Monthly Archives: December 2016

Saint Marinus and Annianus Face the Vandals

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Marinus and, his nephew, Annianus were (possibly) Scotch(?)-Irish monks who, according to legend, came to Rome in mid-7th century.  They were then sent by Pope Eugene I (which means this must have been between 654 and 657 when Eugene was Pope) to live as hermits to the area of Wilparting (Marinus) and Alb (Annianus) in today’s Oberbayern.  It was there that, forty or so years later in 697, they met their martyr deaths at the hands of…

Well, and that is where it gets interesting.

Irschenberg (contains Wilparting) coat of arms features our Saint

The pagan murderers were apparently Vandals. But… since this was the 7th century, it is more likely that the “Vandals” were Wends, i.e., Slavs and that has become the common interpretation of this legend – an interpretation that seems confirmed by a gloss in one of the sources describing these events.

So what are those sources?

One is called the Legenda Sancti Marini et Ammiani (the so-called Tegernsee Manuscript) and the other the Vita Sancti Marini et Ammiani (the so-called Rott Manuscript).

The Tegernsee version was originally published in volume 1 of the Moumenta Boica (pages 343-350).  It was discussed in the Beyträge zur teutschen Länder-, Völker-, Sitten- und Staaten-Kunde, Volume 1 (1825).  A portion of was also printed in the Monumenta Germaniae Historica (SS 15.2 at pages 1068 – 1070).  Another source for this is “Über einige bairische Heiligenviten” by Oswald Holder-Egger published in 1889.  Finally, Bernhard Sepp produced the whole work (Legenda and Vita) in an 1892 edition.

The Tegernsee Manuscript is dated to the 12th century whereas the Rott one to the 15th.  Nevertheless, Oswald Holder-Egger thought the Rott one to be the older version.  The Rott manuscript contains a gloss that explains the words gens… uuandalorum by uulgariter winden.  It also contains an additional sermon written in which has a third version of the events.

The Benedictine Abbey at Rott am Inn

Anyway, the Vita Marinus was terminated by the Slavs (probably) either while he was praying/ conducting prayers in the middle of a dale (burnt to death) – if you believe the Tegernsee version – or, in another variation, because he refused to give the Slavs directions (perhaps, if you want to combine the two, because he thought prayers were more important).  We translated a portion of the Tegernsee version – more to come.

Allegedly, the Wilparting church sits on the site of the hermit house of Saint Marinus

Legenda Sancti Marini et Ammiani
(Tegernsee Manuscript (12th century))
(Lat 18625 (Tegernsee 625), 68r–71v)

“…Temporibus ergo regum Pippini et Karolomanni, quando in Frantia regnaverunt, ipsi sancti predicti, ut suprascriptum est, mira sanctitate in Norica provintia in deserto quodam cis Alpinos montes sito per multos annos in Christo claruerunt.  Adventiente autem die eorum vocationis ad Christum, sicut eis jam dudum coelitus est promissum, simul ambo una die migraverunt de hoc mundo, licet hinc essent assumpti diverso modo.”

Igitur crudelissima gens Wandalorum eadem tempestate idolatriam colens ritu paganorum, de propria egrediens patria longe lateque plura desiderabilia loca vastaverat in provincia Bajoaria, quam circumquaque percurrens pervenit etiam ad cellam Sancti Marini, quem reperit nil hostilem incursionem formidantem intente officiis assistere serviminis divini.  Unde feroces homines nimio concitati furore sanctum Virum studuerunt maximo perturbare dolore.  Omnia namque eius utensilia primitus despoliando violenter ei abstulerunt, moxque illum, ut Christum negaret, plurimis tormentis compellere studuerunt.  Diutinis vero illum verberibus affligebant posteaque cum sevis ungularum lacerationibus eculeo suspensum usque ad nuditatem costarum constringebant.”  

“Therefore, the cruel nation of the Vandals who at the time cultivated pagan rites, emerged from its own lands, ravaged many excellent places in the province of Bavaria, traversing through which [province] they hastened also towards the Saint Marinus’ hut, who [Marinus] was assisting at holy service, expecting no hostile incursion.  Whence the ferocious men grew very furious and strove to cause the most fearsome pain to the holy man.  They violently destroyed all his belongings and carried him away yelling [and] so as to compel him to deny Christ, they invented many torments.  Truly a long time did they whip him and they beat him after and suspended him from hooks until his ribs constricted.”  

“Sanctus autem vir, inter tantas poenas corde et ore Christum confessus, hilari mente illud psalmigraphi carmen Domino canebat indefessus: Dominus mihi adiutor, non timebo, quid faciat mihi homo, et reliqua.  Illos etiam qui se cruciabant totis nisibus ad Dominum convertere desideravit; quibus verbum salutis constanter quasi nil mali sustinens predicavit.  Sed nullo modo durum eorum cor et inpenitens potuit salutiferis doctrinis emollire, qui, ut apostolus ait, sibi thesaurizaverunt iram in die irae.  Quid plura?  Supra modum ergo idem hostes ex patientia sancti viri truculentiores facti et plus quam ille beatus corpore torqueretur cordibus suis cruciati, novissimam hanc sententiam super ipsum fieri statuerunt, scilicet ut grandi igne eum comburerent, quem prefatis atrocibus poenis superare non valuerunt.  Tali quoque tormento martyr sanctus carnem relinquere optavit, qui cum sancto Laurentio et concedere Dominum sempter oravit.  Concupivit enim post obitum suum cum psalmista Domino gaudens concinere: Probasti, Domine, cor meum et visitasti nocte; igne me examinasti, et non est inventa in me iniquitas.”  

“Succenso itaque a Wandalis cumulo lignorum copioso immissus flammis vir Domini Marinus XVII. Kal. Decem. ad Christum migravit fine gloriosso.  Prius tamen, quam obiert, in medio incendiorum, more trium puerorrum a Chaldaeis olim iussu Nabuchodonosor Regis fornacem ignis missorum, quamdiu voluit, Dominmum laudans, per flammas illesus deambulavit. Denique cum gratiarum actione animam Domino reddens in manus sanctorum.  Angelorum eam commendavit.  Nullum vero eius membrum ignis potuit consumere, neque faltem vestimenta eius valuit comburere.  Profani autem Wandali, relicto in igne S. Martiris corpore diffcefferunt; sed Domino disponente ad cellam S. Aniani non venerunt…”  

“…Denique post felicem obitum forum ex divina revelatione quidam prebiter, nomine Priamus in eodem pago habitans sepelevit eos pariter in uno loco, ubi reuieverunt eorum sacra corpora longo tempore…”

They came too late for Marinus

Vita Sancti Marini et Ammiani autentica (written about 749 – 755)
(Rott Manuscript 15th century)
(Lat 15608 (Rot 108), fol. 4r–8v)

“Tempore Leoncii imperatoris contigit, quod gens nefandissima Wandalorum* de Italia fugientes et nescientes viam, et venerunt per viam per cis alpos montes, et illum virum sanctum, cum errando per montes ibant, invenerunt, precipientes ei, ut illis dux itineris esset.  Ille vero vir sanctus votum Deo suo factum habuit, be ab illa specu vivus recederet, non illis aquievit.  Illi vero nefandissimi hoc audientes indignati sunt valde et furore nimio repleti fecerunt ignem succendi ipsumque virum sanctum ligna vehere et ipsum vivum cum ipsa congerie lignorum incendebant eumque in medio posuerunt.  Hac de re vitam finivit XVII kal decembrium.  Prefatus vero sanctus Anianus stimplo cum hoc audiens eodem die, sedens et gaudens de martirio, quiod in socio vel in consobrino factum fuerat, et eucharistiam sibi petens dari, columbam auream de ore exeunte, omnibus astantibus et aspicientibus, ita finivit vitam.  Deinde corpora eorum in terra quiescentia centum quinquaginta annos, tunc revelata sunt viro magno atque sanctissimo Priamo presbitero, et merita illorum et locum in quo iacuerunt indicavit, et ille tunc episcopo nomine Tolusio omnia per ordinem, sicuti ostensum fuerunt, narravit.  Tunc episcopus magno repletus gaudio per viam iter carpere cepit, et ad locum veniens, omnia invenit, sicut sancto viro per visionem revelatum est.  Idcirco tunc prefatus episcopus triduanum ieiunium indicens populo, et tercia die cum omni clero psallencium cum crucibus et ymnis ad locum venientes, omnia repererunt sicut antea creverunt, et levaverunt reliquias cum summo honore, et exportate sunt in loco nuncupato Arrisio, sequentibus vero signis, et in ipsa ecclesia sunt condite cum aromatibus in sarcofago marmoreo niveoque candore et miro ordine polito.  Invencio preciosorum corporum Pipiny Karlomanni tempore, et ipsi Franciam regebant, et in Italia Egilolfi tempore.  Priamus presbiter iussus a domino episcopo Tolusio vidi omnia et scripso et testimoniis hiis gests perhibeo, et testimonium meum verum est, quod ipse scit qui est benedictus in secula seculorum.  Amen.  Expliccit legenda de sancto Marino et ce. de sancto Aniano et cet.  Dentur pro pena scriptori celica regna.  Amen.”

* The manuscript contains a note that explains the words gens… uuandalorum as follows: “uulgariter winden“.

The Rott Manuscript Sermon

The Rott manuscript also contains a sermon about Marinus and Anianus written in the same hand right before the above Vita which sermon provides yet another version of events:

“…Audivit autem, dum quadam die ad missarum sollempnia staret cumcapellano suo sancto Aniano, audivit cocem de celo dicentem sibi: ‘Marine, serve Dei, cito erit remuneracio tua et socii tui Aniani.  Et quia in hoc mundo unam vitam dilexistis, in uno die coronari digni estis.’  Quod et factum est, nam cum Wandali terram nostram vastaturi eo tempore intrarent, accidit, ut ad specum sancti Marini Domino permittente peruenirent, quorum tamen adventum sanctus Marinus prius in spiritu sancto cognouerat; ut autem proprius accesserunt, viderunt venerabilem senem genibus flexis orationibus insistentem; ad cuius caniciem primum exterriti sunt.  Deinde cellulam eius infringentes, interrogaverunt, ubi pecunias suas incole haberent absconditas, et nisi eas ipsis demonstraret, ipsum vivum incenderent.  Ille vero veras pecunias in celo querendas respondit, et quod contra votum suum vivus de antro non exiret.  Ad hanc cocem extrahentes eum et vestibus spoliantes, durissimis verberibus cum affecerunt.  Post hec vero corpus eius in eculeo suspenderunt et carnes eius ungulis laceraverunt, usque dum ossa eius nuda apparerent.  Deinde seponentes eum, facto igne copioso, eum in medium iactaverunt.  Sanctus vero Marinus Deo animam suam commendans oravit, ut eciam Anianum sibi sociaret, et quisquis auxilium eius de quacumque tribulatione peteret, Deus promptum ei ferret auxilium.  Hacque finita oratione, reddidit Deo animam.  Sanctusque Anianus, corporali inifrmitate correptus, diebus illis Sanctum Marinum visitare iuxta consuetudinem suam non potuit; unde per Spiritum sanctum intellexit sanctum Marinum e corpore emigrasse, et communicans de corpore Domini, animam tamquam niveam columbam de ore suo, videntibus qui aderant, ad celos emisit; sicque eo die quo sanctus Marinus per martirium sanctus Anianus vitam finivit per confessionem…”

Further we also read:

“…ita eciam vandali a romanis prouinciis ignominiose expulsi plus seuientes et propter spolia diripienda per eadem montana [Alpium] circumquaque discurrentes ad specum viri dei domino permittente ferebantur…”

And further:

“…Tortoribus ergo vandalicis sine mora per fugam amotis ex eorum relatione, qui eis seruire consueuerant, cognito martirio, quod in magistro et consobrino suo gestum fuerat, gaudens deo gratias agebat sanctam quoque dari eukaristiam post orationem ad deum beatam emisit animam aspicientibus illic astantibus, tanquam columbam auream de de niueo ore suo in celum emiserit…”

***

Note there is also the manuscript number Latin 23846 (ZZ 846) which may contain another version at f. 349 – 353.  We were unable to check.

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December 29, 2016

Life of Saint Emmeram of Regensburg

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Saint Emmeram died a martyr’s death about 652 (but maybe as late as 715) (at Ascheim).  His gallant heroics concerning the fair maiden (or not so much) Uta earned him a Vita written about him – the Vita et passio Sancti Haimhrammi Martyri which was probably written by Bishop Arbeo of Freising circa 770.

The Vita mentions the mission of Saint Emmeram to the lands of the Thuringians and the Porathanorum, a people “ignorant of God”:

Quidam vero qui ehm exinde redimerat genti Duringorum partibus aquilonis tradidit in confinio Parahtanorum gentis, quae ignorant Deum.  Cumque se praedictus senex gentilium idolorumque cultoribus proximum cerneret, coepit viribus, ut potuit, domino suo temporali tam praesenti quam absenti dignum omnino praebere famulatum.” [version B below]

It seems that the Po-rathanorum were the same as the Ratanz-winidi of whom we spoke earlier.  The Po- is the Slavic prefix indicating “by” as in Po-meranians or Po-labians.  The Po-rathanorum were the Slavs who lived by the Ratanz River (today’s Regnitz).

It is possible that Arbeo was projecting his own time onto that of over a century earlier of course but the fact that he also mentions the Thuringians who were largely pagan too then suggests otherwise.

 We will have more to say about the Slavs of the Bamberg area but for now we will leave you with this thought: Bamberg seems to have been named for the nearby Babenburg.  Babenburg seems to have been settled as early as 600 A.D.  And why is it called Babenburg?  Google archaeological finds in the area – you might come across sculptures such as these Three Fellas (discovered in 1858 – anyone tell you that?):

Did we mention that Saint Emmeram died at Ascheim?

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December 29, 2016

Indiculus and the Slavs?

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The Indiculus superstitionum et paganiarum is, what appears to be, a table of contents for a work that was either never composed or, if composed, is currently lost.  It was written sometime between 740 – 770 in Germany.  The titles serve to shed a bit of light on the topic of German (not Germanic as in ancient and not Nordic as in Scandinavian) paganism immediately before the intense Christianization campaigns of Charlemagne among the Saxons and others.  It exists in only one copy at the Vatican (MS 577).

What is particularly interesting about this work is that, in between the Latin, it features a few words of uncertain meaning which have commonly been viewed as Germanic but whose exact translation has been uncertain.  The list has been intensely studied by various linguists and anthropologists but, so far, as with so many such things, views differ and no solution to the puzzle appears commonly accepted.  The four words are dadsisasnimidasnodfyr and yrias.

It is generally accepted that they are or must be Germanic – most likely Dutch or Frisian.  Right above the Indiculus is the Old Saxon Baptismal Vow (somewhat similar in format to the later Slavic Freising Manuscripts vows) so a Saxon connection of sorts may also be present.  Indeed, nodfyr sounds/looks Germanic.  But what is interesting are the other words.

  1. De sacrilegio ad sepulchra mortuorum. – “Of sacrilege at the graves of the dead”
  2. De sacrilegio super defunctos id est dadsisas. – “Of sacrilege over the departed, that is, ‘dadsisas'”
  3. De spurcalibus in Februario. – “Of the swinish feasts in February”
  4. De casulis id est fanis. – “Of the little houses, that is sanctuaries”
  5. De sacrilegiis per aecclesias. – “Of sacrilegious acts in connection with churches”
  6. De sacris siluarum quae nimidas vocant. – “Of the sacred rites of the woods which they call ‘nimidas'””
  7. De hiis quae faciunt super petras. – “Of those things which they do upon the stones”
  8. De sacris Mercurii, vel Iovis. – “Of the sacred rites of Mercury and of Jupiter”
  9. De sacrificio quod fit alicui sanctorum. – “Of the sacrifice which is offered to any of the saints”
  10. De filacteriis et ligaturis. – “Of amulets and knots”
  11. De fontibus sacrificiorum. – “Of the fountains of sacrifices”
  12. De incantationibus. – “Of incantations”
  13. De auguriis vel avium vel equorum vel bovum stercora vel sternutationes. – “Of auguries, the dung or sneezing of birds or of horses or of cattle”
  14. De divinis vel sortilogis. – “Of diviners or sorcerers“
  15. De igne fricato de ligno id est nodfyr. – “Of the fire made by friction from wood, that is, the ‘nodfyr'””
  16. De cerebro animalium. – “Of the brains of animals”
  17. De observatione pagana in foco, vel in inchoatione rei alicuius. – “Of the observance of the pagans on the hearth or at the inception of any business”
  18. De incertis locis que colunt pro sacris. “Of undetermined places which they celebrate as holy”
  19. De petendo quod boni vocant sanctae Mariae. – “Of the bed-straw which good folk call Holy Mary’s”
  20. De feriis quae faciunt Jovi vel Mercurio. – “Of the days which they make for Jupiter and Mercury”
  21. De lunae defectione, quod dicunt Vinceluna. – “Of the eclipse of the moon – what they call, ‘Triumph, Moon!'””
  22. De tempestatibus et cornibus et cocleis. – “Of storms, and horns, and snail shells”
  23. De sulcis circa villas. – “Of furrows around villas”
  24. De pagano cursu quem yrias nominant, scissis pannis vel calciamentis. – “Of the pagan course which they call ‘yrias,’ with torn garments or footwear” 
  25. De eo, quod sibi sanctos fingunt quoslibet mortuos. – “Of this that they feign for themselves that dead persons of whatever sort are saints”
  26. De simulacro de consparsa farina. – “Of an idol made of dough”
  27. De simulacris de pannis factis. – “Of idols made of rags”
  28. De simulacro quod per campos portant. – “Of an idol which they carry through the fields”
  29. De ligneis pedibus vel manibus pagano ritu. – “Of wooden feet or hands in a pagan rite”
  30. De eo, quod credunt, quia femine lunam comendet, quod possint corda hominum tollere juxta paganos. – “Of this: that they believe that women command the moon that they may be able to take away the hearts of men, according to the pagans”

***

There are at least three interesting things about this list

First, already in 1841 the Polish historian and ethnographer A. Maciejowski in his Pagan Relics in Poland (Biblioteka Warszawska) claimed that the dadsisas are nothing other than the Slavic dziady, that is, a day or days of celebration for the dead ancestors.

This was described as fantastic by Čeněk Zíbrt  in his study of the Indiculus titled Seznam pověr a zvyklostí pohanských z VIII. věku: Indiculus superstitionum.

Nevertheless, Zíbrt did not specify, except in very general terms, why this must be so. The dadisas obviously remind us of the dziady lamentations as in the famous work by Adam Mickiewicz.  The mystical and religious aspects of Slavic theatrical productions was “recently” explored by Kolankiewicz who presents a fascinating revitalization of the Dlugosz pantheon as part of his exposition (albeit he gets Quija wrong – there is no such God).

Second, there are other similarities with Slavic paganism here.  For example, looking at the ‘Of the little houses, that is sanctuaries” heading, one is hard pressed not to think of the atque scenes presented on the stage of the stanky.  Or the yrias which suggest the Jare Gody being, roughly, spring fertility festivals – incidentally, the word “year” has the same origin.  And were the “sacred rites of Mercury and of Jupiter” rites to Jesza/Yassa whom Dlugosz identified with Jove.  What a “course” is supposed to mean in this context or how the torn garments or footwear play into all of this is unclear.  Likewise, fountains, auguries, divinations all appear in Slavic folklore.  The carrying of an idol “through the fields” reminds us of Marzana processions.  The idol of dough seems, if anything, Indian and hence, perhaps, Venetic as this Ganesh idol:

Third, there is a separate matter of the word dziady, dziad being similar to Ukrainian дiд (did) or Russian дед (ded). It is curious that the Germanic word for dead, i.e., dead/tot/död should be so similar to the Slavic word for “old man” or “grandfather” or, more broadly, “ancestor’s ghost” (for example, the dedky or dietky of Dalimil’s Chronicle the concept of which is already found (in Latin) in the Cosmas Chronicle).  This is perfectly illustrated by the German translation of Mickiewicz’s Dziady as Todtenfeier:

Bruckner’s etymologies of these words will not solve this riddle though he notes too that didko or ditko meant the devil or house spirit in Ruthenian (Ukrainian):

Of course, the notion that dziady should be the same as Germanic dadsisas further muddies the water as to what is Slavic and what is Germanic since in this ritual the Germanic meaning of dead and the Slavic meaning of ancestor each also incorporate the other meaning.  For the Slavic “ancestor” word the additional “dead” meaning was always implicit but for the Germanic general “dead” to be used to name an “ancestor worship” rite just as the Slavic one is rather novel.

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December 26, 2016

Liutprand of Cremona

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

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

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

His works include:

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

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

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

Retribution I (5)

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

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

Retribution I (8)

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

 

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

Retribution I (11)

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

Retribution I (13)

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

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

Retribution II (6)

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

Retribution II (28)

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

Retribution II (3)

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

Retribution III (21)

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

Retribution III (24)

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

Retribution III (27)

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

Retribution III (28)

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

Retribution III (29)

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

Retribution III (32)

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

Retribution III (38)

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

Romanos and Simeon

Retribution V (2)

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

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

Retribution V (15)

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

Retribution V (22)

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

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

King Otto (6)

“To this the emperor replied:

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

Embassy (16)

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

Embassy (19)

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

Embassy (20)

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

Embassy (21)

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

Embassy (23)

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

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

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

Embassy (29)

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

* Possibly of the Varangian guard.

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December 23, 2016

Al-Balādhurī’s Slavs

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Returning to more topical topics, we want to introduce Aḥmad Ibn Yaḥyā al-Balādhurī was a ninth-century Persian (probably) historian who traveled throughout the Middle East before penning his masterpieces.  One of those was  Kitab Futuh al-Buldan (The Book of the Conquests of Lands) where there are a few mentions of Slavs.  We chose not to include some other interesting passages (such as the one where he mentions the desert of Varta).

“They say that Salman ibn Rabi’a al Bahili served in the army of Abu Ubayda with Abu Uman a-Sudajj ibn Aglan, a co,pinion of the Prophet – let God’s blessing and care be with him.  He stopped at a certain fortress near Qurus, which [fortress] has since been named after him and is known as the Fortress of Salman.  Then he returned from Syria together with auxiliary forces for Sad ibn Abi Waqqas who at the time was in Iraq.”

“They also say that Salman ibn Rabi organized an expedition against the Byzantine Empire after taking Iraq but before his expedition to Armenia.  He set up camp nearby this fortress and left from the side of Maras.  For this reason it was named after him.”

“This Salman and Ziyad were descended from these Slavs, who were settled at the border by Marwan ibn-Muhammad.*  I myself heard someone who claimed that this Salman came from the Slavs and that this fortress was named after him.  God knows best.”

* This is the last Umayyad caliph, Marwan II (caliph 744 – 750) Perhaps these were Slavs settled there by Byzantines in the 7th century who then joined the Arabs and resettled (?) on the Muslim side or they may have been made prisoner by Marwan during his invasion of Khazaria in 737.

Another fragment is as follows:

“Then when the year 756-757, he ordered to populate the town of al-Massisa.  The walls of this town had been thrown down in the course of various campaigns and the few inhabitants who still dwelt there, lived deep inside the town.  Therefore, he built the town walls and placed people there in the year 757-758… Then he relocated to al-Massisa the inhabitants of al-Husus who were Persians, Slavs and Christians – Nahateians, and those who had been previously settled in that town [al-Husus] by Marwan* and he gave them in this [new] town land to compensate them for their old dwellings, according to their size [i.e., the bigger the prior dwelling the, bigger the new].  He leveled their old dwellings, helped them build anew and gave their old lands and houses [in al-Husus] to the garrison.”

*   They’d been settled there by al-Mansur not Marwan.

Also:

“They say Salman went towards the place where ar-Rass joins al-Kurr beyond al-Bardig.  He crossed al-Kurr and conquered Qabala… Then he was meat by the Khagan together with his horsemen beyond Narh al-Balangar and [Salman], may God have mercy on him, was killed together with four thousand Muslims… Ibn Guman al-Bahili says of Salman and of Qutayba ibn Muslim: ‘We have two graves: a grave in Balangar* and a grave in Sinistan’…”  

* or Bulungur – see below; the last portion of this passage is found in Kitab Uyun al-Akhbar of Ibn Qutaybah

And too:

“Marwan ibn-Muhammad was nominated [by Hisam ibn And al-Malik] a ruler at the frontier and took up his abode at Kasak/Kisal.  He built a city in this country which city lies forty phrasings from Bardha’ah and twenty from Taflis.  Marwan then entered the country of al-Khazar next to Bab al-Lan and made Said ibn-Zafir as-Sulami abu-Yazid, accompanied by the kings of al-Jibal [or “of the mountains”], enter it from the side of al-Bab wa-l-Abwab.  Then Marwan made an incursion on the Slavs who were in the land of al-Khazar and captured twenty thousand families whom he settled in Khakhit.  When they later put their leader to death and took to flight, Marwan pursued and slaughtered them.* They say that when the great leader of the al-Khazar received news of the size of the peoples/army with which Marwan entered into his country and with what number and strength they are going against him, this news frightened his heart and filled it with fear.  When [Marwan] he came closer, he sent an emissary to him asking him either to convert to Islam or to war.  [The leader of al-Khazar] replied: ‘I accept Islam.  Sent me someone who can explain it to me.’  He did this and he converted to Islam, and Marwan agreed to confirm him [as leader of] his kingdom.  [Then] Marwan went out with a throng of people from amongst al-Khazar and settled it between as-Samur. and as-Sabiran, in the plain of the land of al-Lachs [Lezgins?].” 

* Some people think these were Volga Kama Bulgars who became Muslim or Burtas or Suvars (Chuvash).  Others that these were Slavic warriors working for the khagan.   Since these are explicitly mentioned as Slavs and as families, neither of these suggestions seems correct (though at least some of those Bulgars may have spoken Slavic by then).  It’s not clear whether this “leader” was a Slavic (much like the Byzantines had selected rulers for the Slavs – the Slav Nevonlos – Nevolnost!?) one or an Arab or Khazar one – either way he was probably one imposed by (or at least acceptable to) the Arabs.

Later too:

“I was told by Ahmad ibn Salman al-Bahili who learned this from as-Sahmi who, in turn, learned this fro, his masters, that Salman ibn Rabi’a invaded Syria together with Abu Uman as-sudsy ibn Aglan al Bahili… Then he went to Iraq with reinforcements, hurrying to al-Quadisiya and was witness to that battle.  [Then] he spent [time] in Syria and he was killed in Bulungur.”*

* or Balangar – see above

Further:

“So it is said by Garir: ‘‘if Bisr wanted it, t hen beyond his doors there would be guarding access to them black foreigners or red [humrSlavs.  But Bisr enabled access to his doors to those whose rare visits bring him fame and payment.’”*

* this passage is also found in Kitab Uyun al-Akhbar of Ibn Qutaybah

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December 18, 2016

The Slavic Accents of Aethicus Ister?

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Speaking of Scythians…

The Cosmography of Aethicus Ister is a rambling work of frequent digressions and unexpected tangents.  It was written probably in the first half of the 8th century but may have been written slightly earlier.  The author calls himself Hieronymous (or Jerome) and claims to be describing the travels of “Aethicus the Istrian” around Europe and beyond.

No Slavs – under that name – appear in this Cosmography but certain “Slavic” accents do pop up in most unexpected ways.  We list (some of) them here (generally following the Michael Herren translation).

Vinnosi of Germania

The book lists the Vinnosus as one of the peoples of Germania that stretches from the Rhine to the mythical Riphaean mountains (Urals?).  Although it is not clear whether the Vinnosus refers to the Winidi/Veneti, the placement of that people between the Danus and the Rifeos seems to suggests the very swath of land (from the Elbe to the Urals) that – at the time of the writing of the book – would already have been largely occupied by a people we, today, call Slavs, i.e., the Veneti/Wends.  Here is that list from Chapter 29:

“Likewise, too, the Vafri, Friconti, Murrini, Alapes, Turks, Alani, Meotae, Huns, Frisians, Danes, Vinnidi, Riphaeans, and Olches, whom the folk in those parts call orci, very filthy peoples leading the most foul life – worse than all the kingdoms of the world – without a god, or law, or rituals.  Moreover, all the districts of those lands are called Germania, because the <peoples> are immense in body and are monstrous races, hardened by the most savage folkways; moreover, they are indomitable, bearing cold and hardship better an all <other> peoples.  He claims that there are one hundred districts between the inhabitable and uninhabitable <regions> front he River Rhine to Ocean, numerous islands, and the Meotidan Swamps.”

Sic et Vafros, Fricontas, Murrinos, Alapes, Turchus, Alanus, Meotas, Chugnos, Frigis, Danus, Vinnosus, Rifeos, Olches quos uulgus in illis regionibus ‘Orcus’ appellant, gentes spurcissimas ac uita inmundissima degentes ultra omnia regna terrarum, sine deo, sine lege uel caerimonias.  Name et illarum regionum pagi omnes Germania est appellata, eo quod <gentes. sint inmania corpora inmanesque nationes, seuissimis moribus duratae; adeo indomiti, frigore et rigore ferentes ultra omnes gentes.  Centum pagos dicit esse inter <plagas> habitabiles et inhabitabiles a Reno fluuio usque oceanum, insolas plurimas et Meotidas paludes.

Jason and Paron

The fact that Piorun or Perun was worshipped in the Eastern Slavic lands from Novgorod to Kiev is attested numerous times (whether this was just the invading Rus’ Thor or Lithuanian Perkunas is another matter altogether on which much ink has been spilled and we will not get into that here).  We also know that in the historic West of Slavdom, the Slavs worshipped Svantevit, Svarozic, Gerovit and the like.  In the “middle”, in Poland, Bohemia and Moravia the names of the Gods were yet different.  Here we have Jassa,  Lada, Nia, Devanna and the like.

The diversity of worship has led some researchers to conclude that Slavs did not have one overarching pantheon.  This is probably true (which BTW also indicates how unlikely the Slavs’ late spread from a hypothetical small area really is).

But Aethicus Ister puts some names together that we haven’t seen together before (or at least not in the same way) when it bring Jason and Paron (calling him “Pluto” which would make Paron/Perun to be the same as the Polish Nia) into one story in Chapter 97:

“Naxos and Melos and these islands are islands of the Cyclades, and the very round Isle of Melon as well, which is ver fertile; Jason, Pluto or Paron, and Pharius were born there.  The carnelian is found there, a stone superior to marble and more beautiful in its variety; nevertheless, it is not counted among the precious stones.  Chios is an outstanding island of the Cyclades, where indeed lovely and most excellent mastic is found.”

Naxon et Melos et ipsae insolae Cicladum insolaque Melon rotundissima adeo et fertilis, ubi Iason et Plutonem uel Paronem et Pharium editos.  Ibi inuenitur sarda lapis marmoribus praestantior et uariate pulchrior, tamen inter gemmas non reputatur.  Cion insola Clicladum optima, nimpe ubi pretiosus mastix et ualde probatissimus inuenitur. 

This fragment actually comes from Isidore’s Etymologies where we read at 14.6.27-29 where Iasion (not Jason) is the grandfather of Pareantus:

“27. The island of Naxos is named after Dionysius [the god of wine], as if it were Dionaxos, because it surpasses all others in the fertility of its vines.  It lies eighteen [Roman] miles from Delos.  Once upon a time Jupiter is said to have proceeded from there to fight the Titans.  28. Melos is the roundest island among all of the Cyclades; wherefrom its name is derived [malum, Latin for “round fruit”].  29. History says that Iasion had two sons, Philomelus and Plutus, and that Philomelus gathered Pareantus, who gave his name to the island and the city of Paros; first it was called Minoia then Paros.  Vergil writes of it [Aeneid 3.126]: ‘And snow-white Paros,’ for it produces the whitest marble, but when considered as a gemstone, the cheapest.”

Thus Aethicus (or Jerome really) substituted Jason for Iasion and Paron for Pareantus (note that the word “parent” may have the same etymology).  The connection between Jason and Jasion is something that is worth exploring.  But the form Paron also seems to indicate that the writer – the mysterious Jerome may have found it a convenient one.  Note too that these two names may refer to one God – thus, in Heinrich Gottlob Gräve‘s 1839 work Volkssagen und volksthümliche Denkmale der Lausitz we see a Deity under the name Ossopirno (as a lightning entity – compare this to the famous passage from Procopius) – though also Perkun (as a thunder (and lightning) entity) as well as Perdoito (as a wind entity):

Later in the text Jerome brings up a similar name where he says at Chapter 45:

“Lydia first produced inventors of ships.  The magician Pyrronius built a raft in Lydia in ancient times so that he might have knowledge of all the purple garments and all the beautiful things that are contained in the islands of the Mediterranean.  Whence too, Lydia [has] all the brilliant, great and outstanding purple-dyers as [does] Cyprus and the Cyclades, [who] are regarded as outstanding even now.  Other peoples and nations in the region [have] rafts joined together by beams and poles.”

Naium inuentores primum Lidia protulit.  Pyrronius magus antiquissimo tempore ratem in Lidia fabricauit, donec sciret purpora et omnia pulcherrima quae in insolas maris Magni habentur.  Vnde et omnis Lidia purporarias magnas et inclitas sicut Ciprus et Ciclades [quae] usque nunc praeclaras habetur.  [Habent] et ratiaras aliae gentes et in circuitum nationes ex tignis asserebusque connexum.

Lydia is a portion of Anatolia.  It’s close to Lycia, of course.  A type of boat called pirones also appears in Chapter 57 (aside from vagiones):

“…Indeed, the Albanians, Maeoti, and Mazeti, people from the Ganges, and Turks all use these boats, and call them pirones in their barbarian tongue.  These are more useful than corsairs; nevertheless, they are found nowhere in the Mediterranean…”

…Nam Albani, Meoti, Mazeti, Gangines, Tulchi has naues utuntur et was pirones in barbarica lingua appelant.  Vtiliores enim quam dromones; eas attamen in Mediterraneo mare nusquam reperiuntur…

Another people mentioned are the Murinos/Murinus somewhere about Parthia.  Whether these were “Moors” or, more likely, “sea-people” (compare the Morini of France perhaps mentioned above as Murrinos) is uncertain.

Jerome the Scythian and His Ozechy

Jerome who writes about Aethicus the Istrian but calls himself a Scythian (Nationi Scitica) does not say more about his background.  By his time “Istria” would certainly have been held by Slavs and Scythia was a term for all the lands north of the Danube with the exception of Germania.  Where, however, the border between the earlier Scythia and the later Germania lay cannot be determined because, as noted before, the people who wrote of these things had neither the knowledge nor, more importantly, any authority to enforce an international standard as to the answers to such questions.  Was the writer a Slav?  Probably not.  Was he acquainted with the “Scythian” tongues? Perhaps.

Curiously, Jerome concludes his book with a puzzling alphabet shown below.  For each letter he shows a representative word that begins with that letter.  Whether the omega‘s – “o’s” – sample word – ozechy – really refers to “nuts”. we leave to the readers. 

Perhaps it was this that much later may have become one of the bases for the assertion that the Glagolitic alphabet was invented by Saint Jerome (circa 347 – 420) as argued by Angelo Rocca in 1591.

Jerome had been born on the border of Dalmatia and Pannonia and is classified as “Illyrian.”

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December 15, 2016

Slavs of Ibn Qutaybah

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Ibn Qutaybah (circa 823/828 – circa 883/889) was a Persian scholar during the Abbasid Caliphate.  He wrote several works two of which contain brief mentions of Slavs.  We present those here.  Note that similar passages to the first and the third here are also present in Al-Balādhurī’s work Kitab Futuh al-Buldan. 

Kitab Uyun al-Akhbar

“A certain poet says of Bisr ibn Marwan*… ‘if Bisr wanted it, then beyond his doors there would be guarding access to them black foreigners or red [humrSlavs.**  But Bisr enabled access to his doors to those whose rare visits bring him fame and payment.'”

* an Ummayad prince – younger son of caliph Marwan ibn Abd al-Hakam –  died in 694.

** hagib meaning chamberlains (for Slavic chamberlains, see, e.g., Masudi , BGA VIII, p 328).

(Brockelman edition)

Kitab al-maʿārif

“As regards Japhet, among his descendants are Slavs, Burgan and al-Isban.*  Their dwellings lay in the country ar-Rum [Byzantine Empire] before the Byzantines arose.  To his descendants there also belong the Turks, Khazars, Jagog and Magog.”

* Bulgars and Spaniards.

And too:

“[Salman ibn Rabi’a al-Bahili*… was killed in Bulungur in the land of the Turks during true caliphate of Utman.  They say too that Bulungur belongs to Armenia…  Guman al-Bahili says: ‘ two graves: a grave in Balangar and a grave in upper China [Sinistan]’…”  

*  Al-Balādhurī claims him to be a Slav

(Wuestenfeld edition)

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December 15, 2016

Who lived in the Vistula neighborhood?

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A friend of the site asked specifically what the ancient authors say about the peoples in the neighborhood of the Vistula.  We’ve written about this numerous times but, why not, let’s do it again in one place.

Summarizing what we know about the Vistula neighborhood, we should first note that it is not clear which river is meant by the Vistula

Second, the concepts of “Germania”, “Sarmatia” or “Scythia” themselves are ill-defined in these works.

Third, note that the reports of these authors span half a millennium (from Pomponius Mela’s reports to Jordanes’).  As these authors themselves make clear, the situation in the lands of Germania, Sarmatia, Scythia was hardly static during this period.

With that said, here is, we think, where we are on the sources:

Pomponius Mela

Sarmatia is “separated by the Vistula River from the places that follow [Scythia?]” and “its people are very close to the Parthians in dress and in weaponry, but the rougher the climate, the cruder the disposition.”

Pliny

“Eningia is of not less magnitude. Some writers state that these regions, as far as the river Vistula, are inhabited by the Sarmati, the Venedi, the Sciri, and the Hirri”

 

Tacitus

[Tacitus never mentions the river Vistula]

Semones/Semnones, Suarines, Narisci, Legii (including Alii or Harii, Helve[t]ones, Manimos, Helisios, Naharuli/Nahanaruli)

somewhere in Carpathian mountains: Cotini or Gotini, Ossi/Boii?

somewhere at the ocean: Lemovii, Rugii, Gotones

further East? Venedi, Bastarnae

Ptolemy

“It [Sarmatia?] is terminated in the west by the Vistula river”

on the Ocean:  Rugiclei “up to the Vistula river”, Greater Venedae, Veltae, Ossi

away from the “Ocean” and more on the West side:

Suevi Semnones, Buguntae/Burguntae? “who inhabit from [the Suevus] to the Vistula”, Lingae, Lugi Omani, Lugi Diduni, Calucones, Camavi, Corconti, Lugi Buri “up to the head of the Vistula river”, Sidones, Cotini?

away from the “Ocean” and more on the East side:

“Lesser races inhabit Sarmatia near the Vistula river.  Below the Venedae are” the Gythones, Finni, Sulones, Phrungundiones, Avarini “near the sources of the Vistula river”, Ombrones, Anartophracti, Burgiones, Arsietae, Saboci, Piengitae, Biessi “near the Carpathian mountains”

 away from the “Ocean” and even more on the East side:

Galindae, Sudini and Stavani

Tabula Peutingeriana

Bur, Sarmati, Vagi, Solitubi?, Nes Sarmatarum, Amaxobii Sarmate, Lupiones Sarmate, Venadis (Venavis?) Sarmatae

Jordanes

Spali* around “Oium”?

* “z pali”, i.e., “from the fields”, i.e., Polanie?

“On the west [of Scythia] are the Germani and the river Vistula.”

“beginning at the source of the Vistula, the populous race of the Venethi dwell, occupying a great expanse of land. Though their names are now dispersed amid various clans and places, yet they are chiefly called Sclaveni and Antes.  The abode of the Sclaveni extends from the city of Noviodunum and the lake called Mursianus to the Danaster, and northward as far as the Vistula.”

“But on the shore of Ocean, where the floods of the river Vistula empty from three mouths, the Vidivarii dwell, a people gathered out of various tribes. Beyond them the Aesti, a subject race, likewise hold the shore of Ocean. To the south dwell the Acatziri, a very brave tribe ignorant of agriculture, who subsist on their flocks and by hunting.”

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December 14, 2016

Between Rhine and Danube

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Looking at the Peutinger Map from West to East (i.e., from the mouth of the Rhine along the top) we have the following tribes/country names:

  • Chamavi Qvielpranci
    • (below those) Haci Vapivarii
    • (below those) Canepstini
  • Francia
  • Burcturi
  • Suevia
  • Alemannia
  • Armalusi
  • Marcomanni
    • (below those) Vanduli
  • Quadi/Iutungi
  • Bur
  • Sarmate
  • Vagi
  • Solitubi 
  • Nes Sarmatarum
  • Amaxobii Sarmate
  • Lupiones Sarmate
  • Venadis (Venavis?) Sarmatae
  • Alpes Bastarnice
  • Blastarni
  • Dacpetoporiani – below those & river Agalingus:
    • Piti
    • Gaete
    • Bagae
    • Venedi 

Then we come to the mouth of the Danube.

Versiona Americana

In terms of other “Sarmatae” elsewhere we also have:

  • Roxulani Sarmate
  • Sasone Sarmatae
  • Svani Sarmatae

Another interesting thing is the Lupiones.  Lupiones Sarmate appear just West of the Venadis Sarmatae.  Are these the Legii/Lugiones?  Perhaps.  Is the “p” really a “g” then?

Maybe.

by Ìsydor Ìvanovyč Šaranevyč

But one can’t help but notice the similarity of the Lupiones to Lupus, i.e., wolf.  These people may, therefore, be the same as the later attested “Wiltzi”.  Although the Wiltzi (or Veletae aka Lutizi) name has not been satisfactorily explained (it has apparently been derived also from the “Wild Ones” – since wolves (wilki) are wild the classic chicken/egg problem arises), the suggestion that it is based on a “wolf-name” is patently reasonable as many tribes assumed “animal” names.  The Veltai also appear in the same area in Ptolemy’s Geography whereas the Veliate appear in southern France (albeit with another Slavic connection).

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December 10, 2016

Scythian Gods of Callimachus

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An interesting fragment from Filippo Buonaccorsi‘s (1437 – 1496) “The Life of Zbigniew Oleśnicki” (Vita et mores Sbignei cardinals).  (Oleśnicki was the one who commissioned Jan Długosz’s (1415 – 1480) annals).  This Vita was never published and remains in manuscript form at the Jagiellonian Library.  

However, an edition of it came out published by Ludwik Finkel (also published as part of Monumenta Poloniae Historica volume 6).

The first portion of the book contains an interesting description of the Poles as well as an explanation of their pagan beliefs.  It is not clear where Buonaccorsi (aka “Callimachus”) got this information from.  However, he was describing Oleśnicki’s family and claimed that the family – whose coat of arms was “Dębno” – must have been established by a Scythian warrior Deombrotus.  Deombrotus having been a Scythian teacher of the Poles…  Thus, by extension, the learned Oleśnicki was descended from the first Polish Scythian wiseman.

From the Okulski armorial

The relevant parts state the following:

“The family Dembno likely got its surname from Deombrotus having distorted his name somewhat, though those who do not know such ancient history, conjecture that the name arose later from an oak tree of remarkable height…”

[Because a dąb (damb or demb) means “oak” – interestingly, see also the name of Mons Jasonius aka Mount Damavand but also Mount Dembavend in Moses Khorenatsi’s work!]

and further:

“[He, i.e., Deombrotus once he took over the Poles] instructed them to venerate Vesta whom the Scythians call Labiti, Ceres whom they call Apia and Jove/Jupiter who is known as Jasde among them.  The wisemen/mages thought that these gods are: fire, earth and air.  But over time the Poles corrupted the Scythian names and said Lada in place of LabitiMia in lieu of Apia [and] Iesse rather than Jasde.  He introduced too certain ways of divining from the leaves of a linden tree which, having divided such leaves into three parts, they wrap around their fingers…”

The “Scythian” gods are actually based on a passage from Herodotus:

“They worship only the following gods, namely, Vesta, whom they reverence beyond all the rest, Jupiter, and Tellus, whom they consider to be the wife of Jupiter; and after these Apollo, Celestial Venus, Hercules, and Mars. These gods are worshipped by the whole nation: the Royal Scythians offer sacrifice likewise to Neptune. In the Scythic tongue Vesta is called Tabiti, Jupiter (very properly, in my judgment) Papaeus, Tellus Apia, Apollo Oetosyrus, Celestial Venus Artimpasa, and Neptune Thamimasadas. They use no images, altars, or temples, except in the worship of Mars; but in his worship they do use them.”

Thus, Herodotus has Vesta named Tabiti – not, as Callimachus would have it, Labiti.  How Labiti may have become Lada, Callimachus does not say.  Further, while Tellus corresponds to Ceres and, as per Herodotus, Apia (i.e., Earth), it is not clear how Apia should then have become the Polish Nia.  Finally, Herodotus never mentions Jasde but rather Papaeus.

Neither Herodotus nor anyone else mentions Deombrotus the Scythian (Callimachus provides a genealogy for Deombrotus connecting him with some Herodotian Scythian figures).

And so here we are.

The above is Finkel’s print edition.  The below may be Finkel’s handwriting (it’s not the actual autograph).

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December 7, 2016