Monthly Archives: November 2017


Published Post author

An interesting mention of Eastern Europe is found in the First Riustring Codex (De Eerste Riustringer Codex) aka the Asegabook, first published by Wybren Jan Buma and Wilhelm Ebel in 1961. In the R1 manuscript we have the following statement:

(you can see the following collections for more Oudfriese Taal-en Rechtsbronnen and Altfriesische Rechtsquellen, Texte und Übersetzungen).

“vnder sine tidon warth Rvszlond and Pulenera lond [or Polenera lond] and Vngeron bikerd.”

which is basically:

“in his [Otto III’s] time/rule were Russia {that is today’s Ukraine), Poland and Hungary converted [to Christianity].”

Copyright ©2017 All Rights Reserved

November 29, 2017

Baltic Veneti

Published Post author

A reader asked whether there any chance that the Veneti were Balts, as in speakers of Prussian, Lithuanian, Latvian and related languages.

Well, this certainly is possible but several factors speak against that.


The Veneti are described as being pretty much where the Western and Eastern Slavs later appear by Pliny (also Slovenes), Tacitus and Ptolemy.  Arguably they appear in Strabo and in several earlier writers in roughly the same area.  The Baltic tribes of Galindae, Sudini and Borusci of Ptolemy (who does not have Aestii) are not described as being on the Baltic.


By the 9th century the word Aestii refers to the Balts.  These people appear to be the Aestii of  Cassiodorus and Tacitus.  This also fits with Ptolemy who, again, does not have Aestii but does have Galindae, Sudini and Borusci who – probably – are the medieval tribes of Galindae, (?) Sudini and Prussians.  These tribes are thus distinguished from the Veneti. The Livland Chronicle also distinguishes the Wends from the Balts and medieval German crusaders certainly knew who Wends were in their time (that is Slavs).


The Veneti are described by Ptolemy and  as a populous bunch.  Later Jordanes makes the same claim about the Slavs, calling them Veneti.  The Aestii and later Balts are never described as populous.


As already mentioned Max Vasmer did not have an issue in ultimately concluding that the Veneti were Slavs.


The conclusion from the above should be obvious.

I should note that it is possible that both Slavs and Balts were part of one and the same grouping called Veneti and that one or the other group later changed languages.  The question would be who.  It is possible that the Slavs were the Veneti who were dragged by the Goths into the influence of the Jazyges, Alans or Huns and that, as a result, it is their language that changed.  The appearance of the ending -vit in Slavic divinities’ names on the Baltic suggests that.  As does also the naming of the lands of the Aestii as Witland.  Whether Tacitan Veneti and Aestii spoke the same language is debatable.

On the other hand, the presence of Baltic hydronyms deep in Belarus suggests perhaps something different.  Perhaps the Balts started deeper in the East and North East (their language is supposedly more “archaic” whatever that means – presumably closer to original IE) and then migrated West pushing the Veneti/Slavs out further West.  Nevertheless, for this to be plausible, one would have to conclude that the hydronyms in Old Prussia and along the coast have Slavic roots.

There is one more argument for identifying Slavs or at least some Slavs with the Veneti and it is theological.



The Veneti were pronounced Vindi or Winden in German.  The root india suggests some connection to, well, India or, more precisely, it suggests that the same people as the Venedi went East to bring the name India to India.  If you look at the names of Polish Gods, names such as Jassa, Devana in India (just Google Jassa and Devana and see what comes up).  Indeed, whatever the Baltic connection may be, the names of these Gods clearly point to similarities with India – and that fact, in and of itself, suggests that those who worshipped such Gods were the most likely candidates to be identified with the Vindi. Piorun/Perun, if it is related to Parjanya (but see even more similar village name of Peron in Punjab), does appear as Perkunas in Lithuania (too so this “divine” factor is not decisive but, the majority of such “Indian” names are Polish, not Lithuanian (some other shared names have no obvious Indian connection – such as the Polish and Lithuanian Lada). (Interestingly, the name also appears to mean a “pear” in Swedish – päron (and, presumably as a result, it means “potato” in Finnish).)

Copyright ©2017 All Rights Reserved

November 28, 2017


Published Post author

Jachen is a small river in Bavaria.  It is a tributary of the Isar.  This name should already have given you pause but, remember, a “river” or “rzeka/reka” is a feminine noun in Slavic.  So what do we have if we look back at the way this river is called?

  • Jachna, Jachnau, Jachenau (1796)
  • Jachenay (1731)
  • Jachenaw (1457)
  • Jachna (1313)

This is what Wolf-Armin Freiherr von Reitzenstein has to say about this name in the Lexikon bayerischer Ortsnamen. Herkunft und Bedeutung. 2. (verbesserte und erweiterte Auflage (!)).

“1930 ist für Fluss und Tal die mundartliche Form d’jåchna belegt. Als ursprüngliches Grundwort wird daher aha angenommen. Als Bestimmungswort kann, muss aber nicht, der Personenname Jacho vermutet werden.”

There is a town – Jachenau – nearby:

  • Jachenau (1649)
  • Jachenau (1584)
  • Jachnaw (1558)
  • Jachenaw (1433)
  • Jachnaw (1416)
  • Jachnawe (1295)

The same source provides the following about this name (I just cut it from Wikipedia but assume it’s what he wrote):

“Für die Herleitung des Namens Jachenau gibt es unterschiedlichste Ansätze: von „Jochinau“ = die Au der Jocher von Altjoch am Kochelsee, von Ahornau in Anlehnung an den Ahornboden, von der Au des Jacho“, eines damals gebräuchlichen Vornamens [no doubt!] und als Ableitung vom Namen der Jachen, dieses schnell fließenden („jach“, mittelhochdeutsch) Gewässers des Tales.”

Yes, “schnell fliessen” as in “jechac“.

Herr Freiherr should Google Jachna or Jacho and see what comes up.  For starters there will be a number of last names.  He should look where they come up (to make this easier). (Incidentally, the word, easy, though French in origin, seems to have a similar root (perhaps, as in “gliding”).

Here are the Anecdota Palaeopolonica by Antoni Kalina from the Archiv für slavische Philologie:

In fact, the same can be said about:

  • Lech > Leszek

Here you can compare the River Lech with the Langobard King’s name of Lethuc. For the male side note that the name can also end in an -o or in an -u.  As in Lecho or Lechu.  Without the “ch” is also possible as in Slawko, Gniewko and so forth.

Note that Jachna can be short for Agnes or Jagoda as in Jagoda > Jaga > Jagusia or > Jachna.

From Starodawne prawa polskiego pomniki (Old Polish legal testimonia):

  • Wyrona uxor S. heredis de J. et Jachna soror ejus..cum Jaschkone herede ibidem in Wirbno.
  • Jachna uxor A. de R. omnimodam partem hereditatis sue maternam ibidem in R. in…
  • Israhel Canaan et Abraham filij Lewconis Judei de Cracouia cognouerunt, quod ipsis Jachna Jacussij et Hanca Paschonis relicte de Dambieza… ipse Jachna et Hanca tenentur ad soluendum…
  • Eadem Jachna et Hanca ipsis Judeis ex pericione adhuc centum marcas ad festum Natiuitatis Christi proximum tenentur exsoluere.
  • Jachna uxor Alberti Lassota de Radwanonice… Item dicta Jachna dietam…
  • Jachna uxor legittima Przeczslai de Sauice… Prandote de Jarossyno racione ville Jawidz in terra Lublinensi obligata fideiussit, ita quod dicte pecunie debent post mortem ipsius Jachne ad idetum Prandotam renerti; et easdem pecunias iudicauit in parte hereditatis in Slauice….
  • Ex aduerso Jachna litem legitime contestado respondit…quod Jachna habuisset virum viuentem…

On the male side the name is Jach or Jacho but also comes up as Jachno.

The location of the river Jachen shown with red dot below deep in Bavaria (Euratlas with borders from 700) – not really in Slavic territory, is it:

Copyright ©2017 All Rights Reserved

November 23, 2017

Avian Warnings

Published Post author

Incidentally, if we are on the topic of Germanorum genera quinque: Vandilici quorum pars Burgodiones, Varini, Charini, Gutones, it behooves to ask whether the Varini could have been a Slavic tribe.  They are mentioned by Tacitus (Varini), Pliny (as above though there are variations here too), Ptolemy (Ούίρουνοι /Virunoi) as well as later in Procopius (Varni or Οὐάρνων)  Widsith (Wernum that is Werne) and the Lex Anglorum et Werinorum Hoc set Thuringorum  (Warni/Werni).  Similar names appear in other places such as the name of the town Varna (in Bulgaria) or on the Notitia Dignitatum (town of Varina in Datia Ripensis).

But then we have a tribe that is attested in the same region and has the same name but is Slavic. Here German Annals speak of the tribe of Warnabi, Warnavi, Warnahi, Wranovi, Wranefzi, Wrani, Varnes, or Warnower,  These are attested in several place names in Mecklenburg, on Wolin and in Pomerania and perhaps have something to do with the Ranii.  We know that they were part of the Obodrite confederation of Slavic tribes.

Moreover, while there is a town named Warnow in East Germany, there was also a town name Varnow/Warnow near Basel

So what is the etymology of this tribe name?  Well, no one knows and it all depends on whether you are talking about the allegedly Germanic tribe or the Slavic tribe… Of course, there are hypotheses aplenty.

One is that the Germanic Varini refers to those who you should be forewarned of, as in “warning“…

For the Slavic tribe, a reasonable suggestion would be that the name derives from the Slavic or Baltic word for “crow” which is represented as follows:

  • wrona (Polish)
  • warna (Kaszubian)
  • wran (OCS)
  • wran/wrana (Czech)
  • woron/worona (Russian)
  • warnas (Lithuanian)
  • warnis/warne (Prussian)
  • also:
    • sko-wronek, diminutive of the larch, literally, it supposedly means “what a little worn” – yet see below various version of kowron without the “s” and in Baltic and even Latin).
    • gawron
    • kuowarna (Latvian for a jackdaw)
    • kowran (Slovenian)
    • kaworon (Belarussian)
    • karwona (Lusatian)
    • Corvidae/corvin (but also note raven)

And in English you have the “wren”:

wren (n.) small, migratory singing bird, Old English wrenna, metathesis variation of earlier werna, a Germanic word of uncertain origin. Compare Icelandic rindill, Old High German wrendo, wrendilo “wren.” 

It is interesting that in the Baltic languages and in Kaszubian this name is essentially as the name of the tribe.

I should also say that it quite possible that the very word “warning” might have to do with the flight of birds whose sudden fleeing might be the first sign of danger.  In this fashion, the etymology of this bird would remain Baltic or possibly Slavic with the meaning of the word “warning” ultimately traced to this word.   Further, depending on where a given tribe lived, they might have been warned in this fashion of the approach of enemies by the type of bird common to a particular habitation – explaining why different types of birds might nevertheless share the same root.  Thus, the English would have “originally” lived where there were a lot of wrens and so forth.  (In Polish and Czech the wren is called strzyżyk/střízlík which is not likely to have anything to do with straz meaning “to guard”). 

Copyright ©2017 All Rights Reserved

November 22, 2017

Recap of Jordanes

Published Post author

The following two pages (in the MGH, obviously these do not correspond to pages in the manuscripts) in Getica contain a sufficient number of pearls to generate hundreds of dissertations.  There are some posts already on them on this site but it’s worth to recap and add a new one point.

Lake Musianus and the Vindelici

On Lake Mursianus or Morsianus but also Lake Musianus much has been written.  On the post that identifies Lake Veneticus (that is the Bodensee) as Lake Musianus I wrote here.

This, of course, creates a problem for mainstream historiography because if Slavs reached to the Bodensee in Jordanis’ time, if the Bodensee had been called Lake Veneticus before (it had) and if Slavs were called Veneti (they had been), then that would suggest that the people referred to later as Slavs must have lived on the Bodensee already in Roman antiquity.  It would also suggest that the name “Vindelici” referred to not “Celts” but to (later) Slavs.  Of course this would be hardly surprising to anyone who ever gazed upon the Tropaeum Alpium with its Licates, Rucinates and Cos-VANETES.  I leave the Catenates for others to explain.  For more see here.

The fact that Pliny wrote “Germanorum genera quinque: Vindili, quorum pars Burgodiones, Varinnae, Charini, Gutones.” might also suggest that these Vindili or as other manuscripts also call them Vandalici, Vandilici (elsewhere Vandili, Vandali) were not exactly the same as the Vandals of the invasion of Gaul, Spain and Africa four hundred years later.  More on that here.

This would also suggest an answer to the question of why Nestor, more than a millennium later, refers to Slavs as the Norici.  I should also note that the Suevi maintained relations both with the Rhaetians and Noricans (apparently, one of Ariovistus’ wives was the sister of King Voccio or Voccion of Noricum).  More on that here.

I should also note that Morsianus may well be Slavic even with the “r”.  Compare, for example, the Slavic name for “sea”: morze, more.  To this day when it you have light rain, Poles will say that it mżeMżeć, mżyć means to have a light rain where the “o” has been eliminated.  The source of this is the concept for wetness (compare with mgła, that is, “fog”).  At least one version of the Slavic word for “blink” or “flicker” may also come from the same wetness concept (migać),

For that matter, you may ask yourself whether the Morini were not a Slavic tribe.

And you have an explanation for Morava.


The passage attesting the later attested as Slavic tribe of the Rani is equally fascinating.


On the Spali I wrote here.


All of that has been discussed. But there is another curious reference and that is to the land named Oium.  If you click on the picture above, however, you will note that there are at least three or four ways that this name appears in the manuscripts:

  • oium
  • ocum
  • ouim
  • ouin

There is thus a school of thought that would would connect (but see above objection) the name Ouin with the Wends.

Of course, there is another that hints at “eggs” (jaja pronounced “yaya”) and suggests “eyes” (ojos but better the Slavic oczy) …

Copyright ©2017 All Rights Reserved

November 20, 2017

Veneti on the Radio

Published Post author

Thanks for the gentleman who forwarded a link to this 2016 interview with Adam Ziółkowski of Warsaw University.  It is unfortunately only in Polish but if you can figure some of it out, it is very interesting.  Its conclusion is also onto “something.” That said, Ziółkowski’s exposition has a number of factual errors and not so insignificant logical problems that should be noted so that he can improve his presentation the next time he speaks on this topic. (Also his manner of speaking is grating – he sounds like a friar of the Spanish Inquisition after a dozen cans of Red Bull – check out the guy’s “rrrrrrs”)

Slavs are not (just) a linguistic community

Ziółkowski starts with the unfortunate assertion that Slavs are only a linguistic community. This is a popular trope these days with a transparent intent of breaking down the concept that Slavs are a nation – which would mean ties of blood.  Those ties are, of course, attested (and visible to the naked eye) but the unscientific and politicized view of Slavs as merely a linguistic community is important to anyone hostile to any blood communities (another example of Slavs suffering for the sins of the Nordics).

Here he gets challenged a bit by the interviewer who asks (since according to Ziółkowski Slavs are those “who understand one another”) whether a German who understands another German is also a Slav.  Indeed, Ziółkowski does not seem to believe his own silliness as he answers the interviewers question with a “no” – a German who understands another German is not a Slav – but then adds (giggling!?) “unless he had learned to speak German…” So in this telling a Slav who learns German is still a Slav.  

Ok, but the better question to ask Ziółkowski would have been, is this Slav now (also) a German?  And what about a German who learns Slavic?  Is he both Slav and German?  Does the “first” language matter?  Why? And what if you were raised with Slavic language but then learned German and forgot Slavic. Are you now a German or a Slav?

How ridiculous this view is can be demonstrated by its application to the Lebensborn program – these children stolen by the Germans and raised as German would in Ziółkowski’s way of thinking be seen as German. I hesitate to ask what he thinks Edith Stein was.

Further, to give support to this “linguistic” community, he creates a fable of Slavs (those who speak the word) and Nemcy (those who do not).  This etymology is tempting and has been much talked about but is way uncertain for a whole number of reasons – one of which being is that it very much smacks of being a Volksetymologie.

Finally, any such definition of Slavs that Ziółkowski comes up with makes irrelevant (to most people) the answer to the question for which he got air time to expound on this stuff.  Simply put, while the question of “where the Slavic language came from” may be interesting, the question that most people are interested in is not that – their question is rather “where did their ancestors come from”.  Ancestor does not mean “linguistic ancestor”.  Our ancestors may or may not have spoken Slavic.  We see a certain level of biological similarity among Northern Slavs and, separately, Southern Slavs, and the question is where did those communities come from.  Their ancestors may well have spoken Slavic but if someone told me tomorrow that Slav was an Avar (unlikely) or Hunnic language imposed on the Veneti, I would say, great, but I don’t care because Slavdom and ancestry are independent of that.

I suspect that if Ziółkowski were to say that our ancestors did not speak Slavic and then wanted to get on the radio to discuss where these linguistic Slavs came from, he would have gotten a 10th of the listeners he got.  And I suspect, he well knows that.

Anyway, I am on this “linguistic ancestry” train only so long as it can be shown that Slavic is what my ancestors spoke.  If, looking back, there is a divergence I’ll follow the ancestral path further back. (Of course, it could be too that at some point you’d come across a linguistically mixed marriage or other type of coupling).

Enough on that.

Our knowledge of “peoples, geography and archeology” does not answer these questions

Central Europe was, according to Ziółkowski, very well known to the Romans. He says that we have names of peoples, geography and archeology and that there “simply are no Slavs here” in that period.  This is just silliness.

As to peoples, he does not mention the Suevi.  Why?  He does mention the Veneti but then later makes a claim that they were Balts… They may well have included Balts if by Balts we understand the genetic ancestors of today’s Latvians, Lithuanians and Old Prussians but the Veneti were natio populosa and that is not what the Balts are.  I also seriously doubt that the Veneti – even the ones on the Baltic – spoke a “Baltic” language. It’s possible but, as a primary language, I doubt it.

As to geography, I am not sure what he means because he does not develop this thought beyond his “geography” incantation.

As to archeology, he himself earlier says that we do not know who the people were (and, of course cannot, know) who made the various pots and pans… Even that would assume that the people who made them were the same people as the people who used them.  Even putting aside imports, it does not take much of an imagination to see that you could have a craftsman from tribe A living among tribe B, particularly if tribe A was known for its pan making skills.

There certainly are more than two possibilities

Ziółkowski mentions there are two possibilities for the appearance of the Slavs.  One is that they were here under “different names” before.  But then he serves up only the Veneti (dismissing their Slavicity) – more on that below.

The second is that there was some sort of an “accelerated birth” of the Slavs.  This second concept seems to be derived from Florin Curta’s theories which, as noted here, are just plain silly.

There is, of course, another version: that the Slavs came – as a group – from somewhere else.  This is the allochtonic theory but in today’s Europe which is supposed to be building an uebernational identity, any “group” activities (even going for a walk) that obviously exclude others are viewed with suspicion… On this see below.

Limited Voelkerwanderung and no emptying of Central Europe

Ziółkowski says that Central Europe was emptied because of the Voelkerwanderung. This is curious on two fronts.

First, we know now that there was no such “complete emptying” (this is a quote) and that there appears to be settlement continuity with, perhaps, some modest population reduction.

Second, it is curious that Ziółkowski seems unaware that the Voelkerwanderung is now considered (in German circles) to be a myth.  This is striking because most of the ideas he talks about seem to come straight from German historiography – but not this one.  Modern German scholars view the Voelkerwanderung as a myth but modern Polish scholars such as Ziółkowski not so much.  Difference of opinion – but why?

I have to say that I was always suspicious that the idea that the Voelkerwanderung was a myth came from those hostile to Germans having any such myths (better safe than sorry).

However, as applied to the Poles the myth claim is well and good.  From a Polish “autochtonic” perspective, the idea that the Voelkerwanderung is a myth is likely to be whole-heartedly embraced.  These Poles would say “of course, it’s a myth, because there were no Nordics in those areas that you are talking about – just our ancestors.”

In other words, while for modern politically-driven German historiography the Germanic Voelkerwanderung is a necessary myth, for modern Polish historiography the same Germanic Voelkerwanderung is politically necessary as a way of busting Polish autochtonic “myths” and so it undoubtedly took place and Nordics lived in Poland prior to Slavs having somehow arisen. In either case, however, the idea is that the concept of ancient national action or existence is deprecated.  In fact, modern German scholars were so eager to apply this new myth-busting way of thinking to the Poles that one of them – Walter Pohl – pathetically ignorant that Slav autochtonists are perfectly happy with the German Voelkerwanderung being a myth – started attacking the idea of a Slavic Voelkerwanderung in an apparent attempt to shatter the Slavic version of the Germanic “myth”.  All this notwithstanding the fact that no such myth exists in Slavic autochtonic historiography and that Slav “autochtonists” would, as noted above, be more than happy to dispense with both any alleged Germanic or with a Slavic Voelkerwanderung

In fact, Ziółkowski, calls Slavs (and presumably) Poles “Immigrants”.  Wittingly or not, he becomes part of a movement (as absurd and ridiculous as it is) that would place Poles on the same level as immigrants who just got to Poland (that is, non-Poles).  To say that this is an overeager anticipation of the European elites’ current political narrative would be so obvious an observation as to make the observer almost embarrassed to even have to utter it.

Ziółkowski does note that these Slavs were “legal” immigrants but, apparently, only because they walked into a portion of Germania which had been entirely depopulated by the escaping Germanics.  Now, however, we know that no such major depopulation took place (notwithstanding the various pollen counts undertaken).

Of course, if this were all correct, it would be perfectly fine with me – it’s just that the approach here reeks of political necessity.

Veneti likely were ancestors of the Slavs (and maybe of Balts) & Antes may well have spoken Slavic

Ziółkowski says that both those in the East (from south of Danube) and West (from West of the Rhine) looking at Central Europe only see Slavs and Antes but not – with the exception of Jordanes – the Veneti.  As an example of this in the West, he mentions Fredegar who speaks of the Slavs.

Right off the bat, this is technically wrong for two reasons.

First, Fredegar, as Ziółkowski himself notes a few seconds later, does speak of the Wends (“Slavs who are called Wends”).

Second, no one in the West at the end of antiquity uses the name Antes – that name is only used by the Greek Byzantine writers (and Jordanes).  (Whether the earlier Antes of Pomponius Mela & Co had anything to do with the Antes Jordanes, Procopius & Co, is at least as debatable as whether the earlier Veneti had anything to do with the Slavs).

Ziółkowski then notes that the Antes must have spoken Slavic.  Why? Because they spoke the same language as the Slavs (likely true) but best exemplified by the Slavic name Dabragezas who he identifies as a written version of Dobrogost. This may be true (though presumably Florin Curta could object) but may also not be true.  Every part of this name can be explained through use of non-Slavic languages.

Take Dabra: the suggestion has been made that some of the Dubr names are Celtic.  Thus, for example, Portus Dubris (Dubrae) is the ancient name for Dover, England.  Dubrovnik in Croatia is explained with a Slavic etymology but that is because that is the easiest.  The fact that Caesar may have come to Dubris from Illyria might suggest a different answer.  Or maybe even before Caesar there were pre-Slavs living in Britain.

Take Gezas: If Gezas is supposed to be Gost then why not Gaisus? Are we suggesting that Radagaisus – the Goth – was a Slav or spoke Slavic?  I guess, why not?  Both Rad- and -gaisus can be just as (and perhaps more) easily Slavic than Germanic.

And what about other names associated with the Antes: Mezamer/Idariz/Kelagast, Chilbudios, Boz? At least one Ukrainian writer believed that these were all Goths…

In any event, I think that the Antes actually did speak Slavic but the above name may or may not be Slavic.

There are other issues in this part of the discussion:

  • Ziółkowski calls Jordanes a “pseudo-historian” but does in now way challenge his credibility (and says his ethnographic descriptions are accurate – but check out the War of Vesosis!). And who was a “real” historian back in those days? (On the tendentious, perfunctory and annoying criticisms of Jordanes in general, you can see here)
  • The fact that the Antes appear in earlier sources way in the East (as do Souobenoi, by the way), “surrounded by Iranian speaking tribes” in no way, contrary to Ziółkowski’s assertion, requires these Antes to have been Iranian speakers.
  • Tacitus does not end his description of Suevia “on the Bug River” thereby “placing Veneti in northern Ukraine and in Belarus.”  Tacitus does not mention the Vistula, Oder or Bug under any names.  All he says “here Suevia ends.”  Since he just discussed the Swedes (and Sitones?)*, it is questionable what gives any reader the right to jump back down to the Bug.  We may infer from the Veneti being between the Fenni and the Peucini that – some of them – were in Belarus and Ukraine but Ptolemy places them on the Baltic and Pliny seemingly in all of Central Europe.

[*note: “Bordering on the Suiones are the nations of the Sitones. They resemble them in all respects but one – the female is the ruling sex. That is the measure of their decline, I will not say below freedom, but even below decent slavery.”]

  • As noted above, there is nothing to indicate that the Veneti were Balts or merely Balts and much speaks against that (such as the natio populosa concept).
  • He seems to conflate the Alans with the Antes – this is just a supposition based on very little.
  • Ziółkowski claims – and this is just plain wrong and false – that Pliny the Elder identified the Venedi with the Aestii. Ziółkowski also appears to say that those are the people “who live today in Prussia”.  I have to say that it is difficult not to do an “ahem” since there is no Prussia “today” but this statement suggests where Ziółkowski got this idea – that is from 19th century German historiography – a major Freudian slip it seems. Moreover, I cannot see where Pliny talks about the Aestii at all (“some writers state that these regions, as far as the river Vistula, are inhabited by the Sarmati, the Venedi, the Sciri, and the Hirri“).  The first mention of the Aestii comes from Tacitus and he certainly does not equate the Aestii with the Veneti.

Veneti and Volcae

Ziółkowski continues to perpetuate the early 20th century invention, according to which Germanic tribes called all people to the East “Veneti” – no matter their ethnic/blood/linguistic affiliation.  How do we know that?  Well, because the Germans did something similar with the Volcae so that the people in the South were Volcae but in the East they were Veneti.

This is bullshit.

It received its strongest expression in the 1905 work of Hermann HirtDie Indogermanen“.  Now Hirt was also a believer in the Baltic Urheimat of the Indo-European languages – a position that was politically important to pre-Nazi and Nazi Germany.  Since the Venetic Uebertragung theory would have expelled Slavs into areas even further east, it naturally found a home in Nazi and post-war Germany.  Why such nonsense is repeated today though is curious.

It is also worth mentioning what Hirt actually wrote:

“Since no Slavic tribe refers to itself as the Veneti, one can come to suppose that in the East of the Germans a non-Slavic people with the name Veneti [once] sat, whose name then was transferred onto the Slavs, once these ran into the Germans.  Nevertheless, this can be treated only as a very uncertain supposition.

So the Father of this theory is leery of fully accepting his child but his students fell no such reservations.

What can we say about this?

First of all if the Germanic tribes called people to the South (in some version “to the West”) of them Volcae and if this was because they first encountered the Belgae and then the Welsh then they must have come down into Europe from Scandinavia – probably over today’s Denmark.  If so, then who lived in Germany before the Germans?

Second, even if the Germans were to call everyone South (or is it West?) of them Volcae – which they did not – it does not stand to reason that they should do the same for all peoples in the East.

The truth is that there is nothing to suggest that in Germanic languages Volc is associated with the West and Wind with the East.

Moreover, Germanics clearly did see different peoples in both the West and the East.  The Franks did not think the Thuringians and Saxons were Windische.  But why?  After all they lived to the East of the Franks.  They should have been Windische!

But maybe that is because they spoke a Germanic language!?  But the Huns, Avars, Hungarians, Aestii (Cassiodorus) and Fenni were not called Windische.  None of them spoke a Germanic language.

Most importantly, the Balts themselves were never in Middle Ages called Veneti by the Germans and were called Aestii (Cassiodorus, Alfred’s Orosius).

But maybe that is because these other peoples spoke a non-Germanic language that was not Slavic!  That must be it.  So to sum up:

  • The Germans transferred the Veneti name from a non-Slavic tribe onto everyone who lived in the East but only if by everyone we mean more or less just the Slavs.  Yeah, that makes a lot of sense…

And what about the Veneti of the Adriatic… Were they named by the Germans too?  No, of course not, those were the original Veneti.  But, wait a minute now, these Veneti were to the South of the Germans so should they not have been called Volcae!? And how is that we find here, again, Slavs!? Why, for example, is Grad called Grad in the Chronicle of Grad? Why is there a Wistla in the Alps?

And what about the Veneti in Bretagne!? Are the Germans now calling people to the West of them Veneti!?  And, by the way, why do the descendants of these Bretagnish Veneti still use the word divyezhek (dwujezyczny) to denote “bilingual“?

Fredegar, contrary to Ziółkowski, cannot be used to support the notion that Venethi was a name given to everyone in the East by the Germans.  In fact, it only supports the view that Slavs and Venethi were the same people.

What makes sense

The interview above actually is pretty good so my criticism is intended to be limited. What makes it good, however, is the rest of the “meat” on these bones.  Let’s take a look at that.

An important observation that Ziółkowski makes is that linguists are basically useless in this discussion.  He even mentions that whenever you see the universal warning sign for a “reconstructed” word – that is * – that sight might be preceded by a stench of bullshit.  Completely agree with that sentiment.

(It behooves me to note that the word “asterisk” as in “little star” may go back to the symbol for the Eostre/Ashera).

He says that Venethi may have been ancestors of the Slavs or may have been pre-Slavs. Agree with that.

He says that the Slavs are Veneti (by whom he means Balts) mixed with Germanics (which ones we do not know) and Iranians (presumably Antes – if they were even Iranian – or Alans).  I think there is something to this concept but I would make the following “emendations”:

  • the Veneti are more (or at least just as) likely to have been the ancestors of today’s Slavs (in the biological sense) as today’s Balts – the Balts are much more likely to be the Aestii.
  • although whether the Suevi of Caesar spoke a Germanic language is very uncertain, for reasons that need no be repeated here, if Germanics as in Nordics we must have in the mix, the Suevi may provide that connection best (than say Goths).  Remember swoboda (“own body).
  • the “Iranian element” need not come from the Antes or Alans – the Yazyges were present in Pannonia for quite some time and their interactions with the Suevi are well know.

There IS a possibility that Slavs came from Prussia… or that Prussian Balts were a mixed people – compare Witland with the name of the Ranian Gods and with the Lithuanian Wits such as Vitas or Vitautas – this is something that certainly merits amuck more detailed study.

There is another possibility… (there always is): that the Veneti were Slavs but that the Suevi were Balts…

With all that in mind, I think the interview is terrific (if you can put up with the way this guy pronounces his “r’s”) and I encourage everyone who understand Polish to tune in.

Copyright ©2017 All Rights Reserved

November 14, 2017

The Veneti and Vindelici of Aurelius Victor

Published Post author

Sextus Aurelius Victor (circa 320 – circa 390) was a historian and politician of the Roman Empire. He was a governor of Pannonia Secunda so he was familiar with the going ons in that region.

Four works have at various times been attributed to him:

  • The Origin of the Roman People (Origo Gentis Romanae)
  • On the Illustrious Roman Men (De Viris Illustribus Romae)
  • Book of the Caesars (Liber de Caesaribus)
  • Epitome [short history] of the Caesars (Epitome de Caesaribus)

Apparently, only his authorship of the Liber is confirmed and his authorship of the Epitome is now rejected.  Both of these works are supposed to have been based on a hypothesized 4th century history, the so-called Enmann’s Kaisergeschichte (whose existence has not been confirmed). 

The Book and the Epitome

In any event in the Book of the Caesars the Venetic name comes up twice and in the Epitome there is a mention of the Vindelici.  For those reasons both are mentioned here. The most interesting mention is that in the Book which talks about Julianus, the corrector of the Veneti. This is a reference to Marcus Aurelius Sabinus Julianus (or Julian of Pannonia, ? – circa 285 – 286) who was an imperial usurper. The corrector is a Roman administrative title, like a “fixer” sent by the Emperor to get things straightened out in the provinces.  Apparently, fixers, sometimes rebelled agains their masters.  The corrector title also appears in other instances with reference to the region of Venetia (such as corrector Venetiae et Histriae – for example, Attius Insteius Tertullus or C. Vettius Cossinius (!) Rufinus). Yet in the Aurelius Victor work, the author mentions the Veneti – not Venetia (Venetos correctura). Our knowledge of this comes from certain inscriptions – described here in the Böcking edition of the Notitia Dignitatum:

(BTW The reference in that text above on the right side is to the famous description from Procopius’ Gothic Wars (part I, 15): “And adjoining this is the land of Precalis, beyond which is the territory called Dalmatia, all of which is counted as part of the western empire. And beyond that point is Liburnia, and Istria, and the land of the Veneti extending to the city of Ravenna. These countries are situated on the sea in that region. But above them are the Siscii and Suevi (not those who are subjects of the Franks, but another group), who inhabit the interior. And beyond these are settled the Carnii and Norici. On the right of these dwell the Dacians and Pannonians, who hold a number of towns, including Singidunum and Sirmium, and extend as far as the Ister River. Now these peoples north of the Ionian Gulf were ruled by the Goths at the beginning of this war, but beyond the city of Ravenna on the left of the river Po the country was inhabited by the Ligurians.”)

Earlier in the Book of the Caesars, the region of Venetia is mentioned.  Finally, there is also mention of Carnuntum in Pannonia which was at the edges of Marcomarus’ kingdom.

In the Epitome, we have the mention of Octavian’s conquest of, among others, the Raeti, Vindelici and Dalmatae as well as the Suevi and Chatti and too of the Pannoni and the Getae and Bastarnae.

The Book comes from which is an excellent source site. The English translation is from H.W. Bird’s 1994 edition. For the Epitome I used Franz Pichlmayr’s 1911 edition.  The English translation of the relevant section is the recent one by Thomas Banchich from 2009 (which is also based on Pichlmayr’s edition).

Book of the Caesars
Liber de Caesaribus
(chapter 16)

“For he [Antoninus Pius] adopted into his family and into the imperial power M. Boionius [Marcus Aurelius], who is known as Aurelius Antoninus, and was from the same town and of equal nobility, but far superior in the purists of philosophy and eloquence. All his actions and decisions, both civil and military, were divinely inspired: but his inability to restrain his wife soiled this for she had erupted to such a degree of shamelessness that while staying in Campania she would haunt the beauty spots along the coast to puck out those sailors, because they mostly work in the nude, (who would deb) particularly suitable for her disgraceful passions. Accordingly, when his father-in-law and died at Lorium at the age of seventy-five, Aurelius straightway admitted his brother, Lucius Verus, to a share of his power. Under his leadership, the Persians under their king, Vologeses, though at first they had been victorious, finally yielded a triumph. Lucius died within a few a days, thus providing material for the invention that he had been destroyed by the treater of his brother who, they say, was vexed with envy at his exploits and had devised the following deception at dinner. For, with one side of a knife smeared with poison, he cut a piece of a sow’s udder with it and deliberately set it aside. He ate one slice and, as is customary among close friends, he offered the other, which the poisson had touched, to his brother. Only minds with criminal inclinations can believe this of such  great man, especially since it is generally acknowledged that Lucius died of illness at Altinum, a city in Venetia, and that Marcus possessed such wisdom, gentleness, integrity and learning that as he was about to march against the Marcomanni with his son Commoduus, whom he had substituted as Caesar, he was surrounded by a throng of philosophers begging him not to commit himself to a campaign or to battle before he had explained some difficult and very obscure points of the philosophical systems. So in their eagerness for learning they feared that the uncertainties of war would endanger his safety:L and fine arts flourished to such an extent during his region that I consider precisely this to have been the glory of the times. Ambiguities of the law were admirably clarified and, by eliminating the custom of posting bail, the right of laying a charge and having it disposed of on the determined date was duly established. Roman citizenship was granted without discrimination to all and many cities were founded, settled, restored or embellished and in particular Punic Carthage, which fire had terribly ravaged, and Ephesus in Asia and Nocomedia in Bithynia, which had been leveled by an earthquake, just as Nicomedia was in our time during the consulship of Cerealis. Triumphs were celebrated over nations which, under  King Marcomarus, used to extend all the way from the Pannonian city which is called Carnuntum to the centre of Gaul. So in the eighteenth year of his reign he died in the prime of his life at Vienna, to the very great distress of all people. Finally the senators and common folk, who are divided in other matters, voted everything to him alone, temples, columns and priests.”


Namque M. Boionium, qui Aurelius Antoninus habetur, eodem oppido, pari nobilitate, philosophandi vero eloquentiaeque studiis longe praestantem, in familiam atque imperium ascivit. Cuius divina omnia domi militiaeque facta consultaque; quae imprudentia regendae coniugia attaminavit, quae in tantum petulantiae proruperat, ut in Campania sedens amoena litorum obsideret ad legendes ex nauticis, quia plerumque nudi agunt, flagitiis aptiores. Igitur Aurelius socero apud Lorios anno vitae post quintum et septuagesimum mortuo confestim fratrem Lucium Verum in societatem potentiae accepit. Eius ductu Persae, cum primum superavissent, ad extremum triumpho cessere, rege Vologeso. Lucius paucis diebus moritur, hincque materies fingendi dolo consanguinei circumventum; quem ferunt, cum invidia gestarum rerum angeretur, fraudem inter coenam exercuisse. Namque lita veneno cultri parte vulvae frustum, quod de industria solum erat, eo praecidit consumptoque uno, uti mos est inter familiares, alterum, qua virus contigerat, germano porrexit. Haec in tanto viro credere nisi animi ad scelus proni non queunt, quippe cum Lucium satis constet Altini, Venetiae urbe, morbo consumptum, tantumque Marco sapientiae lenitudinis innocentiae ac litterarum fuisse, ut is Marcomannos cum filio Commodo, quem Caesarem suffecerat, petiturus philosophorum turba obtestantium circumfunderetur, ne expeditioni aut pugnae se prius committeret, quam sectarum ardua ac perocculta explanavisset. Ita incerta belli in eius salute doctrinae studiis metuebantur; tantumque illo imperante floruere artes bonae, ut illam gloriam etiam temporum putem. Legum ambigua mire distincta, vadimoniorumque sollemni remoto denuntiandae litis operiendaeque ad diem commode ius introductum. Data cunctis promiscue civitas Romana, multaeque urbes conditae deductae repositae ornataeque, atque inprimis Poenorum Garthago, quam ignis foede consumpserat, Asiaeque Ephesus ac Bithyniae Nicomedia constratae terrae motu, aeque ac nostra aetate Nicomedia Cereali consule. Triumphi acti ex nationibus, quae regi Marcomaro ab usque urbe Pannoniae, cui Carnuto nomen est, ad media Gallorum protendebantur. Ita anno imperii octavo decimoque aevi validior Vendobonae interiit, maximo gemitu mortalium omnium. Denique, qui seiuncti in aliis, patres ac vulgus soli omnia decrevere, templa columnas sacerdotes.

Book of the Caesars
Liber de Caesaribus
(chapter 39)

[After the death of Probus, Carus becomes emperor and his sons Carinus (older) and Numerian (younger) become Caesars.  Carinus is sent to Gaul while Carus and Numerian head out to Mesopotamia to fight the Persians. Carus dies and Numerian is murdered, while sick, by Aper his father-in-law.]

“But after the crime had been betrayed by the odor of his decomposing limbs, at a council of generals and tribunes Valerius Diocletian, commander of the household troops, was selected because of his good sense. He was a great man, yet he had the following characteristics: he was, in fact, the first who really desired a supply of silk, purple and gems for his sandals, together with a gold-brocaded robe. Although these things went beyond good taste and betrayed a vain and haughty disposition, they were nevertheless trivial in comparison with the rest. For he was the first of all [emperors] after Caligula and Domitian to permit himself to be called ‘Lord’ in public and to be worshipped and addressed as a god. From these indications, as far as I can understand, I have concluded that all men from the humblest backgrounds, especially when they have attained exalted positions, are excessive in their pride and ambition. For this reason Marius, in our ancestors’ times, and he [Valerius Diocletian] in ours, went beyond the common limits since a mind that has never experienced power is insatiable like a man saved from starvation. Consequently, it seems strange to me that most people accuse the nobility of arrogance whereas, in preserving the memory of its patrician origins, it has some right to assert its eminence as compensation for the annoyances by which it is afflicted. But these faults in Valerius were effaced by the other good qualities, and especially by the fact that although he allowed himself to be called ‘Lord’ he acted like a parent; and it is fairly certain that this shrewd man wanted to demonstrate that it was the harshness of circumstances rather than of titles that created obstacles.”


“Meanwhile Carinus [the older son of Carus], informed of what had happened and in the hope that he might more easily put down the revolts that were breaking out, hastily made it for Illyricum by skirting Italy.  There he scattered Julianus’ battle line and cut him down. For the latter [Julianus], while he was governing the Veneti as corrector, had learned of Carus’ death and in his eagerness to seize the imperial power he had advanced to meet the approaching enemy.  Moreover when Carinus reached Moesia he straightway joined battle with Diocletian near the Margus, but while he was in hot pursuit of his defeated foes he died under the blows of his own men because he could not control his lust and used to seduce many of his soldiers’ wives. Their husbands had grown increasingly hostile but they had nevertheless put aside their anger and resentment to see how the war turned out. Since it was going quite successfully for him, in fear that a man of such character would become more and more overbearing in victory, they avenged themselves. That was the end of Carus and his children. Narbonne was their native city; they ruled for two years. Consequently, Valerius, in his first speech to the army, drew his sword, gazed up at the sun and while attesting that he had no knowledge of Numerian’s murder and had not wanted the imperial power, with one blow he transfixed Aper was standing right beside him. It was through his treachery, as we have shown above, that the good and eloquent young man [Numerian], his son-in-law, had perished. Pardon was granted to the rest and practically all the enemy were retained, especially one outstanding man named Aristobulus, the praetorian prefect, on account of his services. This was a novel and unexpected occurrence in the history of mankind, that in a  civil war no one was stripped of his possessions, reputation or rank, for we are delighted if such a war is waged with all due observances and with mercy and if a limit is set on exiles, proscriptions and also on punishments and murders.”

“Why should I recount that many men, foreigners too, have been admitted into partnership in order to protect and extend Roman authority? For when Diocletian had learned, after Carinus‘ death, that in Gaul Helianus and Amandus had stirred up a band of peasants and robbers, who the inhabitants call Bagaudae, and had ravaged the regions far and wider and were making attempts on very many of the cities, he immediately appointed as emperor Maximian, a loyal friend who. although he was rather uncivilized, was nevertheless a good soldier of sound character. He subsequently received the surname Herculius from his worship of that deity, just as Valerius received that of Jovius. This was also the origin of the names given to those auxiliary units which were particularly outstanding in the army. Well, Herculius marched into Gaul and in a short time had pacified  the whole country by routing the enemy forces or accepting their surrender. In this war Carausius, a citizen of Menapia, distinguished himself by his clearly remarkable exploits. For this reason and in addition because he was considered an expert pilot (he head earned his living at this job as a young man), he was put in charge of fitting out a fleet and driving out the Germans who were infesting the seas. Because of this appointment he became quite arrogant and when he had overcome many of the barbarians but had not turned over all the booty to the public treasury, in fear of Herculius, who, he learned, had ordered his execution, he seized the imperial power and made for Britain. At the arm time the Persians were causing serious disturbances in the east and Julianus and the Quinquegentian peoples in Africa…”


Sed postquam odore tabescentium membrorum scelus proditum est, ducum consilio tribunorumque Valerius Diocletianus domesticos regens ob sapientiam deligitur, magnus vir, his moribus tamen: quippe qui primus ex auro veste quaesita serici ac purpurae gemmarumque vim plantis concupiverit. Quae quamquam plus quam civilia tumidique et affluentis animi, levia tamen prae ceteris. Namque se primus omnium Caligulam post Domitianumque dominum palam dici passus et adorari se appellarique uti deum. Quis rebus, quantum ingenium est, compertum habeo humillimos quosque, maxime ubi alta accesserint, superbia atque ambitione immodicos esse. Hinc Marius patrum memoria, hinc iste nostra communem habitum supergressi, dum animus potentiae expers tamquam inedia refecti insatiabilis est. Quo mihi mirum videtur nobilitati plerosque superbiam dare, quae gentis patriciae memor molestiarum, quis agitatur, remedio eminere paululum iuris habet. Verum haec in Valerio obducta ceteris bonis; eoque ipso, quod dominum dici passus, parentem egit; satisque constat prudentem virum edocere voluisse atrocitatem rerum magis quam nominum officere. Interim Carinus eorum, quae acciderant, certior spe facilius erumpentes motus sedatum iri Illyricum propere Italiae circuitu petit. Ibi Iulianum pulsa eius acie obtruncat. Namque is cum Venetos correctura ageret, Cari morte cognita imperium avens eripere adventanti hosti obviam processerat. At Carinus ubi Moesiam contigit, illico Marcum iuxta Diocletiano congressus, dum victos avide premeret, suorum ictu interiit, quod libidine impatiens militarium multas affectabat, quarum infestiores viri iram tamen doloremque in eventum belli distulerant. Quo prosperius cedente metu, ne huiuscemodi ingenium magis magisque victoria insolesceret, sese ulti sunt. Is finis Caro liberisque; Narbone patria, imperio biennii fuere. Igitur Valerius prima ad exercitum contione cum educto gladio solem intuens obtestaretur ignarum cladis Numeriani neque imperii cupientem se fuisse, Aprum proxime astantem ictu transegit; cuius dolo, uti supra docuimus, adolescens bonus facundusque et gener occiderat. Ceteris venia data retentique hostium fere omnes ac maxime vir insignis nomine Aristobulus praefectus praetorio per officia sua. Quae res post memoriam humani nova atque inopinabilis fuit civili bello fortunis fama dignitate spoliatum neminem, cum pie admodum mansueteque geri laetemur exilio proscriptioni atque etiam suppliciis et caedibus modum fieri. Quid ea memorem ascivisse consortio multos externosque tuendi prolatandive gratia iuris Romani? Namque ubi comperit Carini discessu Helianum Amandumque per Galliam excita manu agrestium ac latronum, quos Bagaudas incolae vocant, populatis late agris plerasque urbium tentare, Maximianum statim fidum amicitia quamquam semiagrestem, militiae tamen atque ingenio bonum imperatorem iubet.  Huic postea cultu numinis Herculio cognomentum accessit, uti Valerio Iovium; unde etiam militaribus auxiliis longe in exercitum praestantibus nomen impositum. Sed Herculius in Galliam profectus fusis hostibus aut acceptis quieta omnia brevi patraverat. Quo bello Carausius, Menapiae civis, factis promptioribus enituit; eoque eum, simul quia gubernandi (quo officio adolescentiam mercede exercuerat) gnarus habebatur, parandae classi ac propulsandis Germanis maria infestantibus praefecere. Hoc elatior, cum barbarum multos opprimeret neque praedae omnia in aerarium referret, Herculii metu, a quo se caedi iussum compererat, Britanniam hausto imperio capessivit. Eodem tempore Orientem Persae, Africam Iulianus ac nationes Quinquegentanae graviter quatiebant…

[later see  Et interea caesi Marcomanni Carporumque natio translata omnis in nostrum solum, cuius fere pars iam tum ab Aureliano erat.]

Epitome of the Caesars
Epitome de Caesaribus

“In the seven hundred and twenty-second year from the foundation of the city, but the four hundred and eightieth from the expulsion of the kings, the custom was resumed at Rome of absolute obedience to one man, with, instead of rex, the appellation imperator or the more venerable name Augustus. Accordingly, Octavian, whose father was Octavius, a senator, and who was descended in his mother’s line through the Julian family from Aeneas (but called Gaius Caesar, his grandmother’s brother) was then given the cognomen Augustus on account of his victory. Placed in control, he, per se, exercised tribunician potestas. The region of Egypt, difficult to enter because of the inundation of the Nile and impassable because of swamps, he made into a form of province. By the labor of soldiers, he opened canals, which through neglect had been clogged with the slime of ages, to make Egypt a bountiful supplier of the city’s ration. In his time, two hundred million allotments of grain were imported annually from Egypt to the city. He joined to the number of provinces for the Roman people the Cantabri and Aquitani, Raeti, Vindelici, Dalmatae. The Suevi and Chatti he destroyed, the Sigambri he transferred to Gallia. The Pannonii he added as tributaries. The peoples of the Getae and Basternae, aroused to wars, he compelled to concord. To him Persia sent hostages and granted the authority of creating kings. To him the Indians, Scythians, Garamantes, and Aethiopians sent legations with gifts. Indeed, he so detested disturbances, wars and dissensions that he never ordered a war against any race except for just reasons. And he used to say that to be of a boastful and most capricious mind through the ardor of a triumph and on account of a laurel crown — that is barren, fruitless foliage — plunged the security of citizens into danger by the uncertain outcomes of battles; and that nothing whatever was more appropriate to a good imperator than temerity: whatever was being done properly, happened quickly enough; and that arms must never be taken up except in the hope of a very significant benefit, lest, because of heavy loss for a trifling reward, the sought-after victory be like a golden hook for fishermen, the damage of which, through its having been broken off or lost, no gain of the catch is able to compensate. In his time, a Roman army and tribunes and propraetor were destroyed beyond the Rhine. So much did he mourn what had transpired that, made unsightly by his dress, hair, and the remaining symbols of mourning, he struck his head with a powerful blow. He used to censure an innovation of his uncle, too, who, calling the soldiers comrades in novel and charming fashion, while he affected to ingratiate himself, had weakened the auctoritas of the princeps.  Indeed, toward citizens he was most clemently disposed. He appeared faithful toward his friends, the most eminent of whom were Maecenas on account of his taciturnity, Agrippa on account of his endurance and the self-effacedness of his labor. Moreover, he used to delight in Virgil. He was a rare one, indeed, for making friendships; most steadfast toward retaining them. He was so devoted to liberal studies, especially to eloquence, that no day slipped by, not even on campaign, without him reading, writing, and declaiming. He introduced laws, some new, others revised, in his own name. He added to and ornamented Rome with many structures, glorying in the remark: “I found a city of bricks, I left her a city of marble.” He was gentle, pleasant, urbane, and of charming disposition, handsome in his entire physique, but with large eyes, rapidly moving the pupils of which, in the fashion of the brightest stars, he used to explain with a smile that men turned from his gaze as from the intense rays of the sun. When a certain soldier averted his eyes from his face and was asked by him why he so behaved, he answered: “Because I am unable to bear the lightning of your eyes.” For all that, so great a man did not lack vices. For he was somewhat impatient, a bit irascible, secretly envious, openly fatuous; furthermore, moreover, he was most desirous of holding dominion — more than it is possible to imagine — , an avid player at dice. And though he was much at table or drink, to a certain degree, in fact, abstaining from sleep, he nevertheless used to gratify his lust to the extent of the dishonor of his public reputation. For he was accustomed to lie among twelve catamites and an equal number of girls. Also, possessed by the love of the wife of another, when his wife Scribonia had been set aside, he joined Livia to himself as if with her husband’s consent. Of this Livia there were already two sons, Tiberius and Drusus. And while he was a servant of luxury, he was nevertheless a most severe castigator of the same vice, in the manner of men who are relentless in correcting the vices in which they themselves avidly indulge. For he damned to exile the poet Ovid, also called Naso, because he wrote for him the three booklets of the Art of Love. And because he was of exuberant and cheerful spirit, he was amused by every type of spectacle, especially those with an unknown species and infinite number of wild animals. When he had passed through seventy-seven years, he died at Nola of a disease. Yet some write that he was killed by a deception of Livia, who, since she had gained information that Agrippa (the son of her stepdaughter, whom, as a result of his mother-in-law’s hatred, he had relegated to an island) was to be recalled, feared that, when he had obtained control of affairs, she would be punished. Thereupon, the senate resolved that the dead or murdered man should be decorated with numerous and novel honors. For in addition to the title “Father of his Country,” which it had proclaimed, it dedicated temples to him at Rome and throughout the most celebrated cities, with all proclaiming openly: “Would that he either had not been born or had not died!” he first alternative said of a most base beginning, the second of a splendid outcome. For in pursuing the principate he was held an oppressor of liberty and in ruling he so loved the citizens that once, when a three-days’ supply of grain was discerned in the storehouses, he would have chosen to die by poison if fleets from the provinces were not arriving in the interim.  When these fleets had arrived, the safety of the fatherland was attributed to his felicity. He ruled fifty-six years, twelve with Antony, but forty-six alone. Certainly he never would have drawn the power of the state to himself or retained it so long if he had not possessed in abundance great gifts of nature and of conscious efforts.”


Anno urbis conditae septingentesimo vicesimo secundo, ab exactis vero regibus quadringentesimo octogesimoque, mos Romae repetitus uni prorsus parendi, pro rege imperatori vel sanctiori nomine Augusto appellato. Octavianus igitur, patre Octavio senatore genitus, maternum genus ab Aenea per Iuliam familiam sortitus, adoptione vero Gai Caesaris maioris avunculi Gaius Caesar dictus, deinde ob victoriam Augustus cognommatus est. Iste in imperio positus tribuniciam potestatem per se exercuit. Regionem Aegypti inundatione Nili accessu difficilem inviamque paludibus in provinciae formam redegit. Quam ut annonae urbis copiosam efficeret, fossas incuria vetustatis limo clausas labore militum patefecit. Huius tempore ex Aegypto urbi annua ducenties centena milia frumenti inferebantur. Iste Cantabros et Aquitanos, Rhaetos, Vindelicos, Dalmatas provinciarum numero populo Romano coniunxit. Suevos Cattosque delevit, Sigambros in Galliam transtulit. Pannonios stipendiarios adiecit. Getarum populos Basternasque lacessitos bellis ad concordiam compulit. Huic Persae obsides obtulerunt creandique reges arbitrium permiserunt. Ad hunc Indi, Scythae, Garamantes, Aethiopes legatos cum donis miserunt. Adeo denique turbas bella simultates execratus est, ut nisi iustis de causis numquam genti cuiquam bellum indixerit. Iactantisque esse ingenii et levissimi dicebat ardore triumphandi et ob lauream coronam, id eat folia infructuosa, in discrimen per incertos eventus certaminum securitatem civium praecipitare; eque imperatori bono quicquam minus quam temeritatem congruere: satis celeriter fieri, quicquid commode gereretur, armaque, nisi maioris emolumenti spe, nequaquam movenda esse, ne compendio tenui, iactura gravi, petita victoria similis sit hamo aureo piscantibus, cuius abrupti amissique detrimentum nullo capturae lucro pensari potest. Huius tempore trans Rhenum vastatus est Romanus exercitus atque tribuni et propraetor. Quod in tantum accidisse perdoluit, ut cerebri valide incursu parietem pulsaret, veste capilloque ac reliquis lugentium indiciis deformis. Avunculi quoque inventum vehementer arguebat, qui milites commilitones novo blandoque more appellans, dum affectat carior fieri, auctoritatem principis emolliverat. Denique erga cives clementissime versatus est. In amicos fidus extitit. Quorum praecipui erant ob taciturnitatem Maecenas, ob patientiam laboris modestiamque Agrippa. Diligebat praeterea Virgilium. Rarus quidem ad recipiendas amicitias, ad retinendas constantissimus. Liberalibus studiis, praesertim eloquentiae, in tantum incumbens, ut nullus ne in procinctu quidem laberetur dies, quin legeret scriberet declamaret. Leges alias novas alias correctas protulit suo nomine. Auxit ornavitque Romam aedificiis multis, isto glorians dicto: “Urbem latericiam repperi, relinquo marmoream.” Fuit mitis gratus civilis animi et lepidi, corpore toto pulcher, sed oculis magis. Quorum acies clarissimorum siderum modo vibrans libenter accipiebat cedi ab intendentibus tamquam solis radiis aspectu suo. A cuius facie dum quidam miles oculos averteret et interrogaretur ab eo, cur ita faceret, respondit: “Quia fulmen oculorum tuorum ferre non possum”. Nec tamen vir tantus vitiis caruit. Fuit enim panlulum impatiens, leniter iracundus, occulte invidus, palam factiosus; porro autem dominandi supra quam aestimari potest, cupidissimus, studiosus aleae lusor. Cumque esset cibi ac vini multum, aliquatenus vero somni abstinens, serviebat tamen libidini usque ad probrum vulgaria famae. Nam inter duodecim catamitos totidemque puellas accubare solitus erat. Abiecta quoque uxore Scribonia amore alienae coniugis possessus Liviam quasi marito concedente sibi coniunxit. Cuius Liviae iam erant filii Tiberius et Drusus. Cumque esset luxuriae serviens, erat tamen eiusdem vitii severissimus ultor, more hominum, qui in ulciscendis vitiis, quibus ipsi vehementer indulgent, acres sunt. Nam poetam Ovidium, qui et Naso, pro eo, quod tres libellos amatoriae artis conscripsit, exilio damnavit. Quodque est laeti animi vel amoeni, oblectabatur omni genere spectaculorum, praecipue ferarum incognito specie et infinite numero. Annos septem et septuaginta ingressus Nolae morbo interiit. Quamquam alii scribant dolo Liviae exstinctum metuentis, ne, quia privignae filium Agrippam, quem odio novercali in insulam relegaverat, reduci compererat, eo summam rerum adepto poenas daret. Igitur mortuum seu necatum multis novisque honoribus senatus censuit decorandum. Nam praeter id, quod antea Patrem patriae dixerat, templa tam Romae quam per urbes celeberrimas ei consecravit, cunctis vulgo iactantibus: “Utinam aut non nasceretur aut non moreretur!”  Alterum pessimi incepti, exitus praeclari alterum. Nam et in adipiscendo principatu oppressor libertatis est habitus et in gerendo cives sic amavit, ut tridui frumento in horreis quondam viso statuisset veneno mori, si e provinciis classes interea non venirent. Quibus advectis felicitati eius salus patriae est attributa. Imperavit annos quinquaginta et sex, duodecim cum Antonio, quadraginta vero et quattuor solus. Qui certe nunquam aut reipublicae ad se potentiam traxisset aut tamdiu ea potiretur, nisi magnis naturae et studiorum bonis abundasset.

Copyright ©2017 All Rights Reserved

November 13, 2017

Thietmar Book VII

Published Post author

Here are the “Slavic” excerpts from Thietmar’s Chronicle Book VII in the Warner translation.

Chapter 4 (1014)

After crossing the Alps, the emperor travelled through neighboring regions, exercising his royal prerogatives.  He celebrated the birth of the Lord at Pohlde.  Afterwards, he went to Merseburg, where he revealed to his supporters how things stood with Boleslav’s loyalty and support [April 6, 1015]*.  He asked them to recommend unanimously either that he seek justification or redress…

[*note: these are Gregorian calendar dates – the text obviously contains Julian dates]

Chapter 8 (1014)

… Departing from Alstedt, the emperor spent the birth of the Lord at Pohlde.  On the Wednesday before Easter, he came to Merseburg [April 6], On Maundy Thursday, though unworthy, I consecrated the chrism in his presence. Abbot Redbald of Werden died o nthe vigil of the holy Resurrection, which fell on April 9, and Heidenreich, the monastery’s provost, was lee fed in his place,  On the holy day itself, Archbishop Gero sang the mass.  In the meantime, Ulrich, duke of the Bohemians, had arrived, and we spent solemn days in good spirits.

Chapter 9 (1014)

Meanwhile, Margrave Herman celebrated the feast of Easter with his father-in-law, Boleslav Chrobry.  Immediately thereafter, he went to see the emperor, in the company of Stoignev, one of Boleslav’s emissaries.  His coming had long been awaited by the emperor who was then residing in the West.  This emissary was well acquainted with the art of lying and had been sent by his fickle lord to make trouble, rather than peace, as he pretended.  The emperor commended him to his familiars.  At the same time, he mercifully bestowed his grace upon his brothers-in-law who had asked for it with bare feet. To ensure that the big windbag would see this and accurately inform his lord, he ordered him to appear ahead of time.  Upon his return, however, he reported things quite differently from how the emperor had ordered, and so the wretched duke sent him back, along with the margrave, who still wished to make peace.  In the presence of the emperor and his leading men, Boleslav’s emissary was denounced as a liar and sower of discord.  Then, the emperor again invited Boleslav to justify himself and offer compensation for his disobedience, but the latter refused to come into his presence, and instead asked that the matter be resolved before the leading men.

Chapter 10 (1014)

O reader, observe ho much kindness the emperor showed this man on a previous occasion.  The wily duke of Poland was skilled in a thousand stratagems.  He sent his son Miesco to Ulrich, ruler of the Bohemians, to propose that they make peace, on the basis of their mutual kinship, and thereby offer a unified resistance to all of their enemies, especially the emperor. After trustworthy informants told Ulrich that this plan was intended to work to his detriment, he had Miesco seized and ordered that the most prominent members of his entourage be murdered.  The rest of Miesco’s companions were taken back to Bohemia, along with their captive lord, and imprisoned.  After being informed of these events, the emperor sent my cousin, Dietrich, to demand the return of his retainer and to warn that he should not be harmed, assuming that Ulrich placed any value whatsoever on the emperor’s favour.  Dietrich received the following response: ‘My highest obligation is to obey my lord’s orders in all things, and to do so to the best of my ability and willingly. Despite my unworthiness, Omnipotent God has just seized me from the lion’s mouth and delivered into my hands the lion;s cub, sent with the intention of destroying me.  If I should permit this one to go free, there is no question that both father and son will be my enemies for ever.  If I hold on to him, however, there is a chance that I may obtain some advantage.  Let my lord determine what pleases him in this matter, and what might work to my benefit and I will obediently carry out his every request.’

Chapter 11 (1014)

When Dietrich returned with this message, however, another messenger was, quickly sent back to demand and sternly order Miesco’s release.  In return, he offered the emperor’s promise that all of Ulrich’s concerns would be resolved and a fair peace concluded.  At this, Ulrich had to surrender his captive, whether he wished to or not, and thereby greatly pleased the emperor.  Boleslav was overjoyed at his son;s release and sent messengers who duly expressed his gratitude to the emperor. These messengers also asked the emperor to send Miesco home, an act which would do honor to their lord and confound his enemies.  In return for this boon, they promised appropriate compensation in the future.  The emperor responded that this could not then be done, but promised that the request would be granted, upon the recommendation of his leading men, if Boleslav would come to Merseburg.  The duke receive this message and did no take it very well.  Discreetly ,through emissaries, he repeatedly sought to have his son returned.

Chapter 12 (1014) 

When the emperor came to the agreed upon place, he asked the leading men what he should do in this matter. Among them, Archbishop Gero spoke first:’ When there was time, and when it would have redounded to your honor, you did not listen to what I had to say.  Now, however, Boleslav is exceedingly hostile towards you because of your long custody and imprisonment of his son.  I fear that if you send Miesco back to his father, without hostages or some other surety, neither of them will be inclined to render loyal service in the future.’ The majority of those present agreed with this opinion, but the part which had been bribed complained that no great honour could be gained through such a strategy.  Gold won out over sound advice.  That all of this might be more pleasing to Boleslav, his supporters took custody of Miesco from the emperor and delivered both the son and all of the captives possessions to his father.  After receiving their promised reward, they admonished Boleslav and his son that, being mindful of Christ and their oath to God, they should neither cause the emperor any further harm nor attempt to deceive his supporters.  The two immediately responded to this friendly warning in flattering, flute-like tones which in no way corresponded with their future behaviour.  Despite the fact that they themselves had displayed little or no loyalty, they blamed the emperor and us for having delayed so long before sending MIesco back, though he numbered among our milites.

Chapter 16 (1015)

The emperor went to Goslar for the feast of the birth of Saint John the Baptist which was fast approaching.  While there, he gave Duke Ernst’s duchy [Swabia] to the duke’s cousin and her son. Then, he moved on to Magdeburg where he humbly asked Saint Maurice, Christ’s miles, to help him conquer his obstinate enemy, Boleslav.  After an army had been assembled, the emperor proceeded to a place called Schlenzfurt where he inflicted much damage on the population and their margrave, Gero.  We assembled on July 8, but instead of giving the inhabitants the protection that was their due, we plundered them,  Afterwards, our forces crossed the Elbe.  Meanwhile, I accompanied the empress and her entourage to Merseburg where we awaited the emperor’s return.  When our forces came to a district called Lausitz, they were confronted by troops issuing forth from the burg of Zuetzen.  Accepting the challenge, they killed a great number.  They also captured Erich ‘the Proud’, who had fled our region because of a homicide, and presented him, in chains, to the emperor.

Chapter 17 (1015)

The emperor went to a place called Krossen, on the Oder, where Miesco was sitting with his forces.  He then sent a delegation composed of the leading men of his army, who reminded Miesco of his oath to the emperor and unanimously asked that they might not lose their property on his account, this having been anticipated by his surrender.  He responded to them with the following words: ‘I concede that the emperor rescued me from the power of my enemies and that I promised you my loyalty.  I would willingly fulfill that promise, if I were free.  At present, however as you yourselves know, I am subject to my father’s dominion and he has forbidden this.  Nor would it be permitted by his milites, who are here with me.  Hence, I must reluctantly decline.  To the best of may ability, I will defend this land which belongs to me, but is desired by you.  When my father arrives, I will try to win him over to the emperor’s favour and to friendship with you.’  After hearing this, our representatives returned and relayed Miesco’s response to the emperor.  Meanwhile, Duke Bernhard and his supporters, with bishops, counts, and a band of the heathen Liutizi, moved against Boleslav from the north, and encountered him on theOder which was defended on all sides.

Chapter 18 (1015)

On the feast of the discovery of Christ’s protomartyr, the emperor crossed the Oder and crushed the resistance of the Polish multitude [August 3].  We had no losses, except for that famous youth, Hodo, along with Eckerich and a another dependent of Count Gunzelin.  The emperor had accused this Hodo and Siegfred, the son of Margrave Hodo, of having been too familiar with Boleslav, but on this day each vindicated himself completely.  While Hodo was pursuing the enemy and quite a lone, having outdistanced his companions, he took an arrow in the head.  Initially, he lost only his eye, but then lost his life as well.  Miesco’s tears flowed freely when he recognized the corpse of the man who had been his guardian and companion during his period of captivity.  After showing every concern for the body, he returned it to our army.  The enemy’s dead numbered no fewer than six hundred, which left us with a great deal of booty.

Chapter 19 (1015)

Messengers quickly brought news of these events to the place where Boleslav then resided.  Although the duke would willingly have hurried to the field of battle, he did boo wish to leave an entry for his enemies, who were so close at hand.  Indeed, wherever our forces tried to land their boats, Boleslav and his warriors followed on horseback.  At last, our people quickly raised their sails and travelled for a whole day.  Since the enemy could not follow, our people reached their destination and safely came ashore.  They set fire to the surrounding areas.  Some distance away, Duke Boleslav was made aware of what had happened and fled, as usual, thereby leaving us – albeit unwillingly – with both the confidence and an opportunity for destruction.  Duke Bernhard who had been unable to support the emperor with his own forces, as previously arranged, sent messengers who secretly revealed all that had occurred and indicated the reason for his disobedience.  The duke then returned home, after pillaging and burring everything in the vicinity.  Ulrich, who should have come to the emperor’s aid, along with his Bavarians, also gave up, for many and varied reasons. Even though these men did not accompany the emperor, they rendered faithful service while in the area.   In particular, Ulrich attacked a very large burg, called Biesnitz.  Aside from the women and children, he took no fewer than one thousand men prisoners.  After setting the burg afire, he returned victorious.  Henry, count of the eastern march, learned that Boleslav’s milites were in true area and had captured much booty.  Accompanied by the Bavarians, he immediately fell upon them,  Although the enemy resisted vigorously, eight hundred of them were killed and all of their booty was taken…

Chapter 20 (1015)

The emperor, still unaware of what had occurred, acted with great care because of the smaller number of his forces.  Nevertheless, as long as he wished to, he maintained a powerful presence in this region.  Thereafter, he returned to a district called Diadesi.  Unfortunately, the army had set up camp in a very narrow location where only a beekeeper resided – he was immediately put to death.  Boleslav, hearing that the emperor planned to leave by a route other than the one by which he had entered, secured the banks of the Oder  in every way possible.  When he learned that the emperor had already departed, however, he sent a large force of foot soldiers to the place where our army was camped, ordering that they try to inflict injury on at least some part of it, should the opportunity present itself.  He also sent his Abbot Tuni to the emperor with a sham offer of peace.  The abbot was immediately recognized as a spy and detained.  In the meantime, virtually the entire army crossed the swamp that lay before it, using bridges constructed during the preceding night.

Chapter 21 (1015)

Only then was Abbot Tuni permitted to leave, a fox in a one’s habit, whose craftiness was highly esteemed by his lord.  The emperor commended the remainder of his forces to Archbishop Gero, the illustrious margrave Gero, and the count palatine Burchard, advising them that they should be even more watchful than usual.  After this, in fact, a great clamor and three shouts went forth from the enemy, concealed in a nearby forest.  Immediately they attacked out troops and shot arrow at them.  Archbishop Gero and Count Burchard, who was wounded, barely managed to escape and tell the emperor what had happened.  The young Count Liudolf was captured, along with a few others.  Count Gero, Count Folkmar, and two hundred of our best milites were killed and plundered.  May Omnipotent God look upon their names and their should with mercy! May all of us who caused their deaths, through ours sins, be reconciled to him through Christ! And, may God mercifully protect us so that we never need to endure such a thing again!

Chapter 22 (1015)

When the emperor received this unhappy news, he wished to go back and fetch the bodies of the dead.  Many advised him to wait, however, and he reluctantly complied.  Instead, he sent Bishop Eid of Meissen, who was to press the cursed Boleslav for permission to bury the dead and beg for the body of Margrave Gero.  The venerable father willingly agreed to the emperor’s request, and quickly proceeded to his destination.  Gazing upon the scene of such wretched slaughter, he began to groan and weep as he offered up praiser for the dead,  The victors, still intent on plundering, noticed Bishop Eid when he was still some distance away. Believing that he was accompanied by others, they initially fled in fear.  As he came closer, however, they greeted him and allowed him to proceed unmolested.  Boleslav, overjoyed at our destruction, readily granted Eid’s requests, and the bishop quickly returned to the battlefield where with great effort and the enemy’s indulgence, he buried our dead comrades.  He had the corpses of Gero and WIdred, his companion-in-arms, transported to Meissen.  At Meisssen, a tearful Count Herman took custody of the bodies and, in the company of his brothers Gunther and Ekkehard, transported them to Nienburg.  During the reign Otto II, Archbishop Gero of Cologne and his brother, Margrave Thietmar, had founded an abbey there in honour of the Mother of God and Saint Cyprian.  Thietmar was Herman’s stepfather and the father of the dear margrave.  Archbishop Gero commended the bodies to the earth and offered consolation to Gero’s lady, Adelheid, to his son, Thietmar, and also to his sorrowing friends and milites.

Chapter 23 (1015)

Meanwhile, the emperor and his entourage moved on to Strehla.  But knowing that Miesco was following with his army, he had also sent Margrave Herman to defend the burg at Meissen.  The emperor himself went directly Merseburg.  Miesco, instructed by his wicked father, knew that our forces had divided prior to their departure and had not left any guard behind them.  At dawn, on September 13, he brought seven war bands across the Elbe near Meissen, ordering some to lay waste the surrounding areas, others to lay siege to the burg itself.  When the Withasen saw this, they had no confidence in the safety of their suburb and instead sought the protection of the upper burg, leaving virtually every possession behind.  Full of joy at this turn of events, the enemy entered the abandoned suburb and set fire to it, after removing all the booty they could find,.  They also launched repeated attacks on the upper burg which had caught fire in two places.  Seeing his few exhausted helpers, Margrave Herman threw himself prostrate on the ground and invoked both the mercy of Christ and the intercession of Donatus, his illustrious martyr.  He also called on the women to help.  They hurried to the walls and helped the men by throwing rocks.  They also put out the fires, using mead because they had no water.  Thanks be to God!  The enemy’s fury and audacity abated.  Miesco watched all of this from a nearby hill where he awaited the arrival of his companions who were busy ravaging and, wherever possible, setting fire to everything up to the river Jahna.  They returned late in the evening, with their horses exhausted, and spent the night with their lord.  They were to attack the burg on the following day. The fact that the Elbe was rising escaped their notice, however. Because of this, the army went home, extremely tired, but in unexpected safety.  This good fortune easted the anxious hear of their leader. The emperor, as soon as he learned of these events, sent whatever forces he could assemble to help the margrave. Shortly, afterwards, he restored the suburb.  To supper this undertaking and provide Security, Archbishop Gero and Bishop Arnulf met with the counts and many others on 8 October. I was by far the least of these.  Within fourteen days the task was completed and we could leave.  Count Frederick was to assume custody of the burg for four weeks.

Chapter 24 (1015)

Archbishop Gero and I, his companion, came to the place called Mockrehna.  There, after I reminded him of his sweet promises, he conveyed to me, with his staff which I still possess today, parochial rights over four fortresses: Schkeuditz Taucha, Puechen, and Wuerzen,* as well as the village of Rassnitz. He postponed any decision regarding the remaining five: namely, Eilenburg, Pouch, Dueben, Loebnitz, and Zoechritz,* saying that he would return them later. All of this occurred on October 25 in the presence of the following witnesses: Heribald, Hepo, Ibo, Cristin, and Siegbert.  On the same day we came to the fortress of Zoerbig* where, after the archbishop’s milites had assembled, I revealed how mercifully their lord had treated me.  We also learned of the illness of the venerable Friderun whose guests we were.  Alas, after a few days, on October 27, she abandoned this human flesh. From thence, the archbishop moved on to Magdeburg where he celebrated the feast of All Saints [November 1]. I did the same in Walbeck…

[* note that with one or two potential exceptions, these are all Slavic names]

Chapter 25 (1015)

After having just returned from Poland with many impressive gifts, Bishop Eid became ill and surrendered hjis faithful soul to Christ, at Leipzig, on December 20. Bishop Hildeward of Zeitz was asked to attend to him and arrived quickly, but upon entering the house in which the holy man had died, discovered that it was filled with a wonderful odor.  He accompanied the body to Meissen and buried it in front of the altar, with the aid of Count William whose turn it was to guard the burg…

… Foreseeing his end, however, he often asked that he might never be buried in Meissen.  Indeed, from fear of future destruction had always hoped instead that he would be found worthy of burial at Colditz, resting police of the body of Magnus, the martyr of Christ.  But Margrave Herman, hopping that the church would benefit from his prayers, still had him entombed at Meissen, as I already mentioned.

Chapter 39

No one can comprehend the northern regions, and what marvelous things nature creates there.  Nor can one believe the cruel deeds of its people.  Hence, I will omit all of this, and merely say a few things concerning that brood of vipers, namely, the sons of Sven the Persecutor.  These sons were born to him by the daughter of Duke Miesco, sister of the latter’s successor and son, Boleslav.* Long exiled by her husband, along with others, this woman suffered no small amount of controversy. Her sons, who resembled their beloved parent in every way, tearfully accepted their father’s corpse and placed it within a burial mound. Afterwards, they prepared shops and made plans to avenge whatever shame had been inflicted upon their father by the Angles.  The many outrages they committed against this folk are not familiar to me and so I shall pass them by.  I wil briefly describe with my pen only that which has been related to me by a reliable witness.**

[* note: Adam 2.35/Schol. 24, pp. 95-96; Tschan (trans.) 1959: 78.]
[** note: Presumably Sewald.]

Chapter 50 (1017)

…This wise man [Count Frederick], recognizing that the end of his life was fast approaching, had conveyed the burg [Poehlde] to his brother’s [Dedi’s] son, Dietrich. It was agreed, however, that the remainder of the count’s land would pass to his three daughters.  Such arrangements were necessary because Dietrich was an heir, and to have done otherwise would not have been legitimate. Later, Dietrich received from the emperor both Frederick’s countship and control over the district of Siusuli*…

[* note: a very interestingly named Slavic tribe]

Chapter 51 (1017)

Meanwhile, the emperor came to Merseburg where he awaited the outcome of this matter.  While he was there, many highwaymen were put to death by hanging, after champions had defeated them in single combat. The two archbishops, Erkanbald and Gero, Bishop Arnulf, Counts Siegfried and Bernhard, and other leading men, camped for fourteen days on the river Mulde.  Through intermediaries, they asked Boleslav to come to the Elbe for the meeting which he had so long desired. The duke was then residing at Zuetzen.  As soon as he had heard this message, he responded that he would not dare to go there, for fear of his enemy. The messengers asked: ‘What would you do, if our lords come to the Elster?’ But he said: ‘I do not wish to cross that bridge.’ After hearing this, the messengers returned and related everything to their lords.  The emperor was with us, celebrating the Purification of the blessed Mother of God [February 2].  Somewhat latter, the bishops and counts arrived, outraged that Boleslav had so contemptuously trie dot deceive them.  In turn, they sought to arouse the emperor’s ire by describing how things had gone during their legation. At this point, they began to discuss a future campaigning and everyone loyal to the emperor was advised to prepare fir it. The emperor firmly prohibited any exchange of messengers between us and Boleslav, that enemy of the realm, and every effort was made to identify persons who might have presumed to do so in the past.

Chapter 52 (1017) 

After his parting from us, the emperor went to Magdeburg, where he was received with great hour.  Because the next morning, a Sunday, marked the beginning of Septuagesima, he stopped eating meat. On Monday, the archbishop consecrated the north chapel in the emperor’s presence. On the following day, a quarrel arose between the archbishops people and Margrave Berhnard’s, but the matter was settled without violence and in the bishop’s favour. At the emperor’s order, thieves who had been defeated in duels assembled there, and were put to the rope. It was at Magdeburg as well that many questions relating to the welfare of the realm were decided and, from thence, that the convert Gunther set out to preach to the Liutizi. In the emperor’s presence, I raised many complaints a part of my diocese which had been unjustly appropriated by the church of Meissen. The restitution of this property had been promised, in writing, but just when it seemed that I might profit from that, I had to recognize that things had gone rather differently from how I had planned. On the feast of Saint Peter’s throne, February 22, the emperor held court. Ut was attended by bishops Gero, Meinwerk, Wigo, Erich, and Eilward. On this occasion, I arose and presented my complaint, expecting help from the emperor and the bishops. Instead, they ordered me – God knows, I was unwilling, but dared not resist – to  concede to Eilward a parish on the east bank of the river Mulda, in the burg ward of Puechen and Wuerzen. In return, he was to give me a parish that he held on the west bank, though I never desired it. The transaction was confirmed with an exchange of episcopal staffs. I give witness before God and all the saints: in no way did I surrender the rest of my claim! The emperor also ordered Margrave Herman to prove by oath that he was the rightful possessor of three villages which he held from the church of Meissen, or surrender them to me.

Chapter 56 (1017)

The emperor, hearing that his wife had recovered and had made a vow to the Lord, rendered heartfelt thanks to Christ.  He devoutly celebrated Pentecost at Werden, which had been founded by God’s holy priest Liudger at his own expense. The emperor’s needs were fully accomplismodated by Abbot Heidenreich. On the following day, June 10, Bishop Thiedegg of Prague, successor to Christ’s martyr Adalbert, faithfully went the way of all flesh. Thiedegg had been educated at Corvey and was especially skilled in the art of healing. When Boleslav the Leder was suffering from paralysis because of his disobedience to Christ’s preacher, he summoned Thiedegg, with Abbot Thietmar’s permission, and was much improved through his ministrations. Thus, when that burning lamp, Woyciech,* was removed from the shadows of this world, as I have mentioned,** the duke’s aid ensured that Otto III installed Thiedegg, as his successor. After the death of Boleslav the Elder, his like-named son frequently expelled the bishop from his diocese, and just as often Margrave Ekkehard brought him back. He suffered many injuries. As Saint Gregory ordered, he not only invited guests to come to him, but even dragged them in. His one major failing was that he drank immoderately, due to an undeserved illness. Indeed, the tremors in his hands prevented him from saying mass without the help of a priest who stood next to him. He grew progressive;u weaker until the end, but, as I hope, cured his soul with good medicines.

[*note: Thietmar writes Uuortegus and Athelberti for Adalbert]

[**note: Book 4, chapter 28]

Chapter 57 (1017)

Meanwhile, Moravian soldiers of Boleslav’s surrounded and killed a large but careless band of Bavarians. In no small measure, then, losses previously inflicted upon them by the Bavarians were now avenged.* As the emperor traveled towards the East, he ordered the empress to meet him at Paderborn. From there, the two of them moved onto Magdeburg where they were received, with honour, by Archbishop Gero. During the following night, July 7, a Sunday, a horrible storm arose and caused widespread destruction of human beings, cattle, buildings, and the produce of the fields.  In the forests, a huge number of trees and branches fell and blocked all of the roads. The next day, the emperor crossed the Elber, along with his wife and the army, and proceeded to Lietzkau, an estate which formerly belonged to Bishop Wigo but was now the habitation of many wild animals. He set up camp and remained there for two nights, awaiting the arrival of more dilatory contingents. Subsequently, the empress and many others returned, while the emperor pressed on with his army. On that same day, Henry, formerly duke of the Bavarians, returned with a message from Boleslav, which suggested that they negotiate a peace. After listening to this report, the emperor sent Henry back again, with a message of his own. When he could accomplish nothing, however, he was sent to join the emperor’s wife, his sister.

[**note: Book 7, chapter 19]

Chapter 59 (1017)

While all of this was going on, Boleslav’s son, Miesco, took ten war bands and invaded Bohemia.  They encountered less resistance that they otherwise would have, due to the absence of the Bohemian duke, Ulrich. After pillaging the country side for two days, Miesco returned, bringing many captives with him and much joy to his father. Accompanied by his army and a large contingent of Bohemians and Liutizi, the emperor anxiously made his way to the burg Glogow, wasting everything he encountered along the way. At Głogów,* Boleslav awaited him with his army. Surrounded by archers, the enemy tried to provoke our forced to battle, but the emperor held them back. Instead, he selected twelve war bands from this already very strong army and sent them to the burg Nimptsch (Niemcza)**, so called because it was originally founded by us, These war bands were to prevent the inhabitants from receiving any aid from outside. They had barely set up camp, however when news reached them that the enemy had arrived. Because of the exceedingly dark night and a heavy rain, there little that our forces could do to them. They put some of them to flight, but reluctantly permitted others to enter the burg. The later is situated in the region of Silesia which was named long ago after a certain mountain of great height and width, While the detestable rites of the heather were still practiced here, this mountain was highly venerated by the populace, because of its unique character and size.

[*note: ad urbem Glogua or Glaguam]

[**note: ad urbem Nemzi]

Chapter 60 (1017)
(Siege of Głogów)

Three days later, the emperor arrived there [at Głogów] with the rest of the army. He ordered that his camp be set up on all sides of the burg, in the hope that he might thereby prevent his enemy from entering. HIs  wise plan and excellent intentions would have enjoyed great success, had his supporters whom greater enthusiasm when it came to the time to implement them. As it turned out, in the silence of night, a large body of troops managed to pass through all the guards and enter the burg. Our people were then ordered to construct various types of siege machinery. Immediately, our opponents began to do the same. I have never heard of an army which defended itself with greater endurance or more astutely. Against the pagans [that is, against the Liutizi], they erected a holy cross, hoping  to conquer them with its help. They never shouted for joy when something favorable to them occurred. Nor did they reveal their misfortunes by openly lamenting them.

Chapter 61 (1017)

Meanwhile, the Moravians invaded Bohemia where they seized a certain burg and returned, unharmed and with much booty. Margrave Henry had attempted to engage them with an army. When he heard of their attack on the burg, however, he quickly set off in pursuit. As a result, more than one thousand of their men were killed and the rest were put to flight. The margrave also managed to free all of their captives and bring them home. Nor should I fail to mention that other milites of Boleslav attacked the burg Belgern* on August 15. In spite of a long siege, they had no success.  Thanks be to God! Among those Liutizi who had remained at home, a large number attacked one of the duke’s [Boleslav’s] burgs.  On this occasion, they lost more than one hundred warriors and their return was marked by great sadness. Later, they inflicted much devastation on Boleslav’s lands.

[*note: Belegori that is Biała Góra or White Mountain; the city was mentioned in 973 as Belgora and in 983 as Belegora]

Chapter 63 (1017)
(Siege of Głogów Conclusion)

In the meantime, the siege machinery had been completed, and now, after three weeks of silence, the emperor ordered an attack on the burg. As he looked on, however, all of this machinery went up in flames, destroyed by fire thrown down from the ramparts. After this, Ulrich and his companions tried to scale the fortifications, but accomplished nothing.  A similar attack by the Liutizi was also turned back. Finally, the emperor realized that his army, already weakened by disease, had no prospect of capturing the burg and decided to undertake the arduous march to Bohemia. There, he was honoured with suitable gifts by Ulrich, who illegally held the title of duke in that region. Meanwhile, September 18, marked the death, following a long illness of Margrave Henry, my aunt’s son and the glory of eastern Franconia. Three bishops, Henry, Eberhard, and the venerable Rikulf, attended to his burial. His grave was located on the north side of the monastery at Schweinfurt, outside of the church, and next to the door, as he himself had wished. The emperor, who learned of his death while residing in Meissen, was very sad.

Chapter 64 (1017)

Boleslav anxiously awaited the outcome of events in his burg at Wroclaw.* When he heard that the emperor had departed and that the burg [that is Głogów] was unharmed, he rejoiced in the Lord and joyfully celebrated with his warriors. More than six hundred of his foot soldiers secretly invaded Bohemia and, as usual, hoped to return with much booty. Except for a few, however, they were trapped by the very snare that they had wanted to lay for their enemies.

[*note: in text Uuortizlaua]

The Liutizi returned to their homeland in an angry mood and complaining about the dishonor inflicted upon their goddess. One of Margrave Herman’s retainers, had thrown a rock at a banner which bore her image. When their servants sally related this event to the emperor, he gave them twelve pounds as compensation. When they attempted to cross the swollen waters of the Mulde, near the burg Wurzen, they lost yet another image of their goddess and a most excellent band of fifty milites. The rest returned under this evil omen and, at the instigation of wicked men, tried to remove themselves from the emperor’s service. Yet, afterwards, a general assembly was held at which their leading men convinced them otherwise. If an entry could barely be forced into the territories of Bohemia, it was even more difficult to exit from them. This expedition was undertaken in order to annihilate the enemy, but it also inflicted many wounds on us, the victors, because of our sins. What the enemy could not do to us then occurred to us later because of our misdeeds. May I also bemoan the outrage which Boleslav’s followers committed, between the Elbe and the Mulde. On September 19, at their lord’s order, they quickly departed, taking with them more than one thousand prisoners and leaving much of the area in flames. With luck they returned home safely.

Chapter 65 (1017)

On October 1, the emperor came to Merseburg, where he installed Ekkehard as bishop of Prague. As abbot, Ekkehard had presided over the monastery of Nienburg for twenty-three years and five months. With my permission, the emperor had him consecrated as bishop by Archbishop Erkenbald on November. On the same occasion, a messenger sent by Boleslav promised that Liudolf the Younger, long held in captivity, would be allowed to return. In return for Liudolf’s freedom, he sought the release of certain of Boleslav’s milites who were being held in firm custody by us. Furthermore, the messenger carefully inquired whether Boleslav, might send a representative to negotiate his return to the emperor’s grace. Relying on the constant advice of his leading men, the emperor agreed to all of these propositions. Only afterwards did he learn that the king of the Rus had attacked Boleslav, as his messengers had promised, but had accomplished nothing in regard to the besieged burg. Subsequently, Duke Boleslav invaded the Russian king’s realm with his army. After placing his long-exiled brother-in-law, the Rus’ brother, on the throne, he returned in high spirits.

Chapter 66 (1017)

… On the following Sunday, November 3, [Abbot Harding of Nienburg]  granted to our brothers serving Christ at Magdeburg a property called Roeglitz… He also conceded to me three churches, located in Leipzig, Oelschuetz, and Geuss…*

[* note: in the text these names are written as Rogalici, Libzi, Olscuizi, Gusua]

Chapter 67 (1017)

Before concluding my account of this year, I must add a few more observations. In the previous year, Thietmar, venerable bishop of the church at Osnabrueck, servant of Saint Maurice at Magdeburg, and formerly the very accomplished provost of Mainz and Aachen, lost the use of his eyes which were now clouded by a kind of darkness…

Chapter 69 (1017)
(Story of Hennil)

…One should scarcely be surprised to find that such portents occur in our regions. For the inhabitants rarely come to church and show little concern at the visits of their pastors. They worship their household gods and sacrifice to them, hoping thereby to obtain their aid. I have heard of a certain staff which had, on its end, a hand holding an iron ring. The pastor of the village where the hand was preserved would carry it from household to household, and salute it as he entered, saying: ‘Awake, Hennil, awake!’ Hennil is what the rustics call the hand in their language. Then the fools enjoyed a lavish feast and believed that they were secure in the hand’s protection. They knew nothing of David’s words: ‘The idols of the heathen are the works of men, and so on… Similar to those are all who make and put their trust in them.’

[for another translation of this story here]

Chapter 72

Now I shall continue my criticism and condemnation of the wicked deeds of the king of the Rus, Vladimir.  He obtained a wife, named Helena, from the Greeks. She and formerly been betrothed to Otto III, but was then denied to him, through fraud and cunning. At her instigation, Vladimir accepted the holy Christian faith which, however, he did not adorn with righteous deeds. He was an unrestrained fornicator and cruelly assailed the feckless Greeks with acts of violence. He married one of his three sons to the daughter of Boleslav, our persecutor.* Bishop Reinbern of Kolobrzeg was sent with her. He had been born in Hassegau, educated by wise teachers in the liberal sciences, and was elevated to the episcopate, worthily, so I hope. My knowledge and faculties would not suffice to describe the effort he expended in fulfilling his assigned task. He destroyed the shrines of idols by burning them and purified a lake inhabited by demons, by through into it four rocks anointed with holy oil and spindling it with consecrated water. Thus he brought forth a new sprout on a tree which had hitherto borne no fruit for the omnipotent Lord, that is, through the propagation of holy preaching among an extremely ignorant people. He afflicted his body with continual vigils, fasts, and with silence, thereby transforming his heart into a mirror of divine contemplate. Meanwhile, King Vladimir heard that his son had secretly turned against him, at the urging of Duke Boleslav. He then seized not only his son and wife, but also Reinbern as well, placing each of them in solitary confinement. With tears and through the sacrifice of constant prayers offered from a contrite heart, Reinbern reconciled himself to the highest priest. Then, freed, from the narrow prison of his body, he joyfully crossed over to the freedom of perpetual glory.

[*note: Sventipulk]

Chapter 73

King Vladimir’s name is wrongly interpreted t mean ‘power of peace.’ Indeed, that which the impious hold among themselves or the occupants of this world possess is no true peace because it constantly changes. True peace is attained only by one who lays aside there soul’s every passion and seeks the Kingdom of God with the aid of patience which conquests every obstacle. Sitting in the security of heaven, Bishop Reinbern can laugh at the threats of that unjust man and, in his two-fold chastity, contemplate that fornicator’s fiery punishment since, according to our teacher Paul, God judges adulterers. As soon as Boleslav learned what had happened, he worked ceaselessly to get whatever revenge he could. Subsequently, King Vladimir died in the fullness of his days, and left his entire inheritance to his two sons. The third son remained in prison, but later escaped and fled to his father-in-law, leaving his wife behind.

Chapter 74

King Vladimir wore a cloth around his loins as an aphrodisiac, thereby increasing his innate tendency to sin. When Christ the master of our salvation, ordered us to bind up our loins, overflowing with dangerous desires, it was greater continence that he demanded, not further provocation. Because the king heard from his preachers about the burning light, he tried to wash away the stain of his sins by constantly distributing alms. It is written, moreover: ‘Give alms, and all will be clean for you.’ Vladimir died when hew was already weak with age and had held his kingdom for a long time. He was buried next to his wife in the great city of Kiev, in the church of Christ’s mart, Pope Clement. Their sarcophagi are displayed openly, in the middle of the church. The king’s power was divided among his sons, thereby completely affirming the words of Christ. For I fear that we will witness the fulfillment of that which the voice of truth predicted with the words: ‘Every kingdom divided within itself will be wasted’, and so on. All Christendom should pray that, in regard to these lands, God may change his judgement.

Chapter 76 (1017)

In this year, four large Venetian ships, filled with different kinds of spices, were lost in shipwrecks. As I have previously mentioned, the western regions which had rarely known peace in the past were now completely pacified. Thanks be to God! Ekkehard, a monk of Saint John the Baptist at Magdeburg, who was also one of my brethren, lost his speech due to a paralyzing illness. In the lands of the Bavarians and Moravians, a certain pilgrim, named Koloman, was seized by the inhabitants and accused of being a spy. Compelled by their harsh treatment, he confessed his guilt although it was not merited. He made every effort to justify himself and explained that he was wandering, in this way, because he was one of of the poor men of Christ. Nevertheless, they hanged this innocent man from a tree which had long ceased to bear fruit. Later, when his skin was slightly cut, blood poured forth. His nails and hair continued to grow. The tree itself began to bloom, moreover, thereby proving that Koloman was a martyr for Christ. As soon as Margrave entry learned of these events he had the body buried at Melk.

Copyright ©2017 All Rights Reserved

November 6, 2017

Eccentrics, Epicycles and Equants to the Rescue

Published Post author

An amusing article in “Science in Poland” with some wonderful (and wonderfully mischaracterized) treasures found in Poland.  Here is a quote:

“Some of these peoples, among them Germanic tribes, observed in ancient written sources, for example Goths or Vandals, came from the Odra-Vistula basin where they lived in the first centuries of our era.”

This Veranstaltung is orchestrated by professor Bursche who believes that Germanic tribes were present in Poland (Kuyavia) up until the 7th century. The archeologist believes that such a long presence of Germanics in this are allowed the pre-Slavic names especially certain hydronyms to reach Slavic times with one example give as Vistula – Wisla.

The Professor is an archeologist so he can be somewhat forgiven his lack of basic historical knowledge but, if he is going to venture out of his comfort zone and make such statements, as a non-expert, he should approach a foreign area with a little better prep.  It would behoove him to realize a few points:

  • No source asserts the presence of any Vandals in the territory of, as the above article so unfortunately puts it, “current Polish lands”
  • The presence of Goths in such lands is attested in sources at the Vistula mouth and that is about it

Beyond that, the German name for the Vistula is Weichsel (itself probably a borrowing from the Balts which should also provide some food for thought as to how exactly the Goths “got” to Poland) and the Polish name is Wisla which just happens to match the ancient Vistla ever so better than the Weichsel.  Perhaps the theory here is that Germanic tribes used Vistla, passed it onto the Slavs then the Germans changed their pronunciation to Weichsel?  

Of course, a simpler solution would be to assume that the Slavs got Vistla from someone who used Vistla in antiquity.  Here the Veneti come to mind.

But then, if we believe there were Germanic tribes in the “current” lands of Poland, we would have to believe that the Veneti survived all these Germanic rampages through their lands long enough to pass the knowledge of local hydronymy to the incoming Slavs (whom the Germans to this day just happened to call Wenden…). This too is, of course, possible in the sense that anything is possible. But there is obviously a more economical solution.

Or if we did not believe that there were significant Germanics in the area, we would have to conclude that the Veneti were absorbed by the incoming Slavs but then these artifacts may be Venetic or Slavic or have nothing to say about who used actually them. And given then that the Germans (but also Finns) call Slavs Wenden, another simpler solution also presents itself.

In any event, for archeologists who want to cling to difficult to maintain positions, I include here a link that should help them do that.  They should study up on eccentrics, epicycles and equants.  These esoteric concepts might just prove invaluable in salvaging their theory.  And, indeed, they, like Ptolemy, may still be right.

But, as they say, it’s a question of probabilities.

More on the theoretical underpinnings of the research project which generated this Veranstaltung here and here.

And Science in Poland should also check whether it still is where it claims.  After all, things change.

Copyright ©2017 All Rights Reserved

November 1, 2017