attaching yourself to a “higher status ethnicity”.


Assuming you did not want to 1) be killed or 2) be conquered and enslaved – what would you do?


R                    U                   N


In this telling of the story, the Slavs may well have ran away – only to come back later.  Of course, all of this is speculative but it is also logical.  People flee!  Where could they have fled?  How about to the East – into the Pripet Marshes knowing that the Goths were unlikely to head in there.  Or into the Carpathians (which may explain why there are so many Slavic hydronyms in the foothills of the same).  Or even West towards the Elbe.

Certainly, we have seen that the Suevi who were on the Rhine at the time of Caesar were forced towards the Elbe by the time of Tacitus.  And later we find them on the Danube and in Pannonia.

Put differently, the story of the Germans moving out and Slavs moving in seems not only wrong but almost excruciatingly simplistic for the realities of the situation.  We speak of the Voelkerwanderung  but history notes vast movements of peoples or warrior bands already before that time.  It was the sedentary situation that followed during the Dark Ages that was unusual – not the earlier motion of tribes/bands or what have you!  Just look at the movements of the Cimbri or of the Goths or of the Marcomanni or of the Suevi or of the Boii who were kicked out of Bohemia, etc.

Thus, while the Veneti were portrayed as the Western Slavs, they may yet turn out to be the Eastern Slavs with the Suevi being the Western component (and yet the Polabian Slavs – at least some of them – may well have been more of the Venetic/Eastern stock) and some other group, e.g., the Iazyges mixed in with the Suavi of Pannonia, the Southern.  And there is another obvious possibility – these slightly different origins might also be visible, to some extent, even within each country.

This would also explain why Suavia/Slavia substantially overlaps with the earlier Roman concept of Suevia…

But what of the Language

But didn’t the tribes of Germania speak a Germanic language?  Fair point, but let’s see what that really means:

First, as we already pointed out the Romans have used the word Germania to designate an area where northern folk lived.  To the Romans they would have appeared similar since the Romans judged them by their own looks, language, culture.  But would they appear so similar to one another?  In other words, there is really nothing to suggest that all the tribes there were similar in all respects – including language.  And, even if so, we do not know what that language was.

This brings us up to the second point.  The only attested language of the “Germanic” tribes of the time is Gothic.  Procopius says that the same language was spoken by Vandals and Herules – at least as of the 6th century.  What about the others?  Again, this is hardly clear.

It is true that there were what we think of as Germanic or if you will Scandinavian names in Central Europe.  Many of the leaders of Germanic tribes did in fact have Germanic “sounding” names.  This was even true of the Danubian Suavi (see Alaric and Hunninund) but was that always the case?  Earlier, around the turn of the millennium, we had Ariovistus and Veleda and Ganna and Masyus – were these Germanic names?  They sound (well, “look and sound”) Slavic or Baltic or maybe Avestani but not Germanic.  Had something changed in the meantime?

The obvious suggestion (of course, unprovable) is that the Suevi were pushed back East under pressure from the Romans but also under pressure from the continual migrations of Scandinavians.  Those that stayed were incorporated into the latter contingents and thus may have been “Germanized” but retained their tribal name.  As the Scandinavian warriors were interested in the riches of Rome and not the people who lived in between they pressed onwards towards the Roman frontiers.  But what remained in the back of this Hammer of Thor?

Moreover, names – for lack of records the only thing we have to establish ethnicity – are hardly a definitive clue.  To give just one family example, Boleslaw Chrobry was married to Emnild or Emnilda – from this marriage his surviving and known children included: Reglinda, Lambert (aka Mieszko II) and Otto.  Who was Emnild?  We do not know the mother but the father’s name was Dobromir.  And the mother had been German, that fact, given her father, would not have made Emnild not a Slav.

Put differently, while names are a hint of ethnicity they are not more than that and many names can be interpreted in various ways.  For example, Stillicho is a Vandal on his father’s side we are told.  What is a “licho” though?  Or Kniva – the “knife” – was it Kniva or Gniva which would be a Slavic name similar to Gnievko, i.e., the “angry one”.  Names, namely, are like clothes (or pots), they may indicate that a particular style is popular but styles change and not just because the population changes.  Many “Romans” with Roman names were, in fact, Germans.  After all not every Jacob in the world is Jewish nor every Patrick, Irish (in fact, a safe guess would be that most are not).

We are far from dismissing this but just observe that a level of caution is necessary in extracting blood relationships from names.

But weren’t the Langobards and the Angli also Suevi?  They were called that by Ptolemy.  But what of the much earlier Semnones?  And why must it be the case that all those perceived as Suevi speak the same language?

But what of the Suebi in Suebia?  The problem here is that we do not know who actually lived there in what was a Roman border province throughout the half millennium under examination.  After all the same are referred to as Alemanni – all men?  Meaning some sort of a melting pot?  Peoples often give their names to countries but when they get invaded, they may leave but the name stays.

(On the other hand, one must note that it is rarer (except maybe for the Huns – a particularly fearful name – useful to appropriate or to beat someone over the head with) that a name for one people is used while referring to another people – a constant claim of the “Germans transferred the Veneti ethnonym onto the Slavs” crowd.  That kind of name transference usually requires a people first to live somewhere long enough to give the name of that people to that province.  Then, should such original inhabitants be driven out or conquered, the newcomers will be named henceforth from the name of the province by the same name.  However, this transference typically goes people 1 > province > people 2.  It does not usually go people 1 > people 2.  Thus the Prussians first gave their name (though it wasn’t really theirs) to Prussia, before Prussia could give the same name to the new incoming German colonists who became “Prussian” but obviously weren’t such initially).

After All Ethnicity Is About

Family and blood and not language or kettles (or what car you drive!).

What you say?  Surely, only the obvious.  Unless you think that an Australian Aborigine should seek his ancestors in Nottinghamshire…

Put differently, we care not whether the Slavs – in the sense of our ancestors – actually spoke Slavic.  We think they did (or spoke something like it) just based on probabilities but this is not a prerequisite to there being a Slavic family.

But what of Culture Collapse?

Yawn.  See here.  And, if that is not enough google “Mayan pyramids” and ask yourself who built them (hint: not aliens).

And This is Before You Even

Get into the question of whether you could explain some of the names of, e.g., rivers found in Central Europe using Slavic languages.  This is not the place for an extended discussion about etymology but we would just note these Polish river names that, allegedly, “cannot” be explained using Slavic – paired with some “aquatic” Polish words (these aren’t proposed etymologies just observations of possible cognates):

  • Warta (German Warthe) – but Polish wartka (swift – of a water current);
  • Wisła (Vistla, Vistula, German Weichsel) – but Polish wiosła (oars);
  • Odra (Viadua, Viadra, German Oder) – but Polish szczodra (generous/bountiful), modra (dark blue), wydra (otter), wiadro (bucket);

Similar words exist too in the Baltic languages.

But someone might object that all or many of these words are Indo-European so, of course, anyone could pull them out of the Indo-European hat and claim an association with a specific Slavic/Baltic word.

Of course, this is partly true… except that such an exercise is much, much harder with any Indo-European languages other than Slavic or Baltic ones – try it (we will give “otter”, of course!).

And Speaking of Wetness

We must once again mention Austeravia [pron. Ostrovia?] a place where there was plenty of what the Germans [?] called glaesum.  Now, clearly, Austeravia can’t be the same as ostrovia since, as every babe knows, river islands are an entirely different thing from ocean islands.

But was ostrów always just a “river” island for the Slavs?  It must have been because we know that the Slavs never lived close to the “Ocean”.  (Except those Veleti, as per Ptolemy, but of course they could not have been Slavs back then).  Ergo > go to Ergo.

And things never, ever change.

And głaz cannot be glaesum because glaesum must mean glass because amber is so much like glass that amber windows are surely right around the corner now.  And głaz, of course, means a large stone in Slavic and amber is small.  This is so obvious we admit to being embarrassed even to be talking nonsense like this (even thinking like this makes us quite upset at ourselves).

And things never, ever change.

Unless, of course, you are talking about an outmigration of millions of people followed by an immigration of millions of others.  That is, of course, not only possible but even entirely likely.

And Highness

Of the mountains and their Gods we spoke already and will again but for now mentioning this topic is enough.

Not to Mention

Though we will do so, yet again – that, given that most of geographic Germania was Suevia when the last Roman were able to closely examine it and that, when the fog of the Dark Ages finally lifted, most of the same country was now full of Slavs.  it is simply easier to assume that either:

  • language changed; or that
  • nothing changed and the Slavs were where they were before – more or less – five centuries earlier – likely as Suevi.

than to argue for a massive outmigration of Suevi and an immigration of Slavs.  Once again we note that, as per official historiography, all the Suevic groups which previously held virtually all of Germany, in the end amounted to 1) the smallest contingent in the host of the Vandals and Alans, to 2) the population of a relatively small Suebia and to 3) a few stray fighters at the battle of Nedao.


Of course, such a migration is possible (if unlikely).  However, even then the story may not be so simple.  For example, such a migration may have taken place combined with a significant portion of the locals, presumably Suevi but maybe also Lugi (Lechites?), remaining in place – again, current history writing seems inadequately simplistic for the likely realities of the situation.

Finally, About

The strange similarity of the words Sporoi, Germani and Semnones we have written previously here.   And about the name of the Saale being Solawa and being rather similar to the hypothetical river Suevus – the mother river of all Suevi – both in the sounds and also in the fact that one can derive the Slavs or Suoveane name directly from Souaveane, i.e., from Soława or Souava we wrote before too 

But wasn’t it the case that the River Suevus ended in the “Ocean”?  So Ptolemy claims but it is also possible that he assumed that all the rivers that he saw (since he was “looking” from “upstream”) must have ended – in his mind – in the Ocean, at least if they ran North.  If you can find one river which he describes as running into another river that he also mentions, please let us know – we haven’t been able to do so.  (In fact, other difficulties exist as, for example, the fact that Ptolemy appears to locate his river Suevus east of the Elbe – but then Cassius Dio (55.10a.2n) seems to think of the Saale/Solawa is the Elbe which would leave the “real” Elbe as something else – Suevus perhaps?).

And were the various tribes that seem to appear during antiquity but later continue on as Slavs really Slavicized Germanics?  The Veleti are the obvious one but the same may be said of the Varni or the Rani or, as we have discussed already, the Rarogi.  More on that later…


Slavic historians, archeologists and linguists have boldly confronted our revelations

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

July 29, 2015

Pomeranian Gods Part II – Ottonis Vita Second Tour (Intro)

Published Post author

We have discussed Pomeranian Gods and the first mission (in 1124) of Otto of Bamberg here.  As previously indicated, the Pomeranians relapsed into paganism relatively quickly after his departure.  Consequently, as the idol priests were scheming their perfidies anew and trouble brewed on the horizon, Otto was needed once more.

Here is the story of a super force of Christian Crusaders determined to stamp out Slavic Gods once and for all.  Here is the story of Gerovit and Triglav.  Here is Otto’s 1128 Second Tour in the Lands of Pomerania.  As these passages are long, we present these as a two part series (i.e., the Life of Otto will have three parts).  Here is Part 2 of 3.

(It comes from Book III of the  Life of Otto.  The First Tour was previously described in Book II).

Ebbo I

[It’s Baaaaack! (And Pagan-er Than Ever!)]

“After our holy father Otto had come again in peace to his own place, on the completion of his first apostleship to the Pomeranian people, two of the best known towns, Julin [Wolin] and Stettin/Szczecin, moved by the envy of the devil, returned to their former sordid idolatry under the following circumstances.”

Ebbo I

[On the Lapse of Julin] 

“Julin, which had been founded by Julius Caesar and called after him, and in which his spear was kept, fixed on a column of great size in order to preserve his memory, was accustomed to hold a festival in honour of a certain idol at the beginning of the year, which was accompanied by dancing.”


The moment Otto left, the High Priest of Triglav ordered mandatory dancing rites to resume

[Vita Pruef. (II. 6) states that Otto offered fifty talents of silver for this lance in order to prevent the inhabitants from continuing to worship it.]

“When the town had been cleansed by the word of faith and the washing of baptism, and the people, moved by the holy bishop, began to burn the larger and smaller idols that were
in the open air, certain persons carried off secretly some small images adorned with gold and silver, little knowing how they were bringing about the destruction of their town, even as the unhappy Achan, when the city of Jericho was overthrown, stole a bar of gold weighing fifty shekels and a scarlet robe and two hundred shekels of silver, and as a result witnessed the punishment inflicted by the divine anger, and the loss that befel the Jewish people.  For when the people of the province had assembled with their accustomed eagerness to celebrate the idol festival to which I have referred, and were playing and feasting together with great pomp,
these men brought forth to the people, who had been weakened by their vain pleasures, the idols that they had before carried off, and invited them to resume their pagan rites.”


Pagan rites resumed in no time

“By doing this they laid themselves open to divine reproof.  For when all the people were engaged in playing and dancing in heathen fashion the fire of God suddenly fell from heaven upon the apostate town and the whole town began to burn with such great violence that no one was able to rescue any of his property, but the people, in their desire to save their own lives, escaped by swift flight and with difficulty the raging conflagration.”


The wrath of Otto was terrible but God’s was terribler yet

“When at length the town had been destroyed by the vehemence of the fire, the inhabitants on their return found that the church of St. Adalbert, which had been built by Otto his apostle, and the middle of which had been constructed by joining boards together in consequence of the lack of stones, had been preserved from the heat of the flames.  Marvelous to relate, the sanctuary, which had been covered over in a cheaper manner, that is with reeds, and which had a linen cloth spread out  underneath in order to prevent worms from reaching the altar, had remained entirely untouched by the fire.  When the people beheld this great miracle they cried aloud and offered to God exultant praise, for they declared that beyond all doubt this was the true God, inasmuch as amidst this fierce fire, which had even injured the stones, He had been able to preserve uninjured the screen of reeds that had been spread over His own altar.”


God’s mercy was available to all though primarily to those who fled to the Christian church

“Accordingly the Christian priests were summoned, and the people openly repented and utterly abjured their idols, and having, as far as they were able, rebuilt their town, submitted with eager devotion to the yoke of Christ.  Thus the divine reproof wrought salvation in their land.”

Ebbo I

[On the Lapse of Szczecin/Stettin]

Szczecin/Stettin, their most extensive town, which was larger than Julin, included three hills in its circuit.  The middle one of these, which was also the highest, was dedicated to Triglav, the chief god of the pagans; its image had a triple head and its eyes and lips were covered with a golden diadem. The idol priests declared that their chief god had three heads because it had charge of three kingdoms, namely, heaven, earth and the lower regions, and that its face was covered with a diadem so that it might pretend not to see the faults of men, and might keep silence. When this most powerful town had been brought to the knowledge of the true God by the good bishop, the idol temples were destroyed by fire and two churches were built, one on the Triglav hill in honour of St. Adalbert [Wojciech], and the other outside the walls of the town in honour of St. Peter.”


Triglav “hill” – this one in Slovenia

“Thereafter the churches of Christ appropriated the sacrifices which were before offered with great pomp and cost to the priests and the idol shrines.  On this account the idol priests were distressed and, when they saw that the benefits resulting from their former celebrations were decreasing, they sought for an opportunity to bring the people back to the worship of idols in order to secure their own gain.  It happened, moreover, that a great mortality occurred in the town, and, when the priests were questioned by the people, they said that they had met with this calamity because they had put away their idols, and that all of them would die suddenly if they did not try to appease their ancient gods by sacrifices and the accustomed gifts. In consequence of this declaration a public assembly was forthwith held, the idol images were sought out and the profane, idolatrous observances and ceremonies were performed again by the people, and the middle portions of the Christian churches were destroyed. And when the people, in their madness, approached the sanctuary they did not dare to go farther, but thus addressed, with wild clamour the chief idol-priest, ‘Behold we have accomplished our part, it is for you, in virtue of your office, to attack and to profane the person of the German God:’ whereupon he seized an axe, but when he had brandished it aloft with his right hand, he suddenly stiffened and fell back and with a lamentable cry complained of pain. When the people ran to him and inquired of its cause he groaned deeply and said, ‘Alas, how great is the power and the strength of the German God; who can resist Him?  How have I been struck down who dared to touch His sacred dwelling.’  When the people asked with amazement what they should do, the priest said, ‘Build here a house for your god next to the dwelling of the German God, and worship Him and your gods alike, lest perchance in His anger He bring speedy and sudden destruction to this place.’  They acted in accordance with his suggestion and continued in their error until the return of the holy apostle Otto.”

[there follows the story of the miraculous return of Wirtschachus or Witscacus the prominent pirate raider]

Ebbo III

[Otto Returns & Havelberg]

“When God’s chosen bishop [i.e., Otto – in case that hasn’t been clear] heard that an enemy had sown tares on top of the good seed, he would not suffer the people of Stettin/Szczecin to serve the Lord and idols and thus to halt [i.e., be suspended] between the two sides.  Having sought the blessing of the apostolic Lord, Honorius, and that of his serene majesty Lotharius, he arranged to approach once more the territories of the barbarians, with the double object of bringing back to the bosom of the Church those that had apostatized and of subjecting to the yoke of the faith another people called Uznoim (Usedom) which had not yet heard the name of Christ…”

“His first resting place was in a building belonging to the Church of Bamberg which is called Growze…”

“During the rest of Easter week he remained in the district belonging to the Churches of Schidingen [Scheidugen] and Muchelen [Mucheln]  and was employed in collecting the necessary provisions for his journey, after which he drew near to Magdeburg, the well-known capital of Saxony, where he was honourably received by his beloved archbishop Noribert.”

“But inasmuch as honourable reputation ever tends to’ beget jealousy (in others) this archbishop, who perceived that Otto had come from so great a distance for the sake of preaching the gospel, and who was compelled by a sense of shame because, though he was placed in a town belonging to pagan peoples, he had made no attempt to preach to them, being moved by envy desired to detain the good teacher for a time. Otto, however, being fervent in spirit, could not be enticed from the carrying out of his good design, and having sought the archbishop’s blessing, set out the next day for the diocese of Habelberg, which had at that time been so completely ruined by the incursions of the heathen that there remained in it hardly any who bore the Christian name.”


Havelberg – the most wretched hive of scum and villainy on the Elbe

“On the very day of his arrival flags were placed around the town, which was engaged in celebrating a festival in honour of an idol called Gerovit. When the man of God perceived this, he was pricked to the heart on account of the great delusion of its people and refused to enter the walls of the town, but waited in front of the gate and, having summoned Wirikind, the ruler of the place, demanded of him why he permitted this idolatry to be practised.  He protested that the people had rebelled against their Archbishop Noribert because he had tried to subject them to hard servitude, and confessed that they could not be compelled to accept teaching from him, but were prepared to die rather than submit to such a burdensome servitude.  At the same time VVirikind besought the bishop that he would not refuse to explain to the people of the town their error, and said that they would listen much more eagerly to his advice than to the orders of the archbishop. Accordingly Otto stood on a lofty place in front of the gate and preached to all the people who had gathered together the saving word, and without difficulty persuaded them to abandon their sacrilegious festival.  Meanwhile they declared that if they were placed under another archbishop they would of their own free will gladly receive baptismal grace.”

Ebbo IV

[Moriz Barbarians – at Havelberg?]

“There was there a race of barbarians called Moriz.  When they had heard what the blessed bishop had to tell them, they sought of their own accord to be initiated by him into the sacraments of the faith. But he, being a prudent and wise man, directed them to go to their chief bishop Noribert, as he told them that it was unlawful for him to build on another man’s foundation, and that he had been summoned by the decree of the Pope, and by the letter of Wortizlaus the Duke of Pomerania to go to more distant races.  They, however, declared that they would not follow the Bishop of Magdeberg, inasmuch as he strove to inflict upon them a yoke of cruel servitude, but they promised that they would, with all humility, submit themselves to him, the pious servant of God, and would in all matters obey his commands. Seeing their devotion he replied very kindly that for the time being he would go to the races committed to his charge, but after the conversion of these to the faith, if they continued to desire it, with the authority and permission of the Pope and the approval of the archbishop Noribert he would readily pay them a visit.”

Ebbo V


[this describes the campaigns of the Lutici/Veleti agains the Pomeranians (and Lothar III of Germany)]

“When he came to the town of Timina he found that great preparations for war had been made and that an incursion of the inhabitants of Leuticia had occurred.  For the Leuticians, whose town together with its temple had been recently burnt by the renowned king Lotharius in his zeal for justice, were endeavouring to lay waste the town of Timina [Demmin] and to enslave its citizens. These were vigorously resisting and were seeking aid from the Duke Wortizlaus.”

“… As the servant of God drew near they found no arms in his train, but instead the standard of the cross, and presently they recognized Otto, who was well known to them by report, and, running eagerly towards him, begged him to enter within the walls of their town.”


The inhabitants quickly recognized Otto as he drew near

“He, however, refused to enter a town which had been defiled by idolatry, and remained in tents set up in front of the gate.  Meanwhile he summoned the chiefs of the people and with enticing words urged them to seek for the blessings of the Christian faith and of baptism.”

“… As soon as the light returned the Duke, with his armies, invaded the territories of the rebellious Leuticians and laid waste everything with fire and sword. Towards evening he  returned laden with many spoils, and conducted his beloved father Otto, with all due reverence, to Uznoim (Usedom), where he had a quiet interval in which to rest and preach.”

Herbordus II

[The Burning of Leuticia]

“About midday we saw that Leuticia was smoking in all directions. This showed that the army was engaged in spreading universal destruction.  Towards evening the Duke, who had accomplished his desire, returned, laden with much spoil, joyful and unharmed together with all his attendants. They divided the spoils whilst we were looking on, clothes, money, flocks and other articles of various kinds.  They also distributed amongst themselves the men whom they had captured.  There was weeping and lamentation and infinite grief when, in accordance with the method adopted for dividing them, a husband was separated from a wife and a wife from a husband, children from parents and parents from children, and were assigned to different masters.  Although all who were involved in this grief were pagans, the bishop, who was ever good and compassionate, pitied their condition and could not refrain from tears. The Duke, who was delighted with the success that he had obtained and with the arrival of the bishop, when he perceived what was his desire, gave order that some of the younger and weaker prisoners should be freed, and at the bishop’s suggestion he arranged that those who were grieved at being separated should remain together.


Otto convinced the victorious Wortislav to treat the Lutician POWs less harshly

And when he had heard the bishop he did many things and heard him gladly.  The bishop also ransomed many of the prisoners and, having seen that they were instructed and born again by baptism, he sent them away free. When then they had refreshed themselves by mutual conversation and had presented gifts to each other, the Duke departed to see to his own affairs.  Meanwhile we placed all our property on board the ships of Timina/Demmin and sailed on the River Pene/Peene/Piana for three days till we came to Uznoim/Uznam, the bishop going overland on foot with a few companions.”

“Without delay he proceeded to cut his Lord’s field with the ploughshare and to scatter the seed of faith; nor did he meet with any difficulty in his task, inasmuch as the teaching of salvation had already fallen like a refreshing shower upon that town, for the priests whom the good father had sent amongst this people to represent him had converted a great part of Uznoimia, and the remaining part was brought to the Lord by the bishop.”

Ebbo VII


“When then, after a short time had elapsed, all the chiefs in this town had been baptized, the bishop sent out the priests associated with him two and two to the other towns that lay before him, in order that they might announce to the people the conversion of the chiefs and his own approach. Two of these, namely Udalricus the holy priest of St. Egidius and Albwinus, who has been referred to before, the interpreter of the man of God, went to a very wealthy town called Hologost.  They were honourably received there by a matron, the wife of the prefect of the town, who washed their feet with the utmost devotion and humility and having placed a table before them refreshed them with lavish feasts, so that they marvelled and were amazed because in the kingdom of the devil they had met with so much humility and hospitality.  When at length their refreshment was completed, Albwinus addressed privately the matron and explained to her the reason for his coming, and told her how at the conference that had been held at Uznoim all the chief men had abandoned the defilement of idolatry and had been clothed with the grace of Christ.  When she heard this she was so frightened that she fell flat on the ground and remained for some time half dead.  When she had been revived with water Albwinus asked why she so dreaded the grace of God, when she ought the rather to rejoice that God had visited His people by sending to them so good a minister of the Word. She answered, ‘It was not for this reason that I shuddered, but my heart was distressed at the prospect of your death which is now imminent.  For the magistrates and all the people of this town have decreed that if you should appear here you should be killed without hesitation.  This house of mine, which was ever quiet and peaceful and showed hospitality to all strangers who came, must now be defiled with your blood.  In very truth, if one of the magistrates hears of your coming, my house will presently be surrounded and besieged, and, alas, unless I deliver you up, I and all those with me will be burnt.  Go then to the upper part of my house and hide, and I will send my servants with your equipment and horses to my farms which lie at a distance, and if any come to inquire I shall be able to shield you, as they will not find with me either your garments or your horses.'”


The matron and her prefect husband kept the magistrates away

“They expressed their gratitude for her forethought and did as they were instructed.  As soon as the servants had taken away their horses and their garments the enraged people burst in and searched everything and demanded with violence that the strangers who had entered should be put to death. To them the matron said, ‘I admit that they entered my house, and when they had sufficiently refreshed themselves they departed with all speed. I cannot tell you who they were, or whence they came, or whither they were going. Follow them and perchance you may catch them.’ They replied, ‘If they have gone it is useless for us to follow them, but let them go their way, and if they appear here again, let them know that they will inevitably meet with their death.’  Thus, in accordance with the will of God, the search for them ceased and God’s servants Udalricus and Albwinus hid on the roof of this matron, who was as it were a second Rahab.”


[A Case of a Tricky Priest]

“A certain idol priest was responsible for this search and tumult. When he heard the opinions expressed in regard to the new preaching, he adopted a crafty method of argument. Arraying himself in a robe taken from an idol shrine, and in some other spoils, he left the town secretly and made for a neighbouring wood where he terrified a peasant who was passing by by confronting him unexpectedly.”


Impressionable peasants were an all too easy target for the tricky priest

“When the peasant saw him arrayed in the vesture belonging to the idol he imagined that his chief god had suddenly appeared to him, and falling on his face, half dead with fright, he heard him say, ‘I am the god whom thou worshippest, be not afraid, but rise up quickly and go into the town and deliver my message to the magistrates and to all the people, and say that if they declare themselves disciples of that seducer who is staying with the Duke Wortizlaus at Uznoim, they shall speedily be delivered over to a most cruel death; moreover the town and its inhabitants shall perish.’  When the peasant had announced this with all speed to the citizens, they were united as one man in their endeavour to carry out the commands of their god.”

Herbordus IV

[A Tricky Priest – Herbordus Version]

“The report of what had been done soon spread throughout the whole province and divided asunder houses and villages; some persons declaring that it was good while others said that it was not good, but that their leaders had been led astray. The idol priests were a chief cause of the divisions that occurred, for they were distressed at what had been done, and realized that their own gains would cease if the worship of demons were to be abolished there. They tried therefore by every possible means to obstruct, and by means of visions, dreams, prodigies and various portents invented ingenious arguments.  A priest who served the idol in the town of Hologost [Wolgast], which it was announced the bishop proposed to visit next, entered a neighbouring wood at night and in a raised place alongside the path stood amongst dense foliage arrayed in his priestly garments, and in the very early morning he thus addressed a peasant who was going from the country to the market, ‘Alas, good man !'”


In some versions of this story there were three peasants and the priest may have been gay

“The peasant, who looked towards the spot from which he had heard the voice, seemed to see in the thicket in the uncertain light someone dressed in white, and was afraid. The priest then said, ‘Stand and hear what I say:  I am your god, I, who clothe the plains with grass and the woods with foliage, the produce of the fields and the trees, the offspring of the flocks and everything that is of use to man are in my power.  I give these to my worshippers and take them from those who despise me. Tell then the inhabitants of the town of Hologost that they accept no foreign god who cannot help them, and that they suffer not to live the messengers of another religion who, I predict, will come to them.’  When the demon who had made himself visible had spoken thus to the astonished peasant, the impostor withdrew to the denser parts of the wood. The peasant, stupefied as though he had heard the voice of a god, fell prone upon the ground and worshipped. He then went into the town and proceeded to tell what he had seen.”

“Why say more ? The people believed him, and moved by the novelty of the portent, they surrounded him time after time and compelled him to keep on repeating the same story. Finally the priest, who seemed as though he were entirely ignorant, arrived and at first pretended to be indignant with him for telling a lie; he then began to listen attentively and to urge him to speak only that which was true, and not to try to influence the people by inventing what was untrue.  He, as became a simple peasant, stretched forth his hands, lifted his eyes to heaven, and even promised that he would point out the very place in which the vision had appeared. Then the priest turned to the people and with a deceptive sigh exclaimed, ‘This is what I have been saying for a whole year. What have we to do with a foreign god?  What have we to do with the religion of the Christians? Our god is rightly disturbed and angered if, after all the benefits he has conferred, we turn in our folly and ingratitude to another god. But, lest he be angry with us and kill us, let us be angry with and kill those who are come hither to lead us astray.'”


The townies were easily convinced

“His speech pleased them all and they definitely decided that if Bishop Otto or any of his companions should enter the town he should forthwith be killed. They came also to the wicked resolve that if anyone should receive them into his house in case they entered by night or secretly, he should be liable to a similar sentence. In arranging this they used many insulting words and blasphemously derided our religion.”


[Temple of Gerovit at Wolgast]

“But, as we have already said, Divine providence helped to conceal its servants until on the following day Bishop Otto came, accompanied by the Duke, and brought them forth from their hiding place. But even on the very day on which the bishop came there occurred an attack upon God’s servants which was brought about through the envy of the devil. For when the day was drawing towards evening some of the bishop’s companions, who wanted to examine a shrine that existed in this town, proceeded to do so without due caution; whereupon some of the citizens, who thought that they wished to commit the shrine to the flames, assembled together and advanced to meet them with passionate gestures and a discordant clatter of arms.  Then the good priest Udalricus turned to his companions and said, ‘It is not without reason that these have assembled, but be assured that they are indeed bent on our destruction.’  When his companions heard this they went back and sought refuge in flight.  But one of them named Dietricus, who was in advance of them and had already approached the doors of the temple, not knowing where to turn, boldly entered the shrine itself and, seeing a golden shield fastened to the wall which had been dedicated to Gerovit their god of war, and which they considered it unlawful to touch, he seized the shield and went forth to meet them.”


What the locals thought they saw

“They, like ignorant peasants, thought that their god Gerovit was advancing to meet them, and retired stupefied with amazement and fell to the ground. When Dietricus perceived their folly he threw away the shield and fled, thanking God that He had thought fit to deliver His servants out of their hands.”

Herbordus IV

[Temple of Gerovit at Wolgast – Herbordus Version]

“On entering the town (of Hologost) the bishop received the faithful and strenuous support of the Duke and, having scattered the seed of the gospel, was able to soften little by little the hard hearts of the unbelievers by the soothing ointment of his preaching.  Meanwhile some of our companions made fun of Udalricus and Albwinus, who had emerged from their hiding place, and joining us had related the events which had caused them fear.  And, as though to display their contempt for them, they began to show themselves bold, and, leaving their companions, as the bishop prolonged his discourse, they wandered into an idol temple. Certain ill disposed men in whose hearts idolatry still flourished, said, ‘Behold, these men are examining how they may burn our temples.’  They gathered together then in an open place carrying arms and clubs and blocked the way by which we appeared likely to come out. Udalricus, who stood and watched them from a distance, said, ‘Do you not see that it is for some purpose that these have assembled? For they are behaving riotously and they are all armed.’ Then recalling his former danger, he said, ‘I would not tempt my God so often.’  Turning round then he began to return to the place where he had left the bishop; the others followed him with the exception of a certain priest named Theoderic who had advanced some distance in front of them, and was already touching the doors of the temple.  The pagans, who had assembled, when they saw that they had come back from the path on which they had started, did not dare to follow them, but rushed, all of them, to kill the priest.  When he saw this, having no way by which he might turn from them, notwithstanding his terror he entered the temple itself. There was there hanging on the wall a shield, of great size and of marvellous workmanship, covered with sheets of gold, which no human being might touch, because there was in it something sacroscant and which betokened their pagan religion, so that it would never be moved out of its place save only in time of war. For, as we afterwards found, it was dedicated to their god Gerovit, who in Latin is called Mars, and the people were confident of success in every battle in which it went before them.  The priest, who was a man of keen intelligence, as he fled hither and thither in the temple in fear of death, looking for a weapon, or a place in which to hide, seized the shield, and laying the thong on his neck and with his left hand passed through the straps, rushed from the door into the midst of the raging crowd.”  


And what really happened – even with his golden shield in tow, brother DIetricus hardly looked like Gerovit

“When the peasants beheld his strange armour some turned to flee, while others fell on the ground, as though they had been dead.  He threw away the shield and began to run towards the guest house to join his companions, and  ‘fear gave wings to his feet.’  When, gasping and pallid, he reached his own people the whole night was spent in the presence of all, and specially of the bishop and the Duke, in the pleasant task of telling of his fright and that of those who had been sent, and had been hidden for three days. Nevertheless the good father admonished his sons and disciples to act with caution in view of the stratagems of the secret Enemy.  He continued in this place disputing and persuading concerning the kingdom of God, until all the people had received the sacraments of the faith and had destroyed their temples and prepared the sanctuary of a church with an altar. When the bishop had consecrated this sanctuary he ordained John as their priest and exhorted them to go on with the building of the remainder of the church after he should have left them.”

[The next part of this series – Part III – will conclude passages from the Life of Otto (but not our list of sources on Pomeranian Gods!)


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

July 26, 2015

On Thietmar & Hennil

Published Post author

No one is quite sure whether the following fragment of Thietmar’s Chronicle has anything to do with Slavs or whether the locals in question were Franks or Saxons.  Nevertheless, as the anecdotes relayed by Thietmar immediately before and after (and which we might discuss at some future time) appear to relate to Slavic territories (towns mentioned in those being Silivellun and Rödlitz)  we quote this passage here just in case the Slavs are mentioned here as well:

“…One should scarcely be surprised to find that such portents occur in our regions. For the inhabitants rarely come to church and show little concern at the visits of their pastors. They worship their household gods and sacrifice to them, hoping thereby to obtain their aid. I’ve heard too of a certain staff to whose tip was attached an arm holding an iron ring.  This staff was carried about all the houses by a certain shepherd from the village and spoke to the staff thusly/saluted the staff whenever crossing a house’s threshold: ‘Be vigilant Hennil, be vigilant’.  For that was the name of this staff in the rustic tongue.  And the people celebrated thereafter to their delight, being of the mind in their foolishness that they are safe under the care of this staff.  They did not know the words of David: ‘Pagan idols are the work of human hands, etc.  Similar to them [i.e., the idols] are those who make them and all those who trust in them.'”


…Non est admirandum, quod in his partibus tale ostentatur prodigium. Nam habitatores illi raro ad ecclesiam venientes de suorum visitatione custodum nil curant. Domesticos colunt Deos, multumque sibi prodesse eosdem sperantes, his immolant. Audivi de quodam baculo, in cuius summitate manus erat, unum in se ferreum tenens circulum, quod cum pastore illius villae, in quo is fuerat, per omnes domos has singulariter ductus, in primo introitu a portitore suo sic salutaretur: ‘Vigila, Hennil, vigila!’ – sic enim rustica vocabatur lingua; et epulantes ibi delicate de eiusdem se tueri custodia stulti autumabant, ignorantes illud Daviticum: ‘Simulacra gentium opera hominum et caetera.  Similes illisjiunt facientes ea et confidentes hiis.’

Who was Hennil?  No one really knows as this reference is the single reference to such a guardian as far as we know.  Was he a deified Hunuil – a son of Ostrogotha (Getica, chapter 14)?  Maybe, which would, absent more, put him outside of the Slavic “pantheon”.  In the form that we hear of him in Thietmar, likely, he was a God that, perhaps, had something to do with shepherds.  In the book Die Wissenschaft des slavischen Mythus, JJ Hanusch thought as much liking Hunnil to the Honidlo or Honilo or Gonidlo of the Czechs and Serbs or the Goniglis of the Lithuanians.  On the feast day of this God, the shepherds would supposedly go visit all the houses in the village and so entrust the households to the protection of Hunil with the magic of the staff.  In return the shepherds would receive various presents from the inhabitants – a kind of “bless & treat” visit.  Thereafter, they would throw parties and dances to honor this God during which the various flocks would graze on their own without their shepherds (it’s unclear at what point after the party the shepherds would be ready to get back to work – give or take a couple of days).  This as per Hannusch but see also A Kuhn’s Maerkische Sagen und Maerchen.


Jacob Grimm believed that the name of the God could be derived from the Polish “hejnał” meaning the morning dawn [red] sky and later supposedly a song to the rising Sun.  However, the word hejnał seems to come from hajnala Hungarian word for dawn…  So were there Hungarians living in Germany at the time?  Perhaps not.  What is interesting, however, is that Hungarian is an Ugro-Finnic tongue and there clearly was an an Ugro-finnic influence in Central Europe that hints at an earlier occupation of the territory by those people.  Amongst examples suggesting this we may mention:

  • the Scridifinni – a people that seems to appear among many ancient and medieval authors (e.g., Jordanes, Procopius, Paul the Deacon or the Ravenna Cosmography);
  • various, arguably, Finnic names such as the Roxoalani (or Roxo-alainen); or

Fearsome Veps people – almost as fearsome as the Sorbs

There will be much more to say about this in the future.

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

July 22, 2015

On Vaces & Hildigis

Published Post author

Enough of Wando.  Let’s move (back) on to Waccho.

An interesting story of Lombard family dynamics was put to paper by Paul the Deacon.  We’ve mentioned the same previously but feel there may be a need to relate it here while examining it from a slightly different angle. (We do not reintroduce the same pictures here since you can see them following the above link.

Paul the Deacon, History of the Lombards Book 1, 21

(written circa 787-796)

“But after these things Tato indeed did not long rejoice in the triumph of war, for Waccho, the son of his brother Zuchilo, attacked him and deprived him of his life. Tato’s son Hildechis also fought against Waccho, but when Waccho prevailed and he was overcome, he fled to the Gepidae and remained there an exile up to the end of his life. For this reason the Gepidae from that time incurred enmities with the Langobards. At the same time Waccho fell upon the Suavi and subjected them to his authority.  If any one may think that this is a lie and not the truth of the matter, let him read over the prologue of the edict which King Rothari composed of the laws of the Langobards and he will find this written in almost all the manuscripts as we have inserted it in this little history.”

Of course, life for the Lombard princelings was naturally as rough as the life of any would be leader of a warrior band.  And certainly we are not in a position to judge who was right and who was wrong – as much as we feel for the here of these events – Hildechis/Hildegis.

What is more relevant – at least to us – is that right after Hildegis’ flight to the Gepides and the description of the mutual “enmity” that arose between those two peoples, there comes in Paul’s story the bizarre claim of a Waccho’s attack on the Suavi.  That claim seems strange since the Suavi if these were the Suavi of the Danube do not seem to have anything to do with this story.  Why attack the Suavi?  What have they got to do with Waccho and Hildegis?  Was it just a form of recreation that Waccho indulged in when unable to get at Hildegis?

As we already note previously, Foulke, the translator, was confused by this as well noting that:

[i]t is hard to see what people are designated by this name. The Suavi who dwelt in the southwestern part of Germany, now Suabia, are too far off. Hodgkin (p. 119) suggests a confusion between Suavia and Savia, the region of the Save. Schmidt (55) says, ‘There is ground to believe that this people is identical with the Suevi of Vannius who possessed the mountain land between the March and the Theiss.‘”

In fact, the claim appears to be strange to Paul too as he tries to justify it by referencing the earlier Origo Gentium Langobardorum as the source of this information, daring any unbelievers to go and look for themselves.

We did just that and here is what came of that investigation.

Origo Gentium Langobardorum, Chapter 4

(written circa 650)

“Claffo, the son of Godehoc, reigned after him. And after him reigned Tato the son of Claffo. The Langobards settled three years in the fields of Feld. Tato fought with Rodolf king of the Heruli and killed him and carried off his banner and helmet. After him the Heruli had no kingly office. And Wacho the son of Unichis killed king Tato his paternal uncle together with Zuchilo. And Wacho fought, and Ildichis the son of Tato fought, and Ildichis fled to the Gippidi where he died. And to avenge his wrong the Gypidis made war with the Langobards. At this time Wacho bent the Suabians under the dominions of the Langobards.

(Post eum regnavit claffo, filius godehoc. Et post ipsum regnavit tato, filius claffoni. Sederunt langobardi in campis feld annos tres. Pugnavit tato cum rodolfo rege herulorum, et occidit eum, tulit vando ipsius et capsidem. Post eum heruli regnum non habuerunt. Et occidit wacho, filius unichis, tatonem regem barbanem suum cum zuchilone. Et pugnavit wacho, et pugnavit ildichis, filius tatoni, et fugit ildichis ad gippidos, ubi mortuus est. Iniuria vindicanda gippidi scandalum commiserunt cum langobardis. Eo tempore inclinavit wacho suavos sub regno langobardorum).

Well, looking at this, the event seems to be confirmed (and Zuchilo becomes involved in the bloodletting whether as victim or perpetrator – perhaps the latter, see below) in a source that predates Paul by over 100 years but the source itself answers none of our questions.  Is that it then?  Another curious story about some past history that is entirely open to interpretation?

Perhaps but then there is… another source for these events as most people know.  An older source in the writings of Procopius of Caesarea.  It makes, we think, sense to examine this yet earlier source.  We cite the entire relevant passage below.  You will note that some of the family relationships are different than shown above but overall Procopius’ writing seems more matter-of-fact and, therefore, more believable.

Procopius, History of Wars Book 7, 35

(written circa 550-560)

“Such was the situation in Byzantium. Meanwhile one of the Lombards had fled to the Gepaedes for the following reason.  When Vaces was ruler of the Lombards, he had a nephew named Risiulfus, who, according to the law, would be called to the royal power whenever Vaces should die. So Vaces, seeking to make provision that the kingdom should be conferred upon his own son, brought an unjustified accusation against Risiulfus and penalized the man with banishment.  He then departed from his home with a few friends and fled immediately to the Varni, leaving behind him two children. But Vaces bribed these barbarians to kill Risiulfus.  As for the children of Risiulfus, one of them died of disease, while the other, Ildiges by name, fled to the Sclaveni.”

procopius1“Now not long after this Vaces fell sick and passed from the world, and the rule of the Lombards fell to Valdarus, the son of Vaces. But since he was very young, Audouin was appointed regent over him and administered the government.  And since he possessed great power as a result of this, he himself seized the rule after no long time, the child having immediately passed from the world by a natural death.  Now when the war arose between the Gepaedes and the Lombards, as already told, Ildiges went straight to the Gepaedes taking with him not only those of the Lombards who had followed himbut also many of the Sclaveni, and the Gepaedes were in hopes of restoring him to the kingdom. But on account of the treaty which had now been made with the Lombards, Audouin straightway requested the Gepaedes, as friends, to surrender Ildiges; they, however, refused absolutely to give up the man, but they did order him to depart from their country and save himself wherever he wished.”


He, then, without delay, took with him his followers and some volunteers of the Gepaedes and came back to the Sclaveni.  And departing from there, he went to join Totila and the Goths, having with him an army of not less than six thousand men.  Upon his arrival in Venetia, he encountered some Romans commanded by Lazarus, and engaging with them he routed the force and killed many. He did not, however, unite with the Goths, but recrossed the Ister River and withdrew once more to the Sclaveni.”


A few obvious questions present themselves:

  • Could the Suavi have been the same as Sclaveni?;
  • If not, why were the Suavi attacked at this point (In Paul’s telling)?; something to take the Lombards’ minds off of their dynastic difficulties?;
  • And, if not, why were the Sclaveni not attacked by the Lombards (in Procopius’ telling)?  After all Gepides were at least confronted by the new King Audoin about Hildigis; but maybe the Slavs were simply too far to bother?; but then Hildigis goes to the Sclaveni three times, travels to Venetia with a Sclaveni/Gepid army and crosses the Danube in the process seemingly each time?;  are the Lombards asleep at the wheel here?;
  • If, however, the Suavi does mean Sclaveni, was it an error on the part of the composer of the Origo that was later copied by Paul without understanding it?;  Or was it something more?
  • and, we almost forgot, who is Vinsila?; “who?”, you ask, well they do not appear in most of the codices but he does come up in one of the codexes, the Codicis Gothani; was he just another name for Zuchillo?


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


July 21, 2015

On Wando & Wisla

Published Post author

It is a fact that no one had recorded the name Wanda before Master Vincentius Kadlubek.  (On the story see here).  The assertion, therefore, has been made that Kadlubek just made it up.

He also stated that “name, they say, is the name of the River Wandal[us] [meaning Wisla/Vistula] derived, for that [river] was the center of her kingdom; so too all those who were under her rule became known as Vandals.”  In the version coming from the Greater Poland Chronicles, Wanda receives the homage from the Alemanni and a loyalty oath and, to thank the Gods, after returning home, she offers herself in sacrifice by jumping into the Wisla/Vistula.  And “[f]or this reason, the river Wisla from Queen Wanda has received the name Wandal.  And from that the Poles and other Slavic peoples who border their country stopped being called Lechites and began to be called Vandals.”


It has been noted that already Isidore from Seville derived the Vandals from the river Vindelicus (not Vandalicus) while also bringing up the Alemanni: “…They say that the Lanus is a river beyond the Danube, after which the Alani were named, just as the people living by the river Lemannus [or Lake Leman] are called Alemanni. About these Lucan says … The River Vindilicus springs from the far frontier of Gaul and people maintain that the Vandals lived by it and got their name from it.”  See here.

What is interesting, however, is that the name Wando had been in use before and was even borne by a Catholic Saint – Saint Wando of Fontenelle.  We can read about him the Gesta Abbatum Fonanellensium – the Deeds of the Abbots of Fontenelle (the later Abbey of Saint-Wandrille or Abbaye de Saint-Wandrille de Fontenelle) an early to mid-9th century work the earliest surviving manuscript comes from the 11th century.  This Benedictine abbey of Fontenelle (or Saint Wandrille) (of which Wando had been an abbott) is located in Normandy.  Saint Wando died about the year 756.

All in all nothing special here.  Except, right after the chapter discussing Wando (among others), we have a chapter discussing Milo.  And in that Chapter we have a mention of an abbess (i.e., a female abbot of a nun abbey or, if you will, a “mother superior”).  She was the abbess of the nearby abbey at Caudebequet.  And her name was… Wisla.  Here is the text:


So the question is, is this the source of the idea for Kadlubek?  Or is it just coincidence?

And, in any event, why are abbesses in the 7th century north of France called Wisla?  There is a Slavic name Wislawa.  Of course, Wisla has been recorded “before the Slavs”… Mysteries continue.

The text also contains further references regarding our prior topic, the Viltaburg and the Veleti.

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

July 19, 2015

On the Illyrian Veneti of Herodotus’ Book V

Published Post author

Herodotus (Ἡρόδοτος Hēródotos) was a Greek historian born in Halicarnasus, Caria (today: Bodrum, Turkey) circa 484 – who lived till circa 425 BC.

His “Histories” contain a description of the Scythians, the Sauromatae, Budini, Thyssagetae, Issedones and others, some of whom, it’s been suggested, may have had something to do with the Slavs.  But the Histories also contain an interesting reference to the Veneti (or Eneti) – the Adriatic Veneti, that is, but perhaps also the Illyrian Veneti, i.e., Veneti who were on the Adriatic Sea but not near Venice or Tergeste but rather south?  This is, of course, unclear.  About the Adriatic Veneti we wrote already here.

It’s only one reference so we also give you some more text around it to provide context.


The History of Herodotus
By Herodotus 
Written 440 B.C.
translated by George Rawlinson

Book 5 (Terpsichore)

“The Thracians are the most powerful people in the world, except, of course, the Indians; and if they had one head, or were agreed among themselves, it is my belief that their match could not be found anywhere [much the same said of Slavs later], and that they would very far surpass all other nations.  But such union is impossible for them, and there are no means of ever bringing it about. Herein therefore consists their weakness. The Thracians bear many names in the different regions of their country, but all of them have like usages in every respect, excepting only the Getae, the Trausi, and those who dwell above the people of Creston.”

“Now the manners and customs of the Getae, who believe in their immortality, I have already spoken of. The Trausi in all else resemble the other Thracians, but have customs at births and deaths which I will now describe. When a child is born all its kindred sit round about it in a circle and weep for the woes it will have to undergo now that it is come into the world, making mention of every ill that falls to the lot of humankind; when, on the other hand, a man has died, they bury him with laughter and rejoicings, and say that now he is free from a host of sufferings, and enjoys the completest happiness.”

“The Thracians who live above the Crestonaeans observe the following customs. Each man among them has several wives; and no sooner does a man die than a sharp contest ensues among the wives upon the question which of them all the husband loved most tenderly; the friends of each eagerly plead on her behalf, and she to whom the honour is adjudged, after receiving the praises both of men and women, is slain over the grave by the hand of her next of kin, and then buried with her husband. [this too compare with the reports of the Slavs] The others are sorely grieved, for nothing is considered such a disgrace.”

“The Thracians who do not belong to these tribes have the customs which follow. They sell their children to traders. On their maidens they keep no watch, but leave them altogether free, while on the conduct of their wives they keep a most strict watch. Brides are purchased of their parents for large sums of money. Tattooing among them marks noble birth, and the want of it low birth. To be idle is accounted the most honourable thing, and to be a tiller of the ground the most dishonourable. To live by war and plunder is of all things the most glorious. These are the most remarkable of their customs.”

“The gods which they worship are but three, Mars, Bacchus, and Dian.  Their kings, however, unlike the rest of the citizens, worship Mercury more than any other god, always swearing by his name, and declaring that they are themselves sprung from him.”

“Their wealthy ones are buried in the following fashion. The body is laid out for three days; and during this time they kill victims of all kinds, and feast upon them, after first bewailing the departed. Then they either burn the body or else bury it in the ground. Lastly, they raise a mound over the grave, and hold games of all sorts, wherein the single combat is awarded the highest prize. Such is the mode of burial among the Thracians.”

“As regards the region lying north of this country no one can say with any certainty what men inhabit it. It appears that you no sooner cross the Ister than you enter on an interminable wilderness. The only people of whom I can hear as dwelling beyond the Ister are the race named Sigynnae, who wear, they say, a dress like the Medes, and have horses which are covered entirely with a coat of shaggy hair, five fingers in length.  They are a small breed, flat-nosed, and not strong enough to bear men on their backs; but when yoked to chariots, they are among the swiftest known, which is the reason why the people of that country use chariots. Their borders reach down almost to the Eneti upon the Adriatic Sea, and they call themselves colonists of the Medes; but how they can be colonists of the Medes I for my part cannot imagine. Still nothing is impossible in the long lapse of ages. Sigynnae is the name which the Ligurians who dwell above Massilia give to traders, while among the Cyprians the word means spears.”

“According to the account which the Thracians give, the country beyond the Ister is possessed by bees, on account of which it is impossible to penetrate farther. But in this they seem to me to say what has no likelihood; for it is certain that those creatures are very impatient of cold. I rather believe that it is on account of the cold that the regions which lie under the Bear are without inhabitants. Such then are the accounts given of this country, the sea-coast whereof Megabazus was now employed in subjecting to the Persians.”

Here is the same passage V, 9 from Godley’s translation:

“As for the region which lies north of this country, none can tell with certainty what men dwell there, but what lies beyond the Ister is a desolate and infinitely large tract of land. I can learn of no men dwelling beyond the Ister save certain that are called Sigynnae and wear Median dress.  Their horses are said to be covered all over with shaggy hair1 five fingers’ breadth long, and to be small, blunt-nosed, and unable to bear men on their backs, but very swift when yoked to chariots. It is for this reason that driving chariots is the usage of the country. These men’s borders, it is said, reach almost as far as the Eneti on the Adriatic Sea.  They call themselves colonists from Media. How this has come about I myself cannot understand, but all is possible in the long passage of time. However that may be, we know that the Ligyes who dwell inland of Massalia use the word “sigynnae” for hucksters, and the Cyprians use it for spears.”

Copyright ©2014 All Rights Reserved

July 16, 2015

On Manchurian (?) Candidates

Published Post author

Poland recently elected a new President and much of Europe and the world winced as the candidate had previously been described by the concerned media establishment as “nationalist” or “conservative”.  Worse yet is the fact that he comes from a political party noted for its real or perceived Euroscepticism and a lukewarm approach to Germany as the main driver of European integration.


Mutti and her Mann?

Given the whole Greece thing and Britain always teetering on the edge of more teetering, a Polish President imbued with an unease towards the most European of all European states is of, course, not something that Europe needs at the moment.

So have the Poles really pulled a fast one and put in a place someone that will represent the nation’s “national” interests?   Are German Eurocrats really worried?

We have come across a hidden German archive that seems to indicate the calm, stable hand of the Bundeskanzlerin has absolutely no reason to flinch or tremble.  It’s all proceeding according to plan:


So is that it? (after all there was a Count Dudo – see under year 880 in the Annals of Fulda).

Have we given more fuel to conspiracy theories?

Well, then we came across another page from the same:


What is that “nicht befriedigend gedeutet”?  Was soll das sein?

And who were these Ostgoten after all?

The Spannung only rises.

Copyright ©2015 All Rights Reserved

July 15, 2015

On the Julian Origin of Wolin

Published Post author

In our blog on Pomeranian Gods we cited the following text relating to the city of Wolin which comes, of course, from the Life of Otto the Bishop of Pomerania:

“Meanwhile Bernhard, the servant of God, inflamed with the desire of martyrdom, seized an axe and attempted to cut down an immense column which was dedicated to Julius Caesar, from whom the city of Julin took its name.”


Wolin or Julin

We will return to Otto and his second tour of Pomerania later but, for now, as a preview we note that this motif continues in the second tour (Book III actually) as well, where the following description is included:

Julin, which had been founded by Julius Caesar and called after him, and in which his spear was kept, fixed on a column of great size in order to preserve his memory, was accustomed to hold a festival in honour of a certain idol at the beginning of the year, which was accompanied by dancing.”


The shockingly pagan sight that revealed itself to Christians entering Julin

[The Pruefling monk’s version of the Life of Otto also states that Otto offered fifty talents of silver for this lance in order to prevent the inhabitants from continuing to worship it]

The Greater Poland Chronicles (GPCs) mention a background tale when discussing the legendary Lestko III (he came, as per the GPCs, after Lech, Krak and, of course, Lestko I and Lestko II):

“During the times of this Lestko [III], Julius Caesar when trying to bring the lands of the Slavs [Suavs?] under the Roman yoke, also invaded the lands of the Lechites.  The aforementioned Lestko, three times resisted him [Caesar] together with the bravest of the Lechites and in the three battles with the same wrought great slaughter among the armies of Julius Caesar.  He also defatted in battle the tyrant Crassus who led the Parthians and commanded that molten gold be poured into his mouth saying “You were thirsty for gold, and gold you shall drink.”  Julius Caesar while staying the area of Slavonia [Suavia?] connected this Lestko by marriage with his own sister Julia, giving him in dowry Bavaria.  This Julia, commanded by her husband had two mighty burgs [grads/grods/gorody] built – and one of them was named after her brother – that is Julius – now it is called Lubusz while the second she named Julin – which now is called Wolin.”

This story draws on many earlier references (e.g., Appian’s Illyrica where the Parthians are to have defeated Ceasar three times and also from Cicero’s Epistolae familiars) and contains (very skimpy) pieces of truth (e.g., Crassus had been Ceasar’s ally but was killed by the Persians – in some stories – using molten gold – rather than being a Parthian general).

A similar tale regarding Ceasar was told by Master Vincent Kadlubek (though here Lublin stands in the place of Wolin) who wrote that Lestek III/Leszek III was the ruler of the Getae (or Goths?) and the Parthians and then defeated Crassus and Julius Ceasar in three battles and that:

“Finally, Julius, desiring an alliance of blood [with Lech III], married his own sister Julia off to him.  She received as dowry from her brother [i.e.,. Ceasar] Bavaria and, as a wedding gift from her husband the province of Serbia [presumably of the Sorbs].  She founded two cities, one she commanded to be called – from her brother’s name – Julius, (now Lubusz) and one from her own name – Julia, now it is called Lublin.”

What to Make of This

We will return to Wolin/Julin and to to Otto later.  But, in the meantime what do we make of the above?

It is important to note that tales of towns being founded by Julius Caesar were quite common in Germany and in Britain.  It was a way for the locals to get themselves a connection to the ancient past for who, after all, would not feel ennobled by the notion of living in a city founded by Caesar himself!?  No doubt Kadlubek who travelled throughout Europe was aware of these stories.  Perhaps the writers of the GPCs were too or they simply copied Kadlubek’s ideas (the two texts, as can readily be seen above, are quite similar).

Be that as it may, the question remains how one ought to explain the report of the strange cult in the town of Julin?  Was the town actually known as Julin and the writers of the Life of Otto simply assumed that the town and hence too the “immense” column with the spear on the top (as per Book III) had to be connected to Caesar somehow?  Columns themselves were quite familiar a site in Magna Germania – e.g., the famous Irminsaeule of the Saxons that the Franks eventually brought down.  And, of course, there are reports of columns and statues from the Polabian Slavs themselves.  Certainly Caesar never journeyed far into Germania.

Blast From the Past

Or rather Julius Caesar did not.

But there was a caesar who travelled quite far into the lands of the barbarians.  We would not have known about this sojourn but for a single manuscript that was discovered in the early 16th century at the Murbach Abbey in Alsace.  The manuscript was in poor shape and, worse yet, it is now considered lost.

Thankfully, it was lost only after it was printed in 1520.  We refer, of course, to the work of Marcus Velleius Paterculus (circa 19 BC – circa AD 31).  Paterculus wrote his Historiae to cover most of then known history but completed it with the death of Octavian Augustus.  His History thus covers some of the most far out expeditions of the Romans against the Germani.

In particular, Velleius describes an expedition undertaken by Tiberius – the soon to be caesar – an expedition that reached far into Germany, past the river Lippe and, apparently, got as far as the Elbe/Laba.


This is the same Tiberius who earlier (15 BC-13 BC), as we know, together with his younger brother Drusus (who later fell of his horse west of the fraenkische Saale and was the father of Germanicus and the grandfather of Caligula), led the war against the Vindelici on Lake Constance, i.e., Lake Veneticus)].  After that campaign, Tiberius was sent to Pannonia (12 BC – 9 BC) and then was in Germany where, about 9 BC, he ordered over 40,000 Suevi and Sugambri moved to the left bank of the Rhein.  About 6 BC Tiberius retired to Rhodes apparently as a result of a falling out with Augustus and of marital difficulties.  Tiberius lived there for about 10 years only to return to duty in 4 AD.

It was then that Tiberius led a Roman army into Germany.  It was also then that his four Roman legions actually spent the winter in enemy territory (at Lippe).  They then pushed forwards towards the Elbe and defeated the Langobards and others with the help of a Roman fleet that apparently sailed up the Elbe to a rendezvous point with Tiberius.  He pushed up the river to receive the ambassadors of the Hermunduri and of the Semnones.  It seemed that all of Germania had finally been conquered by Rome. He was about to finish off the last remaining local power, i.e.,  that of Marobodus when a rebellion broke out in Pannonia which took Tiberius away from Germania between 6 AD – 9 AD.  During that time it took fifteen legions to crush the “Pannonians” (whoever they were).  As soon as that was done, news came of the defeat of Varus by a new German contingent under Arminius and Tiberius was needed in the West once more.


Roman winter camp somewhere deep in Germania

When the Gods finally called him to the highest office in the land, Tiberius was already 56 years old.  He became emperor upon Augustus’ death in AD 14.  However, then managed to reign for another 23 years before being succeeded by Caligula, Claudius and then Nero.  Tiberius even outlived the much younger Velleius.  [It was during Caesar Tiberius’ reign that a certain preacher from Bethlehem was (amongst others) crucified in Roman Palestine].

So to get back to Velleius Paterculus.

Importantly, unlike many of the other annalists and historiographers, Velleius actually served in the Roman army.  He was in Greece and Thrace and Asia.  He then served with Tiberius himself in Germany and in Pannonia between AD 4 and AD 12.  Thus, some of his reports including the one in question are eyewitness accounts.

So without further ado, here is Velleius Paterculus:

Velleius Paterculus’ History

104 On the same day Marcus Agrippa, to whom Julia had given birth after the death of Agrippa, was also adopted by Augustus; but, in the case of Nero, an addition was made to the formula of adoption in Caesar’s own words: ‘This I do for reasons of state.’  His country did not long detain at Rome the champion and the guardian of her empire, but forthwith dispatched him to Germany, where, three years before, an extensive war had broken out in the governorship of that illustrious man, Marcus Vinicius, your grandfather. Vinicius had carried on this war with success in some quarters, and in others had made a successful defence, and on this account there had been decreed to him the ornaments of a triumph with an honorary inscription recording his deeds.”

It was at this time that I became a soldier in the camp of Tiberius Caesar, after having previously filled the duties of the tribunate. For, immediately after the adoption of Tiberius, I was sent with him to Germany as prefect of the cavalry. Succeeding my father in that position, and for nine continuous years as prefect of cavalry or as commander of a legion I was a spectator of his superhuman achievements, and further assisted in them to the extent of my modest ability. I do not think that mortal man will be permitted to behold again a sight like that which I enjoyed, when, throughout the most populous parts of Italy and the full extent of the provinces of Gaul, the people as they beheld once more their old commander, who by virtue of his services had long been a Caesar before he was such in name, congratulated themselves in even heartier terms than they congratulated him.  Indeed, words cannot express the feelings of the soldiers at their meeting, and perhaps my account will scarcely be believed — the tears which sprang to their eyes in their joy at the sight of him, their eagerness, their strange transports in saluting him, their longing to touch his hand, and their inability to restrain such cries as “Is it really you that we see, commander?” “Have we received you safely back among us?” “I served with you, general, in Armenia!” “And I in Raetia!” “I received my decoration from you in Vindelicia!” “And I mine in Pannonia!” “And I in Germany!””

105  He at once entered Germany.  The Canninefates, the Attuarii, and Bructeri were subdued, the Cherusci (Arminius, a member of this race, was soon to become famous for the disaster inflicted upon us) were again subjugated, the Weser crossed, and the regions beyond it penetrated. Caesar claimed for himself every part of the war that was difficult or dangerous, placing Sentius Saturninus, who had already served as legate under his father in Germany, in charge of expeditions of a less dangerous character: a man many-sided in his virtues, a man of energy and action, and of foresight, alike able to endure the duties of a soldier as he was well trained in them, but who, likewise, when his labours left room for leisure, made a liberal and elegant use of it, but with this reservation, that one would call him sumptuous and jovial rather than extravagant or indolent. About the distinguished ability of this illustrious man and his famous consulship I have already spoken.  The prolonging of the campaign of that year into the month of December increased the benefits derived from the great victory. Caesar was drawn to the city by his filial affection, though the Alps were almost blocked by winter’s snows; but the defence of the empire brought him at the beginning of spring back to Germany, where he had on his departure pitched his winter camp at the source of the river Lippe, in the very heart of the country, the first Roman to winter there.”


There was no stopping them this time

106  Ye Heavens, how large a volume could be filled with the tale of our achievements in the following summer under the generalship of Tiberius Caesar! All Germany was traversed by our armies, races were conquered hitherto almost unknown, even by name; and the tribes of the Cauchi were again subjugated. All the flower of their youth, infinite in number though they were, huge of stature and protected by the ground they held, surrendered their arms, and, flanked by a gleaming line of our soldiers, fell with their generals upon their knees before the tribunal of the commander.  The power of the Langobardi was broken, a race surpassing even the Germans in savagery; and finally — and this is something which had never before been entertained even as a hope, much less actually attempted — a Roman army with its standards was led four hundred miles beyond the Rhine as far as the river Elbe, which flows past the territories of the Semnones and the Hermunduri.  And with this wonderful combination of careful planning and good fortune on the part of the general, and a close watch upon the seasons, the fleet which had skirted the windings of the sea coast sailed up the Elbe from a sea hitherto unheard of and unknown, and after proving victorious over many tribes effected a junction with Caesar and the army, bringing with it a great abundance of supplies of all kinds.”

107  Even in the midst of these great events I cannot refrain from inserting this little incident. We were encamped on the nearer bank of the aforesaid river, while on the farther bank glittered the arms of the enemies’ troops, who showed an inclination to flee at every movement and manoeuvre of our vessels, when one of the barbarians, advanced in years, tall of stature, of high rank, to judge by his dress, embarked in a canoe, made as is usual with them of a hollowed log, and guiding this strange craft he advanced alone to the middle of the stream and asked permission to land without harm to himself on the bank occupied by our troops, and to see Caesar. Permission was granted. Then he beached his canoe, and, after gazing upon Caesar for a long time in silence, exclaimed: “Our young men are insane, for though they worship you as divine when absent, when you are present they fear your armies instead of trusting to your protection. But I, by your kind permission, Caesar, have to‑day seen the gods of whom I merely used to hear; and in my life have never hoped for or experienced a happier day.” After asking for and receiving permission to touch Caesar’s hand, he again entered his canoe, and continued to gaze back upon him until he landed upon his own bank.  Victorious over all the nations and countries which he approached, his army safe and unimpaired, having been attacked but once, and that too through deceit on the part of the enemy with great loss on their side, Caesar led his legions back to winter quarters, and sought the city with this haste as in the previous year.”

108  Nothing remained to be conquered in Germany except the people of the Marcomanni…”


Bad Boys

Two Questions Remain 

First, the obvious.  If this really happened, could a story and a cult have survived until the 12th century?

Second, note the curious statement above that the Roman fleet joined with the army of Tiberius having sailed the Elbe “from a sea hitherto unheard of and unknown.”  If this was the North Sea then it certainly would have been a sea known to the Romans already.  And if it was some other sea, one that was till then truly unknown… well, then the river that was sailed up would not have been the Elbe (which empties into the North Sea).

Just sayin’.

For more on the Oder (but) as the Vistula – see here.

And here is the same text (courtesy of Duesseldorf’s Universitaets und Landesbibliothek) from the first printed edition (1520 – almost half a millennium ago!) of Marcus Velleius Paterculus.  Note that, as per the translators, the River Lippe is referred to here as Iuliae… So is it really the Lippe or is it some other river?  River Oder anyone?



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

July 13, 2015

Batavian Veleti Part I

Published Post author

We have touched upon Bede when discussing Easter and Jastarnia.  We now return to him to explore something else.  Something so silly that it could not possibly be true.


Here’s Bede’s “Ecclesiastical History of the English People” Book 5, Chapter 11 which tells the story of “How the Venerable Swidbert in Britain, and Wilbrod at Rome, were ordained Bishops for Frisland.”  This was in A.D. 692-695:

Venerable Bede on Venerable Swidbert and Wilbrod 

English Version

“At their first Coming into Frisland, as soon as Wilbrord found he had leave given him by the prince to preach, he made haste to Rome, where Pope Sergius then presided over the apostolical see, that he might undertake the desired work of preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles, with his licence and blessing; and hoping to receive of him some relics of the blessed apostles and martyrs of. Christ; to the end, that when he destroyed the idols, and erected churches in the nation to which he preached, he might have the relics of saints at hand to put into them, and having deposited them there, might accordingly dedicate those places to the honor of each of the saints whose relics they were. He was also desirous there to learn or to receive from thence many other things which so great a work required. Having obtained all that he wanted, he returned to preach.”

“At which time, the brothers who were in Frisland, attending the ministry of the word, chose out of their own number a man, modest of behavior, and meek of heart, called Swidbert, to be ordained bishop for them. He, being sent into Britain, was consecrated by the most reverend Bishop Wilfrid, who, happening to be then driven out of his country, lived in banishment among the Mercians; for Kent had no bishop at that time, Theodore being dead, and Berthwald, his successor, who was gone beyond the sea, to be ordained, not having returned.”

“The said Swidbert, being made bishop, returned from Britain not long after, and went among the Boructuarians; and by his preaching brought many of them into the way of truth; but the Boructuarians being not long after subdued by the Ancient Saxons, those who had received the word were dispersed abroad; and the bishop himself repaired to Pepin, who, at the request of his wife, Blithryda, gave him a place of residence in a certain island on the Rhine, which, in their tongue, is called Inlitore; where he built a monastery, which his heirs still possess, and for a time led a most continent life, and there ended his days.”

“When they who went over had spent some years teaching in Frisland, Pepin, with the consent of them all, sent the venerable Wilbrord to Rome, where Sergius was still pope, desiring that he might be consecrated archbishop over the nation of the Frisons; which was accordingly done, in the year of our Lord’s incarnation 696. He was consecrated in the church of the Holy Martyr Cecilia, on her feastday; the pope gave him the name of Clement, and sent him back to his bishopric, fourteen days after his arrival at Rome.”

“Pepin gave him a place for his episcopal see, in his famous castle, which in the ancient language of those people is called Wiltaburg, that is, the town of the Wilts; but, in the French tongue, Utrecht. The most reverend prelate having built a church there, and preaching the word of faith far and near, drew many from their errors, and erected several churches and monasteries. For not long after he constituted other bishops in those parts, from among the brethren that either came with him or after him to preach there; some of which are now departed in our Lord; but Wilbrord himself, surnamed Clement, is still living, venerable for old age, having been thirty-six years a bishop, and sighing after the rewards of the heavenly life, after the many spiritual conflicts which he has waged.”

Latin Version

[the pictures are courtesy of MS 34 from the Herzog August Bibliothek in (appropriately named) Wolfenbuettel]

PRIMIS sane temporibus aduentus eorum in Fresiam, mox ut conperiit Uilbrord datam sibi a principe licentiam ibidem praedicandi, accelerauit uenire Romam, cuius sedi apostolicae tunc Sergius papa praeerat, ut cum eius licentia et benedictione desideratum euangelizandi gentibus opus iniret; simul et reliquias beatorum apostolorum ac martyrum Christi ab eo se sperans accipere, ut dum in gente, cui praedicaret, destructis idolis ecclesias institueret, haberet in promtu reliquias sanctorum, quas ibi introduceret; quibusque ibidem depositis, consequenter in eorum honorem, quorum essent illae, singula quaeque loca dedicaret. Sed et alia perplura, quae tanti operis negotium quaerebat, uel ibi discere uel inde accipere cupiebat. In quibus omnibus cum sui uoti compos esset effectus, ad praedicandum rediit.

Quo tempore fratres, qui erant in Fresia uerbi ministerio mancipati, elegerunt ex suo numero uirum modestum moribus, et mansuetum corde, Suidberctum, qui eis ordinaretur antistes, quem Brittaniam destinatum ad petitionem eorum ordinauit reuerentissimus Uilfrid episcopus, qui tum forte patria pulsus in Merciorum regionibus exulabat. Non enim eo tempore habebat episcopum Cantia, defuncto quidem Theodoro, sed necdum Berctualdo successore eius, qui trans mare ordinandus ierat, ad sedem episcopatus sui reuerso.

Qui uidelicet Suidberct accepto episcopatu, de Brittania regressus, non multo post ad gentem Boructuarorum secessit, ac multos eorum praedicando ad uiam ueritatis perduxit. Sed expugnatis non longo post tempore Boructuaris a gente Antiquorum Saxonum, dispersi sunt quolibet hi, qui uerbum receperant; ipse antistes cum quibusdam Pippinum petiit, qui interpellante Bliththrydae coniuge sua, dedit ei locum mansionis in insula quadam Hreni, quae lingua eorum uocatur In litore; in qua ipse, constructo monasterio, quod hactenus heredes possident eius, aliquandiu continentissimam gessit uitam, ibique diem clausit ultimum.


Postquam uero per annos aliquot in Fresia, qui aduenerant, docuerunt, misit Pippin fauente omnium consensu uirum uenerabilem Uilbrordum Romam, cuius adhuc pontificatum Sergius habebat, postulans. ut eidem Fresonum genti archiepiscopus ordinaretur. Quod ita, ut petierat, inpletum est, anno ab incarnatione Domini DCXCVI. Ordinatus est autem in ecclesia sanctae martyris Ceciliae, die natalis eius, inposito sibi a papa memorato nomine Clementis; ac mox remissus ad sedem episcopatus sui, id est post dies XIIII, ex quo in urbem uenerat.


Donauit autem ei Pippin locum cathedrae episcopalis in castello suo inlustri, quod antiquo gentium illarum uerbo Uiltaburg, id est Oppidum Uiltorum, lingua autem Gallica Traiectum uocatur; in quo aedificata ecclesia, reuerentissimus pontifex longe lateque uerbum fidei praedicans, multosque ab errore reuocans, plures per illas regiones ecclesias, sed et monasteria nonnulla construxit. Nam non multo post alios quoque illis in regionibus ipse constituit antistites ex eorum numero fratrum, qui uel secum, uel post se illo ad praedicandum uenerant; ex quibus aliquanti iam dormierunt in Domino. Ipse autem Uilbrord, cognomento Clemens, adhuc superest, longa iam uenerabilis aetate, utpote tricesimum et sextum in episcopatu habens annum, et post multiplices militiae caelestis agones ad praemia remunerationis supernae tota mente suspirans.

Old English Version

Incidentally, the Ecclesiastical History of the English People was such a hit that it was quickly translated into English (or rather Old English) and there are plenty of manuscripts here too – in fact, here is one – Historia ecclesiastica gentis anglorum (MS Kk.3.18) from the Cambridge University Library.  We include only the relevant manuscript text:



followed by a picture of the print of the Old English chapter where that text fits:


Initial Thoughts on the Veleti

There is, of course, more to this.  The Wilzen were, if these are the same, the ancient Veleti the Ur-Slavic tribe.  What we wrote before about them before is that they were:

  • listed as Veltae by Ptolemy in the second century A.D. on the shores of the Baltic:

Back from the Ocean, near the Venedicus bay, the Veltae dwell, above whom are the Ossi;

  • named as the “most prominent” of Slavs (?) by Einhard who says when speaking of Charlemagne’s conquests:

The Slavs, Estonians and other peoples live along the southern shore.  The Welatabi were the most prominent of these peoples and it was against them that the  king now took up war.  

They are of many different kinds [of Slavs].  They were once united under a king named Makha, who was from a group of them called Walitaba.

  • ditto the Arab geographer Masudi:

Among the different peoples who make up this pagan race, there is one that in ancient times held sovereign power.  Their king was called Majik and they themselves were known as Walitaba [Veleti].  In the past, all the Saqaliba recognized their superiority, because it was from among them that they chose the paramount ruler, and all the other chieftains considered themselves his vassals.

  • always stayed pagan – see our series on the Polabian Gods of which these were one part.

Masyus, king of the Semnones, and Ganna, a virgin (she was priestess in Celtica after Veleda), came to Domitian and having been honored by him returned. 

  • named in German Sagas, such as Theodoric’s Saga where there is a story of Ossantrix (on the Ossi see above quote from Ptolemy – see also Germania where they are described as Pannonians) who was King of the Wilzen – the same Ossantrix (perhaps by virtue of the “ash” name is identified by Jan Dlugosz as King Popiel.

Intermediate Thoughts on the Veleti

In fact, the Wilti (Wildi?) whenever they appear confuse people.  Their name sounds much like the Wild Ones or Wildlings raising the question of whether these WIlti were Slavs.

In fact, Ibrahim Bin Yaqub also says: “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.”

On the other hand Einhard is unequivocal about their ethnicity:

After the insurrection [of duke Tasillo of the Bavarians who confronted Charlemagne at the River Lech in 787], [the king] declared war against the Slavs, whom we normally refer to as the Wilzi, but who are properly called Welatabi in their own language.

And the same is confirmed by Carolingian Annals which state under the year 789 that:

From Aachen a campaign was launched with the help of God into the land of the Slavs who were called Wilzi.

In the revised (R version!) of the Annals we also read that the chieftain of the Wilzi was called Dragawit.

(In some ways this is a unfortunate as the thankless task of trying to find “Slavs” among the Arabs where it is never quite certain whether the discussion is about a former “slave” or a Slav by ethnicity).

Final (For Now) Thoughts on the Veleti 

Be that as it may, the Batavian Wilzi do get rolled in with the Slavs by later Dutch Chronicles.  They were so curious that they were discussed by Safarik and debated by German historians of the Netherlands such as Kampe.  Their past was intertwined in some of the ancient tellings with the Romans, the Saxons and with Britain (we do know that there were “Wends” in Britain both from the ancient times but also from the later Viking attacks and, after all, even the Venerable Bede wrote in Jarrow – see the Slavic -ow ending – :-)).  It is also true that these stories mention the Suevi…

All that is to come.  In the meantime we leave you with this:

  • Just south of the Jeseniky Mountains (Asciburgen? Ash Mountains?) in the Czech Republic is the town of Zvole;
  • there are at least two other such names in the Czech Republik;
  • as well as one in Slovakia where there is a town of Zvolen;
  • and there is one in Poland;

ok, boring,

so what?

  • but there is also a Zwolle in the Netherlands…

zvolleOf course, this could and likely is just a coincidence.

But then again,

next to Zwolle,

there is the town of Assendorp.


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

July 11, 2015