Monthly Archives: June 2016


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We’ve previously drawn your attention to the curiously Slavic sounding names in the north east corner of Lake Constance around Lindau and Bregentz:

Kremlen (curiously there was also one on today’s French-Belgian border where the Perunnes appear – we will showcase these later)


But there are others:

Guiken or Gwiken
Svitwitz (Svitwiss?)
Hemikoten (?)
Biesebg (berg? but nevertheless)
Arga – from the river (think Jason or maybe Jasion).

And, of course, Isny which also serves as a name for the Isnyer Ach.  Prior names include:  Ysne, Hisinina, Isine, Isenina.

If any of these were found in Brandenburg, they’d be declared for Slavic.  But they’re not and the dogma is that there were no Slavs around Lake Constance.


If there had been, then the name of the lake – Lacus Veneticus – would beg the question as to whether these Slavs were in fact the Vindelici of history.  One might also ask about why Poles were worshipping a deity named Boda in Poland and whether that Boda had anything to do with the Bodensee.  And if you ask that, then who really was Marbod?

We do not often make predictions but it seems to us there is enough here to conclude that these were a people that we would later call Slavs (most likely due to their merging with the Suevi and, later in Pannonia, possibly with the Jaziges).


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June 25, 2016


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The Pomesanians were a Baltic people who manage to survive long enough to have a written evidence of their language composed (the so-called “Prussian Enchiridion”).  They lived just east of the Vistula:


The name comes from pomedien which in Prussian meant “beyond the trees” (the prefix -po serving the same function as in Slavic languages, i.e., as “after”).  Nevertheless, the name became Pomezania.

Now, here is a map of Tuscany from the 16th century (Ortellius) with a Pomezano in Tuscany.  Some other names there are also interesting.  And we have not gotten to the Appenines yet.


Incidentally, the -mezano may refer to Massa a town downstream the Versilia river.  Of course, this suggests that a construct of po- plus name existed in Italy just as it did in Slavic countries.

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June 25, 2016

The Wends of Knýtlinga Saga

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We previously spent some time on the religious aspects of the Knýtlinga Saga but that work contains plenty more regarding Wends.  Here are the other sections discussing Slavs, Wends or places that clearly are (or possibly could be) Slavic (mostly in the Palsson/Edwards translation).  We also include mentions of the Cours (Kurs) – a Baltic tribe of Kurland (and later of the Kurische Haff).  Notes in red with Danish monarchs names bolded to provide an easier chronology.


(We do not discuss everything that could be related to Slavs though.  Thus, we do not discuss Vidgaut the trader who is described as a Semgallian in the Knýtlinga Saga and whose story of conversion in Denmark seems very similar to that of Witscacus (Herbord) or Wirtscachus (Ebo) of the Life of Otto – who was described there as a “citizen of Szczecin” – though we did not discuss him there given the secular nature of the tale.)

Section 1
Dealings with Germany

“After his father’s death, Harald Gormsson was made king in Denmark.  He was a strong ruler, and a great leader in war, having conquered Holstein in Saxony.  He also possessed an extensive earldom in Wendland, where he founded Jomsburg and stationed a large military force to which he gave both pay and certain rights.  They governed the land under his authority and spent the summer on viking expeditions, but wintered quietly at home.  They were known as the Jomsvikings.”

[note: Harald Gormsson (circa 935 – 985/986) aka Harald Bluetooth, son of Gorm the Old, was a King of Denmark and Norway and likely the first Christian ruler of the country; also, speaking of the Jomsvikings, there is one mention of Palnatoki in the Knýtlinga Saga – not in the context of Slavs – for more see the Jomsvikinga Saga]

Section 5
Fighting and Family Matters

“…King Svein married Gunnhild, daughter of King Burizlav of the Wends, and their sons were Knut and Harald.  Later, King Svein married Sigrid the Ambitious [the Haughty – see Heimskringla – “world circle” (compare krąg or kręgle)], daughter of Skoglar-Tosti and mother of King Olaf of Sweden.  Her previous marriage had been to King Eirik the Victorious of Sweden.  King Svein and Sigrid had a daughter, Astrid, who married Earl Ulf, son of Thorgils Strut-Leg, and their sons were named Svein and Bjorn.  A daughter of King Svein Forkbeard, Gyda, married Earl Hakon Hakonarson, and their son was Earl Hakon whom Olaf the Saint took prisoner in Sauesund…”


Although the armour covers Svein’s forked-beard, you can still admire the rest of his handsome features

[note: This refers to Svein Forkbeard (960–1014) who was the son of Harald Bluetooth; Gunnhild is likely Świętosława, the daughter of Mieszko I (and sister of Boleslaw of Poland); the name is hypothetical – solely based on an inscription of Santslaue being described as the sister of King Knut the Great and the assumption that that sister was named after her mother.  In other words, she may well have been a Wendish princess but her name may have been Gunnhild – note that, after the death of Dobrawa, Mieszko I remarried – taking as wife the German princess Oda so a German name would not have been surprising in his family.]

Section 6
Campaigns Abroad

“King Svein was a great man of war and the strongest of the rulers.  He plundered widely both to the east in the Baltic and south in Saxony.   Eventually he led his troops west into England and plundered far and wide, fighting many battles.  King Aethelred, Edgar’s son ruled there at the time…”

Section 11
Earl Ulf’s Escape

“As usual, Earl Ulf was among the foremost of King Knut’s men and pursued the fleeing enemy [the English] further than anyone else.  Then he found himself in this forest, so dense that though he tried all night, he could discover no way out until daylight came.  Then on some open ground before him he saw a full-grown youngster herding a flock of sheep.  The earl approached him and asked his name.”

“‘I’m called Godwin [son of the “farmer” Wulfnot aka Wulfnoth the thegn of Wessex – and also a traitor],’ he answered.  ‘Are you one of King Knut’s men?'”


Wulfnoth and Godwin

[Godwin then helped Ulf reach his ships]

“… The earl then set Godwin on the high seat beside him, and treated him as equal with himself or his own son  To cut a long story short, the earl gave Godwin his own sister Gyda in marriage, and as a result of his brother-in-law Ulf’s friendship and backing, Godwin was awarded an earldom by King Knut.”

“These were the children of Godwin and Gyda: King Harald of England, Earl Tosti nicknamed Treespear, Earl Morkar, Earl Waltheof, and Earl Svein.  Many great men from England, Denmark, Sweden and east from Russia are descended from them, including the royal house of Denmark.”

“Earl Godwin’s son, King Harald, and a daughter, Gyda, who married King Valdemar of Novgorod, and their son, King Harald, had two daughters of whom more will be said later.”

[note: Earl or Jarl Ulf is Ulf Thorgilsson the father of Svein II. About the family of Godwin, Earl of Wessex see below]

Section 17
Knut Goes to Rome

“… Later when war broke out between King Olaf [Haraldsson of Norway] and King Knut, Knut and Earl Hakon went to Norway with an invincible army.  This took place towards the end of King Olaf’s reign. They conquered the whole kingdom and King Knut appointed his nephew Hakon to rule over Norway, while he himself went back to Denmark.  King Olaf fled abroad, traveling east to Russia but two years later he came back to Norway and fought a great battle at Stiklestad against his landed men, who had proved disloyal to him and had set up in opposition.  As everyone knows, he was killed there, and lies, a saint, in his shrine at Trondheim…”


Knut the Great – great warrior but a bit one dimensional

[note: After a short reign of Harald II (1014-1018), his brother, Knut the Great (circa 995 – 1035) took the Danish (and English and Norwegian) throne.]

Section 22

“Svein Ulfsson was given the title of earl by King Magnus [so this is after 1042], and with it the effective rule over the Danish kingdom, when they met at the Goeta River, when Svein agreed on oath to the peace settlement.  Then King Magnus went back north to Norway and Svein crossed over to Denmark.  That same autumn the Danes made Svein Ulfsson their king, after which he laid the whole country under his rule and became king of it.  King Magnus learned of this and in the following spring sailed for Denmark with a great army.  He fought a battle that summer at Jomsburg in Wendland and won the victory, burning down the stronghold and many other settlements across the land.  In the autumn King Magnus fought another battle on the day before Michaelmas at the Konge River a little to the north of Hedeby on Lyrskov Heath, where he was fighting against the Wends.  King Magnus won the victory there aided by the sanctity and miraculous intervention of his father Olaf, an innumerable host of the heathen.  According to some Svein Ulfsson fought beside King Magnus in that battle as their agreement still held.  This is what Thorleik the Fair said in the poem he wrote about Svein Ulfson:”

“‘The princely gold-dispenser
dispatched the enemy,
in the clash of weapons
few Wends got away:
the carrion-birds croaked
on the necks of the corpses
strewn in their hundreds
on the heath north of Hedeby…

[then that same autumn the saga relays that Svein and Magnus fought one another]

“…In the spring Harald Sigurdson, who was related to Svein by marriage, travelled to Sweden from Russia in the east.  Harald’s wife, Ellisif, was the daughter of King Jaroslav of Novgorod, and her mother Ingigerd was the daughter of Olaf the Swede, Svein Ulffson’s uncle.  Svein and Harald joined forces and gathered an army, then crossed to Denmark where they ravaged the whole land and laid it completely under their rule.”

“When King Magnus heard of this he went to face them with an army from Norway…”


Harefoot & Harthaknut

[note: After the death of Knut the Great, his son, Harald Harefoot (circa 1015 – 1040) took over and after him, his brother Knut III or Harthaknut (circa 1018 – 1042) was King of Denmark.  However, after the untimely death of that King (alcohol poisoning/stroke or just poisoning), it was the son of Olaf II Haraldsson – Knut the Great’s competitor – who became the next king of Denmark – that was Magnús Óláfsson or Magnus the Good (circa 1024 – 1047).]

Section 23
King Svein’s Children

“…Torgisl, son of King Svein, travelled east to Russia where he had distinguished kin on his mother’s side, and was brought up and made king there so that he never came back to Denmark.  King Svein’s son Sigurd was killed in Wendland.”

[note: Sweyn or Svein II Estridsson (circa 1019 – circa 1074/1076), son of Jar Ulf]

Section 26

“…King Svein’s son, Knut [IV, the Saint], had been busy on viking expeditions in the Baltic with a large force of men and a fine fleet of shops, and it was on these expeditions to the Baltic that according to Karl Manason’s poem, Knut defeated ten kings.”

Section 29
Law and Order

“King Knut was a strict and powerful ruler, who punished evildoers with great severity,  During the reign of Harald Whetstone, however, there had been little in the way of punishment for outrages committed wither by the Danes themselves, or by vikings plundering in Denmark, such as Courlanders and others from the Baltic region.  After Knut came to power he defended the land fiercely and drove all the heathen not only from his land but from the very seas: so that because of Knut’s authority and strength of arms, no viking would dare lay off the coast of Denmark…”


Sena Kursa or Kurzeme or Kursa – excuse the crease

[note: after a short reign of his bastard brother Harald II Whetstone (circa 1040 – 1080) the throne came to King Knut IV the Holy (circa 1042 – 1086)]

Section 30
King Knut’s Brothers

“…Thorgisl Sveinsson was adopted as king east in Russia, as was written earlier, and never made claim to the throne of Denmark…”

Section 35

“One summer, Egil got ready to travel abroad with his band of fighting men.  He had eighteen ships and sailed for Wendland where he began looting as soon as he reached land.  The Wends gathered a huge army with which they confronted Egil and fought a great battle with heavy loss of life on both sides.  Brave and resolute, Egil stood forward and fought like a true warrior.”

“The fighting took place aboard the ships, and Egil’s lay closets to the one carrying the leader of the Wends.  When the battle was fiercest and none could really tell which way it would swing, Egil leapt from his ship onto the Wendish vessel, struck at the enemy chieftain dealing him his deathblow, and then vaulted backwards onto his own ship.  The Wends were routed sand Egil won a great victory and a great deal of plunder, but he was so exhausted he was barely conscious.  Then, aboard his ship, he sat up and asked for a drink.”

[note: at which point he drank blood because all the barrels had been broken in the fighting and all the drink they brought with them had been spilled as a result.  This caused him to earn his name but also caused issues with the blasphemy of blood drinking; since he also looted fellow Danes and other Christians, Knut IV eventually had him executed]

Section 42
Preparations For War

[note: this happens while the Danes and Norwegians are assembling for war against England; presumably Knut did not want to be attacked by the Wends while away fighting in England – though his subjects were not so patient]

“…King Knut had not yet arrived but he sent officers to the troops to inspect the levy and tell the men they would not have long to wait for him.”

“Seven night passed without the king’s arrival and the tops were far from happy about his failure to come.  But there was a reason why he failed to turn up at he appointed time: people had come to warn him that the Wends had mobilized their troops and meant to attack Denmark in the summer in revenge for the war Blood-Egil had waged against them The king sat and thought about this and decided to send messengers to the Wends with an offer of peace, and a warning not to attack his kingdom as it would be far beyond their capabilities to make war on him.”

“‘Many would suffer injury and grief for it.’ he said, ‘I want us to arrange a truce between our two countries so that neither will attack the other.'”

“The messengers set out to meet the Wends and the king said he would wait seven days for them as he did not wish to leave the country until he knew for sure that this war had been prevented.  The week passed and the messengers failed to return.  The Danes grew tired of waiting for they were all crowded together and found this hard to bear,  They considered it poor management to keep such a great army in one place for no good purpose, and the chieftains made long speeches about the problem.  In the need they decided to send messengers to the king sand asked his brother Olaf to undertake this mission, but he was reluctant and said tha the king would wish to come and go as it suited him.”

[note: Eventually the Danes, delegate Olaf, the king’s brother to go to King Knut IV.  Olaf goes reluctantly and gets imprisoned by his brother the king.  Eventually the king arrives but the Danes had already disbanded leaving the Norwegians the only ones there)].

Section 43
The Troops

[Knut IV then arrived; seeing that the Danes had already left, he thanked the Norwegians for staying true but ordered them to sail back to Norway as he had to deal with the Danes. He sailed back to Zealand]

“…He had a large force of men with him, and then the messengers he had sent to Wendland returned with the news that the Wends would be glad to keep peace and agreement with him.  Their reason for having troops offshore was that they thought he was not to be trusted, and had heard he meant to lead the huge army he had mustered against Wendland.  They had wanted to be ready to defend their country should it be attacked, but now they sent fine gifts and friendly words to Knut, who was delighted with the news.”


Where are they know? – Knut the Holy

[note: Knut IV would eventually be killed in Odense cathedral during a farmers’ rebellion.  Incidentally, one of the leaders of that rebellion – Earl Asbjorn – is, according to the Knytlingasaga, said to have been eaten by rats (presumably for the crime of regicide) who attacked him, a la Popiel (and others), in a village inn (?) he was staying in, pursued him outside onto his ship and eventually got him on the open sea]

Section 70
Earl Eirik

“Eirik Sveinsson was still Earl of Zealand, in charge of the lands his brother King Knut had entrusted him.  Earl Eirik was a strong and popular chieftain, always having with him a large company of retainers.  He sailed on viking expeditions to the Baltic fighting against the heathen, but allowed all Christians and merchants to go in peace wherever they might wish.  For this reason he was renowned and popular throughout the Baltic and everyone of importance knew his name.  He journeyed all the way east to Russia, visiting the homes of chieftains and other great men all of whom welcomed him with friendship and respect , and he received fine gifts from powerful leaders.  In the words of Markus Skeggjason in his Lay of Eirik:

East in Russia the virtuous
adviser visisted
land-guardians lavish
to their lord, hating meanness.
Praised for his peacefulness
by the people, he won
their hearts in the eastlands,
all men honoured his excellence.

Earl Eirik got ready to leave Russia early in spring and as soon as the ice broke he launched his ships, sparing no expense in the preparations.  Early in summer he sailed home from the east to his lands in Denmark.  In the words of Markus:

The waster of the Wends
furnished well
his splendid ships, sailed
in summer from Russia,
heaved them into the hollow wave,
held out agains the storm, he,
the bane of traitor, bold,
beached his vessel in Denmark.

Section 73
King Eirik’s Rule

“King Eirik turned out to be a strong and impressive ruler, and the most popular of kings,  He imposed harsh punishments on bad conduct, exterminated vikings and villains, had thieves and robbers put to death or else mutilated their hands of feet or inflicted other severe punishments, so that no evil-doer in the land could prosper.  He was a fair judge and observed the laws of God strictly, as Markus says:

The Wend-slayer wiped out
the wolves, subdued looters,
hacked off thieves’ hands
and punished bad habits:
none could say he was ever swayed,
sitting in judgment;
Gold’s law was the victorious one’s
guide for his own good.

King Eirik was a man of intelligence, a fine scholar and fluent in many languages, an eloquent speaker with a remarkable memory, as Markus says:

Wealthy, warm-hearted,
unblemished the warrior,
mighty in memory
and matters of the mind:
he had courage, each kind
of accomplishment; from his youth
he;d a talent for tongues,
he towered above most kings.

[note: After Olaf I Hunger of Denmark (circa 1050 – 1095) who was mentioned above, the throne fell to yet another son of Sweyn II Estridsson – Eric I the Good (circa 1060 – 1103) who was a notorious philanderer and quite a “strapping fellow”]

Section 75
Emperor Heinrek

“At that time, the Emperor in Saxony was Heinrek, son of Heinrek the Black, a powerful ruler and great warrior.  When he heard that kIng Eirik had gone abroad, he gathered a large army from his empire and led it into Wendland where he plundered the province long ruled by the Kings of Denmark.  He conquered the entire province and all the inhabitants granted him their allegiance.  At that time the whole population of Wendland was heathen.”

“The emperor appointed many chieftains to govern the province he had laid under his rule, the most powerful being a man called Bjorn.”


Being an emperor was a bit of a balancing act – comfortable footwear helped

“‘Sir’, said Bjorn to the emperor, ‘considering the great havoc we’ve created in this province of the Kings of Denmark, we’re going to be in great need of your troops and your trusty aid, so I’d like to ask for the hand in marriage of your sister, Lady Bothild, for it seems my position here isn’t altogether safe owing to the Danes.  you know about my family bacgrkiund and my capabilities.'”

“The emperor said he would grant him this and other such honours he might seek, provided he was ready to devote himself and all his strength to maintaining a grip on this great honour  they had won, and to defend this province against the Danes or anyone else who might claim it…”

“… After the Emperor Heinrek had conquered the province of the Kings of Denmark in Wendland he appointed his brother-in-law Bjorn to rule there, then returned home to Saxony, while Bjorn settled down with his troops in the Danish Kings’ province in wend land intending to hold it against the Danes.”

“That was the time when King Eirik came back north from Rome, shortly after the Wends had broken their allegiance to him, and later it will be told how that disloyalty turned out for them.  As Markus says:

The Wends wanted their way,
that wickedness hurt them:

from the south came the story
of those snakes in the grass.

[note: this is Emperor Henry IV (circa 1050 – 1106)].

Section 76
War in Wendland

“After King Eirik returned home to his kingdom and heard about the ate of war committed in his province in Wendland by the emperor, he held meetings attended by noblemen and farmers to discuss matters.  At one of the assemblies at which he spoke he had this to say.”

“‘Everyone knows,’ he said, ‘about the southerners’ aggression against the province of Wendland which our kinsmen, the Kings of Denmark have ruled for so long.  Now Iwant all my men to know that we shall either force back the aggressor or die ourselves.'”

“Then he sent a call to arms throughout the Danish empire, mustering a great army, and after assembling a fleet of warships he sailed with his troops to Wendland, as Markus says:

The king sailed ingot he storm,
the sea shook gunwales,
hammered hoarfrosted
prows off the Wends’ homesteads.”

“When the Wendish chieftains appointed by the emperor to take charge of the defenses heard that the Danish army was ready to fight them, they gathered troops and prepared for battle.  King Eirik was told that they had assembled there and that the Wends meant to prevent him from entering his province.  At that, he got ready for battle, put his troops ashore and formed up his large, well-equipped army.  His troops were drawn up in a wedge-shaped column so that the van functioned was a pointed breastplate, with a wall of shields protecting it at the sides.  As Markus says:

The bestower of gifts surrounded
his soldiers with shields
overlapping: the leader shaped
a wedge as they collided.”

“King Eirik had his standard carried forward and then the battle began.  He was towards the forefront of the column, helmed and wearing a coat of mail, fighting heroically, in the words of Markus:

The battle built round him
and the bearers of the standard:
iron-clad and helmed, the free-
handed one hastened to war.”

“Later the Wends took flight, hiding themselves away in various forts and castles, but the Danes sought them out and fought and killed many of them, as Markus says:

The host of the heathen
held there forts: the marchers
sped there, sprinted
to the slaughter: standards
blew in the breeze about the bold
Eirik in battle, the brands
beat out the song, spearmen
slept in warm piles.
Soaked in blood that sprayed
over the shield-wall. slaughtered
they lath, a multitude, mangy
a mailcoat smashed,
as the young warrior waded
into war, weapons clashing,
his force and his fame
enhanced in the fighting.

“Once King Eirik had made such a fierce onslaught upon those of the heathens who had retired to the castles and fortresses, they saw that their best hope would be to surrender, to place themselves in King Eirik’s hands and expose themselves to his authority, as Markus says:

The company of heathen sought
escape from the old castle;
those defenders of the fortress
were forced to surrender.


A digitally enhanced picture of the strapping philanderer

“The slaughter was on such a scale that no one knew how many had been killed.  The emperor’s brother-in-law Bjorn had died there with most of his men.  King Eirik seized a great deal of money as war booty but would take none of it for himself, and divided it all amongst his troops. He had settlements all over the country burnt to the ground, and though the heathen fled away in terror, many were subjected to severe punishment, particularly those who had broken their allegiance to King Eirik, as Markus says:

The hearts of the heathen
were heavy in Wendish homelands:
flames blazed about their forces
as King Eirik set fire
to their homes and their houses,
and their halls sank in ruin,
Night fell, and the flames
seemed to finger high heaven.”

“So it came about, as Markus says, that in this warfare and unrest many lost their lives by fire and sword, but some who had the opportunity escaped.  These men sought urgently to meet King Eirik, who imposed heavy fines on them. claiming as his own inherited possession that part of Wendland the Danish Kings had controlled since King Svein Forkbeard [see Section 6 above] had conquered it.  As Markus says:

Upraised was King Eirik;
they ran. the ruthless Wends,
promised him payment,
deprived of victory:
the king laid claim,
the commons obeyed him:
much loved, he ruled lands
that once lay under Svein.

“After that, King Eirik appointed men to take charge of the defences in Wendland, and they held that province under his rule.  Then the king went to his ships and sailed victoriously back to Denmark from Wendland, calling in first at Oeland, as Markus says:

He set his ships
against the surf-beaten shore,
the rain-swept strand
he surrounded with ranged
spear-points and shields,
he plundered their shores,
isolated the Isle-Danes
with war-crimsoned arms.

“Later, King Eirik settled down quietly in his kingdom, enjoying the fame this expedition brought him.”

Section 78
King Eirik’s Son

“King Eirik had taken captive, as the spoils of war, the Lady Bothild, sister of the Emperor Heinrek, who had given her in marriage to Bjorn in Wendland as we said earlier.  The king took the lady Bothild home with him to Denmark and had a son by her called after King Knut, the king’s brother.  At an early age he appeared both handsome and talented.  When the boy was still quite young, King Eirik had a word with the Lady Bothild…”

[note: this was prince Knut Lavard (1096 – 1131); Lady Bothild is Boedil (Bodil) Turgotsdotter (? – 1103) – her father was Ulv Galiciefarer or Earl Ulf discussed above]

Section 88
Lord Knut Marries

“At that time the king east in Novgorod was Harald, son of King Valdimar, son of Jaroslav, son of Valdimar who was foster father to King Olaf Tryggvason.  King Harald’s mother was Gyda, daughter of King Harald Godwinson of England.  King Harald was married to Kristin, daughter of King Ingi Steinkelsson of Sweden and sister to Queen Margret who at that time was married to King Nikulas of Denmark.  The daughter of King Harald of Novgorod and his wife Kristin were Malmfrid, who married King Sigurd the Crusader of Norway, and Engilborg.”

“After Vidgaut had stayed over winter on the friendliest of terms with the duke, Lord Knut asks him to go on a mission east to Novgorod and ask on his behalf for the hand of Engilborg, King Harald’s daughter…”


Meanwhile in Novgorod

“…When Vidgaut was ready, he set sail with his companions and nothing is said of his travels until he came east to Novgorod, met King Harald, and got himself into the king’s good graces by offering him gifts…”

“…The duke thanked him for his labours, then made preparations for the wedding, while at the appointed time King Harald sent his daughter from Novgorod in the east with a  splendid retinue.  When she arrived in Denmark, the duke welcomed her warmly ,as did everyone else, and celebrated their wedding in grand style.  They had a number of children, who will be mentioned later.”

Section 89
Magnus Nikulasson

“…Magnus Nikulasson married Rikiza, daughter of King Burizlav of the Wends, and their sons were Knut and Nikulas.  Magnus always had a large following with him and spent most of his time at the court of his father King Nikulas, but sometimes each of them stayed at his own place.  He was a strong man and matured altogether early: they called him Magnus the Strong.”


King Niels was an impeccable dresser

[note: King Nikulas is Niels of Denmark (circa 1065 – 1134) who also killed Knut Lavard; His son was Magnus (Nikulasson) I of Sweden; his wife, the daughter of King Burizlav, is Richeza of Poland or Rikissa Burislevsdotter (1116 – 1156) who was the daughter of Boleslaw III Wrymouth (1086 – 1138). This was a political marriage arranged between King Nikulas aka Niels and Boleslaw III and aimed at the Pomeranians of Wartislaw (of the Life of Otto fame).  The “Knut and Nikulas” refers to Knut V Magnussen and Niels his brother]

Section 93
Lord Knut’s Children

“… When the holy Lord Knut fell, his wife Engilborg was pregnant, and that winter, while she was staying with her father King Harald east in Russia, she gave birth to a baby boy, and called him Valdimar.  He was born seven days after the death of his father the holy Lord Knut.  At an early age he was big and handsome, and better than others at most things.  He spent his childhood east in Russia with his mother’s family, and was soon very popular with most people.”

[note: King Harald refers to Mstislav I of Kiev – see below]

Section 99
Eirik the Unforgotten

“After the death of King Nikulas, Eirik Eirksson was made king over the whole of Denmark, in accordance with the will and approval of the people.  He was a strong ruler, and punished severely all those with whom he thought he had a score to settle: most of all, he was so ruthless towards those who had been on friendly terms with King Nikulas and his son Magnus, they thought they could scarcely live under his rule, and many considered that it would be a log time before they forgot his ruthlessness, so he was called Eirik the Unforgotten.  He married Queen Malmfrid, daughter of King Harald, son of Valdimar, son of Jaroslav of Novgorod in the east: Malmfrid was sister to Engilborg who had married Eirik’s brother, Lord Knut, and previously she had been the wife of King Sigurd the Crusader of Norway.”

[note: This is Erik II Emune (circa 1090 – 1137) was the son of Erik the Good; his wife was actually Malmfred of Kiev who was the daughter of Mstislav of Kiev (but who reigned in Novgorod the Great from 1088–93) and Kristina Ingesdotter of Sweden.  Mstislav is referred to as Harald after his grandfather.  Specifically, Mstislav was the son of Vladimir II Monomakh and Gyda Haraldsdatter of Wessex.  Vladimir II (or “Valdimar” as above) was the son of Vsevolod I whose father was  Yaroslav the Wise.  Therefore, it seems that the “Jaroslav” above refers to “Valdimar”‘s grandfather.  Gyda was the daughter of Harold II Godwinson (his father being Godwin, Earl of Wessex who is discussed above)] 

Section 101
King Eirik in Wendland

[For this section, see here]

Section 104
King Eirik the Wise

“At that time there were many people in Denmark descended from kings, and most of them were little more than boys.  They all thought they stood close to the throne, but the nobles failed to agree, some wanting to give their support and others speaking against it, as always happens when people are at odds over something.”

“By that time Valdimar, son of Lord Knut, had arrived in Denmark.  He was eight years old when his uncle Eirik the Unforgotten was killed.”

“The son of Eirik the Unforgotten was called Svein, and Knut was the name of the son of Magnus Nikulason the Strong: Knut’s mother was Rikiza, daughter of Burizlav, king of the Wends.  Olaf was the name of the son of Harald Kesja, and his mother was Ragnhild, daughter of King Magnus Bare-legs of Norway.”


Svein’s infamous “Wag of the Finger” at the Bloodfeast of Roskilde

“These were all promising young men, but because King Nikulas and Eirik the Unforgotten had been so unpopular, people were reluctant to serve their offspring, and it was the stated wish of most men to make Valdimar Knutsson king owing to his father’s popularity.  But because he was so young, it was agreed wiuththe consent of his mother and various friends that Eirik the Lamb should be made king.  He was to take charge of the kingdom and look after it until Valdimar was old enough to take over.  Eirik Lamb was an intelligent man and well-liked by the  Danes, who called him Eirik the Wise.”

[note: After the abdication of Eric III Lamb in 1146 a civil war erupted with multiple claimants to the throne and Valdimar emerged victorious.  The Knut above refers to Knut V (1129 – 1157 – killed at the “Bloodfeast of Roskilde” by Svein’s men).  Svein refers to Svein III Grathe (circa 1125 – 1157).  Valdimar Knutsson or Valdemar I (the Great) of Denmark (1131 – 1182) was the son of Knut Lavard. Valdimar survived Svein’s Bloodfeast of Roskilde and then killed Svein at the Battle of Grathe Heath – more on that civil war below]

Section 108

“About this time Jerusalem was captured by the infidel and messages came from Pope Eugenius that men should take up the cross for a journey to Jerusalem to battle agains the infidel.  On that Crusade the Emperor Konrad died.”

“When the news of this reached Denmark, both kings wanted to join the Crusade… both kings went to Dubbin, King Knut arriving first at Wismar harbor, then King Svein, the men of Fy, the Zealanders, the Hallanders and the men of Skaane.  Men came from Germany too, wishing to fight against the infidel for the sake of God.”

“…Following the winter he spent on Zealand, as we said before, King Svein levied troops in the spring and led them to Jutland against King Knut, accompanied by Valdimar.  King Knut was in Hedeby at the time, and when he heard about King Svein he gathered forces in Jutland.  They met in battle at Viborg, and King Svein and Valdimar gained the victory, while King Knut fled, first to Aalborg, then north to Kungaelv in Norway, and finally to up to Lodose.  In Goetaland he met his stepfather Sorkvir Karlsson who had married Rikiza, King Knut’s mother, and asked him for troops.  King Sorkvir offered him a province in Sweden enough to maintain his style of living, while he himself would take over King Knut’s province in Denmark, but King Knut would not hear of it.”

“Next, King Knut travelled east to Russia and back again, then south to Rostock to his maternal uncles but they were afraid that he wanted to take their country from them and refused to let him stay…”

[note: it’s not clear who these maternal uncles would have been; presumably the siblings of “Rikiza” or sons of Boleslaw III who divided his country up; Rostock was not part of Poland albeit the then various Polish princes made claims on Pomerania which had become a Polish fiefdom under Boleslaw III and which, technically, was supposed to continue as such subject to the rule of the Duke of Cracow.  Rostock, in the land of the Obodrites, though was just a port of landing as it was too far West for any Pomeranian claims] 

“…King Knut returned again to Saxony and stayed there for a short while, then travelled to Friesland where he presented each man with half an ortog in weight from the tribune they were supposed to pay the King of Denmark, so that they would support him against King Svein.  They agreed to do so, and built a large stronghold by the River Mildin which they called Mildinborg.”

“When King Svein heard about this he gathered forces at once and set out for Hedeby.  He had a fleet, and had his ships portaged from Slette to Hollingsted in Friesland.  A great battle had to be fought there before he was able to win Mildinborg, with slaughter on such a scale that men walked across the River Milden on human bodies without wetting their feet.  King Svein won the victory and yet again King Knut fled sough to Saxony to Duke Heinrek in Brunswick, where he stayed a while.”

Section 109
A Peace Settlement

“…they reached agreement, on the understanding that Valdimar would be free of obligations to King Svein were Svein to break the terms of the settlement.  This peace-meeting was held at Viborg.”

“After that, King Svein gave his half-sister Suffia, daughter of King Valadar of Poland, in marriage to Valdemar.  He also gave Valdimar a third of his possessions, for the sake of friendship and harmony.”


Sofia of Minsk – current status. (Note the perfect teeth)

[note: this is Sophia of Minsk – she was the daughter of Richeza of Poland.  Richeza was first married to Magnus the Strong and gave birth to Knut V.  Magnus and his father were killed in battles against Eric II Emune (who was half brother to Knut Lavard – who was murdered by Niklas and Magnus) and his helpers from the Holy Roman Empire.   Thereafter, Richiza apparently returned to Poland (seemingly leaving her sons in Denmark).  Boleslaw III was still alive and arranged another marriage with Volodar Glebovich [?] of Minsk [or of Novgorod?].  From this marriage she had a daughter (Sophia of Minsk) and two sons.  She again returned to Poland in 1145 (leaving the sons behind but taking the daughter).  In 1148 Richeza married the recently widowed Sverker I of Sweden.  Sophia went with her to Sweden and was raised at the Swedish court.    Later she married Valdimar I (of Absalon/Arkona fame).  However, she was really Knut V’s half-sister – not Svein’s.  Also she was the daughter of Volodar of Minsk [?] not Valadar of Poland]  

“Valdimar had an illegitimate son called Kristoforus: his mother was called Tofa.”

[note: in Danish ballads, Sophia is typically described as a beautiful shrew and is said to have murdered  Valdimar’s mistress – Tove (aka Tofa).  Kristoforus is Christopher, Duke of Schleswig.  As a point of interest, Volodar never remarried, stayed in Minsk (or Novgorod?) and apparently outlived the entire Danish/Swedish crew (except his daughter Sophia) dying around 1186 (Sophia died in 1198)]

Section 110

“King Svein raised a levy for an expedition abroad the winter following the agreement with King Knut and Valdimar, with the intention of attacking Sweden.  He sent word to King Knut and Valdimar for them to come with him but they refused, since Sorkvir King of the Swedes was married to Rikiza, the mother of King Knut and Suffia…”



“…Next morning King Svein fought the Wends at Kalvslunde where he won the victory and killed a great number of men.  All that year the agreement lasted between King Svein and King Knut.”

Section 111
King Valdimar

“…After King Svein had been in Saxony a short while, he got tired of it and went from there to Wendland, where he paid the Wends to ferry him over to Fyn.  When King Knut and Valdimar heard this, they immediately levied troops for an expedition and crossed to Fyn…”

[note: this, again, is Svein III Grathe]

Section 115

“…That same evening, six hundred Wendish ships were wrecked off the Jolu Isles.”

Section 119
Expeditions to Wendland

“After the battle [of Grathe Heath in 1157] King Valdimar became sole ruler of all Denmark, with the approval of the chief men of the kingdom.  He was the most popular of kings.  These things took place nine years after the death of King Eirik the Wise and one year after the killing of King Knut Magnusson.  About that time Ozur, Bishop of Roskilde, died and Absalon, Asbjorn Snare’s brother, was ordained bishop in his place.  Absalon was a remarkable cleric and a shrewd man, and later he was to become a great chieftain.”

“In the winter following the battle on Grath Heath, King Valdimar sent word throughout his kingdom that he meant to levy troops for an expedition abroad in the spring, to go to Wendland and, God willing, convert it to Christianity.  Many people of importance decided to join the king in this expedition: first of all there was Archbishop Askel, and Bishop Absalon of Roskilde, one of the greatest warriors ever to be born in Denmark, then there was King Valdimar’s [illegitimate by Tove] son Kristoforus, Gvenmar Ketilsson, Peter Stretch, Bishop Absalon’s brother Asbjorn Snare, and Ingimar.  This whole army came together in the lee of the island of Mon, south of Zealand.”

“They ran into a strong head wind and lay there at anchor until they had only seven days of provisions left for the entire army.  Then King Valdimar called his counsellors together ago consult them about what should be done, and Bishop Absalon gave this reply.”

“‘Yesterday there was sailing weather’ he said, ‘and the day before that it was quite good enough to set out but you lay at anchor and wouldn’t make a move.  If you want to sit quietly by when there’s sailing weather and make no move till things are perfect, you’re not fit for this kind of work and you might as well take your troops back home.'”

“The king was furious at these words of sharp criticism and said he was not turning back while he had anything to feed his troops with.  Next morning, the king ordered them to put out to sea, and they began rowing against a raging gale.  The king was aboard a fast sailing ship with Archbishop Askel but it broke up in the storm and King Valdimar flung himself with sword and banner aboard Ingimar’s ship, which people thought a remarkable feat.  All the men were rescued but the cargo was lost.”

“They sailed to Hiddensee where the king went aboard Bishop Absalon’s shop and lay down to sleep, but sent Gvenmar Ketilsson ashore in the evening to spy out the land.  He managed to capture the Wends’ lookout, then went back and met the king there n the fjord south of Hiddensee, where he told the king he had taken the Wends’ lookout-men captive.  Later they reached Wendland close to a large river and divided the troops for the landing; the king led a party on one side of the river, and Bishop Absalon on the other, but neither knew what the other was doing.  They burned down settlements over a wide area on both sides of the river and then went baclkto their ships, loading sixty of them with the booty they had taken in the raid.  After that, King Valdimar went home to his own country and stayed there the following winter.”

“In the spring, King Ingi of Norway sent a fine dragon-headed warship as a gift to King Valdimar. That summer King Valdimar sailed once more to Wendland and the dragon-ship was damaged.  They sailed up the Warnow River and fought against a Wendish leader called Mjuklat, whose son Fridleif had been taken prisoner by the Danes on an earlier expedition and stayed on with the king, and become a Christian.  The battle took place at a town called Urk, where King Valdimar gained victory and Mjuklat was killed after fleeing the battlefield.  The Danes took his head and impaled it on a certain tree near the town.”

[note: These wars were preceded by the Wendish Crusade of 1147.  Mjuklat or Miklo refers to the Obodrite duke Niklot who died in 1160 killed by Bernhad (of Ratzeburg?) at the Battle of Orle/Wurle (during the Obodrite war against both Danes and Germans).  Niklot tried to quit the German/Danish world (Mjuxit?) but, then as now, what one wants is not always what one gets.  His son (or one of three) was Pribislav (aka Fridleif?) who became the founder of the Mecklemburgian dynasty]

“King Valdimar went back to his ship and asked which of the chieftains was brave enough to ride to Brunswick and deliver a message from him to the Emperor Konrad’s son, Duke Heinrek – he was married to a daughter of King Henry of England and their sons were the Emperor Otto, the Count Palatine Henry, and William the Stout: their daughter was Gertrud.”

[note: “Duke Heinrek” actually refers to Henry the Lion whose spouse was Matilda of England, daughter of Henry II of England]


Henry the Lion – in an actual 12th century photograph

“Not many were keen to go on this journey, since there were few indeed who wanted to travel through Wendland, straight into the hands of their enemies.  Bishop Absalon, however, offered to undertake this mission for the king, and the king agreed.  The bishop travelled in a party of sixty men, taking Fridleif Mjuklatsson along with him as a guide.  They rode past the town where the head of Mjuklat was impaled, and when he saw it, Fridleif wept but said he could have expected things to turn out this way since his father would not serve the true God.  They came to Duke Heinrek, and he gave them a good welcome.  After they had stayed with him for a time and copleted their mission, they started back.  The duke offered troops to go with them but the bishop said that was unnecessary.  They rode off from Brunswick early in the morning, all wearing their armour, and pressed on till they came to an open plain, where they suspected that forces were being gathered in the neighborhood.  It was then that Fridleif spoke up and said this was where his father had been killed.”

“‘And if you’re caught’ he said, ‘you Danes will suffer the same treatment that you gave him.  The best thing now for every one of us is to sell his life as dearly as he can.'”

“The bishop thanked him for what he had said, adding that he had spoken like a man.  They rode singing through the settlements that day and showed no trace of fear.  When the local people saw them traveling they thought these must be the duke’s men riding so cheerful, and so the bishop’s party got back safe and sound to the ships, where the king sat reading the psalms happy to see the bishop and his men.”

Section 120
Ravaging in Wendland

“In the morning the king sailed east along the coast of Wendland to the River Svold, where the Wends lay with a large fleet but fled the moment they sighted the Danish sailed.  The king laid course to Byr, and sent his son Kristoforus to burn down a part of Wendland called Valong, but told him not to ride off until the whole army was aspire.  Kristoforus and his men were rather too keen to get on with the burning and when the Wends aboard those ships that had previously fled saw the flames, they began rowing at high speed hopping to take the Danes by surprise.  But then they saw King Valdimar coming up with some of his troops and raced off once again as fast as they could so that the Danes were unable to cause them any damage.”

“The Danes made for harbor and put up the awnings.  When the king’s ship had been covered, Archbishop Askel walked up to them. “

“‘You Danes are fast workers’ he said, ‘burying your men before they’re dead.'”

“The king asked him why he spoke like that.”

“‘I can see well be lying here for a long time amongst isles and offshore skerries’ he said, ‘before we can win a victory to equal the one we’ve just missed out of sheer hot-headedness.  Speed and sense are rare companions.'”

“Egged on by the archbishop, they went down to the ships, rowed across a river there, then charged ashore on horseback and burnt down everything in the district that lies behind Strele.  They spent the night there and next morning went to Valong, where they set the whole place ablaze.  After that they meant to go back home, but the following night the Rugeners came looking for them at Masnes, people who inhabit a place in Wendland called Rugen, a large and powerful province.  Their leader was called Domabur.  He talked about a settlement with the Danes, so the archbishop asked them to put themselves in King Valdimar’s hands and arrange to give him hostages.  Then Domabur offered the archbishop some advice.”

[note: as per Baltische Studien, Volume 1, Valong is probably the area around Schaprode on Ruegen (see Saxo’s Walungiam navigatum; see also reference to quartam mansionem in Wollungh que dicitur Szabroda); It’s not clear what Masnes refers to.  Saxo mentions an island off of Warnow called Masneta; Domabur was the leader of the Rani]

“‘You’re a young man’ he said, ‘ and you’ve only a vague notion of how things were done in the past.  Don’t ask us for hostages and don’t plunder our country: it’s better that you should go back home and keep peace with us till your own lands are as well-populated as ours are now.  A great deal of your land lies barren and empty.  Peace will suit you better than war.'”

“‘I’m sure King Valdimar will be keen to follow your advice’ replied the archbishop, ‘and it’s much to my own liking.  Now go home’ he said, ‘and tell the Rugeners that we won’t expect any hostages until they offer them.'”


Rugia oldest (?) map (early 16th century)

“After that, Domabur went home and King Valdimar brought his troops into a harbor in Rugen called Schaprode then marched them all ashore to a place called Arkona which had been taken by Eirik the Unforgotten, as was told earlier in this book.  There the Rugeners faced King Valdimar with a countless army of men, and fought a battle which Valdimar won, killing three hundred thousand of the Rugeners while the survivors fled for their lives.  Next the Danes went to Hiddensee.  While they were there, the Rugeners came and gave them four hostages, agreeing to accept all their conditions.  After this success, King Valdimar returned home to his kingdom.”

[note: Schaprode is Schaprode on the northwest side of Ruegen]

“On his next seafaring expedition, King Valdimar went to Strele.  There, Absalon rode inland and held a meeting with the farmers, telling them to go with the king to Wolgast and provide him with support.  The Rugeners did as he asked and went wight he king in large numbers, sailing to Kuaviz.  There the men of Wolgast came to meet them, handed over hostages, and pledged their allegiance.  After that the army went back home.”

[note: Strele presumably refers to somewhere around Stralsund; Kuaviz?]

“On his next seafaring expedition King Valdimar went to Gronsund, as the Rugeners wanted to break the agreement they had made with him earlier.  By then, they had submitted to Duke Heinrek of Brunswick and handed over hostages to him since he had laid claim to the whole of Wolgast and also plundered in Rugen.  When the Rugeners learnt that King Valdimar had arrived in Gronsund with the intention of attacking them, they went to meet him and surrendered themselves yet again into his power, after which King Valdimar returned home.”

“When Duke Heinrek heard about this, he accused the king of having taken hostages from Wolgast and attacked the inhabitants of Rugen, who were, he said, his own subjects.  He sent envoys to King Valdimar demanding compensation for the damage he had done his land, otherwise he threatened to take revenge and lead an army against Denmark.”


Ortelius map (late 16th century)

“While the envoys were on this journey the East Wends raised an unbeatable army and attacked that part of Wendland belonging to the duke, burning it and killing all the people in it.  Duke Heinrek blamed Bishop Absalon for this affair, though he was not responsible for it.  When the duke learned the truth about it, he immediately sent envoys north again to Denmark to see King Valdimar and seek reconciliation offering to join him on an expedition to Wend land, to which King Valdimar agreed since the men of Wolgast had once again broken their agreement with him.”

“Next spring, King Valdimar of Denmark and Duke Heinrek of Saxony levied an army and attacked Wendland.  The duke brought his troops to a place called Demmin and laid siege to a town there.  The native people gathered together to defend their land and one night their horsemen attacked the duke’s forces and killed two of his counts, one called Adalbrikt and the other Heinrek, as well as many other men of rank.  Four hundred and fifty of the duke’s men were killed and many wounded, while those who were able to get away fled.  The Wends hunted them down for a short distance, then came bad to the battlefield to rob the dead of their weapons and clothes.  When it began to grow light and the Germans saw what the Wends were up to, they rode back and fought and routed them.  Duke Heinrek took the town and killed an uncounted number of Wends.  In the next round of fighting King Valdimar led his troops to Wolgast and laid siege to the town, but the townsmen sued the King peace, surrendered themselves into his power and handed over hostages to him.  Next night they fled from the town without the king knowing.”


“When King Valdimar realised this, he put the town in charge of his men and went himself to a certain river crossed by a bridge known as Dunzar Bridge.  Next morning Duke Heinrel came from Grozvin and immediately joined King Valdimar aboard ship, amazed at the speed with which the king and his men could sail the distance.  On that occasion, everything was very friendly between them and King Valdimar proposed a marriage alliance with the duke on his son’s behalf which the duke agreed to, so they betrothed their children to one another though they were still in the cradle.  The boy, King Valdimar’s son, was called Knut, and the girl, Lady Gertrud.”

“In the morning, King Valdimar rowed to Stolpe, while Heinrek went to Demmin and leveled and burnt the whole town.  Next King Valdimar went back to the bridge, where Kassamar, who was then a lord in Wendland, came and handed over hostages to him and became his liege.  King Valdimar gave him tho thirds of Wolgast to defend and one third to the Rugeners.  Then the king went to Strele to consult with his troops, and gave the title of king to his son Knut, who was then a year old, with the approval of Bishop Absalon and other leaders.  After that, King Valdimar went back to Denmark.”

[note: Kassamar is Casimir (Kasimir) I (circa 1130 – 1180) of Pomerania-Demmin (son of Wartislaw of, as above, the Life of Otto fame and brother to Bogislaw I (circa 1130 – 1187) Duke of Pomerania); Demmin is the German town of Demmin – ironically, it may have been named after “dym”, i.e., smoke in the Polabian language; sadly, during World War II, it was also the site of a mass suicide by inhabitants right before the Red Army took the town; Stolpe is, probably, the Polish Słupsk]

“On his next seafaring expedition King Valdimar went first to Rugen, then to Valong which he set ablaze.  Once again Bishop Absalon and the Isle Danes were the swiftest travelers, so they and to wait seven days for the king at Hiddensee and then went back home.”

Section 121
Plundering in Wendland

[For this section, see here]

Section 122
Pagan Idols in Wendland

[For this section, see here]

Section 123
Fighting Against Wends and Cours

“During King Valdimar’s lifetime, eleven churches were built in Rugen, all consecrated by Bishop Absalon.  The see [that is the church “see”] is at a place called Usedom, and there are now one hundred and thirty churches in that diocese.  After Rugen became Christian King Valdimar went on no more military expeditions, but the money King Valdimar extracted from the Rugeners there caused dissension between the King of Denmark and Duke Heinrek, who claimed that Rugen was his territory and the money belonged to him.  So he ordered the East Wends to go plundering in Denmark.  When King Valdimar heard about this he told his son Kristoforus and Bishop Absalon to defend the country, but not wishing to make their stand within the kingdom itself, they ordered a levy of one ship from each district of Denmark for an expedition abroad.”

“When they were at sea in their warships, they heard that the Cours had taken their troops by sea and attacked Blekinge.  Though they were not sure that this was true, they decided something would have to be done, and the plan they adopted was that Kristoforus, Bishop Absalon and Asbjorn should set out in that direction and sail to Oeland, where they seized both goods and men.  When they got back to their ships, they head that the Cours were at Mon, so they set free the prisoners they had taken, headed straight for where the Cours were, and came on them at a harbor called Jarnloka.”

[note: this was in 1170 –  Jarnloka or jærnlukke or the harbor of “Iron Lock”? – a place on the island of Mon or Seeland?]

“When the Cours realized that troops were heading towards them they hauled their ships ashore and prepared to make a stand there.  They thought these were Swedes but an old man among the Cours said they were Danes.”

“‘And it’s not a good idea to wait,’ he said.”

“At that he rowed off in his ship, but the rest of the Cours stayed behind with nine ships.  Then Kristoforus and his companions came with all their men, and immediately began to attack: all the Cours were killed there and not even a single child escaped, while only two of the Danes were killed.  Then the Danes took their ships and goods and brought them home, having won a great victory.”

Section 124
More Trouble With the Wends

“Around midsummer this year, the relics of Lord Knut the Saint [see above] were transported from Ringsted and once again there were sublime indications of his saintliness.  Then King Knut, son of King Valdimar, was formally anointed king at the suggestion of his father and with the approval of the people of Denmark.  He was then only a few years old.”

“At the same time, an agreement was made between King Valdimar and Magnus of Norway; and Erling the Squint, father of King Magnus, arrived in Denmark to meet King Valdimar at Randers, where they discussed many matters concerning the affairs of the Kings of both Norway and Denmark.”

“King Valdimar thought he had a claim to the province of Oslofjord in Norway, since at the time Valdimar had given support to Erling and Magnus from his own kingdom for the conquest of Norway, there had been a private agreement that Valdimar should acquire the east part of Oslofjord.  But there was a close relationship between King Magnus and King Valdimar, King Valdimar’s mother was Engilborg, daughter of King Harald Valdimarsson, as was aid earlier, and her sister was Malmfrid, wife of King Sugurd the Crusader, their daughter being Kristin, the mother of King Magnus Erlingsson: the dealings between King Valdimar and the Norwegians are described in the Lives of the Kings of Norway.  On this occasion when Erloing came to Denmark to see King Valdimar, the king gave Erling an earldom and all the domains in Norway to which the thought he had a claim, so they parted in agreement and friendship, which they preserved with goodwill for the rest of their lives.”


“In the autumn King Valdimar raised a levy for an expedition overseers, and sailed to Jomsburg and Kammin, lying to the east of Wendland.  The king wanted to be out at sea but got himself into a narrow channel.  Then the Danes said they had been caught in a trap, and that this was one of Bishop Absalon’s clever schemes, and it was all his fault that they were stuck in a situation from which they could not escape.”

[note: Jomsburg is on the island of Wolin; Kammin may be Kamień Pomorski near Szczecin.  Kammin is named after a large stone lying in the water (it’s still there).  Now, why there is another Kammin on the River Lippe is another story

“‘Now there are troops hemming us in ashore,’ they complained to Absalon, ‘and a force of ships to seaward, and it’s happening just at the time we expected it to.  All you’re concerned about is your own ambition and reputation, and you always think you can get away with things. You may be a great fighting man and champion, but there’s no good reason why you should expect everything to be achieved by you, and nothing by anyone else, even though that’s the way things have been for quite some time.'”

“‘Since I’ve got you into an embarrassing situation,’ said Absalon very quietly, ‘it’s an embarrassment I’ll save you from, but I don’t want to hear any more of this.  We’re supposed to have the hearts of men, not women.  That’s why we mustn’t fear the future, nor complain if that future doesn’t seem too bright.  My men and I will go first, and then you must follow my advice. If you see that we can escape from the channel, act fast and charge ashore with your horses, then form up and attack the troops there, and we’ll see what happens.'”

“They did as the bishop suggested.  The Wends had a huge army there, both ashore and aboard ship, but before the Wendish fleet expected it the bishop rowed out towards them shouting the war-cry, at which all the ships there turned tail not daring to fight him.  Those on horseback rode ashore to the town, confronted the Wends and attacked them, while Bishop Absalon, having had no trouble with the ships, came up to reinforce them.  The Wends soon began to suffer heavy casualties, six thousand of them being killed by the Danes while the others either ran or, in many cases, were taken prisoner and brought down to the ships.”

“In the morning a messenger rode to them from inland and said that he wanted to negotiate a peace for the natives, but he was trying them out with lies and treachery.  Bishop Absalon had him taken and the truth forced out of him.  He was held by the bishop for four days and then his son redeemed him with one hundred marks of silver.  After that, the Danes sailed home.”

“Bishop Absalon travelled north to Oresund and seven days before the Feast of All Hallows he stopped at Hyljuminni with six ships, three of them beached and three lying in estuary.  Early in the morning while the bishop was singing Matins nine Wendish ships, all very large, came up and immediately began to attack them, but were chased off after a short skirmish.  The Danes captured one of their ships, but eight of them got away.  After that the bishop continued his journey home, arriving there seven days later.”


The Spalatin Chronicle shows how it was done (refers to earlier events but principle is the same)

“The following summer there was yet another levy for an overseas expedition.  The troops were to assemble at Gronsund, where Archbishop Askel came with the men of Skaane, Bishop Absalon with the Zealanders, and Kristoforus with his own force.  Then they went to Bramnes, burning everything around, where a certain Count Hyrning, a great fighting man, came to confront them with a strong force and do battle with them.  However, he soon had to run, many of his men being killed and others taken prisoner.  Afterwards, the Danes went to the ships and met King Valdimar at Gedeso, and told him what they had done.  The Jutes were envious, saying the Zealanders got all the money and they got nothing.  Next, the king went with his troops to Strele, riding up to Tribuzis and towards Tripiden, setting everything ablaze, taking the town and killing the inhabitants.  After they had taken plunder there they went back home.”

[note: Tribuzis is Tribsees on the Trebel whereas the location of Tripiden (or Trippipen) is not clear and we won’t even guess as to Gedeso or Bramnes (Brunes?)); 

125 Absalon becomes archbishop

“…When that winter came to an end, King Valdimar raised yet another levy for an expedition overseas, and sailed to Wendland, up to Svinemuende as fas as Gorgasiam, burning everywhere.  Later he went to Szczecin and besieged the town for a long time, till th townspeople surrendered into the king’s power, and gave him money for reconciliation, and hostages, after which the king returned home to his kingdom, and things stayed quiet for a while…”

“…King Valdimar heard that during the period of reconciliation and peace with the Danes, the Wends had built two fortresses at Swinemuende.  This enraged King Valdimar and all the Danes, for their interpretation of it was that the Wends still planned to break the agreement.  Envoys went between King Valdimar and Duke Heinrek of Brunswick, and it was agreed that they should each raise a levy and go to Wendland, where they should meet together.  The duke went with his army to Demmin, while King Valdimar raised a levy yet once more from every part of Denmark and pillaged through Wolgast and Fuznon so that the whole population fled.  He burnt down three towns, Fuznon, Vinborg and Fuir.  Again, envoys went between King Valdimar and Duke Heinrek arranging that stye should meet at Grozvin: but though King Valdimar kept the appointment at the place where they had agreed to meet, the duke failed to appear.”

“Later, King Valdimar laid siege to a town called Gutznow, besieging it overnight and burning it the following night after which he went to his ships and departed in warlike fashion.  Then King Valdimar headed for Swinemuende and sailed out to sea, but the two fortresses built by the Wends had been completely demolished by the river in spate over the winter, so then the king sailed home.”

[note: Gutznow is probably Gützkow;  Swinemuende is, of course, Świnoujście; Grozvin (or Grozum) seems to be a region of Pomerania (compare Grozon, France!); Fuznon was probably on or a reference to Uznam or Usedom; the others we will not guess at] 

126 Another expedition to Wendland

“…When the winter was over, King Valdimar raised a levy throughout Denmark and the troops assembled at Gronsund: but King Valdimar would go no further himself, ordering the men to be obedient to his son Knut, and to Archbishop Absalon as his appointed commander, for he would not leave the country.”


“So they went to Wolgast and set everything ablaze there, then they went to Usedom and burnt everything, the town itself and all its buildings.  After that, Burizlav and a duke in East Wendland called Kassamar came to meet King Knut and Archbishop Absalon asking for mercy, handing over hostages from all their territories, and giving the king fifteen hundred marks and the archbishop five hundred in order that the settlement the Wends had made earlier with King Valdimar should stand, even though the Wends themselves had broken it.  They promised to keep the peace with all territories which the king did not wish them to plunder.  King Knut and the archbishop came back only nine days after they had left and met King Valdimar on Mon, telling him what had happened on their travels and delivering both money and hostages.  He was astonished at the speed of their journey, and thanked them for undertaking his expedition.”


[note: here “Burizlav” is probably Bogislaw I whereas Kassamar is his brother Casimir I; the “East” versus “West” Wends appears to refer to the division of Slavic Pomerania (in 1155) between the brothers with Bogislaw being the duke in the East (at Szczecin) and Casimir in the West (at Demmin).  The saga has this reversed seemingly although the split is correct below] 

Section 127
King Valdimar’s Death

“After that five years passed without a levy being raised, and during this peaceful interval the Wends built towns, castles and a good many forts on their country for the purpose of defense.  When Valdimar was told this he realised that the Wends would observe the present agreement not better than those that had gone before, so early in the spring he raised a levy for an expedition overseas, but when the troops assembled at Gronsund, King Valdimar was taken ill.  He spoke to his men, ordering them to carry on with ethe expedition as before and appointed his son King Knut and Archbishop Absalon commanders of the army, but they refused to leave him until they knew what turn his illness might take: so with the agreement of Archbishop Absalon, King Knut gave all the troops leave to return home.”

“King Valdimar died of this illness on the sixth of May.  His body was taken to Ringsted and there he was buried, deeply mourned by the people throughout the whole of Denmark.  He had by then been sole ruler of all Denmark for twenty-six years and had fought twenty-eight battles in heathen lands.  He had fought tin heathen men all his life, eager to defend God’s Christian faith.”

“King Valdimar and Queen Suffia had these children: King Knut and Valdimar the Old who later became King of Denmark and was one of the most renowned kings here in Northern Europe.  Olaf Thordarson stayed with him, acquieiring much learning from him, and had a great many remarkable stories from him to tell.  King Valdimar Knutsson’s daughter Engilborg married King Philip of France, father of King Louis of France, who conquered Damiette.  Another daughter of King Valdimar was Rikiza, who married Eirik Knutssson, King of the Swedes, their children were King Eirik of Sweden and Engilborg, who married Earl Birgir of Sweden, and whose children were valdimar, King of the Swedes, Eirik, and Rikiza who married kIng Hakon the Young of Norway.  King Valdimar’s third daughter married Wilhelm the Stout son of Duke Heinrek of Brunswick, brother of the Emperor Otto.  Duke Kristoforus was the son of King Valdimar and Tofa, as was said earlier.  He was illegitimate and died ten years before his father King Valdimar.”

[note: this is Knut VI Valdemarsøn] 

Section 128
King Knut Valdimarsson

“After the death of King Valdimar Knutsson, his son Knut assumed power over the whole of Denmark, and all the Danes gave him their allegiance.  When the Emperor Fridrek was told that King Valdimar had died, he dispatched envoys at once to King Knut asking him to become his liege and hold Denmark on his behalf.  King Knut consulted with Archbishop Absalon and other advisers on how he should answer this.  They recommended him to give a mild reply and say that although the emperor could easily give him so much power that he would become his liege, for Denmark’s sake he could not do this.  With this reply from King Knut the emperor’s envoys returned home.”


Knut VI was perpetually angry

“When these envoys were making their journey, Burizlav of Wendland sent his representative, Prida to the emperor with his greeting, promising that within not more than a year he would see to it that the King of Denmark became the emperor’s liege.  The emperor thanked him for his words: he embraced the envoy and gave him a fine horse, a coat of mail, a shield, helmet and full set of weapons, as well as excellent furs and clothing.  Then he gave him leave to return home and bade him tell the emperor’s dearest friend and liege Duke Burizlav to honour faithfully all the promises he had made him.”

“After that, Burizlav levied a great army meaning to go to Rugen and lay that region under his rule, but when the Rugeners heard this, Jarismar sent envoys to Archbishop Absalon telling him that the East Wends had mobilized a great army and were only waiting for the West Wends before attacking the Rugeners.  He asked the archbishop to support them if he wanted to retain his grip on their country: the archbishop told him to make a brave stand, and he would come and help them.”

[note: for more of the Pomeranian-Rugian squabbles, see, for example, here]

“Then the archbishop raised a levy and sailed to Wendland against Burizlav, who had five hundred ships but was still waiting for the West Wends.  When the archbishop confronted Burizlav a fierce battle took place with the outcome that Burizlav fled with fifty of his ships, but the archbishop and his men captured all the others.  Some of the crews aboard them got ashore and some were drowned abut most were slaughtered.  This battle took place in the spring, about Whitsuntide.  Afterwards the Danes divided up the plunder and went back home.”

[note: here Burizlav is correctly (if implicitly) associated with the East Wends]

Section 129
Wendland Subdued

 “That same summer, King Knut raised a levy from Denmark.  First he went to Rugen and ordered the people there to go with him to Wolgast.  Many of them joined King Knut and he next went to Wolgast where he plundered and burnt all around.  They besieged the town for some time.  Archbishop Absalon went ashore with his men and set ablaze two towns which had been built on the road into Swinemuende, then when he had destroyed them he went back to the king.”

“Next Burizlav arrived in the country, and sent men to the archbishop to arrange a meeting.  The archbishop was aboard his ships, but Burislaf planned to betray him at the meeting thinking that once he was dead all would be won.  He asked him to come ashore for a talk saying that he would guided but he archbishop’s foresight when making his agreement with King Knut, nut the archbishop would not go ashore, suspecting that Burizlav had some trick in mind, as was indeed the case, so there was no meeting.  Burizlav had saved his town, however, by having supplies carried into it while the discussions with the Danes were taking place.  On Saint Peter’s Day, King Knut made an assault on the town but fought without being able to capture it, so he took things easy there for six days, then went away as most of his provisions had been used up. Then Wends came in pursuit, killing nearly sixty Danes, and after that King Knut took all his troops back home.”


19th century (Gerson) version of the Christianization of Pomerania

“That autumn, King Knut raised a levy for an overseas expedition seven days before Michaelmas, and sailed to Rugen.  From there he took a large force to Tribuzis and from there up to Tripipen, where he plundered and burnt throughout the district.  He rode to their market town and burnt it, and all the forces of King Knut  assembled there, staying for three days, while their ships lay off Strele.  Next morning they went over to Tikarey with the idea of destroying Voztroza but the wind was in the wrong direction so they were unable to burn it down.”

[note: Voztroza nowadays has a very German name] 

Burislaf heard about this and set sail with two ships, wanting to make a settlement with King Knut, though it was treachery he had in mind, but as King Knut was short of provisions to feed his army he went back home to Denmark.”

“In the spring, King Knut raised a levy in Denmark for an overseas expedition, this time in the company of Archbishop Absalon, Bishop Asbjorn, and many other leading men.  They had  a large army and sailed to Wolgast where they burnt their way up both banks of the river as far as Kammin, setting the whole country ablaze.  King Burizlav had narrow escape, leaping from his horse’s back over a fence and so getting into the town just as King Knut and Archbishop Absalon came riding up.  Burizlav beckoned them over, asking for a truce and a chance to talk to them, but they told him that if he wanted message delivered to them, he should send envoys.  When his envoys came to Bishop Asbjorn they asked him to plead with the king and the archbishop on his behalf, to allow him to leave the town and talk to them.  The envoys said they wanted to have an honest talk, adding that they were more trustworthy that him.  Burizlav‘s message was that he was eager to keep his word, and asked them to arrange a meeting between himself and the king, a meeting that he would attend in three days time.  King Knut said he would agree to the appointment with him, but that meanwhile he planned to devastate the area as he had always intended, including the farms near the town.  Burizlaf told the king he must burn whatever he wished, but said he still wanted to meeting with the king, and asked him to spare their farms and minsters.”

“Then women came from the farms and fell at the king’s feet, begging him not to burn their farms, and the king granted their wish.  After that the king went to burn inland, and spent the night setting fire to everything, after which, in the morning, he went back to the ships.  Then Burizlav came to King Knut and the archbishop asking them for mercy, handing over as hostages to the king the sons of the best men in the land, and gave the king three hundred marks and the bishop eight hundred.  With that, King Knut assumed power and protection over the whole of Wendland, and then went back home to Denmark.”

Section 130
The Death of Burizlav

“In the spring before Easter, Burizlav came to see King Knut at Roskilde and stayed with him o e very best of terms over Easter, acting as the king’s sword-bearer.  When he left to return home, King Knut presented him with fine gifts and they parted friends.”

“In Lent of the following year Burizlav grew ill, and sent word to his counsellors to consult with them, saying that if he recovered from his illness he would like to see King Knut, but if his fate was to be otherwise, he wanted King Knut to dispose of the country’s affairs in accordance wi the king’s wishes: also, he asked the king, for God’s sake, to grant his children friendship, and divide everything between them as he desired, for he saw that his brother Jarizmar had always benefitted from his loyalty to King Knut.”


Can you say Caminho Pomerano in Portuguese?

“During Lent, Burizlav died of his illness.  Then Burizlav‘s envoys went to see King Knut telling him that Burizlav was dead, and delivering the messages he had left for King Knut asking the king to help his sons and divide everything between them as he wished.  A meeting was arranged between them at Vordingborg which Nikulas and Heinrek, the sons of Burizlav, attended and King Knut divided the land between them and appointed men to watch over them.”

[note: this is unclear; if Burizlav refers to Bogislaw I (death on March 18, 1187), then his sons’ names were Casimir II and Bogislaw II]

“In consultation with Archbishop Absalon, King Knut had now appointed overseers and controllers all over Wendland, and the whole country was now in their power.  In all the battles they had fought against the Wends since the death of King Valdimar Knutsson, Archnbishop ABsalon had acted as commander and as counsellor to King Knut, and had he not been there they would not have gained such victories, for he came close to being the greatest ever campaigner and warrior here in the north.”

“So ends the history of the Kings of the Danes.”

Copyright ©2016 All Rights Reserved

June 24, 2016

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

Published Post author

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


Book II

3. Regarding the war undertaken against Boleslav.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

30.  Regarding Gero, the frontier commander.

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

* These “barbarians” were Slavs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

40. Regarding the hostages from Boleslav.

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

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

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

Book III

8. How the king led an army against Boleslav

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

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

42. How the Ukrani were defeated by Gero.

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

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

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

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

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

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

45. Regarding Thiadric’s battle against the Slavs.

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

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

49. Regarding the triumph of the king.

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

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

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

50. Regarding the king and Wichmann’s cunning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

53. How the king avenged this raid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

54. Regarding the frontier commander Gero.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

58.  Regarding the letter that reported his death.

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

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

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

66. Gero because of his oath, released Wichmann.

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

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

67. How Gero conquered the Lutizi.

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

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

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

68. Regarding two minor kings and Wichmann.

For this section, see here.

69. Regarding the death of Wichmman.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* presumably his “native” language was Saxon.

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

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

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

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

* Otto I became emperor on February 2, 962.

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

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

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

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

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

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June 12, 2016

Paul the Deacon’s Historia Langobardorum – Part II

Published Post author

Here we continue with Paul the Deacon where we left off in Book 4 of the History of the Lombards.


in Carniolam Sclavorum patriam

Chapter 38

“After the death, as we said, of Gisulf, duke of Forum Julii, his sons Taso and Cacco undertook the government of this dukedom. They possessed in their time the territory of the Slavs which is named Zeilia (Gail-thal), [The valley of the Gail in Carinthia and eastern Tyrol] up to the place which is called Medaria (Windisch Matrei), hence, those same Slavs, up to the time of duke Ratchis, paid tribute to the dukes of Forum Julii. Gregory the patrician of the Romans killed these two brothers in the city of Opitergium (Oderzo) by crafty treachery. For he promised Taso that he would cut his beard,* as is the custom, and make him his son, and this Taso, with Cacco his brother, and some chosen youths came to Gregory fearing no harm. When presently he had entered Opitergium with his followers, straightway the patrician ordered the gates of the city to be closed and sent armed soldiers against Taso and his companions. Taso with his followers perceiving this, boldly prepared for a fight, and when a moment of quiet was given, they bade each other a last farewell, and scattered hither and thither through the different streets of the city, killing whomsoever they could find in their way, and while they made a great slaughter of the Romans, they also were slain at last.  But Gregory the patrician, on account of the oath he had given, ordered the head of Taso to be brought to him, and, perjured though he was, cut off his beard as he had promised.”**

* As per the translator: “A ceremony indicating that he whose beard is shaved and whose hair is cut has arrived at the state of manhood. Thus king Liutprand performed a similar ceremony for the son of Charles Martel (Historia Langobardorum, Book 6, Chap. 53).”

** As per the translator: “Fredegar (IV, 69) tells a story (which is considered by some to be a variation of this) as to the murder of Taso, duke of Tuscany, by the patrician Isaac.  King Arioald offered Isaac to remit one of the three hundredweights of gold which the empire paid yearly to the Langobards if he would kill Taso, who was a rebel (see chap. 49). Isaac invited Taso to Ravenna with a troop of warriors who were prevailed upon to leave their arms outside the walls, and when they entered the city they were assassinated. The tribute was accordingly reduced. Soon afterwards Arioald died. As Arioaild reigned from 626 to 636 and Isaac did not become exarch until 630, this story can not be reconciled with Paul’s account of an event which must have happened many years earlier. Either Fredegar got hold of an inaccurate version, or the coincidence of name is accidental and the story relates to some different event.”

Mortuo, ut diximus, Gisulfo duce Foroiulensi, Taso et Cacco, filii eius, eundem ducatum regendum susceperunt. Hi suo tempore Sclavorum regionem quae Zellia appellatur usque ad locum qui Medaria dicitur possiderunt. Unde usque ad tempora Ratchis ducis idem Sclavi pensionem Foroiulanis ducibus persolverunt. Hos duos fratres Gregorius patricius Romanorum in civitate Opitergio dolosa fraude peremit. Nam promittens Tasoni, ut ei barbam, sicut moris est, incideret eumque sibi filium faceret, ipse Taso cum Caccone germano suo et electis iuvenibus ad eundem Gregorium nihil mali metuens advenit. Qui mox cum Opitergium cum suis esset ingressus, statim isdem patricius civitatis portas claudi praecepit et armatos milites super Tasonem eiusque socios misit.


Quod Taso cum suis conperiens, audacter se ad proelium praeparavit; ultimumque sibi data pace valedicentes, per singulas civitatis plateas hac illacque dispersi, quoscumque obvios habere poterant trucidantes, cum magnam stragem de Romanis fecissent, ad extremum etiam ipsi perempti sunt. Gregorius vero patricius propter iusiurandum quod dederat caput Tasonis sibi deferri iubens, eius barbam, sicut promiserat, periurus abscidit.

Chapter 39

“When they were thus killed, Grasulf, the brother of Gisulf, was made duke of Forum Julii. [in 636?] But Radoald and Grimoald, as they were now close to the age of manhood, held it in contempt to live under the power of their uncle Grasulf, and they embarked in a little boat and came rowing to the territories of Beneventum. Then hastening to Arichis, duke of the Beneventines, their former preceptor, they were received by him most kindly and treated by him in the place of sons. In these times, upon the death of Tassilo, duke of the Bavarians, his son Garibald was conquered by the Slavs at Aguntum (Innichen), and the territories of the Bavarians were plundered. The Bavarians, however, having recovered their strength, took away the booty from their foes and drove their enemies from their territories.”


His ita peremptis, dux Foroiulanis Grasulfus, Gisulfi germanus, constituitur. Radoald vero et Grimoald despectui ducentes sub patrui sui Grasulfi potestate degere, cum essent iam prope iuvenilem aetatem, ascensa navicula remigantes, ad Beneventi fines perveniunt; et exinde ad Arichis Beneventanorum ducem, suum quondam paedagogum, properantes, ab eo gratissime suscepti et filiorum loco sunt habiti. His temporibus mortuo Tassilone duce Baioariorum, filius eius Garibaldus in Agunto a Sclavis devictus est, et Baioariorum termini depraedantur. Resumptis tamen Baioarii viribus et praedas ab hostibus excutiunt et hostes de suis finibus pepulerunt.

Chapter 40

“King Agilulf, indeed, made peace with the emperor for one year, and again for another, and also renewed a second time the bond of peace with the Franks. In this year, nevertheless, the Slavs grievously devastated Istria after killing the soldiers who defended it. Also in the following month of March, Secundus, a servant of Christ of whom we have already often spoken, died at Tridentum (Trent). He composed a brief history of the deeds of the Langobards up to his time.  At that time king Agilulf again made peace with the emperor. In those days Theudepert, king of the Franks, was also killed, and a very severe battle occurred among them. Gunduald too, the brother of queen Theudelinda, who was duke in  the city of Asta (Asti), died at this time, struck by an arrow, but no one knew the author of his death.”

Rex vero Agilulf pacem cum imperatore in annum unum itemque in alterum faciens, cum Francis quoque iterato pacis concordiam renovavit. Hoc nihilominus anno Sclavi Histriam, interfectis militibus, lacrimabiliter depraedati sunt.


Sequenti quoque mense martio defunctus est aput Tridentum Secundus servus Christi, de quo saepe iam diximus, qui usque ad sua tempora succinctam de Langobardorum gestis conposuit historiolam. Eo tempore rex Agilulf cum imperatore iterato pacem conposuit. Occisus quoque est his diebus Theudepertus rex Francorum, et facta est pugna gravissima inter eos. Gunduald etiam, germanus Theudelindae reginae, qui erat dux in civitate Astensi, nemine sciente auctorem mortis ipsius, hoc ipso in tempore sagitta ictus interiit.

Chapter 44

“Then on the death of Arichis, who had held the dukedom fifty years, Aio, his son, was made leader of the Samnites,* and still Radoald and Grimoald obeyed him in all things as their elder brother and lord. When this Aio had already governed the dukedom of Beneventum a year and five months, the Slavs came with a great number of ships and set up their camp not far from the city of Sipontum (Siponto). They made hidden pitfalls around their camp and when Aio came upon them in the absence of Raduald and Grimoald and attempted to conquer them, his horse fell into one of these pitfalls, the Slavs rushed upon him and he was killed with a number of others. When this was announced to Raduald he came quickly and talked familiarly with these Slavs in their own language, and when in this way he had lulled them into greater indolence for war, he presently fell upon them, overthrew them with great slaughter, revenged the death of Aio and compelled those of his enemies who had survived to seek flight from these territories. [in 642]”

* As per the translator: “That is the Beneventines. This occurred in 641 (Waitz).”
** As per the translator: “Raduald and Grimoald had been neighbors to the Slavs in the dukedom of Fruili from which they had come to Beneventum (Waitz).”


Defuncto ergo Arechis, qui ducatum quinquaginta tenuerat annis, Aio, eius filius, Samnitum ductor effectus est; cui tamen Radoald et Grimoald sicut seniori fratri et domino per omnia paruerunt. Qui Aio cum iam anno et mensibus quinque Beneventanorum ducatum regeret, venientes Sclavi cum multitudine navium, non longe a civitate Seponto castra posuerunt. Qui occultas foveas circa sua castra facientes, cum Aio super eos, absentibus Raduald et Grimoald, venisset eosque debellare vellet, equus eius in unam de eisdem foveis cecidit, atque inruentibus super eum Sclavis, simul cum aliquantis aliis extinctus est. Quod cum Raduald nuntiatum fuisset, cito veniens, eisdem Sclavis propria illorum lingua locutus est. Cumque eos propter hoc segniores ad bellum reddidisset, mox super eos inruens magnaque eos strage prosternens, et Aionis mortem ultus est et de illis finibus eos qui remanserant hostes fugam petere coegit.

Book V

Chapter 22

“Finally, after Lupus was killed in this way, as we have related, Arnefrit, his son, sought to obtain the dukedom at Forum Julii in the place of his father. But fearing the power of king Grimuald, he fled into Carnuntum, which they corruptly call Carantanum (Carinthia)* to the nation of the Slavs,** and afterwards coming with the Slavs as if about to resume the dukedom by their means, he was killed when the Friulans attacked him at the fortress of Nemae (Nimis), which is not far distant from Forum Julii.”***

* As per the translator: “The name given by Paul (Carnuntum), the modern [this translation is from 1907] Presburg, is incorrect, Carantanum was the proper name for Carinthia. (Hodgkin).”
** As per the translator: “These Slavs belonged to the Slovene branch of the Slav race (Hodgkin).”
*** As per the translator: “About 15 miles northwest of Cividale (Hodgkin).”


Denique Lupo hoc modo ut praemisimus interempto, Arnefrit, eius filius, voluit in loco patris aput Foroiuli optinere ducatum. Sed metuens Grimualdi regis vires, fugit ad Sclavorum gentem in Carnuntum, quod corrupte vocitant Carantanum. Qui postea cum Sclavis adveniens, quasi ducatum eorum viribus resumpturus, aput Nemas castrum, quod non longe a Foroiuli distat, inruentibus super se Foroiulanis, extinctus est.

Chapter 23

“Afterwards Wechtari was appointed duke at Forum Julii. He was born at the city of Vincentia (Vicenza), was a kind man, and one who ruled his people mildly. When the nation of the Slavs had heard that he had set out for Ticinum, they collected a strong multitude and determined to attack the fortress of Forum Julii, and they came and laid out their camp in the place which is called Broxas, * not far from Forum Julii. But it happened according to the Divine will that the evening before, duke Wechtari came back from Ticinum without the knowledge of the Slavs.  While his companions, as is wont to happen, had gone home, he himself, hearing these tidings concerning the Slavs, advanced with a few men, that is, twenty-five, against them. When the Slavs saw him coming with so few they laughed, saying that the patriarch was advancing against them with his clergy. When he had come near the bridge of the river Natisio (Natisone)** which was where the Slavs were staying, he took his helmet from his head and showed his face to them. He was bald-headed, and when the Slavs recognized him that he was Wechtari, they were immediately alarmed and cried out that Wechtari was there, and terrified by God they thought more of flight than of battle. Then Wechtari, rushing upon them with the few men he had, overthrew them with such great slaughter that out of five thousand men a few only remained, who escaped with difficulty.”***

* As per the translator: “Bethmann believes that a certain stronghold, Purgessimus, is meant, near the bridge hereafter referred to; others say Prosascus, at the source of the Natisone; others, Borgo Bressana, a suburb of Cividale (Waitz). Musoni (Atti del Congresso in Cividale, 1899, pp. 187, 188) considers all these conjectures inadmissible, and shows that it was at the place now called Brischis, near that city.”

** As per the translator: “Waitz says the bridge of San Pietro dei Schiavi. Musoni (Atti, etc., p. 191), believes it was probably the present bridge of San Quirino.”

*** As per the translator: “It is evident that this account, which is no doubt based upon oral tradition and perhaps has some historical basis, has been greatly exaggerated, if indeed there is not a mistake in the figures, as Muratori suggests, The allusion to the patriarch also appears to contain an anachronism, since it was in 737, after these events, that the patriarch Calixtus removed his see to Cividale. Communities of Slavs still [this translation is from 1907] inhabit a portion of Friuli; they are divided, according to their linguistic peculiarities, into four principal groups, and probably came into this district at different times. (Musoni, Atti del Congresso in Cividale, 1899, pp. 187, 193.)”


Deinde ordinatus est aput Foroiuli dux Wechtari, qui fuit oriundus de Vincentina civitate, vir benignus et populum suaviter regens. Hunc cum audisset Sclavorum gens Ticinum profectum esse, congregata valida multitudine, voluerunt super Foroiulanum castrum inruere; et venientes castrametati sunt in loco qui Broxas dicitur, non longe a Foroiuli. Secundum divinam autem dispositionem contigit, ut dux Wechtari superiori vespere a Ticino reverteretur nescientibus Sclavis. Cuius comites cum ad propria, ut adsolet fieri, remeassent, ipse hoc nuntium de Sclavis audiens, cum paucis viris, hoc est viginti quinque, contra eos progressus est.


Quem Sclavi cum tam paucis venire conspicientes, inriserunt, dicentes, patriarcham contra se cum clericis adventare. Qui cum ad pontem Natisionis fluminis, qui ibidem est ubi Sclavi residebant, propinquasset, cassidem sibi de capite auferens, vultum suum Sclavis ostendit; erat enim calvo capite. Quem dum Sclavi, quia ipse esset Wechtari, cognovissent, mox perturbati, Wechtari adesse clamitant, Deoque eos exterrente, plus de fuga quam de proelio cogitant. Tunc super eos Wechtari cum paucis quos habebat inruens, tanta eos strage prostravit, ut ex quinque milibus viris vix pauci qui evaderent remanerent.

Book VI

Chapter 24

“When Ado who we said was caretaker had died at Forum Julii, Ferdulf, a man tricky and conceited, who came from the territories of Liguria, obtained the dukedom. Because he wanted to have the glory of a victory over the Slavs, he brought great misfortune upon himself and the people of Forum Julii. He gave sums of money to certain Slavs to send upon his request an army of Slavs into this province, and it was accordingly done. But that was the cause of great disaster in this province of Forum Julii. The freebooters of the Slavs fell upon the flocks and upon the shepherds of the sheep that pastured in their neighborhoods and drove away the booty taken from them. The ruler of that place, whom they called in their own language “sculdahis,” [Schultheiss’, local magistrate] a man of noble birth and strong in courage and capacity, followed them, but nevertheless he could not overtake the freebooters. Duke Ferdulf met him as he was returning thence and when he asked him what had become of these robbers, Argait, for that was his name, answered that they had escaped. Then Ferdulf in rage thus spoke to him: “When could you do anything bravely, you whose name, Argait, comes from the word coward,” and Argait, provoked by great anger, since he was a brave man, answered as follows: “May God so will that you and I, duke Ferdulf, may not depart from this life until others know which of us is the greater coward.” When they had spoken to each other in turn, these words, in the vulgar tongue* it happened not many days afterwards, that the army of the Slavs, for whose coming duke Ferdulf had given his sums of money, now arrived in great strength. And when they had set their camp upon the very top of a mountain and it was hard to approach them from almost any side, duke Ferdulf, coming upon them with his army, began to go around that mountain in order that he could attack them by more level places. Then Argait of whom we have spoken thus said to Ferdulf: ‘Remember, duke Ferdulf, that you said I was lazy and useless and that you called me in our common speech a coward, but now may the anger of God come upon him who shall be the last of us to attack those Slavs,’ and saying these words, he turned his horse where the ascent was difficult on account of the steepness of the mountain, and began to attack the fortified camp of the Slavs. Ferdulf, being ashamed not to attack the Slavs himself, through the same difficult places, followed him through those steep and hard and pathless spots, and his army too, considering it base not to follow their leader, began also to press on after him. Consequently the Slavs, seeing that they were coming upon them through steep places, prepared themselves manfully, and fighting against them more with stones and axes than with arms they threw them nearly all from their horses and killed them.** And thus they obtained their victory, not by their own strength, but by chance. There all the nobility of the Friulans perished. There duke Ferdulf fell and there too he who had provoked him was killed. And there so great a number of brave men were vanquished by the wickedness and thoughtlessness of dissension as could, with unity and wholesome counsel, overthrow many thousands of their enemies. There, however, one of the Langobards, Munichis by name, who was afterwards the father of the dukes Peter of Forum Julii and Ursus of Ceneta (Ceneda), alone acted in a brave and manly manner. When he had been thrown from his horse and one of the Slavs suddenly attacking him had tied his hands with a rope, he wrested with his bound hands the lance from the right hand of that same Slav, pierced him with it, and tied as he was, threw himself down through the steep places and escaped. We put these things into this history especially for this purpose, that nothing further of a like character may happen through the evil of dissension.”

* As per the translator: “‘Vulgaria verba.’ Hartmann (II, 2, 58) regards this passage as presupposing that Ferdulf and Argait could speak Latin with one another. After the permanent settlement of the Langobards in Italy the current Latin language of the time (which was the only written language, and the only one fitted to many of the new relations imposed by their intercourse with the Roman population) gradually superseded their own more barbarous tongue. (Hartmann, II, 2, 22.) It is evident, however, from the German words used by Paul, as well as from his description of this controversy between duke Ferdulf and Argait, which must have occurred not far from A.D. 700 (Hodgkin, VI, 328, note 3), that the Langobard language was spoken in the eighth century, and there are traces of its continuance even after the Frankish invasion, A.D. 774. In a document in upper Italy the pronoun ‘ih’ introduced by mistake before the Latin words “have subscribed myself” indicate the existence of the Langobard as a spoken language in the latter half of the ninth century. The Chronicle of Salerno, composed in 978 (Ch. 38, MGH. SS., Ill, 489), refers to the German language as “formerly” spoken by the Langobards, from which it would appear that in that region at least it had then become extinct. But it is quite uncertain just when it ceased to be used. Probably the language continued longest where the German population was most dense, and the period where it died out as a living language must have been preceded by a considerable time, in which those who spoke it also understood and spoke the Latin tongue. The period of its decline can be traced by numerous Latin terminations of German words and the addition of German suffixes (for example, engo, ingo, esco-asco- atto- etio- otto) to Latin words, combinations which have been important ingredients in the formation of modern Italian (Bruckner, Sprache der Langobarden, pp. 11-17).”

** As per the translator: “‘Securibus’. Hodgkin translates “tree trunks,” believing that the axes were used in felling trees to cast down upon them (VI, 330, and note 3).”
z1Mortuo quoque aput Foroiuli Adone, quem dixeramus lociservatorem fuisse, Ferdulfus ducatum suscepit, qui de partibus Liguriae extitit, homo lubricus et elatus. Qui dum victoriae laudem de Sclavis habere cupiit, magna sibi et Foroiulanis detrimenta invexit. Is praemia quibusdam Sclavis dedit, ut exercitum Sclavorum in eandem provinciam sua adhortatione inmitterent. Quod ita quoque effectum est. Causa autem magnae in eadem Foroiulana provincia perditionis ista fuit. Inruerunt latrunculi Sclavorum super greges et pastores ovium, quae in eorum vicinia pascebantur, et de eis praedas abigerunt. Subsecutus est hos rector loci illius, quem «sculdahis» lingua propria dicunt, vir nobilis animoque et viribus potens; sed tamen eosdem latrunculos adsequi non potuit. Cui exinde revertenti dux Ferdulfus obviam factus est.


Quem dum interrogaret, quid de illis latrunculis factum esset, Argait ei – sic enim nomen habebat –, eosdem fugisse, respondit. Tunc ei Ferdulfus indignans ita locutus est: «Quando tu aliquid fortiter facere poteras, qui Argait ab arga nomen deductum habes?». Cui ille maxima stimulatus ira, ut erat vir fortis, ita respondit: «Sic velit Deus, ut non antea ego et tu, dux Ferdulfe, exeamus de hac vita, quam cognoscant alii, quis ex nobis magis est arga». Haec cum sibi invicem vulgaria verba locuti fuissent, contigit non post multos dies, ut exercitus Sclavorum, pro quorum adventu dux Ferdulfus praemia dederat, cum magnis viribus adventaret. Qui cum castra in summo montis vertice posuissent, et pene ex omni parte difficile esset ad eos accedere, Ferdulfus dux cum exercitu superveniens, coepit eundem montem circuire, ut per loca planiora super eos possit inruere. Tunc Argait, de quo praemisimus, ita Ferdulfo dixit: «Memento, dux Ferdulf, quod me esse inertem et inutilem dixeris et vulgari verbo arga vocaveris. Nunc autem ira Dei veniat super illum, qui posterior e nobis ad hos Sclavos accesserit». Et haec dicens, verso equo, per asperitatem montis, unde gravis erat ascensus, ad castra contendere coepit Sclavorum. Ferdulfus vero opprobrium ducens, si non ipse per eadem difficilia loca super Sclavos inruerit, eum per aspera quaeque et difficilia inviaque loca secutus est. Quem suus exercitus, turpe ducens ducem non sequi, subsequi et ipse coepit.


Videntes itaque Sclavi eos per devexa loca super se venire, praeparaverunt se viriliter, et magis lapidibus ac securibus quam armis contra eos pugnantes, pene omnes deiectos equis perimerunt. Sicque victoriam non viribus, sed casu adepti sunt. Ibi omnis nobilitas periit Foroiulanorum; ibi Ferdulfus dux cecidit; ibi et ille qui eum provocaverat extinctus est. Tantique ibi viri fortes per contentionis malum et inprovidentiam debellati sunt, quanti possent per unam concordiam et salubre consilium multa milia sternere aemulorum. Ibi tamen unus e Lango bardis nomine Munichis, qui pater post Petri Foroiulani et Ursi Cenetensis ducum extitit, solus fortiter et viriliter fecit. Is cum de equo eiectus esset, et eum unus e Sclavis subito invadens eius manus fune conligasset, ipse manibus ligatis lanceam ab eiusdem Sclavi dextera extrahens, eum cum ipsa percussit, et ligatus per aspera se loca deiciens evasit. Haec ideo vel maxime in hac posuimus historia, ne quid aliquid per contentionis malum simile contingat.

Chapter 45

“When then at Forum Julii (Cividale) the patriarch Screnus had been taken away from human affairs, Calixtus, a distinguished man who was archdeacon of the church of Tarvisium (Treviso) received through the efforts of king Liutprand the government of the church of Aquileia. At this time as we said, Pemmo ruled the Langobards of Forum Julii. When he had now brought to the age of early manhood those sons of the nobles whom he had reared with his own children, suddenly a messenger came to him to say that an immense multitude of Slavs was approaching the place which is called Lauriana.*  With those young men, he fell upon the Slavs for the third time, and overthrew them with a great slaughter, nor did any one else fall on the part of the Langobards than Sicuald, who was already mature in age. For he had lost two sons in a former battle, which occured under Ferdulf, and when he had avenged himself upon the Slavs a first and a second time according to his desire, the third time, although both the duke and the other Langobards forbade it, he could not be restrained but thus answered them: ” I have already revenged sufficiently,” he says, ” the death of my sons and now if it shall happen, I will gladly receive my own death.” And it so happened, and in that fight he only was killed. Pemmo, indeed, when he had overthrown many of his enemies, fearing lest he should lose in battle any one more of his own, entered into a treaty of peace with those Slavs in that place. And from that time the Slavs began more to dread the arms of the Friulans.”

* As per the translator: “Supposed to be the village of Spital near Villach (Waitz) on the Urave in Carinthia (Waitz). This seems quite uncertain.”


Aput Foroiuli igitur sublato e rebus humanis patriarcha Sereno, Calistus, vir egregius, qui erat Tarvisianae ecclesiae archidiaconus, adnitente Liutprando principe, Aquileiensem ecclesiam regendam suscepit. Quo, ut diximus, in tempore Pemmo Foroiulanis praeerat Langobardis. Is cum iam nobilium filios, quos cum suis natis nutrierat, [eos] iam ad iuvenilem perduxisset aetatem, repente ei nuntius venit, inmensam Sclavorum multitudinem in locum qui Lauriana dicitur adventasse. Cum quibus ille iuvenibus super eosdem Sclavos tercio inruens, magna eos clade prostravit; nec amplius ibi aliquis a parte Langobardorum cecidit quam Sicualdus, qui erat iam aetate grandaevus. Iste namque in superiori pugna, quae sub Ferdulfo facta est, duos filios amiserat. Qui cum prima et secunda vice iuxta voluntatem suam se de Sclavis ultus esset, tercia vice, prohibente duce et aliis Langobardis, non potuit inhiberi, sed ita eis respondit: «Iam satis» inquit «meorum filiorum mortem vindicavi, et iam, si advenerit, laetus suscipiam mortem». Factumque est, et ipse solus in eadem pugna peremptus est. Pemmo vero cum multos inimicorum prostravisset, metuens ne aliquem suorum amplius in bello perderet, cum eisdem Sclavis in eodem loco pacis concordiam iniit;


atque ex illo iam tempore magis ac magis coeperunt Sclavi Foroiulanorum arma formidare.

Chapter 51

“At the same time a grievous strife arose between duke Pemmo and the patriarch Calixtus and the cause of this discord was the following: Fidentius, bishop of the Julian fortress (Julium Carnicum) [Zuglio, a town north of Tolmezzo] came on a former occasion and dwelt within the walls of the fortress of Forum Julii (Cividale) and established there the see of his bishopric with the approval of the former dukes. When he departed from life, Amator was ordained bishop in his place. Up to that day indeed, the former patriarchs had their see, not in Forum Julii, but in Cormones (Cormons) because they had not at all been able to dwell in Aquileia on account of the incursions of the Romans. It greatly displeased Calixtus who was eminent for his high rank that a bishop dwelt in his diocese with the duke and the Langobards and that he himself lived only in the society of the common people. Why say more? He worked against this same bishop Amator and expelled him from Forum Julii and established his own dwelling in his house. For this cause duke Pemmo took counsel with many Langobard nobles against this same patriarch, seized him and brought him to the castle of Potium, [not identified – Giansevero believes it was the castle of Duino] which is situated above the sea, and wanted to hurl him thence into the sea but he did not at all do this since God prohibited. He kept him, however, in prison and nourished him with the bread of tribulation. King Liutprand hearing this was inflamed with great rage, and taking away the dukedom from Pemmo, appointed his son Ratchis in his place. Then Pemmo arranged to flee with his followers into the country [patria = fatherland] of the Slavs, but Ratchis his son besought the king and reinstated his father in the monarch’s favor. Pemmo then, having taken an assurance that he would suffer no harm, proceeded to the king with all tlhe Langobards with whom he had taken counsel. Then the king, sitting in judgement, pardoned for Ratchis’ sake Pemmo and his two sons, Ratchait and Aistulf, and ordered them to stand behind his chair. The king, however, in a loud voice ordered that all those who had adhered to Pemmo, naming them, should be seized. Then Aistulf could not restrain his rage and attempted to draw his sword and strike the king but Ratchis his brother prevented him. And when these Langobards were seized in this manner, Herfemar, who had been one of them, drew his sword, and followed by many, defended himself manfully and fled to the church of the blessed Michael and then by the favor of the king he alone secured impunity while the others were for a long time tormented in bonds.”


Gravis sane per idem tempus inter Pemmonem ducem et Calistum patriarcham discordiae rixa surrexit. Causa autem huius discordiae ista fuit. Adveniens anteriore tempore Fidentius episcopus de castro Iuliensi, cum voluntate superiorum ducum intra Foroiulani castri muros habitavit ibique sui episcopatus sedem statuit. Quo vita decedente, Amator in eius loco episcopus ordinatus est. Usque ad eundem enim diem superiores patriarchae, quia in Aquileia propter Romanorum incursionem habitare minime poterant, sedem non in Foroiuli, sed in Cormones habebant.


Quod Calisto, qui erat nobilitate conspicuus, satis displicuit, ut in eius diocesi cum duce et Langobardis episcopus habitaret et ipse tantum vulgo sociatus vitam duceret. Quid plura? Contra eundem Amatorem episcopum egit eumque de Foroiuli expulit atque in illius domo sibi habitationem statuit. Hac de causa Pemmo dux contra eundem patriarcham cum multis nobilibus Langobardis consilium iniit adprehensumque eum ad castellum Potium, quod supra mare situm est, duxit indeque eum in mare praecipitare voluit, sed tamen Deo inhibente minime fecit; intra carcerem tamen eum retentum pane tribulationis sustentavit. Quod rex Liutprand audiens, in magnam iram exarsit, ducatumque Pemmoni auferens, Ratchis, eius filium, in eius loco ordinavit. Tunc Pemmo cum suis disposuit, ut in Sclavorum patriam fugeret; sed Ratchis, eius filius, a rege supplicavit patremque in regis gratiam reduxit. Accepta itaque Pemmo fiducia, quod nihil mali pateretur, ad regem cum omnibus Langobardis, quibus consilium habuerat, perrexit. Tunc rex in iudicio residens, Pemmonem et eius duos filios Ratchait et Aistulfum Ratchis concedens, eos post suam sedem consistere praecepit. Rex vero elevata voce omnes illos qui Pemmoni adhaeserant nominative conprehendere iussit. Tunc Aistulfum dolorem non ferens, evaginato pene gladio regem percutere voluit, nisi eum Ratchis, suus germanus, cohibuisset.  Hoc modo his Langobardis conprehensis, Herfemar, qui unus ex eis fuerat, evaginato gladio, multis se insequentibus, ipse se viriliter defensans, in basilica beati Michahelis confugit, ac deinde regis indulgentia solus inpunitatem promeruit, ceteris longo tempore in vinculis excruciatis.

Chapter 52

“Then Ratchis having become duke of Forum Julii as we have said, invaded Carniola (Krain), the country [patria = fatherland] of the Slavs, with his followers, killed a great multitude of Slavs and laid waste everything belonging to them. Here when the Slavs had suddenly fallen upon him and he had not yet taken his lance from his armor-bearer, he struck with a club that he carried in his hand the first who ran up to him and put an end to his life.”


Ratchis denique aput Foroiuli dux, ut dixeramus, effectus, in Carniolam Sclavorum patriam cum suis ingressus, magnam multitudinem Sclavorum interficiens, eorum omnia devastavit. Ubi cum Sclavi super eum subito inruissent, et ipse adhuc lanceam suam ab armigero non abstulisset, eum qui primus ei occurrit clava, quam manu gestabat, percutiens, eius vitam extinxit.

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June 6, 2016

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

Published Post author

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


1577 edition

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



Book I

17.  Regarding King Henry

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

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

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

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

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

20.  How the Hungarians devastated Saxony,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Corvey abbey today

36.  Regarding the Redarii and how they were defeated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Saxons
** Slavs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Daleminzi.

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


Corvey on a map from 1620

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June 5, 2016

Paul the Deacon’s Historia Langobardorum – Part I

Published Post author

Paul the Deacon’s (circa 720 – 799) History of the Lombards (Historia Langobardorum) is one of the most famous works of the middle ages.  Paul (Paulus Diaconus) wrote it as an Origo gentis regarding the Lombards (relying too on the earlier Origo Gentis Langobardorum) but his work contains a number of interesting passages regarding Slavs.  (In fact, one of those passages served as one of the key arguments made by the proponents of the Venetic theory for the notion of Slovene continuity from the Venetic times).


The number of passages regarding Slavs is many and so we present this work in two parts.  The English translation is from the standard  work by William Dudley Foulke.  (So too are the comments).  Pictures are from the Saint Gall 635 codex.

Book IV

Chapter 7

“In these days [year was 595] Tassilo was ordained king among the Bavarians by Childepert, king of the Franks. And he presently entered with his army into the province of the Slavs, and when he had obtained the victory, he returned to his own land with very great booty.”


His diebus Tassilo a Childeperto rege Francorum aput Baioariam rex ordinatus est. Qui mox cum exercitu in Sclavorum provinciam introiens, patrata victoria, ad solum proprium cum maxima praeda remeavit.

Chapter 10

“Meanwhile, in the following month of January, a comet appeared morning and evening through the whole month. And in this month also John, archbishop of Ravenna, died and Marianus, a Roman citizen, was substituted in his place. Also Euin, the duke of Trent, being dead, duke Gaidoald, a good man and a Catholic in religion, was assigned to that place. And in these same days, while the Bavarians, to the number of thirty thousand men, attacked the Slavs, the Cagan fell upon them and all were killed. Then for the first time wild horses and buffaloes were brought into Italy, and were objects of wonder to the people of that country.”


Inter haec sequenti mense ianuario paruit stella cometes mane et vespere per totum mensem. Eo quoque mense defunctus est Iohannes archiepiscopus Ravennae. Cuius in locum Marianus civis Romanus substitutus est. Euin quoque duce in Tridentu mortuo, datus est eidem loco dux Gaidoaldus, vir bonus ac fide catholicus. Isdem ipsis diebus Baioarii usque ad duo milia virorum dum super Sclavos inruunt, superveniente Cacano omnes interficiuntur.


Tunc primum cavalli silvatici et bubali in Italiam delati, Italiae populis miracula fuerunt.

Chapter 24

“At this time the ambassadors of Agilulf who returned from the Cagan announced a perpetual peace made with the Avars. Also an ambassador of the Cagan came with them and proceeded to Gaul, demanding of the kings of the Franks that they should keep peace with the Langobards the same as with the Avars. Meanwhile the Langobards invaded the territories of the Istrians* with the Avars and the Slavs, and laid waste everything with burnings and plunderings.”

* According to the translator: “Istria still remained under Byzantine dominion up to the year 751 and this raid was probably about 601.”


Hac tempestate legati Agilulfi regressi a Cacano, pacem perpetuam factam cum Avaribus nuntiarunt. Legatus quoque Cacani cum eis adveniens, ad Gallias perrexit, denuntians Francorum regibus, ut, sicut cum Avaribus, ita pacem habeant cum Langobardis. Inter haec Langobardi cum Avaribus et Sclavis Histrorum fines ingressi, universa ignibus et rapinis vastavere.

Chapter 28

“In these days the Langobards still had a quarrel with the Romans on account of the captivity of the king’s daughter.  For this reason king Agilulf departed from Mediolanum (Milan) in the month of July, besieged the city of Cremona with the Slavs whom the Cagan, king of the Avars, had sent to his assistance and took it on the twelfth day before the calends of September (August 21st) [the year was 603] and razed it to the ground. In like manner he also assaulted Mantua, and having broken through its walls with battering-rams he entered it on the ides (l3th) of September, [of 603] and granted the soldiers who were in it the privilege of returning to Ravenna. Then also the fortress which is called Vulturina (Valdoria)* surrendered to the Langobards; the soldiers indeed fled, setting fire to the town of Brexillus (Bresccllo).**  When these things were accomplished, the daughter of the king was restored by Smaragdus the patrician with her husband and children and all her property. In the ninth month peace was made up to the calends (first) of April of the eighth indiction.  [April 1st, 605]  The daughter of the king, indeed, presently returned from Ravenna to Parma; but she died immediately in the perils of a difficult child-birth.  In this year [this year still was 605] Teudepert and Theuderic, kings of the Franks, fought with their paternal uncle Clothar, and in this struggle many thousands fell on both sides.”

* According to the translator: “Hodgkin  places it on the northern bank of the Po not far from Parma, which is probably correct. Thus Waitz. Giansevero believes that a castle named Vulturena at the upper end of lake Como at the entrance of the Valtellina is intended.”

** According to the translator: “Or as Waitz calls it, Bersello, and adds that it is not far from Reggio (d’Emilia). It was a town on the Po about ten miles from Parma.”


Erat autem his diebus adhuc discordia Langobardis cum Romanis propter captivitatem filiae regis. Qua de causa rex Agilulf egressus Mediolanio mense iulio, obsedit civitatem Cremonensem cum Sclavis, quos ei Cacanus rex Avarorum in solacium miserat, et cepit eam duodecimo kalendas septembris et ad solum usque destruxit.  



Pari etiam modo expugnavit etiam Mantuam, et interruptis muris eius cum arietibus, dans veniam militibus qui in ea erant revertendi Ravennam, ingressusque est in eam die iduum septembrium. Tunc etiam partibus Langobardorum se tradidit castrum quod Vulturina vocatur; milites vero Brexillum oppidum igni cremantes, fugierunt.


His ita patratis, reddita est filia regis a Smaracdo patricio cum viro ac filiis ac rebus cunctis; factaque est pax mense nono usque kalendas aprilis indictionis octavae. Filia vero regis mox a Ravenna Parmam rediit; ob difficultatem partus periclitata, statim defuncta est.


Hoc anno Teudepertus et Theudericus reges Francorum adversus Clotharium patruum suum dimicarunt. In quo certamine ex utraque parte multa milia ceciderunt.

Chapter 37

“About these times the king of the Avars, whom they call Cagan in their language, came with a countless multitude and invaded the territories of Venetia.*”

* According to the translator: “The date usually assigned to the Avar invasion is 611, though some place it as early as 602. Phocas reigned from 602 to 610. If the death of Severus, patriarch of Atjuileia, occurred in 606, the Avar invasion took place after that date, since Gisulf concurred in the nomination of his successor (Hodgkin). The previous relations between the Langobards and Avars had been of the most friendly character. There had been treaties of alliance, joint invasions of Istria, injunctions sent by the Avars to the Franks to keep peace with the Langobards and Agilulf had furnished the Cagan with shipwrights for a naval expedition against the Eastern empire (Hodgkin).”

“Gisulf the duke of Forum Julii (Friuli) boldly came to meet him with all the Langobards he could get, but although he waged war with a few against an immense multitude with indomitable courage, nevertheless, he was surrounded on every side, and killed with nearly all his followers. The wife of this Gisulf, by name Romilda, together with the Langobards who had escaped and with the wives and children of those who had perished in war, fortified herself within the enclosures of the walls of the fortress of Forum Julii (Cividale). She had two sons, Taso and Cacco, who were already growing youths, and Raduald and Grimuald, who were still in the age of boyhood. And she had also four daughters, of whom one was called Appa and another Gaila, but of two we do not preserve the names. The Langobards had also fortified themselves in other fortresses which were near these, that is, in Cormones (Cormons), Nemas (Nimis), Osopus (Ossopo), [on the river Tagliamento (Waitz)] Artenia (Artegna), [in Carnia (Waitz)] Reunia (Ragogna), Glemona (Gemona), [in Friuli (Waitz)] and also in Ibligis (Iplis) [near Cividale on the way to Cormons (Waitz); according to others, Invilino (Abel)] whose position was in every way impregnable. Also in the same way they fortified themselves in the remaining castles, so that they should not become the prey of the Huns, that is, of the Avars. But the Avars, roaming through all the territories of Forum Julii, devastating everything with burnings and plunderings, shut up by siege the town of Forum Julii and strove with all their might to capture it. While their king, that is the Cagan, was ranging around the walls in full armor with a great company of horsemen to find out from what side he might more easily capture the city, Romilda gazed upon him from the walls, and when she beheld him in the bloom of his youth, the abominable harlot was seized with desire for him and straightway sent word to him by a messenger that if he would take her in marriage she would deliver to him the city with all who were in it. The barbarian king, hearing this, promised her with wicked cunning that he would do what she had enjoined and vowed to take her in marriage. She then without delay opened the gates of the fortress of Forum Julii and let in the enemy to her own ruin and that of all who were there. The Avars indeed with their king, having entered Forum Julii, laid waste with their plunderings everything they could discover, consumed in flames the city itself, and carried away as captives everybody they found, falsely promising them, however, to settle them in the territories of Pannonia, from which they had come.”

“When on their return to their country they had come to the plain they called Sacred, [unclear where] they decreed that all the Langobards who had attained full age should perish by the sword, and they divided the women and children in the lot of captivity. But Taso and Cacco and Raduald, the sons of Gisulf and Romilda, when they knew the evil intention of the Avars, straightway mounted their horses and took flight. One of them when he thought that his brother Grimoald, a little boy, could not keep himself upon a running horse, since he was so small, considered it better that he should perish by the sword than bear the yoke of captivity, and wanted to kill him. When therefore, he lifted his lance to pierce him through, the boy wept and cried out, saying: “Do not strike me for I can keep on a horse.” And his brother, seizing him by the arm, put him upon the bare back of a horse and urged him to stay there if he could; and the boy, taking the rein of the horse in his hand, followed his fleeing brothers. The Avars, when they learned this, mounted their horses and followed them, but although the others escaped by swift flight, the little boy Grimoald was taken by one of those who had run up most swiftly. His captor, however, did not deign to strike him with the sword on account of his slender age, but rather kept him to be his servant. And returning to the camp, he took hold of the bridle of the horse and led the boy away, and exulted over so noble a booty – for he was a little fellow of elegant form with gleaming eyes and covered with long blonde hair – and when the boy grieved that he was carried away as a captive,

‘Pondering mighty thoughts within his diminutive bosom’,*”

* According to the translator: “Virgil, Georgics, IV, 83, where it is applied to the soldier bees. In Paul’s quotation ‘versant’ is changed to ‘versions’.”

“he took out of the scabbard a sword, such as he was able to carry at that age, and struck the Avar who was leading him, with what little strength he could, on the top of the head. Straightway the blow passed through to the skull and the enemy was thrown from his horse. And the boy Grimoald turned his own horse around and took flight, greatly rejoicing, and at last joined his brothers and gave them incalculable joy by his escape and by announcing, moreover, the destruction of his enemy. The Avars now killed by the sword all the Langobards who were already of the age of manhood, but the women and children they consigned to the yoke of captivity. Romilda indeed, who had been the head of all this evil-doing, the king of the Avars, on account of his oath, kept for one night as if in marriage as he had promised her, but upon the next he turned her over to twelve Avars, who abused her through the whole night with their lust, succeeding each other by turns. Afterwards too, ordering a stake to be fixed in the midst of a field, he commanded her to be impaled upon the point of it, uttering these words, moreover, in reproach: “It is fit you should have such a husband.” Therefore the detestable betrayer of her country who looked out for her own lust more than for the preservation of her fellow citizens and kindred, perished by such a death. Her daughters, indeed, did not follow the sensual inclination of their mother, but striving from love of chastity not to be contaminated by the barbarians, they put the flesh of raw chickens under the band between their breasts, and this, when putrified by the heat, gave out an evil smell. And the Avars, when they wanted to touch them, could not endure the stench that they thought was natural to them, but moved far away from them with cursing, saying that all the Langobard women had a bad smell. By this stratagem then the noble girls, escaping from the lust of the Avars, not only kept themselves chaste, but handed down a useful example for preserving chastity if any such thing should happen to women hereafter. And they were afterwards sold throughout various regions and secured worthy marriages on account of their noble birth; for one of them is said to have wedded a king of the Alamanni, and another, a prince of the Bavarians. The topic now requires me to postpone my general history and relate also a few matters of a private character concerning the genealogy of myself who write these things, and because the case so demands, I must go back a little earlier in the order of my narrative. At the time when the nation of the Langobards came from Pannonia to Italy, my great-great-grandfather Leupchis of the same nation of Langobards came with them in like manner. When he ended his last day after he had lived some years in Italy, he left five sons begotten by him who were still little boys. That misfortune of captivity of which we have spoken included these, and they were all carried away as exiles from the fortress of Forum Julii into the country of the Avars. After they had borne in that region for many years the misery of bondage, and had already come to the age of manhood, although the four others, whose names we do not retain, remained in the constraint of captivity, the fifth brother, Lopichis by name, who was afterwards our great-grand-father, determined (at the inspiration as we believe of the Author of Mercy) to cast off the yoke of bondage, and to direct his course to Italy, where he had remembered that the race of the Langobards was settled, and he made an effort to regain the rights of freedom. When he had gone and betaken himself to flight, carrying only a quiver and bow and a little food for the journey, and did not at all know whither he was proceeding, a wolf came to him and became the companion of his journey and his guide. Seeing that it proceeded before him, and often looked behind and stood with him when he stood, and went ahead when he advanced, he understood that it had been given to him from heaven to show to him the way, of which he was ignorant. When they had proceeded in this manner for some days through the solitudes of the mountains, the bread, of which the traveler had had very little, wholly failed him. While he went on his way fasting, and had already become faint with exhaustion from hunger, he drew his bow and attempted to kill with his arrow this same wolf so that he could use it for food. But the wolf, avoiding the stroke that he cast, slipped away from his sight. And he, not knowing whither to proceed, when this wolf had gone away, and made very weak moreover by the privation of hunger, now despaired of his life, and throwing himself upon the earth, he went to sleep. And he saw in his dreams a certain man saying to him the following words: ‘Arise! why are you sleeping? Take your way in that direction opposite to which your feet are turned, for there is Italy which you are seeking.’ And straightway rising he began to proceed in that direction which he had heard in his dreams, and without delay he came to a dwelling place of men; for there was a settlement of Slavs in those places. And when an elderly woman now saw him, she straightway understood that he was a fugitive and suffering from the privation of hunger. And taking pity upon him, she hid him in her dwelling and secretly furnished him food, a little at a time, lest she should put an end to his life altogether if she should give him nourishment to repletion. In fine, she thus supplied him skillfully with food until he was restored and got his strength. And when she saw that he was now able to pursue his journey, she gave him provisions and told him in what direction he ought to go. After some days he entered Italy and came to the house in which he had been born, which was so deserted that not only did it have no roof but it was full of brambles and thorns. And when he had cut them down he found within the walls a large ash-tree, and hung his quiver upon it. He was afterwards provided with gifts by his relatives and friends, and rebuilt his house and took a wife. But he could obtain nothing of the property his father had had, being now excluded by those who had appropriated it through long and continuous possession. This man, as I already said before, was my great-grandfather, and he begot my grandfather Arichis, [Henry] and Arichis, my father Warnefrit, and Warnefrit, from Theudelinda his wife, begot me, Paul, and my brother Arichis who was named after my grandfather.* These few things having been considered concerning the chain of my own genealogy, now let us return to the thread of the general history.”

* According to the translator: “Paul has probably omitted some links in his family genealogy. Four generations are very few for the period between Leupchis who came into Italy with Alboin, 568, and Paul, who was born between 720 and 730.  It is remarkable too that Leupchis, a grown man in 568, should leave five little children at the time of the Avar invasion in 610 (Hodgkin).”


Circa haec tempora rex Avarum, quem sua lingua Cacanum appellant, cum innumerabili multitudine veniens, Venetiarum fines ingressus est. Huic Gisulfus Foroiulanus dux cum Langobardis, quos habere poterat, audacter occurrit; sed quamvis forti animositate contra inmensam multitudinem bellum cum paucis gereret, undique tamen circumseptus, cum omnibus pene suis extinctus est. Uxor vero eiusdem Gisulfi nomine Romilda cum Langobardis qui evaserant sive eorum uxoribus et filiis qui in bello perierant, intra murorum Foroiulani castri [se] muniit septa. Huic erant filii Taso et Cacco iam adulescentes, Raduald vero et Grimuald adhuc in puerili aetate constituti. Habebat vero et filias quattuor, quarum una Appa, alia Gaila vocabatur, duarum vero nomina non retinemus. Communierant se quoque Langobardi et in reliquis castris quae his vicina erant, hoc est in Cormones, Nemas, Osopo, Artenia, Reunia, Glemona, vel etiam in Ibligine, cuius positio omnino inexpugnabilis existit. 

Pari etiam modo et in reliquis castellis, ne Hunnis, hoc est Avaribus, praeda fierent, se communivere. Avares vero per omnes Foroiulanorum fines discurrentes, omnia incendiis et rapinis vastantes, Foroiulanum oppidum obsidione claudunt et totis viribus expugnare moliuntur. Horum rex, id est Cacanus, dum circa muros armatus cum magno equitatu perambularet, ut, qua ex parte urbem facilius expugnare posset, inquireret, hunc Romilda de muris prospiciens, cum eum cerneret iuvenili aetate florentem, meretrix nefaria concupivit, eique mox per nuntium mandavit, ut, si eam in matrimonium sumeret, ipsa eidem civitatem cum omnibus qui aderant traderet.


Quod rex barbarus audiens, eidem malignitatis dolo quod mandaverat se facturum promisit eamque se in matrimonium accipere spopondit. Illa vero nihil morata, portas Foroiulensis castri aperuit et ad suam cunctorumque qui aderant perniciem hostem introduxit. Ingressi vero Avares cum rege suo Forumiulii, universa quae invenire poterant rapinis diripiunt; ipsamque urbem flammis concremantes, universos quos reppererant captivos adducunt, fallaciter tamen. eis promittentes, quod eos, unde digressi fuerant, Pannoniae in finibus conlocarent. Qui cum patriam revertentes ad campum quem Sacrum nominant pervenissent, omnes qui iam in maiori aetate constituti erant Langobardos gladio perimere statuunt, mulieres vero et parvulos captivitatis sorte dividunt. Taso vero et Cacco seu Raduald, filii Gisulfi et Romildae, cum hanc Avarorum malitiam cognovissent, statim ascensis equis fugam arripiunt.


E quibus unus Grimoaldum puerulum fratrem suum, dum existimaret utpote parvulum super equum currentem se tenere non posse, melius ducens eundem gladio perimere quam captivitatis iugum sustinere, eum occidere voluit. Cum igitur ut eum percuteret lanceam elevasset, puer lacrimans exclamavit, dicens: «Noli me pungere, quia possum me super equum tenere». Qui iniecta manu eum per brachium adprehendens super nudum equi dorsum posuit eundemque ut si posset se continere hortatus est. Puer vero frenum equi manu arripiens, fugientes germanos et ipse secutus est. Quo conperto, Avares mox ascensis equis eos persecuti sunt; sed reliquis veloci fuga evadentibus, Grimoald puerulus ab uno eorum, qui velocius cucurrerat, capitur. Nec tamen eum suus conprehensor gladio ferire propter parvitatem aetatis dignatus est, sed sibi eundem potius serviturum reservavit.


Cumque eum ad castra revertens adprehenso eiusdem equi freno reduceret deque tam nobili praeda exultaret – erat enim ipse puerulus eleganti forma, micantibus oculis, lacteo crine perfusus –; qui cum se captivum trahi doler et; Ingentes animos angusto in pectore versans, ensem, qualem in illa aetate habere poterat, vagina exemit seque trahentem Avarem, quantulo adnisu valuit, capitis in verticem percussit. Moxque ad cerebrum ictus perveniens, hostis ab equo deiectus est. Puer vero Grimuald verso equo fugam laetabundus arripiens, tandem fratribus iunctus est eisque liberatione sua, nuntiato insuper hostis interitu, inaestimabile gaudium fecit. Avares vero omnes Langobardos qui iam in virili aetate erant gladio perimunt, mulieres vero et parvulos captivitatis iugo addicunt. Romildam vero, quae totius malitiae caput extitit, rex Avarum propter iusiurandum, sicut ei spoponderat, nocte una quasi in matrimonio habuit, novissime vero duodecim Avaribus tradidit, qui eam per totam noctem vicibus sibi succedentes libidine vexarent.


Postmodum quoque palum in medio campo configi praecipiens, eandem in eius acumine inseri mandavit, haec insuper exprobrando inquiens: «Talem te dignum est maritum habere». Igitur dira proditrix patriae tali exitio periit, quae amplius suae libidini quam civium et consanguineorum saluti prospexit. Filiae vero eius non matris libidinem secutae, sed castitatis amore studentes ne a barbaris contaminarentur , crudorum pullorum carnes sibi inter mammas sub fascia posuerunt, quae ex calore putrefactae odorem foetidum exalabant. Cumque eas vellent Avares contingere, non sustinentes foetorem, putabant eas naturaliter ita foetere, procul ab eis cum execratione recedentes atque dicentes, omnes Langobardas foetidas esse. Hac igitur arte Avarorum libidinem puellae nobiles evadentes, et ipsae castae servatae sunt et utile servandae castitatis, si quid tale feminis contigerit, mandaverunt exemplum. Quae postea per diversas regiones venundatae, iuxta nobilitatem suam dignis sunt nuptiis potitae. Nam una earum Alamannorum regi, alia vero dicitur Baioariorum principi nupsisse.


Exigit vero nunc locus, postposita generali historia, pauca etiam privatim de mea, qui haec scribo, genealogia retexere, et quia res ita postulat, paulo superius narrationis ordinem replicare. Eo denique tempore quo Langobardorum gens de Pannoniis ad Italiam venit, Leupchis meus abavus ex eodem Langobardorum genere cum eis pariter adventavit. Qui postquam aliquot annos in Italia vixit, diem claudens extremum, quinque ex se genitos filios adhuc parvulos reliquit; quos tempestas ista captivitatis, de qua nunc diximus, conprehendens, omnes ex castro Foroiulensi in Avarorum patriam exules deduxit. Qui cum per multos annos in eadem regione captivitatis miseriam sustinuissent et iam ad virilem pervenissent aetatem, ceteris quattuor, quorum nomina non retinemus, in captivitatis angustia persistentibus, quintus eorum germanus nomine Lupichis, qui noster postea proavus extitit, inspirante sibi, ut credimus, misericordiae auctore, captivitatis iugum abicere statuit et ad Italiam, quo gentem Langobardorum residere meminerat, tendere atque ad libertatis iura studuit reppedare.


Qui cum adgressus fugam adripuisset, faretram tantum et arcum et aliquantulum cibi propter viaticum gerens, nesciretque omnino quo pergeret, ei lupus adveniens comes itineris et ductor effectus est. Qui cum ante eum pergeret et frequenter post se respiceret et cum stante subsisteret atque cum pergente praeiret, intellexit, sibi eum divinitus datum esse, ut ei iter, quod nesciebat, ostenderet. Cum per aliquot dies per montium solitudines hoc modo pergerent, panis eidem viatori, quem exiguum habuerat, omnino defecit. Qui cum ieiunans iter carperet et iam fame tabefactus defecisset, tetendit arcum suum et eundem lupum, ut eum in cibum sumere possit, sagitta interficere voluit. Sed lupus idem ictum ferientis praecavens, sic ab eius visione elapsus est. 


Ipse autem, recedente eodem lupo, nesciens quo pergeret, insuper famis penuria nimium debilis effectus, cum iam de vita desperaret, sese in terram proiciens, obdormivit; viditque quendam virum in somnis talia sibi verba dicentem: «Surge! Quid dormis? Arripe viam in hanc partem contra quam pedes tenes; illac etenim est Italia, ad quam tendis». Qui statim surgens, in illam partem quam in somnis audierat pergere coepit; nec mora, ad habitaculum hominum pervenit. Erat enim Sclavorum habitatio in illis locis. Quem cum una mulier iam vetula vidisset, statim intellexit, eum fugitivum esse et famis penuria laborare. Ducta autem misericordia super eum, abscondit eum in domo sua et secreto paulatim ei victum ministravit, ne, si ei usque ad saturitatem alimoniam praeberet, eius vitam funditus extingueret. Denique sic conpetenter ei pastum praebuit, quousque ipse recuperatus vires accipere potuisset. Cumque eum iam validum ad iter faciendum vidisset, datis ei cibariis, ad quam partem tendere deberet, admonuit.  


Qui post aliquot dies Italiam ingressus, ad domum in qua ortus fuerat pervenit; quae ita deserta erat, ut non solum tectum non haberet, sed etiam rubis et sentibus plena esset. Quibus ille succisis intra eosdem parietes vastam hornum repperiens, in ea suam faretram suspendit. Qui postea consanguineorum et amicorum suorum muneribus dotatus, et domum reaedificavit et uxorem duxit; sed nihil de rebus quas genitor suus habuerat, exclusus iam ab his qui eas invaserant longa et diuturna possessione, conquirere potuit. Iste, ut iam superius praemisi, extitit meus proavus. Hic etenim genuit avum meum Arichis, Arichis vero patrem meum Warnefrit, Warnefrit autem ex Theudelinda coniuge genuit me Paulum meumque germanum Arichis, qui nostrum avum . cognomine retulit. Haec paucis de propriae genealogiae serie delibatis, nunc generalis historiae revertamur ad tramitem.

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June 4, 2016

Slavs Being Drung Nach Westen

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After publishing his study “About the Slavs who once lived between the Rhine and the Elbe, Saale and Czech borderlands”  (O Słowianach, mieszkających niegdyś między Renem a Łabą, Salą i czeską granicą), Wojciech Kętrzyński went on a book tour and gave a speech regarding the reasons for having written his pamphlet.  A portion of that speech is worth quoting here:



“It is well known that there is currently a debate as to when the Slavs settled the wide spaces they currently hold, for according to theories proposed by Deutsche scholars all of Central Europe was previously held by Deutsche nations.*  There was, thus, no room for the Slavs, who could only have moved into these spaces [according to the Deutsche theories] once the Deutsche left them, which is supposed to have happened in the 6th, though maybe already in the 4th century A.D.”

[* note: Kętrzyński uses the Slavic word niemiecki for the common English adjective “German”.  For the sake of clarity, we thought of retaining the usage of the word “German” in this translation.  In light of Ketrzynski’s arguments, however, at least in this article it seemed hardly fair to let a people who’ve always called themselves just Deutsche appropriate the word German or Germanic entirely for themselves.]

“From the Slavic side there was frequently opposition to such a theory, though [such opposition] was not always effective.  So too the little pamphlet of this author “Die Lygier” [“The Lugians” though it should be “The Legianslegiorum!], published in 1868, had the same goal and the same result, i.e., it remained completely unaddressed.  To this day one opinion meets another opinion though the Deutsche are in ascendance for they fight using linguistic evidence, which tend to impress, for no one can challenge them [i.e., without also assailing linguistic theories]; it is on such [linguistic theories] that they build their hypotheses and to fit   such [linguistic] theories do they correct the [writings of] ancient authors; and yet linguistic evidence, in and of itself, cannot serve to establish a sufficient historical proof but rather can only be an additional, auxiliary argument.”

“It is for this reason that the author believed, that the entire matter should be placed on a new foundation which in the here mentioned work I’ve tried to do.”



“It has been known for quite a long time that the Elbe and Saale as also the Czech [Bohemian] border did not separate the Slavic and Deutsch peoples but that even beyond this line towards the West there exist Slavic place names.  It is for this reason that the author decided to collect them all in one place, taking into account primarily the suffix itz [Deutsch] ica, ici, ice [Slavic], as also names such as Winden, Wenden and those containing them, which the Deutsch scholars too have agreed indicate Slavic settlements.”

“The author was able in the process to gather together approximately 800 such names between the Rhine and the above-mentioned [Elbe-Saale] line, between the North Sea and the Alps; their placement has been shown on 4 maps.”

Deutsche scholars explain this phenomenon in two ways: 1) they claim that they [the Deutsche] so love foreign names [!] that they immediately Ge-deutsch them as their own; 2) usually, however, they assert that these were Slavic colonies, formed under orders of the Deutsch masters, among the Deutsche.”

“As regards the first point, the author shows [in his pamphlet] that Deutsche, everywhere where they encountered the Slavs (and also too in places where the Slavs had not been conquered by the Deutsche) they Ge-deutsched local place names, the proof of this stretches from Czechia, to Silesia to West Prussia and so forth, as it is also shown in the current behaviour of Deutsche regarding Polish place names.”

“Villages, founded by war prisoners and other unfree peoples in areas that were supposedly purely Deutsch could not have had Slavic names since what a place was called was in the oldest times determined by the surroundings [peoples?], later still by the lord and owner but a slave without any rights could neither force his will nor his language onto the locally dominant peoples/nation.”

“Villages, even in otherwise Slavic parts, that were founded by unfree Slavs but established for a Deutsch master, received Deutsche names.”

“Thus, if such place names could not have come about during the time of Deutsche dominance over the Slavs, their origin must predate such time…”


The talk given by Kętrzyński continues but for the purposes of this post, we do not need to continue with it.  Suffice it to say that the same Deutsche arguments that so annoyed Kętrzyński over a century ago are to this day made by various German scholars.  So, for example, we have this from Roland Steinacher’s brief summary (Wenden, Slawen, Vandale, Eine fruehmittelalterliche pseudologische Gleichsetzung und Ihre Nachwirkungenof his longer doctoral theses:


“Such toponyms are to be found also far removed from the Slavic settlement area and show the settlement of Slavic servants by Frankish landowners.”

Steinacher, like his predecessors over a century ago, neither disputes the Slavic character of such villages nor offers proof for the old theory that these were “new” settlements of Slavic war captives.  Of course, that theory is based on nothing other than the supposition that this must be the case because the alternative (Ketrzynski’s, i.e., that these were remnants of Slavic villages dating to Roman and pre-Roman times) would upend at least two centuries (but not much more – pre-19th century scholars displayed a more modest approach and showed less blind certitude!) of German scholarship.

Incidentally, Steinacher is also an author of a new book about the Vandals which, thankfully, begins its tale in the 4th century.  Here he appears mildly wistful but, in the end, mostly resists the urge to write his Vandalic history in the subjunctive:

wielk“If one could factually establish a connection between the Vandili of Plinius and Tacitus and the Przeworsk culture, were these peoples connected with those who hundreds of years later appeared on the Danube and the Rhein and eventually conquered Carthage, then the Vandals would have had a long pre-history.  But such connections are not provable.”

As we know, there is no mention of Vandals, as a people, by Tacitus and Pliny’s slim mention of Burgundians (though in all but one Ptolemaic manuscript – Buguntians without an “r”!) provides only the most ephemeral evidence of Vandals being in Poland (as opposed to somewhere in the Elbe area – which, if they came from Vendsyssel, would seem the logical place to put them).  In any event, Steinacher, notwithstanding his silly repetition of the “merry Slavic captives” theory, scores here a touch above Wolfram whose work on the topic is in the realm of historical fiction.

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June 4, 2016